Parents: 5 Tips To Protect Kids From Abuse And Violence
San Francisco, CA
Many parents are overwhelmed by fear for their kids, asking how they can protect their children from people like Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State coach who held a position of respect and power in his community and was recently convicted of 45 counts of child abuse , as reported in the New York Times. A new book from the founder of Kidpower, a nonprofit leader in people safety education, offers five tips for protecting kids from abuse, violence and other dangers.
“Like many sexual predators, Jerry Sandusky developed strong relationships of love and trust with his victims before molesting them,” says van der Zande, child safety expert and the author of The Kidpower Book For Caring Adults, a comprehensive guide on how to protect children from sexual abuse, abduction, bullying and other violence, including clear explanations, inspiring stories, and step-by-step explanations about how to practice skills.
A veteran instructor of self-protection and self-defense workshops to adults as well as children and teens for more than 20 years, van der Zande finds the stories told by Sandusky's victims in the trial "chillingly similar to the stories we hear from adult survivors of child sexual abuse in our classes.”
After the guilty verdict for Sandusky was announced, van der Zande responded to the latest influx of questions from parents by also publishing an excerpt from The Kidpower Book For Caring Adults on her "Put Safety First" Blog with steps parents can take to protect kids from abuse:
“As these terrible stories come to light, we need to understand that Sandusky is not unique," van der Zande writes. "Pedophiles know how to find and manipulate vulnerable kids – and how to put on a great show for everyone else, even members of their family. Almost certainly, as I write this, a child is being abused behind closed doors somewhere in your town – and in mine. And these kids are not speaking up because the person abusing them is someone they love and trust – a member of their family, a mentor, someone they are dependent on.
Here are five steps from Kidpower.org to protect children from being betrayed by someone they love and trust.
1. Accept the reality that many child molesters may seem like wonderful people. Don't be fooled by outside appearances. Pay attention to what someone is actually doing with your kids. If someone who is responsible for the care of many kids starts to single your child out for special attention, be careful. Don't assume that someone is safe just because this person is generous, beloved, charming, and kind.
2. Teach kids about touch in healthy relationships. The Kidpower rules include: “Touch or games for play, teasing, or affection should be the choice of each person, safe, allowed by the grownups in charge, and not a secret. Other people should not touch your private areas or ask you to touch their private areas. Touch for health and safety is sometimes not a choice but should never be a secret.” Rehearse with kids how to stop unwanted touch using non-sexual touch, like someone patting their head or holding their hand. Give kids practice in persisting in setting their boundaries by pretending to act sad or by offering a bribe and having them say "No" again.
3. Teach kids to tell, even if someone they care about will be upset. The Kidpower rule is that “Problems should not be secrets.” Get kids into the habit of talking to you by listening without lecturing or judging. Ask occasionally, “Is there anything you've been wondering or worrying about that you haven't told me?” Remind kids that their safety is the most important thing in the world to you and that you want to know if anything happens that is against your safety rules. Rehearse with kids how to interrupt a busy, impatient adult with a safety problem and how to persist in getting help if the adult doesn't understand or believe them.
4. Take action if someone's behavior makes you uncomfortable. Speak up about anything someone does with kids that you are not sure is safe. You don't have to assume child abuse but you do have to be aware of the possibility of someone harming your child either intentionally or accidentally. If this person has good intentions, then you can work out concerns or misunderstandings. Pay attention to your intuition. Don't make or accept excuses. Keep supervising to ensure that your child is in safe hands.
5. Understand that Putting Safety First takes an ongoing commitment. Make safety conversations a daily part of your lives. Keep talking to kids and regularly ask, "Is there anything you've been wondering about, or worrying about, that you haven't shared with me?" Keep paying attention and speak up if you see a problem. And keep practicing people safety skills with kids — just like they need to practice anything else, like brushing their teeth, they need to practice boundary setting and self-protection skills like awareness and getting help when they have a problem in order to make it a healthy habit. The Kidpower books provides a fun effective empowering way to do it!
About Irene van der Zande and Kidpower:
Irene van der Zande is the Founder and Executive Director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International. Her new book, "The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People," with a foreword by Gavin de Becker, is the most comprehensive resource available for parents, teachers, and other adults who care about protecting children and teens from bullying, child abuse, abduction, and other violence and want to learn how to empower young people with skills for taking charge of their emotional and physical safety. Van der Zande is available for interviews or to provide guest blog posts. Kidpower services include educational resources, workshops, and consultation on how to create cultures of caring, respect, and safety for everyone, everywhere. Contact safety(at)kidpower(dot)org with requests for interviews, resources or permission to use requirements.
Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International®, known as Kidpower® (http://www.kidpower.org), is highly recommended by experts worldwide for taking a positive, skills-based approach to bullying, violence, abuse and kidnapping prevention. Instead of using fear to teach young people about violence prevention, the Kidpower Method™ makes it fun to learn to be safe, building habits that increase the skills and confidence of kids, parents, teachers and other caring adults that can last a lifetime.
Kidpower has served more than 2 million people of all ages and abilities, since its founding as a nonprofit organization in 1989, offering workshops through more than 20 centers and offices across the US and around the world, as well as an extensive free library of articles, podcasts and blog posts online and affordable publications that are used by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Visit http://www.kidpower.org for more information about people safety for children, teens and adults and training opportunities in your area.
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/Kidpower/Protect-Kids-Abuse/prweb9655060.htm
Researchers See Decline in Child Sexual Abuse Rate
by ERICA GOODE
Anyone reading the headlines in recent weeks has come away with an unsettling message: Sexual predators seem to lurk everywhere.
In a single day last week, juries deliberating 200 miles apart in Pennsylvania delivered guilty verdicts against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, for sexually molesting boys, and against Msgr. William J. Lynn, a clergy secretary, for shielding predatory priests. In New York, accusations of sexual abuse at Horace Mann, an exclusive preparatory school in the Bronx, recently spurred two law enforcement agencies to open hot lines and an 88-year-old former teacher at the school to admit to having had sexual interactions with students decades ago.
To child abuse advocates and criminal justice experts, such cases suggest that efforts to raise awareness about sexual abuse and its emotional consequences have been effective. The public, they say, is finally willing to believe victims, even when the abuse took place years in the past, and to hold institutions responsible for failing to take action.
“We're at a bit of a watershed moment,” said Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, a nonprofit organization devoted to preventing child abuse that provides support and training to more than 750 child advocacy centers across the country.
But if the convictions of Mr. Sandusky and Monsignor Lynn represent a success story, the furor surrounding them tends to obscure what may be an even more significant achievement, albeit one that receives little publicity: The rates of child sexual abuse in the United States, while still significant and troubling, have been decreasing steadily over the last two decades by several critical measures.
Overall cases of child sexual abuse fell more than 60 percent from 1992 to 2010, according to David Finkelhor, a leading expert on sexual abuse who, with a colleague, Lisa Jones, has tracked the trend. The evidence for this decline comes from a variety of indicators, including national surveys of child abuse and crime victimization, crime statistics compiled by the F.B.I., analyses of data from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect and annual surveys of grade school students in Minnesota, all pointing in the same direction.
From 1990 to 2010, for example, substantiated cases of sexual abuse dropped from 23 per 10,000 children under 18 to 8.6 per 10,000, a 62 percent decrease, with a 3 percent drop from 2009 to 2010, according to the researchers' analysis of government data. The Minnesota Student Survey charted a 29 percent decline in reports of sexual abuse by an adult who was not a family member from 1992 to 2010 and a 28 percent drop in reports of sexual abuse by a family member. The majority of sexual abuse cases involve family members or acquaintances rather than strangers, studies have found.
At the same time, the willingness of children to report sexual abuse has increased. In a 2008 survey, Dr. Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, found that in 50 percent of sexual abuse cases, the child's victimization had been reported to an authority, compared with 25 percent in 1992.
The precise reasons for the declining rates are not clear. Dr. Finkelhor noted that most types of crime have plummeted over the last 20 years. But at least some of the decline, he believes, has resulted from greater public awareness, stepped-up prevention efforts, better training and education, specialized policing, the presence in many cities of child advocacy centers that offer a coordinated response to abuse, and the deterrence afforded by the prosecutions of offenders.
Though the decline is now widely accepted among researchers and many advocates, some are still skeptical. Asked about the downward trend at a Congressional hearing in May, Michael Johnson, youth protection director for the Boy Scouts of America, said, “It always bothers me any time I hear these statistics about abuse and neglect.”
In some groups, like Native Americans, he said, sexual abuse is still pervasive. And the Internet has added to the problem, making it easier for predators to find victims, he continued.
“The incidences are higher and it's more threatening,” he said.
Dr. John M. Leventhal, a professor of pediatrics and the director of the child abuse program at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, says that the number of cases his clinic sees has gone down, from more than 400 a year to about 350. He does not dispute a decline, but he suggested that changes in how child protection agencies classify cases could be contributing to the decrease.
Dr. Finkelhor, however, said those changes took place after the biggest declines in the 1990s.
Mark Chaffin, a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, had one possible explanation for why it was hard for some people to accept the numbers. “The child abuse field has always been one that felt like there was not enough public policy attention, so the narrative reflected that. It's at crisis proportions; it's getting worse every year; it's an epidemic,” he said. “So when people hear that the rates are going down, it really is sort of a challenge.”
Lucy Berliner, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress in Seattle, notes that many child advocacy groups depend on government financing, and good news always brings mixed feelings. One of them is the fear that if the issue does not seem dire enough, the money might dry up.
“It is very risky to suggest that the problem you're involved with has gotten smaller,” she said.
Yet she and others in the field have embraced the decline as evidence that their work has made a difference.
“What we've arrived at is celebrating the success and using that to argue that the investments that government has made have been very worthwhile,” Ms. Berliner said.
The effectiveness of those investments, said Marci A. Hamilton, a constitutional law professor and an advocate for children at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, is evident, and can be seen in the trials in Pennsylvania.
“I think there's more of a willingness of victims to come forward and more willingness of the support system of the victims to let them come forward,” she said.
“There was a time when if a victim came out, the universal response around them was, ‘You'll get over it. Thank you for telling me but let's move on,' ” Ms. Hamilton said. “The more public education you have about the consequences, the more willing spouses and parents are to say, first, I believe you; and, second, you need therapy because we all know that this has lifelong dangerous effects.”
Child abuse legal 'loophole' is closed
A legal loophole which has allowed hundreds of child abusers to escape prosecution has been closed, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has said.
From Monday anyone who deliberately causes or allows serious physical harm to a child or vulnerable adult faces up to 10 years in prison.
Taking effect in England and Wales, it also enables prosecutions of people who stay silent or blame someone else.
The justice secretary said the move was a boost to child protection.
"All the people with an interest in protecting vulnerable people will agree that we have closed an obvious gap in the law and from now on if you fail to take steps to stop a child being killed you're equally responsible," he said.
The new offence, the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims (Amendment) Act 2012, is due to come into force on Monday.
Guidance is being sent to prosecutors, judges and others on the new law.
The move follows a number of cases where prosecutions could not be brought because it was impossible to identify the individual responsible for the abuse.
“Adults can no longer inflict horrific injuries on children and get away with it by staying silent ”
By way of example, the Ministry of Justice cited the cases of a five-month-old baby who suffered a brain haemorrhage and fractured skull, and a two-week-old with a broken collar bone, ribs and leg.
Nobody was charged in either case, however the injuries were not thought to be accidental.
The 2007 death of Baby Peter in north London, after months of abuse, was widely publicised.
The child had suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over an eight month period.
Two years later his mother, her boyfriend and a lodger were jailed for causing or allowing Peter's death.
But if a child was abused like Baby Peter and lived, there would have been no way to bring those who had caused the horrific injuries to justice.
"We want to do everything possible to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are kept safe in their homes, and those that abuse their power do not evade justice," said Mr Clarke.
Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, said the change in the law was "a real victory for children and has the potential to bring many more child abusers to justice".
"Adults can no longer inflict horrific injuries on children and get away with it by staying silent or blaming each other," he said.
New Ga. law compels volunteers to report child abuse
Coaches, Scoutmasters, others face penalities if they ignore signs
by Walter C. Jones
ATLANTA -- Scoutmasters, soccer coaches and other volunteers will face legal penalties if they ignore signs of child abuse under a new law taking effect in Georgia this weekend.
House Bill 1176, based on recommendations from a citizen commission appointed to review sentencing, passed the General Assembly this year unanimously.
Professionals, like pediatricians and teachers, have long had a legal obligation to report suspected abuse within 24 hours or face a year in prison and a fine. What's new is that a provision in the sweeping criminal-justice reform widens that responsibility to include volunteers and clergy.
“From an ethical and moral standpoint, volunteers who work with children already have an obligation to report suspected child abuse,” said Attorney General Sam Olens. “HB 1176 simply makes this obligation a requirement by law.”
For many outfits working with children, policies of their state or national organizations already required volunteer training and background checks. Some were trying to minimize exposure to lawsuits, and many others were motivated by concern for children.
Protecting youth is central to the mission of the YMCA, notes Bucky Johnson, senior vice president at the YMCA of Savannah.
Georgia Soccer, the organizing body for most recreational leagues, has a policy in place that exceeds the law's requirements, according to Rick Skirvin, the group's executive director.
“In 2009 (our Risk Management Committee) decided to tackle the issue on their on our own because we thought it was an issue that was neglected in youth sports,” he said.
Johnson said the abuse-awareness training they give volunteers has paid off.
“We've had coaches come to us and make reports that a particular player seemed out of sorts or had some bruising or whatever,” he said. “When we see that, we're in immediate contact with Family and Children Services.”
For smaller organizations that don't have established programs, volunteers may consider getting training elsewhere.
“The Boy Scouts, we're more than happy to provide youth-protection training for someone like that,” said Jeff Schwab, executive with the Boy Scouts of America in Augusta.
AF: 31 Victims So Far in Sex Scandal
by Lolita C. Baldor and Paul J. Weber
WASHINGTON -- At least 31 female trainees have been identified as victims in a widening sex scandal targeting a dozen instructors at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the Air Force revealed Thursday, providing new details in an investigation that has rocked the service's training command.
Six of the 12 instructors under investigation for misconduct face charges ranging from rape to adultery. A senior Air Force commander said nine of those instructors were in the same squadron, briefing reporters at the Pentagon at the same time that one of the accused appeared in a Lackland courtroom.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc, who is charged with aggravated assault and obstruction of justice, allegedly bragged about "getting laid" by a trainee in a supply closet, one of his fellow airmen testified at an evidentiary hearing Thursday.
"I was speechless. I didn't understand," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beck, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Gen. Edward Rice, commander of the Air Education and Training Command, said the Air Force believes the misconduct is not endemic to the nine training squadrons. He says the sexual misconduct apparently began in 2009 but that the first woman came forward only a year ago.
Those first allegations were levied against Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, who faces the most serious charges and is scheduled to be court-martialed next month. Walker is charged with 28 counts, including rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault. He has not yet entered a plea.
The majority of the instructors under investigation were in the 331st Training Squadron, whose commander was relived from his post last week. Rice said Lt. Col. Mike Paquette, who has not been accused of misconduct, was relieved because of the "unacceptable level" of misbehavior in his unit.
Lackland is where every American airman reports for basic training -- about 35,000 a year. About one in five are female, pushed through eight weeks of basic training by a flight of instructors that are about 90 percent male.
As the allegations of misconduct mounted, the Air Force in March took the almost unprecedented step of shutting down training for an entire day and interviewing about 5,900 trainees. Rice said Thursday the Air Force received "very little" negative comments about instructors.
Rice said that to his knowledge, all of the 31 female victims identified by investigators are still in the Air Force.
Lackland has about 475 instructors, which is about 85 percent of what the Air Force would consider being fully staffed. Col. Glenn Palmer, who is commander of the entire 737th training wing at Lackland, has said that applicant standards have not been lowered in order to attract more qualified instructors.
The job is among the most demanding on base. Instructors work longer hours than most for four years, at the expense of family and personal time. A smartphone app the Air Force recently launched to help recruit instructors includes a page of frequently asked questions, the first of which is whether the divorce rate among instructors really is higher.
Rice defended the screening process for instructors but said it will still be re-examined. Only 11 percent of instructors are female.
LeBlanc's hearing Thursday was to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a court-martial. Walker's court-martial is scheduled to begin July 16 and his attorneys have declined comment.
A Victim of Abuse Follows Sandusky Trial Closely
by KAREN CROUSE
OMAHA - With a stable of aspiring Olympians to tend to, Kristen Lewis Cunnane, the associate women's head coach at California Berkeley, tried to shut out all distractions in the lead-up to this week's United States Olympic trials. The child sexual abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator at Penn State, made that impossible.
In the summer of 2010, Cunnane went to the police in Contra Costa County, where she grew up and still lives, with a horrific story of having been raped and molested by her middle school physical education teacher for four years starting when she was 14. She was moved to act after an abuse scandal within USA Swimming triggered paralyzing flashbacks.
The teacher, Julie Gay Correa, was sentenced last December to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to 4 of the 28 counts against her. Cunnane testified at the preliminary hearing after conducting a series of secretly taped telephone conversations with Correa in which she was able to get her to confess.
Cunnane followed Sandusky's two-week trial and said her heart went out to the 10 victims who came forward with their stories. "I was overwhelmed with pride for those men," she said, "and happy for them that they had each other. I had an awesome support group but I had no one to come forward to do it with me."
As painful as it has been to tell her story, Cunnane, 30, is buoyed by the knowledge that she is helping other victims by doing so. She said that in recent months she has heard from 10 people who told her that she gave them the courage to go to the authorities with their stories of childhood sexual abuse.
"A 38-year-old sexual abuse victim reached out to me stating that she is on disability from work for depression and anxiety, that she has never told anyone of her past, and only after reading my story is she inspired enough to get help as I have," Cunnane said. "A mother of a swimmer wrote to me, expressing her active search for a female coach so that her daughter would be safe and is now aware that both men and women can be pedophiles. A principal of a middle school promised me that from her position of authority, any reports will be fully investigated and brought to police."
When the news of Sandusky's conviction was reported Friday night, Cunnane's mother phoned her and screamed into the phone, "Guilty! Guilty!" Cunnane said, "There's no closure for the victims, but it helps the healing process when you can tell your story and know you'll be believed."
Sex Trafficking Victims to Be Given Refuge in Tampa Area
Florida's first-ever home of its kind is set to house domestic victims of sex trafficking this fall. This issue is one that's has Pasco officials' attention for a while.
by David Rice and Sherri Lonon
Victims of sex trafficking have received a lot of press in recent years as they have sometimes wrongfully slipped into the justice system along with their traders. But a new home opening up in the Tampa are will house and rehabiltate them instead of jail them.
Preparations are now under way on the home in Temple Terrace which will house six beds for the foreseeable future as its founders, Redefining Refuge, go through pilot program status. Since November 2010 a large group of child advocates in Tampa — including the Child Advocacy Center of Mary Lee's House and The Tampa Bay Crisis Center — have been working under the umbrella of Redefining Refuge with founder Natasha Nascimento to fulfill the dream and great need of having a home to rescue and aid girls under the age of 18 who are being sexually trafficked here in Tampa Bay.
"We've been working on this for years," Nascimento said. "Because this has never been done before in the state, we can only take up to six kids for the first year. Hopefully, we can duplicate the program and have several all over Tampa."
Victims of domestic sex trafficking number in the hundreds of thousands, but little refuge is given to them, with around a mere 80 beds nationwide for them to seek shelter in, Nascimento said. Her organization will take in kids from around and outside the Bay area as they coordinate with the FBI and police task forces.
The sex trafficking problem has had a higher profile in the media over the last few years, yet most federal aide goes toward helping foreign kids brought into the United States for the purposes of sex slavery. Despite this, government officials are stepping up their efforts to increase awareness and crack down on the problem.
"Governor Rick Scott just passed a bill that will encourage law enforcement to be more lenient on the girls and tougher on their traffickers," Nascimento said. "Mayor Bob Buckhorn also declared January Human Trafficking Awareness month in Tampa, so we are getting some help."
Pasco Isn't Immune to Trafficking
Pasco County law enforcement officers and some members of the judicial system have been working to raise awareness about human trafficking and sex trafficking in the Tampa Bay area. They say the county is not immune.
"Human trafficking is most often a hidden issue that exploits vulnerable men, women and children,” said Sheriff Chris Nocco in an earlier interview. “We are partnering with community organizations to help us identify these victims of modern-day slavery and bring the criminals who prey upon them to justice."
Pasco County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Tepper is pleased to hear that Redefining Refuge will soon open.
"I certainly am pleased to see there will be some refuge for rescued victims of domestic minor sex trafficking," Tepper said. "I hope it will truly give these girls the opportunity they need to become healthy, confident and no longer under the control and influence of their pimps."
Tepper, however, said the road to recovery isn't easy.
"The influence and mixed feelings that the victims have makes it difficult to gain their trust," she said. "Their needs are immense both physically as well as emotionally and mentally. Traffickers 'smell desperation' in vulnerable youth, often on the street or in foster homes and shelters but even in the hallways of courthouses and malls. Knowing that there are estimated to be between 100,000 to 300,000 girls [the primary target] at risk at this moment across the US, and only 100 beds for recovered victims in the U.S., the extent of the need and the importance of these 6 beds is clear.
"Thank goodness Redefining Refuge will now be available to assist the Human Trafficking Task Force."
Help is Needed Now
The home will open this fall, but information about it and what you can do to contribute is readily available in the meantime. There will be a film screening at Lakeland's First Baptist Church at the Mall, 1010 E Memorial Blvd., Lakeland, at 7 p.m. Friday. The film, "Sex+Money: A National Search for Human Worth," will be followed by a presentation exploring a movement to combat the capture and forced slavery of minor children in America. The film will be followed by a presentation by Emily Fitchpatrick, founder of On Eagles Wings, a ministry to victims of human trafficking. The film event is offered to the public, in the worship center of the church, at no cost.
The importance of the home is crucial to the mental rehabilitation of sex trafficking victims, who are often at an age where damage is difficult to repair, Nascimento said.
"A lot of the kids that are involved in these situations are foster kids," she said. "The problem is they are often being put back into the foster care system, but they need to be treated in a place like this home where 90 percent of the treatment is psychological. A lot of these girls have been exploited from a very young age, and they often suffer from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. We are working with several exisiting Tampa organizations that work with cases like these and tailoring what they do to this operation."
How You Can Get Involved
Redefining Refuge hopes its house will be a “community-owned home.” Nascimento believes that “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” Local businesses or individuals can get involved by donating their time or services (i.e. hair cuts, tutoring, etc.). The home will be in need of gardening and maintenance as well, so service projects will be welcomed.
For more information, visit redefiningrefuge.org
For victims of human trafficking, a ‘Life of Freedom'
by ANNA EDGERTON
As a new center to help abuse victims prepared to open its doors, Anna Beard recalled a photograph of herself at age 17 taken by the man she thought was her boyfriend. The wide-eyed girl in the Polaroid picture — unsmiling, wrapped only in a blanket — barely resembles the poised, eloquent 26-year-old speaking with guests earlier this week at the Life of Freedom center for victims of human trafficking.
With the trace of a southern accent from growing up in North Carolina, she described how her 40-year-old guitar teacher told her that she was beautiful when she was in high school. He told her that she should be a model. That she should let him take pictures of her.
After about six months, he wanted her to pose in more sexually explicit positions. Beard, who got kicked out of her house after numerous fights with her parents, moved in with him. Eventually, he began to drug her and she would wake up to evidence of having been with other men. Sometimes he kept her chained to the bed. He fed her based on performance.
“He kept a tally on the calendar of how many times I was raped,” Beard said. “Hundreds of times.”
She shared her story as a survivor with guests who attended the opening on Tuesday night of the Life of Freedom Center, one of Miami's first walk-in support centers for victims of human trafficking. Beard, now an advocate, is in Florida for the summer to help the LoF center welcome its first participants in July.
Florida has a complicated collection of services to address the problem that is not easily defined or categorized. Human trafficking includes illegal labor and sexual exploitation, and affects both international and domestic victims. Depending on their case, victims pass through all parts of the system: law enforcement, nonprofits, homeless shelters, foster care, immigration lawyers, task forces, drug rehab. Most providers agree that the many faces of human trafficking make it difficult to have a regimented response.
“That's what makes trafficking so hard to identify: there's no typical case,” said Regina Bernadin of the International Rescue Committee, which deals exclusively with international victims. “You can have 10 indicators, and then the next case has none of those.”
The LoF center will partner with local and national service providers to teach life skills to victims of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking. It is not a group home or a shelter. Nor does it provide counseling or legal assistance. The LoF center will teach leadership, job skills and financial independence, and give victims the opportunity to make and sell their own jewelry and other products.
“This is a great opportunity for victims of human trafficking,” Beard said. “Money's been made off them and a lot of them never see the money they make. Now they get to make a profit off something they created, and that's an extremely empowering feeling.”
Founder Jorge Veitia describes the center as a “circle of protection” for girls who have escaped the immediate dangers of human trafficking, but remain vulnerable unless they have other avenues to join society in a healthy way. This faith-based nonprofit also encourages members of the community to go through a 14-hour mentor training to work with girls who are referred by law enforcement or come on their own seeking help.
“If you understand the cycle of abuse, these girls are enslaved long after they're off the street,” Veitia said.
To be classified as incidents of human trafficking, there has to be an economic component where something of value is exchanged, and there is restriction of movement, whether by physical or psychological means, Bernadin said. And there have to be people willing to pay for sex.
“The No.?1 risk factor [for commercial sexual exploitation of children] is when children are in demand. And we have a large demand population in Miami,” said Sandy Skelaney of Kristi House, a Miami center to help child victims of sex abuse.
The character of the crime makes it hard to get accurate numbers of victims, but Skelaney, who has worked with more than 200 victims of commercial sexual exploitation since 2008, said that the number of reported cases barely scratches the surface. A study from Florida State University found that Florida has the third highest number of reported sex trafficking cases, after California and Texas.
The number of recognized victims in South Florida is increasing, partly because there is more awareness, but also because there is more crime of this type taking place, according to Tyson Elliot, the statewide human trafficking coordinator for the Department of Children & Families.
“There are more street gangs and organized crime getting into human trafficking because there's more money to be made than selling drugs,” he said. “If a bad guy spends $1,000 on drugs and then goes and sells it for $2,000, his product is gone, and he spends his profit buying more product. With human trafficking it's different. If someone pays him for a girl, he can go and sell her again that night.”
In a high-profile case made public this week, police arrested four alleged pimps who were accused of soliciting and selling girls who were in foster care. The victims were all minors who were living in a group home. The sex-trafficking ring charged about $100 for each encounter, of which the girls were paid between $30 and $40, police said.
Florida passed the Safe Harbor Act in April to give law enforcement the option of delivering children who are forced into prostitution to a safe house instead of arresting them. The law also increases civil penalties for people who orchestrate the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Yet even with more attention on this issue, much of the support to help human trafficking victims still functions in an ad hoc way, with different organizations focusing on different kinds of victims.
Veitia wants the LoF center to be a resource to pick up where other services have left off, teaching life skills to victims and educating the community about this issue. Instruction will follow the model established by the Fields of Hope program in North Carolina that reaches out to victims with concrete skills and opportunities “to turn a profit in something that isn't sex,” Veitia said.
Anna Beard suffered two years of abuse before she was able to move in with a friend and escape. Her abuser died in 2009 without ever paying for his crime. When Beard went to his family's house to get some of her stuff, she found out that the Polaroid pictures she thought were just for him were part of a profitable pornography business.
Now, she is looking forward to working with other victims and educating the general public about an issue that too often flies under the radar.
“You have to understand that there are crazy people out there that want to hurt you, but you don't have to fall for that; you do have a choice,” Beard said as a message to other victims of human trafficking. “I want to show them that you can go from something where you feel so empty and worthless to something where you're completely restored.”
Devastating impact of domestic abuse revealed in database tracking Alaska Natives
by Alex DeMarban
A heart-wrenching number of Alaska Native children witness domestic or sexual violence, and many are victims themselves, troubling facts that mean the cycle of abuse is poised to continue, experts say.
That's one possible takeaway from a newly published database called Healthy Native Families: Preventing Violence At All Ages. It's a warehouse of information harvested from recent reports that drills down on the problem among Alaska Natives statewide.
- Native mothers of 3-year-olds are eight times more likely than non-Natives to report that their child had witnessed violence or abuse, according to a 2009 state survey.
- Alaska Natives in 2009 represented most of the confirmed cases of child abuse, though they're 15 percent of the state's population. The Office of Children Services substantiated 2,070 cases of child abuse involving Alaska Natives that year. That outnumbered the 1,875 cases for other children.
- Alaska Native adults are almost twice as likely as non-Natives to report that as children, they witnessed parents or guardians physically fighting. Roughly one in three saw their parents hurting each other in some way, including kicking, hitting or shoving.
The numbers are disturbing because such early impressions increase a child's risk of one day developing behavioral and physical disorders that range from alcohol abuse to diabetes to suicidal behavior, experts say. All three are towering problems in the Native community.
Those kids are also at increased risk of repeating the behavior.
Elsie Boudreau, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, works with abused Native children for the Alaska Native Justice Center, in a project with Providence Hospital in Anchorage. A Yup'ik, she provides cultural education and support for child abuse victims and families as part of a response team that includes police, social workers and others.
She said Alaska Native children are disproportionately seen at the program, known as Alaska Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services, or Alaska CARES. Of 900 children who received services last year, 40 percent were Alaska Natives.
She believes "100 percent" that children whose memories are stained with violence face long-term negative consequences, and key studies back her up.
"It affects their intellectual performance at school, their social function," even their physical well-being and mental development, she said.
Those children believe violence is an OK response because they learn it from people they trust most. They're likely to blame themselves and feel shame when they see or experience it because their parents aren't wrong in their eyes. And they're likely afraid for their own safety.
"They're basically surviving day to day," she said. "Who is a safe person for them if they're witnessing violence in their home?"
The new database, produced by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, separates the impacts of the violence across all ages, from kids to elders.
Some of the information in the compilation is newly presented: Analysts teased out Native numbers from a state behavioral risk survey conducted in 2009, said Laura Avellaneda-Cruz, a health consortium epidemiologist for the project.
Other statistics from the database include:
- Native adults are twice as likely as non-Native adults to be physically hurt by their partner.
- One in two Native women report being victims of domestic or sexual violence. That compares to one in three non-Native women.
The statistics are likely higher in reality than people report because some are still reluctant to talk openly a hurtful past, said Shirley Moses, who runs the Alaska Native Women's Coalition in Fairbanks.
Moses organizes multi-agency visits to rural communities, including to Metlakatla and Barrow recently, to discuss ways to stop the violence, and how to respond when it happens.
In some villages, 100 percent of the women have witnessed or been victims of family abuse and sexual violence, she said.
Moses, who volunteers her time because the group's funding ran out three years ago, said the new database might show the state and federal government that rural areas need more resources.
"The governor's push (to raise awareness about family and sexual violence) is great, but there's no meat, there's no money into rural Alaska," she said.
Avellaneda-Cruz highlighted a positive sign from the database: Reports of physical abuse by Native women during pregnancy fell significantly. Between 2000 and 2008, the numbers dropped from 16 percent to 6 percent. She didn't know why.
She said she's hopeful the database informs federal lawmakers and agencies. During the controversial and recent effort on Capitol Hill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, some representatives questioned whether violence against Native women is a big problem, she said.
"The data shows it is a significant issue and we do need effective policy," she said.
The new report is a good step, said Boudreau. She hopes it leads to more awareness and frank talk about a tough topic.
"I think we as Native people need to come together and figure out how we're going to deal with this for the benefit of our children," she said. "The more conversations we have, the more information we have, the better we'll be able to address these issues."
CAP Council aims to bring more public awareness to child abuse
By KARINA LOPEZ
When it comes to parenting, the terms “it takes a village” and “it is not easy” often come to mind.
In order to help people become better parents to their children, the Imperial County Child Abuse Prevention Council has been serving the Imperial Valley since 1978.
At its annual banquet Wednesday, the council reiterated that striking a child was never a solution for unwanted behavior of any kind.
“With everything that has happened we want to take the time to build public awareness on child abuse,” Yvette Garcia, the CAP Council's executive director, said when interviewed before saying much the same to those at the banquet.
More important, the council was trying to figure out a way to turn something negative into a positive.
“What people can learn from what happened in Heber is that publicity and public awareness are very important,” Peggy Calvin, CAP Council board president, said. “We need more people to raise their voice and raise their conscience when they see something like that happening.”
In essence, the world needs more Oscars, Calvin said those in attendance Wednesday.
Oscar Lopez is the man who videotaped former Imperial Irrigation District Director Anthony Sanchez striking his stepson with a belt.
Lopez was honored by the council on for his deed and awarded a plaque recognizing his efforts.
“I happened to be there and heard it,” Lopez said to the assembled banquet-goers. “I didn't really know what to do or who to contact, but I knew I had to say something.”
Lopez added that people can sometimes forget to look out for one another and hopes his actions lead others to raise their voice against any form of violence.
Despite the amount of media attention the Imperial Valley has been receiving lately, Calvin said she felt it was all for the greater good.
“This media storm is going to help people remember that child abuse is an ongoing issue and that it shouldn't be forgotten,” Calvin said. “It needs to continue to be addressed so people can address it and report it.”
Campaign to address child abuse in black community
The Associated Press
MIAMI -- Florida child welfare officials are launching a new program to address child abuse in Miami's black community.
The Department of Children and Families is hoping to target teen parents, teens who are aging out of foster care and at-risk families through their new media campaign called "Breaking the Cycle Initiative." The program will also include parent education classes, support groups and community forums.
The agency is partnering with the Urban League of Greater Miami and community leaders in Liberty City.
DCF Secretary David Wilkins is expected to announce the campaign Thursday in Miami.
Lessons from the Child Sexual Abuse Case of Jerry Sandusky
Some things parents should take away: Don't trust people simply because they're socially important. Take your child seriously if he or she says they've been molested.
By Ian Landau
When the verdict was announced to those waiting outside the courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., where celebrated Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was tried, the reaction sounded like that of a cheering football crowd.
"The moment word of Jerry Sandusky's guilty verdict moved beyond the walls of the courtroom, a roar arose from the hundreds gathered near the courthouse steps," reported the local Centre Daily Times newspaper the day after the trial last week. "The sound was unmistakably that of many hundreds of people learning the verdict and cheering with joy," Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach wrote in a blog post about the trial. "The analogy is impossible to avoid," Achenbach continued, "It was the cheer you hear at a football game when a team scores the winning touchdown."
But while justice may have been done inside the courtroom in central Pennsylvania where Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts related to the sexual assault of 10 boys over 15 years, this case was not a game. As the mother of one of Sandusky's victims told reporters after the trial ended, "I don't think anybody really won. I thought I'd be happy. But there's no joy. We all lost."
What Every Parent Should Know
It's easy to feel satisfied with the outcome of the Sandusky case. A terrible criminal has been caught, tried, and locked up. But justice can easily obscure the important lessons of the case — what parents should know to prevent such awful incidents from happening.
First, it bears repeating that an estimated 90 percent of child sexual abusers know their victims. Abuse by strangers or random pedophiles roaming the streets in search of victims is rare. Sexual abuse arises within what noted children's attorney, activist, and author Andrew Vachss calls a child's "circle of trust." On his Web site, Vachss defines this circle as starting with the child's parents and then "radiating outward to teachers, coaches, religious authorities, [and] babysitters."
"Offenders in the circle," he continues, "access their victims through a process of entrustment by parents, who believe they are actually providing a special experience for their children. Sadly, that experience is 'special' only in its horrific consequences."
'A Very Important Person'
Vachss's description is mirrored in the Sandusky case. The final witness called to the stand at the trial was the mother of Victim No. 9. She told the court that she was initially happy when Sandusky wanted to spend time with her son, whom Sandusky met when the boy attended a summer camp run by Sandusky's charity The Second Mile. "He was Jerry Sandusky," she testified. "He was a very important person." Sandusky's stature in the community made him seemingly more trustworthy.
"The hardest idea for parents to embrace is that somebody in this position of trust and authority could be the ultimate betrayer of their children," National Center for Missing and Exploited Children national safety director Nancy McBride told HealthDay News in March. "A creepy weirdo is so much easier for us to understand because we can put that person in a separate category."
Indeed, the day before Sandusky's trial in Bellefonte, The New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a cover story titled "Prep-School Predators," detailing allegations of sexual abuse by three teachers at the prestigious Horace Mann School in New York City. While most of the allegations dated back three decades or more, and the alleged perpetrators are dead, the article was another window into what happens when adults abuse positions of power and trust as a means to hurt children.
Talk to Your Kids About Their Bodies
Parents must always remain vigilant for their children's safety. McBride and Cindy Christian, MD, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on child abuse and neglect, both told HealthDay News that parents should be wary of anyone who monopolizes their child's time and gives him or her gifts. "If you're thinking to yourself, 'Why is this person so nice to my kid?' then it's time to start thinking about why that person is so nice to your kid," Dr. Christian stressed.
Another crucial factor in preventing abuse is fostering dialogue and open communication with children. First on the the American Academy of Pediatrics' list of tips to minimize the risk of molestation is teaching children in early childhood "the name of the genitals, just as [parents] teach their child the names of other body parts." "If you treat that part of the body like all other parts of the body, it begins to open a dialogue so children can talk about them," Christian said. Equally important, the AAP stresses, is teaching young children "early and often that there are no secrets between children and their parents, and that they should feel comfortable talking with their parent about anything — good or bad, fun or sad, easy or difficult."
Sexual Safety Tips for Children
As children age, the AAP says, parents must "create an environment at home in which sexual topics can be discussed comfortably." The group recommends using cases in the news, like Sandusky's, as a starting point for discussions with older kids about safety and appropriate relationships with adults in their lives. It can also help to practice how a child should respond if he or she faces an uncomfortable situation with an adult. "Remember that kids learn through modeling behavior and through practicing," McBride says. "Do some practice runs with them, using 'what if' scenarios. You've got to make sure your kids are getting it, and the only way to do that is through practice."
Finally, the AAP says if a child tells you of an instance of sexual abuse, make sure to take it seriously. "Too often, children are not believed," the group says, especially in cases implicating a family member. It will never be easy for a child to discuss such a devastating experience in his life, but that's exactly what has to happen if authorities are to put people like Sandusky under the microscope — and behind bars. As an editorial published in USA Today noted in the wake of the Sandusky verdict, "If it hadn't been for a single teenager and his mother who finally went to authorities in 2008, a dozen years after the first incidents occurred, he might never have been brought to justice."
Workshop focuses on need to report suspected child sexual abuse
By VALERIE WELLS
DECATUR — Marilyn Jewett has a friend in Chicago who walked in on her 7-year-old nephew sexually abusing his 4-year-old brother.
The older boy said he had seen “a video” at his father's house that gave him the idea. The children's mother refuses to acknowledge a problem and refuses to speak to her sister for pushing the issue.
It's not uncommon for parents to deny there's a problem, said Denise McCaffrey of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois. She was the moderator of a workshop on child sexual abuse Tuesday at the Macon County Health Department. She advised Jewett to tell her friend to keep trying. At the same time, it's understandable that the children's aunt is hesitant.
“It can be scary to intervene,” McCaffrey said.
The workshop was meant for mandated reporters, which includes teachers, clergy, day care workers, coaches and volunteers who work directly with children. By law, if they suspect abuse, they are required to report it. Those who attended heard, via video, from survivors of abuse and from law enforcement and counselors who work with victims of abuse.
You have to trust yourself, people in the video said, and McCaffrey repeated it in the discussion following the video. If you suspect something, you probably have good reason. If a child confides in you, don't act shocked or horrified. Praise the child for having the courage to speak up and reassure the child that it is not his or her fault.
Denise Walters has had to hear that from a child. She's a foster care licensing representative at Webster-Cantrell Hall. If a child tells her about abuse, she has to keep calm outwardly for the child's sake. Displaying shock might make the child shut down and refuse to tell any more. Deal with the horror later, she said, by talking it out with another adult.
Erin Pope of the Early Beginnings program at Pershing Early Learning Center said home educators visit young parents to help them get a good start. If one of the educators suspects abuse, they take a colleague along on the next visit to compare notes.
“I say even if you might be wrong, at least you're doing something,” Jewett said.
When we hang the perpetrator, we may silence a survivor
Hang him! I hope he rots! Pervert! Sick, sick, sick man!
I've listened to the comments all week. I've even been tempted to utter them myself.
Okay, I'll admit it ... I have uttered some of them.
But I pray, I've uttered them in private, away from my children, away from my survivor friends.
Why? Because 90 percent of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse were violated by someone they knew, trusted, and loved. Ninety percent of children who are violated are molested by someone they know, trust and love.
It's complicated. Hard to understand. But when we trash talk perpetrators, we run the risk of hurting survivors and silencing children who have been violated.
“How is your client doing?” the reporter asked.
“He feels vindicated, but this was difficult for him,” the attorney responded. “He had to look the man in the face who was his surrogate father and tell the world what this man did to him.”
This attorney did his homework. He understood the delicate fears, emotions, and compassionate heart of his survivor client.
Is it possible that a victim can love and care for their perpetrator? Yes, it is.
When we let our emotions run from our mouth, unleashed, for all to hear, we may hurt the survivors in our presence. We may keep a child near us— a child who has been violated—silent.
You see, all the survivors I know are compassionate people and most of them were violated by someone they loved. And children, precious, precious children, are the most forgiving creatures that walk the earth.
Both adult survivors and child survivors know that if they tell, people around them will get hurt. So they keep their mouths shut to protect both the perpetrator and those who also love the perpetrator.
Let's let survivors utter words of hatred and anger toward those who violated them and guard our tongues. We may be hurting those who have already been traumatized and we may be causing a child to keep silent.
We should love adult survivors and help child victims break their silence when we offer healing words and leave the harsh words to those who have the right to say them.
Carolyn Byers Ruch is a resident of Hatfield and is the founder of RiseAndShineMovement.org, protecting children from childhood sexual abuse one conversation at a time.
Cops hunt 'predator' who killed six-year-old girl, dumped her body in Utah canal
WEST JORDAN, Utah -- A 6-year-old girl found dead in a canal near her home was sexually assaulted, police said Wednesday as detectives hunted a suspect.
Authorities in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan said the girl was reported missing by her mother early Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, police ruled Sierra Newbold's death a homicide and said an autopsy determined she had been sexually assaulted.
"At this time no suspects have been identified and we do not have any persons of interest," Police Chief Doug Diamond said.
"There is obviously a predator out there that is a monster, that has murdered a child," Diamond told NBC station KSL. "Is this predator targeting other children? I have no idea at this point. Our highest priority now is to identify, arrest, and successfully prosecute the person or persons responsible for this crime."
'No need to panic'
The chief said he has increased police patrols in the area and is asking parents to take precautions to protect their children.
"If during the course of this investigation an imminent threat becomes known, we will share that information with our residents immediately," he said. "I believe there's no need to panic at this time."
Diamond said the girl's parents have been cooperating in the investigation.
Speaking to KSL, Diamond declined to provide details about the victim's condition, but added: "There was not a significant amount of trauma on the body."
Reed Newbold, the girl's grandfather, said her mother found her missing from her bedroom early Tuesday.
"We don't have any idea" how the girl disappeared or whether she was taken from the bedroom, Reed Newbold told The Associated Press. "It's a complete mystery."
The parents "are devastated by this," he said. No working telephone number could be found for the parents, and authorities had cordoned off the neighborhood with police tape and patrol cars, where pink and purple ribbons hung on trees and mailboxes.
Officers found Sierra's body in the canal about a block from her home, just 30 minutes after her mother "discovered she was not there and called us," police Sgt. Drew Sanders said.
Sanders declined to comment on any possible motive in the case. Investigators also are withholding a precise chain of events leading to the girl's disappearance.
"We haven't come to any conclusion," Sanders said. He said police have "tons of leads" and "it's paramount we find out who did this."
Police have said there were no signs of a break-in at the family's home, and they declined to release any more details about the case.
KSL's report added:
The case appears to have similarities to an unsolved Salt Lake City homicide that occurred in August 1995. Two days after going missing, the body of 6-year-old Rosie Tapia was found in a canal near her family's Glendale-area apartment. Police ruled her death to be a murder, but leads eventually ran cold. Rosie would have turned 23 this August.
Ohio forms battle plan as slavery law signed
Human-trafficking penalties get tougher
By Alan Johnson
On the same day Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed one of the nation's toughest human-trafficking laws, a state task force released 26 additional steps needed to combat modern-day slavery.
Among the recommendations of the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force are creating a state coordinator for the human-trafficking fight; channeling federal money to local anti-trafficking coalitions; adding training for law enforcement, social-services personnel, school nurses and foster parents; and providing services to at-risk youth.
Eleven state agencies are part of the task force created earlier this year by Kasich's executive order.
The measure, signed by Kasich yesterday, took effect immediately. It diverts juvenile-trafficking victims to treatment programs instead of jail, stiffens a human-trafficking charge to a first-degree felony with a mandatory 10-year sentence, requires convicted traffickers to register as sex offenders, and permits the arrest of “johns” who pay for the service of juvenile prostitutes.
“We're throwing the book at the abusers. Not just the traffickers, but those who profit from the traffickers,” Kasich said at the bill-signing ceremony in Toledo, one of the nation's human-trafficking epicenters.
“We're no longer going to look the other way,” Kasich said.
The task-force report said that young victims are drawn from many public places, including “malls, courthouses/juvenile centers, schools, social media, and local hangout spots.” Children under 18 are the most-trafficked group in the U.S. An estimated 9 in 10 children who run away end up in the commercial sex business, the report said.
“These victims see few visible options; they sell sex at the hands of an exploitative and abusive adult as a means of survival.”
Victims often suffer long-lasting mental-health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and nightmares, according to the report.
Many of the task force's recommendations deal with the training of various groups and occupations, including school nurses and foster parents who are in a position to notice the signs of children who are being trafficked.
The task force also called for a law change to revoke individual licenses of people convicted of human-trafficking, as well as the licenses of businesses used in human-trafficking, such as nail salons and massage parlors.
A statewide toll-free hot line should be established for victims, law enforcement and the public, the task force said.
The full report is at www.governor.ohio.gov/Portals/0/pdf/news/OhioHumanTraffickingTaskForceReport
Human Trafficking a Risk to LGBT Youth
by Gideon Grudo
Broward Sheriff's Office trains organizations on identifying and helping victims
She's twelve. And pregnant. And has STDs. And her mom's dead — from HIV. Her dad's not around — he's in prison. On her arm is a tattoo: Savage. Around the word are six stars and two dollar signs. The stars most likely signify how many times her trafficker had sex with her before “employing” her. The dollar signs mean she's for sale.
She's an anonymous victim of human trafficking in Broward County. Anonymous because Broward Sheriff's Office's Sarah Cummings holds the child's name in her heart, along with other victims she comes across in her capacity with the Juvenile Assessment Team (JAT).
Cummings presented to the general public and various organizations a training seminar on June 22 at the Sunshine Cathedral. In attendance were note-takers and representatives from Women in Distress, Human Rights Council, Pride Center, Henderson Behavioral Health, and others.
JAT works on mental and psychosocial assessments for children. And they've created a pilot project that, through questioning, may help them to identify a victim of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST).
“If we didn't ask the right questions, we wouldn't know,” Cummings told the crowd. She added that for adults, DMST must include force, fraud and coercion. With minors, none of this is relevant. “It doesn't matter. They are being trafficked by an adult. They're victims. And their johns are perpetrators.”
The presentation was mostly a deep explanation of how DMST works, its relationship with the LGBT community, and what various caseworkers can do to identify it and eradicate it.
In terms of international criminal enterprises, human trafficking just recently beat out the weapons trade, sitting solidly in second place after the drug trade, and producing an estimated $32 billion a year — $17 billion of it coming from sex trafficking.
It's estimated that at least 100,000 juveniles are victimized this way in America each year. According to Cummings, half of the people trafficked are kids and many of them are runaways. Within 48 hours on the street, she said, a trafficker will approach a child.
“When they're younger and they're fresher, you can charge more money,” Cummings said. “A lot of times, people think we're talking about older teenagers. But we're talking about kids who are just now entering puberty.”
A study by the Shapiro Group suggests that on a typical weekend, 79 girls under 18 are commercially and sexually exploited in Florida. And this is just based on websites and escort services. It doesn't include potential victims from the streets, strip clubs, massage parlors or ethnic enclaves.
While research is hard to conduct and the science of it is still largely being figured out, some things are known. The number one factor that may lead a child into DMST is a history of running away. The second highest factor is sexual abuse at home.
“LGBT youth are much more likely to be on the street or running away than their heterosexual counterparts,” she said. “And there could be a misconception: LGBT kids aren't performing heterosexual acts. That's not true.”
Today, children are more open to coming out, as early as nine or ten years old. While this is a good thing, Cummings said, it also means those young kids are opening themselves up to the risk of being rejected by their families.
“We had one young man come through the Juvenile Assessment Team. He didn't come in on a prostitution charge. He came in on a trespassing charge. The charge was at a hotel. He was at the hotel pool because he had been up with someone at that hotel. He was told to leave by a manager, but wouldn't, so he got arrested,” Cummings recalled. “He stated that he advertises himself on his Myspace page to have sex with men. And this is the way that he collects money for the things that he wants. His mom has identified that her son told her about this, but two years ago had found an adult male at the house and called the police. Even though he's doing it himself, someone introduced him to the life.”
DMST comes in many forms, including prostitution, stripping, pornography, etc. Cummings said that being part of “the life” doesn't have to be a sexual act at all. But it is all too often.
According to Cummings, LGBTQ youth are disproportionately displaced from their homes, putting them at higher risk to sexual predators. Twenty percent of homeless youth are LGBT, while the general population of youths is only ten percent LGBT. These children are twice more likely to experience sexual abuse before the age of 12, and 58.7 percent of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4 percent of heterosexual homeless youth.
“If they're involved in prostitution, it's because it's the only way they know to survive,” Cummings said. “The johns that are buying these boys are usually not openly gay.”
Florida law requires anyone that just suspects DMST to report it. The burden of proof is on agencies like the Juvenile Assessment Team and Center, not on the person reporting it.
“We have got to educate our family, our friends, our co-workers and the community about domestic minor sex trafficking,” Cummings said. “Sometimes these kids don't want services. Sometimes they develop the Stockholm Syndrom, but we need to disengage them from the ‘life.'”
To report suspected DMST, call the Florida Department of Children and Family Services at 1-800-962-2873 or the Federal Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Four steps to stop the next Jerry Sandusky
Conviction of the former Penn State coach should spark more awareness of the danger of child molestation
By Adam Rosenberg
Friday's conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on dozens of counts of child sex abuse — allegations of which other university officials failed to report to law enforcement years ago — is a stark reminder that there is still more work to be done to keep children safe from sexual abuse. Just as that case concluded, a new series of allegations emerged from New York City's prestigious Horace Mann school illuminating the fact that sexual child abuse is not an isolated incident and that very institutions we trust to watch our children at times fail to protect them.
We cannot continue to repeat past mistakes and continue to cover up or ignore sexual abuse of children when suspected. Ninety percent of children who have been sexually abused know their abuser — it is an epidemic born of ignorance that can be avoided.
How can we prevent a Sandusky/Penn State-like incident from happening again? Here are four steps we can take:
• First, talk with children about sexual abuse, be ready to answer their questions, and believe what they tell you. Conversations should occur often and be a natural part of their dialogue with you and evolve age appropriately as they grow. Use simple yet honest language and be prepared to listen whenever your child is ready to talk. A well educated child is less likely to be abused.
• Second, abuse can, should, and legally must be reported when you have reason to suspect it is taking place. Mandatory reporting laws exist to encourage the public to stay on alert. In Maryland, every citizen who has reason to suspect abuse has a legal responsibility to report it. You as a mandatory reporter do not need to be certain or have witnessed the abuse, you only need to have reason to believe abuse occurred. You can also report anonymously and confidentially. Once you report the abuse to 911 or your local child protective services office, they will conduct the investigation. But an investigation cannot begin unless you make the first report.
• Third, it is never too late to report sexual abuse. Mr. Sandusky's victims have for years hoped someone would believe them, and many lived thinking they were alone in their horror; but a jury convicting Mr. Sandusky on 45 counts of child sex abuse related charges provides hope for the millions of adult survivors and children out there today who have not reported abuse for fear of not being believed.
• Finally, be a better consumer starting today. Ask tough questions to your child's school, summer camp, day care, or youth program: Has staff been trained in how to identify and report abuse? What is your program's policy on reporting abuse? What is the child-faculty ratio? Will my child be left alone with staff, and if so why? Can I visit or drop in unannounced? If you aren't already asking these questions — why not? You have to demand the best for your child and expect that these programs live up to your high expectations. If you don't like the answers you get, maybe it's time to demand change or consider alternatives.
Let's not comfortably rest knowing that one pedophile has been convicted. Let's continue to remain vigilant, supportive and ready to report and stand up against sexual child abuse so that when it is next discovered, it doesn't take over a decade to realize justice for its victims.
Adam Rosenberg is executive director of Baltimore Child Abuse Center, a non profit child advocacy center that provides a gateway toward healing and justice for victims of child sexual abuse, as well as education and awareness for families and youth serving institutions. His email is email@example.com. More information is available at http://www.baltimorechildabusecenter.org.
How could Sandusky's wife not know?
Denial called a way to cope
By Cheryl Wetzstein
Perhaps one of the most shocking witnesses at the child-molestation trial of Jerry Sandusky was his wife of 46 years, Dorothy, known as Dottie.
Mrs. Sandusky paid her husband's bail, steadfastly declared his innocence and testified on the stand that she never saw or heard anything strange or suspicious during the years when her husband brought boys over for dinner and sleepovers in the basement.
Asked whether she could think of a reason why eight men would come forward to accuse her husband of molesting and raping them, Mrs. Sandusky's answer was: “I have no idea. … I don't know what it would be for.”
But the Sandusky household was divided in its members' views of its patriarch. Adopted son Matt Sandusky said last week, before the former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted of nearly all charges associated with the molestation of 10 boys, that Sandusky also had sexually abused him.
How is it possible for a wife to live with a child molester for years, have the abuse going on in the home, and not know what was going on?
The answers, analysts say, lie in the complexities of human relationships, the existence of heartless psychopaths in people's lives and the natural desire to not see things that do not make sense or that threaten one's own life.
“I never suspected a thing,” said Darlene Ellison, who said she did not learn that her ex-husband led a pedophile organization until he was arrested.
“I think there are three options in terms of Dottie Sandusky,” Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, said in a recent interview.
“One, she didn't know. Two, she didn't want to know. Or three, she knew, but acknowledging it, or doing anything about it, would be so disruptive to her life that she chose not to,” he said.
It's common for a spouse or family member to fall into the latter two categories, he said.
“They don't go into rooms when they're afraid of what might be going on. They don't ask questions purposefully when they wonder about something because they don't want to know,” Mr. Dion said. “Or they do know [something's wrong], but they feel afraid that they can't say anything” because the perpetrator has power and control over them; there's an idea that “this is something you have to tolerate, this is part of the arrangement.”
Another scenario is that a spouse “just decides that anything I do will end badly for my family, for my kids, and so I'm just going to make a decision to ignore it.”
Mrs. Sandusky's desire to “not know anything” may have been revealed in the testimony by one of the victims about being in a hotel room with both of the Sanduskys, Mr. Dion said.
The victim said he went into the bathroom to take a shower, and Sandusky entered the bathroom and motioned to the boy to give him oral sex. But when Mrs. Sandusky asked, “ Jerry, what are you doing in there?” the elder man leapt out of the room.
This sounds like Mrs. Sandusky was “making the point of announcing herself” so she could avoid a situation where she would see something wrong, Mr. Dion said.
Indeed, he added, “she didn't see anything” because “they were in the bathroom.”
Child sexual abuse is typically perpetrated by men, many of whom are married, and there are indeed women and mothers who are complicit and really know what's going on, analysts say.
But it's also common for their wives to be “in denial, to be blind, deaf and dumb, when it comes to these acts,” said Dr. Frank Ochberg, who teaches clinical psychiatry at Michigan State University and is a former associate director at the National Institute of Mental Health.
“Think about what it means to live your life with a man who's living a lie and who has tremendous power and who has some perverted instincts and appetites,” Dr.Ochberg said.
It wasn't all that long ago that women didn't “dare speak back to your man,” he said. Also, some people's personality types make them dependent, timid and trainable into a subordinate position.
Moreover, psychopaths know how to fool people, said Dr. Ochberg, who cautioned that he was not suggesting that Sandusky was a psychopath.
A psychopath has no conscience and therefore “has no capacity for feeling guilty,” remorse or concern for someone else's pain, he said. They compensate by becoming very good at faking “normal” feelings and, in many cases, learn how to intimidate others either by force or through their personalities.
Pedophiles are “masters of deceit and deception,” said Ms. Ellison, a public speaker and author of “The Predator Next Door.”
Ms. Ellison can recall the horrible day in 2005 when she learned from FBI officials that her former husband, Phillip Todd Calvin , had been arrested in a sting operation on the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).
She was stunned to learn that her ex was no novice pedophile. He was a NAMBLA leader and was caught on his way with other men to engage in sex with boys. Her first thoughts were about the safety of their two children, their friends' children and the children in the groups in which Calvin had volunteered.
Writing recently for the Daily Beast about Mrs. Sandusky, Ms. Ellison said it was possible for someone to “be married to a man for years, share a bed with him, raise children with him and still have no clue that he is a predator of young boys.”
Mrs. Sandusky's circumstances make it even more likely, as she comes from a generation where women were expected to “stand by your man,” Ms. Ellison said Tuesday.
Also, as a wife, even if suspicions arise, “your mind does not go there,” said “ Jasmine Black,” who created healingwives.com a decade ago as a resource for women whose husbands or partners are sex offenders. Jasmine Black is an alias, the woman said, which allows her to share her story and still protect her privacy and that of her husband and their children.
If Mrs. Sandusky is like other wives, “she's in a grieving process,” said Ms. Black. “Their life and their marriage as they knew it is over, and I'm sure she feels alone - you really find out who your friends are.
“That's why we tell women, ‘Get counseling. Get through one day at a time.'“
Child abuse bill concerns parents
By Jonathan Starkey
DOVER — A bill to broaden Delaware's child-abuse laws unanimously cleared a House committee Thursday – but not before parents loudly voiced concerns that the legislation could outlaw spanking. The Department of Justice, which is backing Senate Bill 234, says parental discipline still would be protected elsewhere in the code.
That assurance is not enough for some parents. “I think the Legislature's intent with this bill is very clear,” said Tyler Hogan, a Dover-area father with two young daughters, and another on the way.
“The concern is that the language is vague. I don't want my wife to feel like she has to close the blinds around the house before she administers discipline.”
The bill creates three tiers of child abuse under Delaware law, carves out special protection for children with disabilities and broadens language over what qualifies as abuse.
In the most controversial passage, “physical injury” is defined as “any impairment of physical condition or pain.” That wording has some parents crying foul over inappropriate government intrusion into parental discipline.
Supporters of the bill say it's necessary to tighten definitions of child abuse to catch cases that slip through the cracks. Deputy Attorney General Patricia Dailey Lewis, head of the Justice Department's Family Division, said prosecutors often lose or don't bring abuse cases because they can't prove “substantial pain,” often a burden of proof under current law.
“We drafted this bill after so much trouble with regards to effective prosecution of children who have been physically and sexually abused,” Lewis said. “I hope this doesn't become a cause célèbre for an organization that thinks the state is out to prevent their parenting.”
The bill was passed unanimously last week in the Senate, where it was shepherded by its prime sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere. Blevins suggested she might support an amendment to clarify the “pain” passage. “This bill was never about discipline or any of these issues,” Blevins said.
Lewis said the Justice Department would not likely support an amendment, calling it a “solution in search of a problem.”
With less than a full week left in the current General Assembly session, the legislation now heads to the full House for consideration.
Gov. Snyder Signs 'Dominick's Law' to Strengthen Child Abuse Penalties
The law, named in memory of Dominick Calhoun, strengthens penalties for child abuse in Michigan and creates penalties for abuse committed in the presence of another
By Judy Davids
Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation known as 'Dominick's Law' Tuesday strengthening penalties for child abuse in Michigan and adding penalties for abuse in front of another individual.
The bills, sponsored by state Reps. Joseph Graves and Matt Lori, are in memory of Dominick Calhoun , a 4-year old from Argentine Township who was beaten to death in 2010, in the presence of his older brother.
"Today we strengthen child abuse penalties in Michigan and honor Dominick Calhoun's memory while making Michigan a safer place for children to grow up," said Graves, R-Argentine Township. "While nothing will bring Dominick back, he will forever be remembered for helping protect all Michigan children from child abuse, and that will not be forgotten."
Nearly a dozen family and friends of Dominick Calhoun were in attendance today at the bill signing in Lansing.
House Bills 5562 and 5563, now Public Acts 194 and 195 of 2012, establish penalties for committing child abuse in the presence of another child, which was not previously considered a component of the crime.
"Child abuse will not be tolerated in Michigan and that became official today with the signing of 'Dominick's Law'," said Lori, R-Constantine. "Giving law enforcement the tools to properly punish child abuse is the best way we can honor Dominick's memory, and hopefully bring closure to the Calhoun family."
Under the new laws, penalties for first- and second-degree child abuse also are strengthened, creating additional penalties for additional offenses of child abuse.
Senate approves Vance legislation to require child abuse training for school personnel
The Senate on Monday approved legislation, sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance, R-31, that would require school personnel be trained to recognize the signs of child abuse, according to a release from Vance's office.
Senate Bill 449 now goes to Gov. Tom Corbett for his consideration.
“Educators, under state law, are mandatory reporters of child abuse, but were not always given the tools necessary to identify child abuse in its many forms,” Vance said. “When I realized teachers had a legal obligation to report their suspicions, but no framework in which to evaluate what they saw, I introduced this legislation to close the policy gap. I'm hopeful by providing this training even the most subtle forms of abuse can be quickly and appropriately identified.”
The bill requires schools and their independent contractors to provide training on child abuse recognition and reporting to their employees who have direct contact with children. The training will include recognition of signs of abuse and sexual misconduct; mandatory reporting requirements; individual school policies regarding reporting of suspected abuse; and guidelines for professional and appropriate relationships with students. At least three hours of training in child abuse identification would be required every five years. Continuing education credits would be awarded for programs approved by the departments of Education and Public Welfare.
The bill would go into effect in 180 days after receiving the governor's signature.
The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance hailed the passage of the measure, which PFSA said came in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse trial.
“We have worked long and hard to support this legislation and we salute the many legislators and advocates who helped make this possible, including state Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County, who was one of the original sponsors,” said PFSA Director Angela Liddle.
PFSA is a nonprofit agency that trains more than 8,000 professionals annually in how to recognize and report suspected child abuse.
“Training is a key element in making sure that vigilance against child abuse is effective,” Liddle said. “School personnel need to understand how abuse manifests itself and how to make proper reports to the authorities. The past year, with the tragic circumstances surrounding the Sandusky case, makes that need abundantly clear.”
The training requirement would apply to personnel at public schools, charter schools, cyber schools, private schools, nonpublic schools, intermediate units and area vocational-technical schools. Liddle said state statistics show that schools are by far the largest single source of abuse reports from “mandated reporters” — professionals who have regular contact with children by virtue of their jobs.
More than 24,000 reports of suspected child abuse were filed in Pennsylvania in 2011, according to the state Department of Public Welfare, and of those more than 3,400 were substantiated. DPW said 34 children died from abuse in Pennsylvania in 2011.
“We know we have much more to do,” Liddle said. “This is a good first step. The people of Pennsylvania are now much more aware of the occurrence of child abuse and the damage that it does. We need to keep at the good fight.”
We must break silence over child sexual abuse
By Kimberly Ripley
The trial and conviction of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky brought child sexual abuse back in to the media spotlight. This story captured our attention.
Is it because of the nature of the crimes committed?
Is it because well-known people or an institution that is known for its values of honor and integrity are involved?
Is it because of the connection with a respected charity whose founder does not fit the stereotype of what people typically think of as a sexual predator?
Whatever the reasons, the attention to the issue of child sexual abuse is welcome. Child sexual abuse thrives on silence.
The renewed attention on this case and child sexual abuse gives us all an opportunity for change. I urge parents, families, and organizations to open the lines of communication. Learn the warning signs of sexual abuse. Learn how and who to report concerns to. Speak up and report concerns of abuse. Educate yourself on how to speak with your children about healthy boundaries and their bodies. Learn steps that you can take to protect your children from offenders. Ask questions about the programs and people that your children are involved with. Remember, sexual abuse is most often perpetrated by adults you and your children know and trust, not strangers.
It takes enormous strength to come forward and tell your own story or to report suspicions of abuse about someone else, but we must act to protect children. Ask your church, synagogue, schools and other organizations if they have policies to protect children, if staff members are aware of these policies, and if they know how to implement them on a day-to-day basis. Parents, caretakers and organizations should access resources that will help you know what questions to ask and what policies to implement to ensure the safety of the children whose care and well being you are charged with.
This tragedy is a call to every organization and individual to be vigilant in the fight against child sexual abuse. Educate yourself and your children. Take a stand and break the silence.
Ripley is the Chemung County Child Advocacy Center coordinator.
From the FBI
Operation Cross Country
Nationwide Sweep Recovers Child Victims of Prostitution
In the continuing effort to address the national problem of child sex trafficking, the FBI and our partners today announced the results of a three-day law enforcement action in which 79 child victims of prostitution were recovered and more than 100 pimps were arrested.
Operation Cross Country VI, part of the Bureau's Innocence Lost National Initiative, was conducted over the past 72 hours in 57 cities around the country with the help of state and local law enforcement and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
“Child prostitution remains a major threat to children across America,” said Kevin Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI's Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. “It is a violent and deplorable crime, and we are working with our partners to disrupt and put behind bars individuals and members of criminal enterprises who would sexually exploit children.”
The Innocence Lost National Initiative was launched in 2003 by the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division in partnership with NCMEC and the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
To date, 47 Innocence Lost Task Forces and working groups have recovered more than 2,200 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 1,017 convictions of pimps, madams, and their associates who exploit children through prostitution have resulted in lengthy sentences—including multiple sentences of 25 years to life in prison—and the seizure of more than $3 million in assets.
Operation Cross Country national sweeps usually grow out of local law enforcement actions—officers and other task force members target places of prostitution such as truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and Internet websites. Initial arrests are often for violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Intelligence gathered from those arrested can reveal organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this information in partnership with U.S. Attorney's Offices and the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section to bring federal charges against pimps and other sex traffickers.
“It is clear that child prostitution and sex trafficking do not just occur somewhere else on the other side of the world,” said Ernie Allen, president of NCMEC. “These insidious crimes are occurring in American cities, and the victims are American kids.”
At a press conference today at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Allen thanked the FBI for its leadership over the past decade in fighting domestic sex trafficking. The Bureau, in turn, expressed gratitude to the more than 8,500 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers representing 414 separate agencies who participated in the most recent Operation Cross Country and ongoing enforcement efforts.
In addition to its enforcement successes, the Innocence Lost National Initiative brings state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers from across the country to NCMEC, where the groups receive training together.
For more information on Operation Cross Country and the Innocence Lost National Initiative, visit, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/cac/innocencelost, www.justice.gov, or www.ncmec.org.
One in six boys will be sexually abused
By Maria Morey
Thanks to the hard work of survivors and advocates, more attention has been given to childhood sexual abuse.
The words sexual abuse and sexual assault are part of our everyday conversations at home and around the water cooler. They are the also why Jerry Sandusky was overwhelmingly convicted in 45 of 48 charges last week.
Collectively the stories of Sandusky's victims are hard to hear — their recollections graphic and ugly. Each story wrought with the survivor's pain and trauma.
Their bravery is omnipresent. To persevere the rigors a trial of this magnitude is an act of valor. They are as brave and heroic as any soldier who has confronted the enemy.
These young men have declared a national, perhaps, international war against the stigma of sexual abuse.
Conservative estimates of reported sexual abuse state that 1 in 6 males will be victims of sexual assault before their 18th birthday.
We need to shed a more realistic light on the words sexual assault and sexual abuse. It's more than ‘icky touches' by the bogeyman. This bogeyman is a sniper — a sly and manipulating enemy. At his disposal, an endless arsenal of weapons. Lies. Threats. Fear. Intimidation. Pornographic material. Unthinkable physical acts. This enemy is rarely a stranger; more likely he's an acquaintance or well known to the child and his family. However, the child is totally and utterly powerless over this enemy. It's a battle he can't possibly win.
Most disturbing is the great length Sandusky went to target, and ultimately control his young victims. It was a calculated process that began by wooing the parent(s). Once victorious over the adults, the children eventually succumbed. They may have been conscientious objectors. That was of no consequence to this enemy; he was bigger and stronger. The children were ultimately powerless.
An abuser's message is laced with lies and half-truths. The child is brainwashed to believe the abuser cares for him - perhaps even loves him. He is conditioned to feel special with gifts, favors, and tales of never-ending affection.
An abused child suffers a battlefield death of sorts, often referred to as the death of his soul. No longer is he a child within a young boy's body. His emotional development immediately altered the moment the abuse started. His changing moods and behaviors could have been misinterpreted or completely dismissed as those of a headstrong child struggling to maintain the enemy's secret, while simultaneously fighting for his place in an adult world. It's the beginning of a lifelong battle to hide the scars of sexual abuse.
Traumatic experiences and memories are often buried deep within the private battlefield of a victim's conflicted mind. He feels powerless, confused, angry, and hurt. Like war veterans, some men sexually abused as children resort to risky behaviors; they may act out sexually or violently, abuse drugs or alcohol. Desperate to stop the pain, some opt for self-injury or suicide.
One victim testified that Sandusky referred himself ‘the tickle monster' who just wanted to hug so hard as to “squeeze your guts out.” What began as tickling was actually a deliberate act to disarm and overtake the boy.
Assault survivors can experience flashbacks and panic years after their abuse has stopped. All it takes is a look, a word or feeling to jumpstart the process.
A survivor not related to Sandusky's trial, described that tickling as ‘affectionate abuse.' He admitted to feelings of jealousy. To this survivor, Sandusky was playful; his abuser was violent. Like so many survivors of sexual assault, he was transported back to a time when he was a defenseless, powerless little boy. The enemy's brainwashing prevailed once again.
Today, there are more resources available to survivors and their families than ever before. We must do more to educate and protect our children. Seize the opportunity to use Sandusky's trial as a learning tool for yourself and your children. Every child deserves a fighting chance. Listen to their voices. Observe their behaviors. Challenge yourself and others. Believe them.
1 in 6 boys is unacceptable.
If you believe a child has been harmed, take action. The child abuser must be removed from access to the child. Call 911 or child protective services at 800-842-2288; for support in this decision to report and tips in confronting the abuser, call the Women's Center 24/7 sexual assault hotline 203-731-5204 or Stop It Now! at 888-773-8368.
If you are a victim (adult or child), call our hotline; outside of the upper Fairfield/lower Litchfield counties, call the statewide sexual assault hotline: 888-999-5545; outside of Connecticut, call RAINN: 800-656-4673.
Ms. Morey, a former Ridgefielder, is a Women's Center volunteer and group co-facilitator of Breaking the Silence, a weekly group for adult survivors of any form of sexual assault, and Voices of Courage, a weekly group for male adult survivors of any form of sexual assault.
Key benefit from grim Sandusky sex abuse case: Awareness
Iowan, himself a victim as a child, hopes adults will be more mindful of predators
By DANIEL P. FINNEY and TIMOTHY MEINCH
Child rape survivor Larry Wohlgemuth is a realist.
He believes the conviction of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on a slew of child sexual abuse charges is unlikely to have sweeping impact on American culture.
But Wohlgemuth hopes, at least, that the story will inspire people to listen to children and be mindful of predators.
“Awareness is the biggest thing we can hope for,” said Wohlgemuth, 58, an Ankeny man who says he was raped by a male family member beginning at age 3. “Maybe people will wonder about adults who want to spend a lot of time alone with children and want to take them off places.”
Last week, Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 charges in a child sexual abuse case that shed light on years of abuse. Penn State's administration, fellow coaches and boosters of the university's storied football program ignored evidence in earlier years of some of Sandusky's crimes.
The case has already made a difference in Iowa law. It helped inspire Iowa legislators to pass a new law requiring the state's public, private and community colleges and universities to have policies and procedures in place to cope with child sexual abuse allegations.
Lawmakers also added protection for whistle-blowers who report child sexual abuse, in part because at least one janitor said he was aware of Sandusky's abuses but feared losing his job if he reported the incident.
“We're hoping the whistle-blower piece (of the law) assists with that and reassures someone that they will keep their job if they come forward,” said Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola.
The state is also reviewing its sexual offender registry to make sure it is up to date and effective, Fry said.
Stephen Scott, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa and chairman of the Iowa Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Task Force, credited the Sandusky case with building support for task force work that eventually led to the new law.
“I think Iowa got a little bit ahead of things” because of the Sandusky case, Scott said. “What happened here is we had this task force already set up, and we were already heading down the road. Sandusky happened, and it gave us a huge amount of visibility.
“All of a sudden, the task force was something the people paid attention to,” Scott said. “We got exactly the legislation we wanted, and it sailed through early in the session. We didn't get any money, but then again, hardly anybody got any money.”
Males far less likely to report sex abuse
Iowa sexual abuse survivor advocates hope Sandusky's conviction will help male abuse victims talk to someone about their experiences, particularly since several of Sandusky's victims, now in their mid-20s, testified in open court.
“I think the courage of these young men coming forward may help other men come forward who have been reluctant to do so or embarrassed or ashamed,” said Beth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Males are far less likely to report being victims of sexual abuse than females, and almost all research in the field of sexual abuse relates to female victims.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed approximately one in 71 men (1.4 percent) reported being victims of rape, and more than one in five men (22 percent) said they'd experienced sexual violence other than rape during their lifetime.
Barnhill said males should come forward to talk and gain psychological and emotional support, even in cases where the criminal justice system will not or cannot be involved, which is often the case in Iowa because of a 10-year statute of limitations.
Barnhill and her colleagues are lobbying the Legislature to lengthen the time for prosecution of such cases.
“We have been working on that for a long time and will continue to work on it,” she said.
Ideally, advocates would like the statute of limitations removed, Barnhill said.
After abuse came years of struggles
Wohlgemuth, who grew up in Topeka, Kan., suppressed the memories of abuse by an older male relative for decades. The relative raped him beginning at age 3, he says. To ensure his silence, the relative held his head under a drill press and pushed the spinning bit down until it was inches from his skull.
“He said if I ever told anyone, he would fill my head full of holes,” Wohlgemuth said.
At age 5, Wohlgemuth told his mother about the abuse. The family cut off all contact with the relative for more than a year.
But eventually, Wohlgemuth's cash-strapped parents needed a loan. The only place they could get it was from the estranged family members. A condition of the loan was that the children visit as they did before.
The terror was so much for Wohlgemuth that he buried the memories deep in his psyche for decades. In ensuing years, he became an alcoholic and struggled with uncontrolled rage. His marriage fell apart under the strain of what doctors later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder.
After years of therapy, including experimental treatments, Wohlgemuth mostly made his peace with his past. He wrote a book about his experiences called “Larry Tells Stories,” and he speaks to groups about surviving child sexual abuse.
He wants the Sandusky case to inspire people to come forward and tell their stories of abuse. He wants people to believe children when they say they've been hurt, even by someone as famous and revered as Sandusky.
“The state of our society is that we defer to adults at all times, and we just don't listen,” he said. “This went on for years because people didn't want to believe one of their heroes was doing this.…
“Will there be big changes? There will be some changes at Penn State, I suppose, but there will still be people at Penn State football games in the fall like nothing happened.”
Tips, warning signs
Following are some characteristics of a sexual predator:
|• Misses or ignores social cues about others' personal or sexual limits and boundaries.
• Often has a “special” child friend, maybe a different one from year to year.
• Spends most of his or her spare time with children and shows little interest in spending time with someone the same age.
• Encourages silence and secrets in children.
• Makes others uncomfortable by ignoring social, emotional or physical boundaries or limits.
• Refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits; uses teasing or belittling language to keep a child from setting a limit.
• Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child, even when the child does not want this physical contact or attention.
• Frequently walks in on children or teens in the bathroom.
• Turns to a child for emotional or physical comfort by sharing personal or private information or activities that are normally shared with adults.
• Has secret interactions with teens or children (e.g., playing games, sharing drugs, alcohol or sexual material) or spends excessive time emailing, texting or calling children or youths.
• Insists on spending or manages to spend uninterrupted time alone with a child.
• Seems “too good to be true,” e.g., frequently baby-sits different children for free; takes children on special outings alone; buys children gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason.
• Allows children or teens to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviors.
• Frequently points out sexual images or tells dirty or suggestive jokes with children present.
• Exposes a child to adult sexual interactions or images without apparent concern.
• Is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen (e.g., talks repeatedly about the child's developing body or interferes with normal teen dating).
To get help
Victims who need help or want to talk can call the Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline at 800-284-7821.
Child abuse victims need reform now
Pennsylvania lawmakers cannot continue to hide behind the “we'll get to it” mantra when it comes to reforming the state's child abuse laws.
We owe it to the victims of Jerry Sandusky who bravely came forward against community pressure and in the midst of a media circus.
We owe it to the victims of child molestation at the hands of certain Catholic clergy in Philadelphia. They, too, stood their ground, leading to a landmark guilty verdict in the case of Monsignor William Lynn.
And we owe it to all the victims who have only felt able to come forward recently or who are still living in confusion and shame.
Just last week The Patriot-News received a letter to the editor from a woman in Camp Hill alleging abuse from a neighbor when she was growing up.
Lawmakers know what they should do.
As the horrors of the Sandusky case unfolded in court, the House finally passed the bill by Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County, to require child abuse training for school personnel. Now it awaits a concurrence vote in the Senate.
Time and again it has come to light how insufficient the training has been for mandatory reporters, let alone the public at large.
Training alone will not stop the abuse, but it might help the next time a child goes to a guidance counselor's office to relay an abuse story.
Equally as important is granting additional time for victims to come forward. At the moment, victims must bring criminal cases by age 50 and civil cases by age 30.
What the state should do is offer a one- or two-year window for victims, regardless of age, to bring civil suits.
Delaware, Hawaii and California have offered these windows, and they have not led to bankrupting religious or educational institutions. Lawmakers need to look beyond the Catholic Church lobby's assertion that this is about rehashing “stale claims.” It's about giving a voice to victims, and it's the least we can do for them.
The guilty verdicts Friday in Pennsylvania's two landmark cases, Sandusky and Lynn, are the talk of the nation.
Many states are looking to see what the commonwealth will do. It's a hollow response when lawmakers say they await another report from another task force on child abuse, especially when that report won't arrive until the end of their 2012 legislative session.
How many more Jerry Sanduskys do we have to hear about before lawmakers act decisively in favor of kids?
Bikers Against Child Abuse
By Lisa Hutson
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) -- The rumble of 20 to 30 motorcycles pulling into your driveway may be a bit unsettling for some but for children that are members of the Bikers Against Child Abuse Program, it is the sweet sound of reassurance.
It has an international organization with five chapters in Arkansas and hundreds more across the globe. They're goal is to empower victims of child abuse, visiting them at home and accompanying them to court dates and for those children who are members, their presence makes all the difference.
"A lot of big, ugly guys. We wear leather, we ride motorcycles, you kind of have that mystic of, 'Hey, I don't want to mess with that guy," says Harold "Redleg" Taylor, President of the Flatrock Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse.
They are the idealic image of tough guys but with a soft spot for children.
"We will do whatever it takes to protect one of our children okay? So if asking nicely doesn't work, we'll ask nicely twice. The second time usually works," says Taylor. "When that child finds out that we're on their side, you know, it's kind of like having a big brother."
Bikers Against Child Abuse is a group of volunteers with a mission to lend their physical and emotional support to victims of child abuse, both at home and in the court room.
"They are literally empowered to where they don't just mumble. They tell what happened and they tell what that guy or gal did to them," says Taylor.
A former child abuse victim, "Zena", says it is the Flatrock BACA chapter that continues to serve as her guardian angels.
"They are still a big part of my life. The security of knowing that I had somebody there, somebody that I could call upon anytime of the day or night and they'd be there. They'd all come swarming in," says Zena.
"Child abusers are cowards. They are some of the lowest forms of life and they are only going to pick on somebody smaller than them," says Taylor.
Sunday, the Flatrock BACA chapter visited children in their program, a physical reminder of who is on their side.
"If they see the BACA patch, they know that person is a brother or a sister and will do anything to protect them," says Taylor.
Each biker has a road name and their child members do too. Those are the only names they know each other by. Taylor says that is a security measure in order to protect the details of the child's case. He says when it comes to the children, confidentiality is one of their top priorities.
To become a BACA member, each biker must pass a FBI background check and undergo a one year waiting period.
Opinion: When Are We Going To Create A Safe Community to Protect Our Children from Sexual Abuse?
Executive Director of PEI Kids sounds off about child sexual abuse and introduces a new coalition to combat these heinous crimes.
By Penelope Ettinger, Executive Director of PEI Kids
When are we going to create a safe community to protect our children from sexual abuse? Jerry Sandusky has been convicted of 45 out of 48 counts of child sexual abuse. Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia, in a landmark clergy-abuse trial, was convicted of child endangerment for covering up abuse claims. In the past year, coverage of child sexual abuse has increased with more than 1,800 stories in the news. Yet, in our communities we do little to create a safe environment for our children.
The alarming statistics of child sexual abuse are well substantiated – 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18 th birthday. Ninety percent of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child (and the family) knows, trusts and in many cases loves. Thirty percent of these cases are committed by a family member. And most sexual abuse is never reported. The grim reality is child sexual abuse happens in every community. If the child doesn't receive treatment, the adverse emotional and social impact on the child victim is life-long. The long-term economic costs to business and community are great.
Still, there is a solution. It is our primal moral responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about these potential dangers in our communities. Recently the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse was formed to do exactly this –educate every adult who lives and/or works in the greater Mercer area on how to keep children safe, how to recognize signs of abuse and how to respond with compassion to any child who tells of abuse. The Coalition, which is part of a statewide effort, comprises a growing group of community leaders from business, the faith-based community, health care, , the media, youth and social service organizations, government and education to address this issue within their own disciplines and to get the message out to constituents—and where appropriate—adopting appropriate child safety policies.
In order to get the powerful message out the community, the coalition is developing the time-tested advertising and marketing approach of exposing a target audience with a specific message 7-10 times in different ways in order to adopt a message. The various disciplines in the coalition can target the right people and convey the message in a language their audience will be able to relate to.
Now is the time for us to learn the facts about child sexual abuse. Now is the time to begin and continue talking to the children in our lives in a way that is open, honest and factual. Now is the time to ask the director of your child's sports club, camp, church youth group or school, if they have a child safety/child sexual abuse policy in place. It's time to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse occurring. Always is the time to believe and respond compassionately when a child tells you that he/she has been abused in any way.
For information on the newly established Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and for information on getting help for a child who has been abused, visit www.peikids.org or call us at 609-695-3739.
Penny Ettinger is the Executive Director of PEI Kids in Lawrenceville, NJ. Currently serving approximately 16,000 children and their families annually, the nonprofit organization began 26 years ago when its founders discovered that there were no services provided for local children who had been sexually abused. Since then, PEI Kids' mission has been dedicated to promoting and maintaining a safe environment for all children. The Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse is part of a statewide initiative with Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey.
Scouts abuse review shows need for oversight, lawyer says
By Mary Sheppard, CBC News
A lawyer who represents childhood abuse victims says individuals who failed to report sexual abuse inside Scouts Canada should be held accountable.
Robert Talach, a London, Ont. lawyer, says that the review commissioned by Scouts Canada of its sex abuse confidential files is a step in the right direction, but the public still does not know who inside the organization made the decisions not to report cases to the authorities.
He says it is possible some people inside Scouts Canada “placed the reputation of the organization above the plight of the individual.”
Talach points out that in the KPMG report there's a reference to a policy suggesting that when terminating membership, staff should consider handling it at the provincial level rather than send it to the national office.
He noted that there were at least 65 new cases not reported to the police and 13 of those were after 1992, when it became mandatory to report such abuse.
The new cases surfaced Monday when Scouts Canada released the findings of a review of hundreds of confidential files on leaders who were thrown out over abuse allegations.
Talach points out that one of the ways to prevent childhood sexual abuse is to examine “how, institutionally, this happened.” He feels this was not done as part of the KPMG review.
Scouts tighten record keeping
Scouts Canada says it has tightened the rules around record keeping, made it clear police have to be called when someone alleges abuse, and is taking steps to better screen those who come into contact with young scouts. Leaders will also receive better compulsory training.
Talach wonders if a 90-minute online training session that the Scouts announced is enough. “I think it demands a little more attention.”
He also worries that police screening may provide a false sense of security. “All police screening says is that this person hasn't been caught yet.”
Talach would like to see “more teeth” in Canada's child protection legislation.
“There's a bigger fine for pirating videos than for not reporting child sexual abuse.” He says the various governments have to take up the cause of child abuse and consider an agency to handle current and historical cases of child abuse.
But most important, Talach says, is that everyone, especially organizations like Scouts Canada, needs to stay constantly on guard.
“An organization that deals with that many children will in perpetuity, be attracting sex offenders … you have to be eternally vigilant.”
If you have information on this story please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
79 teen prostitutes taken off the streets in nationwide crackdown, FBI says
By Jeff Black
A three-day sweep by police agencies across the country has led to the removal of 79 teenagers from a life of prostitution and the arrest of more than a hundred pimps, the FBI reported on Tuesday .
Hundreds of FBI agents and thousands of state and local law-enforcement officers targeted the Internet as well as such places as truck stops, casinos and "tracks" where prostitutes are known to walk the street in the crackdown.
The teenagers -- 77 girls and two boys -- ranged in age from 13 to 17. They are being held in custody until they could be placed with child welfare organizations, Reuters reported.
The FBI said 104 suspected pimps were arrested during sting operations in 57 U.S. cities including Atlanta, Sacramento, and Toledo, Ohio.
It was the sixth nationwide sweep -- called Operation Cross Country -- organized as part of the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative to address the growing problem of child sex trafficking in the United States.
Information gleaned from those arrested often uncovers organized prostitution rings, the FBI said.
"It is clear that child prostitution and sex trafficking do not just occur somewhere else on the other side of the world," Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a partner in the effort, said in a news release. "These insidious crimes are occurring in American cities and the victims are American kids."
The average age of a child targeted for prostitution in the United States is between 11 and 14 years old, FBI assistant director Kevin L. Perkins told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.
The youngest victim ever recovered through Innocence Lost was 9, FBI spokesman Jason Pack told msnbc.com.
Since 2003, Innocence Lost task forces and work groups have taken more than 2,200 children off the streets, leading to 1,017 convictions, the FBI said.
Perhaps the highest profile case was the 2005 "Precious Cargo" investigation that targeted pimps involved in sex trafficking of children and female adults at trucks stops in Harrisburg, Pa. More than 150 victims were identified, 45 of whom had been identified as being exploited as children. In all, 18 people were indicted on federal crimes in that investigation. The ring leaders, Terrance Williams, aka "Sleazy T," and Eric Kays, aka "International Ross," were both sent to prison for more than 35 years.
People can report suspected sexual exploitation of children at cybertipline.com, or call 1-800-843-5678.
Judge upholds Indiana Facebook ban for sex offenders
A national civil rights group said Sunday it would appeal a federal judge's decision to uphold an Indiana law that bans registered sex offenders from accessing Facebook and other social networking sites used by children.
On Friday, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said in an 18-page order that the state has a strong interest in protecting children and that the rest of the Internet remains open to those who have been convicted.
"Social networking, chat rooms, and instant messaging programs have effectively created a 'virtual playground' for sexual predators to lurk," Pratt wrote in the ruling, citing a 2006 report by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that found that one in seven youths had received online sexual solicitations and one in three had been exposed to unwanted sexual material online.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the class-action suit on behalf of a man who served three years for child exploitation, along with other sex offenders who are restricted by the ban even though they are no longer on probation. Federal judges have barred similar laws in Nebraska and Louisiana.
"We will be appealing," ACLU legal director Ken Falk said in an email Sunday to The Associated Press. Appeals from federal courts in Indiana go to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Courts have long allowed states to place restrictions on convicted sex offenders who have completed their sentences, controlling where many live and work and requiring them to register with police. But the ACLU claimed that that Indiana's social networking ban was far broader, restricting a wide swath of constitutionally protected activities.
The ACLU contended that even though the 2008 law is only intended to protect children from online sexual predators, social media are virtually indispensable and the ban prevents sex offenders from using the websites for political, business and religious activities.
But Pratt found that the ban is limited only to social networking sites that allow access by children, and that such sites aren't the only forms of communication on the Internet.
"The Court readily concedes that social networking is a prominent feature of modern-day society; however, communication does not begin with a 'Facebook wall post' and end with a '140-character Tweet,' " she wrote.
Though the law doesn't list which websites are banned, court filings have indicated the law covers Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google Plus, chat rooms and instant messaging services. Earlier filings indicated LinkedIn was also covered by the ban, but Pratt's ruling said it wasn't because children under 18 can't sign up for it.
"It is a very well-reasoned opinion and the Indiana statute has certainly attempted to be specific," said Ruthann Robson, a professor of constitutional law at the City University of New York. But she faulted the judge and the law for treating all sex offenders as if they were likely to commit another offense.
"A better statute might provide for some sort of individualized determination rather than a blanket prohibition," she said.
Social networking bans have been struck down in two other states.
In February, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson found that Louisiana's prohibition was too broad and "unreasonably restricts many ordinary activities that have become important to everyday life."
Pratt said Indiana's ban wasn't as broad the overturned Louisiana ban.
Louisiana lawmakers passed a new law last month that more narrowly defines which sites are prohibited. News and government sites, email services and online shopping are excluded from the new rules, as are photo-sharing and instant messaging systems. The measure takes effect Aug. 1.
In Nebraska, a federal judge in 2009 blocked part of a law that included a social networking ban. A second legal challenge by an Omaha-area sex offender is set for trial in July.
Scandal of instructors having sex with trainees rocks Air Force base
By Paul J. Weber
SAN ANTONIO — From a chapel pulpit at Lackland Air Force Base, where every American airman reports for basic training, Col. Glenn Palmer delivered his first order to nearly 600 recruits seated in the pews: If you are sexually harassed or assaulted, tell someone.
“My job is to give you a safe, effective training environment,” Col. Palmer said firmly.
What the colonel did not mention directly was a widening sex scandal that has rocked the base, one of the nation's busiest military training centers. Reports that male instructors had sex with, and in one case raped, female trainees have led to criminal charges against four men. Charges against others are possible.
The most serious accusations surround an Air Force staff sergeant scheduled to face a court-martial in July on charges that include rape and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault. The other three defendants were charged with lesser crimes ranging from sexual misconduct to adultery.
All of the defendants were assigned to turn raw recruits into airmen in eight weeks of basic training.
A two-star general is now investigating alongside a separate criminal probe, which military prosecutors say could sweep up more airmen. Advocates for female service members and members of Congress have started taking notice.
“It's a pretty big scandal the Air Force is having to deal with at this point,” said Greg Jacob , a former Marine infantry officer and policy director of the Service Women's Action Network.
Yet there are signs the Air Force still doesn't have a handle on the full depth of the problem. Staff Sgt. Peter Vega-Maldonado pleaded guilty earlier this month to having sex with a female trainee and struck a plea deal for 90 days' confinement. Then he acknowledged being involved with a total of 10 trainees a number previously unknown to investigators.
On Friday, after months of embarrassing disclosures, the head of the Air Force 's training command ordered Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward to lead an independent investigation. That same day, the Air Force gave reporters rare access to Lackland's instructional headquarters in an effort to show there was nothing to hide.
Lackland has about 475 instructors for the nearly 36,000 airman who will graduate this year. That's about 85 percent of what Lackland would consider a full roster of instructors, a demanding job that requires airmen to work longer hours than most for four years, at the expense of family and personal time.
Col. Palmer said that the slight shortage in instructors has not lowered the standards for applicants. In response to the charges, he said instructor training is being revamped and that he was accountable for problems within the training wing.
Leaders of the instructor program, however, said the responsibility falls on the accused.
“A person sitting in that seat, they're going to do what they're going to do when no one is watching,” said Master Sgt. Greg Pendleton, who oversees the training. “That's across the board. That's just them.”
So widespread is the fallout that Lackland halted operations for an entire day in March to survey about 5,900 trainees about whether they had seen or been a victim of sexual misconduct.
Nearly three dozen instructors at Lackland also have been removed in the past year, but the Air Force will not say how many lost their jobs as a result of the investigation that began last fall, only that the majority of dismissals were unrelated.
Ex-ESPN personality: I was molested as a child
By Mike Foss
Former ESPN personality Dana Jacobson has spoken out about a personal experience with child abuse.
Drawing strength from the testimony of the witnesses in the Jerry Sandusky abuse case, Jacobson shared her story of being violated by a male babysitter on her blog this morning:
Like the young men who bravely took the stand in the Sandusky trial, I was molested as a child. That's still not easy for me to say, let alone write and share publicly, but if we've learned anything from the Sandusky scandal it's that the time for silence is over. As I heard one Sandusky victim put it, it's time to "find my voice."
It was something I couldn't do when I was molested. I didn't speak out, no matter how many chances I may have had. I just couldn't. Travis Weaver, one of the young men who testified in front of the grand jury in the Sandusky case but not at trial did an interview which aired on Rock Center last week. He said he was scared to say anything because he thought no one would believe him. I know that feeling.
That's what these monsters count on, our silence. They have the power and they know it.
Jacobson went on to write this is the first time she has publicly spoken about these tragic events of her youth. However, she recounts telling her family:
I eventually had to tell my parents and my brother what had happened. It wasn't just to take the shame or embarrassment away, there was more to it.
Jacobson's full story can be read here.
Mom who had sex with son gets under 5 years in prison, but claims ‘genetic attraction,' not incest
More than just friends: Mistie Rebecca Atkinson, 32, and her estranged son, then 16 years old, were reunited last year, when she tracked him down on Facebook. Police arrested Atkinson when they found the pair in a hotel room in April.
By Rheana Murray
The California mom who slept with her estranged teen son says she didn't commit incest - it was "genetic attraction."
Mistie Rebecca Atkinson, 32, was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison on Wednesday in Napa County Superior Court, according to the Napa Valley Register.
In May, Atkinson, of Lake County, Calif., pleaded no contest to incest, oral copulation, lewd contact with a minor and distribution of lewd material to a minor, the newspaper reports.
But in a letter to the court, Atkinson said she doesn't consider what she did as incest.
"I don't feel like I should have the charge of incest because there is something called genetic attraction that is a very powerful (phenomenon) that happens to 50 (percent) of people becoming reunited with a long-lost relative," she wrote.
Atkinson, who had been estranged from her son nearly his entire life, was reunited with the teen last year, when she tracked him down on Facebook, a law enforcement source told the Daily News.
She reportedly sent her then 16-year-old son multiple inappropriate messages and nude photos.
Police arrested Atkinson, when they found the pair in a hotel room in April, after the boy's family learned about the relationship and contacted authorities.
Last month, ABC's "Good Morning America" ran a segment about genetic sexual attraction (GSA), the alleged phenomenon Atkinson may have been referencing in her note.
While little research has been done on the theory, some psychologists say that biological family members who are separated for long periods of time risk becoming sexually attracted to each other when they reunite.
Experts say 32-pound, 10-year-old Missouri girl faces long recovery
By Maria Sudekum
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A severely malnourished 10-year-old Kansas City girl who was found locked in a closet remained hospitalized Monday and likely faces an extended recovery after an initial "failure to thrive" diagnosis, experts said.
Police found the 32-pound girl Friday after responding to a call from a child abuse hotline. She was taken to Children's Mercy Hospital on Friday and remained there Monday, said Mike Mansur, spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor's office. He said the child's condition hasn't been released.
"The next few months of her life are going to be pretty critical to her recovery," said Ann Thomas, a vice president at The Children's Place, a Kansas City nonprofit that is not involved in this case but treats young children who have experienced trauma.
The child's 29-year-old mother appeared in Jackson County court Monday. She was shackled at the wrists and quietly listened as a judge read the felony charges against her - assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. The judge also entered a not guilty plea for the woman, who was ordered held on $200,000 cash bond. She requested a public defender for her next court appearance, scheduled for July 12.
The Associated Press is not naming the mother to protect the child's identity. The mother's two other children, ages 2 and 8, have also been placed in protective custody, Mansur said. Police also questioned the mother's boyfriend, but he has not been charged. Mansur said the investigation is ongoing.
A probable cause statement police filed Saturday when the mother was charged said she told police she didn't let the girl leave the house because the child is malnourished and she would "get in trouble if someone saw her."
Hospital personnel who saw the child Friday said she had been at the hospital in January 2006 for an unspecified visit and weighed 26 pounds then, according to the probable cause statement. They also told police the 10-year-old wears a 2T, or toddler size, T-shirt, and that the "current diagnosis is multiple healing skin injuries and failure to thrive."
Andre Riley, spokesman for Kansas City Public Schools, said Monday the child was enrolled as a kindergartner at Woodland Elementary School in 2006 and attended until April 2007.
"That's the last record we have of her," Riley said, adding that he couldn't comment further about the child's attendance record, whether school officials had raised concerns or where she might have attended school after spring 2007.
Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services, said in an email that the department could not comment on this specific case, but that DSS "strongly encourages anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect" to call the 24-hour hotline.
Dr. Doug Carlson, professor of pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis and director of hospital medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital, said doctors are likely checking the child for various ailments, such as intestinal problems, that could have contributed to the diagnosis.
He said, however, a 6-pound weight gain should have pushed a parent to seek medical attention.
"There's no question that based on this child's size that a reasonable parent would have sought medical care," Carlson said.
It's unclear how much time the child, who turns 11 this summer, spent in the closet. In the probable cause statement, the child told police that her mother put her in the closet "a lot." She also said that she wasn't allowed to play outside when she was at home like her sisters, but could go to "the playground and park while she was at school."
The mother told police that she puts the 10-year-old in the closet when she leaves the house, securing the door with shoelaces and blocking it with a crib, according to the probable cause statement. She said she did that because her daughter had once gotten out and "eaten until her stomach got big and full."
Thomas said recovery would likely depend on what the 10-year-old's home life was actually like and how she perceived it.
"She's going to need people around her to help her begin to make sense of what's going on," Thomas said.
How To Protect Children and Adolescents from Sexual Abuse
by Larry Magid
The conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual abuse of children has, once again, put child sex abuse on the front page.
Like the vast majority of child sex abuse cases, Sandusky's crimes took place in the physical world — they were not Internet related. And, while parents do need to remind children about the potential dangers of talking about sex with strangers online, the fact is that in most cases, the victims and perpetrator have met each other prior to the start of the abuses. Like Sandusky — it's not uncommon for the abuser to be someone in a position of trust and authority. That's one of the reasons why child safety experts educate children not so much about dangerous types of people, but dangerous types of behavior.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has numerous online resources for parents including a Child Safety FAQ that advises parents to educate children to “Say no if someone tries to touch you, or treats you in a way that makes you feel sad, scared, or confused” and to “get out of the situation as quickly as possible.” Kids are also advised to “tell a parent, guardian, or trusted adult if you feel sad, scared, or confused.”
“Stranger Danger” is a myth
NCMEC also reminds parents that “stranger danger” is largely a myth: “In the majority of cases the perpetrator is someone the parents or child knows, and that person may be in a position of trust or responsibility to the child and family.” The organization suggests that “It is much more beneficial to children to help them build the confidence and self-esteem they need to stay as safe as possible in any potentially dangerous situation they encounter rather than teaching them to be ‘on the look out' for a particular type of person.” ( I serve as an unpaid member of NCMEC's board of directors).
Stop It Now! has a web page with warning signs of possible sexual abuse in children and adolescents and although one sign doesn't necessarily mean that a child is sexually abused, “the presence of several suggests that you begin asking questions and consider seeking help.”
Some of the warning signs, says the organization include unexplained nightmares or other sleep problems, a child who is distracted or distant at odd times and a child with changes in eating habits. The organiation also warns parents and caregivers to watch out for “sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or withdrawal” or if a child ‘develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places.”
For Internet related safety advice, see ConnectSafely.org, where I serve as co-director, or my other site, SafeKids.com.
By sharing abuse trauma, Jerry Sandusky's victims begin healing process
State College - Centre Daily Times
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The young men who were abused by Jerry Sandusky were clear on the stand that it took time to open up to police investigating the former coach of sexually abusing young boys.
“I was basically real hesitant — didn't tell them much of anything,” the 28-year-old known as victim 4 told the jury about the first time police came to his door.
“I don't even want to be involved now to be honest.”
In the end, though, the jury found Sandusky guilty of all the counts related to victim 4. And after the 45th and final “guilty” was read off, the jury had sent a strong signal.
By convicting Sandusky of almost all of the most serious charges and all 10 counts each of corruption of minors, child endangerment, and unlawful contact with minors, the jury composed of 12 county residents showed it believed each account of the young men who testified.
And that, advocates say, is an important part — albeit one of many — that goes into survivors' healing.
“They are going to try to resume their lives,” said Justine Andronici, an attorney who represented two of the young men and who also works as a victim advocate for the Centre County Women's Resource Center. “And they are going to move forward having the knowledge that they had the strength to speak up — speak up for themselves and speak up for other victims.”
For some, they'd been scared to come forward, or humiliated. Others were rebuffed by kids their age.
Victim 4 testified he thought he was cool because he got to hang out with Penn State football players and go to football games. But his classmates took notice of
his close relationship with Sandusky and teased him. Victim 1, an 18-year-old in Clinton County, said he was bullied in school after the charges became public along with his identity in his community, and he withdrew from his school.
“Survivors spend most of their lives convinced that they can't come forward and won't be believed if they do,” said Chris Anderson, the executive director of MaleSurvivor, an advocacy organization for abuse victims. “The jury's decision, given such a short time after closing arguments, sent a powerful statement to the victims that they were heard and believed.”
Their testimony was graphic. The prosecution bookended its case with two powerful witnesses. First was victim 4, who testified that Sandusky subjected him to years of abuse but also gifts that made him not want to give up the good things Sandusky did for him.
The last victim to testify was victim 9, an 18-year-old from Mifflin County who told of being sodomized by Sandusky. His mom testified she couldn't bear to find out what Sandusky did to her son, but she kind of hinted at her suspicions, saying she wondered why her son's underwear was not in the laundry.
“I hope they feel a sense of collective hugging, a collective comfort of that belief that we have,” said Andrea Boyles, the CEO of the Centre County Youth Service Bureau. “I hope they feel that and know that, and can kind of have some respite in that and get started in their own journey.”
Debra Kittle Greenleaf, the assistant executive director of the Centre County Women's Resource Center, said the guilty verdict sends a message to those victims who have never been able to disclose their abuse.
“I think that, a lot of times, people feel they're so alone,” Kettle Greenleaf said. “They haven't told anybody, and feel that people wouldn't understand or that people wouldn't believe you. So it feels like a really big risk.”
One man, Travis Weaver, did a TV interview during the trial in which he told of being abused by Sandusky. Prior to that, he had filed a civil suit in Philadelphia under the name John Doe.
Sandusky's youngest adopted son also came forward during the trial, announcing through his attorneys that he had been abused by Jerry Sandusky.
Anderson, of MaleSurvivor, said it's easy to understate the importance of the jury's believing the Sandusky victims. He said it signals a turning point in current culture, given how the case generated so much publicity and had national news media parked outside the courthouse for two weeks while the trial went on.
“Survivors all over the country will feel more empowered to come forward. Prosecutors will be more willing to bring abuse cases that they might have shied away from in the past,” Anderson said. “And people in general will be far more willing to confront the ugly truth that abuse is far more widespread than we had wished to believe because we now know that it is possible to do something about it.”
In the local community, the support efforts include an initiative started by Penn State students for a class project. They encouraged people to show their support to the victims by writing letters the group would pass on to the young men's attorneys. The student behind it, Matt Bodenschatz, is a survivor of abuse, but he never was able to confront the abuser in court.
“Those young men are the heroes here,” said Bodenschatz, who attended the trial. “This was about eight remarkable men taking the stand against a sick, obvious serial abuser.”
Kristen Houser, a vice president and spokeswoman with the advocacy group Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said a key to healing is the support of friends and family.
“People need folks around them who are safe to talk to, people they can confide in,” Houser said.
It's not always easy, though, as survivors break off relationships with people who don't offer them support.
Along the way, though, survivors are able to see it as something that doesn't define them.
“People come to a place where managing the abuse is no longer the focal point — it's just part of the life story,” Houser said. That's where Paul Treml, 54, is.
Treml was abused as a teenager in suburban Philadelphia by a local recreation and park director who also coached him in youth basketball. The abuser, well known in the community, started with horsing around and progressed to more full-on sexual assault.
It took a heart-to-heart with his wife 21 years later about the future of their relationship when she asked him if he had been abused.
He said yes, and then went to the township where he grew up to report the abuse.
That's when he started to heal. A few years ago, Treml found out the township was going to dedicate a park in the abuser's name, and that's when he really spoke out, attending a township meeting. The township launched an evaluation.
“It gets you to a better place where you can become a healthier individual,” said Treml, of Murrysville, Westmoreland County.
As Treml and his wife sat watching the Sandusky verdict reaction on TV Friday night, he told her, “I feel like my abuser just got convicted.”
While the hundreds of people who gathered on the lawn of the Centre County Courthouse late Friday night cheered after hearing the verdict, a more somber scene played out inside the courtroom.
Arms around each other, their heads down, a mother and her two adult daughters consoled their loved one, the 25-year-old man known as victim 6. In 1998, as an 11-year-old, he went with Sandusky for a workout but ended up in a shower with the man.
At the time, the boy was irked enough that he told his mom if she wondered why his hair was wet, it was because Sandusky showered with him. Alarmed, the mother called police, who set up a sting and got Sandusky on tape saying he wished he were dead after being confronted. But the case was never prosecuted.
On Friday, his mother's words only hinted at her emotion:
“Nobody wins. We've all lost,” she said.
She turned back to her son, for another embrace as though he were still 11.
“I cannot imagine what (the verdict) meant in terms of finally getting support, validation, and protection from your community,” said Houser, of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. “That is 14 years overdue.”
Survivors of Sexual Abuse Prevail in Pennsylvania: The Lynn and Sandusky Cases Show Us What Justice Looks Like
Remember this date: June 22, 2012. That was the day that Msgr. William Lynn and Jerry Sandusky were each taken from their separate courtrooms in Pennsylvania and escorted to jail, after each had been convicted by a jury of his peers of committing crimes against children. That is justice.
Jerry Sandusky: Convicted on 45 out of 48 Counts
Sandusky is the classic enterprising predator, who created opportunities for himself to “help” children in need so that he could groom them to need and trust him, and then eventually sexually assault them. Sandusky started the Second Mile charity for troubled children, and then handpicked the most vulnerable boys from the charity and brought them into his web of football camps, and his home, which was filled with children coming and going. He dazzled them with a front seat experience of Penn State football; with trips to Bowl games; with hobnobbing with Penn State coaches and players; with money, athletic shoes and equipment; and with what these boys needed most of all: attention.
Sandusky brought these boys into this hypercharged masculine universe and then coerced them into sex acts. As Victim 4 explained on the stand, Sandusky boxed him in. With all the perks Sandusky delivered, the boy was cool and was envied by the other boys for his special status in the Sandusky and Penn State football galaxy. When other kids teased him about being Sandusky's “butt boy,” as jealous kids will do, of course he felt he had to deny it. In the course of the trial, one man after another described what it was like to be a boy who finally had received what he needed, only to be ensnared in Sandusky's sexual compulsion.
Sandusky was tried by state prosecutors in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, for the sexual abuse of ten children, with eight of them, adults now, taking the stand. Including jury deliberations, the trial lasted a mere two weeks, and resulted in the reading in open court of 48 sex abuse charges, with the jury pronouncing him “Guilty” on 45 of those charges.
Sandusky was led off to jail. That is justice.
Msgr. William Lynn: Convicted on 1 of 3 Counts
On the very same day the Sandusky verdict was read, the beleaguered jury in the trial of Msgr. William Lynn finally emerged—after 11 weeks of testimony and 12 ½ days of deliberations—to convict Lynn on a charge of the endangerment of children.
This was the first time anyone in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church had been criminally convicted for the role he played in the corrupt system that has covered up the sexual abuse of children around the globe. It took ten years—from the convening of the first grand jury to today—for prosecutors to fully examine how the Philadelphia Archdiocese had handled child predators among the clergy, but it was a busy ten years for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Their yeoman's labors paid off in true justice, with Lynn being taken directly from the courtroom to jail.
The jury struggled with a conspiracy charge, partly because of the confusing instructions they received. There is also good reason to question the jury's banker's schedule in this case. The Sandusky jury deliberated for twenty hours in just two days. In contrast, there were weeks when the Lynn jury barely cracked 20 hours of deliberations.
The subject of the endangerment charge on which Lynn was convicted was Fr. Edward Avery, who pled guilty to sexual assault of a boy and criminal conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child. Avery admitted the assault and testified that Lynn knew that Avery had abused children before, but still put Avery in the ministry, with access to children. The jury did not know of Avery's plea, but when that plea is added to Lynn's conviction, we have a fog-free picture of sex abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese: A priest would abuse a child; the Archdiocese would learn about it; and its Vicar for Clergy, who in this case was William Lynn, would then place the abusing priest in a new position, with access to a new crop of children.
(On an additional sidenote, the trial also involved charges against Fr. Brennan, on which the jury deadlocked. I would expect prosecutors to retry him.)
But, in the end, Avery's plea and the charges against Brennan are mere footnotes to the guilty verdict against Lynn. The key point here is that the shame and humiliation of the victims has now been successfully transferred to the predators and the Archdiocese. That is justice.
Meanwhile, Victims Also Triumphed in the Pennsylvania (and New Jersey) Legislatures
While we were treated to the vindication of the truth and justice in these two Pennsylvania courtrooms last week, state legislatures also moved to create more opportunities for justice regarding child sex abuse.
For instance, in a move many expected would occur only after the Apocalypse, Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Lower Paxton Twp.) permitted a bill enlarging Pennsylvania's statutes of limitations for child sex abuse to leave his House Judiciary Committee. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has demonically opposed the bill. It would have created a window for the thousands—if not millions—of child- sex-abuse survivors in Pennsylvania who have been shut out of court by Pennsylvania's historically short statutes of limitations (SOL).
Marsico did not have the courage to back that bill, but he did let out a new bill that would eliminate the criminal SOL and extend the civil SOL to the time when the abuse survivor reaches age 50. The Catholic Conference predictably opposes these bills, too, but Marsico has been subjected to advertisements castigating him for abandoning the protection of children, and he plainly has felt the heat. The new bill is a great step forward, but it still leaves the vast majority of Pennsylvania victims without any chance at justice.
The reality of where survivors stand in Pennsylvania and the reasons why they need a window were illustrated in the Lynn trial. Only two survivors fell within the current statute of limitations, but that was enough to get the criminal trial rolling. Judge Teresa Sarmina permitted evidence of the abuse of 22 other victims as part of the case against Lynn on conspiracy. Two in, 22 out. That is a snapshot of the situation in Pennsylvania right now.
Meanwhile, New Jersey is racing ahead of its neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New York (where Governor Cuomo and the Senate continue to favor the needs of the predators over the children) in its press for justice. On Thursday, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee followed the step the New Jersey House Judiciary Committee had taken the week before: It voted out of committee the most progressive SOL reform in the country, a bill that wipes out the civil SOL for child-sex-abuse victims both forward and backward, prospectively and retrospectively. Now, that is justice! The bill could go to a floor vote this week in both Houses. If passed, this bill will put New Jersey in the vanguard of states on the protection of children.
On June 22, 2012, juries sent Sandusky and Lynn to jail. On June 22, 2012, the tide shifted decisively in favor of child-sex-abuse survivors. On June 22, 2012, justice was served.
Marci A. Hamilton is a professor of law at Cardozo School of Law, and the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children, which was just published in paperback with a new Preface. Her email address is Hamilton02@aol.com
Curb sex trafficking by targeting demand, congresswomen told
by Sonali Kohli
WASHINGTON -- After a while, it became routine.
Police would arrest Traci Flowers-Ned for prostitution, in city after city, and send her clients home, warning them not to come back.
Flowers-Ned, now a clinician at a San Francisco organization that helps victims of sex trafficking, shared her own history as a trafficking victim at a Capitol Hill briefing on Wednesday.
"If there's a way to stop these men from wanting to purchase individuals, that's what I want," Flowers-Ned told about 70 people invited to the briefing by Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle of Onondaga and Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan. "I want you to see me as a human being, not as a product."
Buerkle and Maloney held the briefing, called Eliminate the Demand for Purchased Sex, to educate the public on the need for better tactics to combat human trafficking. They co-chair the Human Trafficking Task Force on the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues.
"Really the emphasis need to be placed on buyers," Buerkle said. "If you decrease the demand, there will be no reason for a supply."
Flowers-Ned, 43, said her years as a trafficking victim taught her that police typically followed a double standard aimed at "getting the bad girls off the street" and helping the men who pay to have sex with them avoid trouble.
Flowers-Ned said she faced sexual exploitation starting when she was three years old in San Francisco, where she recalled it was common for women in her family to be used sexually. She said a close family member first exploited her for trafficking. The exploitation continued in the late 1980s and early 90s.
"Many times ... it's normal for abuse to be happening within families," Flowers-Ned said. "Exploitation is a part of that."
Two women in Rochester were charged in May with trafficking two teenage girls, one 14 and the other 17. Their trial is next month.
Sex trafficking is defined as coercing people, including children, into sex, usually to make money.
Many cases are hard to prosecute, Paul Almanza, national coordinator for child exploitation prevention and interdiction in the Justice Department, said during Thursday's briefing. That's because trafficking victims often are reluctant to testify against their pimps, who use a variety of means -- including drugs and emotional and physical abuse -- to control them.
Prosecuting child trafficking also is difficult because the law requires proof of knowledge and intent to have sex with a child.
Denver police Sgt. Dan Steele said in his city and other places, including Sweden, police focus on arresting prostitution clients rather than the prostitutes.
In Sweden, buying sex is illegal, but selling it is not, Steele said. Swedish officials also send notices of fines home to offenders, who risk having their families learn of their crime, he said.
A number of "John Schools" around the country let some qualifying offenders avoid criminal charges by taking a day-long class that brings them face to face with former prostitutes. Flowers-Ned said she speaks to offenders in San Francisco's program.
Offenders are also required to pay for the program. That money pays for counseling and aid for sex trafficking victims, Flowers-Ned said.
King's County offers Project Respect, a five-hour seminar in which offenders hear from a psychologist, police, health officials and others in the community, according to the Brooklyn district attorney's website.
"It's often difficult for a survivor to get up and talk in front of 60 or 80 johns," Flowers-Ned said. There are a lot of scars."
Dayton groups fight sex trafficking
Bill would offer support system that area groups already provide.
by Emily Study
A recently passed bill in the Ohio legislature will offer more protection to sex trafficking victims, but Dayton organizations have already been working together to create a support system for these victims.
“I'm excited about the future of Dayton because all of us are committed to the same cause,” said Adam Young, co-director and co-founder of the Love 146 Dayton Task Force, which is a chapter of its national organization and is committed to ending child sex slavery and exploitation.
“We all have our own interests, but we want to reach beyond those interests. We want to slave-proof the community.”
Some of Dayton's other anti-trafficking organizations include Oasis House, Men of Action, Abolition Ohio and the Dayton ongoing outreach project of the S.O.A.P.— Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution — organization.
“We all know that it is almost exclusively men who are the purchasers of sex slaves. But if you get men more involved in these organizations, then you change their tolerance for the abuse of women and children,” said Anthony Talbott, co-founder of Abolition Ohio.
Similarly, the new organization, Men of Action—a partner of the Love 146 Dayton Task Force—tries to take a proactive role in combatting sex trafficking.
Founded in February by Todd Circele and Jeremy Schulz, Men of Action is committed to “changing the hearts of men to look at the sex industry differently,” said Circele.
The group also participates in the S.O.A.P. organization, which is an outreach that distributes bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number attached to them. These bars of soap are given to motel owners with the hope that if a woman were being trafficked, she would be able to call for help.
Why a bar of soap?
“The bathroom is the only place where these girls are allowed to be alone,” said Theresa Flores, former sex trafficking victim and founder of the S.O.A.P. organization.
Flores said she is certain that had she seen a bar of soap with the trafficking hotline number on it, she would have called it. “I would have at least had someone to talk to,” she said.
Men of Action has been working closely with Oasis House, which provides direct support and services to women involved in the sex industry in Dayton, including those who have been trafficked.
Together, Oasis House and Men of Action recently acquired a building from the Southwest Ohio Church of the Nazarene to use as a safe house for women seeking shelter through Oasis House. It will house eight to 10 women.
“This will be such a blessing, because every day we turn away somebody who wants and needs a place to live,” said Cheryl Oliver, executive director of Oasis House.
While the safe house will provide physical safety and support for sex trafficking victims, Oasis House has been providing emotional support for victims since its founding in 2004.
After years of being raped and trafficked as a child by her father and several foster parents, a 42-year-old Dayton woman who identifies herself as “DJ” went to Oasis House for support.
“I felt like I could take that whole load off and tell them anything I needed to,” DJ said.
“The thing that's missing in these women's lives is supportive services,” said Oliver. “We are here to pick them up, dust them off and help them get on with their lives.”
Among the supportive services Oasis House offers are professional counseling, psychiatric care, GED tutoring, self-empowerment classes and a mentoring program.
These services help sex trafficking victims deal with the type of abuse and neglect many of them have been experiencing their whole lives.
“Everyone who was supposed to protect me as a child didn't,” DJ said. “I grew up thinking there was nobody there for me.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline number is 1-888-3737-888.
Child molestation is on the wane.
by E.J. Graff
We're all horrified by the recent accounts of child sexual abuse—from the conviction of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky to stories about serial abusers at the elite New York prep school Horace Mann. So it may help to keep in mind this rarely reported fact: child sexual abuse has been dropping for the last 20 years. University of New Hampshire professor David Finkelhor, widely considered the premier researcher on crimes against children, reports that substantiated cases of child sexual abuse have declined 53 percent since 1990. Numbers are still obscenely high: Finkelhor finds that 21 percent of all girls and at least 3 (but more likely 10) percent of boys are sexually victimized by age 17. But it used to be worse.
Finkelhor believes the drop isn't primarily because of stricter laws and harsher punishments. Rather, he points to increased awareness and better offender treatment.
With each scandal, more Americans have realized how serious the problem is. Churches, teams, and schools all now specify the rules of engagement for adults and children. We're alert to the signs of abuse and know to report them immediately. We've learned that the stigma should be on the offender, not the victim, and that offenders can appear to be upstanding fathers, priests, and teachers. And so abusers are stopped earlier—and more children are saved from the cycle of shame, reducing the risk they'll become abusers themselves.
All that awareness has a second benefit: catching offenders sooner means they can be helped more effectively. Finkelhor notes that the drop in child sexual offenses began in 1990, just as SSRI antidepressants came on the market. SSRIs, of course, are widely known to inhibit sexual impulses. Could Prozac be bringing down child sexual abuse more effectively than Megan's Law? Finkelhor thinks so. And SSRIs are only the beginning. Researchers have identified effective treatment and therapies for teenagers who act in sexually predatory ways, helping them change their behavior before they become lifelong offenders.
Megan's Laws and offender-free zones, on the other hand, can create a false sense of security. Most such laws target “stranger danger,” even though molesters are usually relatives, friends, and trusted figures.
Esta Soler, founder of Futures Without Violence, also wants a greater focus on treatment. “I've had many conversations with legislators who want to enhance penalties. It's harder for them to get their heads around programs that actually interrupt the behaviors. But now that we have programs that appear to be working, we should support them.”
The publicity around Sandusky and Horace Mann probably will protect children—by alerting still more people to watch for abuse. The more often someone blows the whistle, the more children are kept safe. And the more likely that the offender will get help. Because the stranger is rarely the danger. It's the depressed, impulsive uncle or teenager or dad next door.