The 'all-around gentleman' presiding at Sandusky trial
by Jeremy Roebuck
Inquirer Staff Writer
KANE, Pa. - Two days after impaneling a jury in the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse trial, Judge John M. Cleland returned to his high school alma mater in this rural stretch of northwest Pennsylvania to address the graduating class.
"It's an honor every time you're asked. I'm not going to miss it," he told his hometown newspaper, the Kane Republican.
The last-minute trip - mere days before the scheduled start Monday of one of Pennsylvania's most closely watched legal proceedings - struck some awaiting developments in Centre County as an odd choice.
But among friends and colleagues, his appearance Friday at Kane Area High School demonstrated the plainspoken modesty and the commitment to his community that have come to define the 64-year-old jurist during his decades-long career on the bench.
The son of backcountry physicians, Cleland still lives on a horse farm in the town of 4,000 where he grew up. And colleagues say he has consistently shown a level head and an unwavering fairness - from his days handling small local disputes in his McKean County court to his role, years later, heading an investigative panel into the Luzerne County cash-for-kids scandal that eventually sent two fellow judges to jail.
"He's really doing nothing more than he's always done, whether it was as a law clerk, a neighbor, a lawyer, or a judge," said Pittsburgh lawyer Art Stroyd, who worked as a law clerk alongside Cleland when both were launching their legal careers in the '70s. "He's always been the same calm, deliberate, and studied individual. Just now, there are a whole lot of people watching."
In the coming weeks, Cleland faces the challenge of maintaining decorum in a trial that has become a lightning rod for conflicting emotions. Jerry Sandusky's arrest last year on 52 counts of child sexual abuse tore rifts in the Penn State community that have yet to fully heal.
Victim advocates, political candidates, and even a few people critical of what they see as a rush to judge Sandusky have all seized on the case in hopes of advancing their own causes.
Cleland entered the fray two weeks after Sandusky's arrest, appointed to oversee the trial after all of Centre County's judges recused themselves because of ties to Penn State, Sandusky, or the charity through which he met his accusers. At the time, the state office that administers Pennsylvania's courts said he had no known connections to the defendant or Penn State - which isn't entirely true.
His wife, Julie, served for 15 years on a board that advised the university on its use of its public radio and television stations. Court officials later deemed those ties inconsequential.
In the six months since, Cleland has managed to balance the case's conflicting interests while keeping the proceedings moving, the tone light, and the focus on the charges at hand.
"I am a judge up in Kane in McKean County," he told potential jurors at the start of jury selection last week. "It is the icebox of Pennsylvania, and the local wolves are no longer there."
Early on, Cleland rebuffed prosecutors' claims that Sandusky, under home confinement, violated his bail and endangered children by taking his dogs on the back deck of his home yards from an elementary school.
"No evidence whatsoever" existed to justify their concern, he said in a February order.
He turned down repeated requests from Sandusky's defense for delays.
And as attorney rhetoric on both sides reached the histrionic - with references to Sandusky's Second Mile charity as a "victim factory" and three-hour news conferences on the courthouse steps - he issued a gag order to stanch the flow of pretrial publicity.
Even in rulings that have drawn criticism, such as an order last month barring reporters from filing electronic updates from the courtroom or one denying a request from Sandusky's accusers to testify under assumed names, Cleland has taken pains to carefully spell out his reasoning.
The judge at first allowed tweeting, blogging, and Internet updates from Sandusky proceedings but explained in his five-page ruling banning such communications that he felt, upon reflection, that he had misinterpreted existing state law prohibiting verbatim electronic transmission from a courtroom.
Detailing his decision on victim anonymity, he told Sandusky's accusers that while he remained sensitive to their concerns about media exposure, the overwhelming heft of court precedent would require them to take the stand under their own names.
"I could rule on the motions . . . without any reasoned statement to support the order," he wrote. "It seems unwise to do so in this case, however, because . . . to dismiss them without any explanation might lead to confusion and misunderstanding."
It all could have unfolded very differently, said James A. Gibbons, a Common Pleas Court judge in Lackawanna County.
Judges presiding over high-profile trials have occasionally been known to showboat or use the case to advance their political careers, he said.
Cleland is "not one of those people who basks in the limelight, but he doesn't run from it, either," Gibbons said. "He doesn't let it change his approach."
The two served together in 2009 on a panel of lawyers, judges, victims advocates, and elected officials assigned to investigate another highly charged incident involving young victims - the Luzerne County cash-for-kids scandal.
The scandal resulted in the conviction of two county judges who prosecutors said took kickbacks in exchange for sending young offenders to particular for-profit juvenile detention facilities.
Jerry Sandusky trial may be terrifying but therapeutic for accusers
by Colby Itkowitz
Curtis St. John suppressed the memories of his sexual abuse as a 10-year-old for more than two decades. Then as an adult, he went public with his story for the first time, testifying against a once-respected middle school teacher who abused him during summer break in 1979.
St. John steeled himself to do what former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's accusers will do as early as this week: Relive publicly the horrifying abuse they say they faced as boys in front of a room of strangers. The men known only as “Victim” in court documents and media reports will be named.
There's a terrifying vulnerability to being so exposed. When he finally stepped forward to testify in a New York hearing deposition in 2002, St. John was stoic as he was peppered with intricate and personal questions from a defense desperate to find holes in his story. His only moment of weakness came when his lawyer took out a photograph of him as a fifth-grader in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Only then did he cry.
For St. John, the experience was cleansing, the first step to healing a wound that had been infected for most of his life. Experts in child abuse say testifying against an abuser can be empowering and therapeutic for a victim, though that's not absolute.
Connell O'Brien, a children's policy specialist at the Pennsylvania Community Provider's Association, said the benefit of testifying is situational, depending on the victim's support system and how far along he or she is in recovery from the trauma.
“Being able to confront your abuser, to no longer feel powerless, is very important,” he said. “However, because the judicial system is an adversarial one, there will be an effort by the defense to blame the victim, to what is often a retraumatization experience.”
Lawyers for some of Sandusky's accusers had asked that their clients be allowed to testify under a false name, but the request was denied. One attorney filed an affidavit from a psychologist that said the public disclosure could “lead to further feelings of shame and humiliation and trigger symptoms associated with post traumatic stress disorder.”
Dr. Howard Fradkin, a psychologist who has counseled more than 1,000 male victims of sexual abuse, said the moments in the courtroom will be emotional and potentially traumatic for the Sandusky accusers, but hopes “they will be able to look back on this as a very healing and empowering experience.”
“My hope is that they will continue to find or have therapeutic support and that will increase the possibility that it will be a positive experience for them,” he said.
Joelle Casteix, an advocate affiliated with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said victims can benefit by taking their story public.
“It's a very, very scary thing to stand up and talk about your abuse and own it under your own name,” she said. “But every victim I have talked to who has been able to stand up and tell their story as an adult has walked out empowered.
“For many victims, it was the time when they became an adult again and they could stand up for that child who was so horribly hurt. Every victim in some way wants that; not everyone has the strength to do it,” Casteix said.
For two decades, Curtis St. John struggled with feelings of low self-worth. He relied on alcohol as an escape. He had a failed marriage. And he refused to acknowledge the root cause. His mantra was: It happened when I was a child and I'm fine.
But St. John hadn't been fine since he was 10 years old, when after a math lesson in the home of a trusted teacher he was sexually abused. It occurred again and again.
“I'd play Little League and I could smell him on me cause I'd just been at his house,” St. John said.
His abuser, a man named Albert Fentress, later in that summer of 1979 murdered and then ate a teenage boy in his home, under the same roof he'd abused St. John. Fentress was arrested and pleaded insanity. Still, St. John stayed quiet.
Years later, when Fentress petitioned for release from the psychiatric center where he was being held, St. John came forward. At 33, for the first time, he told his parents what had happened to him on those afternoons they thought he was getting math help. And he offered to tell his story under oath.
“Like many men, I did not tell anyone. In my case, this guy was a pillar of the community, very similar to Mr. Sandusky and I knew no one would believe me,” St. John said. “It's not that my parents wouldn't believe me, it's one of those things that people can't stand to believe. It's almost easier to be quiet and take it. And that's what I did for 20 years.”
After he came forward, others did as well. His childhood best friend had also been abused. St. John's sworn deposition ensured that Fentress would stay locked up, and he was moved from a less secure hospital to a locked ward.
Fentress wasn't at the hearing, St. John said the man wouldn't face him. But St. John, now a spokesman for MaleSurvivor, a group that helps male victims of sex abuse, said he had been mentally prepared to face him.
Still, even without the face-to-face contact, St. John said finally owning the story and having other people accept it was the ultimate healing.
“It was pretty amazing. In the end I have to say for me personally, it was very therapeutic,” St. John said. “We grow up thinking, ‘I'm alone in this, no one is going to listen, no one is going to believe me.' There was a weight off my chest that I didn't even know was there.”
Tougher child abuse reporting laws doubted
by JOANN LOVIGLIO - Associated Press
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky goes on trial Monday on child sexual abuse charges.
PHILADELPHIA – When the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State erupted last year, public anger was not only directed toward Jerry Sandusky, whose trial begins Monday, but toward the people around him who didn't report their suspicions to police.
In the months that followed, that anger led many states to re-examine and expand their mandatory reporting laws that require people to report suspected abuse or face civil and criminal penalties. Some state laws apply to professionals including doctors and teachers, while others apply universally to all adults.
Child advocates and academics are divided, however, about whether increasing the number of mandatory reporters will make the public more vigilant or simply overload an already stretched-thin child welfare system and siphon limited resources from children who need help most.
Forty-eight states require at least some professionals to immediately report knowledge or suspicion of child sexual abuse to some authority, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The list of professionals varies by state and can include teachers, school nurses, doctors, social workers, police, child-care workers, coaches and camp counselors.
Of those states, 18 have laws that require mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse by all adults.
About 105 bills on the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect have been introduced in 2012 legislative sessions in 30 states and the District of Columbia, many of them in response to the Sandusky case. Legislation has since been enacted in 10 of those states, according to the latest NCSL tally updated Monday.
Oregon, West Virginia, Virginia and South Dakota are among states that expanded their list of professions that are mandatory reporters, while Indiana and Iowa are requiring schools to develop new policies and reporting procedures for responding to suspected child abuse.
Indiana, also in response to the Penn State scandal, passed legislation that requires the state to work with child sexual abuse experts to develop education materials, response policies, and reporting procedures on child sexual abuse. A new Iowa law requires schools to implement policy for employees in contact with children to report suspected physical or sexual abuse.
Also as a result of the Sandusky case, Florida passed what is now the toughest mandatory reporting legislation in the country: Failure to report suspected child abuse is a felony, and universities would be fined $1 million and stripped of state funding for two years if officials don't report child abuse.
The law applies to everyone – from university coaching staff to elementary school teachers to students.
Critics contend that such laws force child welfare workers to investigate an endless flow of inconsequential complaints, to separate children needlessly from their parents and wreak havoc on innocent families.
“We don't have a problem of underreporting child abuse. We dramatically over-report already,” said New York University law professor Martin Guggenheim, who specializes in legal issues related to child welfare. “We do have a problem of not doing enough for families who come to child welfare agencies and need help.”
He said roughly 60 percent of child abuse reports end up being classified as unfounded cases, with no evidence of mistreatment, and predicted mandatory reporting laws may send that number even higher.
“Politicians serve themselves well. ... They recognized that Americans were (angry)” in the aftermath of the Penn State scandal, Guggenheim said, and began proposing legislation without clear understanding of child welfare issues.
He said that reporting laws have “turned child welfare practice into a quasi-criminal enterprise where everyone's out there looking for wrongdoers.”
“I know what it can do to caseloads. What's more important, children or caseloads?” Hmurovich said. “The common reaction is, ‘It's somebody else's child, I'm not going to intervene, I'm not going to make the matters worse,' but if it's the law, you've got to do something about it.”
State allegations inspire new laws on child sex abuse in Louisiana
Penn State allegations inspire new laws on child sex abuse in Louisiana
by Sheila Kumar
BATON ROUGE, La. — A sexual abuse scandal that rocked Penn State University has resulted in new laws in Louisiana to penalize those who fail to report allegations of child sex abuse and protect those who do.
Three of the bills have been signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Republican governor said he intends to sign the fourth.
One measure protects whistleblowers who report child sex abuse from employer retaliation, while two others penalize those who fail to report to law enforcement. A fourth adds certain classes of athletics coaches to the list of individuals required to notify authorities if they suspect child sex abuse.
Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, sponsor of two of the bills, said they would close an unintended loophole in Louisiana law that that didn't make it mandatory for all people to report child abuse if they see it.
"The concern I had was, after the Penn State scandal, there was a lot of allegations regarding individuals who may have had knowledge of the sexual abuse but never disclosed it," Morrell said.
Morrell said many of the employees who might have seen sexual abuse were afraid to report it for fear of losing their jobs, and one of his bills protects whistleblowers from being fired, suspended or demoted when they report allegations.
Last November, the sex abuse scandal involving football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky exploded at Penn State after he was initially charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period.
Among the allegations was a 2002 incident in which then-graduate student Mike McQueary claims he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a naked boy in a locker room shower. McQueary said he reported the incident to Sandusky's former boss, head football coach Joe Paterno, who then told the university's athletic director.
Pennsylvania's attorney general said despite state law, it was not reported to any law enforcement or child protective agencies. Sandusky now faces 52 criminal counts. He has denied the allegations.
Under previous Louisiana law, child care providers, members of the clergy, mental health workers, elementary and secondary school teachers and others listed in the state children's code were required to report any abuse or neglect they encounter. But Morrell said if you're an average citizen and discover child abuse, the law did not force you to report it.
"So we decided to amend the law and create this new provision that said, 'Listen, if you see a kid being sexually abused, you have an absolute, ironclad responsibility to report that to the legal authorities immediately,'" he said.
Adults who fail to report it could face up to five years in prison or a $10,000 fine if convicted.
Judy Benitez, executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, said she understands why lawmakers would want to respond to the Penn State scandal, but the issue is really about morals. Often, she said, when people witness child sex abuse, they perpetrator will be a family member, boss or partner.
"People fail to realize how overwhelming such a realization can be, besides the fact it's shocking to walk in on something like that. I think really what a lot of what's going on to change has already happened in terms of people discussing it," she said.
Her organization cites statistics from a 2000 national report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention that says juveniles make up 71 percent of all sex crime victims. Benitez also says it's very hard to aggregate statistics on sexual assault because many victims don't report it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in 2006 on childhood maltreatment and found that adverse childhood experiences were common; 20 percent of participants reported that they had been sexually abused as a child.
Additionally, the Obama administration updated the FBI's decades-old definition of rape in January to include men and children. Benitez says broadening the FBI's previously narrow definition will change the numbers dramatically.
Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, who sponsored the measure mandating that coaches report any signs of sexual abuse, said he found the facts surrounding the Pennsylvania case so offensive that he had to come up with a way to strengthen laws that protect children.
"That's where this piece of legislation really came from, it was a reaction to that and the desire to make sure that our laws were strong enough to protect our young people," he said. "I'm glad to see that coaches across the state are going to now understand that when they witness abuse, they need to report it."
Protecting Children Requires More Than Just Car Seats: Shifting Cultural Norms to End Child Sexual Abuse
by Anika Rahman - President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women
Those of us over a certain age remember bouncing around the backseat of the family car, unrestrained, as our fathers or mothers sped down the highway. A generation later, it's unthinkable that we would allow our young children to ride without a car seat.
The widespread public safety campaign in the 1970s, accompanying the passage of state and federal laws strengthening child car seat safety regulations, was tremendously successful at decreasing our children's risk of injury or death from a car accident. Today, car seat use is nearly universal, a preventive measure ingrained in our national consciousness.
But there's a threat just as serious to your child's safety -- a risk that our nation has achieved far less success in minimizing.
Child sexual abuse.
Your lifetime risk of dying in a car accident is 1 in 84. Your child's risk of being sexually abused is 1 in 4 for girls and 1 in 6 for boys.
It's time to shift our understanding of safety.
As the leading national foundation working to end child sexual abuse, the Ms. Foundation for Women is embracing the car seat model of cultural and political change, through which safety precautions are normalized. We're tackling this issue community by community through our network of child sexual abuse prevention advocates.
With Jerry Sandusky's trial on the horizon, our solemn nation is reminded once again of the prevalence of child sexual abuse -- and that it most often happens close to home, by offenders our families know, trust and care deeply about.
But what the impending trial fails to expose is that this isolated criminal justice response does little to prevent future abuse. By focusing on past offenders, the criminal justice approach is rendered ineffective at preventing abuse for the vast majority of victims whose abuse continues, unreported. Worse, the false sense of safety elicited by a stranger's conviction belies the true danger of abusers among our children's close-knit circles.
At the epicenter of the child sexual abuse movement, the Ms. Foundation is enabling community-based solutions -- metaphorical car seats that protect children on their journey from church groups to piano lessons to soccer camps. We're helping create opportunities for prevention that take the onus off of children to stop the abuse. We're advancing solutions that require adults to pro-actively prevent -- rather than merely prosecute -- the abuse before it begins. We don't expect children to buckle themselves into car seats; nor should we expect children to navigate complex social ills on their own.
As with other areas of child safety, there isn't one single approach guaranteed to protect your child from harm. Rather, there's a mosaic of solutions that must be implemented at individual, family and organizational levels. Whether you're creating a Family Safety Plan or working to implement prevention policies at local youth-serving organizations, you can help reduce opportunities for child sexual abuse where your children live, learn and play.
As the Sandusky case has illustrated, child sexual abuse harms entire communities, leaving community members devastated and guilt-ridden over the failed responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us.
It's our job as adults to put an end to child sexual abuse and to create communities that are safe from every harm, from car accidents to child abusers. The next time you buckle your daughter into her car seat or strap on your son's bicycle helmet, commit to taking that first step toward preventing child sexual abuse in your own community.
Our view: Sexual abuse of youngsters exacts huge cost
The Erie County Courthouse at 140 W. Sixth St. and the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte are about 200 miles apart. The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in turn, is approximately 200 miles from Bellefonte. But long distances don't matter. Throughout Pennsylvania, many eyes are focused on high-profile courtroom cases alleging sexual abuse of youngsters, and the price that is paid when such travesties occur.
On June 1, a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Erie awarded $8,654,769 to Kenny Bryan, 20, who sued two Erie County Office of Children and Youth social workers. The lawsuit claimed that Bryan's civil rights were violated when the social workers place a sexually aggressive 14-year-old foster child with the family that adopted Bryan, a former foster child. This lawsuit was about the "very broken child-welfare system" that harmed Bryan, said his adoptive mother, Bonnie Bryan, after the verdict.
Nevertheless, those who followed this trial learned disturbing, graphic details about the abuse Bryan suffered at age 9 and the problems he endures today. Witnesses, including Kenny Bryan, testified that the unnamed 14-year-old raped Bryan repeatedly, causing him to lose progress he had made in healing from previous abuse.
When he told his mother that he had been molested, "He just kept saying, 'I don't want you to stop loving me,'" Bonnie Bryan testified. Jurors said they awarded a large sum to Bryan to cover past medical bills from repeated hospitalizations, lost earnings and his emotional suffering.
The case in the Centre County Courtroom involves 52 criminal charges against Jerry Sandusky, 67, a former Penn State assistant football coach and founder of a charity for at-risk youth. Sandusky's trial starts Monday; the men who will be called to testify are still "alleged" victims.
But financial costs related to the Sandusky case are adding up. Pennsylvania State University is paying two public relations firms $208,000 a month for public relations and crisis management. The university donated $1.5 million to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and $1.1 million to the Center for the Protection of Children at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital to train more doctors to treat sexual abuse victims.
The Associated Press reported that the Philadelphia archdiocese spent $11.6 million in legal fees in the last two fiscal years, most of it on priest abuse sex cases. Additional money has been spent on a criminal case in which one priest was charged with raping a 14-year-old boy and another was charged with helping to cover up sexual assaults of children. "It's a great sadness that people were hurt and that the costs have been so great for the people of Philadelphia," Archbishop Charles Chaput said.
For victims, families and society, the true toll of sexual abuse can never be measured in dollars spent in the courtroom. We can only hope that these high-profile cases raise awareness about sexual abuse, perhaps preventing such trauma from occurring in the first place, and then also helping professionals learn how to help victims heal.
Children in danger
by Ricky Poca
(I am yielding this space today to my wife Dr. Naomi Poca, pediatrician and child protection specialist, to shed light on a disturbing reality, children sexually abusing children.)
Gleaned from the headlines of the CDN June 7, 2012 issue, “Children in trouble: girl raped by minors; no charges readied”, yes, these children are in danger. Danger from being misunderstood, mislabeled and mishandled.
Children's behaviors are manifestations of:
|(1) what they have seen and heard (e.g., dad yelling at mom for not preparing a meal on time vs. dad helping mom cook food so the meal will be eaten on time),
(2) how they are being treated (e.g., mom hitting child because he/she failed to pass a school exam vs. mom guiding and supporting the child in studying for a school exam),
(3) how they deal with conflict or stresses in their young lives (boy hits and yells at a girl or another boy because he needs to use their pencil vs. boy politely asking if he can borrow their pencil), or
(4) the effects of maltreatment in the home or in the community (children who engaged in sexual intercourse between the ages of 14 and 16 years old were usually physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused early in their lives according to a study).
What about when boys or girls manifest behaviors that are sexual in nature? Are they ‘rapists', too, like adult men (and a few women) who sexually molest another human being and, therefore, be treated with disgust?
Children 12 years and under, who demonstrate age or developmentally inappropriate or aggressive sexual behavior are called children with sexual behavior problems (CSBPs). This includes children with self-focused sexual behavior (e.g., excessive masturbation) and aggressive sexual behavior towards others that may include coercion or force. Although the word “sex” is used to describe the problematic behaviors of these children, the motivation may be unrelated to sexual gratification.
Children's sexual behavior are considered problematic when the behavior:
|(1) interferes with the child's social or cognitive development,
(2) occurs with coercion, intimidation or force,
(3) occurs at a high frequency,
(4) is associated with emotional distress,
(5) occurs between children of significantly different ages or developmental abilities, and
(6) repeated occurs in secrecy after adult intervention.
Sexual play among children is normal and not harmful, such as peering at private parts. However, these same behaviors can be become abnormal and harmful if done aggressively or intrusively.
Research has shown that the origins of sexual behavior problems in children are multiple: sexuality within the family, exposure to sexual materials, and exposure to familial violence and physical abuse among other negative childhood experiences. Sexualized behavior problems due to child sexual abuse is not very common. However, if such behaviors are seen in these victims, it is very likely related to sexual abuse that was repetitive and/or sadistic in nature.
Labeling and treating CSBPs as perpetrators or offenders is potentially psychologically damaging to their developing self-concept. Throughout childhood, children are developing an understanding of who they are. Adult responses that label or reinforce a belief that a child is deviant or perverted or pathological can hinder the child's developing sense of self. The problematic behaviors of CSBPs do need to be corrected. The goals of intervention should be to reduce and eliminate inappropriate sexual behavior without negatively labeling the child.
CSBPs do not generally grow to become adolescent or adult sex offenders.
Teenagers who sexually offend, on the other hand, are not like CSBPs. These are adolescents aged 13 to 15 who commit illegal sexual behavior as defined by the law. Theories have been offered to explain the cause of deviant sexual behavior in adolescents toward younger children.
The following have been found to be associated with a higher prevalence of adolescent sexual offending:
|(1) history of prior abuse, particularly physical abuse, although majority of those abused do not go on to become perpetrators
(2) impaired family functioning,
(3) alcohol and substance abuse,
(4) exposure to erotica, and
(5) psychiatric disorders.
Compared to non-sexual offending and non-delinquent adolescents, juveniles sexual offenders were found to have low self-esteem, few or weak social skills, minimal assertive skills and poor academic performance. The common psychological disorders found among these juveniles are conduct disorder, substance abuse disorders, adjustment disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder with hyperactivity, learning disabilities, specific phobia, and mood disorders.
Juvenile sexual offenders are different from adult sexual offenders in that they have lower recidivism rates, engage in fewer aggressive behaviors over short periods of time, and have less sexual behavior. Sexual re-offending is low for juvenile sexual offenders who receive proper and adequate treatment.
The possible causes of sexual problematic behaviors in children and deviant sexual behavior in adolescents are diverse and complex. It is for this reason that a multi-disciplinary team that includes knowledgeable social workers and well-trained mental health professionals be involved in the thorough assessment of the individual, his/her family and the community. Interventions to reduce and/or eliminate the sexual behavior problem should focus not only on the child or adolescent but also on his/her family and the community he/she belongs to.
The processes that the identified CSBP or adolescent sexual offender will have to go through should not impact negatively on his/her development. He/she is not like the inveterate male predatory pedophile with a long history of abusive behaviors. He/she is a malleable being with the potential for change as long as properly understood and handled.
State targets sex trafficking
by Mario Koran - Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
June 9, 2012
WISCONSIN DELLS — Wisconsin law enforcement leaders acknowledge they need to do a better job of attacking criminals who enslave victims in sex and labor markets. This week, about 300 officials received training on how to identify cases of human trafficking — which often are not spotted because victims are fearful to speak out.
“It's an issue that's happening right under our noses, it's an issue that we frequently categorize wrong,” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Thursday as he launched a two-day summit for law enforcement officials at Chula Vista Resort.
Law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victim-assistance specialists attended, along with survivors of human trafficking who shared their stories.
Lisa Tritt-Feleshchuk told the group that while attending college at Arizona State University, she met a man who became her boyfriend but later coerced her into prostitution.
Tritt-Feleshchuk said the man forced her to give massages and sell her body to strangers.
Over time, she grew dependent on him for survival and acceptance.
“I wasn't lured by drugs. I was lured only by the promise of love,” she said.
“While most prostitution stories end in jail, that's where my journey begins.”
Tritt-Feleshchuk served time in jail for prostitution, but her boyfriend escaped charges and abandoned her to focus on younger women in Eastern Europe.
Today, Tritt-Feleshchuk works on behalf of trafficking survivors and is calling for a law that would allow victims to have their records expunged if they were forced to commit their crimes.
Human trafficking involves controlling or attempting to control a person by force, fraud, or coercion. Its victims include children involved in the sex trade, adults who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into labor or services.
Jeff Stillings, group supervisor for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, played video clips to illustrate signs of trafficking: Often a “spokesman” mediates between victims and public safety officials, while the trafficker withholds victims' passports.
The crimes remain difficult to prosecute. According to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between January 2008 and June 2010, federally funded task forces opened 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigation. Yet, during that same period, only 389 incidents were confirmed cases of human trafficking, which included 488 suspects and 527 victims.
In a recent news release, Van Hollen said there's a need for better data.
“We know human trafficking is happening in Wisconsin,” Van Hollen wrote, “but we need to know more about the extent and nature of the problem locally.”
Last August, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported that over the past decade, people have been trafficked to Wisconsin from at least 17 countries, including Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Many additional victims were American citizens.
Experts quoted in that report said that since enacting a state law against human trafficking in 2008, Wisconsin had done little to expose situations in which which hundreds of state residents, including children, live as virtual slaves. They said Wisconsin lacked money for data collection, education, law enforcement training and victim services that could bring more cases to light.
Just a handful of cases have been prosecuted in Wisconsin under state and federal anti-trafficking laws.
Jill Karofsky, director of the Office of Crime Victim Services at the state Department of Justice, noted that because victims are often reluctant to testify, elements of trafficking are difficult to prove and defendants plead to lesser charges such as soliciting prostitution. The state recently published a guide to help law enforcement agencies crack down on trafficking.
“You're talking about a crime that's driven underground by the people who perpetuate it,” said Karofsky, who expressed optimism that the new training will lead to more prosecutions.
“As soon as it becomes above ground, they're going to get caught.”
The nonprofit and nonpartisan Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital to host child sexual abuse prevention course June 20
by James Lovett
Seaford — Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a training course titled "How to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse" from 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 20.
Stewards of Children, a sexual abuse prevention program, is leading the course.
The session costs $10 per person, and registration is required. To register, call 302-629-6611, ext. 3910.
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is located at 801 Middleford Road in Seaford.
A Troubled Silence
by RICHARD B. GARTNER
The revelation this week of alleged widespread child abuse at the elite Horace Mann School in New York City, most of it occurring during the 1970s and '80s, is only the most recent instance of men coming forward, many years after the fact, with horrific stories of sexual molesting from their childhood.
Most of those accused of the abuse in the Horace Mann case are dead, but under New York State law, if alive they would most likely be safe from justice. The state's statute of limitations on child abuse is five years from the victim's 18th birthday. After age 23, the victim has no recourse.
Yet young adults, particularly men, who suffer the aftereffects of abuse are rarely in an emotional state to bring charges. Given what we now know about why it takes victims so long to come forward, the law needs to be changed.
Many people cast a skeptical eye on those who wait so long to reveal instances of child abuse, particularly when it happened to them as teenagers. They assume that accusers are making it up, blaming what were at most minor incidents for their troubles.
But in my decades of experience working with abuse victims, I have found that men spend years putting their emotions in a deep freeze or masking post-traumatic reactions with self-defeating behaviors like compulsive gambling and substance abuse. Eventually, they are forced by internal or external events to find treatment.
I once conducted a training seminar about how to treat men with histories of sexual abuse. One student, a semiretired social worker in his 70s, asked a barrage of questions and was consistently derisive of what he saw as other people's overly emotional reactions to the horrifying histories.
Another participant finally criticized him for derailing the conversation. He was silent for a long moment. Then he began to weep.
Between sobs, he poured out the story of his own childhood sexual trauma. In the 60 or more years since, he had barely hinted about it to anyone, and the years of silence had left him isolated in unemotional, unsatisfying adult intimate relationships.
He was, sadly, typical of male abuse victims. Even in 2012, we are socialized to think that “real men” should be resilient, and certainly not victims. For a man to acknowledge sexual victimhood, even to himself, is to say he is not really male.
What's more, conventional wisdom says abuse turns a boy gay, despite strong evidence to the contrary. Straight boys wonder why they were chosen for sexual victimization, afraid they might be gay. Gay boys may feel rushed into defining themselves as gay or decide that abuse caused their orientation, complicating their ability to develop positive identities as gay men.
Even worse, perhaps, and again without evidence, common folklore tells us that sexually abused boys almost inevitably grow up to be sexually abusing men. This terrifies a male victim, even if he has no thought of becoming a sexual predator. He worries he may become predatory without volition or warning, or that others will assume he is an abuser if they know his history.
Finally, since boyhood abuse was not part of the public conversation until recently, many boys and men assumed their experiences were repulsive and aberrant. And a man who has not talked about it might feel it would be humiliating to first disclose it in middle age or later.
Needless to say, the decades spent trying to bury the memories rarely work. The man in my seminar is a prime example of how sexually abused men who remain mute become isolated, frightened of emotions and hypervigilant.
Things may be changing, thanks, in part, to the recent spate of abuse revelations. Many older victims have gained the courage to come forward. In my own practice, I received almost as many calls from sexually abused men in December and January, soon after allegations surfaced about abuse by the former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, as I usually get in a year. With Mr. Sandusky's trial set to begin next week, I expect to get even more calls.
But more needs to be done. Every year since 2005, Margaret M. Markey, a New York State assemblywoman, has introduced a bill to extend the statute of limitations for five more years, a modest increase; it would also create a one-year window for adults up to age 53 to bring charges against alleged abusers. The bill has passed the Assembly four times but has consistently been blocked from coming to the floor of the Senate, largely thanks to fierce lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has yet to take a position on the bill.
The stories of abuse at Horace Mann and elsewhere are truly horrifying. But the victims will have done a great service if their actions persuade others to come forward — and the State Legislature to, at long last, set a realistic statute of limitations for going after their abusers.
Richard B. Gartner is a psychologist and psychoanalyst and the author of “Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse.”
We must do more to protect our children from sexual abuse
by Rush L. Russell
As the trial of accused child molester Jerry Sandusky begins, we can expect to see, once again, the public's outrage about the whole tragic affair — how so many children could be victims, over such a long period of time, with no one doing anything. So far, most of the media's coverage has focused on the question of reporting, i.e. who at Penn State saw something or knew something and should have done something to stop it.
But there has been almost no attention to the question of what it would have taken to have prevented these tragedies from happening in the first place. Child sexual abuse can be prevented.
A key is for parents to know three things:
|1) The most likely perpetrator is someone they know and trust;
2) perpetrators take steps to gain the trust of children and their parents, which is called “grooming”; and
3) child sexual abuse happens when an adult has one-on-one access to a child, so parents need to be vigilant about those situations.
Parents need to understand that in 90 percent of all cases of child sexual abuse, the child and family know and trust the perpetrator. The biggest danger to a child isn't a stranger in the park – it's someone a parent trusts and even likes and respects — and someone who has access to the child in one-on-one situations.
Just understanding this can help parents be aware of the situations that pose the greatest risk to their children.
Who has one-on-one access to your child? If your child is spending time in a one-on-one situation with an adult, are you able to drop in unannounced? Do you? Is the setting one where a child could be offered alcohol, which is often used as part of grooming? When your child comes home, do you speak with him/her to ask how things went, and what happened that day?
Parents need to stay in touch with their kids' activities and watch for warning signs that something unusual may have happened.
A relatively small percentage of perpetrators fall into the serial pedophile category, represented by the Sandusky case. More than one-third of all cases involve adolescents with younger adolescents.
So, it bears repeating: Parents need to be vigilant and aware. They must ask themselves if their young teen, son or daughter, is hanging out with much older teens. The “power differential” that happens with an older child and a younger one can be a risk factor for abuse.
Finally, a parent should note whether his or her child has received any gifts from these same individuals, possibly ones that may seem unusual. Perpetrators often provide gifts to victims as a way to gain their trust and affection, or to bribe them not to tell if something has happened. If a child has received such gifts, a parent may simply want to ask more questions. There are other warning signs related to abuse that include mood changes in the child, or signs that he or she has a new fear of spending time with a certain adult, that should be paid attention to.
In all of the cases at Penn State, these warning signs were being sounded loud and clear, yet parents and other adults weren't listening or didn't know what to watch for.
Still, today, the media are not asking about these issues or reporting about what it takes to prevent child sexual abuse from happening. Today, by knowing the facts, an adult or parent or caregiver can be more vigilant, ask questions and take steps to protect children. Everyone in our community has a role to play.
It's not that any adult who cares about or who spends time with a child is a likely perpetrator. We don't want to live in a society where fear and distrust replace noble human instincts and behavior.
Right now, however, we are not doing an adequate job of protecting our children from sexual abuse. Thousands of lives are devastated each year in New Jersey alone. A little more vigilance and education will go a long way toward preventing child sexual abuse — before it ever happens to a child.
In New Jersey, we have created the New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, a statewide coalition of our state's top experts. Our strategy focuses on educating adults about the above facts and much more about child sexual abuse that parents and all adults can use to protect children. We've chosen three communities to lead the effort, including Mercer County, led by PEI Kids in Lawrence. Eventually, we hope to reach every community in the state. The initiative is based on replicating a successful model, the Enough Abuse Campaign, a research-based model developed with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In New Jersey, we've had enough abuse — enough shame, enough guilt, enough harm, enough silence — and we are strongly committed to better protecting the most vulnerable members of our society from being preyed upon by adults who are supposed to be their caring protectors.
Rush L. Russell is executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, preventchildabusenj.org
Innocence On Trial
WASHINGTON, June 8, 2012 — As the trial of Jerry Sandusky begins, I am filled with both hope and fear of what twelve jurors will decide the innocence of a child is worth. Whether justice can erase a lifetime of suffering and restore the invaluable nature of a childhood recklessly vandalized.
The implications of this case have echoed across the country as victims of childhood sexual abuse have broken the silence of a lifetime of suffering. I count myself among this number. As the news of the accusations against Sandusky broke in early November of last year, so did the remnants of a wall that had kept me imprisoned my entire life. A victim of child abuse, the inescapable grip of silence kept my life forever languishing in the hell most survivors endure.
So what is it about Sandusky that has incited an “Arab Spring” among those who have suffered the loss of their innocence by the vilest of thieves? The persona of Jerry Sandusky is the same mask pedophiles use to camouflage themselves as they hunt the most vulnerable in society. This image was reinforced when Syracuse University Assistant Basketball Coach Bernie Fine was accused of molesting two ball boys in the 1970's and continuing to abuse them into the 1990's. Fine was later fired by Syracuse as a firestorm of accusations erupted implicating his wife for having knowledge of his sexual abuse of young boys but doing nothing.
What is important about both of these cases is they bring to light revelations about both pedophiles and victims. The image of the pedophile in the corner of most people's minds, as a social deviant, a monster, clouds their ability to see the true nature of this type of predator. Although pedophiles can be violent, most are non-confrontational and highly manipulative, “seducing” their victims with what they desire most, and that is typically attention.
They operate in a stealthy manner that precludes them from detection as they glide in social circles and operate under the guise of philanthropy. Most children who are at risk for abuse come from backgrounds where dysfunction has defined their lives. Many children from impoverished backgrounds fall into this category, and Jerry Sandusky used the charity he founded as a collection point for disadvantaged kids, some of whom became his victims.
In 1977 Jerry Sandusky founded the Second Mile Foundation as a charity for “at risk” children. As he made regular visits to the foundation, he interacted with the children, playing games and reading stories. He inserted himself into the lives of children who had probably never known kindness from an adult and bore the scars of years of emotional isolation. I will tell you from experience when you are a child from a dysfunctional family subjected to emotional, physical and even sexual abuse, anyone who pretends to care can become Santa Claus in your eyes.
Sandusky's attorney has described him as a “big kid,” and adopting the thought process of a kid is how most pedophiles worm their way into a child's affections. A sixty year old man who knows more about what interests a child than their own parents is a red flag, especially when there is inappropriate physical contact involved. Sandusky gave these children gifts and took them to Penn State football games; he made them feel important, that they mattered, and then threatened to take it all away. To a child from a dysfunctional family, to feel that you are cared for and matter to somebody is a drug that is almost impossible to give up.
Pedophiles create an addiction in children for affection and attention, supplementing this with gifts these children could only dream about. It is the highest form of emotional blackmail, and by the time a pedophile's attention becomes sexual, the child is trapped. Imprisoned by their own minds, they face a loss of what has filled the huge hole in their lives created by a past ruled by dysfunction.
They even face retribution from their families as the pedophile may threaten to worsen their situation at home by telling their parents they have done something wrong. Faced with these decisions, most victims of child sex abuse are manipulated into remaining in relationships with a pedophile. My own abuse lasted from the age of five until the age of fourteen. This is typically the age most pedophiles lose interest and begin to seek another young victim, leaving the shattered husk of a vandalized childhood behind.
Victims are at a severe disadvantage on several fronts. As in the Sandusky case, many survivors take decades to speak of the abuse they suffered. The shame and pain of that one event, coupled with the fear of not being believed, can be so great that a lifetime may pass without its mention.
Elizabeth Taylor spoke of James Dean as he confided to her the sexual abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of a pastor. Ozzy Osbourne, Carlos Santana and the brave voices of Ashley Judd and Mackenzie Phillips who have all come forward to inspire those who have suffered abuse to break their silence.
The wind has been changing for survivors and the movement to break the back of silence has swelled to large numbers. So when Sandusky's defense team accuses those who have come forward of seeking monetary gain and trying to bring down this great “legend” of Penn State, I have to ask, “Who would bring this on themselves? Who would bring on the ridicule and trauma that opens devastating old wounds?” No one would drag himself or herself through the hell of revisiting an agony that had dominated their lives unless they truly sought justice.
In the 1980's, the scandal that rocked the Catholic Church created the cracks in the wall of silence that have continued their growth until the case against Sandusky saw it begin to crumble. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests grew out of the Church tragedy and they have seen a worldwide movement to expose sex abuse even now as a scandal rocks the Dutch Catholic Church. If Jerry Sandusky is convicted of just a fraction of the 52 counts of sexual abuse he is accused of, the verdict will echo around the world as more survivors shed a lifetime of pain to finally come forward.
What is at stake for the victims of Jerry Sandusky is the very root of their existence. The courage these individuals have shown has been an overwhelming inspiration for many victims of child abuse, including myself. The validation of the decades of pain they have suffered due to their victimization as young children is what lies in the balance during this trial. I will tell you from my own personal experience that money or even vengeance against the abuser is nowhere near as valuable as the acknowledgement by your peers that you were abused and have a right to justice.
If Jerry Sandusky is found guilty and serves only one day in jail, these victims will have found validation that their innocence was worth more than a sideline pass to a Penn State game. There will also be a continued redefinition of what a pedophile is. With that has to come the realization that Sandusky is representative of hundreds of others who use their reputation, as camouflage to steal the most precious treasure a child knows, their innocence.
No matter what the outcome of the trial of Jerry Sandusky, his case has changed societies' perception of child abuse and spurred undeniable momentum in the cause for victims' rights. It is sad to think that it required such tremendous suffering and pain to get our collective attention. As victims of child abuse, our relentless goal has to be to never let society forget what monsters lie beneath the surface of our daily life. We have to remind people that although we have suffered in silence for many years, we will no longer bear the burden for our abusers. We will win our freedom and our right to happiness with the blood and sweat of our very souls.
I work every day to try to make a difference in the struggle to end child abuse through my journalistic efforts and involvement with organizations that educate parents, children and teachers about the warning signs of child abuse. We have to arm all responsible adults with the knowledge of what appropriate physical contact consists of and what the signs are that a child is being “groomed” by a pedophile before it becomes too late.
The only way to fight child abuse effectively is for everyone to become involved in its prevention by coming together in communities and protecting “at risk” children. The CDC looked at victims of child abuse reported in one year and estimated the cost of caring for these victims over their lifetime was $124 billon. In 2008, 1,740 children from the age of 0 to 17 died of abuse. That number is 1,740 children who could have lived if we had more tools in place to recognize and circumvent abusive situations.
This means legislation for mandatory reporting of abuse like the law the Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal just signed that was inspired by the Penn State scandal. We need to examine the current laws regarding the statute of limitations on reporting child sex abuse and find a way for victims to find justice. Education in our schools must prepare students and teachers to recognize and act decisively when the signs of child abuse are recognized and we as a community must strengthen our resolve to end the tragedy of child abuse.
Jerry Sandusky could have been stopped in 1994 when he was first accused of sexual abuse but instead he continued to prey on the most vulnerable in society until one victim's voice shattered the silence. As I watch the trial I pray for justice for the victims of Jerry Sandusky and hope that all who have suffered the tragedy of child abuse will find an end to their silence.
12-person jury, alternate chosen in Sandusky case
by Genaro C. Armas and Mark Scolforo
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — A jury was selected Wednesday in the child molestation scandal that brought down Joe Paterno , and the makeup of the panel left no doubt that this is Penn State country.
The seven women and five men who will hear opening statements on Monday in the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky include an engineering administrative assistant at Penn State, a dance teacher in the school's continuing education program and a professor who has been on the faculty for 24 years.
They also include a Penn State senior, a retired soil sciences professor with 37 years at the university, a man with bachelor's and master's degrees from the school, and a woman who's been a football season ticket holder since the 1970s.
One of four alternate jurors was selected Wednesday, a woman in her 30s who graduated from Penn State in 2007 with a degree in human development. Three more alternates remain to be picked, and a prosecutor said he thought those selections could be finished Wednesday afternoon.
The selection process moved swiftly even though the rural area is rich with Penn State employees, alumni and fans. The judge, however, said Penn State connections would not automatically disqualify potential jurors so long as they could pledge to be impartial.
Sandusky faces a total of 52 counts involving 10 alleged victims over a 15-year span. He has denied the allegations, and defense lawyer Joseph Amendola 's potential witness list has seven Sandusky family members on it, including his wife, Dottie, and two sons.
Amendola on Wednesday asked again for a delay, alleging that an ABC News report saying that the accuser identified in court papers as Victim 4 would be the first witness violated the gag order Judge John Cleland issued in April. Cleland denied Amendola's request.
The lawyers who will argue the case said on the way into the courthouse Wednesday they were happy with the process so far.
During a midday break, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan, a senior deputy attorney general, said, “So far, so good,” on the way to smoking a cigarette at a picnic table outside the courthouse.
Amendola arrived with Sandusky just after 8:15 a.m. and told reporters he was confident the nine jurors picked on Tuesday would give them a “fair shake.” Sandusky himself did not say anything as he entered the building in Bellefonte, about 12 miles from the university where he once worked.
But he displayed the most emotion yet during the two-day selection process during a break Wednesday. Sandusky turned to two media representatives in the room and asked rhetorically, “What did you guys do to deserve me?” He chuckled before adding, “How did you guys get stuck with this?”
Besides the panelists with ties to Penn State, jurors include a 24-year-old man with plans to attend auto technician school, a mother of two who works in retail, a retired school bus driver, an engineer with no Penn State ties and a property management firm employee.
But the breadth of Penn State connections was evident again in the second day of jury selection, an exhaustive process done in phases. Groups of 40 were questioned at a time, and those who weren't excused from that portion were then questioned individually to finally determine if they can be seated.
Of the 40 initially questioned Wednesday, 10 indicated they worked at Penn State . Nineteen indicated either they or a close family member had volunteered or financially contributed to the university.
Fifteen said they knew someone on the prosecution's witness list, while 20 knew someone on Sandusky's defense list. Eighteen indicated they had jobs or other responsibilities in which they were legally required to report instances of alleged child abuse.
Sandusky was quiet in court during this phase early Wednesday, leafing through a binder with plastic-covered pages and pausing at times when Cleland commented from the bench.
More than 600 jury duty summonses were sent out to residents in Centre County, the home of Penn State University's main campus.
Sandusky's lawyer won the right to have jurors chosen from the local community, and prosecutors had concerns that Centre County might prove to be nearly synonymous with Penn State.
All the jurors will have to say under oath they can be impartial.
Besides Sandusky family members, other names on the defense's potential witness list include the widow and son of Joe Paterno, the late Hall of Fame football coach who was dismissed by university trustees in the aftermath of Sandusky's arrest.
Assistant coach Mike McQueary and his father are also on the defense witness list.
Mike McQueary, on leave from the team, has said he saw Sandusky naked in a team shower with a young boy more than a decade ago and reported it to Paterno. Mike McQueary is also on the prosecution's list, along with young men who have accused Sandusky of abusing them.
Accusers to be unmasked at Penn State trial
by Michael Rubinkam
The young men who accuse former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of molesting them have been allowed to remain anonymous through months of intense news coverage and water-cooler conversation about the scandal.
That's about to change.
When they take the witness stand in a packed Pennsylvania courtroom as early as next week, the alleged victims will be forced to state their names for the record — traumatizing them all over again, their lawyers and victims' advocates argue, especially given the very real possibility their identities will become common knowledge via social media and the wider Internet.
Most traditional media organizations, including the Associated Press, have longstanding policies against using the names of alleged victims of sexual assault, viewing the crime as so intensely personal and the potential effect of public disclosure so traumatic for the accuser that withholding the identity outweighs the public's right to know.
But in this anything-goes age of social media and citizen journalists, when anyone with a smartphone can tweet or blog, old media standards may no longer make much difference.
Anyone lucky enough to grab one of the 85 courtroom seats reserved for the public could sit in for the day, jot down some of the accusers' names, leave and disseminate them to the world.
“Most of us want to have some control over who we share intimate details of our lives with,” said Karen Baker, director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “To have that out there on the Internet, you've totally lost control, and it's a scary thing.”
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts accusing him of sexually abusing 10 boys over a span of 15 years. Prosecutors say the retired coach befriended boys he met through The Second Mile, the charity he founded for youngsters in 1977, then attacked them, in some cases in his home or inside university athletic facilities. He has denied the allegations.
Most of the accusers are now in their 20s. Up to now, they have been identified in court papers only as “Victim 1,” ”Victim 2” and so on.
Five of the eight alleged victims who could be called to the stand asked Judge John Cleland for permission to testify under pseudonyms, saying through their lawyers that exposing their names would subject them to shame, ridicule and harassment.
An attorney for the accuser known as Victim 4 submitted an affidavit from his psychologist that said public disclosure could trigger symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and interfere with the young man's treatment and recovery.
And a coalition of advocacy groups argued that removing the cloak of anonymity would have a chilling effect on victims' willingness to report abuse. Most childhood sexual abuse already goes unreported because young victims fear they will be ridiculed or disbelieved, the groups noted in a brief submitted to the judge.
But the judge said there is no authority in Pennsylvania law to allow the alleged victims to remain anonymous. While state law shields the identities of child victims of sexual assault, it affords no explicit protection to adult accusers even if the abuse took place when they were children.
Cleland also said there is a public policy consideration at stake.
“Courts are not customarily in the business of withholding information,” he wrote. “Secrecy is thought to be inconsistent with the openness required to assure the public that the law is being administered fairly and applied faithfully.” With rare exception, Cleland said, all citizens have a duty to testify publicly, “no matter how personally unpleasant.”
In the wake of that ruling, victims' organizations pleaded with the public and the media Thursday to exercise restraint.
“Victims everywhere should know that their privacy will be respected when they come forward to reveal intimate details of sexual abuse. They participate in the criminal justice process in an effort to do the right thing and testify about their experiences; they should not have to worry about being publicly targeted when doing so,” said Baker's group and others said in a statement.
John Giugliano, a clinical social worker and associate professor at Widener University, said victims of childhood sexual abuse can suffer anew when their names are publicized because the most humiliating episode of their lives is suddenly open to public inspection and judgment. Common symptoms of abuse — depression, anxiety, substance abuse, difficulty connecting with others — can flare up or become more severe, he said.
Beth Docherty, who was 15 when her music teacher raped her, said she was grateful her name wasn't released. Even with the court's protection, though, a newspaper account contained just enough detail about her identity — that she played flute — that it became known within her school. She said the teacher's supporters sent her hate mail and broke her windows.
Docherty, now 43 and president of the board of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, sees parallels with the Sandusky case. Just as she was blamed for reporting her attacker, Docherty said, some Penn State fans have blamed the accusers for football coach Joe Paterno's firing last fall, just months before his death from cancer.
“You've gone through this horrible thing, and you have people who don't know you blaming you, saying you caused this icon to be brought down. It stays with you. It affects you for a long time,” she said. “Having that identity kept from the public is a little bit of a comfort, so I feel for them. It's going to be really traumatic, and I give them a lot of credit to still go through with it and not crush and crumble under all the pressure.”
If the victims' names do become public knowledge during trial, it probably won't be the result of reporting by the traditional media.
“We have a firm and longstanding policy not to publish the names of victims of sexual crimes without their consent,” Lawrence Beaupre, executive editor of Times-Shamrock Communications, said in an email. The media conglomerate publishes The Times-Tribune in Scranton and several other newspapers and has sent a reporter to the trial.
More than 80 media outlets have been credentialed to cover the trial, from broadcast networks and major newspapers to Internet portals, independent journalists and tiny online news operations, some of which told AP that they, too, plan to withhold the accusers' names.
At the same time, the issue of whether to shield victims of sex crimes from exposure has launched countless newsroom arguments. Is it fair to the alleged perpetrators to allow accusers to remain anonymous, especially in cases where the charge has turned out to be false? Is such a policy inadvertently perpetuating the notion that victims of sexual abuse have something to be ashamed about?
The Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics does not include a blanket prohibition on using the names of sexual abuse victims; it merely advises news organizations to “be cautious” about identifying them.
Kevin Z. Smith, SPJ's past president and chairman of its ethics committee, said it is his personal belief that media organizations should reconsider their stand against naming.
“We shouldn't stigmatize victims of sexual assault,” he said. “I don't think as a society we do ourselves a favor by ostracizing these people, and I don't think the press does a helpful job by perpetuating that by saying, ‘We are going to protect you.'”
Even Giugliano, the social worker, said there can be a benefit to testifying in open court. Some victims find it liberating to confront their abuser, he said.
“There can be a very positive effect through all of this, a release of shame, having their voice heard and their day in court, a feeling of being vindicated,” Giugliano said. “Those things can have a very positive, empowering effect.”
But he said that decision should be left to the individual and his therapist.
Influential Kentucky Lawmaker Reveals He was Sexually Abused as Child
by Kenny Colston
One of Kentucky's leading voices against child abuse is speaking out about abuse he suffered as a child. State Rep. Tom Burch is the chairman of the House Health and Welfare committee. Burch wrote a letter to the Lexington Herald-Leader that mentioned that he was sexually abused by a priest as a middle schooler and was also physically abused by his father. Burch declined to give the priest's name or mention the church where the abuse occurred, saying that doing so wouldn't help anything.
Burch also says he told church leaders privately about the sexual abuse at the time. As an adult, Burch sought counseling, which the Catholic church paid for.
Burch has sponsored and supported several child abuse laws in the General Assembly.
In a statement in response to the story, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests praised Burch for coming forward.
New Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Law Sets High Bar for Child Protection
FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Florida today enacted the toughest child abuse reporting law in the nation, a law that advocates say “raises the bar and sets a national standard for child protection.” “raises the bar and sets a national standard for child protection.”
SB 1816, today signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott, declares that reporting suspected child abuse is everyone's responsibility, not just the responsibility of a few professions. It also imposes stiff penalties that ensure institutions will put the wellbeing of children over the protection of their own reputations if a child is abused on their grounds or at their sanctioned events.
Longtime childhood sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book called Florida's new law “a giant step toward creating a state where sexual abuse and exploitation of children is not tolerated.”
Book was sexually abused by her family's nanny from age 11 to 17. Since then, she created a foundation, Lauren's Kids, dedicated to ending child sexual abuse, created an abuse prevention curriculum, “ Safer, Smarter Kids,” and worked to change the law to prevent child abuse.
“At a time when the eyes of the nation are riveted on the Jerry Sandusky trial, I have never been more proud to be a Floridian or more hopeful that we can create a society where children are safe from abuse,” Book said. “This is a courageous act by Florida's leaders to protect the defenseless and end the plague that is child abuse.”
About Lauren's Kids
Lauren's Kids is a non-profit organization in South Florida that works to prevent sexual abuse through education and awareness and helps survivors heal.
For Lauren's Kids
Jessica Clark or Morgan McCord , 850-222-1996
Expanded child abuse mandated reporting in effect
CHARLESTON - Senate Bill 161 expanding requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect in West Virginia, enacted following the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, went into effect on Friday.
The bill requires any adult over 18 who receives a credible disclosure or observes any sexual abuse of a child to report the incident to law enforcement and Child Protective Services for further investigation. Failure to report within 48 hours is a misdemeanor offense subject to up to 30 days in jail and up to $1,000 fine.
SB 161 expanded the list of professions and individuals required to report other forms of suspected child abuse and neglect to include youth camp administrators and camp counselors, employees, coaches and volunteers of any entity providing organized activities for children including youth sports programs and other youth serving organizations and commercial photograph print processors.
In addition, the bill clarifies that mandated reporters must report instances of suspected child abuse and neglect to protective services, not just report the incident to their supervisor. Supervisors may supplement the report or cause an additional report to be made, but this action does not nullify the reporter's mandate to report the suspected abuse or neglect.
"We commend lawmakers for their dedicated leadership in acting quickly to enact reforms in response to the recent events at Penn State," Jim McKay, state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, said. "SB161 highlights the obligation that we all share to prevent child abuse in West Virginia."
Those who suspect child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or child neglect should contact the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-352-6513. The hotline is available around the clock.
Serious physical abuse or sexual abuse should also be reported to the state police & local law enforcement.
The Harper Government Launches Canada's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
LANCASTER, ONTARIO, Jun 08, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Editors' Note: A photo for this release will be available on the Canadian Press picture wire via Marketwire.
The Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety; and David Sweet, Member of Parliament, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, today reaffirmed the Government's commitment to fighting human trafficking to further highlight Canada's new National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a despicable crime that preys on vulnerable people. On Wednesday I strengthened our Government's commitment to the global fight against human trafficking by launching the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking," said Minister Toews. "Canada's National Action Plan reflects the Government's ongoing commitment to prevent and combat this horrible crime."
Human trafficking in Canada is a national problem, whose victims are both Canadians and newcomers. Sexual exploitation and forced labour are two forms of trafficking taking place in Canada. The Criminal Intelligence Service has reported: "Across the country, organized crime networks are actively trafficking Canadian-born women and under-age girls inter and intra-provincially, and in some instances to the United States, destined for the sex trade."
Canada's National Action Plan, with participation from 18 federal departments, is a comprehensive blueprint to guide the Government of Canada's fight against the serious crime of human trafficking.
"The discovery of this country's largest human trafficking ring operating in Hamilton and based in Ancaster, demonstrates that we are not immune to human trafficking in Canada," said M.P. Sweet. "The National Action Plan will consolidate and focus federal efforts to combat human trafficking and introduce aggressive current and new initiatives to prevent human trafficking, identify victims, protect the most vulnerable, prosecute perpetrators and build on our partnerships both in Canada and abroad."
The National Action Plan will:
-- Launch Canada's first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combating human trafficking. -- Increase front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities. -- Provide more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers. -- Strengthen coordination with domestic and international partners who contribute to Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking.
These new measures, totaling $25 million over four years, build on and strengthen Canada's significant work to date to prevent, detect and prosecute human trafficking, such as targeted training for law enforcement officials and front-line service providers, and enhanced public awareness measures. To date, the RCMP is aware of 23 cases in Canada in which human trafficking charges were laid and the accused have been convicted of human trafficking and/or other related offences. 42 accused have been convicted in these cases and 56 victims have been saved from the hands of the traffickers. Currently, approximately 59 Canadian cases involving 98 individuals accused of human trafficking offences remain before the courts. These cases involve a total of 147 victims.
To view the National Action Plan online, please go to: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/le/ht-tp-eng.aspx
Confessions of a crusader
by Stephen Lunn
JUDGING by the intense expression on her face, and the way she settles slowly into a comfy chair, Bernadette McMenamin is in a confessional mood.
But when she begins to speak, her words seem out of step with the cool, business-like surrounds of her office in South Melbourne; indeed, they don't even seem to match her smart, sensible outfit. The only thing that takes the edge off her confronting revelations is a Bichon Maltese named Max, dozing quietly in a basket in the corner. The signs of a hard life are there around the corners of her mouth and eyes, but the 53-year-old child protection advocate remains attractive in a worldly way. She talks slowly, guardedly, which is perfectly understandable given that she has probably seen more awful things as the founder of Child Wise - a child protection charity operating here in Australia and throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific - than anything I could possibly imagine. But, as I'm soon to discover, McMenamin's own life story is perhaps the most unbearable one of all. It's a story that until now was unknown to all but a couple of her most trusted confidantes.
McMenamin says even some of her friends will find it hard to believe she has kept her past from them for so long. Particularly when that past - as a victim of child sexual abuse, of gang rape as a teenager, as a junkie and sex worker, as a consort of drug dealers in her early 20s - is hardly in keeping with the traditional CV of someone who has an Order of Australia and was nominated as Victorian finalist for Australian of the Year in 2004.
But then, this is the public face of McMenamin, who began as a social worker 30 years ago at the coalface of Melbourne's roughest public housing estates and went on to spearhead a global campaign to combat child sex trafficking through Child Wise. McMenamin not only provided a counselling service for victims of abuse and their families but also pioneered a new range of prevention strategies. She has also made strident demands for internet filtering to combat child porn.
For years she explained her zeal in terms of the horror of witnessing sex trafficking in Thailand more than two decades ago and her desire to set up a child protection service there. She has never wanted to trade on her own horrific personal experiences, but now wants to clear the air, to tell her own tale of violence and sexual abuse from the age of six. "I'm sick of having to be a different person for different people," she tells me. "People have put me on a pedestal and they don't know who I really am. And besides, my son is 15 years old now. He's at an age where he can understand."
As a child they nicknamed her "Spitfire" because she was so wild and mischievous, but it wasn't always a term of endearment. Born to a dirt-poor Irish couple in Birmingham, England, McMenamin was the youngest of three children. She and her older brother were beaten by their father whenever they misbehaved, and not always for seriously bad behaviour. "My parents were alcoholics," she says. "But at the same time they were hard workers who spent very little time with us, and they had no sense of discipline other than physical discipline or the withdrawal of attention. All of us suffered severe physical discipline pretty much our whole childhood. Leather belts, branches off trees. My mother would smack us right across the face. But my father was the main culprit."
McMenamin was only six when she was sexually abused for the first time, and the experience helps inform Child Wise policy to this day. She was going from house to house in Birmingham with a friend on Bob-a-Job day. It was a secret trip. They weren't Girl Guides and her parents had told her to stay away from her troublemaking mate. An old man invited them into his kitchen and, while his wife stood there working away, he dropped his pants and exposed himself. He gave them money and told them to come again the following week, which they duly did, way too frightened to tell their parents of the incident. "Clearly it was a process of grooming," she says. The next week he took them into his garage and invited them to sit in his car. But when he asked them to touch his penis, they realised something was terribly wrong and bolted. "I can't tell you about one single day of primary school but I can tell you that," she sighs.
This experience informed McMenamin's subsequent strategies as a campaigner across Asia and Australia: young kids usually know instinctively when something isn't right, but they don't have the skills to handle the situation correctly. The strategy here is to teach children to call anatomical parts by their correct names, to tell adults they don't like their penis or vagina being touched, or being forced to touch someone else's. The other strategy is to encourage families to be frank about some adults not having good motives.
When McMenamin was 12, the family moved from England to Australia and settled in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda and for most of the time the kids were left to their own devices. The street-wise McMenamin was soon dabbling in marijuana, cocaine and LSD. She was only 13 when she used heroin for the first time, scored for her by her 17-year-old brother. She was already sexually active by this age, hanging out with juvenile thieves and chancers. "We were Sharpies," she recalls with a laugh. "We wore pants with braces, our heads shaved on the side and hair braided down the back."
McMenamin describes one morning during this time when she answered a knock on the door before school. Her parents were at work, and her dad's best friend stood on the doorstep. Hands shaking, eyes fixed in a blank stare, he pushed her down onto the ground and started to tear off her clothes. McMenamin squirms when she remembers him kissing her around the neck. He only fled when three of her friends - there on a sleepover - ran out of her bedroom after hearing her screams.
This time she wasn't going to stay silent. When her father returned home from work that night, the 13-year-old told him what happened. "He just stood there, and didn't look at me. I said, 'Dad?' and he just stayed silent, completely silent. Not a word. And he never did anything. They continued their friendship as usual. I had to continue to see this man on a regular basis. My father never ever broached it."
The trauma of the experience instilled in her a sense of the lasting impact of sexual abuse. "I still sit down and cry with adult survivors of child abuse," she says. "People don't even know I've been abused, but there really is some connection; they can tell without me ever telling them. It's sort of like a secret society."
She says that, despite her experiences - the beatings, the withdrawal of love, the silence in the house - she never hated her parents. Their own lives were just so dire that they didn't know happiness or love. Her maternal grandmother had died in Ireland when her mother was seven, forcing her mum to leave school and attempt to raise her two younger sisters while her father worked; both siblings died not long after of diphtheria while in her care. As for her dad, not long after he lost his own father at the age of nine, his mother kicked him out of home after remarrying. He went to live on a farm, where he worked from dawn to dusk in what would now be seen as illegal child labour. Says McMenamin: "They just had no love in their lives from the start."
ONE night in 1975 will remain seared into McMenamin's conscience forever, not just because of the brutality of the event itself but also the reaction from her family and friends in the days that followed. The 15-year-old met up with some members of her street gang at a downbeat club in Melbourne's inner north, but by 11pm, "a bit stoned and a bit drunk", she left them to go home. While walking alone in the street, a large man suddenly came up and punched her hard in the face. "Next thing I remember I'm in a car. There must have been five guys in there. The big guy was still punching me, in my face, my chest, my ribs, stomach. I remember being in a daze, saying: 'What are you doing, are you driving me home?' They said, 'No. We're going to rape you.'"
McMenamin says she remembers nothing from that moment until a policeman put a blanket over her naked and broken body some four hours later. She was left for dead in a ditch by the side of a country road a couple of hours outside Melbourne. A truck driver had spotted her limp body and called the cops. But this was 1975, and instead of taking the teenager back to the station for a statement, counselling and forensic examination, the police drove her home, all the while questioning what had possessed her to go to that club and then to get into a car with strange men. "I could barely respond. My mouth hurt, my face hurt. I had fractured ribs. I couldn't breathe. And I was being told what a silly girl I was."
Even the next day, clearly battered and bruised, the friends she was staying with offered her no support. Her parents were at their farm in western Victoria, and when she visited them a week or so later and told her mother about the brutal rape, she point-blank refused to discuss it. Her father never knew about it until the day he died. "Everyone was reinforcing that I'd done something really stupid, gone to the wrong place at the wrong time and I was solely responsible."
Certainly it was a different era. Now there are DNA databanks and women who report a rape are more supported through the court process. "It's made me a much, much stronger advocate," she reflects. "I feel I'm much more knowledgeable in what I say to people than what you can learn from a text book ... I'm also very practical. I don't sit down and just listen to people go on and on ... I engage with them and say, 'OK, what practical steps can we take to keep this child safe in future?' I work with them on a strategy of how we get a situation sorted."
In the aftermath of the rape McMenamin found herself in a dark space psychologically and needed to get away. Her parents gave her an airline ticket back to the UK, telling her to meet her uncle on landing. She stayed with him for a week or two, then took off to live as a hippie for more than a year, working menial jobs in offices and pubs and roaming around the country. The damage was deep, though. On her return to Australia she sought solace in drugs, particularly heroin, and dangerous men. "I think my sense of worth diminished greatly at that point. My whole sense of who I was, my whole drug-taking escalated and by the time I was 17 I was a full-on heroin addict. It's not a pretty story."
I ask the obvious question - how did she pay for her habit? For the first time McMenamin squirms in the old chair. She hesitates, then groans, then steels herself and whispers: "I was a sex worker." For more than six years McMenamin worked as an escort or in a massage parlour, but "never street work". She was making thousands of dollars a week from up to 10 clients a day, three or four nights a week. What's more, "the sex work was liberating for me. I controlled my sexuality rather than being a victim to it. I'm sure people can't understand that because there is such a stigma ... but I always felt in charge. I never did anything I didn't want to and my body was my own."
That didn't stop her from being exploited by a couple of thug boyfriends and their hangers-on. "There was a range of these blokes in my life, some of them more violent than others. They would hold up banks, do drug deals, and my money was their money. These relationships were inevitably violent, loveless. I was punishing myself. It was a cycle I couldn't get out of. I was entrenched in this subculture of drugs and crime. If I went to the police I would be killed. I always owed money, so I was threatened that if I didn't pay up I'd be killed. I couldn't see a way out."
McMenamin vividly recalls an incident when she was still just 17. Her parents had by then permanently moved to the farm in western Victoria and she'd stayed on in the family home, which quickly became a haven for criminals. Her boyfriend had ripped off a group of drug dealers and when they couldn't find him, they kidnapped her at gunpoint to interrogate her. "For five days they beat me, kicked me, stuck a gun down my throat and in other orifices. I wasn't given a thing to eat. They were very, very heavy people. I absolutely thought I was going to die." She never saw the boyfriend again.
Afterwards, McMenamin figured she needed to do something or risk being dead by the age of 20. So after gaining her Higher School Certificate part-time, she enrolled in humanities at Monash University, funded by prostitution and while still addicted to heroin. A move to Adelaide proved a turning point: she weaned herself off heroin using cough medicine - loaded in those days with codeine - and finished her arts degree at Flinders University. She was 23 years old and had settled on a career as a social worker.
When both of McMenamin's parents died within six months of each other the following year - her mother of heart disease, her father of pancreatic cancer - she buried herself in her work. Grieving was difficult, and unresolved, because her relationship with them had been so fraught. She tried yoga and psychotherapy, and even had a brief stay with the Orange People sect on a small island off Thailand, but found that her job as a social worker at the deprived West Heidelberg public housing estate kept her mind off her own problems. It was here that she first witnessed chronic neglect of children on a large scale. Moving to the notorious Flemington estate in her late 20s, she again saw first-hand the dim daily lives of many of the children.
What happened next was fate. Always having a love of Asia, she was offered the role of starting an international campaign on child sexual exploitation with the child protection group ECPAT in Thailand. It was from that point, aged 33, when her life began to fall into place. "The plight of these children really resonated with me and my life, and I felt in a way that I had found the cause to put my life into, because I realised no child should have to go through the horrors and violence that I experienced. I know that, until my last breath, this is my life's journey."
MORE than three hours have passed in McMenamin's office and the light has faded. The mood is suddenly broken when Max awakes and starts loudly yapping at a dog passing by outside the window. It is something of a relief for both of us, but we still haven't covered some of her more recent life. A single mother to her half-Indonesian son (she and the father, an Indonesian fisherman on a small, remote island, never had a full-on relationship, but they visit him every year or so), McMemanin struggled in the '90s to combine work with sole parenting, and battled a serious addiction to alcohol. She's been sober for four years now, she says, but the past has inevitably taken a toll on her health as she copes with neurological problems and issues with her hearing.
I tell her that often the path out of a quagmire is a mentor, someone who can help you see the path ahead more clearly. McMenamin's story is perhaps even more remarkable in that there was no singular person, no significant other, in her life. "I can't say there was anyone I ever relied on, who really helped me. I am a loner. People often say, 'Bern, take down your armour.' But I won't. I can't."
McMenamin has her close friends, however, and not many know her better than Gail Price, a community planner in local government in Melbourne. "I've known Bernadette for 30 years, and she's confided bits and pieces earlier in our friendship - the drugs, the rape, working as a prostitute - but it's only been in recent times that she's begun to talk about her life in more detail," Price says. "She had a terrible upbringing, but also felt loyal to her parents, so she didn't want to appear to trash them. She also had this awful guilt as a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, which gives her a real insight into what victims go through - this is what makes her such a remarkable counsellor."
Victorian child safety commissioner Bernie Geary is also a great admirer of her work. "She doesn't mince words, and she's saved hundreds of kids from situations of sustained sexual abuse," he says. "She sees herself as lone wolf on the issue - and I have to say, she isn't a lone voice, but there are few as passionate and proactive as her. She knows only one pace: full-on."
McMenamin would agree with the sentiment. It's all about the work, she says, and she knows that the horrendous experiences she's been through infuse her motivation daily. No matter how uncomfortable or hard it is to hear a story of sexual abuse, she's determined never to flinch, because this could dissuade a victim from wanting to reveal the full details. She has said that her greatest achievement was spearheading a campaign that led to landmark Australian legislation - the Child Sex Tourism Amendment Act of 1994 - making sex with children overseas illegal and subject to a prison term of 20 years.
McMenamin rifles through her desk and finds a drawing. "I'm getting a tattoo on my arm, a big one. Physically, mentally and spiritually I'm starting to do things now that I've held off from doing for a long time, trying to be respectable. But I've reached the stage where I simply don't have to prove anything to anyone any more." The tattoo drawing is of a large winding snake. "It's something that bites," she says.
18 rescued in child pornography raids
by Kara Van Hoose
Eighteen victims of child pornography were rescued during a nationwide sweep by federal law enforcement agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Friday.
The sweep, dubbed Operation Orion, resulted in the arrests of 190 individuals. Most of them were in the U.S., but some were in Argentina, the Philippines, Spain and the United Kingdom, ICE said in a news release. The operation took place from May 1 to May 31.
The arrests were made in 33 states and Puerto Rico, authorities said.
Some of the victims were residing in the homes of the persons arrested, ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said.
For example, a child in San Diego was photographed in a shower, and authorities made a rescue in that home, Bennett said.
"Let this operation be a warning to anyone who would think they can use the Internet to exploit children: we are out there looking for you, we will find you, and you will be prosecuted," ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.
Morton said that as children begin summer vacations, parents should pay extra attention to how much time they spend on the Internet.
"Many of the child exploitation cases under Operation Orion began with a child or teen chatting with someone he or she met online," Morton said in the statement.
Child torture trial ends with three guilty verdicts
Three people were convicted Friday for their roles in a high-profile child torture case
that revealed breakdowns in Los Angeles County's troubled child protective services agency.
A 5-year-old boy, known only as Johnny, was rescued from a dark closet in San Bernardino County in 2009. Much of his body had been burned by a glue gun and hot spoons. He had been starved and sodomized, taunted and punched, forced to eat soap and crouch motionless in corners.
Martin Roland Morales, 35, and Juan Carlos Santos-Herrera, 22, were found guilty of torture, child abuse and sodomizing a child under 10 years of age. Crystal Rodriguez, 35, was convicted of child endangerment after failing to protect another 12 year-old victim from the perpetrators, according to the prosecutor, David Foy.
Morales could be sentenced to more than 78 years in prison. Santos Herrera could receive more than 32 years, and Rodriguez could get up to six years. Johnny's mother, Desiree Marie Gonzales, still awaits trial, Foy said.
Child welfare officials in Los Angeles County might have spared Johnny from the torture. Two years before his rescue, allegations that he had been abused were dismissed as unfounded and the officials determined that the "child [was] not at risk."
An internal review by the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services concluded that the finding was wrong — the result of a shallow inquiry in which the agency misjudged what little information it collected.
Foy said Johnny, now 8, lives in an adoptive home and is academically gifted and capable of quickly rattling off answers to complex math and spelling questions.
Prosecutors petitioned the court to allow him to provide his testimony by video camera to spare him the experience of confronting his abusers again, but the Victorville courtroom was unable to accommodate the request. As a result, he appeared deeply shaken by the experience and midway through his testimony he changed his story and said he was never abused, Foy said.
Protecting Your Child From Abuse or Assault at Day Care
A child's safety is worth this difficult decision.
by Keri Goodfriend
The news of child abuse or neglect in the child care system chills one to the bone, makes some physically ill, and for parents with children in day care, it makes the decision to relinquish the care of their child to someone else that much more difficult.
The recent arrest of a Dale City man
, who was charged with sexual battery against and the forcible sodomy of a three-year-old female, was the second incident of child endangerment or abuse at a child care facility reported in Prince William County in the last three months. The previous incident was the March 8 death of a three-month-old
in a Bristow family day care center providing care for 23 children under the age of four. While the Bristow day care was unlicensed, the abuse resulting in this week's arrest took place at a state licensed in-home day care in Dale City.
Parents looking for a child care facility should do their research, visit the child care facilities and interview the staff before making a decision about where to put their trust for the care of their child.
Center-Based vs. Family Day Care Programs
Your first decision is to weigh the pros and cons of choosing an in-home child care provider, where someone comes to the parents' home, a center-based program, located in a facility outside of a private home, or a family day care program, operated in the provider's residence.
The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau reported 14 percent of children ages 0-4 with employed mothers were cared for in a home-based environment such as a family day care, nanny, babysitter, or au pair. Twenty-four percent of the children received care in a center-based facility (preschool, nursery, day care, or Head Start). Other children may be watched by a relative or friend.
Family Day Care Programs
According to a babycenter.com article , a family child care facility offers the least expensive child care option next to a relative, and many times offers the greatest flexibility in schedules.
The American Academy of Pediatrics website suggests that if you are considering a family day care center as an option, you should ask questions regarding:
|- the caregiver's policies and qualifications
- state license or registration, accreditation with a recognized child care organization
- condition of the caregiver's home, type of program offered
- any other children, teens or adults present in the home, backgrounds, and type of interaction if any with your child.
The Virginia Star Quality Initiative offers a five-star rating system for Standards for Family Child Care Homes. This rating system offers a means to evaluate programs parents are considering.
While family day cares providing care for less than six children do not have to be licensed by the state, they can do so voluntarily. A database of the Voluntarily Registered Family Day Homes can be searched on the Virginia Department of Social services website. However, voluntary registration is not authorized in areas where local ordinances regulate unlicensed programs (Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria).
Center-based Child Care Programs
Center-based child care programs offer your child an opportunity to socialize with children his age, and a curriculum with that specific age group in mind. However, centers usually have a higher cost, and an increased chance of your child getting sick often. Center-based child care programs should be licensed and inspected on a regular basis, meaning they will likely have an appropriate child to teacher ratio, and clean facilities.
The website momtomomchat.com offers a Checklist for Choosing a Daycare, to help parents ask the right questions and observe important factors in choosing the best provider.
Once parents find child care programs in their area that meet their needs, the next step is to review the program's credentials, state licensing, and any possible inspection violations. State licensing for child day care centers is overseen by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
The types of child care facilities, definitions, and their licensing requirements can be found at Virginia Department of Social Services' website.
To search for a specific child care facility, see if it is state licensed, and review any state inspection violations, visit the site's database system.
The Virginia Child Care Resource and Referral Network, soon to be renamed Child Care Aware of Virginia, is a network of child care and education specialists who serve families, child care professionals and communities to increase the accessibility, availability, and quality of child care in Virginia. The website offers tips for conducting a search for child care as well as criteria by which you can search their database of child care programs.
Parents can also reach out to neighbors, churches, and moms clubs as resources regarding local child care options and recommendations.
However, don't just take anyone's word for it. Parents need to do the work themselves. Choosing a day care facility for your child is a difficult task, but it's worth the proper research and effort. Finding a child care environment with which you are comfortable can make a difference in protecting the safety and well-being of your child.
New child abuse reporting requirements effective July 1 in Georgia
ATLANTA —New child abuse reporting rules passed by the Georgia Legislature this session will go into effect July 1.
Under the new guidelines, volunteers who work with children will be required by law to report suspected child abuse. The law changed the definition of "child service organization personnel" to include volunteers. People employed by or volunteering at a business or organization that provides care, treatment, education, training, supervision, coaching, counseling, recreational programs or shelter to children are included.
The new provision was part of the sweeping criminal justice reform bill supported by Gov. Nathan Deal, Attorney General Sam Olens and others. Deal signed the bill into law last month.
Jerry Sandusky trial: why victims need anonymity
by Janice D'Arcy
As jury selection began yesterday in the trial of Jerry Sandusky, the disgraced former Penn State assistant football coach who faces 52 charges related to the alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years, another troubling aspect of the trial emerged for advocates of childhood abuse victims.
Judge John Cleland denied victims' requests to protect their identities on the witness stand.
The alleged victims, previously identified with numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, had asked they be permitted to use pseudonyms during the trial to protect their privacy.
Though the defense did not object, the judge said there was no legal basis to grant the request.
“While I will make every effort to be sensitive to the nature of the alleged victims' testimony, once the trial begins the veil must be lifted,” Cleland wrote.
“Courts are not customarily in the business of withholding information. Secrecy is thought to be inconsistent with the openness required to assure the public that the law is being administered fairly and applied faithfully,” according to State College News.
“It's almost as if he's being branded with a scarlet letter,” Ben Andreozzi said of his client, one of the victims, according to the Associated Press via ABC News. “This is something he may not ever be able to escape from — ‘Oh, he's one of Jerry Sandusky's victims.'”
Sexual abuse victims' advocates were chilled by the ruling.
The case and the media attention it will bring will be difficult for victims of childhood sexual abuse to endure, and this decision may now create a new obstacle for victimized children to come forward.
“Anonymity for survivors is paramount in court cases dealing with sexual abuse and assault.,” Jennifer Marsh, director of the National Sexual Assault Hotline at RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, told me.
“A survivor may share the most painful moments of his or her life during the course of a trial, and it can be difficult for many survivors to speak about these intimate details in court.
“This experience is amplified when a survivor's identity is revealed and these details become associated with their name publicly, leaving them and their loved ones vulnerable to negative attention. Many survivors see their day in court as an opportunity to seek justice for the crime committed against him or her. It should not be an experience, which can lead to additional trauma.
“We need to do everything in our power to encourage survivors to be involved with the prosecution to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and put behind bars, where they belong.”
Human Factor: Baseball champ and domestic abuse survivor
by Joe Torre, Special to CNN
Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle -- injury, illness or other hardship -- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week one of the most successful managers in baseball, Joe Torre, opens up about growing up in an abusive home.
(CNN) -- Throughout my career in baseball, I have been very fortunate to experience some outstanding moments on the field. However, many fans might not know much about my experience off the field.
I am the product of a domestically violent home. My father physically abused my mother, and he emotionally abused me and my siblings.
But he also instilled fear in me, and I'm not sure there's any emotion worse than fear. He would yell and throw things against the wall. When I would come home from school and see his car in front of our house, I wouldn't go in. Sometimes, he would threaten us by reaching for his revolver.
My brothers and sisters would try to protect me from what was going on in the house, but I always felt something was wrong. I was a very nervous child. I used to admire the kids at school who raised their hand. I didn't have the courage to do that.
I worried that I had done something to cause the problem at home, and felt ashamed that I couldn't stop it. I felt alone, and thought I was the only one who had this problem. That fear and helpless feeling I experienced as a kid is something that has stayed with me.
I was fortunate enough to have baseball as an escape. It became my shelter -- the place to which I went to feel safe. But, even on the field, I carried this sense of insecurity with me.
I didn't know until decades later how much the way I felt about myself had been shaped by fear. And I certainly did not recognize any connection between domestic violence and my feeling of inadequacy until much later in life.
As an adult, it took counseling for me to understand how deeply the violence I had witnessed affected me. It was a relief to finally be able to talk about it and, by doing so, encourage others, who had felt isolated and ashamed like me, to do the same.
But it isn't just my house where abuse has occurred. Every year, millions of children are affected by violence; more than 3 million experience it in their own homes. That is why my wife, Ali, and I started the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which provides education and safe rooms in middle schools for children caught in an abusive environment.
In starting Safe At Home, we decided to focus on the education of children by establishing safe rooms in schools, which we call Margaret's Place, in memory of my mom. They're a safe-haven, where students can talk to one another. But they can also find a professionally-trained counselor, to whom they can reach out and discuss violence-related issues.
There's also a peer leadership program, which allows kids to be part of the process of finding ways and solutions to end abuse. We believe that, if youngsters understand that the way to treat people is the way that they, themselves, want to be treated -- that violence, control and verbal abuse is wrong -- we can change things.
If I had had a Margaret's Place to visit, I would have discovered that it's not my fault and I wasn't alone. And that's what we want kids in abusive homes to know -- that they are not alone and that it's not their fault. Every child deserves a safe home, a safe school and a safe community.
Visit www.joetorre.org for more.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act clears state Senate
ALBANY - The New York State Senate today passed the “Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act” (S5226A), sponsored by Senator Steve Saland (R-I-C, Poughkeepsie), Chairman of the Senate Codes Committee. The bill creates new, tougher crimes for predators who prey on children over the Internet.
Sexual abuse against children is despicable and unacceptable,” Senator Saland said. “With the Internet and other technology, these crimes have increased and become more complex to prosecute. This bill makes changes to the law and gives law enforcement the tools to track down those who exploit and abuse innocent children. Enacting the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act will make significant progress in protecting our children and putting those vile perpetrators behind bars.”
The sexual exploitation of children is a growing issue. It is estimated that there are between 100,000 and 300,000 children sexually exploited annually through prostitution and pornography in the United States.
The Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act implements aggressive measures to protect children from dangers from Internet predators, child pornography and child sexual abuse. It addresses a number of crimes including child sexual abuse, exploitation, pornography, and prostitution offenses and computer sex crimes against children.
The bill would protect children and aid law enforcement by: permitting the introduction of business records, especially internet service provider records, into evidence in grand jury proceedings; requiring registered sex offenders to provide verification of their Internet accounts and Internet screen names and permitting the Department of Criminal Justice Services to provide this information to Internet service providers; adding certain sexual crimes against children to the list of violent felony offenses; and toughening penalties involving minors in prostitution. The law encompasses many other areas of criminal activity to assist police and help victims.
The bill will be sent to the Assembly.
Do your part to reduce child abuse
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 5, 2012 — Child abuse, unfortunately, continues through our society. The United States ranks number one in the industrialized world for abuse-related child deaths. Five children die, every day, from abuse. This statistic, and the shocking truth that over 3 million children are abused in our country every year, comes from 2010 reports from the Department of Health and Human Services.
I am writing this article because I overheard a conversation last week about the duty clergy have to report suspected or known abuse of children. My issue is not the legal requirement, because much can be said about the pros and cons of the clergy's dual obligations and I do not condemn nor judge where religious values prohibit or require conduct. The issue for me goes well beyond whether or not clergy should be required to report suspected or known abuse. It is, for me, a fundamental obligation of being a human being, a part of a society, and an imperative law, requiring numerous individuals, by virtue of their work, to report suspected or known abuse.
Child abuse has a shocking history. Children have always been abused by their parents and by other adults. In England, children were considered the property of their father, and the colonists brought those views here to America. Laws did not begin to protect children until the early 1870's, when an orphan named Mary Ellen Wilson was suffering daily whippings and beatings at her foster home. Lawyers for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) took up her case, because there was nobody else to do so. The arguments used in the court case by these lawyers urged that laws protecting children should be at least as strong as those protecting animals. The foster mother was convicted and soon after, local citizens, outraged by what became known about the case, formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
In 1962, an article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it described both symptoms of child abuse and that child abuse was medically diagnosable. Within a decade, every state had “mandatory reporting” laws.
Child abuse occurs at every socio-economic level, across every ethnic and cultural line, within all religions and at all levels of education.
A child, whose parents abuse drugs, or alcohol, is three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than a child from a non-abusing family.
The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States, for 2008, was $124 Billion.
I am writing this article to ask you to report suspected or known abuse. Early intervention is critical. State laws require certain people to report abuse, and there are always toll free hotlines available for anonymous reporting. No liability attaches to you for reporting abuse that turns out to be inaccurate.
Because of the nature of the work and the proximity to children, certain people are required by law to report suspected or known abuse of children. I provide the following “generally accepted” list to you here, to remind you of your obligation if your occupation is on this list and if, for some reason, you have any doubts about what you are required to do.
- Clergypersons (some states, some circumstances), Counselors, Day Care Workers, Dental Assistants, Dental Hygienists, Dentists, Doctors' Office Staff Persons, Emergency Medical Technicians, Family Practitioners, Firefighters, Foster Care Workers, Hospital Personnel, Medical Examiners, Nurse Practitioners, Optometrists, Pediatricians, Physicians, Police Officers, Practical Nurses, Principals, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Registered Nurses, School Administrators, School Advisors, School Paraprofessionals, Social Workers, Surgeons, Teachers, Teachers' Aides
I find it fascinating that attorneys who deal with children in various capacities are not required to report child abuse. The rationale, or from my viewpoint the excuse, would fall to concerns about attorney/client privilege, and to issues relating to actions or omissions that could adversely affect a client.
Here are some helpful telephone numbers:
Childhelp USA's National Child Abuse Hotline
Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline
Every professional who deals with children, and anybody with common sense, will tell you the following:
The effects of child abuse can be increased or decreased by key relationships in the child's life. More than anyone else, including all measure of professionals or therapists, parents and caregivers can help children recover from abuse and its effects.
Please go give your children a hug, tell them you love them, and keep your eyes open. This crime ranks among the worst, and often a telephone call can do much to stop it and begin the process of reversing the effects.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, on the Andy Parks show, on Wednesdays at 5:15 P.M., and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.
Child Advocates Use Sandusky Trial As Teaching Opportunity
The Villages, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana Work To Educate Parents
Local child advocates said they're concerned the alleged victims in the Jerry Sandusky case will be forced to reveal their identities, and are worried about the implications for Hoosier families. Sandusky, a 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach, has been under house arrest since being charged with sexually abusing 10 boys for at least 15 years.
Prosecutors allege he met some of his accusers through Second Mile, a charity he created for underprivileged children. Sharon Pierce, president and CEO of The Villages, said Sandusky's case can help raise awareness to combat child abuse in Indiana, RTV6's Kara Kenney reported.
"We really value providing confidentiality for the victims of child sexual abuse," Pierce said. "Many of them haven't shared the experience they've had because it is so frightening to them, and oftentimes, they have been threatened. We owe that to the victims, to protect their identity because they've been dealing with enough trauma."
The Villages and Prevent Child Abuse Indiana said the Sandusky trial provides an opportunity for education.
"It's absolutely a door opener," Pierce said. "There are great opportunities to make sure your child knows not to be alone or isolated with an adult."
"Typically, (the perpetrator) is not the stranger," said Sandy Runkle, Programs Director for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana. "In 90 percent of the cases, it's someone the child knows, someone in a position of trust and authority."
Experts said parents should use the Sandusky trial to talk to their kids about healthy sexuality.
"Certainly beginning some healthy, sexual conversations about what is appropriate development, and that our bodies are our own and private. Clearly, it's a great opportunity for families to talk about how coaches should treat children on their teams,” Pierce said.
Runkle said 80 percent of child sex abuse cases happen in one-on-one scenarios.
"Really try to limit one-on-one contact behind closed doors," Runkle said.
Suspected child abuse or neglect should be reported to the State Department of Child Services. It operates a 24-hour, seven-day a week hotline at 800-800-5556.
Delbarton School Faces New Child Sex Abuse Allegations [AUDIO]
by Stacy Proebstle
Two former students at a prominent Morris County Catholic school joined a lawsuit claiming they were sexually abused by monks in the 1970s and early 80s at Delbarton school
The two alleged victims, an unidentified man and 44-year-old Steve Badt, formerly of Parsippany say they were molested at the hands of two clerics for years.
“I was abused by a teacher I trusted…it started when I was around 12 years old and continued through high school,” Badt said at a press conference on the steps of the Morris County Court House.
The two men joined a lawsuit filed in March by brothers Bill and Tom Crane, who also attended the press conference. “We're not going away…however long this takes, years and years,” said Tom Crane.
Badt identifies Father Timothy Brennan as his abuser. The unknown victim claims he was abused at the hands of another cleric, Father Benedict Worry.
“I was embarrassed and I blamed myself…I think adults know when a kid is vulnerable,” Badt said.
According to school officials, Brennan pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual contact with a minor in 1987 and has not been a part of the monastic community since then and is, “resident at a secure facility where he has no contact with the general public.”
The other man, Father Benedict Worry, they say has not had contact with minors since the early 90s stemming from an incident of alleged misconduct.
“Sexual abuse and exploitation of any kind, whether toward an adult or a child, is inconsistent with the beliefs and values of St. Mary's Abbey,” the school said in an emailed statement. “The program of education, monitoring and prevention has now been in place for a decade. Unfortunately, abuse allegations continue to be disclosed through internet blogs and in the media, sometimes before they are reported to competent authorities. This limits the ability to investigate thoroughly or respond fairly, particularly when misconduct is alleged to have taken place years ago.”
The alleged victims are urging Governor Christie to support a bill stalled in the legislature that would lift the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits.
Gregory Gianforcaro, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the men said the case is too old to be criminally prosecuted because the incidents occurred before New Jersey in 1996 eliminated its criminal statute of limitations.
“Cases like Penn State, the Citadel, the Boston Red Sox field manager prove…there is often a trail of previous allegations, settlements and investigations…and sometimes admissions from those accused. The law was created in the 90s and it needs to be changed,” said Mark Crawford of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests.
Christie recently spoke at Delbarton's graduation where his son attended.
O .C. man convicted of kicking woman with Down syndrome in head
A Garden Grove man charged with kicking a woman with Down syndrome in the head was convicted of dependent adult abuse, authorities said Tuesday.
Richard Vu Nguyen, 45, was charged with entering the room of the 45-year-old woman, jumping onto her bed and kicking her in the head and upper torso, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.
Prosecutors said the act was caught on video after the victim's family, suspecting that she was being abused, installed a surveillance camera in her room last year.
The beating was caught on video sometime between March and April 2011, prosecutors said. Nguyen lived in the Garden Grove home with his girlfriend, who was the woman's state-funded caretaker.
Nguyen is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 17 at the North Justice Center in Fullerton. He faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.
Longmont nonprofit produces PSA about sexual abuse
(Video on site) -- Colorado prison inmate featured in 30-second spot
by Pierrette J. Shields
LONGMONT -- His voice is soothing.
He seems knowledgeable and versed in the art and craft of model rocketry.
It doesn't require much imagination to see how a child might easily end up at his knee, fascinated and engaged in the colorful hobby. But within 30 seconds of meeting the inmate at the Colorado Department of Corrections, he tells you he is a pedophile. His face is obscured.
A 30-second public service announcement intended to educate the public about sex offenders who target children is scheduled to hit the airwaves on Comcast channels in and around Boulder County today. The spot is the work of Blue Sky Bridge, a nonprofit organization that provides services for victims of childhood sexual abuse, and Boulder-based ad agency TDA_Boulder.
While the script isn't based on a real case, the man in the video is an inmate who interviewed for the chance to be in the video.
Blue Sky Bridge executive director Judy Toran Cousin said the organization's board and staff had decided to put more effort into prevention and, about 18 months, ago embarked on the PSA project.
"The reaction (to the spot) is powerful," Cousin said of those who have seen it. "It gives people goose bumps."
The spot itself is intended to highlight that adults who offend against children are typically known to the family, not a stranger.
"It is not the person people expect," Cousin said. "It is not the stranger in the dark."
Alli Gerrish, a Blue Sky Bridge board member who served as the agency's producer on the piece, said Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett helped Blue Sky Bridge contact the Colorado Department of Corrections to access inmates. Four interviewed and one was selected. She said the spot was filmed in a single day in a Cañon City maximum security facility, and the inmate read through the script on film 20 times. The man is in therapy, Gerrish said, but they were not allowed to know exactly what he did to be incarcerated.
The PSA is intended to bolster interest in Blue Sky Bridge's website, which offers information about preventing child sexual assault and resources for those who have been victimized. Comcast is donating the airtime for the PSA, filmed by Futuristic Films, and Cousin said it is expected to reach two-thirds of viewers by the end of its six-week campaign.
For more information about Blue Sky Bridge, visit blueskybridge.org.
Port St. Lucie case was impetus for new Florida child abuse law
by Jonathan Mattise
Nikko Munao was 6 years old when his dad told him to head to the kitchen, grab a knife and stab his mom in 2003.
Starting Oct. 1 — almost a decade later — Florida law on emotional child abuse will change because of how courts handled that Port St. Lucie case.
With the help of Nikko's mother Jodi Walsh, state Rep. Gayle Harrell has pushed a bill since 2007 to define child abuse more clearly. After a last-minute amendment that passed in a bigger abuse reform bill — House Bill 1355 by Rep. Chris Dorworth — the new law's luck finally changed in the 2012 legislative session.
Nikko's father Edward Munao was handed a 10-year prison sentence for child abuse and solicitation to commit aggravated battery after that phone conversation in 2003. But the 4th District Court of Appeal threw out the abuse conviction and knocked five years off his sentence, ruling that words alone don't amount to abuse in state law. Munao went to prison in 2005 and was released in 2008.
"It has been a very long road, doing any type of legislative work," Walsh said. "We're very excited it passed. ... It actually is a very big step in the right direction to recognize emotional abuse for children."
The statute change by Harrell, a Stuart Republican, spells out mental abuse as pushing a child to no longer function within normal behavior. The same definition is scattered throughout other spots in Florida law. Expert testimony from certain doctors would be required in those child abuse cases, and the crime would be a third-degree felony.
Harrell said the proposal is careful not to impinge on parents' First Amendment rights. The entire bill received Gov. Rick Scott's signature and goes into effect Oct. 1.
Walsh started researching state law on emotional child abuse leading up to the 2006 appellate ruling. She then approached Harrell, who assembled a task force of state attorney personnel, Department of Children and Families officials and social workers to craft a bill.
Both Walsh and Nikko shared their stories in front of Tallahassee committees and lobbied at the Capitol for years. Walsh also started Child's Cry for Help Inc., a nonprofit aiming to create awareness and help out child abuse and domestic violence victims.
The story caught the national media's attention, and Walsh appeared on the "Montell Williams Show" and "The O'Reilly Factor."
Nikko has sprouted into a 15-year-old Fort Pierce Central honor student and junior state boxing champ who still travels around to share his story.
"She was target-focused on this legislation, and she would come up (to Tallahassee) and bring her son every year, and he would be lobbying for it as well," Harrell said. "We would never have made the progress we did without her involvement directly."
After carrying the bill unsuccessfully for two years, Harrell met term limits and left the House in 2009 and 2010, but returned in 2011 and took up the bill again. Another pair of lawmakers even took it up in Harrell's absence. Each year, however, the proposal came up short.
"It would pass one chamber, and get stuck in the other chamber for a variety of reasons," she said.
But in the 60-day session's waning days in May, all the parties aligned to give Harrell the go-ahead to update the definition in HB 1355.
On top of the definitional change, HB 1355 calls for just less than $4 million total and 47 full-time positions to expand the Florida Abuse Hotline, help sexual abuse victims with relocation costs, provide training and more, a bill analysis states.
The full bill by Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, and Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, also includes some controversial changes. The biggest — a Penn State University-inspired provision calling for $1 million fines on college or university administrators for failing to report child abuse that takes place on campus.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, was one of four senators to oppose the bill, saying it goes too far and doesn't account for different cultures' varying standards on what constitutes child abuse versus acceptable discipline. The bill passed unanimously in the House.
Training For Mandated Child Abuse Reporters Could Be Made Obligatory
As the much-publicized trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky gets underway, child abuse continues to be a top concern as state lawmakers consider legislation that would require training for mandated reporters among school professionals. Senate Bill 449 was unanimously passed by the upper chamber in the fall and is currently awaiting action in the House.
As the much-publicized trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky gets underway, child abuse continues to be a top concern as state lawmakers consider legislation that would require training for mandated reporters among school professionals. Senate Bill 449 was unanimously passed by the upper chamber in the fall and is currently awaiting action in the House.
Tina Phillips, Director of Training for the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA), said mandated reporters must notify authorities. “They are required by law to report when they have reasonable cause to suspect that one of the kids with whom they work is a victim of child abuse,” Phillips said.
The PFSA is supporting the legislation which would make training mandatory for school personnel including all teachers and administrators. The Department of Public Welfare ( DPW ) said the majority of abuse reports came from schools.
Phillips said the training would cover a variety of topics, just as it always has in the past. “The child welfare process in Pennsylvania, what does that system look like? What are the limitations on that system? What can a mandated reporter expect once they make a report of suspected abuse? The reporting process itself, who do they call? When do they call? What kind of paperwork they need to fill out?” Phillips said.
According the DPW , in 2011 there were 24,378 suspected cases of abuse and 3,408 substantiated cases. 34 children died as a result of abuse and there were 41 cases of near-fatal abuse. 78% of the suspected and substantiated cases were submitted by mandated reporters.
Phillips added the training would not be very time consuming. “They are required to receive a certain number of hours of continuing education, and all this would do would be require that three of those hours once every five years would be recognizing and reporting child abuse,” Phillips said.
Last year the PFSA provided training to 8,100 mandated reporters throughout the state.
Read a story from out content partner Public Source outlining one case where the reporter was the one doing the abusing. It's a story that continues to be echoed today.
Alliance Seeks to Make Child Sexual Abuse Prevention a National Priority; New Federal Policies Needed
Three national organizations combatting child sexual abuse (CSA) are working diligently in an alliance to support and enhance federal government policies and procedures that will make CSA prevention a national priority.
Darkness to Light, Stop It Now!, and Prevent Child Abuse America have created the CSA Prevention Alliance (Alliance) to introduce a new national standard for CSA prevention and intervention. The Alliance supports federal agencies in finding ways to integrate child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention policies and practices into schools, child/youth-serving organizations, law enforcement agencies and other federally funded programs.
“The Alliance members came together to collaboratively focus our organizational efforts toward a primary goal: children and youth grow up protected from sexual abuse,” said Deborah Donovan Rice, Executive Director of Stop It Now! “Abuse is preventable when the best available tools are matched by a strong will to protect, whether at the community level or the federal government level. This is what Alliance members have learned over their more than 60 years of combined experience.”
The Alliance continues to advocate for federal agencies to proactively respond to this national outcry by advancing policies that better protect children from abuse. The Alliance suggests that federal agencies can improve child protection by including grant special conditions that would require grantees to implement CSA prevention policies and procedures. For example a grant special condition could require CSA prevention training for all adults involved in the program.
The public is voicing outrage at the lack of protection of children by adults in roles of responsibility, due in part to recent high profile CSA allegations. “Recent revelations have brought the issue of child sexual abuse to the forefront of national public consciousness for the first time,” said Jolie Logan, President and CEO, Darkness to Light. “This provides an unprecedented opportunity to create real and lasting change in how we, as a society, protect children.”
Federal efforts such as the Dept of Health and Human Service's Federal Interagency Work Group on Child Abuse and Neglect and the Justice Department's Defending Childhood Initiative are encouraging. The Alliance seeks to assist more federal agencies to find ways to integrate CSA prevention policies and practices into all child/youth-serving organizations and professions. As participants in the National Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse and Exploitation, the Alliance also works to support the National Plan to Prevent the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children.
“During the presidential campaign season there will be on-going debate about what constitutes the role of government in people's lives,” says James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America, “but there should be no debate about whether the federal government has the potential to positively impact the lives of all children by playing an active role in the prevention of child sexual abuse. Recent allegations provide an opportunity for the federal government to assume a leadership role to craft policies, ranging from educating adults about what they can do to prevent child sexual abuse to asking youth serving organizations to implement comprehensive child sexual abuse prevention policies and practices. This is not just the smart thing to do, but the right thing to do.”
For more information, contact:
Darkness to Light * 7 Radcliffe Street * Charleston, SC 29403 * 843-965-5444 * http://www.D2L.org
Prevent Child Abuse America * 228 S. Wabash Avenue * 10th Floor * Chicago, IL 60604 * 312-663-3520 * http://www.preventchildabuse.org
Stop It Now! * 351 Pleasant Street * Suite B-319 * Northampton, MA 01060 * 413-587-3500 * http://www.stopitnow.org
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/6/prweb9571184.htm
Backpage.com sues over Wash. sex-trafficking law
SEATTLE – The website Backpage.com sued the state of Washington on Monday, saying a new law that would require classified advertising companies to verify the ages of people in sex-related advertisements is invalid, even if it has a laudable goal.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill into law this year in an effort to cut down on child sex trafficking. It allows for the criminal prosecution of classified advertising company representatives who publish or cause publication of sex-related ads peddling children. Proof of a good-faith attempt to verify the age of the advertised person is considered a defense under the law.
Backpage operates a robust online clearinghouse for escorts, and it's a primary target of the law, which is due to take effect Thursday. The company, which is owned by Village Voice Media, has come under scrutiny from authorities for allegations that it's used to promote child prostitution.
The company sued in U.S. District Court in Seattle to block the law from being enforced pending a judge's decision on whether it should be struck down. The law is written so expansively that it would apply not just to classified advertising companies, but to dating sites, blogs, chat rooms and social networking sites, the company argues.
"This means that every service provider — no matter where headquartered or operated — must review each and every piece of third-party content posted on or through its service to determine whether it is an 'implicit' ad for a commercial sex act in Washington, and whether it includes a depiction of a person, and, if so, must obtain and maintain a record of the person's ID," the complaint says. "These obligations would bring the practice of hosting third-party content to a grinding halt."
Backpage argues that the law is trumped by the federal Communications Decency Act, which says online service providers are not responsible for the content of ads placed by third parties. Backpage also says Washington's law is unconstitutionally vague, infringes on First Amendment rights and attempts to regulate activity outside of Washington state.
"Backpage executives claim to be allies in the fight against human trafficking. Yet today they filed a lawsuit to kill a law written to reduce the number of minors posted for sale online," Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a statement. "On behalf of the people of Washington state, and on behalf of human trafficking victims everywhere, we will forcefully defend this groundbreaking law."
The company has been under heavy pressure to change the way it operates. Last month, the mayors of nearly 50 cities across the U.S. — including New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas — signed a letter urging Village Voice Media to require identification for people posting escort ads on Backpage.com.
"There is an urgent need to act quickly, as cities continue to find advertisements on your site that reflect underage sex trafficking," the letter said. "We are making every effort to stop the ongoing trafficking of underage individuals, but these efforts are made more difficult by the inadequate safeguards of your website, Backpage.com, to prevent underage sex trafficking."
Other states are following Washington's lead: A similar law soon to take effect in Tennessee, and lawmakers in New York and New Jersey are considering similar bills, according to the federal complaint filed by Backpage.com.
Company lawyer Liz McDougall said that Backpage is "an online industry leader in working cooperatively with law enforcement to identify, arrest and prosecute human traffickers," and that Washington's law would force criminal conduct back underground, where it's harder to track.
"The trafficking of children for sex is an abomination," she said in a written statement. "I believe aggressive improvements in technology and close collaboration between the online service community, law enforcement and (nongovernmental organizations) is the best approach to fighting human trafficking."
Village Voice Media owns 13 alternative weekly newspapers around the country, including Seattle Weekly, which already requires ID from those depicted in sex-related ads in its pages.
Sex Trafficking Ring From Mexico To New York Discovered
The Mexican city of Tenancingo in the state of Tlaxcala, is thought to be one of the safest areas in the country. Unlike much of Mexico, the city of Tenancingo has been spared for the most part, from Mexico's bloody drug war. But a different type of war rages in the city -- a more silent one that survives behind closed doors.
80 miles from the country's capital of Mexico City, Tenancingo is considered to be the country's epicenter for sex trafficking. Inside the three-story houses which lie inside gated communities are thriving businesses of prostitution and sex-trafficking, according to the New York Daily News.
But in the past 20 years, the business has expanded well beyond the streets of Tenancingo. Sex trafficking from the Mexican city fuels much of the prostitution in New York City.
32 sex traffickers were arrested last year by New York's Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office. 26 of those were from Tenancingo, according to New York Daily News.
Anthropologist Oscar Montiel, who has interviewed the pimps about their work, believes that, in the town of just over 10,000, there may be as many as 3,000 people directly involved the trade, according to the Associated Press.
Change.org, a website that aims to promote social change by the use of online petitions, describes the Mexican city as the “perfect petri dish for forced prostitution.”
The city saw a big boom of industrialization in the end of the 19th century, but after business slowed, an impoverished and jobless population was left behind. With a largely indigenous citizenry and a fervent misogynistic culture, Tenancingo is home to a population of vulnerable women, where forced marriage and “bride kidnapping" are not uncommon practices. The lack of law enforcement by local authorities, who fail to address the issue, only serves to compound the city's problems.
According to local reports, societal pressures have only reinforced the practice, with many boys of Tenancingo aspiring to become pimps.
"If you ask some boys, and we have done this, 'Hey what do you want to be when you grow up?' They reply: 'I want to have a lot of sisters and a lot of daughters to make lots of money,'" said Dilcya Garcia, a Mexico City prosecutor who did anti-trafficking work in Tenancingo.
The prostitution and sex trafficking ring is also guarded by a brotherhood of silence. Entire networks of people and extended families are in on the prostitution circle, according to local reports.
The trafficking starts with young Mexican women being lured into “romantic relationships” by sex traffickers who promise wealth, jobs and marriage. Women usually come from impoverished areas of Mexico. With the promise of marriage and the threat of violence --which often involves the women's families-- they are coaxed into the prostitution business.
“Typically the victims are very traditional and on the naive side, they come from families where sex is not discussed, prostitution is unknown and the women are completely unsuspecting,” said Lori Cohen, a trafficking victims' lawyer to BBC.
Once under the pimps power, women are kept isolated from the families. They are vulnerable and subjected to the pimps' wishes and forced to work as prostitutes servicing sometimes dozens of male clients each day.
Women are often held inside security houses, where some say they are raped, according to New York Daily News.
Townspeople call the houses “calcuilchil” or “houses of ass” in their indigenous Nahuatl language, according to Montiel. Windows of the houses are often covered in mirrored glass, making it impossible for outsiders to catch a glimpse of those living inside. Believing the threats of their pimps and fearing punishment, many women remain subdued to the pimps' wishes.
One sex trafficking victim who remained anonymous told BBC, “at first it was about 30 clients a night. My pimp was very violent towards me. Many times, almost to the point of killing me.”
The Sandusky Sexual Abuse Case's Biggest Mysteries
A missing district attorney. No charges filed after multiple accusations. As jury selection begins in the trial of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, Diane Dimond reports on the convoluted case's strangest twists.
by Diane Dimond
The whispers about Jerry Sandusky have ricocheted around Centre County, Pa., since at least 1998, when allegations of child sexual abuse first surfaced.
The district attorney at the time, Ray Gricar, took the case of the popular Penn State assistant football coach to a grand jury, and the resulting indictment accused Sandusky of sexually touching a young boy while they were both naked. Also revealed: Sandusky, in trying to apologize to the boy's mother, told her, “I wish I were dead.” Police overheard the conversation from a nearby room and considered it the next best thing to a confession. But no charges were filed in the case of the boy, who is now grown and known to the public simply as accuser No. 6 in the current criminal case against Sandusky. The district attorney went missing in 2005 and has never been found. Last July, Ray Gricar was officially declared dead. That's Mystery No. 1 in this convoluted case.
Mystery No. 2: why nothing came of a visibly upset Penn State janitor's report to co-workers in 2000, after he said he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the gymnasium shower. That janitor now suffers from acute dementia and cannot testify at Sandusky's upcoming trial.
Mystery No. 3: why, in 2002, after Penn State football assistant Mike McQueary said he witnessed a very similar scene—a naked Sandusky allegedly committing a sex act on a naked boy in the gym showers—the university did not involve local law enforcement. McQueary said he reported what he allegedly saw in the showers to head football coach Joe Paterno and was told not to worry, that the coach would handle the matter. (Paterno, 85, was fired after the Sandusky sex scandal surfaced last year and died of lung cancer in January 2012. Two top university officials were also ousted in the wake of the scandal.)
And Mystery No. 4: how Sandusky's defense team believes it will be able to counter what is sure to be sexually graphic testimony from at least 10 young men who are expected to say that when they were boys they suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Coach Sandusky, a man they trusted. Court filings indicate there may be as many as 17 accusers who will come forward, but the 52 charges in the latest indictment relate only to the original 10 boys. Sandusky has steadfastly denied he ever molested any youngster.
Dr. Eileen Tracy of Lehman College in New York, an expert in sexual abuse and child development, says she isn't surprised that Sandusky decided to buck the odds and go to trial, even in the face of what appears to be overwhelming evidence. While acknowledging that a defendant is always presumed innocent, Dr. Tracy told The Daily Beast: “Sex offenders, as a group, engage in a lot of cognitive distortion. They don't believe they're doing anything harmful, and that belief is so strong you could put them on a [polygraph] and they would pass it.”
“He took the roar out of the Nittany Lions. A lot of them will want to burn this guy at the stake because they'll see that as how they'll get their reputation back.”
It is a sure bet the defense team will conduct a vigorous cross-examination of all the witnesses brought by the prosecution, but especially when the alleged victims take the stand. The young men's backgrounds have certainly been thoroughly investigated by the defense, and if there are negatives such as drug or alcohol abuse, anti-social behavior, or a history of telling lies, they will surely surface during their testimony.
Dr. Tracy notes that such behaviors are consistent with those a victim of sexual abuse often adopts as a coping mechanism. “My advice to the witness is always be honest,” she says. “[It's] better to be truthful. And I always urge the prosecutor to get it on the record during direct exam” and not wait for a harsh cross-examination to bring up an accuser's past bad conduct.
It has been decided that the accusers will not be able to hide behind their numerical designations during the trial. The judge has ruled that just like other alleged victim-witnesses, their real names will be disclosed when they take their place on the stand. So far that ruling has not caused any of the young men to balk at testifying.
As in any highly publicized case, choosing the jury is a critically important step. The prosecution, citing the influence of both Penn State and Sandusky's Second Mile children's charity, had asked the court to allow jury selection to take place outside the county. But Centre County court Judge John Cleland denied the request, despite the massive pre-trial publicity in and around State College, Pa., and set aside four days this week to choose the jury locally. Cleland also set opening statements to begin on Monday, June 11, but there are few who think jury selection can be completed by then.
Expert jury consultants are split on what each side will be looking for in a potential juror. Richard Gabriel, president of Decision Analysis of Los Angeles says: “Demographics are the poorest way to pick a jury. Age, race, gender doesn't really tell you that much for these types of cases. The better denominator is how a juror was raised and their orientation.” For that reason, Gabriel says he thinks the prosecution will want to strike any member of the jury pool who has any connection to the Penn State football mystique and might think to themselves: “I've been to every single game. I have Penn State bumper stickers. I can't believe Sandusky would do something like this!”
But Robert Hirschhorn of Cathy E. Bennett & Associates, near Dallas, says just the opposite. Prosecutors should embrace the Penn State booster who will likely have scorn for Sandusky, Hirschhorn says: “He took the roar out of the Nittany Lions. A lot of them will want to burn this guy at the stake because they'll see that as how they'll get their reputation back.” Hirschhorn looks for the defense to choose people who are naturally skeptical, conspiracy theorists and younger, more progressive-thinking jurors who may have a less stringent view of sexual misconduct. Sandusky's team, he says, will likely steer clear of people who want or cannot have children.
Gabriel views the prosecution team as fairly comfortable with its abundance of evidence, so he predicts they will focus on the potential high-risk, hold-out jurors and the ones with dominant personalities who could sway others. Law-and-order types always make good prosecution picks, he says.
As the nation's next big headline-generating trial gets under way—as Sandusky comes face to face with the anticipated tearful testimony of his accusers—does there come a time when he turns to his defense team and says, “Stop the trial”?
If he is a true preferential pedophile, defined as someone who is obsessed by and prefers an underage sex partner over an adult, he won't call a halt, says Dr. Tracy. “It's highly doubtful,” she says. “They are just too narcissistic. They really live in a world of all this distortion, and as ridiculous as it may be to us, they really believe the kid wanted it as much as they did.”
Arizona teenager who left 5-week-old baby on car roof freed
The Associated Press
PHOENIX - A woman accused of driving while her 5-week-old baby was in a car seat on the roof of her vehicle has been released from jail.
Maricopa County Superior Court officials say 19-year-old Catalina Clouser was freed Saturday, but is under electronic monitoring.
She has a June 20 preliminary hearing, but doesn't have a lawyer.
Phoenix police arrested Clouser early Saturday on suspicion child abuse and aggravated DUI charges after witnesses found a child strapped in a safety seat in the middle of an intersection.
Arizona Child Protective Services says the child is in good condition.
Authorities say Clouser went to the home of friends and smoked marijuana for the second time in a few hours.
Clouser left the house around midnight, forgetting the baby was on top of her car.
Volunteers to be required to report child abuse
ATLANTA (AP) - Volunteers who work with children in Georgia will be required by law to report suspected child abuse starting next month.
The new mandatory reporting requirement is part of a criminal justice reform law that was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal last month. The bill changes the definition of "child service organization personnel" to include volunteers.
State Attorney General Sam Olens says anyone who works with children, including volunteers, should already feel obligated to report suspected child abuse, but the new law makes it a legal requirement.
The new law goes into effect July 1.
Get the complete picture
The Miami Herald Editorial
Protecting children from abuse and neglect is not a numbers game. It's not a game at all, and the state has taken on the serious responsibility of both preventing child abuse and rescuing kids from their tormentors.
But what looked like great news — deaths from child abuse and neglect fell a stunning 30 percent from 2009 to 2010 — requires a closer look. Neither better monitoring nor more parenting classes led to what looks like an impressive decline. Rather, significantly narrowing the criteria for what constitutes abuse and neglect did. The Department of Children & Families' policy change meant that some child-death cases were judged accidental and some parents not held to account — or criminally culpable. Worse, tragedies that might have been prevented weren't.
DCF secretary David Wilkins now says that the policy, established before his tenure started, will change again, and that every death of a child, again, will be scrutinized.
He must ensure that everyone under his leadership gets the message.
Florida has a Statewide Child Abuse Death Review Committee, which operates under the state Department of Health. It studies child deaths each year. Its mission is to prevent them.
But under the guidelines enacted in 2010, the committee saw far fewer cases. The policy, as a pediatrician who heads a local death-review team in Jacksonville put it, was “fatally flawed.”
DCF can't afford to have an incomplete and inaccurate picture of how children are dying in Florida. Unfortunately, there have been too many cases when, even when evidence of child abuse was placed on its doorstep, the agency fumbled, with horrendous results. The case of the short, tortured life of Nubia Barahona — and that of her brother, Victor, who survived — remains an outrageous instance of the agency's failure to put all the pieces together in time. Even after DCF received a report that the youngsters' adoptive parents had tied them up and locked them in a bathroom, the case was so filled with error and poor practices that it “stands out as a model of fatal ineptitude,” an independent panel later wrote.
Nothing good can come from an agency manipulating statistics and operating in the dark when a high-power spotlight is required. Under the 2010 policy, investigators in different DCF districts were allowed to use different criteria to conclude whether a child died of abuse or neglect. Some of the toughest calls were made not when a child was obviously bruised and battered. Rather, some of the most difficult to nail down were drowning cases and those in which a child sleeping with adults was smothered to death — co-sleeping, it's called.
If an investigator was reluctant to verify a drowning as the result of neglect — even if there was evidence that the adults might have been using drugs — it would be classified as an accident. Sometimes compassion for already-traumatized parents led to the same, possibly flawed, conclusion.
In addition, investigator training and oversight vary. Law enforcement does the work in some jurisdictions. In most of the state, though, DCF staffers do the job.
Mr. Wilkins needs to ensure that all investigators are working off the same page, standardizing training and supervision. Children's lives should not depend on where they happen to reside. DCF and the death-review panel need all the pieces of the puzzle if they are to do the important job with which they have been entrusted.
Lifetime of blues
Sandusky charges, trial magnify focus on child abuse
by Drew Hawley and Vanessa Kattouf
Nov. 5, 2011
The sanctity of Penn State was at a tipping point.
The reputations of one of the country's premier universities and one of its most-revered college football programs were being dragged through the mud, and the public was digging for details allegedly buried since 1998.
Click. Click. Click.
For months, there had been whispers about a child abuse investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. But when the details of that inquiry finally hit the World Wide Web in the form of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office's grand jury presentment in the case, the allegations were more serious and horrifying than anyone had imagined, involving assaults that allegedly occurred at Penn State football facilities and on trips to bowl games.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
As hundreds upon hundreds of news and information organizations posted copies of the presentment on their websites, public interest and outrage over the case grew at unprecedented speed, clicks begetting click begetting clicks, leaving Penn State with an unprecedented public relations nightmare.
Click. Click. Click.
That weekend, the Altoona Mirror's website, where a copy of the presentment was posted, drew 130,000 pageviews, more than twice the usual traffic for a weekend. The Centre County government website also saw record traffic, as did numerous other sites. But those numbers signify more than just the public's genuine curiosity about a child abuse case involving a high-profile defendant.
Advocates for child abuse victims hope that, rather than being remembered as Penn State's darkest day, Nov. 5, 2011, will be remembered as the day light began to overtake darkness, the day society began to discuss the issue of child abuse openly, rather than in whispers, the day victims became our first priority. Only time will tell if that happens and what happens in a courtroom in Bellefonte over the next days and weeks will play a role. Certainly, there have been high-profile child abuse cases before, but today's all-encompassing technology ensures there has never been one like this one. There have never been so many people watching and learning - and wanting to know more.
Jan. 2, 1987
Jerry Sandusky's defense had just intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde for a fifth time to seal a 14-10 victory as the clock hit 0:00 at the Fiesta Bowl.
The Penn State Nittany Lions football team claimed its second national championship, and the stadium was a blue-and-white roar of "We are!"
Matt Paknis was in his element.
The Brown University alumnus had just applied for a position with the team as a graduate assistant offensive line coach. When he started the next season, he would be working alongside coach Joe Paterno and his staff with the reigning national champions.
Paknis couldn't imagine his football coaching career beginning any better, and that celebratory feeling continued throughout the following summer when he assisted at the Penn State summer football camp.
The camp was organized to offer prospective players the opportunity to visit Penn State and to be coached and evaluated by its staff to learn techniques and skills taught at Penn State.
But Paknis's ride on cloud nine came to a deadening halt shortly thereafter, when he began to observe Sandusky's mannerisms and behavior around the camp's participants.
Paknis said Sandusky would playfully grab the camp members and sometimes put them in headlocks while tickling and pinching the boys.
To some, the behavior might have seemed odd, but Paknis had a different point of view.
"There were boundary issues," he said now. "It's a violation of personal place. And that's what happened to me."
Matt Paknis was only 9-years-old when his trust was shattered and his world upturned. His mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, and his relationship with his dad was severely strained.
With the care and concentration of a child who just wanted to leave his problems behind, Paknis threw himself into the project of building a tree fort in his own backyard. This was to be his sanctuary - the place where he would go to escape the harsh reality of his mother's frequent trips to the hospital - and a haven to provide some stability in his life.
And it was. Up until the day when a neighbor climbed into the tree fort and violated Paknis's trusting nature.
"[A predator] will take you down that road of deception," Paknis said. "It doesn't have anything to do with sex. It has to do with power and control. They have some inordinate desire to control you."
Over the next three years, Paknis was sexually abused by his neighbor.
He didn't know what to do or who to tell.
"People become afraid to speak up or speak back. And that's when we often see evil in the form of abuse take over," Paknis said. "It's not an illness; this is just a distorted, sick person's choice to be abusive. This is pedophilia."
Almost a generation after Paknis had his suspicions, Sandusky was arrested and charged with seven counts of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child and seven counts of indecent assault.
Paknis was shocked.
But, in hindsight, he said he wasn't too surprised.
"I was only 24 [when I met Sandusky], so I wasn't fully aware. But I knew something wasn't right," he said.
So Paknis faced the painful memories from his childhood by putting them into writing for the benefit of child abuse victims everywhere; he published an open letter addressed to the Penn State community sharing his traumatic experience.
In the letter, Paknis empathizes with other survivors of child abuse, writing, "I am very sorry for your pain, and I am tired of perpetrators and their accomplices riding off into the sunset with bodies in their wakes. Although it's difficult to discuss my abuse, my efforts are directed at helping survivors."
And the survivors are many.
According to Childhelp, an organization whose mission is to prevent and treat child abuse, a child abuse report is filed every 10 seconds in the U.S., adding up to more than 3.3 million reports of child abuse filed every year.
Bernadette Bianchi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, has been working with abuse victims for 33 years and knows all of the signs a child may exhibit if he or she is sexually abused.
"When a child is abused, there will be a noticeable change in their behavior, emotional reactions and a sense of fear around a person they used to be comfortable around," she said. "They will pull back from friends, have a sense of isolation and a feeling of loneliness. They may completely withdraw from peer interaction and will start having trouble in school."
When a child is abused, Bianchi said it is of utmost importance that they seek help immediately. Post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeplessness, an inability to concentrate, neurosis, depression and drug and alcohol abuse are just some of the problems that are prevalent in abuse victims, according to experts.
"They need to know that it is OK to talk about it. It's important to tell the child that it is not their fault; they are the victim," Bianchi said. "Building a community of support around the child is one of the most important steps in the process."
Before he entered high school, Paknis, having gained renewed self-assurance, decided to take matters into his own hands. By then, he was 6 feet tall with a brawny build. Paknis confronted his abuser.
"If you ever touch me again, I'll kill you," he told him.
He then worked to create his own community of support, seeking therapy from specialists to help him move on from his traumatic experiences. Paknis said this support system has allowed him to live a fulfilling life. He has been happily married for 20 years with three children and works as a successful business consultant who focuses on team building.
Paknis said he hasn't let the incident hinder him, taking the initiative to become a board member for Male Survivors, an organization committed to ending all sexual victimization of boys and men.
Attorney Jeff Anderson has been in the legal field for more than 29 years, but a potential civil trial involving alleged child molester Sandusky could prove to be the most high-profile case in which Anderson has ever been involved.
Anderson's law firm, located in St. Paul, Minn., is representing one of Sandusky's alleged victims. Anderson said his firm has been a pioneer in the use of civil litigation to seek justice for survivors of childhood sex abuse. And as the court date quickly approaches, he said he's up to the challenge that will come with the national spotlight of the Sandusky case.
"One of the most notable challenges is that it's a crime of secrecy," he said. "It's rarely done in the presence of witnesses."
Anderson said a primary problem that child victims of abuse face is that they might not be believed when they tell a parent or trusted adult about what happened to them and might therefore not receive the help that they need.
"Often times, people don't want to believe these trusted, revered adults would do that," he said. "When that child can report and work with someone like us, it's their word against a trusted adult, such as Sandusky."
A major issue concerning child abuse is that the claims may be false. According to a study done by the Denver child protective services, 6 percent of allegations in child abuse cases are found to be false. The majority of these falsified claims are initiated by parents who are in the process of separating or filing for divorce, in hopes that they'll gain an advantage in custody proceedings.
According to The Victims of Crime Assistance League, an organization that offers support to victims of crime, three-fourths of false child abuse claims are related to a marital breakup.
But Bianchi echoes Anderson's sentiments and said it's imperative to take the child's word seriously.
"If the child's claim is not believed, it will lead to continued abuse and trust issues in the future," she said. "The road to recovery is a lifelong process, and the sooner the child finds a way to cope with the trauma, the better."
Paknis claims a "healthy obsession with sports" was his coping mechanism.
"Sports, in essence, was my savior," he said. "It's upsetting that Jerry [Sandusky] used it as his means to abuse children. It's horrific."
Horrific, if proven true, but not uncommon.
Distinguished child abuse researcher David Finkelhor estimates that 90 percent of molested children know the person who abuses them, with almost half of the offenders being a family member.
Bianchi adds that pedophiles are mostly men in power who make children feel special by showering them with gifts and affection and often fill a void left by a parent.
According to the National Alert Registry, between 250,000 and 500,000 child sex offenders reside in the United States. The FBI estimates that there is a sex offender living in every square mile of the country.
"One person told me, 'It's worse than murder; it's soul murder,'" Paknis said.
But he promises there is hope for those whose lives have been either directly or indirectly affected by child abuse.
"There are good people out there," he said. "There are stronger forces. Light beats darkness. Positive beats negative. Good beats evil."
(Editor's note: Samantha Brenneman, Drew Hawley and Vanessa Kattouf are students in the communications program at Penn State Altoona. They wrote and photographed this story as a "deep news" assignment for a COMM470A class taught by lecturer Ray Eckenrode, who is also the Mirror's general manager and former managing editor.)
Jerry Sandusky soon to face accusers in child sexual abuse trial
Jury selection is due to start in the former Penn State coach's trial. As many as eight young men are expected to testify against him.
by Peter Hall
Seven months after wrenching allegations of child sexual abuse put Penn State University on a world stage, Jerry Sandusky
will face his accusers in court.
As many as eight young men will confront the retired Penn State assistant football coach from the witness stand in the coming weeks and tell a jury their accounts of the abuse they allege he committed over the course of 13 years.
After jury selection, set to begin Tuesday and conclude later in the week, prosecutors are likely to open with the most visceral testimony they have, lawyers familiar with the case say.
One accuser told state prosecutors he screamed for help as Sandusky raped him in the basement bedroom of his Centre County home, according to the grand jury report recommending charges.
Another told of five years of sexual abuse starting when he was 12. He says Sandusky forced him to have oral and anal sex more than 50 times, sometimes during road trips to Texas and Florida with the Penn State football team.
"You have that witness recounting that horrific event in his life. It's spellbinding for the jury," said Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer John Waldron, who said prosecutors will need to work to keep jurors' attention during the two- to three-week trial on 52 counts of sexual abuse.
Among the 10 Sandusky is charged with abusing, two have not been identified, leaving prosecutors to rely on the testimony of another assistant coach, Mike McQueary
, whose credibility has been attacked, and secondhand testimony from a former university janitor who suffers dementia
and cannot testify.
McQueary told the grand jury he saw Sandusky naked in a locker room shower raping a boy he estimated to be 10 years old. But at a hearing in December for two university officials charged with lying to the grand jury, McQueary said he couldn't see whether Sandusky was, in fact, sodomizing the boy.
Prosecutors further muddied McQueary's account last month by changing the date of the alleged assault in court papers from March 2002 to February 2001.
The janitor told his boss, Jay Witherite, he saw Sandusky with a young boy pinned against a shower wall one night in November 2000 as he cleaned the football locker room. Sandusky's lawyers say Witherite's testimony would be inadmissible hearsay, but prosecutors contend jurors should hear it under an exception for statements made in the heat of the moment.
Judge John M. Cleland has yet to rule whether Sandusky can challenge the strength of that evidence.
Retired federal prosecutor Seth Weber said that although Sandusky's lawyers had identified weak spots in the state's case, it is clear the prosecutors have confidence in their evidence.
"In any case where you have young victims and time has passed, some of your counts are going to be stronger than others," Weber said. "Even if the evidence is not so strong, the prosecutor must believe the evidence is strong enough to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
And although Sandusky's attorneys have received thousands of pages of investigative documents from prosecutors, Sandusky gave up his right to hear the state's witnesses testify before trial. That puts defense attorneys Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger at a disadvantage, not knowing how the prosecution witnesses will hold up to cross-examination.
"It's going to be a wait-and-see defense strategy in some respects because he doesn't know what's in store for him from some of these witnesses," Waldron said.
Sandusky's lawyers have signaled that in addition to trying to discredit his accusers, they intend to present Sandusky as a victim of a conspiracy among the accusers to fabricate allegations of abuse. The accusers, Amendola has said, intended to cash in with civil suits against Penn State.
Most of the accusers met Sandusky through the Second Mile, a charity for troubled kids the coach founded in 1977 that grew into an $8-million foundation.
After Sandusky took an interest in the boys and brought them into the clan of adopted and foster children that shared his home, included them in workouts and took them to sporting events, the abuse began, the boys told a grand jury.
The alleged abuse spanned two decades between 1995 and 2008 and happened mostly with boys ages 11 to 15, although some were younger when it started and some were older when it ended.
In 2008, the mother of the boy who became known as Victim 1 called the principal of Central Mountain High School and reported her suspicion that Sandusky was abusing her son. The principal and others at the school had their own concerns about Sandusky and went to child welfare authorities.
Over the next three years, investigators from the Pennsylvania State Police and the state attorney general's office uncovered allegations that Sandusky had molested nine other boys.
Five of Sandusky's accusers have asked the judge for permission to protect their identities by using pseudonyms when they testify.
The trial will pit Senior Deputy Atty. Gen. Joseph E. McGettigan III, a veteran prosecutor with a record of winning high-profile cases, against Sandusky's lead attorney, Amendola, who is well-known in State College as an aggressive defense attorney.
Brooklyn DA is talking the talk on enablers of child abuse in ultra-Orthodox community
But Charles Hynes must walk the walk as well
To hear District Attorney Charles Hynes now tell it, members of Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have criminally protected child sex abusers by bullying victims and their families into silence.
“I haven't seen this kind of intimidation in organized-crime cases or police corruption,” Hynes declared in an interview with the Daily News.
So whom among these obstructors of justice did Hynes prosecute? Virtually no one. And who
m among the predators did he send to prison? Far, far fewer than he should have across the first 19 of his more than 22 years in office.
As Hynes stunningly admitted to the Jewish Daily Forward, for almost two decades he was “completely unsuccessful” in prosecuting sex abuse by ultra-Orthodox Brooklynites, a group that was politically important to him and whose leaders discourage, as a matter of religion, involvement with civil authorities.
Hynes disputes that he was passive in the face of victimization — which is no more prevalent in this constituency than in any other — but the evidence is overwhelming that he took a destructively accommodating approach to sex crime prosecutions involving the ultra-Orthodox.
In 1998, Hynes let David Zimmer, accused of groping a 9-year-old girl and raping a 10-year-old, plead guilty to a single count and a sentence of probation. Zimmer was represented by the husband of Hynes' Jewish community liaison. Zimmer has since been charged in a series of molestations.
The 9-year-old's father told The New York Times: “If they don't want to prosecute, what are you going to do?”
In 2008, Hynes entered a plea bargain with Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a teacher with a 30-year history of abuse complaints. Charged with two felony counts, he pleaded to a misdemeanor, over the objection of a victim's father, and escaped jail time.
“I believe they were looking for angles out,” the father told the Jewish Week newspaper.
In 2009, Hynes launched a program called Voice of Justice that was billed as a “culturally sensitive” approach to community resistance to reporting child abuse.
A few months later, the Forward reported the organizing body of Modern Orthodox rabbis had affirmed that rabbinic courts should decide whether to bring sexual abuse allegations against Jews to law enforcement.
In May 2011, The Forward reported that Agudath Israel of America, a leading ultra-Orthodox advocacy group, had also told followers that they could go to law enforcement only after consulting a rabbi, even if they were in professions mandated by state law to report abuse.
Rather than protest that religious authorities have no place interfering in criminal justice, let alone counseling to violation of law, a Hynes spokesman said: “If anyone asks us, we tell them to call police or the DA's office.”
Last summer, Agudath Israel executive director Rabbi David Zwiebel told Hynes his organization was directing followers that they could report sex abuse only after a rabbi weighed the credib
ility of allegations. Zwiebel told the Times that Hynes “expressed no oppostion or objection.”
That came to light in a report that also described how the community cowed victims
from testifying by expulsion from religious schools and synagogues and even eviction from apartments. The report became a tipping point for Hynes.
First, he wrote in a Daily News Op-Ed: “Although I would not interfere with anyone's decision to speak to their religious leader, I also expect allegations of criminal conduct to be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.”
Under severe criticism, he then escalated to warning that rabbis could be obstructing justice when they insist on talking to victims first.
He also defended his record over the past three years with statistics showing prosecutions by his Voice of Justice program, but he held to the misguided policy of refusing to disclose names of accused ultra-Orthodox offenders.
Hynes has also called for state legislation to mandate abuse reporting by clerics and formed a task force to address the witness intimidation that he compares to the tactics of organized crime.
He need only do the one thing he should have done since he was first elected in 1989: Prosecute.
Prostitutes go from sex trade to safe haven
by Jennifer Lin
Anne turned 45 last month.
She's amazed she made it.
Before dawn on an icy February morning last year, Anne was trolling for business on the corner of Kensington Avenue and Westmoreland Street. She had been on a crack bender for weeks and needed money.
A woman in a car pulled up. "Do you ever do it with girls?" the stranger asked.
Whatever, Anne thought, and slid into the passenger seat. She figured she could easily rip off the woman, then get the hell out of the car.
As the stranger turned down an alley, Anne glanced in the rearview mirror. A van pulled up behind them. Two men got out.
Anne bolted, but the cops outran her.
Busted for prostitution for perhaps the 10th time in as many years, Anne sat in a paddy wagon for three hours as the undercover team picked up two other women. The temperature outside was 17 and dropping. All she had was a hoodie. She hadn't slept a full night in weeks. She was hungry, she was tired, she was dirty, she was cold.
"I was on my knees thinking, `Dear God, I have to stop.' "
The old stone house is big and solid.
Only the women who live or work there know its location. It's spacious enough to accommodate a large family, with a warren of bedrooms, cozy living room, and separate dining room whose long table could seat a dozen.
How it became a safe house for prostitutes — the first of its kind in Philadelphia — is a story of providence.
It begins about six years ago, with Mary DeFusco, a veteran public defender, being pestered by a friend to go along to a meeting about human trafficking. Increasing numbers of foreign women were being smuggled into the country, Philadelphia included, and pressured or forced into the sex trade.
But on that particular topic, DeFusco had a major chip on her shoulder. In her years as a lawyer helping poor women navigate the legal system, she saw thousands of prostitution cases come across her desk. Why, she would argue, was a trafficked woman considered a victim and offered help — but an American caught up in the same mess considered a criminal and locked up?
DeFusco believed that a woman from Frankford working the streets of Kensington was just as trapped as one from Mexico working in a brothel in Norristown.
Still, on that day in late 2006, DeFusco went with Marissa Boyer Bluestine, at the time also a public defender, to a meeting of the Philadelphia Anti-Trafficking Coalition, which had come together over the problem five years earlier.
More than two dozen people — police officers, trafficking experts, federal immigration officers, women from religious orders, representatives of social-service agencies — sat around a huge conference table in the Center City offices of Catholic Social Services. As the session dragged on, attention shifted to an expert with the Polaris Project, an advocacy group in Washington for the victims of trafficking. She had this observation: "Whether you cross a foreign border or not, many women standing on the streets were forced into prostitution."
Yes! DeFusco said to herself. She gets it.
DeFusco spoke up. She told the others there was an urgent need in Philadelphia to help those American women, too. To help them not just beat addictions, but find a safe place to stay to begin their recoveries.
"Does anyone here have housing?" she asked.
DeFusco looked around the table. So much for that.
As the meeting broke up, a slight, gray-haired woman approached DeFusco and said, "I want to get out there and help, and you seem to know what's happening to women.
“Can we talk?"
Sister Teresita Hinnegan was impatient. She had been going to coalition meetings for years. "Everyone was talking about it," she said, "and no one was doing anything."
She asked two of her friends from the group — Sisters Terry Shields and Kathleen Coll — to meet with DeFusco and Bluestine.
From different starting points, the five women had come to the same place.
Sister Teresita, 84, had spent a lifetime helping women in need. Joining the Medical Mission Sisters in 1948, she delivered babies as a nurse midwife in rural Bangladesh. Back home in Philadelphia after 12 years, she earned a graduate degree and, for two decades, lectured at the University of Pennsylvania on welfare and the delivery of health care to the poor.
DeFusco told the others she was tired of the revolving door, of women coming out of jail for treatment, returning to the streets, then ending up back in jail.
Prostitution, they agreed, was not the sanitized Pretty Woman of Hollywood. "I have yet to talk to a client who has not been sexually abused as a child," said Bluestine, who now works for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project to exonerate people of crimes they did not commit. "That creates a particular victimization that is profound."
For so many, drugs were a way to numb the trauma of the past, Bluestine said.
If there were a safe house where they could stay for a year, they could work on recovery on multiple levels, not only drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but therapy for emotional and sexual abuse, as well as job training and educational help.
All that was needed was the building.
Through a tip, Sister Teresita heard that another religious order was downsizing its presence in Philadelphia and might have a property to unload. But when she called to inquire, her contact was too busy to talk.
Early the next morning, however, the woman called back. She told Sister Teresita that she hadn't been able to sleep, that she had been wrong to rebuff her. Indeed, her order did have a house on a quiet street, and it could be had for a dollar.
Sister Teresita and the others spent a year working on the old house, which needed tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and upgrades. They raised money from religious orders and received a small federal grant, as well as donations from individuals. They bought secondhand furniture from thrift stores and outfitted bedrooms with donated sheets and curtains.
In March 2009, the house was ready. They named it Dawn's Place, after a prostitute who had been murdered in Camden a few years before.
From the start, the safe house was intended to shelter both American and foreign women. and so far, the mix has indeed been half and half.
Among the first group of residents were five women from Mexico and Ecuador. All had worked at a brothel in Norristown that became linked to a major trafficking bust.
In that case from 2010, four illegal immigrants ran a prostitution ring that included two brothels in South Philadelphia. Over a span of six months, the pimps had more than 60 Hispanic women, who'd been smuggled across the border, working for them. They kept track of clients with tickets and punch cards. The brothels also ran a take-out service where women were "delivered" to customers. After the case broke, one of the women ended up at Dawn's Place.
Federal agents who work on trafficking investigations say they need Dawn's Place. "It's very important to have a place where victims feel secure and safe," said John Kelleghan, head of Department of Homeland Security investigations in Philadelphia.
Cases usually start with a tip, but cannot be built without the cooperation of victims. "They've been through a traumatic event in their lives," he said. Dawn's Place "certainly gets them back and stabilizes them to a point where we not only work with them to build a case, but they can get their lives back on track," including staying in the States.
Since opening, Dawn's Place has housed 30 women from as near as Kensington and as far as Poland. One Mexican teen had been sold into prostitution by her parents at age 11.
Not all the foreign women who are placed at Dawn's Place were working in the sex trade.
One group was trafficked into the country to work as indentured housekeepers. Many of the Americans were referred to Dawn's Place by the courts. Some heard about the program in jail. Last year, 816 women were arrested for prostitution in Philadelphia. Foreign women, meanwhile, were steered there by federal officials with Homeland Security, the FBI, and U.S. State Department.
The safe house is their home. By day, those trying to kick addictions go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or outpatient clinics for treatment. Those who need to heal emotionally meet with therapists. Women can enroll in GED classes or take job-training courses in the community.
At night, they return home to cook meals together, celebrating birthdays with special dinners.
"Sometimes, we all just sit around the table, the nuns and the prostitutes," said Sister Terry Shields, of the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary. "We're all women. This is Gospel."
One of the residents was a 54-year-old veteran of the streets of Kensington, who kicked her drug addiction and reunited with her parents after a 30-year estrangement.
Two Southeast Asian women recently got hotel jobs and plan to soon move into their own apartment.
But not everyone has a happily-ever-after ending. Some have relapsed to drugs and prostitution.
"That could be seen as failure," Sister Teresita said. "But even for those who are not ready and return to the streets, we feel they have had that time with us, and it's another step toward them finding themselves and becoming whole again."
Anne heard about Dawn's Place while in jail at the Riverside Correctional Institution.
On that cold February morning in 2011, she was almost grateful to get arrested. "I was out of my mind by then, smoking like crazy," she explained, taking a break from reading a novel in the backyard of Dawn's Place.
Anne's descent into drugs and prostitution was swift and absolute. A dropout at 16, she grew up in a fatherless home with four brothers and a sister, and a mother who headed every day from work to the local taproom. Anne had a daughter at 19 and married.
At 32, two things happened that sent her life into a tailspin. She learned that a younger brother had molested her 13-year-old daughter. Around the same time, she discovered her husband was cheating on her.
"I kind of lost it," she says now.
"Try this, it will help," a relative told her, handing her a crack pipe.
It was love at first hit. "It was the only thing that took me out of myself," Anne recalled.
She so neglected her daughter that she reported herself to the Department of Human Services; the girl was sent to live with her father in Pittsburgh.
Anne needed money for her habit, and the streets of Kensington became her ATM. For a decade, she flopped wherever she could — a friend's sofa, crack houses, a hotel room if a trick could pay. Her daughter would come back to Philadelphia to look for her, leaving notes with hookers and dealers. Anne ignored the messages.
When she hit bottom after the last arrest, Mary DeFusco, the public defender, told her about Dawn's Place. Anne got released to Interim House, a short-term inpatient drug-treatment center, and after that, moved to Dawn's Place.
Even though many of the staff and volunteers are from religious orders, there is no proselytizing at Dawn's Place. But Anne's days are regimented. Like all the residents, she taps into services offered by groups on the outside. She goes to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and counseling, while also taking GED classes. She moves out in July and will work as a peer counselor for a recovery house.
Clean for 14 months, Anne has reconnected with her daughter and has no desire to return to Kensington, or all that it represents.
DeFusco recently gave her a big, color copy of a mug shot from her last arrest. Her face was gaunt, her eyes glazed. "When I look at that face, I see no hope," Anne said. "Now, I have so many different dreams."
Mom pimps out 14 year-old daughter, and 7 year-old, fourth man charged.
How do we know when a child is a victim?
by Jamie Tripp Utitus
Of all the headlines that contain tragedy after tragedy, gruesome discover after gruesome discovery, tonight I landed on this headline, Fourth man paid mom for sex with her daughter, 14, who she pimped out with her sister, 7, on at least 20 occasions.
According to Mail Online, Nebraska State Patrol say a 35-year-old mother allowed at least seven men to have sex with her teenage daughter at least 20 times, and at least three men had sex with her seven-year-old.
The Nebraskan mother of three, whose name was initially reported, but now is being withheld to protect the identity of the children, was arrested on April 26th at a Kearney, NY motel when she tried to offer herself and one of her daughters to an undercover cop for $200.
She's been jailed on charges of child pornography and conspiracy to commit sexual assault of a child and the children have been removed from her home and placed in the state's care. She's still in a Buffalo County jail pending a $250,000 bond. Isn't that rather low considering the horrendous nature of these charges?
The most recent man being charged with child sexual assault is 22 year-old Logan Roepke, of McCook, Prosecutors claim he had sex with the teen twice last year. Roepke was released from a Buffalo County jail after he posted 10 percent of of a $75,000 bond.
Donald Grafe, 37, of Columbus, was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting the 14-year-old girl between March 24 and April 11 at a truck stop in Lincoln. Troopers had already arrested Shad Chandler, 41, of Lincoln, and Alexander Rahe, 38, of Omaha, both for first-degree sexual assault of a child.
I have to ask whoever is reading this, how do you read stories like these? As a parent, a human, a woman, I struggle to read the majority of headlines that take up page after page in news story after news story, day after day. But stories of children and sexual crimes are the worst. They haunt me.
It is very rare that I continue beyond a headline in stories like these, but what got me to continue was the fact that the mom was a pimp. A mother was doing this to her children.
As humans (some of us anyway) it is our nature to assume that children are the most safe when they are within reach of their mother's arms. That it is highly unlikely, even if we think we see the red flags waving everywhere, that a mother could not do this to her children. How quickly we would dismiss with this with this simple thought. “No, how could that be possible? A mother could never do that, at least not to her own children.”
But alas, we have this mother and this story. It's one of the most disturbing things I have ever read. What can we learn from such gross examples of parenting and exploitation and abuse and neglect? We can learn to identify the signs of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Contrary to a common belief, human trafficking does happen in the U.S. Furthermore, it happens in homes as is evident in this story. According to U.S. government estimates, thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation.
An unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country primarily for sexual servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced labor.
Trafficking can involve school-age children—particularly, but not necessarily, those not living with their parents—who are vulnerable to coerced labor exploitation, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation (i.e., prostitution).
The Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools Access put together Human Trafficking of Children in the United States, A Fact Sheet For Schools that may help you help a victim someday:
How Do I Identify a Victim of Human Trafficking?
|Has unexplained absences from school for a period of time, and is therefore a truant
Demonstrates an inability to attend school on a regular basis
Chronically runs away from home
Makes references to frequent travel to other cities
Exhibits bruises or other physical trauma, withdrawn behavior, depression, or fear
Lacks control over her or his schedule or identification documents
Additional signs that may indicate sex-related trafficking include:
|Demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior, or material possessions (e.g., has expensive items)
Makes references to sexual situations that are beyond age-specific norms
Has a “boyfriend” who is noticeably older (10+ years)
Makes references to terminology of the commercial sex industry that are beyond age specific norms; engages in promiscuous behavior and may be labeled “fast” by peers
How Do I Report a Suspected Incidence of Human Trafficking?
In cases of immediate emergencies, it is best to call your local police department or emergency access number.
You can report suspected trafficking crimes or get help by calling the national 24/7 toll-free Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
For sexually exploited or abused minors call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC) hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST to be connected with the most appropriate assistance in your area, or you can report incidents at http://www.cybertipline.org.