Awareness is our best defense against pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky
by Jerome Elam
DALLAS , June 21, 2012 – Imagine for a moment that through some cruel twist of fate Jerry Sandusky is freed from prison by an unforeseen legal technicality. Then imagine that he shows up living in the house next door to you. I have no doubt that after the initial shock subsided swift and decisive action would follow. The community would rally and protests would ensue and his every action would be scrutinized.
Meetings would be held during which every law regarding pedophiles and every bit of information regarding the signs of child sex abuse would be discussed. Experts would be brought in to educate the community, and the determination of every citizen would be unshakeable until the most notorious threat to children's innocence was back in prison or relocated where he could not harm another child.
For the sake of argument, let's add another twist to our story. What if Jerry Sandusky lived next door to you and victim number one had never come forward? There would be no knowledge of any of the forty-five counts of child abuse that a jury of his peers convicted him of. He would appear to be this well-known and respected figure that for all appearances is someone you would invite over for a Sunday barbecue.
Sandusky would take an immediate interest in your children and buy them gifts and soon he would be known as “Uncle Jerry.” It would be too late to stop the catastrophe that his now well-known victims suffered.
As a survivor of child sex abuse I will tell you that the story of Jerry Sandusky's victims has played out many times all over the world and continues to play out as you read this article.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are currently 500,000-registered sex offenders in the United States and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. These are just the ones that we know about, and as the events at Penn State have unfolded, we have seen how these individuals can find sanctuary in a place where a child's innocence is stripped of its value.
Jerry Sandusky is but one head of the Hydra, a multi-headed snake-like creature in Greek mythology who, when one head was cut off, grew two back in its place. The problem of pedophilia is real, and the danger we face now is the slow lapse back into complacency as Sandusky rots in a jail cell for the rest of his life.
The Hydra was defeated by Heracles but only with the help of his nephew Iolaus. As each head was severed the pair worked together using a torch to cauterize the neck preventing the emergence of additional hideous heads.
The lesson we need to learn from this ancient Greek myth is that we can defeat those who threaten the most valuable treasure we have as they attempt to slither into their lives. To accomplish this we have to work together as a society to stop the next pedophile at the shower room door. We have the tools right in front of us to end child abuse in our lifetime and the first and most important of those is education.
The thought of our children incapacitated and their lives slipping away drives us to learn these lifesaving techniques. The memory of my childhood innocence is a whisper beneath the screams of my five-year-old self as the memories of my vandalized childhood echo in the recesses of my mind. I will never know the joy of being a carefree child lying in a field watching clouds as I imagine figures in their gentle shapes.
What I can do is fight until my dying breath so that every child can experience this and stop the tragedy of another vandalized childhood
According to Ryan C. W. Hall, MD in the publication, “A Profile of Pedophilia,” 40% of pedophiles had already molested a child by the time they were fifteen years old. The study goes on to state, “Generally, pedophiles do not use force to have children engage in these activities but instead rely on various forms of psychic manipulation and desensitization (e.g., progression from innocuous touching to inappropriate touching, showing pornography to children).”
They also echo a fact made clear with the conviction of Jerry Sandusky. Pedophiles rarely if ever admit their guilt under any circumstances including a conviction for child molestation.
According to the study: “When confronted about engaging in such activities, pedophiles commonly justify and minimize their actions by stating that the acts “had educational value,” that the child derived pleasure from the acts or attention, or that the child was provocative and encouraged the acts in some way.”
Welcome to the mind of Jerry Sandusky where his acts are justified by a twisted sense of reality that all pedophiles share. The study also found, “It is unknown how many individuals have pedophilic fantasies and never act on them or who do act but are never caught.”
An estimated 1 in 20 cases of child sexual abuse is reported or identified. Two Canadian studies, which randomly sampled 750 women and 750 men between the ages of 18 and 27 years, found that 32% of the women and 15.6% of the men had experienced “unwanted sexual contact” before the age of 17 years. These numbers are similar to studies in the United States that report 17% to 31% of females and 7% to 16% of males experienced unwanted sexual contact before the age of 18 years. In the Canadian studies, of those reporting unwanted sexual encounters, 21% of the females and 44% of the males experienced repetitive assaults.
During the Second World War the United States was reluctant to become involved in a conflict that would cost many American lives, but one event changed all that. Pearl Harbor awakened a “sleeping giant' as history portrays it, and put the might of America's factories and the resolve of every citizen behind the defeat of the “axis of evil.”
We now face a new evil, and the trial of Jerry Sandusky is the Pearl Harbor in that war against child abuse. It is our call to action, both survivors and the rest of society to establish a united front against the vandalizing of our children's innocence. We have to empower and educate parents and establish programs in our schools, public and private, along with our churches, youth leagues and summer camps to educate adults and children about the signs of child abuse.
Erin Merryn is a passionate and dedicated advocate for change, and a survivor of child abuse. She has worked tirelessly to promote passage of the legislation to ensure that we educate and empower parents, teachers and children through the passage of Erin's law. Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York and recently Michigan have all passed Erin's law, and we need to support passage in the remaining states. Information about Erin's law can be found at http://www.erinmerryn.net/erins-law.html. It is through efforts such as Erin's that we can truly defeat the assault on our children's innocence.
We also need to enlist the aid of those individuals whom children idolize in the sports and entertainment industries to make public service announcements about recognizing and reporting child abuse. We need to explore every avenue to arm children with the ability to trigger a chain of reporting that effectively deals with any inappropriate sexual behavior before the curtain of silence falls.
The law has to adapt to the circumstances of child abuse and the statute of limitations has to be extended. It sometimes takes decades for a victim of child abuse to be able to overcome the grip of their pain and be able to disclose what happened to them. Studies have shown that a child who is a victim of child abuse must tell an average of nine adults before they are even believed. Many just give up and suffer in silence for many years with some never finding the strength to tell.
We have learned from Penn State the harsh reality of how those who witness or have knowledge of ongoing child abuse react. The appalling conduct of Penn State officials who knew of Jerry Sandusky's molestation of young boys and chose to cover it up has shown us that people must be made responsible for their actions with regards to crimes against children.
In New York, recent legislation proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Michael Cusick and state Sen. Andrew Lanza would broaden the mandatory reporting law. Current legislation requires psychologists, physicians, day care providers, registered nurses, substance and alcohol abuse counselors, and social workers to report child abuse or be subject to civil and criminal liability. If they report an incidence of child abuse and an investigation finds no proof, the mandated reporter is given immunity under the law from any lawsuit that ensues as long as their report was done in good faith.
The new law states that if an individual witnesses a criminal act against a child as defined by the penal code and realizes that a crime is being committed, they must report what they saw or face criminal charges. The legislation is carefully worded to avoid any constitutional conflicts and is a serious attempt at enacting a revised reporting law that can withstand any legal challenges. It is unfortunate that we must compel individuals to report child abuse, but history has now taught us that the alternative is unacceptable.
In 2008 the CDC received three million reports of children being abused or neglected and 1,740 children died from abuse or neglect in that year. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010 report on child abuse, children who were younger than one year old had the greatest incidence of victimization with 79.4% of child fatalities being children younger than four years old.
We need to bring the crime of child abuse out of the shadows and shatter the silence that has imprisoned our children and sentenced them to a lifetime of pain. In 2008 the CDC estimated the lifetime cost of child abuse for victims they studied over a one year period to be $124 billion. As a society we are being bled of our most valuable resource, the innocence of a child, and we are slowly losing our grip on the future of our world.
The facts about pedophiles are alarming, and Jerry Sandusky has shown the world that a reputation and respect is no longer a bulletproof vest that can shield the evisceration of a child's innocence. The facts about sexual predators can make any parent feel as if they can trust no one around their children, and as a parent and a survivor I have felt that way at times. The reality is that we have to be educated and aware.
If we go hiking in an unfamiliar environment we research the dangers from venomous snakes, poisonous plants and dangerous wildlife. We have to take the same approach for pedophiles and make sure we know the signs of danger before it is too late.
Pedophiles are the embodiment of evil with many using respect as a disguise in order to vandalize childhoods as our untrained focus lays dormant. How do we begin to change the future for victims of child abuse?
Educate yourself as much and as often as possible and then educate others. There are many organizations that offer education and provide resources or both victims and the general public. The National Center Sexual Violence Resource Center, Dream Catchers for Abused Children, The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN, Male Survivor, and Prevent Child Abuse America are just a few who offer invaluable support and resources.
Sex assault victim faces contempt charge in naming attackers on Twitter
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A 17-year-old Kentucky girl who was upset by the plea deal reached by a pair of teenagers who sexually assaulted her is now facing a contempt charge for tweeting their names in violation of a court order.
Savannah Dietrich of Louisville told The Courier-Journal she is frustrated by what she feels is a lenient deal for her attackers. After posting the names on Twitter, Dietrich wrote, “I'm not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”
The Associated Press does not normally report the names of sexual assault victims, but Dietrich and her parents say they do not want to shield her identity, and they want her case to be public.
The boys' attorneys have asked a judge to hold Dietrich in contempt for violating the confidentiality of a hearing and the judge's order not to speak about it.
Dietrich told the paper she was assaulted in August 2011 by two boys she knew when she passed out after drinking at a gathering. She learned months later that pictures of the assault were taken and shared with others.
“For months, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn't go out in public places,” she told the newspaper, as her father and attorneys sat nearby. “You just sit there and wonder, who saw (the pictures), who knows?”
Dietrich's attorneys want her contempt hearing open to the media, arguing she has a First Amendment right to speak about her case and to a public hearing.
The boys' attorneys, however, have asked to keep the hearing closed.
The boys pleaded guilty on June 26 to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism. Dietrich says she was unaware of a plea agreement until just before it was announced in court. The teens are to be sentenced next month.
When Judge Dee McDonald admonished everyone at the hearing not to speak about what happened in court or about the crime, Dietrich said she cried.
“They got off very easy ... and they tell me to be quiet, just silencing me at the end,” she said.
The contempt charge carries a possible sentence of 180 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The Education Report: Is failure to report child abuse in schools a matter of policy?
by Katy Murphy
In a recent story, Mercury News reporters Julia Prodis Sulek and Sharon Noguchi asked why some school personnel don't report complaints of child abuse, especially when they involve a colleague. Here's the crux of their report:
"From Moraga to Palo Alto to San Jose, child sex abuse cases in schools and day care centers have surfaced alleging that school employees entrusted with the safety of students failed to do what their oaths and the law required: report to police or child protective services when they have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused.
"Child advocates blame a lack of courage and a lack of training.
"It's not so much about protecting people, but not having the leadership ability to step up," said Margaret Petros, a commissioner on the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Council. "People in general want to get along and not rock the boat.'"
Their piece followed the latest developments in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and apparent cover-up at Penn State; it also came in the wake of a series of investigative reports by Bay Area News Group staffers Matthias Gafni and Malaika Fraley that uncovered another dark story (stories, really) that happened in the 1990s at a school much closer to home, at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in Moraga. You should really read their work, if you haven't.
Today, Congressman George Miller announced he was asking the Government Accountability Office to examine the effectiveness of current laws and policies on child abuse reporting. He released the letter he had sent to the head of the agency, requesting the inquiry. It began:
"The child sexual abuse scandal at The Pennsylvania State University, other recent incidents of child abuse and findings contained within the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) prior work for the Committee on Education and the Workforce have raised a number of concerns about whether we have adequate laws and policies in place to prevent and address abuse of children in schools."
Miller wants the agency to find out the procedures in place at schools and universities and how they handle allegations that school staff engaged in child abuse, and how parents are notified when there has been such an allegation or investigation; what laws and regulations states have in place for such complaints; and what policies universities have to protect children on campus who aren't students, but who are participating in on-campus activities.
Based on your experience, are human failings -- fear, loyalty to peers, denial -- at the root of the problem, where it exists, or is it a matter of clarifying policies and strengthening laws? Or both? Which policies would make a difference?
This is a sampling of The Education Report, Katy Murphy's Oakland schools blog. Read more at www.IBAbuzz.com/education or follow her at Twitter.com/KatyMurphy
Student Teacher: The law says that as a teacher I am required to report directly to the Child Protective Services. I sign an oath and I am ultimately responsible. HOWEVER, in teacher credential programs and in Oakland Unified, teachers are told to report the incidents to their principal and document, document, document the date, time, circumstances, and place you were when you reported the incident. You must them document exactly what you told your principal and exactly why you thought it was reportable. ...
I understand why principals must know when suspicions are reported, but I completely disagree that teachers should report the incidents to the principal who will then decide on whether or not they should be reported.
Seenitbefore: I have also called CPS anonymously on several occasions. It is heartbreaking to BEG administration to please intervene and provide services to students who are obviously dealing with something that isn't quite right at home. Sometimes there are outside agencies providing counseling to a limited number of students. Most often we teachers are told that whatever inappropriate behaviors we are noticing are the direct result of our lack of ability to teach.
Former Oakland Teacher: Yes, what (Student Teacher) says. I sometimes reported child abuse to CPS and was lucky my supervisor never found out because I would have seriously been in trouble. Of course, I could have lost my credential if I didn't. So what are you supposed to do?
Nontclair: ... What is being done to stop the abuse occurring *in* OUSD? How many of you know an OUSD kid who was chronically bullied in school, had (along with parents) officially reported the incidents multiple times, and still virtually nothing was done?
Eliminate statute of limitations on child sex-abuse cases
by David Freed
It's a crime that strikes the young and the innocent. It's a crime that I have prosecuted too often, and not often enough. Childhood sexual abuse is horrifically common, yet many times the crime goes unreported for years – even decades – after the crime is committed. Sometimes it's never reported at all.
Thousands of stories have been written and reported about the events in State College, but there are thousands more stories across our commonwealth that walk our streets, pass us by each day.
Stories of the victims, afraid and embarrassed.
Stories of the abusers, walking free, unafraid to harm again.
Stories of communities, unconvinced, unaffected — not taking notice.
If anything positive can be gleaned from the catastrophe in Centre County, it's that a much brighter light has been shone on this all-too-common, all-too-silent crime.
It has provided law enforcement, families, civic and political leaders with a renewed opportunity to address the problem and take stock of Pennsylvania's childhood sexual abuse statutes. It's hopefully given victims a newfound courage to break their silence.
If the Sandusky verdict tells us anything, it tells us just how important the victims were to the outcome of the case. Without the willing cooperation, bravery and resolve of the victims there would be no case.
We have learned over the last several months that our focus must be on the voice of the child — and no child's voice should be silenced because a confined period of time has passed.
Reviews of child abuse deaths not always completed
Cabinet did not do required evaluation in some abuse cases
by Beth Musgrave and Bill Estep
FRANKFORT — Derek Cooper was just 2 years old when his father, Brandon Fraley, put his hands over the crying toddler's mouth "until the child was silent," according to a state file on the case.
"The love and laughter that once surrounded our family has disappeared and in its place a heavy fog of despair has settled," Jessica Wall, the boy's mother, wrote in a victim impact statement when Fraley was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
According to the social services case file on Derek, which the Lexington Herald-Leader obtained through a court order, there was a previous allegation of domestic violence by Fraley in 2006 that was unsubstantiated by social workers. There also were other previous reports involving Fraley when he was a child.
Still, state child-protection workers did not conduct an internal review of Derek's death, even though state law mandates such a review by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in every case in which a child dies, or nearly dies, because of abuse or neglect and the cabinet "had prior involvement with the child or family."
A Herald-Leader analysis of 41 child fatalities in 2009 and 2010 found at least six cases where the cabinet did not do an internal review even though there were previous reports involving the family before the child died. The reviews are supposed to examine the cabinet's actions in a case to see if there were missteps, and to identify needed improvements and training that could prevent future deaths.
In some of those six instances, the cabinet's prior contact with adults in the cases occurred when they were children themselves, and the cabinet does not do internal reviews in such cases, said Jill Midkiff, a cabinet spokeswoman. She cited that reason in Derek's death, but provided no explanation about why the 2006 domestic violence investigation of Fraley didn't trigger an internal review of Derek's death.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said if the cabinet is not doing internal reviews as required, officials may miss an opportunity to fix problems in the child-protection system.
"One of the reasons why they are so important is for systems change," Brooks said of the internal reviews. "It's like a coach looking at a game tape — you have to figure out what went right and what went wrong."
A lack of confidence in the cabinet's internal reviews was one reason Brooks and other advocates applauded a move last week by Gov. Steve Beshear to create a new panel outside the cabinet to review child deaths and critical injuries caused by abuse and neglect in Kentucky.
The 17-member panel will meet quarterly, review the cases and make recommendations. The review panel will be housed in the Department of Justice and Public Safety, and the people on the review panel will not be cabinet staff.
Brooks said the external reviews can serve as a check to make sure the cabinet is following its protocols consistently, backing up its promises with actions. Brooks said he hopes outside reviews also will examine the adequacy of the cabinet's internal reviews.
There were wide inconsistencies in how different child-protection offices around the state conducted internal reviews in 2009 and 2010, and in the scope of recommendations they produced. Some of the reviews appeared to be thorough, but in others, child-protection workers produced only one-page reports with little detail on what happened to the children and no assessment of potential improvements, a Herald-Leader review found.
State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, who sponsored an unsuccessful measure to create an external child-fatality review panel earlier this year, said she was encouraged Beshear moved to create such a body. But the cabinet also needs to do good internal reviews, Westrom said.
"The cabinet for so long has hidden everything it could," she said.
The death of 5-month-old Angel Tucker also did not spur an internal review by the cabinet, even though there was a prior report involving Brittany Felty Garcia, Angel's mother, a month before Angel's death.
The Medical Center at Bowling Green called cabinet officials after Garcia brought Angel to the hospital in November 2009 after reportedly falling down stairs with the baby.
Hospital staff contacted the cabinet because Garcia had delayed bringing the baby in for treatment, but child-protection workers did not accept the report. Instead, the cabinet made a "resource linkage," meaning a link to other services or information.
Angel, who lived in Morgantown, died Dec. 4, 2009, as a result of blunt-force injuries to her head and spine.
Midkiff, the cabinet spokeswoman, said the commissioner who oversees child-protection workers would review Angel's case on Monday to explain why an internal review was not conducted.
Other examples in which the cabinet did not do an internal review include:
~~ Kayla Mosley, 2, who died of an acute drug overdose in March 2010 in Bell County. Authorities believe her parents were not watching her when she swallowed their pills. According to the case file, there was at least one prior report involving her parents in 2008.
Details about the prior report were removed from the file provided to the newspaper, as they were in many other case files. The newspaper, along with The Courier-Journal of Louisville, is in an ongoing legal battle with the cabinet over how much information from the case files the state must release.
Midkiff said the state would review Kayla's case on Monday to determine why an internal review was not conducted.
~~ Kiara Smith, who was 12 months old and lived in Grant County when she died as a result of blunt force trauma in January 2009. Her mother's boyfriend, Brandon Barnhill, was convicted of beating her to death. The case file indicates that there were no reports against Kiara's mother, who was 17 at the time of Kiara's death. However, there were numerous reports regarding Kiara's grandmother.
Barnhill's conviction was overturned on appeal, but the prosecutor, Jim Crawford, said he will retry Barnhill on the murder charge.
Midkiff said no internal review was conducted because the state does not do them in cases where the cabinet's prior involvement with an adult came when the person was a child.
~~ Cole Frazier, 21 months, who was shot and killed by his father in May 2009 in Nelson County. The cabinet had received multiple reports of domestic violence between Cole's parents while the child was present, including one days before Cole's death. The cabinet did not investigate the last claim of domestic violence because Cole's parents did not live together at the time, according to the case file.
When the Herald-Leader first reported about Cole's death in January, Midkiff said no review was required because there was no ongoing case involving the family, and the prior reports involved domestic violence among adults in the home, not allegations of abuse or neglect to the little boy.
~~ Kayden Branham, also known as Kayden Daniels, who died in May 2009. The 20-month-old Wayne County toddler drank a caustic drain cleaner that had allegedly been used in making methamphetamine at the mobile home where Kayden and his 14-year-old mother were staying.
Kayden's mother had been removed from her parents' home and placed in foster care earlier, but she and the baby had been returned to her mother's home before Kayden's death. All three — the grandmother, the 14-year-old mother and Kayden — were still being supervised by the cabinet at the time he died.
The cabinet said it did not do an internal review because there was a court order in place for a short time that barred anyone other than mental-health professionals and defense attorneys from talking to Kayden's mother about his death.
However, that order would not have prevented an internal review. Also, it was later dissolved.
An attorney involved in the criminal case related to Kayden's death said a review would show that the cabinet didn't do enough to protect the boy.
In another high-profile case, the cabinet acknowledged it did not do an internal review after the death of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old who was killed in February 2011 by her adopted brother in Todd County.
The cabinet had prior involvement with the family, facilitating Amy's adoption by her great-aunt and later checking into reports from school officials about concerns that the vivacious girl was being abused at home, according to records.
The cabinet said it had no jurisdiction to pursue those reports because a sibling, not a parent, was allegedly hurting Amy, but Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd flatly rejected that assertion in a ruling last November.
It is clear under state law that abuse includes situations in which a parent or guardian ignores physical abuse of one child by another, or fails to take action, Shepherd said.
"This case presents a tragic example of the potentially deadly consequences of a child welfare system that has completely insulated itself from meaningful public scrutiny," Shepherd wrote last November.
Cabinet officials said the agency did not do an internal review because Amy died at the hands of a sibling, not a parent or guardian.
Files provide unprecedented look at child abuse in Kentucky
by Beth Musgrave
Kayla Mosley had been dead several hours by the time her drug-addled parents realized something was wrong and called an ambulance to take her to the Pineville hospital, her cold, nude body wrapped in a blanket.
Kayla's parents, both high-school dropouts, did not know their precocious 2-year-old had gotten into their stash of pills in March 2010, authorities think. She died of an acute drug overdose.
The gut-wrenching story is one of many contained in thousands of pages of documents released last week by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees child protection in Kentucky.
The files give an unprecedented look into how Kentucky's abused and neglected children die and how the state's child-protection system operates.
The cabinet and the state's two largest newspapers, the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal of Louisville, have been fighting in court for more than two years over access to the case files of children who were killed or critically injured in 2009 and 2010 as a result of abuse and neglect.
The cabinet had long refused to release such files, but began doing so in January after Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled they are public records.
The cabinet had released a few files each week — 76 in all — since the first of the year, but released an additional 43 case files last week after another court ruling earlier this month. There are still at least two dozen case files the cabinet has refused to release, saying the documents might jeopardize pending criminal charges.
So far, 40 of the case files released by the cabinet have detailed the deaths of 41 abused and neglected children.
One of those kids was Nathaniel Knox, 4, who had severe injuries when he arrived at the Stanford hospital, including a skull fracture, bruises all over his body and an adult-size bite mark on his arm.
Doctors at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, where he was transferred, said the story Nathaniel's mother told — that he had fallen off a low deck and hit his head — did not square with his injuries.
It would have taken "tremendous force" to crack the toddler's skull, one doctor said, and lesions on his retinas showed it wasn't the first time Nathaniel had been beaten.
Nathaniel died Aug. 1, 2009, from blunt-force injuries to his head.
A Herald-Leader analysis of the files shows that children 4 and younger are by far the most vulnerable to lethal abuse, accounting for 37 of the 41 deaths.
The files also show that toddler boys are killed more often than girls; that men are much more likely to be perpetrators of physical abuse; and that in most homes where a child dies because of abuse or neglect, at least one adult is a high-school dropout.
Being on sex offender registry rarely limits employment
by Kelcie Pegher, Carroll County Times staff writer
|Sex offender tiers
Sex offenders are split into three tiers. The first tier requires 15-year registration on the sex offender list and has offenses such as possession of child pornography, sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and fourth-degree sex offenses. First-tier sex offenders must check in with the Carroll County Sheriff's Office every six months, mostly to take a new photo if necessary.
Second tier sex offenders are listed on the registry for 25 years and has offenses such as human trafficking, sexual solicitation of a minor, and third-degree sex offenses, where the offender is four years older than the victim, who is either 14 or 15. Second tier sex offenders also must check in with the Carroll County Sheriff's Office every six months.
Third tier sex offenders are listed on the registry for life, and involve all forms of rape, sale of a minor, and sex offenses of first-, second-, and third-degrees that involve any age. They must check in with the Carroll County Sheriff's Office every three months.
Source: Amy Ocampo, State's Attorney's Office
When Stephanie Rudisill used a contractor for her home, she was surprised to find out upon later research the man she let into her home was a registered sex offender.
He did not offend Rudisill in any way personally, and her one-year-old son was not harmed in any way, but it was shocking that she did not know about the contractor's past, and she was surprised employers were not required to tell their clients.
Sex offenders listed on the Maryland sex offender registry are able to perform any job that is not full-time employment in a school or daycare, according to Sgt. Brad Brown at the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.
The Carroll County Sheriff's Office has been handling casework for sex offenders since July 2011. Brown said he sees a mixture of white collar and blue collar workers who are previous sex offenders. He said he has those on the sex offender registry work in places ranging from fast food to computer IT.
Following contracting, the food services are most likely to employ sex offenders in Carroll County. The auto industry also has a fair amount, from mechanics, to parts and car sales clerks. Sex offenders must disclose their employment address, which is listed on the registry. Those whose employments had an address in a shopping mall with many stores were listed as “Unable to Identify.”
“It is a bit of hurdle for some employers to get over that conviction of hiring a sex offender,” Brown said. “However, the thing is, if they can do the job and are not a danger to anyone at the business and the public in general, then why not?”
There are 203 registered sex offenders in Carroll County, with the most sexual offenders residing in Westminster zip codes. Westminster has 58 sex offenders, while 35 live in the 21136 zip code, which overlaps between Baltimore and Carroll counties in Reisterstown. Taneytown has 23, and Sykesville has 20 sex offenders who live in the area.
Most sex offenders listed on the sex offender registry are unemployed, according to data collected from the Maryland Sex Offender Registry. The second most popular profession is contracting, whether that be constructing, landscaping, welding or the like.
If a person is convicted of a crime that involves a sex offense, they are added to the registry. Prior to 2010, fourth-degree sex offenses and possession of child pornography did not necessarily mean a person would get onto the sex offender list, said Amy Ocampo, child abuse prosecutor with the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office. The judge had discretion prior to a 2010 law. Now, any sex offense will get a person onto the sex offender registry if convicted, Ocampo said.
“A lot of people think that the registry acts the same as probation; that it's really meant to restrict what they can and can't do,” she said. “It's really more so with public notification.”
Disclosing to Employers
Sex offenders, regardless of the age of the victim, may not enter any school for elementary or secondary education, or any daycare facility. However, there are no residency restrictions for sex offenders; they may live near a school or day care facility if they choose, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety.
Sex offenders are also able to work in a place of higher education, according to Brown.
“This prompts me to call that school to make them aware of that status,” Brown said. “I go ahead and let them know where they can and cannot be.”
Brown gave the example of Carroll County Community College, which has a daycare center in their college. Because of this, it has a blanket policy that does not allow sex offenders on the premise, whether they are going to college or attempting to become employed by the Carroll County Community College. A sex offender would have to go elsewhere in Carroll to receive or be employed by higher education, such as McDaniel College.
According to the sex offender registry, there are no sex offenders currently employed at McDaniel College.
“They have to completely disclose what employers they have, and if that employment takes them to another location,” Ocampo said.
She gave the example of a construction company based in Carroll County but has a lot of jobs in Montgomery County. It's possible they would have to inform Montgomery County's police department of their status as well, Ocampo said.
Sex offenders are not required to tell their employers they are sex offenders. The exception to the rule, Ocampo said, is when a worker is contracted to do work in a school or daycare. A sex offender is then required to tell their employer, so the employer is liable.
“They can't just use the excuse of ‘Oh my boss told me I have to do this job here,'” Ocampo said.
Brown said he calls the employers after a change of employment in order to confirm their hire date, and make sure the employer knows they are employing a sex offender. Those on the registry must let Brown know within three days of their hire date.
“Sometimes I find our registrants are somewhat lackadaisical and could be working there several weeks and then call to let me know,” Brown said.
If a registrant disobeys the sex offender registry requirements, they are guilty of a misdemeanor on first offense, and guilty of a felony on a second offense, according to Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
If an employer were to run a background check on a sex offender, they would see a criminal history and the conviction, but would not specifically list if they are on the sex offender list. Employers will hear from Brown a few days after the hire date to let the employer know anyway.
“I find the majority of people on the registry don't want to violate any of the registry requirements, and don't want to violate the law period,” Brown said. “Most of them are compliant just like in society. Most people in society obey most laws.”
Sweet event fights child abuse
by Julie Blum
COLUMBUS — A local effort to shine light on child abuse drew more than 200 people Saturday to the annual Sundaes on the Square.
For the fourth year, the event was hosted by the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Columbus. The council was formed about six years ago and is comprised of several organizations that work toward awareness and prevention of child abuse.
The family focused event, held at Frankfort Square, offered activities such as face painting and games, and also information about various services offered in the community.
“This is about having fun and families coming together,” said Tammy Bichlmeier, executive director of Connect Columbus, a service organization that coordinates human service needs in Columbus.
Parenting and child care is a topic that needs to be discussed in the community, Bichlmeier said.
“We definitely have child abuse cases that happen in Platte County,” she said.
Connect Columbus has implemented programs to address the subject, like Darkness to Light, a child sexual abuse prevention workshop, and Rethink Your Reaction, a campaign sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse Nebraska. Some of the organizations represented at the event also have programs geared toward education and advocacy.
One of those is Center for Survivors. The non-profit organization provides safety for victims of and education about abuse and sexual assault. A program geared specifically toward youth is the Revolution performance group.
Revolution is a peer-to-peer education group. Members perform skits at local and area schools teaching healthy relationships.
“Our main goal is prevention in high school,” said Omar Rodriguez, who spent about five years in the group and was the student coordinator.
Students from freshmen in high school to college sophomores are part of Revolution. The group covers topics ranging from battering, sexual abuse and dating violence. They travel to more than 20 schools in Platte, Boone, Butler, Colfax, Nance and Polk counties and perform skits in hopes of opening dialogue with their peers.
The topics Revolution focuses on are real-life issues that many teens are struggling with today.
“A lot of people don't think that things like that happen here, that it happens in big towns,” Rodriguez said.
The unique part of Revolution is the peer-to-peer aspect. Rodriguez said it helps some teens open to up about their situations to others their same age.
More information about parenting and family services available in Columbus is available at the Connect Columbus website at www.connect-columbus.org
Penn State president orders Joe Paterno statue removal
by Associated Press
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State University will remove the famed statue of Joe Paterno outside its football stadium, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant.
The university said Sunday that it will take down the larger-than-life monument in the face of an investigative report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that found the late coach, along with three top Penn State administrators, concealed the abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago in order to shield the university and its football program from negative publicity.
Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence then concealing the statue with a blue tarp.
A live video feed posted on the website of the Centre Daily Times of State College showed workers in white hard hats draping a plastic sheet over the statue, preparing for its removal.
Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put into storage because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing."
"I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse," Erickson said in a statement released at 7 a.m. Sunday.
He said Paterno's name will remain on the campus library because it "symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University."
The bronze sculpture outside Beaver Stadium has been a rallying point for students and alumni outraged over Paterno's firing four days after Sandusky's Nov. 5 arrest — and grief-stricken over the Hall of Fame coach's Jan. 22 death at age 85.
But it turned into a target for critics after the Freeh report's stunning allegation of a cover-up by Paterno, ousted President Graham Spanier and two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Their failure to report Sandusky to child-welfare authorities in 2001 allowed him to continue molesting boys, the report found.
Paterno's family, along with attorneys for Spanier, Curley and Schultz, vehemently deny any suggestion they protected a pedophile. Curley and Schultz await trial on charges of failing to report child abuse and lying to a grand jury but maintain their innocence. Spanier hasn't been charged. Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys.
Some newspaper columnists and former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden have said the statue should be taken down, while a small plane pulled a banner over State College reading, "Take the statue down or we will."
But Paterno still has plenty of fans, and Penn State's decision to remove the monument won't sit well with them. One student even vowed to "chain myself to that statue" if there was an attempt to remove it.
University officials had called the issue a sensitive one in light of Paterno's enormous contributions to the school over a 61-year coaching career. The Paterno family is well-known in the community for philanthropic efforts, including the millions of dollars they've donated to the university to help build a library and fund endowments and scholarships.
The statue, nearly 7 feet tall and weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division 1 coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."
Penn State president's statement
Penn State president Rodney Erickson released a statement through the school's public-relations office at 7 a.m. ET on Sunday morning regarding the removal of the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium:
Since we learned of the Grand Jury presentment and the charges against Jerry Sandusky and University officials last November, members of the Penn State community and the public have been made much more acutely aware of the tragedy of child sexual abuse. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse. I assure you that Penn State will take a national leadership role in the detection and prevention of child maltreatment in the months and years ahead.
With the release of Judge Freeh's Report of the Special Investigative Counsel, we as a community have had to confront a failure of leadership at many levels. The statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium has become a lightning rod of controversy and national debate, including the role of big time sports in university life. The Freeh Report has given us a great deal to reflect upon and to consider, including Coach Paterno's legacy.
Throughout Penn State, the two most visible memorials to Coach Paterno are the statue at Beaver Stadium and the Paterno Library. The future of these two landmarks has been the topic of heated debate and many messages have been received in various University offices, including my own. We have heard from numerous segments of the Penn State community and others, many of whom have differing opinions. These are particularly important decisions when considering things that memorialize such a revered figure.
I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond. For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.
On the other hand, the Paterno Library symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University. The library remains a tribute to Joe and Sue Paterno's commitment to Penn State's student body and academic success, and it highlights the positive impacts Coach Paterno had on the University. Thus I feel strongly that the library's name should remain unchanged.
Coach Paterno's positive impact over the years and everything he did for this University predate his statue. At the same time it is true that our institution's excellence cannot be attributed to any one person or to athletics. Rather, Penn State is defined by our actions and accomplishments as a learning community. Penn State has long been an outstanding academic institution and we will continue to be. The world will be watching how Penn State addresses its challenges in the days ahead. While some may take issue with the decisions I have made, I trust that everyone associated with our University will respond in a civil and respectful manner.
I fully realize that my decision will not be popular in some Penn State circles, but I am certain it is the right and principled decision. I believe we have chosen a course that both recognizes the many contributions that Joe Paterno made to the academic life of our University, while taking seriously the conclusions of the Freeh Report and the national issue of child sexual abuse. Today, as every day, our hearts go out to the victims.
The University will have no other comment.
David La Torre, spokesperson Penn State University
From the Department of Justice
Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women Bea Hanson Speaks at the National Lieutenant Governors Association Annual Meeting
Chicago ~ Friday, July 20, 2012
Thank you for your introduction and thank you for your tireless leadership, Lieutenant Governor Simon . I have been fascinated to learn about the domestic violence legal clinic you started at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale's School of Law and your pilot virtual legal clinic for rural victims of domestic violence. You are a tremendous advocate for women.
I also want to thank Julia Hurst, Executive Director of the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) for her kind invitation. I am grateful to be here today to talk about the critical role that states play in outreach, prevention and response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking – the four crimes the Office on Violence Against Women is focused on. I would like to extend a warm welcome on behalf of my office and Attorney General Holder at the Department of Justice to lieutenant governors from across the country. I appreciate your interest and focus on these issues.
We have seen a trend of increasing dependability and engagement related to these crimes from lieutenant governors in recent years and I am confident this trend will continue. Lieutenant governors have an opportunity to be involved in communities throughout the state in very substantive ways. Your role in the executive and legislative branches is unique, and you can use that position to engage with your states and encourage innovative, non-traditional partnerships across government and between local units of government and non-governmental organizations. These partnerships can create dynamic solutions to challenges we see across the country every day.
One way to increase the response and prevention capacity of states to address violence against women, and mitigate the impact of children's exposure to violence, is to encourage states and local units of government to apply for funding through OVW's federal grant programs. I would like to highlight three programs and mention several others that I hope you have on your radar.
First, the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program is provided to states and territories to support communities in their efforts to develop and strengthen victim services and law enforcement and prosecution strategies to combat violent crimes against women. By statute, OVW awards a base amount of $ 600,000 to each state and territory. Remaining funds are distributed among the states and territories according to population. There is a 25% match requirement on grant funds; and each state and territory must allocate 25 percent of the funds for law enforcement, 25 percent for prosecution, 5 percent for courts and 30 percent for victim services.
The second grant program I want to highlight is the Sexual Assault Service Program (SASP). Sexual violence impacts all people, regardless of age, ethnicity, race or economic status. The SASP formula grant program is the first federal funding stream solely dedicated to direct intervention and related assistance for victims of sexual assault. The purpose of SASP is to provide intervention, advocacy, support services and related assistance for adult and child victims of sexual assault, family and household members of victims and those collaterally affected by the sexual assault. This important program aims to help survivors heal from sexual assault trauma through direct intervention and related assistance from social service organizations such as rape crisis centers. The SASP encompasses five different funding streams for states and territories, tribes, state and tribal sexual assault coalitions, and culturally specific organizations. It is administered as one formula program and two independent discretionary programs (Tribal SASP and SASP Cultural).
Third, every state has a sexual assault and domestic violence coalition that provides direct support to community based domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and other organizations that address issues of violence against women through funding, training and technical assistance, public awareness and public policy advocacy. These coalitions are an excellent resource to you in developing state action plans and coordinating federal, state and local victim service activities. The role of coalitions is to have their finger on the pulse of violence against women issues in their/your state.
In addition to these three formula programs, OVW has several other discretionary grant programs that allow eligible states to apply for funding to enhance the capacity of local law enforcement units and civil and criminal courts, and to develop improved response systems for underserved and vulnerable populations including victims later in life, victims with disabilities, victims living in rural localities and victims needing transitional housing assistance.
Since its inception, OVW has awarded over $4.7 billion in grants and cooperative agreements, and will award approximately $400 million this year. Even in these tough economic times the Obama Administration is committed to and has prioritized the work of OVW and has been able to minimize reductions in funding streams for grant programs.
As I mentioned before, OVW is charged with addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking in states and communities nationwide. We support thousands of victim service organizations, police departments, state and local governments, tribes and courts to end these crimes through a community-based approach.
OVW promotes and supports a coordinated response to violence against women that involves the courts, law enforcement, victim service providers, health care providers, faith leaders and other social service organizations. Currently, OVW administers three formula-based and 18 discretionary grant programs, established when VAWA was first passed by Congress in 1994 and in subsequent legislation. A new discretionary program you will hear us talking about soon is our consolidated youth program which will be announced later this summer.
Lieutenant Governor Simon, I thought I would share a few stories from your state of Illinois that highlight the impact OVW grant programs have on the people in your state. Rest assured these stories are not unique to Illinois, and I imagine if I spoke with each lieutenant governor in this room today we would hear similar successes.
Take, for example, the Illinois Department of Human Services who received a grant from OVW's Disability Program. They reported that survivors with disabilities in grant-funded communities, who historically could not access critical services needed to ensure their safety, are now finding their disability providers to be more accessible and more responsive to violence against women issues. To use their words: “The supports available through the grant have been extremely valuable… We believe that our community level efforts will mirror the same benefits. The time invested in the planning process as well as available supports through the grant will be the key to promoting systems change.”
The Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Councils is an example of a well coordinated community response. In a recent evaluation of the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Councils, one significant outcome was the identification of the Councils as a successful mechanism in the state for coordinating interagency intervention to address domestic violence. The evaluation found that these councils facilitated stronger relationships and enhanced knowledge among stakeholders, and found a positive relationship between the councils' formation and development and the rate of emergency protection orders that became plenary orders of protection.
In Illinois, OVW's Abuse in Later Life Program grantees provide training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges through local, state and national training events. I would like to share a quote from Against DV and SA Services, a grantee who felt the national training events promoted collaboration and systems-level change in their community: “We have sent four prosecutors and three judges to national institutes on elder abuse. All of the judges returned from the trainings wanting to know more about local adult protective service agencies and told me they had not thought we had much elder abuse and were surprised to see cases on their docket when they returned. The trainings are opening eyes. Simply put, elder abuse is now seen as a local concern. In the beginning, law enforcement officers (and even some of our trainers) did not think that… elder abuse happened here. Some did not think that the training module on financial exploitation was even really needed. This has changed… This has resulted in an increase in prosecutions for financial exploitation… The funding has also allowed for greater collaboration in both current cases and systems work. Our adult protective services trainers report an increase of calls to their agency from law enforcement officers. Our local coroner has reached out to our team to start an elder fatality review team to address abuse in the home and in unlicensed board and care homes.”
Along the same line, the Illinois State's Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's Office used Arrest Program funding to improve the criminal justice system's response to violent crimes against women. The development of the Violence Against Women Prosecution Unit met a primary goal of the Arrest grant: increasing the number of domestic violence and sexual assault cases that are charged and successfully prosecuted. At the request of a state's attorney, the special unit will assume responsibility for a domestic violence or sexual assault case and handle all aspects of these challenging cases. Additionally, the special unit provided workshops and skills-building training for prosecutors and allied professionals, a resource not available to prosecutors in Illinois before the Arrest grant was implemented.
A final example of the work being done to address violence against women and young adults who reside in Illinois while attending institutions of higher education is the University of Illinois, an OVW Campus Grant Program recipient. Acts of sexual violence are vastly under-reported, yet data shows that our nation's students suffer from sexual violence early and the likelihood that they will be assaulted by the time they graduate from college is significant. By the time girls graduate from high school, more than one in ten will have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse in or out of school. By the time young women finish college, nearly 20% of them will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault, as will about 6% of undergraduate men. Victims of sexual assault are more likely to have a marked decline in academic performance and to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, to abuse alcohol and drugs and to contemplate suicide.
Campus Program grantees provide direct services to students who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on college campuses. A coordinated network of support services, often in partnership with the community, provides medical, legal, advocacy and counseling services to victims on college campuses. In a report to OVW the University of Illinois stated, “The campus grant has allowed us the human capital and financial resources to establish an infrastructure that effectively and sensitively responds to victims of interpersonal violence. Maintaining and training such a large team is very difficult and requires constant attention… especially… having sufficient advocacy coverage and maintaining prevention and education efforts… A final testament to the effectiveness of this grant lies in the fact that many of the students who seek our services are able to get their lives back together, heal, and graduate from college despite all of the barriers that experiencing interpersonal violence has placed in their lives. Past evaluation research on the effectiveness of our services has shown that students experience a sense of empowerment as a result of advocacy.”
OVW has also been working in partnership with the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement to develop a Family Justice Center in New Orleans as part of a special post-Katrina initiative. The New Orleans Family Justice Center opened its doors 5 years ago, on the 2 nd Anniversary of Katrina. This month, the Family Justice Center has moved to a new location within the City, and we are excited to be participating in the official grand opening event on August 28, 2012. The New Orleans Family Justice Center centralizes the handling of domestic violence and sexual assault cases by co-locating police, prosecutors, victim services and child advocates to maximize service delivery and availability for underserved populations. This project is a huge victory for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and for the City of New Orleans.
As the recipient of an OVW Recovery Act Transitional Housing award, the Michigan Department of Human Services, through the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, exemplifies how a state agency can leverage the resources of federal funding to expand the availability of transitional housing and supportive services for victims of domestic violence while promoting economic recovery in a state experiencing significant economic difficulty. Through this award, the State of Michigan has supported the enhancement of the existing services and provided additional technical assistance and support for 6 domestic violence transitional housing programs serving 10 counties across the state. These programs represent geographically and culturally diverse areas of Michigan, and provide support for several underserved populations within the state, including African American, Latina, and rural victims of domestic violence.
Each of these examples highlight the positive outcomes OVW grant programs can have in a state. Another way states can work to respond to violence against women, and specifically sexual assault, is through full implementation of the new Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) definition of rape. The UCR is the national “report card” on serious crime. Police departments submit their data on reported crimes and arrests to the FBI's Summary Reporting System ( SRS), and what gets reported through the UCR is how we collectively view crime in this country.
“Forcible rape” has historically been defined by the UCR SRS as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” This definition, unchanged since 1927, was outdated and narrow, including only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina. The new definition reads: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” In a victory for our nation's law enforcement, survivors of rape, and their advocates, FBI Director Robert Mueller approved this new UCR definition of rape within the FBI's Summary Reporting System (SRS) in late December, 2011 . The change sent an important message to victims – it signified that what happens to them matters. It also made it clear that perpetrators will be held accountable.
For the first time ever, the new definition includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men. It also recognizes that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape. This definition also includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity. Furthermore, because many rapes are facilitated by drugs or alcohol, the new definition recognizes that a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol. Similarly, a victim may be legally incapable of consent because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with state statute. Physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent.
Even though most states have more expansive definitions of rape in their criminal codes, they had to report the smaller number of crimes falling under the more narrow UCR SRS definition. This meant that the statistics reported nationally, reflecting the totality of rape, were both inaccurate and undercounted.
Because the new definition is more inclusive, reported crimes of rape are likely to increase. This does not mean that rape has increased, but simply that it is more accurately reported. In addition, the UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, enabling law enforcement to track consistent data and trends until the statistical differences between the old and new definitions are more fully understood. It is important to note that the new UCR SRS definition of rape does not change Federal or state criminal codes and does not impact charging alleged perpetrators or prosecution on the Federal, State or local level, it simply means that rape will be more accurately reported nationwide.
This definition also sends a powerful message, one best articulated by Vice President Biden, that “rape is rape is rape.” It is rape even if you are a man, even if you are raped with an object, and even if you were too drunk to consent. This is an important part of our progress to support victims and help states and law enforcement organizations hold perpetrators accountable. It will require training law enforcement officials, sexual assault nurse examiners, victim advocates and state legislatures about the new definition which, in turn, will spark a conversation about the way victims are served by the law enforcement and justice communities. I am looking forward to working with all of you to support your states and local communities as we make this momentous change.
I have also been asked to provide a little information about the Violence Against Women Act. Many of you are aware that as a direct result of VAWA, we have witnessed a paradigm shift in how the issue of violence against women is addressed in the United States, and there have been countless lives positively affected by VAWA. VAWA has led to significant improvements in the criminal and civil justice systems, encouraging victims to file complaints, improving evidence collection and increasing access to protection orders. Victims now can reach out for help, call the police, find 24-hour emergency services and take steps to leave abusive relationships. According to FBI Uniform Crime Report data, between 1993 and 2010, the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner declined 30% for women and 66% for men. We have witnessed gains in the areas of sexual assault with the percentage of victims of rape and sexual assault who said they reported the assault to the police increasing from 28.8% in 1993 to 50% in 2010.
By reducing crimes and the subsequent costs to the criminal justice and health care systems, VAWA has realized cost savings. A 2002 study found that VAWA saved an estimated $12.6 billion in net averted social costs in its first six years alone. A recent study showed that the state of Kentucky averted $85 million in costs by reducing violence and improving victims' quality of life through protection orders. Even small investments in VAWA have been shown to make a difference on the ground.
VAWA has provided women, men and children with a whole host of services including improved criminal justice response with the development of integrated domestic violence courts, improved police response with specialized DV units in police departments and a ccess to legal assistance, shelters, counseling, health care and advocacy for victims. VAWA m akes special provisions for victims who are too often forgotten: the elderly, the disabled, women in rural areas who can't easily access help and others who are underserved because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
VAWA' s initial passage in 1994 focused on law enforcement and basic services. When VAWA was reauthorized in 2000, it included improved protections for battered immigrants, elderly victims, victims with disabilities and victims of dating violence. It also improved the enforcement of protection orders. The 2005 reauthorization included coordinated community response, services for underserved and vulnerable populations and resources for victims of sexual assault and stalking. This landmark legislation expired in 2011 and is currently awaiting reauthorization in Congress. Senate bill 1925 passed in the Senate with strong bi-partisan support. This version addressed the intergenerational cycle of violence, focused on preventing domestic homicides, improved responses to sexual assault, strengthened legal services for victims and addressed the epidemic of violence against Native women. The version passed by the House ( H.R. 4970) did not include a number of the protections in the Senate version.
The Administration supports the Senate bill because it protects more victims. We proposed addressing the criminal jurisdiction gap in Indian country and are pleased that the Senate included this in their bill. Most of all, we are concerned because the timeframe to get this done is rapidly closing. If Congress does not act we lose critical improvements, including opportunities to reduce domestic violence homicide, improve the response to dating violence on campus and improve investigation and prosecution of rape.
OVW is poised to implement possible changes in grant-making and management based on these legislative changes. The fundamental goal of VAWA is to meet the needs of victims by employing tools and resources available through the criminal justice system, civil legal system and community-based advocacy and victim services. In order meet this mandate, we must identify the complete array of needs and develop tailored approaches to ensure the safety of all survivors.
It is critical we keep in mind that – although many lives have been positively impacted by VAWA – one out of every four women will experience domestic violence at sometime in her life and that on average, more than three women die as a result of domestic violence every day. Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and 1 out of 5 women have been victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. This is the sobering reality that needs to drive and motivate us to do more and be leaders and spokespeople in our states and neighborhoods. Each of you has influence and is a recognized national leader. I feel very fortunate that you are part of the fight to end violence against women.
In my tenure at OVW, I have also felt privileged to witness the leadership and strength of the Department of Justice and the Administration on this issue. The Attorney General has committed to making violence against women a priority and highlights its potentially devastating impact on children and youth at every opportunity.
I look forward to working with lieutenant governors to push the boundaries and find innovative ways to end violence against women and protect our nation's children, our future, from violence. As professionals, spouses, parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers we can and must build strong and safe communities, and we at the Department of Justice stand ready to support you, as state leaders, in creating neighborhoods and communities that stop violence before it starts, that offer safety and respect for victims and hold offenders accountable. Thank you for being our partners.
Child sexual abuse: The broader picture
by Eric Heyl
Judith Barr is a Connecticut psychotherapist and author of the book, “Power Abused, Power Healed.” She spoke to the Trib about the continuing fallout from the Penn State child molestation scandal and its broader societal implications.
Q: From a psychotherapist's perspective, what lessons can be learned from the events that occurred at Penn State?
A: I think it's really important to pay attention to the fact that the institutional incidents of sexual abuse that we've seen — the (Jerry) Sandusky incident, the private school in New York called Horace Mann, the incidents in the Catholic church — mirror incidents of sexual abuse at the familial level. And (that) abuse can't be changed by laws; it has to be changed by healing.
Q: And how is that healing accomplished? Intensive therapy sessions?
A: In my experience with people who have been sexually abused, (I've found) people have to build their capacity to go back into it and through the pain of it so they are not having it inside them, haunting them, causing them to be terrified and freezing them from living full lives, from taking actions they need to protect themselves and fulfill the gifts that they have.
Q: In that regard, do you consider the witnesses in the Sandusky case particularly heroic because they had to publicly confront the circumstances of their molestations?
A: I think it was very courageous, especially since they didn't know how they were going to be responded to. One of the things with sexual abuse is that you don't know if the people who find out about it afterward are going to respond in loving ways, or in hardhearted ways, or in cool ways. So, yes, I think they were very courageous and I hope that for each of them, (testifying) did turn out to be part of their healing.
Q: Does justice equate with healing in these situations?
A: Justice could be one element of the process. But there are many people who heal without having the opportunity to have justice. So if somebody gets stuck looking for justice in a situation where there is not going to be any, they've blocked their own healing and undermined themselves.
Q: How significant do you consider the overall impact of child sexual abuse to be?
A: I think the degree of sexual abuse that occurs in this country, in our world, is mind-blowing and heartbreaking. I think it has just fed (many of) the things we are struggling with in our society: pornography, sexual harassment, sexual addiction, prostitution, rape, sex slavery. I think that deep down, we have to ask ourselves how many of the victims of those things were sexually abused as children? How many of the perpetrators were sexually abused as children? How many of the providers of these things were sexually abused as children? How many of the consumers were sexually abused as children?
Q: Could some good ultimately emerge from the Penn State situation in that it shined a much-needed spotlight on this issue?
A: I think every time issues about childhood sexual abuse come out into the open, come out into people's consciousness, it helps. But I think (it also helps) if we point out that childhood sexual abuse ends up feeding the other things I just named.
Special Report: Foster child sexually abuses sister, foster mom
(Video on site)
by Ewa Roman
Last night, CBS 21 News aired part one of a special report about children abusing other children. We spoke with experts who answered a lot of tough questions for us, and they say it's happening more than you think.
Friday night, we have the story of a boy who sexually abused his sister, other children and even his own foster mother, who spoke only with CBS 21.
These kids' story is so horrific that Dr. Phil also spoke with this foster mom about it.
When she adopted the brother/sister in 2004 she had no idea what would unfold.
Richelle is a foster mother in Lancaster County. She's raised many kids, even adopted some.
“Michael was raped repeatedly,” Richelle explained to us. “He was forced to perform sex acts on his two-year-old sister. He was, has disclosed to us that he if he didn't comply, he got hit with a yard stick, but if he complied he got candy.”
Richelle says her adopted son, we're calling him “Michael” and his sister were sexually abused as children by their biological mother's boyfriend, who also took video of it and sold it online. He was caught and put behind bars.
Michael and his sister were taken in by Richelle and her husband.
They put the brother and sister in therapy and did everything they could to help the siblings recover. But it appeared as though Michael, only ten-years-old at the time, once a victim, became the offender.
“As he started approaching puberty, we saw changes in him,” Richelle admitted. “He started to isolate his sister. He started isolating younger children that were around him.”
Michael later confessed to sexually abusing other children as well as his sister.
“A lot of tearful nights, a lot of tearful nights,” Richelle stated.
Things got a lot darker for Richelle one night, when she thought she was having a nightmare.
“I remember that I burst out and screamed,” Richelle told us. “It must have woken up my husband, who saw my son climbing off the bed.”
She quickly realized, she wasn't dreaming. Her adopted son Michael had just sexually assaulted her.
“I had this nightmare of a sexual nature and just could not believe that this is what could, could this have really been happening?” Richelle recalled.
Michael eventually admitted to the sex assault on his foster mom. That was about four years ago. At age 14, Michael now has a felony on his record. He isn't allowed home, instead he's recovering at a facility in Reading.
His sister's recovery appears to be going well.
“Watch what your children are doing,” Richelle advised. “Look for signs of changes. If your gut tells you something doesn't feel right, something isn't right.”
Richelle says she's speaking out about this to raise awareness to this type of abuse.
She says if you see child abuse, report it. Get these kids help.
You can report child abuse anonymously. To find out how, click Find It.
You can also see the Thursday's special report by clicking on the attached link.
Penn State scandal calls for all to be proactive against sex abuse
by Linda Johanek, Plain Dealer guest columnist
I am sickened by the findings of former FBI Director Louis Freeh in his report regarding the sexual-abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky and many high-ranking officials at Penn State University. According to the report, "The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims."
This sexual-abuse scandal involving children has heightened awareness for universities and other institutions across the country regarding policies, protocols, training and compliance relating to issues of abuse and reporting -- as it should. They must learn from this tragedy and become vigilant in their stand to prevent child abuse and other forms of abuse.
The report reviews issues related to controls, audits, risk management and Clery Act compliance, or should I say noncompliance with this law on disclosing campus crimes. These are all very important, and Penn State absolutely needs to review these items, make corrections, fill the positions that ensure compliance and train all personnel. The report also says that Penn State has many policies and procedures in place that should ensure, promote or require the following: the safety of adults and children; the reporting of crimes or suspicions of crime; the adherence to professional and ethical standards. Many say that the problem is the fact that policies were not followed. But actually, the problem goes far beyond not following policy and protocol.
What I am struck by most are the attitudes, beliefs, fears and priorities that lie beneath the surface of this tragedy and are common throughout our society. A national survey, commissioned by Children's Institute International, found that 25 percent of those polled had witnessed what they believed to be child abuse, but only one-third of those reported the abuse to authorities. The study also found that 53 percent of those who knew of sexual abuse reported the incident to authorities. Even though most of us want children to be safe and believe child abuse is serious, we don't take action to help the child.
We are lost as a country when we put the reputation of an institution before the safety of a child. When we show more concern for the alleged perpetrator than we do the vulnerable and traumatized child. When we value sports with its entertainment and financial value more than the value of a child being safe and secure. When we choose to stand by silently rather than speak up and support the child.
And it becomes more alarming when we learn of the omnipresence and statistics of child abuse. According to the child sexual abuse prevention organization Stop It Now!, one in three girls and one in seven boys experience sexual abuse, and, by far, most of those cases go unreported.
So this has led to many discussions and debates about the Penn State scandal, the incidences of child abuse and the responsibility of professionals and everyday citizens in preventing child abuse. There is even a bill before Congress that seeks to make all people mandatory reporters of child abuse. We not only need to change how we act, but change what we think. So, as discussions continue and action is taken, what can we all do today?
• Learn the signs of child physical and sexual abuse and the local resources; visit Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center's website at dvcac.org
• Educate children on issues of abuse, safe touch and boundaries -- and the reality that offenders can be people they know or trust: family, teachers, coaches and neighbors.
• Instead of being fearful that reporting possible child abuse might cause more problems, recognize that you are taking a step to help protect a child and support a family in addressing challenges.
• Don't think child abuse is a private or family matter. It's not. It is a major concern for our entire community.
• Take responsibility and report suspected child abuse by calling 216-696-KIDS.
• Believe the child and have the courage to speak up.
• Don't wait another day.
If we are to prevent and effectively address child abuse, we must begin to think about it as our problem, not our neighbors'.
Linda Johanek is chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center.
Child-abuse video still in use
After reading and hearing the name many times in recent months, my brain clicked on “Little Bear.”
That's the name of a video that was made at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1984 and 1985. The video that was adapted from a play aimed to teach children ways to avoid being sexually abused.
With Penn State the tip of an iceberg of child-abuse scandals, the issue has not gone away. Somewhat surprisingly, neither has “Little Bear.”
The video was made by Northeastern Wisconsin In-School Telecommunications with Bridgework Theatre of Goshen, Ind.
NEWIST continues. This is its 45th year. Bridgework closed in 2009, but its plays continue to be available.
At the time of production of “Little Bear,” there was much local activity in child sexual abuse programs. WFRV, Channel 5, participated in a multi-week effort with then-sister station WCCO of Minneapolis.
“‘Little Bear' is still distributed through NEWIST,” said Eileen Littig, the retired director of NEWIST who still is active in production.
“It's twentysome years old (in copyright 27 years), and it's still current,” Littig said. “And it's a wonderful program because it uses animals to talk about proper/improper touch.”
Here's a line from a column I wrote Feb. 2, 1985: “Children preschool to third grade for years to come will be seeing ‘Little Bear,' a play adapted for classroom TVs.”
Little did anyone suspect that “Little Bear” was the start of numerous TV productions on hard issues that would be created in Green Bay and be broadcast statewide and earn multiple honors.
“That started us on this whole parade that we've been on for years,” Littig said.
Often, topics of the programs surface again on the ongoing “Teen Connection,” a live call-in broadcast that usually originates from a studio at UWGB. Programs have engaged thousands of viewers over the years.
In fall, the first “Teen Connection” of the season will be on child abuse, Littig said.
“And just think how many years ago that ‘Little Bear' was,” she said. “Now it's still such a big issue. It's incredible what's happening.”
The program is available in DVD or VHS, in English or Spanish. There are 25 other productions available.
Officials reclassify missing girls case as abduction
FBI dive team fails to find evidence of cousins' bodies in Meyers Lake
by Emily Schettler
EVANSDALE, IA. — The case of two Iowa girls who disappeared a week ago was classified on Friday as an abduction, a move family members had pushed for since the cousins were reported missing.
The reclassification came after an FBI dive team failed to find evidence of the girls' bodies in Meyers Lake.
“The girls were not in that lake,” Rick Abben, chief deputy of the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Department, said Friday. “If they were lost in that area, they would have been found by now.”
Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, have been missing since July 13. The girls were last seen on a security camera near Collins' home at about 12:15 p.m July 13, Abben said.
The girls' bicycles were found by a firefighter at about 4 p.m. on the Evansdale Nature Trail that runs along the lake. The bikes were found southeast of the lake in an area near an opening in a fence. Iowa Highway 380 is just south of the area.
All week, family members have insisted that the girls were abducted, with some questioning why so much attention was being focused on searching Meyers Lake.
“We kind of thought it might have been an abduction, so them officially making it one sucks,” said Lyric's mother, Misty Cook-Morrissey. “It sucks because we would have wished five days ago that the entire state of Iowa was under surveillance, and they haven't. I mean, someone in seven days could have gone a long way.”
Still, the girls' aunt, Tammy Brousseau of Waterloo, said she understood the process that needed to be followed.
“You know, it's really frustrating, but I know that investigators needed to do what they needed to do to rule things out,” she said Friday night. “These things don't always go so quickly as we wish they would.”
In other developments Friday:
• Evidence obtained during the investigation has been sent to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation's crime lab in Ankeny for processing, Abben said.
• Daniel Morrissey, Lyric's father, was placed in a pretrial supervision program of the Iowa Department of Corrections. Morrissey, 36, faces trials in two drug cases. He will be supervised by parole officers, who will ensure he appears in court and does not violate the terms of his release.
• The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the girls' abduction increased to $50,000. The reward had been $15,500.
A 10-person FBI dive team spent several hours Friday searching the 26-acre lake. The team also used special sonar equipment capable of pinpointing objects in the water.
After the search turned up no clues to the girls' whereabouts, officials reclassified the case as an abduction. Some in the community are frustrated that it took a week for the investigation to be classified as a criminal case.
“What takes so long?” asked Irma Martinez, 45, of Waterloo. She and her two daughters, ages 9 and 11, have been at the lake every day since the girls went missing.
“They've been searching since last Friday, and it takes a week to find evidence,” she said. “I think it's frustrating for everybody.”
Former Des Moines Police Chief William Moulder said the reclassification coming Friday rather than earlier likely has little or no effect on how the case would have been handled earlier.
“The process the sheriff has been using is exactly the same thing you would do regardless of the characterization,” said Moulder, who operates a police management consulting business. “They try to find somebody who has seen them; question parents, friends, relatives; and even had a blockade to questions cars that go by.”
The new classification could, however, signal a potential break or lead in the case, Moulder said.
“What this really means, I think, is that initially it was just a missing kid classification, but now the sheriff may have some reason to believe it's more sinister than a missing kid,” he said. “The investigation may have turned up some evidence that would lead him in that direction.”
Abben declined to provide details about the item or items sent to the crime lab. He also declined to say where the evidence being examined was found. Also at the briefing, Abben said no weapons were located during the investigation, nor is there any “concrete suspect information.”
Now that the case is classified as an abduction, “everyone is a suspect until we find these young girls,” he said. “We are asking for 100 percent cooperation of everyone involved.”
Family members have said that law enforcement officials have aggressively interviewed Morrissey and accused him of killing the girls. Family members also said they don't believe he had anything to do with the girls' disappearance.
Morrissey appears to have violent tendencies, court documents show.
In August 2011, Morrissey assaulted Cook-Morrissey, his wife of eight years, according to court documents. Cook-Morrissey said that Morrissey had “slammed her into the floor, smashed her face into the floor, and placed his knee over her neck causing her to struggle to breath,” according to a criminal complaint filed with court documents. She also suffered a broken finger in the alleged assault.
Morrissey was charged with domestic abuse with intent to cause serious injury, an aggravated misdemeanor. A no-contact order was issued. That order was modified Friday, allowing the couple to be around each other. Abben said Morrissey was not considered a suspect, and investigators were scrutinizing others in the family.
“We're looking at everybody, not just one set of parents over the other. Not just because one family may have a criminal background. Everything has to be considered,” he said.
Abben declined to comment on whether someone who is associated with the family might be involved in the case, but he did say the family's background is being looked into and “nothing is being discounted.”
When asked whether residents should be worried about the possible abduction of other children, Abben said, “Nothing else has happened in this area this week. We're just asking people to be vigilant.”
Chile investigates 61 schools in Santiago for child sex abuse after recent spike in reports
SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile will investigate 61 schools in the country's capital for possible child sex abuse, the attorney general said Friday in the latest government step to address a sharp rise in reports of such crimes.
Attorney general Sabas Chahuan said his office will look at 49 schools in eastern Santiago and 12 on city's west side. Several teachers have recently been accused of sexually molesting children at schools in affluent neighborhoods in the eastern portion of Santiago.
Reports of sexual abuse of children under age of 14 jumped 22 percent in the first half of the year from the same period in 2011, according to official estimates.
“Wherever there are children, we will investigate just the same as we do with corruption or economic crimes,” Chahuan said after meeting with representatives of a parents association. “We put ourselves in the place of the parents and we know they're worried, anxious and desperate.”
The government banned convicted pedophiles from working near children last month under a new law that also requires those convicted of sexually abusing minors or of child pornography to be registered in a database.
On Wednesday, President Sebastian Pinera announced stiffer punishments for people who distribute child pornography, and he said Chile will toughen penalties on convicted pedophiles, increase the forensic institute budget and create a children's ombudsman to protect their rights.
Pinera also urged lawmakers to review and fast-track about 100 bills before Congress that could protect children against sexual abuse. Under new measures, young sex abuse victims will need only to provide a video-recorded statement once so they can avoid the stress of repeatedly having to retell their painful episodes.
The president said the sex offender database would be fully working starting in August.
Chile is one of South America's most strongly conservative nations in social matters. The Roman Catholic Church retains a firm influence in society, although in recent years it has hit by scandals in which priests have been accused of molesting children.
In 2010, four men alleged they were abused by one of Chile's most revered priests at his residence at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in a rich Santiago neighborhood. They said the abuse by the Rev. Fernando Karadima began about 20 years ago when they were between 14 and 17 years old.
The Vatican sanctioned Karadima, ordering him to conduct a life of “penitence and prayer,” but there was no legal punishment. A Chilean judge determined the abuse allegations against the priest were truthful, but said she had to dismiss a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired.
Backpage.com asks judge to block Wash. law requiring age verification in sex-related ads
by Associated Press
SEATTLE — The website Backpage.com and a nonprofit group that runs a popular archive of Internet sites asked a federal judge on Friday to block a Washington state law that would require classified advertising companies to verify the ages of people in sex-related advertisements.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the law, which passed the Legislature unanimously, to cut down on child sex trafficking. Officials hope it will become a national model for dealing with the pernicious problem; they say an estimated 100,000 juveniles are victimized by child prostitution in the U.S. every year.
The law allows for the criminal prosecution of anyone who knowingly publishes or causes the publication of sex-related ads depicting children, unless they can show they made a good-faith effort to confirm that the person advertised was not a juvenile.
Backpage, which is owned by Village Voice Media and makes millions of dollars a year operating an online clearinghouse for escorts, is a main target of the law and has come under pressure from public officials around the country to shut down the ads.
In a room packed with middle school teachers who were at the Seattle courthouse for a civics course, Backpage lawyer Jim Grant asked U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez to issue an injunction preventing the law from taking effect.
“Exploitation of a minor, sex trafficking, human trafficking of any kind is abhorrent,” Grant said. “No one in the courtroom disputes that.”
But, he added, “Backpage doesn't believe it's an effective way to confront the problem and doesn't believe it's consistent with free-speech principles.”
Grant said the law will backfire by driving such advertisements underground or to websites based overseas, where police will have a tougher time investigating them.
Backpage also argues that the law is pre-empted by section 230 of the federal Communication Decency Act, which protects interactive online services from liability for material posted by other people, and which expressly blocks “any state or local law that is inconsistent with this section.”
Backpage was joined in its request by The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization that runs the “Wayback Machine,” which preserves content that has appeared on the Internet — currently more than 150 billion web pages. The Internet Archive says it could be liable under the law because it maintains versions of websites that might advertise child escorts.
However, other digital-rights organizations, including Free Press and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, criticized Backpage's position as unethical.
“Village Voice Media needs to remove human trafficking from its business model,” Timothy Karr, senior director of Free Press, said in a written statement.
The plaintiffs argue that the law could also extend to dating sites, blogs and social media sites such as Facebook, should such escort advertisements migrate there.
Lawyers for Washington state and for its county prosecutors, who are named as defendants, insisted that the law is not pre-empted by the Communications Decency Act because it's consistent with the purposes of that act. Furthermore, argued David Eldred of the King County Prosecutor's Office, the law also applies to print advertisements, which would not be covered by the act.
If Washington's law is constitutional in some cases — as with requiring proof-of-age for print advertisements — it should not be struck down as unconstitutional, Eldred said. And because Backpage has not been prosecuted under the law, he argued, it lacks standing to challenge the law in court — something the company disputes, given that the Legislature identified it as a target when the law was passed.
In court documents, a Seattle police detective provided an example of why the state says the law is needed. On June 7, he wrote, Backpage received a tip that a girl advertised on its site might be underage. The company forwarded the tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which relayed it to the FBI, which relayed it to local law enforcement.
Four days later, the girl, 15, was arrested in the Seattle suburb of Federal Way, along with a 29-year-old man who agreed to pay her for sex. That same day, the Seattle detective found another advertisement, for the same girl, using the same photographs and contact phone number, posted under a section for escorts in Wenatchee, east of the Cascade Mountains.
The detective contacted Backpage to have the ad removed. Backpage complied, the detective said, but her ad was soon reposted — more than a half-dozen times. Eventually she was arrested again.
“The measures in place are insufficient,” Eldred said.
Martinez said he expected to rule by the end of next week.
“The proliferation of these types of ads on all of these different sites is very troubling,” he said. “It's a fascinating argument from a legal perspective, but the sexual exploitation of children on any level is a real human problem.”
Meet Minh, Monica, and Jamm - 'Survivor Soldiers' of Sex Trafficking
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith is helping to put a human face to the often invisible crime of human trafficking - something many have dubbed modern day slavery. It's a problem plaguing countries across the globe, including the United States.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, the actress introduced Minh, Monica, and Jamm - "survivor soldiers" who'd been victims of sex trafficking.
Read below the Pinkett Smith's testimony on the young women's heart-rending stories of abuse - and transformation:
"Minh was sexually abused by her father beginning at the age of three. At age 11, her father began selling her to other men. At 14, Minh's mother felt she wasn't receiving her fair share of the money that Minh was generating, so she began selling her herself. All of this torture and abuse was taking place while Minh was attending public school, received straight A's and played competitive soccer. It happened right underneath everyone's noses," Smith said.
Now here we have Monica, who ran away from an abusive home and was on the streets at the age of 15, where she was kidnapped by seven men. They all beat her, raped her and eventually turned her over to another man, who forced her to sell her body for his financial gain. Monica was constantly in and out of the juvenile justice system 16 times between the ages of 15 and 17.
Jamm was an HIV-negative child born to parents diagnosed with AIDS, who died by the time she was 10. Jamm was forced to live with her mother's sister, a woman who is a Unified District school teacher in Los Angeles public school system.
There she experienced further sexual abuse from her aunt, her aunt's husband, and her cousins. For four years, her aunt sold her to over 100 pedophiles and child rapists. Trying to escape, Jamm stole her aunt's cell phone to try and call for help. Her aunt called the police to try and report her phone stolen, and the age of 15, Jamm was arrested."
Now today through hard work, perseverance and support of social programs, Minh is a graduate student at UC Berkeley, getting her MSW and Ph.D in social welfare. The recipient of a prestigious fellowship, Minh is studying the long-term impact of child abuse, trauma, recovery and studying the health and well-being of survivors of human trafficking.
Monica was introduced to a wonderful program that serves commercially, sexually exploited children called MISSSEY. She progressed on to become a part-time MISSSEY staff member and began working part-time for Youth Radio. During her time at Youth Radio, Monica was one of two key reporters that produced 'Trafficked,' which was later awarded the Peabody Award, Gracie Award, and the Edward R. Murrow Award. Currently, Monica is a full-time staff member at MISSSEY and a part-time student.
A teen's nightmarish trip into the sex trade
by Meghan Hurley
Fifteen-year-old Michelle was a responsible, straight A student who spent most nights at home with her parents and younger siblings and the rest of her free time working at Tim Hortons.
But her life drastically changed when a Friday night out with a friend turned into a nightmarish trip into the sex trade.
It began when the friend was contacted on Facebook by an older man, which led to a meeting. The two teenaged girls began to hang out with the man and two of his friends, all of whom were in their 20s.
The two teens were supplied with endless amounts of alcohol and drugs, partied at exclusive dance clubs and were treated to shopping sprees.
Michelle, who is now 21, said she was living like a rock star. But the reason for all this generosity became clear one afternoon when she was taken to an apartment building by one of the men.
When they were in the elevator, he told her she had to go into a suite and do anything she was asked.
“His tone of voice was now mean,” Michelle said. “The guy was nice to me in the car, nothing was out of the ordinary.”
When Michelle refused the man pulled out his cellphone and played a video featuring her involved in some “very scary” sexual acts.
Michelle said she was often under the influence of alcohol and drugs and had no memory of the video, which the man threatened to give to the principal of her school, her boss at Tim Hortons and post on Facebook.
Michelle, who lives in southwest Ontario, told her harrowing story at a recent conference in Ottawa. “From that day, I was putty in his hands,” she said. “From that point on, it just escalated. I was taken all over the place.”
She recalled going to a condo for five days in Wasaga Beach where she was forced to have sex with 50 men.
“They just sent guys in,” she said. “It's petrifying.”
Although she still lived at home, she was out most nights earning money for her pimps. If a client refused to give her money or if she didn't make a nightly quota, she was forced to pay.
But asking for money before she provided services often led to violence, she said.
“I always had bruises all over my legs,” Michelle said. “People would bite me.”
Michelle did receive some money, however. She would get about 20 per cent of the nightly take, an amount that reached between $1,000 and $1,500 a week. She said she became hooked on the cash, which she spent mostly on clothes and partying.
After four years, Michelle reached her breaking point — the money wasn't enough to keep her going.
“Physically, I couldn't do it anymore. Emotionally, I couldn't do it anymore,” she said. “I was so broken. I began to hate them — it was a love-hate situation.”
Michelle's conflicting emotions (to this day she has trouble referring to the man as her pimp) is common in sex trafficking victims, says Ottawa police inspector Uday Jaswal.
Jaswal said human trafficking begins by recruiting potential victims and developing a trusting relationship with them. The next stage is isolating the victim from friends and family, before the victim is eventually exploited.
“The level of exploitation, the level of trauma that's inflicted on an individual, the psychological damage is so significant,” Jaswal said.
Last year in Ottawa, three human trafficking charges were laid, Jaswal said. This year, three teenage girls have been charged with human trafficking in what police have called a shocking case.
When Michelle first tried to leave, her pimps began harassing her family. They followed her brother home from school, called her house constantly and stalked her.
Desperate, Michelle gave the pimps access to her parents' bank account. They took more than $20,000, but even that wasn't enough to keep them away, she said.
When her parents noticed the missing money, they confronted Michelle. She first denied knowing anything.
Her parents then took her to a police station where she finally confessed that she had given the pimps access to the bank account.
The police didn't believe her, she said, because she could only give them her pimps' first names.
Still, police often watched over her when she worked the night shift at Tim Hortons.
But they weren't around on a night two years ago when she was ambushed by her pimps in a dimly lit park on her way to work at Tim Hortons.
The pimps shoved her, pushed her to the ground and threatened to hurt her family if she didn't come back to work.
“You've messed with the wrong people,” Michelle recalled they told her.
Bleeding from the nose, Michelle lay helpless on the ground. And then one of her pimps held out his hand to help her up.
He did pull to her to feet, but he also stabbed her torso with his car keys, ripping through her shirt and puncturing her skin, she said. Blood covered her crisp, white Tim Hortons uniform shirt.
“I really did feel that I had no escape,” she said. She soon returned to the sex trade.
For another year, Michelle was coerced into having sex with mostly older men and giving her pimps the majority of her earnings.
That was until her mother gave her an ultimatum — move out or get help.
Desperately wanting to escape the life of forced prostitution, she agreed to get help a year ago from Walk With Me, an independent organization that helps victims of human trafficking become survivors.
The organization helped Michelle get into a safe house, while her parents moved to another city and changed their phone number.
Although Michelle never finished high school, she has landed a full-time job doing promotion and marketing for a financial company.
She has managed to safely stay out of the sex trade since August, but still gets text messages from her pimps and clients.
“It just reminds me of where I came from and I don't ever want to be sexualized like that again,” Michelle said.
Recovered memories take courtroom spotlight
Sexual Assault Victims 'Scared Silent'
by Susan Spencer
Ann M. McCarron never forgot being sexually abused by her pediatrician from the time she was 7 until she was 12 years old, but she never told anyone about it until she was in her 30s, after years of therapy.
Believing that she would go to jail if she spoke out, she tucked it in the back of her mind and followed a path of self-destructive behavior, including drinking vodka until she passed out.
“I was scared silent and I was numb,” said Ms. McCarron, who is now 49 and the associate athletic director at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
David K. O'Regan, 62, of Spencer, also blocked out for 40 years detailed memories of being abused at age 11 by a priest, until the bombardment of media reports surrounding the Boston clergy scandal forced him to face his past. He opened up for the first time, at age 52, to his wife.
“I didn't think anyone would believe me. I didn't believe it,” said Mr. O'Regan, who is a victim's advocate for the Worcester chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Although Ms. McCarron and Mr. O'Regan were aware of at least parts of their abuse, a number of victims suffer from what psychologists call recovered memory following dissociative amnesia. The victim doesn't remember the trauma at all until something triggers recollection such as related news stories or returning to the place where the abuse occurred.
“If there's one commonality here, it's really painful and not something they want to do (talk about their abuse),” said Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso, who has represented scores of abuse victims.
“People come forward when the pain of not talking about it becomes greater than the pain of talking about it.”
Mr. Durso estimated that about 20 percent of his clients have recovered memories, in which they didn't remember the abuse for several years, and the others locked the awareness in their minds and stayed silent. They're both normal reactions, he said, and are reasons why it can take decades before a victim seeks justice.
The issue of recovered memories in child sexual abuse cases has been controversial since it became prevalent in legal circles during the last 20 years.
Skeptics say people don't forget trauma and argue that false memories can be suggested by psychotherapists.
But others, such as Ross Cheit, professor of political science and public policy at Brown University, have documented more than 100 cases in which recovered memories were corroborated by witnesses, physical evidence or confessions. Mr. Cheit also compiled extensive summaries of cognitive research on post-traumatic recovered memories.
One of the most famous cases involving recovered memories took place in 2005, when defrocked Catholic priest Paul R. Shanley was convicted and sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison for raping a boy during the late 1970s in the Newton church where he served.
Last week in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Florida plastic surgeon Richard B. Edison settled with 48-year-old Timothy Clark of Charlton, who recovered memories in 2008 of abuse that allegedly took place beginning in 1974, when Dr. Edison was a medical student and Mr. Clark was a 10-year-old in Shrewsbury.
Ann Hagan Webb, a Wellesley psychologist and SNAP New England coordinator, first remembered her own years of childhood abuse by a priest in Rhode Island when she was 40 years old. She said the memories were triggered by her children becoming the same age she was during the abuse, 5 to 12 years old.
“It comes back in bits and pieces — it's not complete,” Ms. Webb said. “But when it comes back, it's vivid.”
She said people often think they're going crazy when the memories come flooding back, not believing it themselves at first. This initial turmoil is often used by defense lawyers to question the validity of the memories.
Ms. Webb explained that victims who have recovered memories actually dissociated, that is separated their emotional and physical pain, when they were being sexually abused by someone they were supposed to trust.
“For some reason, it seems like sexual abuse is extremely difficult to process. Especially in younger children, it seems like (dissociating is) the only defense mechanism available to them,” she said.
Sexual abuse is also different from witnessing a robbery, for example, because, “It's one of the few crimes where the victims feel shame, intense shame.”
Mr. Durso said the research supporting the existence and reliability of recovered or delayed memories is “very solid.”
But convincing the public or a jury based on years-old memories is difficult. “People are very resistant to the idea that otherwise normal-appearing people among us are bad people and perpetrators,” he said.
Mr. Cheit said, “I think there's a lot of uncertainty and disagreement about how often it does happen and why,” but it's an extreme position to deny recovered memories completely.
He disagreed with Harrison G. Pope, a clinical psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, who testified last week on behalf of Dr. Edison that “there is no satisfactory scientific evidence that you could lock up a memory of a major traumatic event.”
Mr. Cheit contrasted skepticism of recovered memories of sexual abuse to the public's more ready acceptance of post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks among war veterans, which share some psychological processes.
He also noted that traumatic memories reported by adult men tend to be believed more than those reported by women or children.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of four girls and one out of six boys experiences sexual abuse as a child.
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse are hoping the Massachusetts Legislature acts on House bill 469 before the session ends July 31. The bill would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for indecent assault and battery and rape for all minors and eliminate civil statutes of limitation for past and future child sexual abuse claims, among other provisions.
Supporters, including Mr. Durso and SNAP, say that too many victims are shut out by statutes of limitations by the time they come to terms with their memories.
The current limits are 27 years for criminal prosecution and three years for civil lawsuits starting from either the victim's 18th birthday or discovery of the abuse.
According to Yeshiva University in New York's Cardozo School of Law professor Marci A. Hamilton, who wrote about the legislative proposal in her blog, “The Catholic Bishops have made the defeat of child sex abuse SOL (statute of limitations) reform a top priority in every state where it has been introduced, and particularly the window.”
James F. Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholics Conference, did not return telephone calls to confirm his organization's position on House bill 469.
Ms. McCarron eventually coped with her painful memories by being active in sports and in 1998, when she was recreational sports director at Assumption College, she founded Voices for Children — Bike Across America to raise awareness of child sexual abuse.
“I want victims to go from being a victim to a victor,” she said.
Mr. O'Regan coordinates monthly support meetings in the Worcester area (Worcestersnap@gmail.com
). He said victims are amazed to hear others tell their stories, often for the first time.
“I carried the guilt and I carried the shame because I allowed that to happen to me,” he said.
Finally, he feels he's made it through to the other side.
Child Abuse Often Ignored
(Memphis, TN) How many times have you seen someone beating their child? When is it discipline and when could it lead to something worse? The abuse knocked the wind right of Amerah Bridges.
“Don't know the answer how we can get adults to step up to the plate when they see a child being abused,” said Bridges.
It's something she's struggled with for many years, and with good reason.
“I was asleep and then I felt the pressure on my back. While he was laying there he took his hand and put it on my mouth and said, 'Don't you say anything, don't you say anything , or I'll kill you.' So he raped me.”
He was her mother's boyfriend.
“He was a slew footed hump nosed SOB”, said Bridges.
He raped her in the backroom of this cafe her family ran in Jackson, Mississippi. The very first time it happened, she told. She ran to her catholic school where she told priests everything. The boyfriend was arrested, and her mother called.
“She left and went to the jail to get him out. When they came back she said, ‘I asked him about it and he said he didn't do it”, added Bridges. “That was the beginning of me hating my mother.”
The abuse went on for years, her parents aware, her attacker in control, much like the ones we see today. They're not all coaches, or clergy. Experts say 90 percent of abusers are relatives.
“We don't want to think about it, but the truth is we need to think about it and we need to protect children.”, added Nancy Williams of the Child Advocacy Center.
One in four girls, and one in six boys are abused and will carry it with them, like Amerah Bridges. She's still fighting back the pain seventy years later.
“It runs deep, and I've come to understand it's a lifetime of healing”, said Bridges.
Darkness to Light: Working to end child sexual abuse
by Jan Gibson
Recognizing and preventing child sexual abuse was the topic when Jesse Hartley, executive director of The Children's Advocacy Center/Hope House in Covington, was the guest speaker at the Bogalusa Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday.
Introducing Hartley was Rev. Bob Adams, a Rotarian, and pastor of First Baptist Church. Adams was instrumental in creating a Children's Advocacy satellite office in Bogalusa through First Baptist Church to “better serve our Washington Parish clients,” said Hartley.
“We cover all of St. Tammany and Washington Parish.” The services are free at least through 2012, thanks to the sponsorship of Capital One.
Speaking before a group of Rotarians, each of whom has children, grandchildren and/or great-grandchildren, Hartley immediately grabbed the attention of everyone in the room. Her message was sober:
— One in four girls, and one in six boys are sexually abused before they are 18 years old.
— 90 percent of all victims are abused by someone they know.
— There were 247 children interviewed for allegations of abuse at Hope House in 2011.
— Child sexual abuse is a community problem, costing the community $2 million every year.
The primary function of Hope House, said Hartley, is to provide a forensic interview, which is a fact-finding conversation conducted by someone trained in the dynamics of sexual abuse, to determine if a child has been abused. The child may have told a teacher he or she has been abused, and that teacher would be required to report the allegation to Children and Family Services, which would then bring the child to Hope House for a forensic interview.
Hartley said that one very important part of the forensic interview process is the video recording that is produced, with the child's knowledge, so that he or she will not have to repeat and relive the traumatic experience over and over. The video can be used in court. Not only is the recorded interview an effective and reliable way to present the child's story to investigators and the court, in many cases it is the only way that a jury will be able to see the child tell the story while still near the age when the abuse occurred. Cases may take a number of years to make their way into a courtroom.
“You have a child who might have been 10 when it (the abuse) happened who is then well into their teens by the time it goes to trial, and it's hard for a jury to wrap its head around (the fact) this happened to a child when they are seeing maybe an 18-year-old on the stand,” said Hartley.
“The conviction rate is up 85 percent since 1994,” she said. “The majority of our cases we win, and these people are taken off the streets.”
Hartley talked about the Penn State abuse case against Jerry Sandusky, saying, “We see that. Jerry Sandusky is just a textbook perpetrator,” she said. “He was somebody who was respected in the community, he was in a position of authority… He even started a non-profit for abused children.” From the beginning, she said, he was “developing his own pool of victims.” Of the 10 or 12 who have come forward, said Hartley, that's just a “small, small percentage.”
Of the 247 children counseled at Hope House last year, only five of them did not know their abuser.
“There's a relationship. These people will establish relationships, not only with the child, but with the family, because in order to gain access to the child, they have to gain the trust of the family, so that the family will then allow them to take their child to football games, etc.”
The Child Advocacy Center and Hope House is working to make the public aware that child abuse absolutely can be prevented.
“Eighty percent of child abuse cases occur when there's one adult and one child alone together,” Hartley said. “So if you eliminate one adult-one child interaction, you've prevented 80 percent of abuse cases.”
Hartley continued, saying that mentoring is still important, but keeping the child and adult in a place where they can be viewed, such as having their sessions outdoors, or in a room that has a window in the door so that anyone passing could see them, is key in those one-on-one interactions.
“Our goal is to train 10,000 adults in St. Tammany and Washington parishes over the next five years,” she said. “We're proud to report that just in the first year we've already trained over 500 adults, and every adult trained can protect up to 10 children from abuse.
“It is our responsibility as adults to protect these children make sure they have a safe community, a safe place to grow up and a safe place to live,” said Hartley.
The Children's Advocacy Center is part of a network of 700 children's advocacy centers nation-wide. Any adult interested in becoming trained in how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse is encouraged to sign up for the Stewards of Children training program, designed for organizations that serve youth and for individuals concerned about the safety of children.
For further information about the training program or The Children's Advocacy Center, contact Hartley at 892-3885 or email her at email@example.com. The center has a website at www.cachopehouse.org.
Seven steps to protecting our children
• Learn the facts, understand the risks
• Minimize opportunity
• Talk about it with the child
• Stay alert
• Make a plan
• Act on suspicions
• Get involved: Use your voice and your vote to make your community a safer place for our children.
Arrest made in Pa. kidnapping try caught on video
(Video on site)
by KATHY MATHESON - The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — A man suspected of trying to kidnap a 10-year-old girl off a sidewalk near her Philadelphia home was arrested Thursday after widely publicized surveillance video of the attack led him to surrender, authorities said.
Carlos Figueroa-Fagot, 33, was charged with attempted kidnapping, indecent assault and related offenses. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
The chilling video had been broadcast extensively since police released it a day earlier, leading to tips about the suspect's identity. Police Capt. John Darby said the footage essentially "forced him to come forward."
"He felt that he could not walk, talk or breathe out there on the streets," Darby said at a news conference.
The victim, whom Darby described as "a real trouper," suffered superficial injuries and has been talking with police about what happened.
The attempted abduction late Tuesday afternoon appeared to be completely random, Darby said, although he noted the suspect has had previous encounters with police. Figueroa-Fagot (pronounced fih-guh-ROH'-ah fa-GO') lives several miles from the girl's neighborhood in south Philadelphia.
The video shows a man approach the girl from behind in broad daylight as she walks home from a corner store with her toddler brother. The man puts his hand over the girl's mouth and tries to carry her away, but she struggles and the young boy screams.
"(The victim) said ... she's never heard him scream that loud in the past," Darby said. "She credits him with interrupting the attack."
The kidnap try lasts only seconds before the man runs to his car and drives off.
Police also found the white car that they believe the suspect was driving. Authorities said the man followed the children, leaving his car door open with the apparent intention of dragging the girl to the vehicle.
Court records indicate Figueroa-Fagot was charged with sexual offenses against a minor in February 2011 in Philadelphia, which were later dropped. That case involved accusations made by a family member, District Attorney Seth Williams said Thursday. The alleged victim and her mother later told prosecutors they made up the accusations, and officials dropped the charges this month, Williams said.
Figueroa-Fagot had run-ins with police in Puerto Rico, where he previously lived, Darby said. He said none of those — between 2000 and 2006 — involved allegations of sexual assaults.
Child-abuse victim leaves hospital, inspires ‘Kilah's Law' for tougher penalties
by Claire McNeill
For more information on Kilah's Law, visit teamkilah.wordpress.com
First, Kilah Davenport's doctors said she wouldn't live. Then they said she would remain in a vegetative state, according to her family.
But 3-year-old Kilah, who in May was beaten almost to death, left Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte Thursday in a pink tutu.
An escort of motorcycles, firetrucks and police cars led her and her family to her grandmother's home in Concord.
Kirbi Davenport, Kilah's 22-year-old mother, cried before strapping Kilah into her car seat.
“It's like taking her home again for the first time, like a newborn,” she said. She hadn't left Kilah's side in the hospital for the two months her daughter spent there.
“I mourn the loss of Kilah before, the old Kilah, because now you only get a smile now and then,” Kirbi Davenport said. “It's like I lost a baby but I gained a new baby. But she's in there, my Kilah. She looks at you and you know she's happy. She just can't get her smile to work.”
September trial set
Joshua Houser, Kilah's 22-year-old stepfather, is charged with felony child abuse and is jailed on $1 million bond. His trial is scheduled for September in Mecklenburg Superior Court. If convicted, he faces 44 to 92 months in prison – a possible sentence that family members say is too lenient.
Kilah had a broken collarbone, a fractured skull and brain damage after the May 16 incident in Indian Trail, according to Houser's arrest warrant. The swelling and bleeding were so bad that doctors had to remove part of her skull to relieve pressure on her brain.
Fighting to change law
The Davenport family told themselves they couldn't let Kilah's suffering be for nothing. Now, they're fighting to toughen the punishment of child abusers with legislation they call Kilah's Law.
Kilah's Law calls for stiffer penalties and longer sentences for felony child abusers, as well as a neighborhood registry similar to the one required of sex offenders. The law is expected to be introduced in the N.C. House at the beginning of the year.
Backing the law are Rep. Craig Horn, a Democrat from Union County, Indian Trail Mayor Michael Alvarez and activist Jeff Gerber, who founded the Justice for All Coalition, a national group that advocates for tougher penalties in cases of violence against children and women.
Alvarez said the current law only gives criminals a slap on the wrist.
“This child's going to have a lifetime recovery,” he said. “And with good behavior, these guys can be out of jail in 24 months. It's unacceptable.”
Alvarez said he hopes for the law to be passed within a year.
If Kilah's Law becomes a reality, felony child abuse would carry a sentence of 25 years to life.
Leslie Davenport, Kilah's grandmother, said the priority now is to keep the law at the forefront of everyone's minds.
“She's a victim, a survivor, a child who because of what happened to her is going to help save other lives,” her grandmother said.
Kilah still has severe brain damage, but her family says she is rewriting the rules of her expected recovery.
She can take small bites of food, identify colors and breathe on her own. Last week she took five steps with help from a therapist.
“These steps mean a lot more than her baby steps,” Kilah's mother said.
Local members of the nonprofit motorcycle group Renegade Pigs, composed of active and retired law enforcement officers, said they were happy to lead Kilah home.
“Anytime we can do anything good for the people, we do,” said member Michael Hastings. “To me, I had to hold back the tears. Nobody deserves that, especially not an innocent little girl.”
17 suspects held in attack, rapes on church camp in Mexico
by Gloria Perez and Mark Stevenson
TOLUCA, Mexico - Police arrested 17 men Wednesday on suspicion of attacking youths and raping five women and girls who were on a church camping trip outside Mexico City, a brutal assault that shocked much of the country.
The attorney general for the State of Mexico, Alfredo Castillo, said 11 of the gang members were identified by some of the victims. In interrogation videos played for reporters, three of the suspects confessed that they sexually abused the women and girls because fellow attackers told them to.
Two of the suspects were local police officers and another had served in the military, Castillo said, speaking two days after authorities announced the arrest of a man who was described as not directly involved in the assault on the camp-out but who allegedly provided information to the assailants.
President Felipe Calderon met with parents and lawyers of the victims Wednesday to discuss the crime, which highlighted the increasing dangers of outdoors activities around the capital.
Sponsored by a church group, 90 youths were camping Friday at an eco-park on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City when a group of armed men stormed into the hilly area. The attackers went on an hours-long rampage of beatings, robberies and rapes at the site close to the lower flanks of the Popocatepetl volcano.
The episode and a similar mass robbery and rape attack in February at a spot nearby have reduced city residents' trust in the serenity of the wooded hills around the city and interrupted a decades-old tradition of outdoors activities in the pine and fir forests.
Prosecutors have said the latest attack was not related to organized crime or drug gangs. Common criminals, robbers and rapists have been targeting hikers and campers on the city's outskirts.
Mexico's equivalent of the Boy Scouts said Tuesday that it is recommending scouts not go on hikes in small groups and avoid about 11 wooded areas on the outskirts of Mexico City. No scouts were involved in the attack.
The Scouts Association of Mexico said future hikes should ask for police protection if necessary. The group's statement said it coordinated a recent hike with local police departments.
Gerardo Catano, who leads tours and a mountain rescue group in the township of Tlamanalco on the slopes of the volcanos that ring Mexico City, said the number of hikers and campers has fallen about 90 percent in the wake of the most recent attack.
Catano said he has been robbed three times while leading groups through the mountains. He said the attackers were armed with pistols and shotguns, but he agreed with prosecutors that the robbers probably don't belong to sophisticated crime gangs or drug cartels.
"The organized criminals, they go after other targets" with more money, Catano said. "They are probably people from the (mountain) communities themselves."
Organized or not, Catano said the problem has gotten worse, with bands of attackers growing bolder and picking on larger groups, calmly spending hours humiliating their victims.
He recalled that in one of the attacks in which a group he led was robbed, "they took their time to threaten us and even ate our food in front of us. They had all the time in the world to do what they wanted."
In another large-scale attack, an armed band robbed a group of about 120 hikers in February, and reportedly raped two.
"You can't go up alone anymore, and it's even more dangerous if you have a woman with you," Catano said.
He and other guides have called on local authorities to deploy horse-mounted police patrols, and suggested officials station officers at some of the better-known trailheads and forest clearings.
Bikers Against Child Abuse:
International Organization Comprised of Bikers Supports and Protects Victims of Child Abuse
The shuddering growl of a Harley motorcycle is an intimidating thing. To most people it signifies the approach of bikers -- long-haired and tattooed, leather-clad, and tough.
But when children who have been the victims of abuse hear the approaching roar of a group called the Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), they know they've got back-up.
BACA, an international non-profit that uses a biker's tough image to make child abuse victims feel more secure, has a motto that says it all: 'No child deserves to live in fear.'
BACA members are usually asked to intervene by local law enforcement officials or even by a parent. According to the group's mission statement, members will do everything from attending a child's court hearings to actually staying with a victim if he/she is afraid.
“Our mission is to empower these children, allow them not to be afraid of the world, to stand up to the abuser and say you can't do that me. I've got friends, I got backup; if you try to do that to me, you're going to have go through us,” the Missouri chapter public relations officer, Mopar (the members use ride names for security purposes) told Columbia Magazine.
Bikers Against Child Abuse was founded in 1995 by a Native American child psychologist whose ride name is Chief, when he came across a young boy who had been subjected to extreme abuse and was too afraid to leave his house. He called the boy to reach out to him, but the only thing that seemed to interest the child was Chief's bike. Soon, some 20 bikers went to the boy's neighborhood and were able to draw him out of his house for the first time in weeks.
Chief's thesis was that a child who has been abused by an adult can benefit psychologically from the presence of even more intimidating adults that they know are on their side. "When we tell a child they don't have to be afraid, they believe us," Arizona biker Pipes told azcentral.com. "When we tell them we will be there for them, they believe us."
Membership in Bikers Against Child Abuse is a big commitment. If any of the kids are frightened, they only have to call and the bikers will ride over and stay outside all night, Pipes told azcentral.com.
Besides not using force, the bikers only have one rule. "I don't want to see any tears coming out of your eyes, and the child doesn't either," Pipes told a group of bikers during an interview with azcentral.com "Remember why we're here: to empower the child. If you can't handle it, keep your shades on." There's no crying in BACA.
FBI divers to use sonar in hunt for Iowa cousins
by RYAN J. FOLEY
EVANSDALE, Iowa (AP) — One week after a pair of young cousins disappeared, an FBI dive team with sonar equipment is expected Friday to search the lake in northeast Iowa near where the girls' bicycles were found.
Meyers Lake is about a mile from the Evansdale home where 10-year-old Lyric Cook-Morrissey and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins were last seen on July 13. The girls set off on a bike ride and never returned.
At the lake early Friday, Evansdale resident Billy Fischels, 38, who said he's helped in the search for the girls, waited for the arrival of the FBI dive team. He tied a sign to a telephone pole with a handwritten note, telling the girls they have the support of the nation and should stay strong.
"You've got a whole community and a nation that wants answers. Hopefully today they can get some," Fischels said. "I'd much rather see them alive and well somewhere, but if they are out there in the lake, at least everybody will know."
Search teams initially dredged the lake, then began draining it on Monday. But on Thursday they halted the draining operation because the FBI team needs at least 6 feet of water for the sonar equipment to function.
The FBI uses two kinds of sonar — one that can detect debris in murky water and another that provides a 360-degree analysis of the bottom of the lake. That device is mounted on a tripod that sends signals to computers on the surface helping direct divers where to search.
Angie Webb, 29, a teacher at the elementary school in the Waterloo suburb that Elizabeth attended, said she was holding out hope that the FBI divers would be unsuccessful and that the girls would show up alive.
"If they are in the lake, that's the worst-case scenario. You've got to be hopeful," Webb said.
On Thursday, tension between investigators and Lyric's parents seemed to reach a breaking point, with police suggesting they weren't cooperating and the couple consulting an attorney.
Tammy Brousseau, an aunt of both girls, told The Associated Press that Misty Cook-Morrissey and Dan Morrissey feel they're being treated as suspects.
She said an attorney advised the couple on Wednesday to stop talking to reporters, discontinue television interviews and not agree to take any more polygraph tests, Brousseau said. Authorities have not said that the parents took the so-called lie detector tests, although Cook-Morrissey told KCCI TV in Des Moines that she had undergone such tests during police interviews.
"That makes it a distraction for us when people decide to do things other than to cooperate 100 percent," Black Hawk County Chief Deputy Rick Abben said. "However, it's their choice how they wish to proceed with that."
Abben said investigators are aware that Lyric's parents have criminal records.
"Everyone was checked into. We did background checks on those people immediately and on everyone," Abben said.
Morrissey, 36, has three drug convictions, including possession of marijuana and ingredients used to make methamphetamine, most recently in 2011, court records show. He also was charged with domestic abuse causing bodily injury in August 2011 and has a trial date set for September.
Cook-Morrissey, 34, pleaded guilty in 2003 in federal court to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, court documents show. She also has theft and alcohol violations in state court. She is on supervised release after her probation was revoked in September for violating terms of her probation, including use of illegal drugs, excessive use of alcohol and failure to comply with drug tests.
Elizabeth's father, 40-year-old Drew Collins, has been convicted of fifth-degree theft, court records show.
The Associated Press tried to contact the Morrisseys later Thursday but the phone went to voicemail and was not able to take messages.
Back at the lake, Shari Hampton, 43, said her 10-year-old son was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to fish in the drained lake. And she admitted she was worried about the possibility of abductions.
"He's really upset about it," Hampton said of her son. "He's a boy and he thinks that nothing can happen to him. But it can happen to anyone."
Jailed Philly monsignor asks for probation in child abuse
by The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — The first U.S. church official convicted of endangering children in the priest-abuse scandal asked on Thursday for probation instead of prison, saying he had experienced months of scrutiny, vilification and shame.
Monsignor William Lynn, 61, of Philadelphia awaits sentencing on Tuesday.
Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the city's Roman Catholic archdiocese, handled priest assignments and child sexual assault complaints from 1992 to 2004.
He faces up to seven years in prison after a jury convicted him last month of felony child endangerment for his oversight of now-defrocked priest Edward Avery. Avery is serving a 21/2- to five-year term after pleading guilty before trial to sexually assaulting an altar boy in church.
Lynn's lawyers argue that few Pennsylvanians serve long prison terms for child endangerment and say he should not serve more time than abusers.
“Monsignor Lynn has never harbored any intent to harm a child,” lawyers Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy wrote. They said Lynn never thought the abuse would take place.
In 1992, a doctor told Lynn's office that Avery had abused him years earlier. Lynn met with the doctor and sent Avery for treatment, but the church-run facility diagnosed him with an alcohol problem, not a sexual disorder.
Avery was returned to ministry and sent to live at the northeast Philadelphia parish where the altar boy was assaulted in 1999.
Prosecutors are expected to seek the maximum sentence.
“That Lynn failed to report known child rapists to law enforcement and continued to support and enable the ministry of predator priests, in the face of constant reminders that hundreds of lives had been ruined by these men, is a clear measure of his character (and) his lack of remorse,” Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen wrote in a post-trial memo.
Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa revoked Lynn's bond after the June 22 verdict, sending the dazed cleric straight to prison. He now seeks a sentence of time served combined with house arrest, community service, work release or probation.
“The seven-year maximum sentence that the commonwealth advocates would serve no purpose at all — (it) would merely be cruel and unusual,” his lawyers wrote.
Prosecutors spent a decade investigating sex-abuse complaints kept in secret files at the archdiocese and issued two damning grand jury reports. They argue that Lynn and unindicted co-conspirators in the church hierarchy kept children in danger and the public in the dark.
Lynn plans to appeal his landmark conviction and seek bail immediately after he is sentenced. His lawyers have long argued that the state's child-endangerment statute — revised in 2007 to include those who supervise abusers — should not apply to Lynn because he left office in 2004.
Prosecutors are expected to file their sentencing memo on Friday.
Lynn was acquitted of conspiracy and a second endangerment count involving a co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan. The jury deadlocked on a 1996 abuse claim against Brennan.
In Modesto, new Support Group for Child Abuse Survivors
A Modesto marriage and family therapist and one of her former clients have started an Adult Survivors of Child Abuse chapter.
The chapter offers a free support group that meets from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on the second and last Monday of each month.
Irit Goldman said she started the chapter with a former patient because she had seen too many people who could not afford to continue their therapy.
For more, call Goldman at (209) 605-9626.
'Erin's Law' clears Senate despite concerns about adding an unfunded mandate on schools
by Dave Murray
LANSING, MI – “Erin's Law,” a package of bills aimed at teaching children how to protect themselves against sexual abuse, is headed to the state House after being unanimously approved in the Senate.
But there was some concern that the bills would add another unfunded mandate on the backs of local districts.
Senate Bills 1112-1114 would create a task force made up of legislators, state staff members and experts to make recommendations to school boards addressing child sexual abuse. Districts would be required to create a curriculum.
State Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Adams Township, said he appreciates the need for the curriculum, but said the Headlee Amendment calls for the state to pay for programs it imposes.
“We should not be imposing on districts additional costs that we are not willing to pay for,” said Casewell, a former superintendent.
State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said she's a firm believer in local control, but said there are times when local districts need to be instructed to take action.
“We are seeing what happens when people don't take action. Look at what happened at Penn State,” she said, referring to allegations of child sexual assault at the university.
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, called child sexual assault “a silent epidemic.”
Proos, a co-sponsor, earlier introduced Erin Merryn to the Senate chambers. Merryn, 27, is a sexual abuse survivor from Schaumburg, Ill., whose advocacy led similar laws in Illinois as well as Maine, Indiana and Missouri and consideration in other states.
Merryn, who testified before the Senate committee on Wednesday, said advocating for the bills has become her mission in life.
Merryn said educators in other states have expressed concern about costs, but she said there are age-appropriate programs available and children need the protection.
With the Senate in session one day in July, the bills moved quickly through the process, gaining approval of the full Senate after being approved in committee earlier in the morning.
Child sexual abuse needs prevention, not just punishment
If we identify and treat, perhaps we can save both victim and perpetrator
by Susan Reimer
The report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh castigated the men in the upper reaches of Penn State's administration, as well football coach Joe Paterno, for not acting in 1998 when they learned that a mother had complained to campus police that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was showering with her 11-year-old son in the football locker room.
Mr. Freeh suggests, rightly, that more than a decade of sexual abuse of young boys would have been prevented if Mr. Sandusky had been stopped then. Instead, he continued to enjoy the privileges of the storied football program that were the lure he used to groom, and then abuse, boys from troubled homes.
"Just don't bring the boys on campus," was the wrist-slap Mr. Sandusky was given — and one he ignored.
But whatever you think of Penn State's callous disregard for those victims, no action taken in 1998 would have saved the first young boy Mr. Sandusky abused, whoever he was and whenever it happened.
That's because child sexual abuse is seen solely as a criminal matter in this country, not a matter for treatment and prevention.
And the vision of the slack-faced and unrepentant old man in handcuffs being led to jail after he was convicted on 43 out of 45 counts — and accused by his own adopted son — has so poisoned the atmosphere around this deeply troubling sexual impulse that there will not soon be help for pedophiles, let alone sympathy.
"I fear that we will have a new spate of Sandusky laws," said Elizabeth Letourneau, associate professor in the department of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"Such as mandatory background checks. And a lot of money will go to the background check people. But that wouldn't have stopped Sandusky because he didn't have any priors.
"And not one damn thing will be done to prevent sexual abuse."
There is emerging research, Ms. Letourneau said, that suggests some men are born with a sexual preference for children. But a sexual preference for children doesn't have to result in actual sexual behavior toward children. Pedophilia and child molestation are not synonyms.
"The science suggests that there are people who, through no fault of their own, were born with a sex drive that they must continuously resist, without exception, throughout their entire lives," writes James Cantor of the University of Toronto, who studies sexual behavior and abuse. "Little if any assistance is ever available.
"No one has been able to find a way to change pedophiles into nonpedophiles," he continued. "But that doesn't mean we cannot prevent child molestation.
"It is too early to tell whether these efforts are effective over the long term, but preliminary reports are encouraging," Mr. Cantor said, describing programs in Europe and Canada supporting pedophiles who want to control their urges.
The criminal justice system goes immediately to DefCon 5 with child molesters, and the community follows. Prison and a lifetime on a sex-offenders list. Families turn away or are harassed. Neighbors complain, and suddenly jobs, housing or a place in school might disappear.
"Pedophiles who go on to become actual child molesters do so when they feel the most desperate," wrote Mr. Cantor. "Yet much of what society does has been to increase rather than decrease their desperation."
Because we believe them to be irredeemable, a convicted child sex offender faces a lifetime of surveillance to which even murderers are not subjected.
"We have a strong national sense that sex offenders are all destined to reoffend regardless of whether they get punished or treated," said Ms. Letourneau.
"There is no way," she said, "for someone to get help for themselves or someone else without involving the criminate justice system. And that has very serious consequences."
Ms. Letourneau's hope is that the Sandusky case brings much needed attention — and research dollars — to the matter of how to identify pedophiles and how to prevent them from abusing children.
But she isn't hopeful that there will be a sudden groundswell to identify and treat this dark impulse instead of just punishing it. Neither am I.
"Nobody has any empathy for these men," said Ms. Letourneau. "We see them as complete monsters and we refuse to see that they may have done good things in their lives."
And that is part of the conundrum for anyone who might be harboring suspicions about a man in their community.
"If you are a sex offender, you are a monster," she said. "But if you are my husband or my boyfriend or my Uncle Joe, I know you are not a monster because I know the good part of you. I like you or I love you, so you can't be a sex offender.
"This dichotomy has the effect of causing people to miss the red flags."
There is another point worth making here. A mother is quoted in the Freeh report saying that her son often came home from Mr. Sandusky's house without his underpants. She says in the report that she wished administration officials had done something to protect her son.
This question needs asking: Why didn't that mother do something to protect her son? Your child repeatedly returns home without his underwear, and you don't ask any questions or take any action?
Clearly, a public health information campaign directed at the first line of child protectors — parents and teachers — would be a good first step.
Those powerful men at Penn State and the school's legendary coach did nothing to stop Mr. Sandusky from abusing more children, and that is beyond forgiveness. Other people in positions of authority will learn from this that they can be held accountable for not acting, too, and face the wrath of the law. And that is a good thing.
But what about that first child, the first victim? What is to be done to protect him?
Talking To Children About Sexual Abuse
by Daniela Perallon
You may warn your children about looking both ways before they cross the street or not touching a hot stove, but the issue of sexual abuse may be a topic you don't want to broach.
It may seem like an uncomfortable topic, you don't want to make your child paranoid, or you simply think they are too young to talk about the dangers of sexual abuse. But silence on the topic could lead to years of pain for a child.
An estimated 75% of children won't talk about being sexually abused for a year after it happens. Another 45% stay silent for 5 years.
“We talk all the time about all kinds of things: what's going on on the internet, how you should behave, how you should interact with others,” said Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville. “If children don't know we are open to talking about the issue of sexuality, how can we expect them to come to us?”
One way Newlin suggests handling the subject with young children is telling them to come to you if someone makes them uncomfortable. The child's suspicion may lead to nothing, but a watchful eye may prevent abuse.
“One good way to talk about it is to say any part of your body that's covered by your bathing suit is off-limits. If anybody touches you there, you tell me,” suggested Newlin.
Newlin also says it's unwise to feel you are immune. About 90% of child sexual abuse is committed by a trusted friend, teacher, or even family member of the victim and his or her family.
The National Children's Advocacy Center has programs to learn about prevention, intervention, and counseling.
Penn State Board Of Trustees Chairman Vows Change
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The head of the Penn State board of trustees is vowing to put into effect changes recommended in a report on the child sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the university.
Chairman Karen Peetz says the report by retired FBI director Louis Freeh (LOO'-ee free) recommends "structural changes for the way the university is governed to ensure greater transparency and collaboration." She says she and university president Rodney Erickson have appointed a task force including board members and administration officials to ensure implementation of the measures "with care and urgency."
Peetz also vows an evaluation of the "fundamental culture" of Penn State and efforts for "transparency and accountability."
She said Wednesday night members of the university community feel sadness, disappointment and anger over the university's leadership failures.
DA charges two St. Joseph educators with failing to report suspected child sexual abuse to authorities
by AMY ASMAN
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced on July 12 that misdemeanor charges have been filed against former St. Joseph High School principal Joseph Myers and dean of students John Walker for allegedly failing to immediately report suspected child sexual abuse to law enforcement agents.
According to a press release from Dudley's office, “It is alleged that [Myers and Walker] were notified by 16-year-old student Jane Doe 1 and her parents of a sexual assault committed against her by two other students, also minors.”
The release goes on to state that Myers and Dean are both mandated reporters because of their positions at the high school and are required under law to immediately report suspected child abuse, child sexual abuse, or child neglect to the appropriate authorities.
In the release, Dudley said the filing concludes a month-long investigation conducted by Sheriff's detectives and investigators with the District Attorney's Office. Charges have already been filed against the suspects involved in the alleged sexual assaults, and those cases are making their way through the criminal justice system.
The maximum penalty for mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse is six months in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
When the Sun called St. Joseph High School seeking comment, Joanne Poloni, the school's former vice principal—currently serving as interim principal—said she was unable to comment on the investigation and referred a reporter to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which oversees Catholic schools on the Central Coast.
In a prepared statement sent out on July 13, Tod Tamberg, the Archdiocese's director of media relations, said, “The Archdiocese of Los Angeles became aware today of the charges against St. Joseph High School principal Joseph Myers and former dean of students, John Walker. Archdiocesan policy requires full adherence to California State mandated reporting laws in all schools within the Archdiocese. Mr. Myers has been placed on administrative leave pending the resolution of this matter.”
The Archdiocese also sent a letter home to parents informing them of the charges against Myers and Walker.
“Providing a Safe [sic] learning environment and a quality Catholic education for our students is of the utmost priority at all Catholic schools,” the letter says.
Chile announces measures to fight child sex abuse
Chile's president announced measures Wednesday to combat child abuse, responding to a popular outcry over an increase in reports of such crimes in one of Latin America's most socially conservative countries.
by LUIS ANDRES HENAO
SANTIAGO, Chile —
Chile's president announced measures Wednesday to combat child abuse, responding to a popular outcry over an increase in reports of such crimes in one of Latin America's most socially conservative countries.
The government already banned convicted pedophiles from working near children last month under a new law that also requires those convicted of sexually abusing minors or of child pornography to be registered in a database.
President Sebastian Pinera said Wednesday the database will be fully working starting in August. He also said Chile will toughen penalties on convicted pedophiles, increase the forensic institute budget by $1.6 million and create a children's ombudsman to protect their rights.
"With sadness and indignation we've heard serious reports in the past weeks of sex abuse by adults who had the responsibility to educate them, to protect them but who instead threatened against that which is most sacred in our children" Pinera said at a news conference.
Several teachers have recently been accused of sexually molesting children at day care centers and schools in affluent Santiago neighborhoods. Reports of sexual abuse of children under the age of 14 rose by 22 percent in the first half of the year, according to official estimates.
Pinera said reports of child sex abuse increased 20 percent last year to 21,176. "That means that almost 60 children in our country were abused each day, one every 20 minutes," he said.
To fight the trend, Pinera also announced stiffer punishments for those involved with distributing child pornography and urged lawmakers to review and fast-track about 100 bills stuck in Congress that could protect children against sexual abuse.
Under new measures, young sex abuse victims will need only to provide a video-recorded statement once so they can avoid the stress of repeatedly having to retell their painful episodes.
The government also plans to split the Sename National Office for Minors into two bodies, one that will focus on protecting vulnerable children while the other handles rehabilitation of teenagers who run into trouble with the law.
"Chilean authorities, react against dramatic situations. It's reactive not preventive, so I'm not surprised that the government has reacted to this pedophilia boom," said Giorgio Agostini, a forensic psychologist who has worked on dozens of child sex abuse cases.
"We didn't expect this announcement but it's very positive," Agostini said, adding that the next step will be to get more funds to treat children who have been sexually abused.
Chile remains strongly conservative in social matters and the Roman Catholic Church retains a firm influence over society.
But the church's influence has been weakened since 2010, when four men alleged that they were abused by one of Chile's most revered priests. They said the abuse by the Rev. Fernando Karadima began about 20 years ago when they were between 14 and 17 years old, in his residence at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in a rich neighborhood of Santiago.
The Vatican sanctioned Karadima by ordering him to a life of "penitence and prayer." A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, but she determined the abuse allegations were truthful.
In the United States, Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University assistant football coach, was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He awaits sentencing.
"The announcement of these high-profile cases - Sandusky in the U.S. and Karadima in Chile - have also helped Chileans to become more sensitive" to the problem of child sex abuse, Agostini said. "They caused a huge shock and raised concern among lawmakers to act and among people to denounce the abuse."
Pinera's popularity has been dragged down over the past year by large social protests demanding improvements in education, protection of the environment and a better distribution of wealth.
"Before, these marches were just political, but now there are all types: Some demand bathrooms in the subway, others the protection of children from predators," said Carlos Livacic Rojas, a sociologist at Santiago's Universidad San Sebastian.
"Today people are saying: Yes, we're connected and the economy is growing but there's abuse. In the past it would have stayed as pent up anger. Today there is real demand. It's a huge social change."
Fighting human trafficking on US soil
by Kate Dailey
The debate over human trafficking has come to the US, and to the corridors of the US Congress, where the Senate foreign relations committee heard about crimes committed at home.
The sexual abuse started when Minh was three. When she was 11, the abuser, her father, sold Minh for sex. By 15, Minh had enough, and ran away from home, where she was subject to more rape, violence and prostitution.
It is a familiar tale to anyone familiar with the victims of human trafficking. It's also one that took place within the United States.
Minh's story was just one shared by the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who testified in front of a Senate committee hearing focused on human trafficking internationally and domestically.
The insidiousness of human trafficking within the US was front and centre at the hearing. Senator Richard Durban, a Democrat from Indiana, said he was frightened by the idea that people are brought as slaves to America and work "a stone's throw away from the nation's capital."
The US ranks as a "Tier One" country on the State Department's Trafficking in Persons report (TIP).
According to the State Department, this ranking indicates "that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, has made efforts to address the problem" and meets the minimum standards set out by the Trafficking Victim's Protection Act, a US law designed to track and report human trafficking across the world.
Nevertheless, the sale of humans for sex or labour is still a massive problem in the country.
Just this week, two Ukrainian brothers were each sentenced for sneaking men and women into the US illegally, holding them against their will, and forcing them to work as janitors. Some of the women in their capture claim they were raped.
Stepan Botsvynyuk received 20 years in prison for his role in the crime, which stretched over seven years. His brother, Omelyan Botsvynyuk, was sentenced to life in prison. The judge said the severity of the brother's crimes "harkened back to the Nuremberg trials".
'A lot to go'
The US is a leading destination for human trafficking, with an estimated 17,500 people brought to the country against their will. Others, like Minh, are citizens trafficked within the country's borders.
The hearing this week was an attempt to address America's role both as a leader in human trafficking outreach and the continued role it plays in hosting and attracting human traffickers.
"We've made progress, but we've got a lot to go to end this modern-day slavery," said Ben Cardin, a Democratic senator from Maryland.
As the fight against human trafficking progresses, however, so too does the strategy used by the traffickers.
"Instead of shackles and chains, traffickers use debt, coercion, fear and intimidation," said David Abramowitz, vice-president of policy and government relations for Humanity United, a non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing human freedom.
"Actions of modern day slavers include seizing travel documents, creating hidden fees that become impossible debts to pay off, and threatening police retribution or violence against family members at home if the victim tries to leave."
Fighting the law
Other challenges remain, especially for US citizens who have been trafficked since childhood. Pinkett Smith told the story of two more American women sex slaves. In each case, the police did not protect the girls - they prosecuted them.
One girl, Jamm, was sold for sex by her aunt over 100 times. "Trying to escape, Jamm stole her aunt's cell phone to try and call for help. Her aunt called the police to report the phone stolen and at age 15, Jamm was arrested and treated like a criminal," said Pinkett Smith.
Another girl was processed through the juvenile justice system 16 times over two years - and over the same period of time was being consistently beaten and sold for sex.
"It's hard to explain to law enforcement that these young ladies are not willing participants [of prostitution]. Law enforcement want the ability to treat them as perpetrators, to put them on the stand," said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican.
In a fractious political climate, it is hard to find a topic that both sides of the aisle agree on. But the idea that humans should not be held against their will is one that both Democrats and Republicans have pledged to support.
Detesting human trafficking is the easy part. Figuring out how to stop it - and finding money to do so - is much more complicated.
Just ask Minh and Jamm.
A letter to trafficking survivors interested in speaking
WASHINGTON , DC, July 19, 2012
As awareness of human trafficking spreads across America, the interest in hearing personal stories of survival is rising. Before you agree to share your story, however, I encourage you to consider why you feel compelled to speak out.
Are you feeling nervous or confused about sharing details about your life before an audience? Are you feeling pressured by an organization or activist to share your story at an upcoming event? Are you interested in speaking because you think it is the only way for survivors to contribute to the cause?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I strongly encourage you to connect with a reputable service provider or survivor network for advice and support before speaking. There are many ways for survivors to be involved in the movement, and it doesn't have to include sharing your personal story. Also, keep in mind that speaking on the topic of human trafficking does not have to include sharing your personal story!
No survivor should feel pressured to share their story, and no survivor should speak in front of an audience unless they have received the specialized counseling and care needed to process and heal from their trauma. A successful survivor speaker is one who speaks from a positive mental space with a solid system of support. It took nearly twenty years before I knew I was ready to speak about my experience.
If you believe you are ready, and that it is necessary for you to share your story, then I commend you on your courage. Your voice will raise awareness to the general public, train other experts in the field, offer a warning to those at risk, and provide strength and hope to other survivors. I must again encourage you to be connected with a reputable organization or network of survivors so that you can seek guidance and support before, during, and after your speaking event.
The act of sharing your testimony can be tremendously healing and empowering when done under a professional atmosphere of care and respect. However, without proper guidance, you run the risk of walking away feeling exploited. If you choose to tell your story, then please consider the following guidelines.
Survivor Speaker Guidelines
Ask the organization or event coordinator to fill out a Survivor Speaker Request Form. This will give the organization an opportunity to consider their needs, as well as yours. If you choose not to use the form, I encourage you to ask the following questions:
What organizations are involved with the event? Who is hosting, who is helping, and who is receiving any funds raised?
What is the date, time, location, and expected length of the event?
What is the purpose of the event (e.g. raising community awareness, raising funds, prayer vigil, law enforcement training, etc.)?
What is the focus of the event (e.g. forced labor, forced prostitution, domestic minor sex trafficking, international trafficking, etc.)?
Ask what they hope to achieve from your presence and speech?
Who else will be speaking? Ask for an itinerary or event brochure for more details.
What is the expected size, age, and class of the audience (e.g. young adult churchgoers, middle school teens, youth group members, upper class dinner event attendees)?
Is there a dress code?
Ask if accommodations will be provided (e.g. food, travel, parking, and lodging). If the organization is unable to provide these accommodations, then request to have these expenses reimbursed.
If the event is a fundraiser, ask if they are willing to donate a percentage of raised funds to an anti-human trafficking charity of your choice. This enables you to walk away from a speaking engagement knowing that your story will help a reputable organization.
Request a signed agreement outlining the proposed accommodations and / or reimbursement payments, including any honorarium fees you require.
If needed, request to have a chaperone meet you upon arrival, remain by your side throughout the event, and walk you to your car or to the bus stop / train terminal after the event. The chaperone should have only this task on the day of the event so that he / she can concentrate on you and your needs. Contact the chaperone before the event (or ask for the chaperone to contact you) for an introduction. Take this time to voice any and all concerns or special needs.
If you are uncomfortable with making these requests, then ask the organization / event coordinator to fill out a Survivor Speaker Request Form. Ask a trusted advocate to review the form and to contact the coordinator regarding your specific needs and requests.
Ask if the event is to be videotaped, audio-taped, and / or photographed.
Make it clear that you do not want to be filmed in any manner and that you do not want your story to be duplicated in any manner. No organization has the right to take your story without your permission.
Ask the coordinator to announce to the audience, including any and all news media present, to turn off all video and sound equipment before you are introduced and to advise the audience not to take any pictures during your speech.
The Survivor Speaker Request Form asks the coordinator to sign an understanding that your story cannot be duplicated without your permission. If an organization or news reporter wants to film your story, then have them complete a Survivor Speaker Request Form for News Media. This form asks the reporter to outline in writing why they want your story and how it will be used. They should give you time to agree to and prepare for their questions. Should you agree, inform them of any required honorarium fees.
I do not recommend that any new speakers agree to any spontaneous requests from the media. I encourage you to gain experience speaking in closed sessions before speaking to news reporters.
As survivors, we must take good care of ourselves in order to heal and grow. Listen to your emotions. If something doesn't feel right, then don't be afraid to say no. You have every right to decline to answer any question from anyone.
You have every right to ask these questions about any event at which you are being invited to speak.
Once all of your questions are answered, you can start working on your speech- tips on speech writing to follow.
Chilling Video Shows Philly Child Abduction Try
Police are seeking the man who tried to abduct a 10-year-old Philadelphia girl in broad daylight but fled after the girl struggled and screamed.
Surveillance footage shows the man approach the girl from behind as she walked with her 2-year-old brother on Tuesday. The man puts his hand over the girl's mouth and tries to carry her away.
The attempted abduction lasts only seconds before the man runs to his car and drives off. Police say the man followed the children, even leaving his car door open with the apparent intention of dragging the girl to the vehicle.
Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the man's arrest.
The girl suffered superficial injuries.
Child predator sentenced to life imprisonment in Louisiana
SHREVEPORT, La. — A Fort Bliss, Texas, man was sentenced to life in prison Friday for producing and distributing child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Robert Cuff, 49, pleaded guilty in December 2011 to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. Cuff, a command master chief in the United States Navy, was assigned as the senior enlisted advisor to the Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss at the time of his arrest. Evidence showed he joined and participated in the Dreamboard child exploitation bulletin board while stationed at Fort Bliss.
At sentencing, the court found that not only had Cuff participated in a child exploitation enterprise, he had also engaged in a pattern of activity involving the sexual exploitation of a 5-year-old child.
Jonathan Mayer, 29, of Newport, Tenn., and Shane Micah Turner, 33, of Roy, Utah, were also sentenced in connection with their participation in the Dreamboard bulletin board. Each received a sentence of 17 ½ years in prison followed by lifetime supervised release, as a result of both defendants pleading guilty to conspiring to advertise child pornography. The sentences were handed down by U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks.
United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley stated, "These defendants, and people like them, who advertise, participate, distribute or exploit children to access child pornography work hard to evade law enforcement and disguise what they are doing. Their sole purpose is to view children hurting for their own sexual satisfaction. We agree with the court's statement that this defendant was much like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; to those who knew him in the military, he appeared to be an outstanding sailor, but as the judge stated, this defendant had a dark side involving the advertising of child pornography and the rape of a young child.
We want people who get engulfed in this type of disturbing behavior to know that they will face serious consequences for their actions. Our office will continue to vigorously prosecute this type of criminal activity to the fullest extent of the law. We want the community to know that the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice, along with our federal, state and local partners, are committed to protecting children from these vile criminals."
"Cuff and the other conspirators of the nightmare called Dreamboard mistakenly believed that they could commit unspeakable crimes against children and evade detection by law enforcement," said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. "Criminals with this kind of depravity in mind should know that we are ever vigilant. For every tactic taken to evade law enforcement, we will adapt our strategies to find them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law." Parmer oversees HSI activities in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
To date, 42 out of 72 individuals have been convicted for their participation in an international criminal network, known as Dreamboard, which was dedicated to the sexual abuse of children and the creation and dissemination of graphic images and videos of child sexual abuse throughout the world.
The charges against these defendants were a result of Operation Delego, an ongoing HSI investigation launched in December 2009 that targeted individuals around the world for their participation in Dreamboard. Dreamboard was a private, members-only, online bulletin board created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of very young children in an environment designed to avoid law enforcement detection. Operation Delego represents the largest prosecution to date in the United States of individuals who participated in an online bulletin board conceived and operated for the sole purpose of promoting child sexual abuse, disseminating child pornography and evading law enforcement.
All 72 defendants were charged with conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography, and 50 were also charged with engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. Out of the 72 charged defendants, 55 have been arrested in the United States and abroad. Forty-one individuals have pleaded guilty and one defendant was convicted after a four-day jury trial. Twenty-eight of the 41 individuals who pleaded guilty have been sentenced to prison and received sentences ranging from 15 years to life. Thirteen of the 72 charged individuals remain at large and are known only by their online identities. Efforts to identify and apprehend these individuals continue.
According to court documents and evidence presented at the trial of defendant John Wyss, aka "Bones," Dreamboard members traded graphic images and videos of adults molesting children 12 years of age or younger, often violently, and collectively created a massive private library of images of child sexual abuse. The international group prized and encouraged the creation of new images and videos of child sexual abuse â€“ numerous Dreamboard members sexually abused children, produced images and videos of the abuse, and shared the images and videos with other members of Dreamboard.
Dreamboard members employed a variety of measures designed to conceal their criminal activity from detection by law enforcement. Members communicated using aliases or "screen names," rather than their actual names. Links to child pornography posted on Dreamboard were required to be encrypted with a password that was shared only with other members. Members accessed the board via proxy servers, which routed internet traffic through other computers so as to disguise a user's actual location and prevent law enforcement from tracing Internet activity. Dreamboard members also encouraged the use of encryption programs on their computers, which password-protect computer files to prevent law enforcement from accessing them in the event of a court-authorized search.
Membership was tightly controlled by the administrators of Dreamboard, who required prospective members to upload child pornography portraying children 12 years of age or younger when applying for membership. Once they were given access, members were required continually to upload images of child sexual abuse in order to maintain membership. Members who failed to follow this rule would be expelled from the group.
The bulletin board included rules of conduct, printed in English, Russian, Japanese and Spanish. The rules required prospective members to upload material depicting children under the age of 12 engaged in sexually explicit activity. Approved members were required to observe strict posting rules designed to encourage members to disseminate large quantities of child pornography, thwart efforts by law enforcement to identify members of the board, and encourage members to sexually abuse children in order to produce new material for the board. The board rules also required members to organize postings based on the type of content. One particular category was entitled "Super Hardcore." The rules for that category described in graphic language that the only posts permitted were those involving adults having violent sexual intercourse with "very young kids" who were being subjected to both physical and sexual abuse and were obviously "in distress, and or crying."
Operation Delego involved extensive international cooperation to identify and apprehend Dreamboard members abroad. Through coordination amongst ICE; the Department of Justice; Eurojust, the European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit; and dozens of law enforcement agencies throughout the world, 20 Dreamboard members across five continents and 14 countries have been arrested to date outside the United States, including two of the five lead administrators of the board. Those countries include Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Kenya, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Qatar, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland. Numerous foreign investigations related to Operation Delego remain ongoing. The location and arrest of Dreamboard members abroad have led to the capture and investigation of other global targets.
Evidence obtained during the operation revealed that at least 38 children across the world were suffering sexual abuse at the hands of the members of the group. Efforts by federal, state, local and international law enforcement to locate and identify the victims of sexual abuse and exploitation by Dreamboard members are ongoing.
The investigation was conducted by HSI, the Child Exploitation Section of ICE's Cyber Crimes Center, CEOS, CEOS's High Technology Investigative Unit and 35 ICE offices in the United States and 11 ICE attaches offices in 13 countries around the world, with assistance provided by numerous local and international law enforcement agencies across the United States and throughout the world.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Churches work to halt child sex abuse
by Shelia M. Poole
Stung by scandals of child sexual abuse, churches are taking greater steps to become a secure place for youths.
"Churches are supposed to be safe and trustworthy," said Sally Ulrey, a trainer for Safeguarding God's Children. "When I train adults, they're surprised that this is so common. When they were younger, of course it happened, it just wasn't talked about.
Ulrey, whose training sessions are required for all adults who work with children by the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, recently held a session for about a dozen or so members of St. Edward's Episcopal Church in Lawrenceville that involved videos detailing stories about sexual abuse of youths by pastors and volunteers. They then discussed ways to stop it from happening again — perhaps in their own churches.
Child sexual abuse is hardly a problem solely in churches, but churches are trying to do what they can to halt the problem. In addition to requiring training like that conducted by Ulrey, they are conducting background checks on clergy, staffers and volunteers. Others are adding security cameras, setting child-to-adult ratios, limiting where outside events are held, and making structural modifications such as adding glass in doors so people can see inside. Such actions are often required by insurance companies that can provide up to $1 million in coverage to churches.
"One thing I've found so surprising is that some churches don't have training, they don't have policies and they don't have ratios of adults to children," said Ulrey, who also is a member and staffer at St. Mathews Episcopal Church in Snellville. "It's sort of a liability waiting to happen, which is really scary to me."
Others do, though. The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, for instance, has conducted background checks on volunteers and staffers since 2003, and it has held prevention training workshops since the 1990s.
In Georgia, such efforts will be aided by revisions to a state law that make its mandatory for employees and volunteers at any nonprofit, agency, business or group that works with children, including churches, to report suspected cases of child abuse, including neglect, beatings and sexual molestation, or face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
For many years, focus has been on the Catholic Church, which was rocked by a widespread priest abuse scandal. The church came under fire for practices that moved offending priests from church to church, often without informing parishioners, police and prosecutors.
In reality, such abuse happens in other denominations as well, experts say.
David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, commonly known as SNAP, said the 12,000-member organization has received calls from Buddhists, Presbyterians and Baptists — "virtually every denomination you can name."
"It's more widespread that anyone wants to believe," he said. "I think, in part, that predators gravitate toward jobs with access to kids and where they have power over kids. The church certainly qualifies."
As Ulrey pointed out, trust and safety are characteristics people associate with churches. But Clohessy said they can be a potential area of danger to children because some child predators can appear to have the skills of many clergy members, including "being well-spoken, charming, outgoing, popular and charismatic."
The scope of the problem of sexual abuse is hard to determine because many victims never come forward, or if they do, it may be years later.
More may come forward, though, with the news coverage of high-profile cases such as that of Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at Penn State University who was recently convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse.
It's not just national headlines, either.
Earlier this year, for example, the parents of two young boys sued a Kennesaw church, alleging that a youth minister had molested their sons.
The lawsuits accuse the church of being negligent for allowing a man "with dangerous propensities around young boys" to volunteer with children.
A spokesman for the church said it does does background checks on all volunteers working with children.
Those cases don't surprise Susan, a 49-year-old Atlanta resident who was raised a Southern Baptist and grew up believing that "the pastor is next to God." At 15, Susan, who asked that her last name not be used, said she was lured into a sexual relationship with an associate pastor whom she had turned to for counseling.
The situation lasted about a year and ended when she confided in another adult at the church. When the senior pastor heard about Susan's allegations, he asked whether they were true and told her to stay quiet. "He said I was young enough to just forget about it and let it go," she said.
Susan left the Baptist Church and spent years in therapy.
"I'm very distrustful of the church now. ... I don't trust ministers. I don't look at them the way I used to," she said.
Mitzi Thomas, a spokeswoman for Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co., said that now "churches are much more aware of what they need to do to prevent child abuse."
"We don't get pushback anymore from churches that say, 'Why do we need to have this? This doesn't happen here,' " Thomas said. "Now, it's 'What should we do?' "
Brotherhood Mutual provides sexual misconduct coverage for ministries with limits ranging from $50,000 to $1 million.
Matt Carlucci, an associate agency owner with Brightway Insurance Agency in Jacksonville, said such coverage is a growing business.
"Whenever I meet with a church I talk to them about that coverage upfront," he said, "and I've never had a church tell me they don't want it."
Providing background checks for churches is another growing industry. But even with a thorough background check, which might range from $16 to $50, some people can slip through the net.
Churches may seek other firms and opt for the cheapest background checks available, which may miss critical information, said Mike McCarty, the CEO of Indianapolis-based Safe Hiring Solutions. The churches may lack the resources to do background checks on every staffer and volunteer, he said.
"A church may focus on their staff of 10 people, but they have a volunteer base of 200," he said. "They'll say, 'Wow, that's a lot of money.' "
McCarty, who has seen a significant increase in faith-based clients in the past 18 months, said there are other issues in gathering information. Some states may not update their information in a timely manner, others might have incomplete data or information that is not immediately available online.
Safe Hiring Solutions has uncovered cases of clergy, staffers and volunteers with convictions of sexual assault and rape, McCarty said. One person tried to change his name. When staffers ran the search, he came up clean, but they grew suspicious. A further search turned up 21 convictions for voyeurism.
"The sad part is he probably moved on down the street to another church," McCarty said. "We've seen it all."
Association between rising child abuse and housing crisis, study suggests
Hospital admissions for child abuse have risen in the past decade, and the increase might be related to the housing crisis of the late-2000s, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that between 2000 and 2009, admissions for physical abuse at pediatric hospitals hit a peak in 2008 - right about the time housing foreclosures were taking off in many parts of the country.
And in general, as a local area's rate of delinquent mortgages and housing foreclosures rose, so did its rate of child abuse admissions.
That doesn't prove the housing crisis is to blame. "This type of study can't demonstrate causation. It can only show an association," said lead researcher Dr. Joanne N. Wood of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
But she said it's possible that housing foreclosures signal the "serious end result" of families' economic hard times - when, for example, they've been out of work for a long time, and their savings and "safety net" benefits have run out.
And that could put more kids at risk.
What's more, Wood said, the study conflicts with some past studies indicating that child abuse is declining in the U.S.
"This suggests that maybe the problem is not getting better," Wood said.
Thousands of admissions per year
The findings, reported in the journal Pediatrics, are based on a database that tracks discharges from pediatric hospitals in major metropolitan areas.
Between 2000 and 2009, there were just over 11,800 admissions for physical abuse in children younger than six at 38 hospitals. That accounted for 0.28 percent of the nearly 4.2 million admissions overall.
Over the years, that rate fluctuated, peaking at 0.3 percent in 2008.
Then the researchers looked at each metropolitan area's unemployment rates and housing woes. They found that for each percentage increase in an area's foreclosure rate, admissions for physical abuse rose 6.5 percent the following year. There was a similar pattern when Wood's team looked at 90-day mortgage delinquency rates.
In contrast, there was no link between unemployment and child abuse admissions.
The reason for that discrepancy isn't clear. But Wood speculated that unemployment is a less-extreme marker of a family's economic problems than mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures are.
The results do paint a different picture than some past research that has suggested child abuse is declining in the U.S., Wood and her colleagues say.
But the reason may be the data source, Wood said. Those past studies have looked at reports to child protective services, which cover varying degrees of abuse. On the other hand, children admitted to the hospital would be victims of the most severe physical abuse.
There is "reasonable evidence" that other forms of child maltreatment are declining, said Dr. Kristine A. Campbell, a pediatrician at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City who has studied the issue.
"But there are still huge problems in terms of kids who are being severely abused," said Campbell, who was not involved in the new study.
Like Wood, she said it's impossible to tell from this study whether housing foreclosures led to some severe abuse cases. "We don't know that economic stress causes child abuse," Campbell said.
There could be complex reasons for the relationship, according to Campbell. It's possible, for example, that when a family loses their home, they may end up living with someone else who is not used to having children around, and that's when the abuse occurs.
Still, Campbell said, "this study adds to a large body of evidence that economic downturns are bad for families and bad for children."
That includes negative effects on kids' nutrition, school work and general health.
"Economic downturns are exactly the time when we should not be cutting services to families," Campbell said. She pointed to government programs like WIC, which gives nutrition assistance to low-income women who are pregnant or have young children.
On the brighter side, Wood's team did see evidence of a dip in physical abuse admissions in 2009 - even though the housing crisis continued.
Campbell said that further research should try to uncover the possible reasons.
"There are hints of an improvement," she said. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could show that something we're doing is working?"
Advance legal columnist: Who should be mandated to report child abuse?
by Daniel Leddy
Associated Press Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa. in this June 18 file photo. Following an eight-month investigation commissioned by Penn State itself, former FBI Director Louis Freeh issued a 267-page report last Thursday excoriating top officials at the school for enabling the protracted sexual abuse of young boys by Jerry Sandusky, its former assistant football coach.
Now, as the university's board of trustees ponders the report's 119 remedial recommendations, fallout from the scandal is spreading across the nation.
In addition to a heightened suspicion of those with an apparently unreasonable interest in a specific child or children, there have been numerous legislative initiatives to increase - in some instances, dramatically - the duty to report misconduct toward a child.
Because too many people are inclined to look away when confronted with the ugliness of child abuse, the concept of “mandated reporters” came into being many years ago.
These are individuals who, in the course of their various professions, are most likely to come upon information suggesting that a child may be abused or neglected.
Hence, they are required by law to report such instances to the appropriate state agency.
Current New York law is typical with respect to those designated as mandated reporters. It includes, among others, physicians, psychologists, registered nurses, social workers, substance- and alcohol-abuse counselors and day-care providers.
Those who fail to make a required report are subject to both criminal and civil liability.
On the other hand, if they do make a report and it turns out to be unfounded, they are clothed with immunity from any resultant lawsuit so long as they acted reasonably and in good faith.
Notwithstanding the immediate heartache and potential long-term implications of child abuse and neglect, the proposition that everybody should be a mandated reporter for every kind of child mistreatment was not popular prior to the Penn State scandal.
Now, however, key revelations in that case are being cited to promote just such a radically different approach.
In the fall of 2000, James Calhoun, a janitor at Penn State, witnessed Sandusky having oral intercourse with a young boy in the showers at the Lasch Football Building.
Although Calhoun told other janitors and a supervisor what he had seen, he did not report the crime to law enforcement.
Similarly, on March 1, 2002, Michael McQueary, a graduate assistant at the university and alter an assistant coach, saw Sandusky having anal intercourse with a young boy in those same showers.
While claiming to have given specific details of the incident to high-ranking Penn State officials, including the late football coach Joe Paterno, he, too, failed to notify police. The critical omissions of Calhoun and McQueary would be felonies under bills introduced by two veteran Staten Island legislators, Democratic Assemblyman Michael Cusick and state Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican.
The legislation, which, as Cusick says, embodies common sense, requires that, for criminal liability to attach, a person must actually witness a crime against a child as defined by the penal law, realize that he is, in fact, witnessing such a crime, and nevertheless fail to report it to law enforcement as soon as he is physically able.The bill is carefully crafted to avoid constitutional challenge, and is an intelligent response to a need made evident by the Sandusky case.
The same cannot be said, however, for the many sweeping legislative proposals now pending in several other states. Typical is legislation that's been introduced in South Carolina which would require “any person in this state to report suspected child abuse or neglect.”
If enacted, the bill would make every adult resident of South Carolina the equivalent of New York's mandated reporters, minus, of course, their professional expertise. Granted, some instances of child abuse are so blatant that they'd be apparent to the most benighted layperson. Conceptually, however, child abuse and neglect are imprecise terms, their incidences often susceptible to lively debate among professionals in the field.
To expect the average person to analyze every potential situation and make a reasonable judgment as to whether child abuse or neglect likely exists is unrealistic; to punish him for wrongly concluding that it doesn't when, in fact, it actually does is unconscionable.
Making everybody a mandated reporter also invites abuse by those inclined to use the requirement as a pretext to maliciously defame others.
False accusations of child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, have already become the nuclear option for desperate combatants in custody and visitation cases. They and similarly unscrupulous types would be further emboldened under a broad reporting mandate.
This potential for abuse also militates against less ambitious proposals, such as those that require youth league coaches to report suspected instances of child mistreatment.
Given the toxic environment created when parents and coaches put winning games and individual performances above the kids' welfare, these leagues would become cesspools of recrimination.
The narrowly defined approach taken by Cusick and Lanza avoids these problems while substantially enhancing the protection of children.
In contrast, attempts by others to score political points by broadly expanding the reporting mandate will largely cause innocent people to suffer, an unintended but predictable result perversely traceable to Sandusky's crimes.
Child abuse deaths among NC military families down, but still a concern
by Drew Brooks
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — More children were killed by their parents or guardians in counties with high military populations than anywhere else in the state, according to a study released today by a North Carolina nonprofit.
But officials said the numbers are an improvement from a similar report published a decade ago, which also showed a large disparity between homicides by parents or guardians in Cumberland and Onslow counties and the rest of North Carolina.
The two counties account for 6 percent of children up to age 10, according to the study, but 13 percent of the deaths by parents or guardians.
Action for Children North Carolina and Fort Bragg officials will discuss the study today on the military installation.
They also will explain programs that Fort Bragg and the county Department of Social Services have implemented in the past decade to help reduce homicides by parents or caregivers of children.
The report, "Collateral Damage on the Home Front: Ten Years Later," found 251 homicides by parents or guardians between 2001 and 2010, a 13.6 percent decline from the last study, which looked at a 15-year span ending in 2000.
No such killings were reported in 35 of the state's 100 counties, according to the report, and only seven counties had eight or more cases.
In Cumberland County, officials tallied 22 homicides by parent or guardian, 10 of which were in active military families.
For the past decade, officials on and off the military installation have tried to coordinate services and implement Policies and programs to reduce stress on families, according to a release from Action for Children.
"One of the many benefits of these programs has been our ability to reduce abuse cases, including child homicides," Thomas M. Hill, Fort Bragg's Family Advocacy Program Manager, said in the release. "But we won't rest on our laurels, we will continue to find ways of improving our effectiveness and increasing our assistance to our families."
Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow with Action for Children, said the rates remain unacceptably high in Cumberland County, but said military and civilian leaders have indicated a commitment to continue making progress.
"Children and families are relying on that commitment," he said.
In 2004, Action for Children, then known as the N.C. Child Advocacy Institute, released a study that showed children of military families in Cumberland County were 2.3 times more likely to be killed by their parents than children statewide.
That study found that children of military families in the country died of abuse at an annual rate of 5 per 100,000 while the statewide rate was 2.2 deaths per 100,000.
The new study shows a rate of about 4.08 per 100,000 in Cumberland County and 1.9 per 100,000 statewide.
Researchers noted similar trends in both studies for Onslow County, home to the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune.
Child sex abuse a public-health concern
July 18, 2012
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh's report about the Penn State child sexual-abuse scandal is now public information. As responsible people are cited in the report, a culture of silence persists on how victims' lives have been impacted.
Driving this culture is the unspoken power of fear. Victims may be granted financial compensation, but money will not change their lives as they silently cope with their adulterated humanity.
In 1999 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new child sexual-abuse perspective with a panel of professionals stating that child sexual abuse is a public-health problem, not a legal problem.
Concurrent with this statement, James A. Mercy, a CDC researcher for the Division of Violence Prevention, succinctly described the public's unwillingness to be involved in discovering how to treat this "disease" of child sexual abuse in a report, "Having New Eyes: Viewing Sexual Abuse as a Public Health Problem."
In May 2011, the Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers also stated child sexual abuse is a public-health problem. Punishment and prisons for abusers are not helping the children. Compassionate care with understanding support is needed to treat potential abusers.
Ongoing research by ATSA members presents strong indications that child sexual abuse can be eradicated. Adults have the power to choose not to act with destructive actions that harm others.
The real Penn State scandal is that no help was sought for the abused children or the abuser. Institutional fear controlled people's actions.
What if Penn State leaders could have used a child sexual-abuse public-health model? The immediate need would have been, at the first observed abuse, for the child to receive emergency mind-body care.
The next priority would have been to discuss with the abuser the dangers to others and support him in learning how to change his destructive behaviors. With compassion, not legal action, positive outcomes could have resulted.
What if today there were emergency services to initiate physical and psychological care for the abused child and legally obligate the abuser to receive treatment? Hope can overcome fear.
Hopefully my voice — that of a mature woman whose sexual abuse as a child was buried for more than 50 years — will open discussions about using public-health models to end child sexual abuse.
Mary Elizabeth McIlvane lives in Altamonte Springs .
Prosecutors in N.D. and S.D. warn about human trafficking
FARGO — Top federal prosecutors from North and South Dakota have added human trafficking to their list of crimes affecting Native Americans at an increased rate in the two states.
U.S. attorneys Brendan Johnson of South Dakota and Timothy Purdon of North Dakota said during a conference on family violence Tuesday that both states are seeing more cases of girls and young women being recruited for prostitution and drug rings.
Three new indictments for human trafficking have been handed down in South Dakota in the last three months, Johnson said.
“You have people who treat their victims like they're not humans,” Johnson said after talking to a group that included police, social workers, prosecutors, counselors and community leaders.
The operations are formed mainly in populated areas, but American Indian girls are particularly at risk, the prosecutors said. Some of them were recruited by a Sioux Falls-area man who was convicted last year of sex trafficking of a child.
“These young girls were brutalized. They were humiliated,” Johnson said.
Brandon Thompson, 28, of Tea, S.D., was sentenced to life in prison on the sex trafficking charge.
“This is one area where the federal government has gotten it right,” Johnson said of the penalty.
A recent sex trafficking case in North Dakota involved several victims from the Fort Berthold Reservation. Dustin Morsette, 22, of New Town, was convicted of sex trafficking, sexual abuse, drug trafficking and witness tampering. He is awaiting sentencing.
Authorities said Morsette recruited minors and young adults to be part of a gang he described as the Black Disciples. He allegedly forced gang members to distribute marijuana for him and engage in sex acts with him.
One of the investigators in that case, Bureau of Indian Affairs agent Mike White, said the increase in oil workers has added to worries about sex trafficking. But he said recent convictions on human trafficking and other violent crime has made victims and others more willing to help law enforcement.
“I have hope. I've seen it already,” White said in an interview Tuesday. “Once they know people are being prosecuted, they are coming forward.”
Purdon, the U.S. attorney from North Dakota, said the campaign against violent crime on the reservation is a long process. He noted that an American Indian woman born in the United States has a 1-in-3 chance of being sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
“Improving public safety in Indian country is not something you are going to knock out in two years,” he said. “If we can sustain this for a period of years, I am hopeful, I am confident, we can impact some of these statistics we find to be unacceptable.”
Treat people who've been trafficked as victims and not perpetrators
WASHINGTON -- More than a century after abolition, slavery is still a problem in the United States, actress Jada Pinkett Smith told a Senate committee that is deciding whether to renew a law designed to combat human trafficking.
In a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pinkett Smith and other witnesses urged members of Congress to reauthorize a 2000 law – the Trafficking Victims Protection Act – that seeks to curtail the buying and selling of humans. The law expired in 2011.
Pinkett Smith, on hand with her actor husband Will Smith , said she was motivated by her 11-year-old daughter, Willow, who had researched child slavery. That inspired her to found an organization this year called Don't Sell Bodies.
"Let it be our legacy to deliver on emancipation's promise – making freedom a reality for all who have been victimized," Pinkett Smith said.
Between 200,000 and 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of being trafficked into commercial sex, David Abramowitz, vice president of policy and government relations at the human rights group Humanity United, told the committee. The United Nations has reported that human trafficking yields $32 billion a year worldwide, he said.
Pinkett Smith said her interactions with former victims of trafficking showed her the importance of renewing the protection act. She introduced three American victims of human trafficking: Monica, who was kidnapped by seven men at age 15 and forced into prostitution; Jamm, who was arrested at the same age after she stole the phone of her aunt in an attempt to get out of forced prostitution; and Minh, whose parents sold her body to men starting at age 11 even as she continued to attend public school and receive straight As.
Sen. Marco Rubio , R-Fla., emphasized the importance of treating people who have been trafficked as victims and not perpetrators. "When you interact with a victim, they've been so battered that they act like a willing participant," he said.
After hearing the stories of the three women, committee chairman Sen. John Kerry , D-Mass., called for “a little more naming and shaming” of people who contribute to human trafficking. Any attempt to fight trafficking must begin by addressing the underlying economic issues that make many victims vulnerable, he said.
“It's not a new issue, and not one Americans come to without bearing our share of responsibility,” Kerry said.
The protection act has already spawned teamwork between international governments, such as a joint Cambodian-American campaign against sex trafficking, Abramowitz said. The act mandates an annual State Department ranking of countries based on their efforts to eliminate trafficking. The ranking has motivated other countries to cooperate with the United States, Abramowitz said.
Sen. Jim Webb , D-Va., however, disagreed with Abramowitz's assessment of the ranking system. Rating countries based on the progress they have made in the past year rather than comparing them to each other generates misleading results, Webb said.
He worried that Japan and Singapore's relatively poor rankings do not reflect their performance and could strain their relationships with the United States.
Holly Burkhalter, vice president for government relations at International Justice Mission, said she believes Japan and Singapore's rankings are accurate, and that any rating system would likely leave some governments unhappy.
“I've never once in my life experienced that a government enjoys being criticized for its human rights efforts,” Burkhalter said.
Child sex trafficking a huge problem in Texas and the nation
by Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje
Around 25 percent of the estimated 300,000 American children lured into sex trafficking each year live in Texas — a sobering fact presented at a news conference Tuesday, where victim advocates sought to lay out the scope of the problem and ways it might be better addressed.
“We can pass laws, we can rescue (victims) all day long, but until we change the culture, until we address the issue of demand, nothing will change,” said Yvonne Williams, executive director of Trafficking in America Task Force, a Tennessee-based nonprofit that seeks to spread awareness about the issue of human sex trafficking.
Paola Garcia, president of Faces of Child Abuse, a local child abuse prevention nonprofit, said her organization had recently partnered with the task force to develop a special curriculum to be used in public schools to teach children about the danger posed by sex traffickers.
Studies show the average age of children forced into the sex industry is around 12. Two-thirds of victims are female.
Williams said a host of social problems feed the pipeline of child sex trafficking — poverty, teen runaways, fatherless homes, the increase in kids posting their images on the Internet and especially the pernicious rise in child pornography.
Jacqueline L. Walter, program coordinator for Our Lady of the Lake University's Center for Women in Church and Society, said certain elements make Texas a prime site for sex trafficking, among them the state's many major intersecting highways and its common border with Mexico — a major supply site for traffickers.
Melissa Woodward, executive director of the Dallas-based For the Sake of One and a survivor of sex trafficking, said pornography serves to “desensitize” men.
“Each one of them is a broken man,” she said, adding that many who violated her during her seven years in the forced sex trade were businessmen. “They weren't street thugs, not all of them. From viewing pornography, they begin to think (having sex with an underage girl) is normal, so they take it a step further. They tell themselves it's not rape because they pay for it.”
Woodward began to be “groomed” for forced prostitution by a close family member when she was just 4 years old, she said. At 10, she was “passed around” at bars. By 12, she was sold into an underground sex ring, where she was tied to a bed all day. At night she was forced to have sex with customers — more than five men a night.
Woodward finally escaped her fate and now speaks out against sex trafficking nationally.
Those rescued from the sex trade often struggle with mental and emotional issues such as post-traumatic-stress disorder from their abuse, she said.
And often victims — reluctant to tell police their stories for fear of retaliation from pimps — are treated as law-breakers.
The scenario has been changing in San Antonio, where a special task force deals specifically with this scourge, said Sergeant Bill Grayson, human trafficking supervisor of the Special Victims Unit of the San Antonio Police Department. Still, the problem remains “rampant.”
“Recently, a man was trying to traffic a 6-year-old,” he said.
Hampton Roads summit targets child-abuse deaths
by Elisabeth Hulette
Every year in Hampton Roads, children die from abuse, neglect and injuries.
Now, people who work with the causes and consequences of those deaths are asking whether, if they put their heads together, those numbers could be whittled to zero.
Their collaboration began Monday in a summit at the Virginia Beach Convention Center called "A Call to Action: Let's Protect Our Children." Organizers said it's the first of its kind in the region, and it won't be the last.
Four cities participated: Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. The crowd of about 140 included city police, social workers and school officials, as well as representatives of organizations such as ForKids and I Need A Lighthouse.
Bob Morin, director of human services for Virginia Beach, headed up the summit. He said the idea was born of a need to do something about the number of children who have died at the hands of a caretaker in Hampton Roads.
There were 10 such deaths between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011, according to a report from the Hampton Roads Child Fatality Review Team. That figure represented about a third of the 31 such deaths recorded in Virginia.
Participants talked about how infant deaths from improper sleeping arrangements and car seats can be prevented by better educating the public. They talked about teen suicide and how victims often have a history of being abused. If those children can be identified and treated earlier, perhaps their deaths could be prevented, participants said.
And they talked about creating a culture of awareness and community in Hampton Roads - the need for neighbors to know and support each other, and report abuse and neglect as soon as they see it.
"It takes all of us to prevent," said Betty Wade Coyle, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads. "Numbers tell us trends, but every preventable child death is one death too many."
The summit coincided with a report the state is expected to release this week on the death of a Virginia Beach baby at the hands of his foster mother.
Investigators determined that Kathleen Ganiere shook Braxton Taylor to death 2-½ years ago; she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last year. Morin has said publicly that more could have been done to prevent Braxton's death, and the high-profile case has led to changes in how city social workers handle foster children.
A state official said the report could be released Wednesday or Thursday.
By the summit's end, participants had suggested better blending of mental and physical health care, coordinating with church and civic groups, and educating the public about available services, among other ideas for collaborating. Morin said the cities will bring their agencies together again in about six months, and the four cities will meet again in a year, with the goal of producing further action.
"We have the brain power in our region," said Doris "Cookie" Palacios, director of human resources for Chesapeake. "It's a matter of connecting the dots."
Beshear creates panel to review child abuse deaths
by Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Kentucky will create an independent panel of experts to review cases of children who have been killed or severely injured as a result of abuse and neglect, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday.
The decision came as the Cabinet for Health and Family Services released thousands of pages of documents Monday that detail the state's involvement with dozens of children who were killed or nearly killed as a result of abuse and neglect. Still, the cabinet continues to withhold some case files and has redacted large portions of others.
It filed an appeal Monday with the Kentucky Supreme Court after a crucial legal decision last week in a lengthy court battle between the state and Kentucky's two largest newspapers, the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal of Louisville. The newspapers sued the state for access to social worker case files on children who were killed or critically injured as a result of abuse and neglect in 2009 and 2010.
Beshear signed an executive order Monday to create the external review panel. The 17-member panel, which will be based in the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, will examine child deaths to determine whether state child-protection workers could have done more to protect a child and to determine causes of death.
"When a child dies or is critically injured because of abuse or neglect, we must carefully review the practices of all government entities involved to make sure that our system performed as it was supposed to — and if not, that review allows us to take disciplinary action," Beshear said Monday in a news release.
The group will meet quarterly and will prepare an annual report that identifies issues contributing to child deaths and injuries. The panel will include law enforcement, prosecutors and medical experts. The makeup of the panel will be determined by outside groups and Attorney General Jack Conway.
Cabinet officials said the panel's meetings will be open to the public, but it appears that records used by the panel would not be subject to the state's Open Records Act. Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Haynes said the panel was not created to circumvent the state's disclosure laws. Even if information used by the panel is not subject to disclosure, the cabinet's case files will be available to the public under existing law.
"This is something that the governor told me he wanted to do shortly after I arrived," said Haynes, who was named secretary of the cabinet in April. "We've been working on this for several weeks ... before the Court of Appeals decision."
Many child advocates praised the creation of the independent panel Monday, saying it will help the state develop protocols and services to prevent more child abuse deaths. Kentucky averages between 20 and 30 child abuse-related deaths per year.
"The lessons we learn by reviewing child deaths have come at an enormous price — the life of a child," said Dr. Melissa Currie, chief medical director of the University of Louisville Pediatrics Forensic Medicine unit. "This action by the governor is to be commended, as it establishes a panel that will ensure that no child's death in the Commonwealth of Kentucky will go unexamined by objective and knowledgeable eyes."
The General Assembly considered a proposal in 2011 and 2012 to create a similar external review panel. The legislation passed the Democratic-led House but failed in the Republican-led Senate in 2012. It is likely that the legislation will be re-introduced in the upcoming legislative session to codify the executive order, cabinet officials said.
The Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal sued the state in 2010 to obtain internal cabinet records involving the death of 20-month-old Kayden Branham, a Wayne County toddler who drank drain cleaner that allegedly was used to make methamphetamine. Both Kayden and his mother, who was 14 at the time, were under the supervision of the cabinet at the time of Kayden's death in May 2009.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the media was entitled to child-protection records when a child dies or nearly dies from abuse and neglect. All other child protection records are confidential, the judge ruled. The cabinet did not appeal that ruling.
The two newspapers then filed requests under the state's Open Records Act to obtain the case files of all children who died or nearly died from abuse and neglect in 2009 and 2010, but the cabinet at first refused to release the documents. The newspapers sued again, and Shepherd ruled in late 2011 that the newspapers were entitled to the case files.
The cabinet said Monday that there are about 140 case files from 2009 and 2010 that fall under the newspapers' request. Of those, the state had released redacted versions of 76 files. It released 43 more case files Monday.
Cabinet officials said other cases have pending court action and will be released after they have been adjudicated.
There is disagreement about what information in the files should be withheld from the public. The cabinet originally redacted a broad array of information — sometimes even erasing the names of people who had been criminally charged.
Shepherd ruled in February that the cabinet had 90 days to turn over the remaining case files. Shepherd also fined the cabinet $16,000 for withholding the records and awarded $57,000 in attorney fees to the newspapers.
The cabinet appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals, asking the court to stay Shepherd's order. In a July 9 ruling, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals refused to block the release of the documents.
The cabinet filed a motion Monday with the state Supreme Court asking it to stay the lower court's ruling, which would have compelled the cabinet to release the child abuse case files with limited information redacted.
"We disagree on how much personal information about the children and private individuals included in caseworker files should be made public," Haynes said in a written statement.
Kif Skidmore, a lawyer who represents the Herald-Leader, said the newspaper will oppose the cabinet's motion before the state Supreme Court.
"The Governor's executive order has no impact on our positions in the pending litigation," Skidmore said. "The Cabinet violated the Open Records Act by its wholesale refusal to allow inspection of the child fatality and near-fatality records and continues to violate the act by its insistence on redactions that are far beyond what the Open Records Act allows."
The records released by the cabinet so far have exposed shortfalls in the state's child-protection system.
For example, Judge Shepherd blasted the cabinet's handling of the case of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old girl who was killed by her adoptive brother in February 2011. Shepherd said the cabinet failed to protect the girl even though Todd County school officials had contacted the cabinet multiple times in the two years before Dye's death with concerns about possible abuse. The Todd County Standard, a weekly newspaper, successfully sued the cabinet to get access to Dye's records.
The cabinet said it did not investigate those complaints because the abuse was not at the hands of a parent or guardian.
In the case of Kayden Branham and his mother Alisha Branham, records show that social workers asked Alisha Branham's mother, Melissa Branham, to come in for drug tests at least 24 times. The difficulty in getting Melissa Branham to take drug tests should have prompted caseworkers to take a closer look at whether the state should remove Kayden Branham, child protection experts have said.
Alisha Branham later told authorities that she moved to the trailer where Kayden died because her mother did not have food for her son to eat.
Exclusive photos reveal new insight into child abuse investigation
by Sybil Hoffman
(Video on site)
CHANDLER, Ariz -- 3TV has obtained new details regarding a Chandler child abuse investigation and how the man accused of burning a baby with a cigarette ended up with a disorderly conduct conviction.
Behind the bruises and cigarette burn, Baby Josephine also had 14 broken bones when she arrived at Cardon Children's Medical Center in August 2011.
"We learned that the broken bones actually were in the healing process, which meant they had been in existence for at least a week," said Detective Dan Coons, the lead investigator in the case.
But when Chandler detectives first questioned the woman Child Protective Services approved to care for Baby Josephine, Angelica Jimenez told them, "I don't smoke but every once in a while I have a drag so I know it wasn't me."
While Jimenez claimed she didn't see the abuse, one of her children did.
"This was a very critical material witness," Coons said.
According to the police report, the child witnessed Jimenez's boyfriend, Steven Saldana, burn Josephine with a cigarette.
"We realized that Angelica was hiding something when we first started talking with her," Coons said.
Coons soon discovered why.
"Steven had made mention to her that she take responsibility for what happened to the baby because he already had a felony and he didn't want to go back to prison," Coons said.
So how did Josephine end up in a home with a convicted felon? Police say CPS knew Saldana was living part time in apartment 8. In fact, months before Josephine's abuse was discovered, a CPS staff member had recommended a criminal history check be conducted on Saldana, but that didn't happen.
What's worse, during a supervised visit on July 21, another CPS case worker failed to document bruising on the side of Josephine's chin or the bump near her hairline.
"We're up against the mercy of several agencies, several organizations," Coons said.
Coons submitted his case to the county attorney recommending Jimenez and Saldana be charged with child abuse and hindering prosecution.
"The family was working feverishly to try and find out what the child had told us," Coons said.
And then the case crumbled.
"The child was interviewed in court to see how competent the child was and at that point the story was completely changed," Coons explained.
So a plea deal was presented.
"Angelica did take a plea for child abuse and she's on probation for it, but this was her first felony conviction so that's why she got probation," Coons said. "He took a plea for disorderly conduct. It's the first time it's happened in my investigations. To go from child abuse to disorderly conduct."
Even though he couldn't change the plea, Coons still wanted to help Baby Josephine so he gave her a voice during Saldana's sentencing.
"The child is all I care about, that's all I want to make sure that they're getting a fair shake because they can't speak for themselves, they can't defend themselves," Coons said.
CPS did not accept our invitation for an on-camera interview but did provide the following statement:
"Without seeing what is in the police report or knowing how the information was collected and verified by the police, the Department is not in a position to adequately comment on this matter. The Department cannot provide case specific information unless the request involves a case of abuse or neglect resulting in a fatality or near fatality per ARS 8-807."
Why was Zimmerman's cousin afraid of him?
The man charged with the murder of an unarmed black teenager in Florida, George Zimmerman has now been accused of molesting his younger cousin. She kept her accusations to herself until now because she was afraid of him, she says.
by Frances Robles
Despite a last-minute rush to the courthouse by the defense to keep a witness's damaging story out of public view, prosecutors on Monday released a recorded statement from George Zimmerman's cousin, who said Zimmerman molested her for 10 years, beginning when she was 6 years old.
Like most other witnesses in the case, the woman's name was not released. Dubbed “Witness 9,” she is 26 and lives in central Florida. She called investigators shortly after Zimmerman was arrested in the shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin to say that Zimmerman and his family were racists. The evidence released Monday shows she also called a state attorney about three weeks later with more serious allegations.
She told investigators Jim Post and Jim Rick that her family and Zimmerman's lived in different states, but inappropriate incidents of a sexual nature took place during annual visits until she was 16. Although just two years younger than Zimmerman, she said she was scared of him because he was bigger, older and stronger.
She described him as a charmer who made everyone laugh and love him. He was different, she said, when alone with her behind closed doors.
When she was 6 and her family was in the process of moving from Louisiana to Florida , she said, she and her sister were sent to stay with the Zimmermans at their home in Virginia. The children would lie on sofas under blankets to watch TV, and Zimmerman, she claims, would use the opportunity to fondle her and penetrate her with his fingers, even though there were other people in the room.
“That's my earliest memory of him trying to do things. He would reach under the blankets,” she said. “He was bigger and stronger and older. I was a kid. I didn't know any better.”
Arguing that the allegation was irrelevant to the murder charge, Zimmerman's defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, had two hearings before Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester in an effort to seal the witness statement. Lester twice ruled against him.
O'Mara filed a motion Monday morning to put a stop to the judge's ruling just minutes before the statement's scheduled release. Absent an order from the court to hold off, the Duval County state attorney, trying Zimmerman on a second-degree murder charge for the killing of Martin, released the statement, along with audio of more than a hundred phone calls Zimmerman made from jail.
“Now that this statement is part of the public record, the defense will vigorously defend Mr. Zimmermanagainst the allegations,” O'Mara wrote on his website. “In the next several weeks, there will be reciprocal discovery filed regarding Witness No. 9's statement.”
The judge said in his ruling that nothing in Florida's public-records law allows for such information to be kept secret. By law, evidence the prosecution turns over to the defense — called “discovery” — is public record. There are exceptions for things such as telecommunications records and confessions.
Lawyers for McClatchy Newspapers, the Orlando Sentinel and other media argued for the release of the statement and about 150 of Zimmerman's recorded jailhouse calls. At a hearing held last month, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said he may call Witness 9 as a rebuttal witness at trial.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, compared the testimony to the recent child-molestation case involving former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“She certainly would be a rebuttal witness very similar to that in the Sandusky trial, showing that he has a history of violence and manipulation,” Crump said. “Zimmerman's mentality is very relevant to this trial.”
Crump and his team have known about the woman from the early stages of the case, because she approached them after calling the police and prosecutors. Orlando attorney Natalie Jackson, who also represents Martin's family, spoke to Witness 9 on several occasions, but declined to discuss what she said. Reached earlier this month by McClatchy Newspapers, Witness 9 declined to be interviewed.
In her statement, Witness 9 said she kept the allegations secret for years because of Zimmerman's popularity among his family.
Experts said children who act out sexually with other kids have often been exposed to domestic violence and pornography. Children as young as 8 — the age the witness said Zimmerman was when he first touched her inappropriately — are generally not considered sex offenders, and would be referred to get therapeutic help.
“If a child was coerced or forced or intimidated or manipulated by an older child, in that sense, they are being victimized,” said Jill Levenson, a Lynn University expert in sex abuse. “Eight is pretty young to be initiating sexual activity. You're talking about more than, ‘Can I see it?' So the questions become: Where did the 8-year-old learn that, and does that 8-year-old need some help?”
She stressed that she has no knowledge of the case and was speaking in general terms.
Travis Weaver Claims Jerry Sandusky Sexually Abused Him As Child
(Video on site)
Another young man has come forward and accused former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky of sexually abusing him. 30-year-old Travis Weaver told NBC's Kate Snow that Sandusky, who is being tried on 48 counts of child sex-abuse of 10 boys over a span of 15 years, sexually abused him over a period of four years, beginning in 1992 when he was 10.
Asked by Snow what he'd do if Sandusky were in the room with them, Weaver responded, "I'd punch him in his mouth."
The interview is set to air on NBC's "Rock Center" on June 21, just hours after the jury began deliberations in Sandusky's trial in Pennsylvania. Sandusky maintains his innocence. Speaking with Snow, Weaver said of Sandusky, "He knows what he did. I know what he did."
These sentiments were echoed in the closing argument of Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan III.
"He molested and abused and hurt these children horribly," McGettigan told the jury. "He knows he did it and you know he did it.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Joe Amendola stated that his client has been a victim of overzealous investigators and alleged victims motivated by financial gain. Meanwhile, McGettigan closed the prosecution's case by urging the jury to "find him guilty of everything."
Weaver is not among the alleged victims in the current trial whose names are being withheld despite testifying in open court. According to NBC Philadelphia, Weaver testified in front of a grand jury but not the same one that led to Sandusky's current trial.
Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), released a statement applauding Weaver for coming forward in such a public manner:
One of Jerry Sandusky's victims has given an exclusive interview to NBC's Brian Williams which will air tonight on Rock Center with Brian Williams. He says he was molested by the Penn State coach more than 100 times. We applaud this brave man, Travis Weaver, for publicly sharing his pain so that others might better understand the devastation caused by child sex crimes.
We hope his courage will inspire others who are suffering because of child sex crimes. We hope it will encourage them to speak up, get help, expose predators, protect kids and start healing.
3 more men allege Sandusky sexual abuse from 1970s
by Douglas Stanglin
Three more men have come forward to tell police that they too were abused by Jerry Sandusky from as far back as the 1970s , the Patriot-News reports, quoting unidentified sources close to the case.
The 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 victims. He is in jail awaiting sentencing.
The newspaper's Sara Ganim, who won a Pulitzer at the Harrisburg newspaper for her coverage of the scandal, says two sources with knowledge of the Sandusky investigation say that police are aware of the latest allegations.
The newspaper says the three are alleging sexual abuse by Sandusky in the 1970s or 1980s, from when he was in his late 20s.
Ganim writes that if the latest allegations are proved to be true, it would undercut the Sandusky defense argument that a person doesn't become a pedophile in his or her 50s.
A grand jury is still meeting in the Sandusky case and could bring more charges if warranted.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh, who issued an independent report at the behest of Penn State on the Sandusky case, was asked last week if his probe looked for alleged victims before 1998. He said yes, but did not indicate whether they found any, the newspaper reports.
Paterno family to conduct own probe of child sex abuse
The family of Joe Paterno, angered by a report critical of the late Penn State head coach, said on Monday it will conduct its own probe of the child sex abuse scandal surrounding Paterno's assistant that has stained the football legend's legacy.
Family members said they "are dismayed by, and vehemently disagree with" findings in the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that accused Paterno and other Pennsylvania State University officials of failing to take steps for 14 years to protect the children victimized by assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky .
Freeh, in the report commissioned by the Penn State board of trustees, blamed them for conducting a cover-up to avoid consequences of bad publicity that could upset donors and damage the Penn State brand.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years and faces up to 373 years in prison.
The Paterno family said it has asked its attorneys and experts to conduct a comprehensive review of Freeh's report and comments, and "we have also asked them to go beyond the report and identify additional information that should be analyzed."
They said they asked Freeh to preserve all his records, notes and other materials "as we expect they will be the subject of great interest in the future."
"To those who are convinced that the Freeh report is the last word on this matter, that is absolutely not the case," the family said. "It is highly likely that additional critical information will emerge."
Paterno's estate could be sued for damages by victims of Sandusky's abuse, according to legal experts.
The scandal rocked the world of college sports with Sandusky's arrest in November, and Freeh's report underscored what it called callous disregard and inaction by Penn State officials. It said they had known about allegations against Sandusky since 1998, when university police investigated a complaint of abuse but let him off with a warning.
There are calls for Penn State's highly regarded football program to be penalized and for the taking down of a campus statue of Paterno, who won more games than any coach in major college football history.
A university spokesman said on Monday that neither the board of trustees nor the Penn State administration had made a decision on the statue.
Paterno was fired by the board in November and died in January of lung cancer.
"To claim that he knowingly, intentionally protected a pedophile is false," his family said in the statement.
The Freeh report said emails exchanged in 1998 and 2001 showed school officials discussed reporting allegations about Sandusky to authorities. After speaking to Paterno, "they changed the plan and decided not to make a report," Freeh said.
The Paterno family said it did not intend to duplicate Freeh's efforts and would not make further comments until its attorneys have an update on the progress of their investigation.
Sexual abuse: There can be healing afterwards for the victim
(Video on site)
HOUSTON, July 15, 2012 — Now that the FBI internal report is out, people can see how deep the sexual abuse cover-up was at Penn State, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Considering the stats that 25% of women are sexually abused and one out of six boys are sexually abused, it's nearly impossible that Penn State is the only organization to not only turn a blind eye, but to cover up these heinous acts that rape the innocence of people.
Far too many of us are abused, and far too many of us don't do anything about it.
As a child I was sexually abused from ages 4-7 by my next door neighbor. It took me until the age of thirty to come out in the open about this, I am hoping the wide media coverage of Sandusky will help others to come out about their abuse as well. No one should carry that burden on their own.
Normally when I write about this topic it's to help spread awareness of this taboo subject that so many wish to ignore, that so many can't ignore, because it happened to them. I am writing this today to let the abused know, that true happiness, inner-peace, and a sense of normality is possible.
Low self-esteem, no self-confidence, anger, depression, rage, and loneliness, amongst others symptoms, are some of the baggage the abused are left to carry, perhaps for the rest of their lives. But it's up to us, to make a different decision. We can't control what happened in our past and how we lived then, but we can control how we live and feel now.
In, When Jonathan Cried For Me, I talk very openly about my journey to healing and the blueprint for my success in doing so. I also explain how I will never be “normal.” Because the abuse I suffered happened at such an early age, it's impossible for me to have the average personality traits. But the anger, depression, self-esteem and self-confidence issues that I used to suffer from have now been transformed. And the oddities that my personality has because of the abuse during my developmental years, I try to use as an advantage now. I accept my eccentricity and to me, normal is just a setting on a dryer.
So how does one start to rebuild? Clearly in one article I can't sum up all of the steps, but the most vital one is acceptance: You have to accept this happened to you. If you can't admit you were a victim in the first place, then you can't move past being victimized. I do not regard myself as a victim now, I love my life far too much, but certainly I was a victim as a kid. That doesn't mean you have to have a woe-is-me attitude but don't shrug off what happened to you.
It's also important to take action. Almost anyone who has been abused has self-esteem issues, impacting everything in our lives: relationships, work, friendships, and happiness. But self-esteem is programmed, and it can be re-programmed.
Clearly therapy may be needed and I recommend it especially during the beginning stages of admitting you were abused, but it's up to you to put in the work. Change, true transformation, doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen and it can happen for you.
Do not give up hope. Realize that your life is yours, and it's up to you to choose its destiny. The abused are often the forgotten, set up for disaster from day one, left hung out to dry; don't let this be your life's story. Take control, take action, don't give up hope, and realize that it's now up to you.
Carter Lee is a sexual abuse survivor, the author of When Jonathan Cried for Me, President of Innovative Social Dynamics LLC., is a professional speaker, and is the co-host of Really Genius Radio. To learn more about his media appearances, radio show, book, or to schedule an appearance or speaking engagement visit www.innovativesocialdynamics.com
Suspect child abuse? Then tell us about it
by Janet Bente Romero
Child safety is the top priority of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Now, with the leadership of DCF Secretary David Wilkins, we are increasing our commitment to helping our most vulnerable residents.
Florida law requires everyone to report suspected child abuse or neglect to DCF. We investigate all credible reports of child abuse and neglect by parents or caregivers. Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, we begin our investigations as soon as three hours after the first report of abuse and no later than 24 hours after all abuse reports.
We investigate thoroughly. We talk to alleged child victims, alleged perpetrators, parents or caregivers, and others who may know the family. We do make visits to homes and schools.
New state laws will enable DCF to take reports of abuse or neglect involving people other than parents or caregivers. In those cases, we will gather the information and give it to law enforcement, who will handle the investigation.
DCF already receives about 400,000 abuse reports each year. These new laws are expected to increase the number of reports by nearly 10 percent.
We will hire 40 new hotline counselors to help meet the increased workload. Additionally, we are hiring more than 100 new child protective investigators and supervisors.
Please report any suspected child abuse or neglect to DCF at 1-800-962-2873 (1-800-96-ABUSE) or submit a report online at our website, myflfamilies.com.
Janet Bente Romero is the Florida Department of Children and Families' Community Development Administrator for Circuits 3 and 8, based in Gainesville
Local group hopes child abuse prevention training isn't underutilized
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky waits on his sentence; he was found guilty of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. As the case has gone forward its increased discussion about child abuse nationwide; continuing on topics like how to prevent it, but also focusing on specifics like, who's considered a mandatory reporter if they see it and where locally should they report what they saw?
Those are topics that local non-profit Safe Passage helps organizations navigate through free private training sessions. Employees of Safe Passage thought more local groups would seek training after the national attention during the Sandusky case, but the numbers haven't been what they expected.
"We didn't get the requests or the increase in requests that we thought we would," says Wilene Lampert, executive director of Safe Passage. It's not because of business (they're a non-profit and don't charge for the training sessions), it's about making sure children are surrounded by adults willing to protect them.
"That (the lack of increase in numbers for training) means either that people are still afraid to really deal with this issue, or we're better at educating our community than we thought we were," says Tammi Pitzen, a program manager for Safe Passage who administers training sessions.
"What would you guess?" News 5 asked Pitzen in response.
"I would think it's maybe a mix of both; I think the people that recognize this is a problem do reach out and have some of the training done, and I think others would prefer to think, ‘it would never happen in my agency,'" Pitzen answered.
The training is free; all groups have to do is ask for it. Safe Passage's website can be reached by clicking here. Lampert says several groups have been and are seeking out the training. It's open to any type of groups that work with kids; churches, sports teams and organizations, schools, child care centers, etc.
News 5 reached out to groups that have undergone the training; none of them were willing to discuss their experiences on camera.
"It (that the groups wouldn't talk to News 5 on camera) didn't really surprise me, no," says Lampert. "I think people want to make sure that their reputation is not under any suspicion, even when there's no reason for it to be."
Lampert says they're happy those groups that have gone through the training and hope more follow their lead.
While many kids are out of school for the summer, some are getting involved with clubs and meeting new adults. At Safe Passage they just want those adults to know what to watch for and how to help.
"They have built a relationship where they trust them and they're telling them things about what happens in their lives they wouldn't tell others," says Pitzen. "It's up to us to keep children safe; if they could protect themselves there would be no child abuse."
For more on Safe Passage and their training, click here.
Stop the next Sandusky
by Terri Miller
THE APPARENT concerted effort by top Penn State officials to harbor a sexual predator for the sake of their football program is despicable, yet unsurprising. The shameful truth is that it happens far more than the public realizes, especially in schools, where there are thousands of students being sexually abused by the very educators, coaches and school officials entrusted with their well-being.
What's worse, flaws in state and federal law are allowing school officials and teachers union officials who know of suspected abuse to harbor these predators. In Pennsylvania, for instance, educators accused of sexual misconduct are often given the opportunity to escape prosecution and even move to another state or district, a practice so common it is nicknamed "passing the trash."
With union-negotiated confidentiality agreements and glowing recommendations from administrators, perpetrators are abetted to leave without ever being reported to law enforcement and with their sanitized teaching credentials intact. They move on with an apparently clean background to the next unsuspecting school, where they are likely to abuse again. In fact, "the typical pedophile employed in our schools makes his or her way through three school-employment settings before being stopped."
The time has come to take a stand. No more cover-ups or excuses. We cannot let the problem of child sexual abuse in schools fade from public consciousness without passing critical reforms that will better protect our children.
Fortunately, there are a number of state and federal proposals on the table aiming to do just that. In December, U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., reintroduced the Jeremy Bell Act, which would penalize school employers who make interstate transfers of employees who are sex offenders. The bill also addresses sexual-conduct reporting standards and would require schools to submit instances of sexual misconduct to a national clearinghouse that other schools can access. In short, it would prohibit the aiding and abetting of child predators in our nation's schools — a reform that will literally save lives.
This legislation could not come soon enough. Overall, an estimated 1 in 10 students will be the victim of educator sexual misconduct during their school career, a ratio that equals about 4.5 million current K-12 students. Additionally, at least a quarter of all U.S. school districts have reportedly dealt with a case of sexual abuse over the last decade.
And the epidemic continues to grow. In February and March alone, more than 30 teachers were removed from Los Angeles schools for alleged sexual misconduct — the most infamous of whom was Mark Berdnt, an alleged pedophile who remained in the classroom nearly 20 years since the first complaints were lodged against him. Six months before his arrest, he was given a $40,000 retirement package instead of being reported to the proper authorities.
On the other coast, a slew of sexual-misconduct cases in New York City have come to light in recent months, the most notorious of which is that of an 88-year-old Horace Mann teacher who admitted his sexual encounters with students as young as 14. Other instances include a Brooklyn gym teacher accused of groping a student, a Bronx high school substitute teacher accused of forcible touching and an aide in Brooklyn accused of making child-pornography videos on school grounds.
The recent slew of sexual-abuse headlines must serve as more than cautionary tales — they must drive us toward true reform. It starts with the passage of the federal Jeremy Bell Act along with state legislation like Pennsylvania's SESAME Act. We must contact our lawmakers and continue to speak out until these measures become law.
The bottom line is that no child should be robbed of his or her innocence by an adult. We as a society must do everything in our power to ensure that child predators never make their way into a classroom and never go unpunished when they have committed the unconscionable offense of child sexual abuse.
Terri Miller is president of SESAME Inc. ("Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation").
Livingston Priest Victims Talk About Abuse
The alleged victims of sexual abuse by Rev. John Laferrera discuss their settlement with the Newark Archdiocese in front of the church where the Catholic priest last served.
by Scott Egelberg
Just days after reaching a settlement with the Archdiocese of Newark, some of the men who allege that they were sexually abused by the Rev. John Laferrera as youngsters assembled outside St. Philomena Roman Catholic Church on Sunday to talk about the case.
Earlier this week, the Newark Star Ledger reported that the Archdiocese “quietly reached a six-figure settlement with six alleged victims last month” and Laferrera was stripped of his collar and sent into retirement. No mention was made as to whether he will keep his pension or not.
"He is no longer administering," archdiocese spokesman James Goodness said. "He is out of the ministry."
Laferrera stepped down approximately a year ago from his position as monsignor of St. Philomena following escalating complaints. Before that he served 13 years at St. Aloysius in Caldwell. The men who settled with the church say the abuse happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while Laferrera was pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Newark.
“I'm just happy that finally they believed us and in a roundabout way, they got rid of (Laferrera),” said Samuel Rivera on Sunday. Rivera claims Laferrera sexually abused him when he was 12.
Rivera and his brother, Daniel, said they decided to step up and report the abuse after seeing Ernie Fabregas, another alleged victim, on a local news channel, discussing what Laferrera did to him. He said he started contacting other altar boys from his youth to ask who else was abused.
“We were all molested by this priest and in life, how can you be a priest and do this to children. It's sickening,” said Angel Nieves. Angel, along with his brother Miguel, still have cases pending against Laferrera.
Fabregas first charged that Laferrera abused him in 2009. The board started an inquiry and additional men came forward to say they were also abused by Laferrara.
The men said that the settlement was approximately $325,000 and included funding for counseling for the men.
“I think we got strong armed (with the settlement),” said a man, who claimed to be another victim and wished to remain anonymous. “No amount of money can warrant the forgiveness of what went on to take our innocence away as young boys. It was just horrible.”
The men have partnered with Robert Hoatson, who heads Road to Recovery, an advocacy group for victims of clergy sex abuse, to help clear the way for more victims to come forward.
“Since 2009, we have been working with these guys to get some sort of justice,” Hoatson told Patch on Sunday. “The Road to Recovery has been the agency that has sort of helped guide them through this and helped with the financial aspects.”
Phillipsburg attorney Greg Gianforcaro, who represented the men, says that he has talked to some local officials about how to remove the statute of limitations on child abuse, so that victims can file criminal charges after they grow up.
“Child and sexual abuse is an issue that children just can't deal with,” Gianforcaro said. “It takes decades and decades to deal with it. So if you are going to out the pedophiles who are still around today, you need to give the victims from 10-20 years ago a voice.”
As for the future, according to Fabregas, the men can “now go on with our lives and do the best we can to get other victims to come forward.”
Hospitals in recession-hit areas see uptick in serious cases of child physical abuse
PHILADELPHIA, July 16, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- New research from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia raises concerns about gaps in national child abuse statistics
In the largest study to examine the impact of the recession on child abuse, researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's (CHOP) PolicyLab detected a significant increase in children admitted to the nation's largest children's hospitals due to serious physical abuse over the last decade. The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found a strong relationship between the rate of child physical abuse and local mortgage foreclosures, which have been a hallmark of the recent recession. The CHOP findings, based on data from 38 children's hospitals, contradict national child welfare data, which show a decline in child physical abuse over the same period.
"We were concerned that health care providers and child welfare workers anecdotally reported seeing more severe child physical abuse cases, yet national child protective services data indicated a downward trend," said lead author Joanne Wood, MD, MSHP, an attending physician at CHOP and researcher at PolicyLab. "It's well known that economic stress has been linked to an increase in child physical abuse, so we wanted to get to the bottom of the contrasting reports by formally studying hospital data on a larger scale."
According to the study, overall physical abuse increased by 0.79 percent, and traumatic brain injury increased by 3 percent per year between 2000 and 2009, while overall injury rates fell by 0.8 percent per year over the same time period. The researchers found that each 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a one-year period was associated with a 3 percent increase in hospital admissions due to child physical abuse and a 5 percent increase in admissions due to traumatic brain injury suspected to be child abuse.
Dr. Wood says the study highlights opportunities for child welfare agencies and hospitals to collaborate and share data for a more complete picture of child physical abuse rates in communities across the country, in order to develop targeted prevention and intervention.
"Two major themes emerge from this study," said Dr. Wood. "First, we see a clear opportunity to use hospital data along with child welfare data to ensure a more complete picture of child abuse rates both locally and nationally. Second, the study identifies another economic hardship - mortgage foreclosures - that is associated with severe physical abuse. As the foreclosure crisis is projected to continue in the near future, these results highlight the need to better understand the stress that housing insecurity places on families and communities so that we can better support them during difficult times."
PolicyLab's health services researchers, who contributed to the study, note that the public agencies working with vulnerable children and families are better equipped to assist them when the risk factors linked with increased child physical abuse rates are understood. "For example, early prevention efforts could start with a pediatrician or housing counselor providing resources and social services referrals for families," explained Dr. Wood, who is also the research director of Safe Place: Center for Child Protection and Health at CHOP.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child physical abuse has lasting societal as well as individual consequences, which result in an increased reliance on public assistance and social services - from Medicaid and foster care, to more indirect costs associated with higher rates of criminal activity, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
"A study like this cannot tell us what stressors may be impacting an individual family, but can illustrate the toll that the recent recession may be having on families in general, in this country," said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, senior author of the study as well as Director of PolicyLab and an attending pediatrician at CHOP. "It is a reminder to me that when I see families in my practice who have lost their insurance or who have changed homes, to probe a little further about the challenges they are facing. As communities, we all need to reach out a little more to identify which families may be in crisis and help guide them to appropriate resources for support."
The full study, entitled " Local macroeconomic trends and hospital admissions for child abuse, 2000 to 2009", is available online on July 16, in the current issue of Pediatrics. For more information about the study and on PolicyLab's body of child welfare work, visit www.research.chop.edu/PolicyLab .
About PolicyLab at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:
PolicyLab develops evidence-based solutions for the most challenging health-related issues affecting children. PolicyLab engages in research that is both responsive to community needs and relevant to policy priorities, partnering with practitioners, policymakers, and families throughout the research process. Through its work, PolicyLab identifies the programs, practices, and policies that support the best outcomes for children and their families, disseminating its findings beyond research and academic communities as part of its commitment to transform evidence to action. www.research.chop.edu/PolicyLab
About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 516-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. www.chop.edu
Most Brooklyn Abuse Cases Involve Kin
Relative or Friends Responsible in More Than Half of Cases
by Paul Berger
Recent media accounts of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn's Orthodox community have highlighted the threat victims face from teachers, rabbis and yeshiva staff as perpetrators, and the special pressures — even intimidation — they face from community leaders not to report such cases to secular law enforcement.
But a list of child sexual abuse cases in that community suggests that another source of pressure, even closer to home, may be at least as important.
The list, released by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes earlier this year, describes 97 abuse cases that Hynes says he prosecuted over the last three years. According to the data, 20% of these cases involved family members — usually fathers, brothers or uncles — and another 37% involved a perpetrator who was a friend or acquaintance.
By contrast, only about 12% of the cases appeared to involve rabbis, bar mitzvah tutors, counselors or yeshiva employees, including janitors and security guards. The next largest group of perpetrators consisted of strangers, who accounted for about 17% of Hynes's Orthodox-related prosecutions.
The information from Hynes's list must be treated with caution for a number of reasons. Some cases — Hynes's office won't say which — include adult victims while others involved non-Jewish perpetrators or victims. But according to Rhonnie Jaus, the head of Hynes's sex crimes division, the “vast majority” of cases described are those of Orthodox children.
Hynes has also refused to release the names of the perpetrators, making an assessment of their professional positions impossible. Also, rabbis and other authority figures may make up a larger proportion of offenders than the list indicates, but not be present on it simply because people are too scared to report them.
Nevertheless, according to specialists in the field of child abuse, the data are consistent with what is known about such abuse more broadly. Cases involving ultra-Orthodox authority figures dominate headlines, as do those involving clergy members, football coaches and schoolteachers, because they often tend to have large numbers of victims. In terms of victims per perpetrator, such figures constitute concentrated sources of threat to children. But Hynes's chart indicates that the general threat from family members cannot be ignored.
“You tend to expect that the majority of offenders are not people in a high-profile position,” said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “They are brothers and uncles, fathers and neighbors.”
Just as secular victims often struggle to bring charges against people close to them, ultra-Orthodox families also grapple with the implications of accusing friends and relatives, these experts say.
“The family doesn't want the breadwinner to be jailed and the income cut off,” Finkelhor said of secular victims' families. “They don't want the rest of the family turning against them because the kid's fingered the grandparent.”
While the incidence of child sexual abuse within the circle of family and close acquaintances may be no greater than in secular society, ultra-Orthodox families do face special issues when wrestling with the challenge of reporting such people to the police.
Judy Braun, an author who was raised in the ultra-Orthodox community, said the distinction between family and non-family cases may be only partially useful when examining the ultra-Orthodox community. Braun, whose recent novel, “Hush,” is based on her experience of witnessing a friend being abused by a family member, said that because the community is like an extended family, there is often little perceived difference between family members and non-family members. “The [perpetrator] is a third cousin, or a friend of the family, or a son-in-law of a [family member],” Braun said. “It's like a spider web.”
Further, even without direct and explicit interference from rabbinic authorities or the pressure of ruining a relative's life, Braun said, parents are under intense pressure not to risk their children being tarnished as impure. “The attitude is a bit like Muslims,” Braun said. “It's a stain on the [victims] themselves.”
Mesirah — a religious prohibition against informing on a fellow Jew to the secular authorities — is often blamed for dissuading victims from reporting abusers to the police. But there is anecdotal evidence that even in cases where the perpetrator is a non-Jew, ultra-Orthodox families struggle to go to police.
According to Jaus, in one recent case two ultra-Orthodox girls were separately abducted and sexually assaulted. A DNA sample linked a non-Jewish man to the crimes. But both families refused to cooperate, in part, said Jaus, because they feared that an investigation could tarnish the girls' marriage chances as well as their siblings' ability to get into school and get married. (Law enforcement sources confirmed that an indictment has finally been filed after one of the families agreed to cooperate.)
Such cases stand or fall on fears of stigma and shame, rather than intimidation. Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University, said victims who cooperate with police risk their future on the hope that they will not be identified. “I've heard a number of victims who told me that their lives are literally destroyed, ruined,” Hamilton said. “They will never marry if anyone finds out they were assaulted.”
Even in cases not involving rabbis or other respected community figures, leaders within Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox community still often pressure families, according to Jaus. “It's not just well respected rabbis or someone from school” acting as a perpetrator that sparks community pressure, she said.
Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, said such concerns are typical of conservative religious communities. “The shame created around abuse ought to be exclusively carried on the shoulders of the abuser,” Huizar said. Instead, shame is displaced onto victims and their families, representing “a shifting of moral responsibility and weight from the offender to the victim.”
Hannah Rubin contributed reporting for this story.
Improved state response on child abuse goal of House measure
by Susan Redden
State Rep. Bill Lant was happy on Friday about something that should affect a subject that upsets him greatly.
Lant said he learned from the office of Gov. Jay Nixon that a bill he sponsored this year aimed at improving Missouri programs to stem child abuse and neglect will become law.
Nixon didn't sign the bill, and didn't veto it, meaning the bill can become effective without the governor's signature, the lawmaker said.
The bill will establish the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, with the goal of improving state systems that help and protect children.
It's a concern that was brought to the state representative primary by a number of teachers in his district and a cause he's been pushing for some time. Once he started looking into the problem, he said, “I can't drop it, it's eating me up.
“One in four children in the state are sexually or physically abused prior to age 9. That is totally unacceptable and I'm going to do whatever I can to address it,” Lant said.
The panel will comprise seven members of the House and seven members of the Senate who will study the state child abuse and neglect reporting and investigation system and make recommendations for improvements. The committee will be required to, among other things, devise a plan to improve the structured decision making regarding the removal of a child from a home, determine the additional personnel and resources necessary to improve the state's child protection system, address the need for additional foster care homes, and improve the quality of care provided to abused and neglected children in the custody of the state.
New Facility is Haven for Victims of Sex Trafficking
by Emily Foxhall
HOUSTON — On the outskirts of the city, a two-story lodge with a wraparound porch is largely hidden on a 110-acre site in the woods. Horses graze in front of the building, and a volleyball court and educational center stand behind. Down winding paths, are a ropes course, pool and lake.
But the name of the recently opened facility, Freedom Place, cannot be found, and its address is undisclosed: It is the state's first privately run safe house that provides long-term housing for American girls who are victims of sex trafficking. The shelter represents a new solution for state legislators and county officials as they try to figure out how best to support such victims.
“Typical emergency shelters, girls would just totally run from them,” said Kellie Armstrong, the executive director of Freedom Place, which can house up to 30 residents. The staff facilitates counseling, schooling and recreational activities.
In Texas, the effort to end sex trafficking of minors has shifted since the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that domestic minors younger than 14 involved in prostitution should be considered victims rather than criminals. Recent legislation changed the label for kids charged with prostitution from "delinquent" to "child in need of supervision" and allowed for these records to be sealed.
But the state has no “safe harbor” laws that establish a systematic response for placing minors into necessary rehabilitation services without criminalization. As such, Texas counties have different methods in place for collaboration between local nonprofits, police enforcement and court systems to transition girls into treatment.
Girls can often be distrustful or so manipulated by their trafficker that they leave if not placed in secure facilities. Many of the young victims who are not charged with prostitution must be charged with related offenses such as drug possession or truancy to ensure that they are not released back onto the street. According to the 2011 report provided by the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission to the Legislature, 66 children were arrested for prostitution and 53 children were referred for prostitution in 2009.
“Most girls are so, for lack of a better word, enslaved by their pimps and traffickers, including their minds, that as soon as you put them into a facility that is not secure or if you send them home that is just inviting them to go straight back to their pimp,” said Patricia Davis, a human rights professor at Southern Methodist University.
Davis serves on the board of the Letot Center in Dallas County, a public-private partnership which has launched a capital campaign to finance a 96-bed residential facility to meet the needs of domestic trafficking victims and serve other female youths.
Freedom Place gives victims a safe haven. "We can't decriminalize and not have places for these kids to go,” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the co-chairwoman of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking.
Seven girls currently reside at Freedom Place, where most will likely stay between nine and 18 months. The first four residents were referred by the Harris County Girls Court, which focuses on sex trafficking cases. Girls can also be referred by family members or refer themselves. A new resident will arrive roughly every week until capacity is reached.
The nonprofit organization Arrow Child and Family Ministries oversees Freedom Place, but participation in religious activities is optional. The home has a $1.8 million budget for its first year, provided largely by private donations and grants. A low staff-to-child ratio is maintained, and the girls are checked on at least every 15 minutes. But the facility — with carpeted floors and pastel walls — feels like a home.
“Freedom Place takes it to this next step,” said Robert Sanborn, president and chief executive of Children at Risk, a nonprofit group. “We need to have a place to bring girls that isn't a place where they are considered offenders but they are victims.”
(Video on site)
Local man using his beard to stop human sex trafficking
by Melanie Tubbs
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- It is tragic trend around the world and our area is no different. Each day dozens people are sold into the sex trade. It's an issue that shows no signs of stopping, but in the Tri-Cities, one man is putting looks on the line to bring awareness to the problem.
It's the first thing you notice about Chris Judd.
He says, "Everybody asks me about my beard, so it's a natural talking point. I've had conversations at the gas station, at walmart..
He uses it as a segue to a much bigger conversation..
Chris continues, "Hey, have you heard about whats going on with human trafficking?"
After 9 months of hard work and steady growth, He wants you to put your money where his beard is.
He explains, "$50 says I really dig Chris' beard, keep that glorious thing growing."
With his site, you can donate to save or shave the beard. All the proceeds go to a non-profit organization, project rescue, which helps give shelter and counseling to victims of human sex trafficking.
Chris explains, "It's happening literally everywhere and it's happening in the Tri-Cities."
It took some convincing of his wife, Jana.
She sighs, "It was more like.. I'm not so sure about that."
When she heard he was doing it for a cause she cares so much about, she changed her mind.
Jana continues, "This shouldn't be happening in our world and it's its just something wanna be a part of whatever way we can contribute."
But now, ready for it to come off, she tells KEPR, "Sometimes things get stuck in it.. Like food."
She's pushing for the Shave-it page and has earned $150 more. She hopes the beard could be gone for good and spread awareness that will continue to grow.
Chris says, "If we could encourage other guys and starts something that's a global campaign...grow your beard out and become a human trafficking advocate."
Chris' website is taking donations through the end of this month. You can log on to donate visiting our website and clicking on newslinks.
Rich Arab tourists buying underage sex slaves in Egypt
Wealthy tourists from the Persian Gulf are paying to marry under-age Egyptian girls just for the summer, according to a report.
These temporary marriages are not legally binding and end when the men return to their homes in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The tourists pay a 'dowry' to poor families through intermediaries with prices ranging from £320 to £3,200.
The young victims - some under 18 - suffer sexual slavery and are forced to be servants to their 'husbands', claims the U.S. State Department report 'Trafficking in Persons'.
No foreigner can marry an Egyptian girl if there is an age difference of 10 years, according to state laws. But parents and marriage brokers are getting round the restriction.
They will forge birth certificates to make the girls appear older and the men younger. In 2009, a court in Alexandria jailed two registrars for conducting temporary marriages of hundreds of girls under 18.
Sex before marriage is banned under Islamic law and most hotels and landlords demand proof before allowing a couple to share the same room.
But the report found that many parents will marry their daughter without her consent and often the girls agree to the arrangement because their families have no money.
Some of the victims are taken back to their husband's country to work as maids while those left in Egypt are shunned by the conservative society - particularly if they have children during their temporary marriage.
The shame leads many of the girls to dump these youngsters in orphanages or abandon them with thousands of other Egyptian street children.Many of these 'brides' are also targeted by Egyptian men and forced into prostitution.
Dr Hoda Badran, who chairs the NGO Alliance for Arab Women, told the Sunday Independent that she believed poverty was the major cause of the trade.
She said:'If those families are in such a need to sell their daughters you can imagine how poor they are. Many times, the girl does not know she is marrying the husband just for the short term.
'She is young, she accepts what her family tells her, she knows the man is going to help them. If the girl is very poor, sometimes it is the only way out to help the family survive.'
Kids found tied up at Walmart, parents arrested
by Associated Press
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A suburban Chicago couple is behind bars in Lawrence, Kan., and their five children are in protective custody.
Police say two of the children were found blindfolded and with their arms and legs bound in the parking lot of a Walmart.
Police responding to a call from a concerned shopper visited the store yesterday and spotted a 5-year-old boy sitting on the ground beside a large SUV, his hands and legs tied and a blindfold over his eyes. Police say as an officer approached, a man standing near the vehicle ducked inside the SUV. The officer, using a stun gun, arrested him.
A 7-year-old girl was found inside the vehicle, also bound and blindfolded, along with three other children, ages 12 to 15, who weren't restrained.
The children's mother was found inside the Walmart, and was arrested.
Police say they don't know why the two children were tied up. The adults are facing child abuse and child endangerment charges.
Police say the family was on its way to visit relatives in Arizona when the vehicle developed transmission problems.