Buried memories key to sexual abuse cases
Chesterfield County case will hinge on contested pyschiatric concept
by Ellen Meder
When the movie “The Prince of Tides” debuted in the early 1990s, Dr. Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea's phone started ringing off the hook.
Frawley-O'Dea is a licensed psychologist, psychoanalyst and trauma specialist who serves as counseling director at the Presbyterian Samaritan Center in Charlotte, N.C. “The Prince of Tides” is the Hollywood version of Pat Conroy's best selling novel about a dysfunctional South Carolina family with a dark secret to hide.
Frawley-O'Dea's practice deals primarily with patients who suffer from long-repressed memories, so a movie about someone revealing their buried secrets unleashed a flood of memories in Frawley-O'Dea's patients.
It sounds a little strange but the human mind is a strange place. Frawley-O'Dea said a variety of sensory experiences can trigger memories of childhood trauma that the brain didn't record normally, and she has seen them come into play many times. In her work with victims of clergy sexual abuse, the smell of incense, the sight of candles at the altar or the sounds of organ music have triggered painful memories of assault.
The concept of repressed traumatic memories has been coming back into the psychoanalytic lexicon during the past two decades, and since 2000 more scientific research has appeared supporting the theories behind it. But the concept remains a source of debate.
That debate will no doubt be at the forefront of the sexual abuse civil lawsuit filed in Chesterfield County recently. In the suit, two currently anonymous, adult, male plaintiffs allege that between 1975 and 1980 former Fourth Circuit Solicitor Jay Hodge and the now deceased William C. Hebard sexually abused them while serving as Boy Scout leaders of Troop 663, sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church of Cheraw. The case is currently just a civil matter, but current Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers sent the case to the South Carolina Attorney General for consideration late last week.
The civil case will almost certainly hinge on the plaintiffs' argument that prior to 2011 they could not have reasonably discovered the causal relationship between the abuses and their psychological damages. That's important, because while there is no statute of limitations on criminal charges of child sexual abuse in South Carolina, civil suits are limited to six years after the victim turns 21 or three years after the memories are discovered.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Trey Cockrell, said that the case was filed 32 years after the fact because, until recently, the specific memories of the incidents were suppressed. That's true, Cockrell said, even though symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder — including depression, suicide attempts and sexual dysfunction — were ever-present in the men's lives.
One exhibit filed with the suit is a 30-page psychological evaluation of one of the plaintiffs conducted by Frawley-O'Dea in February. The report includes a narrative of the abuses and details that this plaintiff always remembered Hebard's abuses, but it wasn't until 2010 that he began to recall Hodge's abuses after being exposed to pornographic images on Hodge's computer during a work-related investigation.
Though Frawley-O'Dea cannot discuss the actual case, she is an expert in the field of treating adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and has been doing so for 30 years.
She says that the term “memory repression” is actually a misnomer because the human mind is not just split by a line into above or below consciousness — there are different states of consciousness. She said it is actually disassociation, a phenomenon that many are familiar with in common situations, such as when someone drives along a highway for 10 miles and suddenly “comes to” with no recollection of what happened or where they've been. Researchers say this happens because the brain has two different memory coding and retrieval systems.
“The pathways are similar for both except that traumatic memories do not engage the frontal cortex because it's more expedient and more efficient to leave that pathway out,” Frawley-O'Dea said. “So the memories or experiences are encoded in the limbic system and they're not encoded with words often or even pictures as much as they are encoded with feelings, moods, senses of self and other sensory details.”
In other words, because a person's brain is severely over-stimulated during trauma, the brain processes the memory more quickly and skips some normal steps. Researchers like Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk of the Trauma Center in Massachusetts have shown in PET scan research the the frontal cortex has been left out of particularly horrible memories.
Frawley-O'Dea said this is basically a defense mechanism because the events are so horrifying people essentially do not want to remember them.
Meg Temple is the clinical director at the Durant Children's Center in Florence and treats children who have been abused. She said that reactions can vary greatly in individual children and the disassociation can hinge on whether a child has the appropriate mental skills yet to deal with the trauma. Some will remember sexual abuse incidents forever while some will immediately disassociate it until a trigger brings the memories back.
According to Frawley-O'Dea, disassociation can happen more often when a trauma involves extreme betrayal by someone the victim trusts, be it a woman raped by a loved one or child fondled by a priest, because the actions are in such conflict with how the victim perceives their abuser.
There is no hard rule as to how often child sexual abuse victims disassociate their memories, if they disassociate at all.
Most widely cited is a 1994 study by Linda Meyer Williams, a Massachusetts-based sociologist and criminologist, which looked at 129 women who were treated for sexual assault at a Philadelphia hospital in the 1970s. When interviewed 17 years later, 38 percent of the women did not mention the documented incidents when asked about being sexually abused as children. Williams argued that most of them would have disclosed the incidents if they remembered them because they often detailed other sensitive, traumatic experiences.
Of course there have been methodological rebuttals that some of the incidents were not very impactful and were simply forgotten or that the interviewers did not make reference to the specific incidents. Others say the number could be low because the abuses were actually reported, while there is perhaps more disassociation when children are pressured by their abusers not to tell.
Frawley-O'Dea said by the time she is treating a patient, they usually have some concept that they were abused as children and have sought her help to begin the healing process. However, some patients find their way to her with seemingly disconnected symptoms like anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, nightmares, regression and anger issues, and then work through the symptoms and vague feelings to uncover the source of the problems.
She's aware that when victims of childhood sexual abuse come forward with “discovered memories,” there are some people who write it off as a witch hunt. And there's still some lingering doubts about the theory from the early 90s because the technique itself was abused. Untrained therapists would provide rape as an answer to a psychological symptom instead of allowing patients to devise their own answers with their own memories.
“Someone would have a dream about rape and be cutting themselves and a bad therapist would tell them they must have been raped,” Frawley-O'Dea said. “The implanting of memories is abuse in and of itself, and it never works out. The suggestions never stand the test of time.”
Frawley-O'Dea has served as an expert witness in several cases were plaintiffs were sexually abused by teachers and priests. She said though she cannot say definitively whether a patient was molested as a child, she can carefully study someone's symptoms, memories, nightmares and ways of recounting incidents and professionally say in a deposition that it is “more likely than not” that a person was abused.
In civil court, where the allegations of sexual assault are being leveled against Hodge and the late Hebard, the standard of proof is only “more likely than not.”
Hodge has denounced the allegations as “lies,” and said the case is a personal vendetta based on past and current legal entanglements with one of the plaintiffs. The defendants in the case – Hodge, Hebard's estate, the Pee Dee Area Boy Scout Council, the Boy Scouts of America and the First Presbyterian Church of Cheraw – have less than 30 days to respond to the allegations.
Conviction of Missouri priest on misdemeanor charge intensifies calls for him to resign
by Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Calls for Bishop Robert Finn's resignation intensified a day after he became the highest-ranking U.S. church official to be convicted of a crime related to the child sexual abuse scandal.
Soon after a Missouri judge found Finn guilty Thursday of one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse to the state, unhappy Roman Catholics began discussing ways to get the bishop out of office on a Facebook page titled “Bishop Finn Must Go.”
Among the posts was one that listed contact information for the Vatican and urged parishioners to voice their displeasure with Finn at the highest levels. Pope Benedict XVI alone has authority over bishops. Through the decades-long abuse scandal, only one U.S. bishop has stepped down over his failures to stop abusive clergy: Cardinal Bernard Law, who in 2002 resigned as head of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Jackson County Judge John M. Torrence sentenced Finn to two years of supervised probation. If the bishop abides by a set of stipulations from the judge, the conviction will be wiped from his record in 2014.
“Now that our justice system says he's guilty, he has lost his ability to lead our diocese,” Patricia Rotert, a Catholic church member in Kansas City, said Friday. “He's lost his credibility. There is turmoil and angst around him and I don't think he can bring people together.”
Finn's attorneys would not comment on the bishop's future in the church, saying it was a legal matter.
However, Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph spokesman Jack Smith indicated that Finn wasn't going anywhere.
“The bishop looks forward to continuing to perform his duties, including carrying out the important obligations placed on him by the court,” Smith said in an emailed statement Friday.
Finn's conviction comes four years after the church paid $10 million to settle 47 pending sexual abuse claims against the diocese and 12 of its priests. When announcing that deal in 2008, Finn apologized for the abuse that occurred at the hands of current and former clergy members, and promised that steps were being taken to make sure such abuse never happened again.
The diocese posted an update about the 2008 settlement on its website in June 2011 stating that Finn had written 118 letters of apology to plaintiffs or their families. That same month, Finn apologized for not responding to warnings the diocese received a year earlier from a parish principal detailing suspicious behavior by the Rev. Shawn Ratigan around children.
Instead of reading the memo and looking into the claims, Finn left it up to subordinates to handle the matter. He later admitted it was a year before he finally read a five-page document that a parish elementary school principal wrote detailing suspicious activities by Ratigan around children.
Finn also was informed of nude photos of children found on Ratigan's laptop computer in December 2010, but instead of turning them over to police, Finn sent Ratigan to live at a convent in Independence, Mo.
Monsignor Robert Murphy turned the photos over to police in May 2011 — against Finn's wishes, according to court documents — after Ratigan continued to violate Finn's orders to stay away from children and not take any pictures of them.
Ratigan pleaded guilty last month to five child pornography counts, but hasn't been sentenced. Prosecutors have requested he spend the rest of his life in prison.
Finn apologized again Thursday in court for the pain his failure to report Ratigan caused.
The bishop has avoided facing charges in Missouri's Clay County, where Ratigan was charged, after reaching a settlement in November 2011. For five years, Finn must report to the Clay County prosecutor directly each month about any suspected child abuse in the diocese's facilities in the county.
“I said for years that we wouldn't be in the mess we were in today if about 30 bishops had said ‘I made a mistake, I'm sorry, I take full responsibility and I resign,'” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “I think we're at a state in the life of the church when a bishop is convicted of a misdemeanor, found guilty of not doing what he was supposed to do, I think he should resign for the good of the diocese and the good of the church.”
Support for Finn's resignation is far from unanimous. Some say they agree he made a mistake, but it's not one that should force him out, especially with even more stringent safeguards in place to protect children.
“There's always been fights in the church, and there will continue to be fights in the church,” said Kansas City parishioner Bruce Burkhart, a member of the Serra Club, which supports and promotes priests.
“I think people may walk away, but that's their business,” he said. “If they think their children are any more safe in public schools, or in another church setting where people are working with youth, the data indicate they're not. The Catholic Church in America is probably now today the safest place for children.”
While Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged in the U.S. with shielding an abusive priest, Albany Law School professor Timothy Lytton said the June conviction of Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia broke the ice on criminal convictions against members of the Catholic hierarchy.
Lynn, who supervised other clergy as an aide to the cardinal, was convicted of felony child endangerment and became the first U.S. church official sent to prison for his handling of abuse complaints. He is appealing his three- to six-year sentence.
Still, Finn's conviction is significant because it proves Lynn's criminal prosecution was not an isolated event, but instead something that is likely to embolden prosecutors to go after church leaders who fail to protect children.
“Kansas City might mark a trend,” Lytton said. “It's no longer good enough to just file civil suits; criminal justice may be much quicker to get involved. Kansas City normalizes this kind of reaction to the scandal.”
Omaha to host child protection conference
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska is hosting a regional conference aimed at child pornography, sexual abuse and enticement.
Federal prosecutors say the 9th annual Protect Our Children Conference is scheduled for Wednesday through Friday in Omaha. The conference will bring together more than 600 victim advocates, law enforcement officials and others.
Speakers include Dave Pelzer, who wrote a 1995 memoir about severe abuse he experienced as a child, and Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her home as teenager in 2002 and recovered nine months later.
The conference is sponsored by the Project Harmony Child Advocacy Center and U.S. attorneys from Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg (gilj) says the conference is designed to increase awareness of child protection issues.
Despite pleas, missing South Carolina boy falls by wayside
Disappearance of an 18-month-old black boy has yet to grab widespread attention
by MEG KINNARD
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Despite detectives' pleas to national media, the disappearance of an 18-month-old black boy with the wide smile has yet to grab the widespread attention given to other missing children's cases. Some advocates say the reason why may be as simple as the toddler's gender — and his race.
From the still-unsolved slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey more than 15 years ago to the disappearance and killing of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, the public has watched with rapt attention as many cases involving young children unfolded, often over many months. Yet Amir Jennings, the little boy who hasn't been seen since he was captured on surveillance video with his mother in South Carolina nearly a year ago, has registered as scarcely a blip on the nation's consciousness.
"Media has always leaned toward the cute little kids," said Monica Caison of the Wilmington, N.C.-based CUE Center for Missing Persons. "And unfortunately, a lot of times they think cute little kids are white."
Amir's mother, Zinah Jennings, was convicted Friday on a charge related to his disappearance and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The 23-year-old woman has been jailed since December, and police arrested her after she told them false, misleading stories about the boy's whereabouts. Jennings has maintained that she left the boy somewhere safe, but prosecution witnesses said the young mother claimed she was stressed and pondered selling or giving away the boy.
Jennings' mother says she last saw her wide-eyed, giggly grandson early on the morning of Nov. 28, 2011. He went to a bank with his mother the next day but has not been seen since. A store owner has testified she saw the boy and his mother a month later, but prosecutors challenged that assertion, and there was no surveillance video to back up the claim.
In the months since he disappeared, Amir's grandmother has celebrated his second birthday. His mother has given birth to a second child. And the national spotlight that initially shone on the case has waned.
One of the reasons could be as simple as Amir being a boy. While federal officials say the numbers of the missing are roughly split when it comes to gender, Caison said pedophiles tend to seek out girls, while missing boys often are taken by a parent or other relative.
And in her searches for adult males, Caison said, she has an even harder time getting anyone to pay attention.
"People want to think that missing males are OK and safe," she said. "I still sit back every day and scratch my head and say, 'Why can't you pick these cases up?'"
Amir's story has gotten nowhere near the attention of cases like that of Caylee Anthony, a 2-year-old white Orlando girl whose body was found a month after she was reported missing in 2008. Anthony's mother was arrested and charged with murder after telling a string of lies to the police.
The case captivated the nation for months and culminated with the trial of the girl's mother, Casey Anthony. Radio shows enlisted attorneys to provide analysis during the morning commute, while cable television networks covered every moment in the courtroom.
People camped outside the courthouse to make sure they could sit in the gallery the next morning. Protests erupted when Casey Anthony was acquitted of a murder charge; her attorneys devised an elaborate plan to shake the media when she was whisked away from jail.
In the Ramsey case, water-cooler speculation swirled for years about who killed the child beauty pageant queen in 1996 and who wrote the ransom note found at the murder scene. Her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were demonized by the public for years until prosecutors apologized and said DNA evidence excluded them as suspects. No one was ever charged in her death.
So why are some cases elevated in the public sphere, while others are not?
Jacqueline Fish, a former law officer and current criminal justice professor at Charleston Southern University, said law enforcement ideally takes each case seriously, and each case has had police and prosecutors who have spoken publicly about the need for justice. But inherently, Fish said, every case is still somewhat subjective. Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott is black, and surmised he might have seen something of one of his own children in Amir — and pushed initially to publicize the case.
After Jennings' arrest, Scott reached out to the media to ask for help finding the missing boy. Yellow flyers began popping up around Columbia. Groups organized vigils to pray for Amir's safe return.
"I want someone to call us and say, 'We just saw this on the news, we have Amir, we're sorry, we didn't realize this was going on,'" Scott said at a January news conference announcing that a tip line had been set up. "Her stories are so across the board."
In his investigation's early days, Scott also appeared on several national cable news shows, saying that Jennings continued to change her story when pressed for information about her son. Jennings' mother also made appeals for help, asking at a news conference for any information about the boy she called "Mir Mir" and "AJ." She sat down several times with The Associated Press, describing her conflicting emotions of concern for her grandson and support for her daughter.
But as the weeks dragged on, and no credible tips moved the case forward, the national news outlets stopped calling. Scott said his officers continued their investigation, but no bombshells came.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 800,000 children are reported missing in the United States a year, and nearly all reported missing to the police — almost 99 percent — are returned home alive. More than half of those are white, while about 150,000 are black, and 164,000 are Hispanic.
Amir's body has not been found, although police have said from the beginning that they feared foul play had been involved in his disappearance. But it's the uncertainty of his fate, Fish said, that could play a role in the lack of widespread attention.
"Someone needs to be brought to justice," Fish said. "In Amir's case, they can't be out for justice because we don't know what happened to him."
Officials with the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., an organization that focuses on finding missing minorities, said they struggle to get and maintain news coverage of minority missing persons cases.
"We are making some headway, but there are still challenges," said co-founder Natalie Wilson, who said she sometimes gets pushback when pitching a story to media outlets.
Noting she has had some recent successes pitching missing minority cases to media outlets, Wilson said she's often told that editors and producers can't promise coverage and don't have the time to run a big piece. In one instance, a plea for help to find a young missing black girl was bumped to report the news that Paris Hilton had been released from jail.
"How does that supersede someone's life?" Wilson asked. "Can you imagine how her parents would feel?"
Attention on a missing child case should be the same — intense — regardless of gender or race," Caison said.
"It's not an excuse," Caison said. "A child missing should be aired because of the fact that they're a child, that they're away from safe haven, and that there's foul play or other concerns involved."
Bullied bus monitor using donations to fight bullying
by Scott Stump
After receiving more than $700,000 in donations following the release of a viral video of her being viciously taunted by a group of middle school students, Karen Klein has used the money to launch an anti-bullying foundation.
Klein, 68, is a retired school bus monitor from Greece, N.Y., who received donations from at least 32,000 people online in less than two months after the taunting videos were posted on June 19 and received more than eight million total views. Looking for something positive to do with a portion of the donations, she has created the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation.
“I thought it would be a great idea, and I'm hoping this foundation will seriously help all these kids,'' Klein told TODAY.com. “It's also not just kids. When you're a kid being bullied, you should talk to an adult. When the adult is being bullied, I don't know who the heck they can talk to. That's why I want to help.''
Klein never planned on becoming a symbol of anti-bullying, but has embraced the role after her story received international attention. In the three videos, which last a total of 14 minutes, Klein endures one profanity-laced comment after another from a group of students during a bus ride. The students called her “an elephant” and said they would egg her house, among other unprintable slurs and comments.
One student went even further, saying, “You're so ugly, your kids should kill themselves.'' Klein's son committed suicide 10 years ago. Despite the nature of the taunts, Klein did not retaliate.
“I've never been bullied myself until this happened,'' she said. “I had no idea that this would come about, and I'm glad that it has. I didn't know they were taking the video. I was oblivious. I heard these kids, but I didn't think it was going to be something like this. It's unreal, it really is.''
In the first phase of her foundation, Klein will be part of a road trip named the “JNFE No Bully Tour'' that begins in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Oct. 5 and will travel across several states as part of the Pacer Center's anti-bullying prevention month. At each event, a free concert will be given for youth organizations, grade schools and camps to spread anti-bullying messages.
Joining Klein on the upcoming tour will be Miss Teen USA, Logan West of Connecticut, who was a victim of bullying at a young age and has created her own anti-bullying program. “I'm excited,'' Klein said. “Just being able to go to several different states and spread the message, and also be able to work with Miss Teen USA is going to be great.”
Klein decided to create the foundation after meeting with Chris Surrey, the senior director of Paintbox Labs, a New York-based organization that promotes cultural understanding. Surrey interviewed Klein for an unreleased documentary called “Bullying Behavior in America,'' and she indicated to him that she would like to do something positive with the donation money.
“I told Karen we were not just going to do a foundation, but a foundation that would actually be doing something and not just putting money into an account,'' Surrey told TODAY.com. “It was about her becoming an advocate of her own story. You rarely hear about kids bullying the elderly, so we wanted to use that as a platform to get into schools to assist them to curb the problem.”
Surrey also helped Klein's foundation pair up with Stephen Paletta, the winner of Oprah's “Big Give'' show in 2008. He is now a philanthropist and creator of the GiveBack foundation.
“She had no idea she was going to get all this money, and so many people were calling and asking her for money,'' Surrey said. “We felt if she had a foundation, it would stop those trying to get her money versus those with serious causes. She and her daughters wanted to do something on a bigger scale than just having her retire, go away and have the 32,000 people wonder what happened to that woman who got bullied and got all that money.''
The upcoming tour was an immediate way for the foundation to take action. Klein has already created T-shirts for the tour that say, “Be a buddy, not a bully.'' Also, considering she has experienced it in her own family and heard numerous sad stories from strangers since her story went public, suicide prevention is another part of her message.
“Kids that have been bullied commit suicide, and that's too bad, so that's a cause I have also been into,'' she said.
“Her foundation and her story could save lives,'' Surrey said. “Once she got the idea she could be involved, that's when she got excited.''
Sex trafficking of minors: Time to stop dancing around the issue
by Elizabeth Hovde
The YouTube videos in which LaShawn McIntyre Jr. plays a disgusting role -- himself -- won't be used in his promoting prostitution trial. Buggah. McIntyre is accused of forcing a 16-year-old runaway to work for him as a prostitute and is charged with a number of felony sex offenses.
In the videos, the accused pimp dances to rap that glorifies the sex trade and demeans women. Most relevant, in one of them McIntyre brags that he's into prostitution for "all the dough." This 26-year-old is no rocket scientist.
A circuit court judge and the Oregon Court of Appeals agree that showing the expletive-laden, morally disturbing videos to jurors would unfairly prejudice them against McIntyre, damaging McIntyre's character more than proving charges against him. It's true, when you dance around on a yacht to the lyrics "'Cause pimp'n is all I know about, pimp'n is all I talk about. ... Hoing ain't easy and life ain't fair. Your feet hurt bitch, I don't care. ... Get dressed, get ready, and do you hair," your character will likely suffer. At least we hope it will.
I'm disappointed the videos have been excluded, if for no other reason than it might discourage rappers from making such awful stuff. Even lowlifes deserve better music. After talking to lawyers and reading the court's opinion, however, I don't necessarily think the appellate court got it wrong. (If you want your head to spin, read the court's semi-short opinion for yourself at http://bit.ly/TZ5vsN
. Every now and again it's good to decipher a foreign language and have to draw a diagram when reading.)
The deputy public defender representing McIntyre on appeal, Zack Mazer, told The Oregonian, "In America, we don't convict people based on ... whether we like them or not. We convict them based on whether they did a specific thing on a specific date." True enough. The devil is in the exact details.
Prosecutors are rightly frustrated. Some persuasively point to what they see as an inconsistency in how Oregon law is applied: Other judges have allowed seemingly similar evidence in court. That's worth exploring.
This decision is most frustrating, however, because convicting suspected pimps of trafficking underage girls is often a mission impossible. They leave anonymous paper trails, and victims are reluctant to testify for fear the pimps will beat or kill them.
"In one case I was involved with last year, the pimp's 'friends' gang-raped the girl to make sure she and the others knew he was still in charge," Linda Smith, a former U.S. congresswoman from Vancouver and the founder and president of Shared Hope International, told me. Shared Hope is an organization dedicated to eradicating sex trafficking. Even after a pimp is on trial, Smith says, "his girls are still on what is called 'automatic,' meaning they are required to raise the quota each day that they were making before he went to jail. It's often used for his legal defense or bail."
Beyond McIntyre and the ruling about YouTube videos in which he suggests he is doing things he is accused of doing, a bigger concern is that Oregon's laws are too weak to adequately deal with the child traffickers we call pimps. Smith reminds, "When grading all 50 states' laws on whether they bring justice to domestic minor sex trafficking victims, Oregon received a 'D' while Washington received a 'B.' It is simply safer in Oregon to buy and sell children for sex."
According to a slew of recent news stories, Oregon is a great place to go for lottery tickets, alcohol and sex with minors. Awesome.
Christine Raino, a legal worker for Shared Hope, said the McIntyre case points out major gaps in Oregon's trafficking-in-persons law. Shared Hope has oodles of good ideas for specific laws that Oregon could adopt to improve the state's dangerous grade. The Oregon Legislature needs to respond in a powerful way.
Meanwhile, so we don't have to just sit around feeling angry and hopeless, everyday folks could do the following: Strengthen families so girls are better equipped to stay far from this harmful life. We can also discourage demand.
Guys, at the next poker game, find a way to work into the conversation how pathetic and abusive it is to pay for sex. Customers come in all shapes, sizes, ages and socioeconomic groups. And less demand would mean there isn't a need for the supply McIntyre seemingly brags about having. After all: "Hoing ain't easy and life ain't fair."
New New York State law lets sex-trafficking victims clear their convictions
11 have done so under legislation approved two years ago
by Erica Pearson
It has been decades since she was coerced into prostitution as a 15-year-old foster kid, years since she left “the life.”
But even though she now has a college degree and a job running afterschool programs, she says she won't truly escape her past until she can expunge five convictions on her record.
“It's almost like walking on eggshells, to be honest with you,” said the 42-year-old Queens woman, whom the Daily News is identifying as Nicole. “I have aspirations. I'm looking to get an advanced degree. . . . I want to go as far as I can go. And it's almost scary, because I'm thinking I'm going to hit that and it's going to just knock me back down.”
Two years ago, New York became the first state to allow victims of sex trafficking to clear convictions from their record. Only 11 have done it, according to advocates, but after a slow start, many more cases are now in the pipeline.
“It's taken a lot of time to get organized and to make people aware that this relief even exists,” said Legal Aid attorney Kate Mogulescu. “But now we're starting to have people come to us in much higher numbers. I imagine that there are many more people that could benefit.”
People who were minors when they were convicted of selling sex or who can show they were forced or tricked into prostitution as adults are now viewed as victims, not criminals, under New York's new law. Four other states have passed similar legislation, and others are debating whether to follow suit.
Of the New Yorkers who have employed the law, six are immigrants who faced the threat of deportation. One of Mogulescu's clients — a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic — was trafficked at age 17 and convicted of prostitution 11 times in the Bronx and Manhattan before she escaped this year.
Even after her trafficker was arrested, she couldn't renew her green card without being flagged for deportation because of the convictions — until Mogulescu managed to get the record erased this summer.
Nicole, a U.S. citizen, spent 15 years as a prostitute after her caregivers failed her, said her lawyer, Jennifer Kroman of Cleary Gottlieb.
“Her records . . . indicate that everyone knew that a pimp was pulling her by her hair and picking her up out of the home and punching her and doing all this stuff,” said Kroman, whose firm is working pro bono with Legal Aid on a number of similar cases. “She's paying the price now for things that happened to her when the adults in her life who were supposed to protect her stood around and didn't do anything about it. And that's the story in so many of our clients' cases.”
After Nicole's last arrest, in 2000, she went to a nonprofit for help and began to turn her life around. She can scarcely believe she managed it after so many years of being beaten and robbed by pimps.
“I felt like there was no hope. . . . The only way that I was getting out of that lifestyle was by him killing me or a trick killing me,” she said. “That hopelessness, the fear . . . it's still always there. And then having these convictions, it's just a constant reminder.”
Nicole said she always answers truthfully when asked about a criminal past on job applications and then endures the funny looks and rejections. Hoping to be a foster parent, she went through training only to have case workers ignore her calls. Eventually, they told her she was ineligible because of her rap sheet.
“It's shameful, that part of my life, and I really just want to put it behind me,” she said. “People in my life today have no idea of where I've been. And I'd like to keep it that way. It's none of their business. I'm not that woman any more.”
(Video on site)
Family Celebrates Birthday of Child Born From Sexual Assault
by Robert Price
A local family is celebrating the second birthday of a little girl who was born out of a sexual assault.
Last year, 33-year-old Eric Alvarado was sentenced to fifteen years in prison after sexually assaulting his fourteen-year-old sister-in-law and getting her pregnant.
Robert Price explains why the family says there was no doubt they'd keep the child.
"She's a very happy loved little girl. And she knows it," says Dolores Sotomayor, grandmother of two-year-old Navaeh.
Her family calls her "Nini". And though she's two now, Saturday's party at San Pedro park is their first time to really celebrate her birthday.
"To celebrate her,” says Sotomayor. “To give thanks to god that we have her."
This time last year, Navaeh's family was just days away from the sentencing of the girl's father, Eric Alvarado. The 33-year-old had already pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his wife's fourteen-year-old sister. Investigators say he'd been molesting his sister-in-law since she was eleven, only getting caught after the fourteen-year-old became pregnant and gave birth to little Navaeh.
"I still strongly believe that had she not been born, my daughter to this day would still be molested,” said Sotomayor. “Because he had such a strong hold on her."
Navaeh's grandmother Dolores says a lot of people -- including some in her family -- told them they should give the girl up for adoption.
"I said, ‘No, this is my granddaughter. You know, regardless of how she was conceived, she's our family.'"
Now, two years later, after a tragedy that, for a time, tore apart a family, Dolores says everyone agrees. Looking at little Navaeh -- seeing her sing and laugh and dance –- they made the right decision.
"I can't imagine my life without her. There's still pain there, but we're moving on. And it's getting easier."
Victims also need support in adulthood
by Anne K. Ard
I wonder what it feels like. Over the past few months, many conversations about the Jerry Sandusky scandal and all that followed began with the words “we must remember the children” or words to that effect.
The Freeh report, the NCAA sanctions, efforts in the community to address what's happened and even the first football game all began with remembering the victims in this scandal, the children who were abused. And that is as it should be. Working to prevent child sexual abuse must be the motivation behind every act of moving forward. But I wonder what it must feel like to be a victim of child sexual abuse who is no longer a child.
Children grow up. Even children whose childhoods have been shattered by abuse grow up to be adults living with adult responsibilities and adult expectations. And when it becomes difficult to manage those adult responsibilities and expectations, because the secrets instilled in child victims frequently last into adulthood, those closest to these adult survivors of child sexual abuse often have no idea why.
While the impact of child sexual abuse will vary depending on factors such as the age and gender of the victim, the relationship to the perpetrator and the response of those whom the victim trusted enough to tell, all children who experience sexual abuse have experienced trauma.
Research indicates that trauma negatively impacts the autonomic nervous and limbic systems of the brain.
Common experiences of adult survivors include sleep disturbances, pain, fatigue and tension, hyper-vigilance, health issues, loss of a sense of control, depression and globalized fears.
Adult survivors live with these and other results of their victimization every day and often alone and in silence. As with other types of trauma, however, recovery is possible. “There is clear evidence that trauma changes the brain, but that the brain — with love and support — can heal,” wrote Kris Bein, a rural technical assistance specialist for the National Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project.
The love of family and friends and the support of the community are critical to the healing of adult survivors of child sexual abuse, both men and women. Adult survivors must be able to find safe spaces to talk about what happened to them and safe people to tell. We as a community must listen to the stories that adult survivors tell and not give in to the impulse to hurry their recovery to ease our discomfort at their pain. Adult survivors need to know that they are not alone. To that end, the Centre County Women's Resource Center is beginning new support groups for adult survivors, one for men, one for women and a third for the people who love them.
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
Those men and women who have survived child sexual abuse have lived through a trauma unimaginable to many — they have already shown themselves to be stronger than anyone should ever have to be. Our responsibility as a community is to support them as they name their pain and join them in their work to heal the broken places — as adults and survivors.
Anne K. Ard is the executive director of the Centre County Women's Resource Center, 140 W. Nittany Ave., State College. Contact her at 238- 7066, ext. 231, or at email@example.com
Sherri Shepherd of The View Speaks on Child Molestation in America
Naturally the subject of child molestation is disturbing to any rational person; even as a journalist this subject invokes a sense of anger and frustration for me. But what about the survivors? I have witnessed victims of child molestation suffer from psychological seizures and suffer horribly from guilt or shame.
What are the solutions? In my research on this story I discovered Darkness to Light (D2L.org), an organization dedicated to raising awareness and educating adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. In an interview with CEO, Jolie Logan, I wanted her thoughts on Sean Sheppard's story and wanted to know why people commit such unspeakable acts with the most innocent members of society. What is the reasoning behind child molestation and what resources are available to victims and their family members.
Can you briefly describe the mission of Darkness to Light?
Darkness to Light's mission is to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse. We work to bring the issue to the forefront of public consciousness and to educate adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse through our training programs, including the award-winning Stewards of Children.
How common Is Sean Sheppard's story in the United States?
Sexual abuse of children in the United States is alarmingly prevalent. It is estimated that at least 1 in 10 children are sexually abused, and most experts estimate even higher percentages of 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. It's an awareness and denial issue. The chances of a child being sexually abused are far greater than a child experiencing a serious sports injury, being in a car accident, developing type 1 diabetes, autism, childhood cancer or failing in school. Yet, it's likely if you ask parents what their greatest fears are for their children, being sexually abused would not make the top twenty concerns.
What can society do to prevent child sexual abuse?
We need to change our culture to one that does not tolerate the sexual abuse of children. It's about education, awareness, and organizational policies. There are common sense steps that each person can take, as demonstrated through our Seven Steps program (free at D2L.org).All adults need to be involved in the prevention of child sexual abuse. This includes understanding when and where abuse is likely to occur, red flag behaviors of perpetrators, talking to kids about abuse, and recognizing the signs when abuse may be occurring. Organizations that serve youth must understand that policies and procedures are absolutely necessary to protect children while in their care. Perhaps the simplest answer is...we need to keep talking about the issue.
How common is it for youth on youth sexual attacks, in this case the abusers were under the age of eighteen?
An estimated one third of all reported instances of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by youth under the age of 18. (Snyder, 2000).
What are some of the symptoms that abused children exhibit as adults? Do they tend exhibit common symptoms or is each person different?
There are common symptoms or effects of abuse; however survivors of child sexual abuse can and do live inspired, fulfilled, happy lives, as proven in the case of Sean Sheppard. The severity of impact is influenced by many different factors and does tend to be different for each person and situation. If a survivor tells of the abuse, is believed, supported and treated, they are less likely to suffer negative long-term consequences. If the abuse is not recognized early or treated responsibly, affects can manifest through substance abuse, sexually risky behavior, relationship problems, chronic illness, suicide attempts, joblessness or lower incomes, obesity and much more.
One of the most common feelings survivors share is that of guilt; they believe it is somehow their fault. The only one to blame for sexual abuse is the abuser.
Do you know the statistics of child molestation by race? Is one group higher then the other?
Approximately 22 percent of the total number of annual reported cases are African American (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). It is important to note that this number does not include unreported cases; it is estimated that 62 percent of children never tell of the abuse.
Do family economics come into the equation?
Child sexual abuse is more likely to affect children in low income households. This is suspected for a number of reasons. Predators seek out low income families because they believe it may be easier to distract or gain trust through with gifts, money, car rides, free babysitting and other offers of assistance. Abusers know it is easier to prey upon children whose parents may be distracted by problems such as not knowing where their next meal might come from or how they're going to pay the electric bill.
It is important to know that child sexual abuse occurs across all socio-economic, racial, religious, and ethnic groups.
There may be a person reading this article and they have been victim of abuse, what is the first step they can take on the road to recovery?
Effective evidence based treatments are available and can make an enormous difference. Contact your local Child Advocacy Center (CAC). Our referral line can connect people with local resources at 866-FOR-LIGHT (866-367-5444)
Is there recovery for these adult survivors of child abuse?
Yes, absolutely. Please reach out. Get help. Find someone who specializes in treatment. Know and believe you are not to blame.
The tragedy that comes with writing this article is knowing that many Americans know someone who has been the victim of child molestation. This is also a topic that makes people uncomfortable and very angry. If I were a parent and someone violated my child I have no idea how I would react. Heaven help the person if they were in arm's reach of me .
During my interviews it became clear I needed to know more about the black community's perspective on child molestation, but who to ask? I could have consulted a black psychologist or psychiatrist who could have provided much medical dialogue and the full scientific scope of the problem. But I did not wish to seek a scientist on this issue, I felt the need to gain the perspective of someone with whom black America is familiar, but someone who people could relate to due to her "regular-joe" upbringing. I decided to ask Sherri Shepherd , co-host of the daytime talk show "The View" and seek her thoughts as community leader, wife and mother. Why does she think there is fear in reporting child molestation and how do we open a constructive dialogue, not just in the black community but in all communities?
I had an opportunity to pose this question to Sherri Shepherd from ABC's talk show The View and here is her response:
One reason is that many of us were born into a cultural of children should be seen and not heard. Some Parents were taught by their parents who were taught by their parents who were slaves, that you don't ruffle the feathers, and that they would rather a child endure whatever, than have another family member be incarcerated. Not realizing that the whatever is much more devastating than anyone can imagine.
We also don't have a lot confidence in the authorities: Law enforcement, child protective service etc., so that also affects how comfortable we are speaking with the authorities.
Realizing that the majority of kids that get molested feels that it is their fault, along with shame, those kids have no idea what to say or do to try to report anything, & add that with the lack of education, it is a complete recipe for disaster that leads to Non-Reporting of Molestation.
We also are uneducated to the proper channels to go thru to report molestation. I believe some times we fear that the amount of time it would take to actually see some results maybe too long, allowing things to get worst before an actual change is made.
It does all come back to be educated and knowing what rights you have and teaching our kids what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable even if it's a family member or friend of mommy and daddy.
Reporting Suspected Child Abuse Required by Law for Some Professions
HARRISBURG – With the new school year under way, Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare Gary D. Alexander has reminded the public about the mandated reporting requirements under Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law.
The law requires professionals who come into contact with children during the course of their employment, occupation or professional practice to report suspected child abuse. These professionals are known as “mandated reporters.”
“Approximately one out of every 1,000 children living in Pennsylvania were found to be victims of child abuse in 2011, and mandated reporters were responsible for 78 percent of all referrals for substantiated reports during the year,” Alexander said. “However, the general public can also report abuse to ChildLine, and all reporters to ChildLine are kept confidential.”
The ChildLine toll-free telephone number is 1-800-932-0313.
Under the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, mandated reporters are required to immediately make a report when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child under their care, supervision, guidance or training is being abused. This requirement also applies when the child is under the care of the mandated reporter's agency.
“Our schools and their committed personnel consistently record the highest number of reports of suspected child abuse by mandated reporters,” Alexander said. “It is our obligation to get the word out about who is a mandated reporter and how the state's laws can protect our children.”
Mandated reporters include many professionals, for example: doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, school officials, clergy, court personnel, child care workers, county caseworkers and hospitals.
The law says mandated reporters must immediately make a report. If they work in an institution, they must notify a person in charge, who is in turn responsible to make the report. They do not have to know for certain that abuse has occurred, however, a person in charge or the designee must report suspected abuse to ChildLine.
Mandated reporters can learn more about their obligations to report child abuse by printing out an informative brochure on the department's website. To read the brochure, visit www.dpw.state.pa.us and click on For Children, then Child Welfare Services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists these signs that indicate a child may be abused:
Signs of Physical Abuse:
- Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
- Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
- Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home
- Shrinks at the approach of adults
- Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver
Consider the possibility of physical abuse when a parent or other adult caregiver:
- Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury
- Describes the child as “evil,” or in some other very negative way
- Uses harsh physical discipline with the child
- Has a history of abuse as a child
Signs of Neglect
- Is frequently absent from school
- Begs or steals food or money
- Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
- Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
- Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather
- Abuses alcohol or other drugs
- States that there is no one at home to provide care
Consider the possibility of neglect when a parent or other adult caregiver:
- Appears to be indifferent to the child
- Seems apathetic or depressed
- Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
- Is abusing alcohol or other drugs
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Has difficulty walking or sitting
- Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
- Reports nightmares or bedwetting
- Experiences a sudden change in appetite
- Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
- Runs away
- Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when a parent or other adult caregiver:
- Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child's contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
- Is secretive and isolated
- Is jealous or controlling with family members
Signs of Emotional Maltreatment
- Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity, or aggression
- Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example)
- Is delayed in physical or emotional development
- Has attempted suicide
- Reports a lack of attachment to the parent
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when a parent or other adult caregiver:
- Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child
- Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child's problems
- Overtly rejects the child
Georgians now have a legal obligation to report child abuse
by Stephanie Springer
ALBANY, GA --
Every ten seconds in this country a child abuse report is filed.
Now, more people in Georgia have a legal obligation to report suspected abuse.
Even volunteers who work with children must now speak up if they think a child is being abused.
If they don't, they could go to jail.
Five children die every day due to child abuse, but there are still some people who aren't aware of their duties.
Some people worry about reporting something to police that is not abuse, but District Attorney Greg Edwards says when in doubt, report.
For years, teachers and other caregivers have been responsible for reporting any suspected abuse. Now, members of the clergy, nurse's aides and volunteers fall into that category as well.
If you don't, you could be charged with a misdemeanor, face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 dollar fine.
District Attorney Greg Edwards wants to spread that message.
"They should inform the volunteers of the responsibilities brought on by volunteering in that particular area," said District Attorney Greg Edwards.
But some people ask what the difference between abuse is and discipline, Edwards says when trying to make a distinction use common sense.
Some signs of abuse could be poor hygiene, below average height and weight and injuries but if it turns out what you report is not abuse, you are protected.
"You won't be charged with making a false report of a crime or you won't be liable to a civil lawsuit because what you reported ultimately reported was not determined to be an act of child abuse or neglect," said Edwards,
If you report suspected abuse to a director or person in charge and they fail to report it to DFACS or authorities you are protected. But it's best if you report suspected abuse directly to law enforcement or DFACS.
"When in doubt report, don't take it for granted that its being handled or maybe that's it's something you shouldn't report," said Edwards
If you do go directly to authorities, you shouldn't worry about being fired or other form of retaliation.
"The person doing the terminating could face civil liability for doing that," said Edwards
Edwards says, when in doubt, report because you could save an innocent child's life.
There is one exception to the rule, any religious leader who learns about abuse through a confidential confession is *NOT* required to report.
The District Attorney says he would be happy to make a presentation to any organization that falls into this "mandatory reporter" category.
Child Abuse and Discipline. What's the Difference?
(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Newswise — In life, there are directions for just about anything. Need to travel somewhere? Use a map. Want to cook a meal? Read a recipe. Want to be a great parent? There's no official handbook for that. In the end, all any parent can do is use their own judgment. And there is no single agreement as to how a parent should raise a child, particularly when it comes to differentiating child physical abuse (CPA) and physical discipline (PD) across cultures.
Using the book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” as a supplement to her ideas, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing PhD student Grace Ho is attempting to better define the line separating those two by evaluating Chinese-American mothers and pediatric nurses through a methodology that studies a person's perception.
As was done in the Tiger Mother book, her work is examining the vast differences between Eastern and Western parenting and their discipline strategies. Eastern parenting relies on obedience, respect, and character building, while Western parenting centers on embracing a child's individuality, parental warmth, and nurturing.
Ho's study, “Differentiating Physical Discipline from Abuse: A Comparison of Chinese-American Mothers and Mandated Nurse Reporters of Abuse,” looks at how PD and CPA differ among cultures, between nurses and mothers of specific cultures, and how acculturation affects parental approaches for immigrants attempting to assimilate into a new society.
Ho is recruiting mothers from Chinese language schools, Chinese churches, and Asian grocery stores in Maryland counties with high Asian-American populations. Nurses who have worked in the pediatric field for at least two years are being recruited from inpatient and outpatient pediatric units at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through interviews and an online questionnaire, Ho will gauge what separates child abuse and parental discipline.
“This will be a starting point to identify gaps in understanding. I also hope to extend this research to other cultural groups,” Ho explained. In the long run, she wants to inform healthcare providers about her findings, promote cultural sensitivity and competence, increase accurate identification and decrease inaccurate accusations of child abuse.
From the FBI
Infant Abductions --
A Violent Trend Emerges
It is relatively rare for infants to be abducted by strangers. But it does happen. And recent analysis of abduction cases by the FBI suggests there are new and troubling trends for expectant parents to be aware of, including women kidnappers using violence to commit their crimes and social media to target their victims.
In April, for example, a 30-year-old Texas woman shot and killed a 28-year-old mother while kidnapping her three-day-old son from a pediatric center. The infant was recovered six hours later.
“For the most part, women are no longer going into hospitals and dressing in nurse's uniforms and walking out with children,” said Ashli-Jade Douglas, an FBI intelligence analyst who works in our Crimes Against Children Unit and specializes in child abduction matters. That's because hospital security has greatly improved over the years.
A recent case illustrates the point: Last month, a woman entered a California hospital dressed in medical scrubs and abducted a newborn girl, hiding the baby in a bag. But when she attempted to walk out of the hospital, the baby's security bracelet triggered an alarm and the woman was caught.
Because of heightened hospital security, Douglas said, “now women who desperately want a child—and are willing to go to extreme lengths to get one—have to gain direct contact with their victims, and that's when things can turn violent.”
The women who commit these crimes are usually between the ages of 17 and 33,” said Douglas, who provides analytical support to our Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team. “Usually they are unable to get pregnant. Often, they will fake a pregnancy in the hopes of keeping a boyfriend or husband.” In most cases, she added, the women intend no harm to the infants—and maybe not even the mother. “They just want a child to raise as their own and will do anything to get one.”
Another emerging trend, Douglas said, is that women desperate for a child are turning to social networking websites to locate victims. “We have seen several recent cases involving social networking sites,” she explained, “and we see how easy it is to use these websites to gain access to targets.”
In January, for example, a 32-year-old Florida woman developed a friendship with a younger new mother through a social networking site. The woman lied about having her own newborn and claimed the child was sick and in the hospital. The victim invited the woman to spend the night at her house, and the next morning, when the victim was in the shower, the woman abducted her two-week-old infant. She then deleted her contact information from the victim's social networking site, thinking she would not be found. The baby was recovered and the woman was arrested.
“Parents should check their privacy settings on social networking sites,” Douglas said, and they should always use caution on the Internet (see sidebar). Without the proper settings, pictures posted online can contain embedded information that allows others to track your movements.
“This information is important to share with parents,” Douglas said. “They should be aware of their physical surroundings and how they use the Internet. This can help protect mothers and their babies.”
From the Department of Justice
Third Dreamboard Member Sentenced to Life in Prison for Participating in International Criminal Network Organized to Sexually Exploit Children
WASHINGTON – A Wisconsin man was sentenced today to life in prison for his participation in an international criminal network, known as Dreamboard, dedicated to the sexual abuse of children and the creation and dissemination of graphic images and videos of child sexual abuse throughout the world, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley of the Western District of Louisiana and Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton.
John Wyss, aka “Bones,” 55, of Monroe, Wis., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks in the Western District of Louisiana. On May 17, 2012, Wyss was found guilty after trial of one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, one count of conspiracy to advertise child pornography and one count of conspiracy to distribute child pornography. Evidence presented at trial revealed that Wyss had been an active member of Dreamboard, an online child pornography bulletin board, since January 2008 and had made numerous postings revealing that he had produced child pornography by capturing images of minors engaging in sexually explicit activity via webcam, including one video in which adult males were engaged in sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls.
Wyss was charged in an indictment unsealed on Aug. 3, 2011. The charges against Wyss are the result of Operation Delego, an ongoing investigation that was launched in December 2009 that targeted individuals around the world for their participation in Dreamboard. Dreamboard was a private, members-only, online bulletin board that was created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of very young children, in an environment designed to avoid law enforcement detection.
A total of 72 individuals, including Wyss, have been charged as a result of Operation Delego. To date, 56 of the 72 charged defendants have been arrested in the United States and abroad. Forty-three individuals have pleaded guilty, and Wyss was convicted after a four-day jury trial. Forty of the 43 individuals who have pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy have been sentenced to prison and have received sentences ranging between 15 years and life in prison. Wyss is the third defendant to receive a life sentence. 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. 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.
According to court documents and information presented at trial, Wyss and other Dreamboard members traded graphic images and videos of adults molesting children 12 years-old and under, 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.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, 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 the bulletin board, 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.
According to court documents, Dreamboard members were divided into groups based on status and ranking. The highest level of membership was “Super VIP.”. Individuals who obtained that title had created new images of child pornography by molesting children and shared those images with the board administrators. The next level of membership was “Super VIP,” which was comprised of trusted members of the website. The next level after Super VIP was the VIP rank. Individuals in the lowest level of membership were called Members. Those in the lower ranks could only access a limited quantity of child pornography on the bulletin board. The higher the rank, the more material was available to the member. Individuals advanced to higher levels of membership by providing child abuse images that the individual had produced, providing a large number of images, or providing images that had never been seen before.
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 between 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.
Operation Delego is a spinoff investigation from leads developed through “Operation Nest Egg,” the prosecution of another online group dedicated to the sharing and dissemination of child pornography. Operation Nest Egg was a spinoff investigation developed from leads related to another international investigation, “Operation Joint Hammer,” which targeted transnational rings of child pornography trafficking.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John “Luke” Walker of the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Keith Becker of CEOS. The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance. The investigation was conducted by ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, the Child Exploitation Section of ICE's Cyber Crime 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.
The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Former head of L.A. Neighborhood Commission to plead guilty in child porn case
City News Service
LOS ANGELES - A Tarzana man who quit an unpaid Los Angeles city job after FBI agents found a massive kiddie porn stash at his home has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges, according to court papers obtained today.
Al Abrams, 64, is scheduled to plead guilty Sept. 14 to a felony count of distribution of child pornography he had received over the Internet, according to a signed plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court.
In the document, Abrams acknowledged having collected more than 600 images of child pornography over the course of more than 10 years.
The collection contained images of children under 12, including infants, "engaging in sexually explicit conduct" and portraying "sadistic or masochistic" activity, according to the agreement filed last week.
Abrams was charged last February in an eight-count indictment that accused him of distributing, receiving and possessing child pornography.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors will recommend that Abrams receive a sentence of between five and eight years in prison, lifetime supervised release and a fine of $5,000, court papers show.
Abrams resigned in August 2011 as president of the seven-member Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, which oversees the neighborhood councils that provide a link between local communities and Los Angeles City Hall.
Abrams, who had served on the board since 2008, owns a public relations firm and has worked on ballot measures in Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and Walnut Creek.
According to an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant, federal authorities looking into a peer-to-peer file-sharing network were able to download more than 150 videos and images depicting child porn from a computer at Abrams' house.
After his house was searched in 2011, he told a TV station that a now- excised growth on his spine left him with a split personality that compelled him to do what normally would have been out of character.
Ohio agencies win grant to fight human trafficking
CINCINNATI — A federal grant announced Friday will allow two Ohio agencies fighting human trafficking to hire two new investigators and a victim advocate and pay for gaps in services for those rescued from the practice that has been likened to modern-day slavery.
The $700,000 in U.S. Justice Department grants will go to the Ohio attorney general's office and the Salvation Army, which have partnered to combat human trafficking with two inseparable prongs — law enforcement and social services.
"People shouldn't be exploited. People shouldn't be sold in any capacity," said Michelle Hannan, director of professional and community services for the Salvation Army in central Ohio. "This is something that has remained hidden for so long, and people have just had to endure the most unspeakable situations."
Hannan and her agency began to focus on human trafficking in Ohio in 2007 after a national group identified Columbus and Cincinnati as being among 24 cities in the country with high risk factors for sex trafficking.
Both cities began their own coalitions targeting the problem that same year and have increased their efforts since then.
Hannan said that in the past year, her coalition has been working a lot more closely with law enforcement and the federal grant will strengthen and provide funding to that partnership.
"It's really going to be amazing to have some of the resources to make a difference," she said, adding that the funding also will go toward gaps in services for victims rescued from human trafficking.
That could include, for example, short-term emergency housing for a woman who has been forced into the sex trade, medical services and outreach into at-risk communities, Hannan said.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement that he "can't stress enough how serious of a problem human trafficking is in Ohio."
"With this new partnership we aim to prevent traffickers from escaping notice by moving from one jurisdiction to another and improve the opportunities available for trafficking victims to get the help they need," he said.
More than 1,000 Ohio children are trafficked every year, according to a 2010 report by the state Human Trafficking Commission, which cited weak laws in Ohio compared with other states and the state's proximity to the Canadian border as driving factors.
Ohio lawmakers have since passed legislation known as the "safe harbor law," which went into effect in June. The law makes human trafficking a first-degree felony with a mandatory prison term of 10 to 15 years. It also allows victims to sue their traffickers for damages and to have their records expunged if they were convicted of prostitution or solicitation charges as a result of being forced into the sex trade.
Father guilty of sexually abusing daughter
Jury convicts Medford man, 50, of dozens of counts of rape and sodomy against his daughter beginning when she was 12
by Sanne Specht
A Medford man will likely spend the rest of his life in prison after a Jackson County jury found him guilty of more than two dozen counts of rape and sodomy perpetrated against his daughter and another young victim.
The case against William Henry Thompson, 50, is one of the most disturbing in memory, according to the prosecutor who spent three days laying out Thompson's twisted path from grooming to raping to methamphetamine addiction to sexual torture.
DON'T TURN AWAY
The Jackson County Child Abuse Network, a coalition of local agencies led by United Way, is dedicated to raising community awareness about child abuse. Call the network at 541-773-5339 to find out how you can help. If you suspect a child is being abused, call the police, or the Jackson County Child Welfare Office at 866-840-2741.
Jurors late Thursday afternoon returned 26 guilty verdicts — most of which were unanimous.
"I've never see a person whose actions were so degrading," said David Orr, Jackson County deputy district attorney. "Not only to the victims, but also to the human race as a whole. That's how bad it was."
The daughter had already been sexually abused by her stepfather when she began staying with Thompson, Orr said. Thompson's abuse of his own child began when she was about 12 and continued into her high school years, he said.
Telling his daughter she needed to learn how to please herself and boyfriends, Thompson directed her how to perform sexual acts on herself and on props, Orr said.
"He told her she couldn't talk about any of this because society just wouldn't understand," he said.
Thompson coerced his daughter to allow herself to be blindfolded and have intercourse in the cab of his truck with a person he called "Kevin." It was all for her education to learn how to give and receive pleasure, Thompson told the child.
The rapes continued for a long time. She was always blindfolded and told any communication from "Kevin" would be relayed through the father. Eventually Thompson's daughter came to realize "Kevin" was her father.
"She was upset," Orr said. "He apologized for the deception. But not for the rapes. He told the her, 'No one would love her like he did, and he didn't want her to lose her virginity to an a—hole.' "
The sexual abuse continued for years. And Thompson's predilections became even darker, Orr said. The girl was subjected to bondage, beatings and branding. He branded an double "S" for slave on her chest with an iron. He pressed so hard, the letters are hard to decipher. But she showed them to the jury, Orr said.
He forced her to wear a dog collar and crawl after him. Eventually he got her addicted to methamphetamine and prostituted her out to several men while he watched and masturbated, Orr said.
The daughter's friend was drawn into Thompson's web of sexual perversion. The second child's father had committed suicide and her mother was dying, he said.
"He knew exactly who to target," Orr said, adding that Thompson would ply the young teens with alcohol and cigarettes, but would attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings himself.
One night, after returning home from an AA meeting, Thompson realized the girls had been drinking while he wasn't there. He woke the second victim up, put his hand over her mouth and raped her, Orr said.
"The next morning he raped her again. She didn't tell," Orr said.
Thompson continued to sexually abuse the girls. Neither knew the other was being abused because Thompson had them so under his control, Orr said.
The second victim eventually told her story to someone at school. The series of interviews that followed eventually led to Thompson's arrest.
Both victims are now in their early 20s. They each testified on the stand for hours, telling of their experiences before a room filled with strangers, facing direct examination from Orr and a cross-examination from Thompson's defense attorney, Christine Herbert. The young women displayed little emotion while giving their testimony, Orr said.
"It's an uphill battle," Orr said. "Jurors have this notion we'll come in with DNA evidence and a teary-eyed, pig-tailed little girl with red ribbons in her hair. But in the majority of these cases the reporting is years delayed."
A prosecutor's challenge is often not only to build his case, but also to educate the jury about the dynamics of sexual abuse — particularly one that occurs over months and years between an adult and a child, Orr said. Jurors want to know why victims didn't go to authorities immediately, or why they endured the abuse, he said.
"The reasons for delay vary," Orr said. "There is shame, there is fear, there is even sometimes a lack of understanding that something that shouldn't have happened, happened."
Thompson is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 18 before Judge Tim Barnack on all 26 sexual abuse counts, 14 of which are Measure 11 charges.
Disclosing Sexual Abuse Is Critical
Canada - ScienceDaily, Jan 22, 2010
Half of sexual abuse survivors wait up to five years before disclosing they were victimized, according to a collaborative study from the Université de Montréal, the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
"The number of victims who never reveal their secret or who wait many years to do so is very high," says co-author Mireille Cyr, a psychology professor of the Université de Montréal. "This is regrettable because the longer they wait to reveal the abuse, the harder and more enduring the consequences will be."
The research team surveyed 800 Quebec men and women and found 25 percent of respondents never divulged being sexually abused as children. The scientists also found a sharp contrast between genders: 16 percent of women remain quiet about abuse, while 34 percent of men never share their secret.
The investigation found that 22 percent of women and 10 percent of men reported beings survivors of abuse, which ranged from molestation to rape, which is comparable to the findings of previous studies on the topic.
The psychological distress of victims includes anxiety, depression, troubles concentrating and irritability. Certain victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, some relive the abuse psychologically while others have dulled emotions or become hyper-vigilant.
The data suggests that victims are more likely to denounce their abuser when he or she is a stranger. Unfortunately, in most cases, serious abuse such as rape is committed by friends or family members. This is true in 85 percent of cases for female victims and 89 percent for male victims.
Professor Isabelle Daigneault, of the Université de Montréal Department of Psychology, conducted a separate study correlating the likelihood of young victims to become adult victims of sexual or physical abuse.
Published in The International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect , her sample examined 9,170 women and 7,823 men throughout Canada. Her conclusions are startling: female survivors of childhood sexual abuse are three to four times likely to be victims of physical or sexual abuse as adults.
"It's the first time that we combine data on sexual abuse during childhood and eventual relationship problems," says Daigneault.
Male survivors of childhood sexual abuse are three times more likely to be victims of physical abuse as men. However, too few men reported sexual abuse as adults to establish a statistically significant correlation.
Male child sex abuse victims more likely to suffer heart attack, says study
New research from the University of Toronto has found evidence that men who are seriously sexually abused as children have a higher risk of heart attack as adults—perhaps because the fight-or-flight instinct they develop is damaging to their hearts.
“We were actually surprised by the findings,” said lead study author Esme Fuller-Thomson. “We found that males who were sexually abused had a much higher risk of heart attack than those males who had not been abused, but we didn't find that association for women.”
The researchers used data from a large 2010 survey by the Center for Disease Control, which included a 57 men and 154 women who reported suffered penetrative sexual abuse, but not physical or verbal abuse, before they turned 18.
The men who had been abused were three times more likely than other men to have had a heart attack, even after the researchers statistically eliminated other heart attack risk factors, including health, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors, said Fuller-Thomson.
The data doesn't indicate why there was a different result for men and woman.
“I'm concerned, and I hypothesize, that males were less likely to seek out support or therapy than women might have been,” said Fuller-Thomson. Another potential aggravating factor may be anti-gay stigma that male victims abused by male perpetrators are exposed to, she said.
Fuller-Thomson said the heart attack risk may come from the lifelong “flight-or-fight” response childhood sexual abuse survivors often develop.
Children who are abused naturally become hyper vigilant in looking out for danger, and that can become “biologically imbedded” in them as adults, said Fuller-Thomson. Hyper-vigilance causes the body to produce higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which in turn is damaging to the heart, she said.
Professionals who help male sexual abuse survivors say they see the physical fight-or-flight persist in sexual abuse victims into adulthood.
“They do have serious issues around anger management. Either they close down or they fight,” said Lynn MacDonell, a psychotherapist who works with male victims of sexual abuse in Toronto. “Probably all of the men I work with have either that fight or flight, a higher propensity to that experience.”
Rick Goodwin, a social worker and the Executive Director of The Men's Project, said he is isn't too surprised by the gender difference the U of T researchers found.
“Women tend to freeze, and men fight,” said Goodwin. “We also know that men are lousier are emotional self-care.”
When men ignore their physical and emotional needs it manifest in numerous physical problems, he said.
Nancy Mayer, a Toronto-based social worker who specializes in treating childhood sexual abuse survivors, said the fight-or-flight instinct comes when the victim's young nervous system is under attack by their abuser.
“Kids have to try to find a way to survive that at a time when their brains are developing, and their bodies are developing,” she said.
She said the study adds to growing literature about the adverse physical effects of childhood sexual abuse—from risk of cancer to asthma—that adults of both gender face.
Bishop Finn is found guilty of failing to report child abuse suspicions
Head of diocese is the highest-ranking Catholic cleric in U.S. to be convicted in abuse scandal.
by MARK MORRIS and JUDY L. THOMAS
Once relatively anonymous in the Roman Catholic world, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Thursday made an unwelcome piece of history for the 2,000-year-old institution.
A judge convicted the diocese's bishop and spiritual pastor, Robert W. Finn, of failing to report child abuse suspicions, making him the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic cleric convicted in the church's decades-long child sexual abuse scandal.
Finn, 59, was acquitted of one other misdemeanor count of failing to report. And with Finn's conviction, Jackson County prosecutors dismissed two similar counts that had been pending against the diocese.
The verdicts came after a short nonjury trial in Jackson County Circuit Court. Judge John Torrence immediately sentenced Finn to two years' of probation, then suspended the imposition of the sentence. That means that if Finn finishes the probation without incident and completes nine steps as part of his sentence, the bishop's criminal record will be expunged.
Finn had faced a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine on each charge. The diocese had faced a fine of up to $5,000 on each of its two counts if convicted.
Before hearing his sentence, Finn told the judge, “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt these events caused.”
He also said, “The protection of children is paramount, and sexual abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.”
Because of the nature of the suspended sentence, Finn cannot appeal his conviction, said J.R. Hobbs, who represented the bishop at the trial.
The charges stemmed from the church's handling of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, on whose laptop computer a diocesan vendor found hundreds of lewd photos of young girls in December 2010.
Finn's second-in-command at the diocese, Monsignor Robert Murphy, did not report the photographs to police for five months.
In announcing his verdicts, Torrence said he acquitted Finn of the failure-to-report count that covered Dec. 17, 2010, to Feb. 10, 2011, saying that prosecutors had not met their burden of proof.
He convicted Finn of the count covering Feb. 11 through May 18, 2011. On Feb. 10, 2011, Finn sent Ratigan a letter limiting his exposure to children, computers and cameras. That letter suggested that the bishop clearly was aware of his priest's threat to children, prosecutors argued.
Finn is the first Catholic bishop in the country, and is thought to be one of only two bishops in the world, convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse. The other case happened in France in 2001, when Bishop Pierre Pican was convicted for failing to report a priest who sexually abused 11 boys between 1989 and 1996.
Finn and the diocese had been scheduled to start a jury trial in less than three weeks, but in a surprising move Wednesday, the matter was reset for trial in front of Torrence.
Lawyers limited the case to a narrow range of facts, which were expressed in 69 paragraphs submitted to Torrence at the hearing.
Torrence listened to about 25 minutes of statements from attorneys, then took a half-hour break before finding Finn guilty of one count based on those facts.
Those facts included an acknowledgement from Finn that he is a mandated child abuse reporter under Missouri law. The stipulation also contained a long recitation of the now-familiar facts of the case with several new insights.
• A June 2010 conversation between Finn and Ratigan, in which the bishop told his priest that “we have to take this seriously,” after a Northland Catholic school principal complained to the chancery that the priest was behaving inappropriately around school children.
• A chancery computer manager's determination in December 2010 that only four or five of the hundreds of lewd photos found on Ratigan's laptop had been downloaded from the Internet. The rest appeared to have been taken with a personal camera.
• Ratigan's denial, while hospitalized for a suicide attempt, that he had sexual contact with children or had any images of children involved in sexual acts on his computer.
• A statement from a Pennsylvania psychiatrist, who found that Ratigan was not a risk to children, which appeared to support the priest's contention that he was the victim of mistreatment by a school official who complained about his conduct around children.
• A note that Ratigan's “treatment” with the Pennsylvania therapist in early 2011 consisted entirely of telephone conferences.
• A letter from Ratigan to the bishop in February 2011 in which the priest admitted having a pornography problem. “I am going to give you a brief summary of how I got to where I am with my addiction to pornography,” Ratigan wrote.
• Finn's acknowledgement in a March 2011 email that Ratigan had issues around children. “I am quite concerned about him attending” a sixth-grade girl's party, Finn wrote. “I think this is clearly an area of vulnerability for” Ratigan.
• Finn's statement at a meeting with other priests after Ratigan's arrest that he had “wanted to save … Ratigan's priesthood” and had been told that Ratigan's problem was only pornography.
The stipulation also explained Murphy's decision to call authorities in May 2011. Murphy complained that he was not receiving direction from the diocese's lawyers and had misgivings about the diagnosis of “loneliness” from the Pennsylvania psychiatrist. Murphy said he had become “horrified” of the prospect that the photographs were not merely downloads from the Internet but were images of children that Ratigan had abused.
“I thought this is just moving along with no direction, and I thought I have got to do something,” the documents quotes Murphy as saying.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said after Thursday's trial that Murphy had taken an important, if belated, step to protect children, and acknowledged that her office had agreed not to prosecute him in exchange for his cooperation in this case.
“But for the acts of Monsignor Murphy, we'd never know,” Baker said. “And Father Shawn Ratigan would not be in a federal prison awaiting sentencing.”
Ratigan, 46, pleaded guilty in August in federal court to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography.
Ratigan attempted suicide just after the diocese learned of the troubling pictures on his computer in December 2010. He later was sent for a mental evaluation, after which Finn reassigned him to an Independence mission house and ordered him to stay away from children, computers and cameras. Murphy reported Ratigan to police in May 2011 after he repeatedly violated those orders.
A few days later, state authorities charged Ratigan with possession of child pornography. Federal authorities charged him in August 2011.
A Jackson County grand jury indicted Finn and the diocese in October. Both pleaded not guilty. Finn has maintained that he never saw any images and that he delegated the diocese's initial response and management to his subordinates.
Finn also could have faced misdemeanor charges in Clay County. But in November he avoided a criminal indictment by agreeing to enter into a diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor. Authorities said they would not prosecute Finn if he lived up to the terms of a five-year diversion agreement.
The agreement required Finn to meet face to face with the prosecutor or his successor each month for five years to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse levied against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese's Clay County facilities. Finn also was to describe steps the diocese had taken to address the allegations, and he was to visit all nine Clay County parishes to outline new programs to protect children.
Since Ratigan's case came to light, the diocese has taken several steps to strengthen its efforts to protect children. In June 2011, Finn appointed Jenifer Valenti, a former assistant Jackson County prosecutor, to the position of ombudsman. Her job is to receive and investigate all reports of sexual misconduct or suspicious behavior by clergy, lay employees and volunteers in the diocese.
Torrence said Thursday that, as part of Finn's probation, he will be required to strengthen training for clergy and administrators on child abuse reporting and recognition of child pornography. The diocese also must establish a $10,000 counseling fund for abuse victims, prepare an approved list of treatment providers and commit to maintaining the ombudsman position.
The bishop also must require the church board that reviews abuse allegations to forward any such reports involving minors to prosecutors and police.
Tom Bath, among several lawyers who represent the diocese, said the probation conditions would bolster the existing program.
“The conditions strengthen our condition as we go on,” Bath said.
Finn and the diocese face four civil lawsuits involving Ratigan and child pornography allegations. The lawsuits allege that Catholic officials had been warned about Ratigan's troubling behavior and knew of disturbing images on his computer but failed to take immediate action.
Kansas City lawyer Dan Ross, who is not involved in the litigation, said Finn's conviction certainly could affect the civil lawsuits. A plaintiff's lawyer could use it as evidence of negligence or to attack Finn's credibility.
“It's great leverage for a settlement, as well as direct evidence,” Ross said.
Lawyer Rebecca Randles, who has more than two dozen cases pending against the diocese, cautioned that Finn's conviction does not guarantee that her actions will be successful.
“We have certain elements that are established today with the failure to report, but there are other elements that are not,” Randles said. “So it's helpful to the civil cases, but it doesn't necessarily mean the civil cases win.”
State child abuse hotline upgraded
MIAMI -- Child welfare officials are overhauling the state abuse hotline, adding faster technology and retraining staff so they can provide investigators with more updated information about alleged abuse and a family's background before a home visit.
But officials for the Department of Children and Families warned Wednesday of lags at the statewide hotline in the interim as they train about 60 command center counselors, meaning fewer people are answering phones since training started last week.
"Until we get ourselves fully staffed we're going to be in this interim period where it's going to be difficult to answer all the calls coming in ... you will see a difference and a slow down," said hotline director Kim Barrett.
Barrett addressed DCF employees and child advocates from across the state at a conference that kicked off in Orlando on Wednesday.
More than 300 hotline employees are slated to be trained by November. Typically, about eight percent of the roughly 1,600 daily callers get tired of waiting for a counselor to answer and hang up the phone. That figure has jumped to about 38 percent since training started, said Barrett.
But the average wait time is still only a few short minutes and the majority of callers are professionals—teachers, law enforcement and medical staff—and most will hold or call back, she said.
Despite a three-month slowdown, DCF officials said the hotline's overall accessibility will improve dramatically in the long run.
"We're doing a lot of things and we want to do it right and you can't just train everyone in one day," said Barrett.
The troubled system has come under scrutiny in recent years for screening out critical calls, responding too slowly to serious allegations and for relying on incomplete data.
Last year, DCF Secretary David Wilkins said he was astounded by the disorganized, scant paperwork that investigators often use as background information for families after he rode along with a child protective investigator making home visits.
Under the new system, technicians will beef up the information packet given to investigators, adding details from the health department, whether the family receives food stamps or other welfare and whether there are other children in the home. They will also make sure that basic information—names, birth dates and Social Security information—is correct. Operators will refer to a new set of questions for different abuse scenarios, including drug use and neglect, to guide them through a call.
Officials said the system is plagued by incomplete and duplicate information, making it difficult sometimes to share information with the schools, courts and law enforcement.
The state signed a five-year contract with IBM worth nearly $35 million to manage the hotline's technology.
DCF is also launching a two-way chat feature in November, allowing people to report abuse to the hotline online.
Longtime child advocate and attorney Andrea Moore warned officials were missing "a huge red flag" in the overhaul process by not collaborating more with school officials to report abuse.
They have information that "children were coming to school dirty, the children were hungry...they could tell you things that your folks did not know," said Moore. "Getting that information has been a problem across the state."
DCF officials said the new system will include school officials, along with a proactive approach for training teachers.
As sex trade increases around conventions, faith-based groups step up efforts
by Jen Christensen
Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) - It's 10 p.m. in Charlotte's trendy NoDa district, and a handful of women and one man have hunkered down over French press coffee and caramel pastries that are so amazing the cafe's owners were once invited to the White House.
These customers have gathered at Amelie's, a 24-hour French bakery, with a serious mission. They want to end human trafficking.
As volunteers for Compassion to Act, a faith-based nonprofit, they meet regularly to discuss how to rescue and restore the lives of human trafficking victims. But with the Democratic National Convention gathered just down the road this week, they and other groups have stepped up their efforts.
They anticipate a greater need for their help.
More than 500 miles away in Tampa, a Christian ministry called Created also beefed up its volunteer patrols during last week's Republican National Convention.
The group, which focuses on “vulnerable women involved in the sex industry,” immediately saw evidence the convention was in town. On their rounds, volunteers encountered a woman who looked out of place in too-nice clothes on Nebraska Avenue, a Tampa street notorious for its sex trade.
As they handed the woman a purple purse filled with supplies – a condom, some lip gloss, a stack of chocolate chip cookies and a phone number for help - she admitted she had taken a bus down from St. Louis when she heard there'd be extra work.
Groups like Created and Compassion to Act say they've seen this happen countless times. Whenever a large event comes to town - be it a Super Bowl, a NASCAR race, even a religious event such as Promise Keepers - the groups see a lot more men out cruising for sex on their city streets. The underground sex industry meets that demand - whether the women involved want to or not.
“People find a way to exploit a woman or girl's vulnerability, whatever that may be, and they find a way to take advantage of that broken spirit,” says Kim, one of the Compassion to Act volunteers. She asked that her last name not be used because of the sensitive nature of her work.
“They force them into this life promising drugs, or nice clothes, or even something as simple as an initial boost to the girl's self-esteem. She is manipulated to do this, whether the girl is aware or not. We haven't met a single person who says they want to be doing this.”
A 2011 Baylor University study, “Men in Transit and Prostitution: Using Political Conventions as a Natural Experiment,” examined the number of online ads for commercial sex during the 2008 conventions. It found the number of ads in the host cities rose by 30%.
The anti-trafficking group Shared Hope International says the problem gets worse during large events but is always present. The group assesses state laws aimed at trafficking and issues report cards: Florida earned a C; North Carolina got a D.
To fill in the gaps left by the states, volunteer groups work to raise awareness and conduct street outreach to help the women involved.
To catch the attention of the country's leaders during this year's political gatherings, Shared Hope rented mobile billboards and drove them around the convention sites. Volunteers hope delegates will notice their campaign's startling image: A man with a beer belly opens his suit jacket and reveals RNC and DNC tie tacks on his tie. The words next to him read, “This man wants to rent your daughter.”
“Our message is not to accuse America's political leaders of engaging in the commercial sex industry,” Shared Hope founder and president Linda Smith said in a statement. “On the contrary, we are asking them to no longer be disengaged on the issue.”
“As the leaders of our nation, we need lawmakers to stand against the driving force of the illegal commercial sex industry that claims thousands of American children each year,” said Smith, a former congresswoman. “That driving force is demand.”
Experts estimate that 100,000 children a year are exploited in the U.S. commercial sex industry, according to Shared Hope. The average age of a child first exploited through prostitution is 12, the group says.
To counter the demand, Compassion to Act has beefed up its boots on the ground in Charlotte.
After planning their strategy over coffee and pastries, Kim and fellow volunteer Aimee hit the city's strip clubs, where they've built fragile friendships with the dancers.
On their weekly visits, the volunteers are invited into some of the dancers' crowded dressing rooms. Kim and Aimee offer to help with whatever the dancers may need – food, a ride to a doctor's office, even school supplies for their kids.
“We listen. We make sure they know they are loved,” Kim says. “And when they want out, we have the resources in the community to help them do that.”
Back at the bakery, group co-founder Debbie Hancock sits with her iPad and scours the property ads looking for suspicious rentals. She discovers a listing for a mansion renting for the week of the DNC for 16 times its usual price. “That doesn't look right,” she says.
Upon such discoveries, Hancock and Ish Payne - a retired cop who also helped found Compassion to Act and has written a book on the subject - will either alert local police or conduct their own surveillance at a safe distance, watching to see what kind of traffic goes in or out.
“If there is a lot of traffic right before work or on people's lunch breaks, cars with out of state tags – these are some of the red flags,” Aimee explains. Sure it could be a legitimate rental - a political big wig in town for the convention, for instance - but it could be something different. “Temporary brothels pop up even in the nicest neighborhoods, and in the Charlotte area authorities do want to know.”
Some cities are better than others at cracking down on the illegal sex trade during these large events.
Abby Kuzma, a lawyer with the Indiana attorney general's office, says Dallas came under a lot of intense criticism for an uptick in the sex trade when it hosted the 2011 Super Bowl. After her office learned Indianapolis would be the next host city, it put together a coalition of city leaders and about 60 nonprofits and immediately reached out to the host committee.
“We first told them it is not the Super Bowl per se that attracts human trafficking,” Kuzma said. “It's any large event where there are a lot of men - like you have with the political conventions now - who are frankly looking for a good time.”
The Indianapolis coalition trained hotel staffs, local volunteers and cab drivers, teaching them what to watch for and who to call for help. Another nonprofit, the S.O.A.P. Project, stuck a national hotline number on the bars of soap it handed out to hotels so victims could call for help from the privacy of a bathroom.
This proactive approach was so successful, Kuzma says, that they saw immediate results. The number of online sex ads went down. And men seeking illegal sex warned each other online to stay away from Indianapolis.
“The demand went down because the men were feeling Indy had a negative atmosphere for the sex trade,” Kuzma said.
It's unclear what strategy Charlotte has in place. City officials told CNN they weren't commenting on this type of policing for security reasons. Compassion to Act, which says it has good relationships with law enforcement, was told there is a plan in place for the DNC but couldn't be given details, again for security reasons.
In Tampa, Created heard something similar, although Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told CNN police would be too busy during the conventions to raid strip clubs.
In both cities, the groups decided to step up their presence. Indiana's Kuzma says that's a good idea.
“Certainly the nonprofits help a lot,” she said. “Law enforcement is overwhelmed dealing with crowd control and other security issues. Throw in human trafficking, and it can be a lot to handle.”
On Monday night, while Compassion to Act volunteers talk about how they can do even more during this week's convention, Debbie receives an urgent text from a minister. He's been working with a trafficking victim and wants to know if the group can help. Having prepared for this week, the answer is yes – and they begin arranging emergency shelter for the woman.
“Sometimes this problem with human trafficking feels too big and overwhelming to stop,” says Kate Stahlman, another Compassion to Act co-founder. “But then God always finds a way to let us know – even in small ways – that what we do matters.”
Indiana Department of Child Services child abuse hotline criticized at legislative hearing
by Alex Campbell
The Department of Child Services' child abuse hotline came under new criticism Wednesday from social workers, members of the public and some current and former hotline workers.
Their testimony came in the second in a series of legislative study sessions at the Statehouse. Some described a hostile work environment. Others decried lack of follow-up and bad advice that posed a danger to vulnerable children. And some testified of progress in working out problems at the hotline.
Their testimony could be used to help legislators shape legislation in the 2013 session
Numerous county-level officials have already raised concerns about the hotline in an informal survey by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, and reported in The Indianapolis Star in August. At an Aug. 22 hearing with lawmakers, DCS officials acknowledged there were problems at the hotline that “we need to look at seriously.”
That hearing featured testimony only from DCS officials. On Wednesday, the committee allowed for three hours of public testimony.
The first to testify was an ex-hotline supervisor. Amber Turientine left the agency in October 2011 because of what she described as a hostile work environment in which supervisors were “encouraged to bully and target” subordinates.
Turientine also submitted written testimony from four other former hotline workers, and three current ones; all but one former worker submitted their testimony anonymously.
Each took issue with the work environment. “I am very afraid that a child fatality will be directly the result of failure of this hotline,” one current employee wrote. “Things are that serious.”
Several who testified Wednesday raised concerns about their calls not receiving the desired follow-up. Linda Hartley, a social worker based in Fort Wayne, spoke of two separate occasions when she called to report possible sexual abuse of children under 10.
In one of the cases, Hartley said she was told that if “there hasn't been penetration,” then DCS would not follow up. In another, further abuse sent the child to the hospital — a couple of months after Hartley first called. Only then, when the hospital called the hotline, did DCS investigate further.
One police official described progress in addressing some of the problems. Bedford City Police Detective Robert Herr testified that some recent adjustments to the way hotline calls were handled had started to bear fruit. “I think it's headed in the right direction,” Herr said.
The adjustments stem from a pilot program that allowed local authorities to have more direct contact with local DCS caseworkers when reporting suspected abuse. A lack of such contact had been a concern for several local officials in Sen. Steele's survey.
The next study committee hearing on DCS will be Sept. 24. DCS will make a presentation, and there will be time for more public testimony.
30 Years After Johnny Gosch Vanished, Iowa's Innocence Abducted (Part 1 of a Series)
High-profile cases like Johnny Gosch's and the disappearance of two girls from Black Hawk County this summer increase anxiety in the heartland.
by Beth Dalbey
During her 30-year search for her son, Noreen Gosch has been called confrontational, emotional and delusional, all harsh words for a woman living through every parent's nightmare – the disappearance and possible abduction of a child.
Gosch has deflected it, singularly focused on bringing her boy home.
“Your child is the true victim,” Gosch told Patch recently. “You have been left with a terrible heartache, but if you always think of the child, you can't allow yourself to be the victim.”
Thirty years after Johnny's disappearance – on Sept. 5, 1982 – nobody knows for certain what happened to the mop-haired kid who started his day delivering the Des Moines Sunday Register and then, suddenly, was nowhere to be found.
But this much is certain: When Johnny Gosch vanished, Iowa's innocence was abducted.
It changed everything.
The Gosch case illustrates a national problem, where some 2,185 kids are reported missing each day. Of the 5,354 people reported missing in Iowa in 2011, 4,593 of them were juveniles, according to an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation report.
While many are runaways, nearly half of missing Iowa juveniles in 2011 were classified as either “endangered,” meaning their physical safety may be in danger, or as “involuntary,” meaning they had been abducted by a non-family member.
While the number of missing children hasn't measurably increased over the years, awareness has exploded. Images of distraught families and steely mothers like Gosch warning parents that children aren't safe, even in the Heartland, bounce around the airwaves.
Jim Rothstein, a retired New York City police detective who has spent decades investigating missing kids, human trafficking and pedophilia, says children are easy prey in rural America, where an illusion of safety still exists.
Kids have been reported missing from every corner of the state, with no town, big or small, immune from the danger.
Even in Waukee, still small enough to have only one ZIP code and a triangle rather than a full-blown town square, children are vulnerable, which was illustrated chillingly last month when a stranger attempted to lure a girl into a car.
When Kids Vanish: Now
The circumstances are especially chilling in light of a report issued last week by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an organization Noreen Gosch helped establish. Its analysis of more than 7,000 attempted abductions over seven years found that children are especially vulnerable at back-to-school time.
Among the findings from children who successfully escaped would-be abductors was that the suspect in a car tried to lure the child inside 72 percent of the time, and about one-third of the attempts occurred between 2 and 7 p.m., when children were least likely to be supervised and were walking to and from school or school-related activities.
Also adding to Iowans' anxiety, residents in the small northeast Iowa town of Evansdale are still praying for the return of two cousins, whom authorities say were abducted in July while riding their bikes.
And, just last week, a mother reported running off a man in Clive who tried to snatch her toddler daughter.
'Iowa Has a Kidnapping Problem'
A West Des Moines police detective overseeing the Gosch case said among the worst fears is human trafficking, which is “happening closer to home than people want to believe.”
“I think it probably is nationwide and worldwide, and likely more prevalent in other countries, where it's almost part of the culture,” Detective Tom Boyd said. “But people look at it and can't believe it could happen here.”
Noreen Gosch said the Waukee incident was a wake-up call to parents everywhere that her nightmare could be theirs.
"This is a message and it means something,” she said. “Iowa has a kidnapping problem.”
The Morning Johnny Gosch Vanished
The ominous phone calls started about 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 5, 1982. Neighbors were calling the home Noreen and then husband John Gosch made with their son, Johnny, and her two children from a previous marriage, to report late papers.
In Johnny's 13 months as a Register carrier, he'd earned a perfect service record for delivering papers on time, every time. Something had to be wrong.
And then Gretchen, the miniature dachshund that accompanied Johnny when he delivered, came home alone. “The dog sat there and was shaking,” Gosch said. “She shook for weeks after the kidnapping.”
When West Des Moines police arrived 45 minutes later, Gosch said she had already talked to newspaper circulation supervisors, paper carriers in the vicinity that morning and some of their parents.
A nugget of information came from retired attorney John Rossi, who had seen Johnny talking to a man in a car early that morning at 42nd Street and University Avenue in West Des Moines, a drop-off spot where carriers loaded their Red Flyer wagons with papers and set off on their routes.
Rivaled only by a few days during the Korean War, Rossi counts that day as one of the most traumatic of his life.
He's spent three decades second-guessing himself, wishing he'd been more observant. What he saw may have meant something, he said, or it might have meant nothing at all.
He and his family were eager to leave town for the Labor Day weekend, so Rossi helped his son, Joe, bundle and distribute newspapers.
“I wasn't observant enough,” he said, his voice hushed to the tone people use when they speak of tragedies. “I saw a car parked on 42nd Street and Johnny having a conversation with the man. Somewhere along the way, Johnny asked me, ‘Can you help? He wants to know where 86th Street is.' ”
Rossi provided directions, the driver made a U-turn and took off.
Police “interrogated the daylights out of me,” Rossi said. “They tried to hypnotize me to see if I could remember anything. … The police worked their tails off on this case.”
A Runaway or Something More Sinister?
But Gosch said that and other information – a suspicious looking van in the area, a report of someone taking photos of Johnny in the days before he disappeared, which in retrospect didn't quite add up – was never properly pursued by police.
Instead, she said, police insisted her son was likely a runaway, a response that still unleashes a sharp tongue that underlies Gosch's acrimonious relationship with law enforcement for the past three decades.
Gosch admits that she poked at police. At one point, she threw hot coffee in the direction of a police officer and ordered him to leave.
“If you're not going to help me find my son, then get out,” Gosch recalled saying after a few days had passed and FBI agents reportedly said they lacked sufficient evidence to enter the case. “Get out of my house.”
Rossi understands that.
“If that had been my boy, I would've done more than Noreen did,” he said. “Until then, missing children were more or less ignored.”
Sept. 5, 1982, was the last day Rossi's son worked as a paper carrier.
It was also the day that Noreen Gosch says she knew that if anyone was going to find out what happened to Johnny on that street corner that morning, it would have to be her. “I didn't know finding my son would be a do-it-yourself project,” she said.
So, Gosch waded into the dark underworld of human trafficking, where children are shuttled around the globe like cargo and traded to supply the seemingly insatiable appetite of pedophiles.
About this series:
When Iowa's Johnny Gosch vanished on Sept. 5, 1982, while delivering the Sunday newspaper in his quiet West Des Moines neighborhood, everything changed – for law enforcement, for the newspaper business and certainly for his mother, Noreen Gosch.
It changed everything.
That Norman Rockwellian image of a boy delivering the newspaper has been replaced with that of Johnny's face on milk cartons, the low-technology equivalent of today's Amber Alert system.
Though Johnny is still listed as missing on the registry of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the cold case is for all practical purposes closed.
Innocence Abducted: Noreen Gosch Blinded by Ugly World of Child Sex Trade (Part 2 of a Series)
Police say it's “likely” Johnny Gosch was abducted and “possible” his mom's right and he fell into a vortex of child prostitution, snuff films and pornography.
by Todd Richissin
It isn't a huge leap to believe that missing Iowa paperboy Johnny Gosch was kidnapped and forced into the sex trade, says an Iowa police detective overseeing the 30-year-old case, which remains open.
Johnny's disappearance on Sept. 5, 1982, while delivering the Des Moines Sunday Register is classified as a missing persons case, and there's “a strong likelihood” Johnny was abducted, said Detective Tom Boyd, a 25-year veteran of the West Des Moines Police Department.
Abductions like the one Gosch says took her son away occur infrequently among the scores of children reported missing in Iowa every year and the 2,185 kids nationwide who are reported missing each day. But when they do, ubiquitous media coverage can amplify the threat to children in the minds of the public, officials said.
“These are the kinds of cases that startle a community and, really, thank goodness they do,” said Gene Meyer, who was special agent in charge of the Gosch investigation 30 years ago for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. “I've often said that I'm glad that missing children are still front page news in Iowa.”
Nowhere is awareness keener than in Iowa this summer, which has seen weeks of coverage about the likely abduction of two cousins while on a bike ride in the northeast Iowa town of Evansdale in mid-July. And last month in Waukee, a stranger reportedly tried to lure a girl into a car as she walked to her school bus stop.
Boyd won't say for sure that Johnny was sold as a sex slave, as Noreen Gosch contends, but adds “that is always a possibility.” Noreen Gosch has harshly criticized the police department over the decades for failing to follow up leads.
“Being able to prove certain theories, that's the difficult part,” Boyd said.
Investigators gathered file cabinets full of information regarding the Gosch case, said Meyer, at the time the special agent in charge of the agency's probe into the paperboy's disappearance.
“But what we know as fact as to how he disappeared, how he left that corner, is a very thin file folder,” Meyer said.
2.4 Million People Worldwide Victims of Human Trafficking
Johnny's mother theorizes the northeast Iowa girls were stolen to supply the poke-your-eye-out-ugly world she looked at during her three-decade-long search for answers.
The sheer number of people forced into human trafficking networks is jarring.
This spring, the United Nations said 2.4 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are exploited as sex slaves in what is a lucrative $32 billion network, The Huffington Post reported.
Gosch's private investigator, Jim Rothstein, a retired New York City police detective and noted human trafficking expert, says Johnny's fate is no mystery.
Rothstein asserts the boy was almost certainly stalked and kidnapped by a nationwide ring of pedophiles trafficking children. The theory is described by former Nebraska state legislator John DeCamp in his book, The Franklin Cover - Up: Child Abuse, Satanism and Murder in Nebraska.
In it, DeCamp, now a practicing attorney in Lincoln, NE, claims that what looked like a financial swindle when federal agents shut down Omaha's Franklin Community Federal Credit Union actually financed an elaborate $40 million operation that, among other illegal activities, stole children to supply rich and powerful public figures.
Variations of the story are laid out in astonishing and sometimes unbelievable detail on the Johnny Gosch Foundation website and in Noreen Gosch's 2002 book, Why Johnny Can't Come Home .
Those are types of findings weighing down the Iowa DCI's file cabinets, Meyer said.
Even Rothstein, who steadfastly maintains all the lurid detail is true, says “solving a case and being able to prosecute it are not the same.”
Network Time Was – And Still Is – Golden
If it's the child you carried in your womb for nine months, how do you not collapse under the crushing burden of what your detective work revealed happens to kids forced into the sex trade?
The survivor in Gosch went on the talk-show circuit, where she hammered on what she thought police did wrong and what she thinks happened to her son, raising eyebrows with each media appearance.
A strikingly beautiful woman with electric eyes, Gosch often dashed away from her downtown Des Moines office for national TV interviews. She was so frequently jabbed in those days for always arriving so well-coiffed and stylishly tailored that it became a well-known but bad joke around town.
“I was known as ‘the Ice Woman,'” said Gosch, who has made more than 50 network television appearances and granted interviews about how the case was handled for more than two dozen prominent newspapers and magazines.
Wearing sack cloth and playing the tear-stained victim might have garnered her more sympathy, Gosch argued, but it wouldn't get her any closer to finding Johnny. Five minutes of national air time before the age of the Internet was golden.
“She was articulate, she was attractive, and she was composed,” said Cathy Rossi, whose husband, John, was one of the last people to see Johnny Gosch the morning he disappeared.
Rossi said she doesn't judge Gosch. Her son was also bundling newspapers on that street corner the morning Johnny vanished, and Rossi doesn't know how she might have responded if her son had been taken.
“People immediately started criticizing her, asking how she could do that without falling apart,” Rossi said. “But people are different and they respond differently.”
Rossi said Gosch has “done a lot of good.”
That, the ability to carve something beautiful out of something so ugly, was her salvation. Her advocacy created a groundswell of support for changes in how missing children cases are investigated in Iowa and across the country, giving hope to other moms and dads, people like the parents of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook - Morrissey whose children have vanished like a wisp of smoke.
Gosch was criticized, even vilified for it, and in the end, her son is still missing, and her heart is still breaking.
But it was worth it, she said. Johnny's kidnapping “wasn't for naught.”
Sandusky's attorney to use "ineffective counsel" tactic in appeal
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The attorney for convicted child sex offender Jerry Sandusky said on Wednesday he plans to appeal the case, arguing that he was not given sufficient time to prepare for the high-profile trial of the one-time Penn State football coach.
Joe Amendola said he plans to tell the appellate court he was an "ineffective counsel" due to lack of time not because his representation was flawed.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse charges in a case that rocked U.S. college football and raised awareness of child molestation.
The lawyer, widely scrutinized for allowing his client to be interviewed on television ahead of the trial, said the argument would be based on what he described as the defense's "inability to properly prepare" for the trial that began June 5. Sandusky was arrested in November.
"There's no allegations that what we did at trial was ineffective," he said.
"We're not saying we did anything, or failed to do something at trial that wasn't important or significant in Jerry's defense," he said. "What we're referring to is we were ineffective given the timeline that was placed upon us by the court, and our belief that it didn't give us significant time ... to prepare Jerry's defense."
Amendola won a three-week delay in early pre-trial motions, but was denied subsequent requests for more time to prepare.
Amendola said the timeline set by the trial judge could only have been met by a staff of attorneys.
"I guess if Jerry had $10 million and could have hired a whole law firm of criminal defense lawyers, I would imagine they could have gotten it together," Amendola said.
He said Sandusky could be sentenced in October.
New Haredi Book On Child Sex Abuse Prevention Tries To Do Its Job Without Naming Body Parts Or Using The Word "Sex"
A new book for haredi children and their families on preventing child sexual abuse tries to educate children without using the words, "penis," "vagina," "groin," or "sex." “It's like printing a recipe in a cookbook, without saying the word 'food," its co-author said.
The positive reception of a new book meant to help haredi parents teach their children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse is, Tamar Rotem reports in Ha'aretz, a “strong indication that a community once reluctant to acknowledge the crime is now beginning to face reality.”
The book, " Mutav Lehizaher K'dei lo Lehitzta'er" ("Better Safe Than Sorry"), was published privately by two family therapists, Ella Bargai and Nitai Melamed. Bargai is secular. Melamed is haredi.
The book reportedly has the backing of rabbis from almost all haredi communities – hasidic, non-hasidic Ashkenazi and Sefardi – and has sold out its first printing.
But Gur (Ger) hasidim banned the book because there are cartoon drawings of (modestly clothed) women and girls in it. Gur reportedly won't let the book into its schools unless Bargai and Melamed produce separate versions for boys and girls.
"We aren't sure yet if that's going to be possible financially," Melamed told Rotem.
Bargai and Melamed also run child sexual abuse protection training sessions in the haredi community for rabbis and teachers.
According to Melamed, in schools in Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Rehovot, Petah Tikva and other cities, these training sessions were imposed on a school by state welfare officials as an alternative to involving the police. Parents are invited to these sessions, and the book is used to help explain to them what their children are being taught about sexual abuse.
Haredi schools have no sex education classes and sexual abuse has been a taboo subject, as well.
But even haredi schools who do want to teach children how to protect themselves against sexual abuse, and that are willing to break the strong cultural taboo against doing so, run into obstacles not found elsewhere.
Books can't show a boy or a girl naked, and genitals can't be named or described, so the book had to find discreet ways to discuss sexual abuse.
“It's like printing a recipe in a cookbook, without saying the word 'food,'" Melamed told Ha'aretz.
The book reportedly also does not distinguish between good touch and bad touch.
Instead, to conform with haredi cultural taboos, the book tells children to view all touching of private parts as forbidden.
"In this book we want to talk about your body's private areas. Do you know what your private areas are? Your private areas of your body are those that are supposed to be covered when you are dressed. Nobody has any right to touch your body's private areas and you are not supposed to touch those areas on anyone else."
Using the term “private parts” is itself seen as breaking a haredi cultural taboo.
Melamed told Ha'aretz that the book's greatest accomplishment is giving language to haredim.
"Parents go over the book and learn a language with which they can enter a dialogue with their children and ask questions," he said.
Better Safe Than Sorry is basically a re-illustrated translation of an American book on child sexual abuse of the same name published 20 years ago by Prometheus Press. It was originally translated into Hebrew in 1996 for a general Israeli audience but haredi schools, rabbis and bookstores refused to use it or sell it.
In wake of Sandusky scandal, Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital pours resources into preventing abuse
by DAVID WENNER -- The Patriot-News
Examining the injured child, Dr. Benjamin Levi suspected abuse. His mind filled with alarm and questions.
How could he be sure? Whom should he tell?
Seeking answers only increased his alarm.
“The more I looked, the less I found in terms of clear, concrete explanation of how to interpret what was in front of me, and how to respond responsibly,” Levi said.
It sent his career down a new path. The 51-year-old pediatrician has devoted the past decade to studying how people who work around children can recognize abuse and how they should respond.
That expertise enabled Levi to be named director of the Center for Protection of Children at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, which was founded in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
Levi was on sabbatical, examining the handling of child abuse in other countries, when the center was announced near the end of last year. He takes over the role originally held by Dr. Andrea Taroli, who has moved to a different position with the center.
The center is based at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital in Derry Twp. Its mission is to prevent abuse, improve reporting of possible abuse, provide care for abused children and to study how to better protect children.
The center was announced amid the public outrage and internal anguish that followed the revelation of Sandusky's sexual abuse of children and the lack of effective action by football coach Joe Paterno and other Penn State University leaders after a report of Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a campus shower.
It's viewed as a step toward rebuilding Penn State's reputation and a way to convert a horrible event into unprecedented resources focused on one of society's most difficult problems.
The initial announcement promised that a portion of the revenues from Penn State's upcoming bowl game would go to the center. A ballpark figure of $500,000 was cited.
The amount turned out to be $1.1 million, according to Scott Gilbert, a spokesman for Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
A major role of the center will be to coordinate research and expertise from across Penn State University. That's well under way, according to Levi.
“What I've seen is much greater communication among the various [Penn State] professionals who were separately working on things related to child abuse,” he said.
The center has created pamphlets and articles and given presentations related to detecting and reporting possible child abuse. Presentations involved groups including hospitals, law enforcement and Penn State students, faculty and staff, including those involved with youth camps, he said.
Levi is lauded by children's advocates for a child abuse innovation launched six months before the Sandusky scandal — the “Look Out for Child Abuse” website.
The site was created in collaboration with Penn State Dickinson School of Law and serves as a repository of information related to recognizing and reporting child abuse. It includes electronic forms for reporting possible abuse.
The effort has been rolled into the Center for Protection of Children, and assorted improvements are under way, including making it possible for the entire reporting process to be carried out electronically, Levi said.
Yet much of the center is a work in progress.
One of its cornerstones will be the Transforming the Lives of Children Clinic — TLC — to address a range of needs common among abused children who are in foster care. TLC is expected to open in six months to a year.
Levi said victims of child abuse typically have numerous intense needs — medical, psychological, advocacy — that continue for many years. Yet being a foster child often prevents continuity in terms of the professionals caring for them, and important needs end up being ignored.
The clinic will provide a “medical home” to address medical and related needs on a long-term basis. Levi believes the clinic can address a substantial unmet need and possibly transform abused children's lives.
“Our goal is focus on the fact that these kids have been abused and they have ongoing needs, and we want to meet those needs,” Levi said. “We want to be there to support them and provide a true medical home as they heal.”
Some key staffers have been named; others have yet to be hired, Levi said.
“We're not talking about a nurse and a doctor; we're talking about a team,” he said. “Taking the time to get the right person is more than required. It's everything.”
Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee, is a well-known Pennsylvania advocate for abused children.
When the Center for the Protection of Children was announced last year, Palm immediately expressed her belief that it could make a huge impact by coordinating existing services and expertise, and by identifying and filling gaps.
Stressing that Pennsylvania has many effective resources aimed at child abuse, she cautioned center leaders not to reinvent the wheel or duplicate successful efforts.
Last week, she said center leaders seem to be taking a careful, deliberate approach to building an effective center, and she approves.
“From my perspective, Pennsylvania is in real need of connector tissue,” she said.
Law enforcement officials also welcome the center's efforts toward recognizing child abuse and prosecuting those who abuse children.
“Obviously, the Sandusky case has highlighted some problems in reporting,” Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. said. “We definitely need better training. We need to do a better job with the reporting of these incidents and, frankly, enhance the way we investigate and prosecute.”
Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said law enforcement relies heavily on hospitals to provide documentation of injuries that can serve as evidence. For example, a case involving head injuries can hinge on expertise from a neurologist, and cases involving broken bones can depend on X-rays, he noted.
“I'm just very excited about the possibilities of this program,” he said.
Levi said it will take many more financial resources to build and sustain a first-rate center — considerably more than the $1.1 million from last season's bowl game.
He said the annual budget for the center is being finalized, and he had no figure.
But he expressed confidence that the original vision of the center will be realized — even as Penn State absorbs a $60 million fine from the NCAA and a bowl ban and loss of football scholarships that surely will cut into revenues.
“It does take a lot of resources to get the center under way, and what we need is a lot more resources to make the center sustainable,” he said. “What I can say is I have been very impressed with the level of priority the center has received.”
Kentucky Supreme Court to consider fairness of child-abuse registry
A Louisville Sunday school teacher for 25 years, “W.B.” was appalled when he found out he might be listed on Kentucky's Central Registry of substantiated child abusers because of an accusation for which he was never charged, says his lawyer, J. Fox DeMoisey.
W.B. feared that being listed would cost him his teaching post — and worse, his reputation, DeMoisey said. So W.B. skipped the normal appeals process and sued, saying he deserved to have his case heard by a jury.
A Jefferson Circuit Court judge and the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled against him, saying that while the state should not “stigmatize the innocent,” it has an overriding interest in “keeping child abusers out of the ranks of child-care workers.”
Now, the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments Sept. 12 in the case, deciding just how much due process individuals deserve before they are branded as abusers.
Unlike the sex-offender registries that every state makes available on the Internet, child offender lists maintained in Kentucky, Indiana and virtually every other state generally aren't accessible to the public.
But day care centers, schools and adoption agencies must check with the state to see if a prospective employee is listed, and individuals may ask for that information if, for example, they are hiring a nanny.
A person doesn't have to be convicted or charged with a crime to be listed. In Kentucky, people are placed on it because a social worker substantiates an allegation of abuse or neglect.
There are 83,917 Kentuckians on the registry, which lists people for at least seven years, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which maintains the list and ran 41,872 checks last year.
DeMoisey said his client sued using his initials because it would have defeated the lawsuit's purpose if he were named. DeMoisey said W.B. supervises maintenance and the physical plant at a large health care facility in Louisville.
Ensuring children safety
Nobody disputes the value of child offender registries, which began in the 1960s and 1970s.
James Hmurovich, president of the Chicago-based Prevent Child Abuse America, said they are invaluable in identifying perpetrators, especially those who move from town to town within the same state.
Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said the registry offers the ability to effectively screen applicants for jobs and foster parent openings to “better ensure safety of children.”
But courts in several states have taken issue with the process for adding offenders to the list, and critics, including the American Bar Association, have said some may be unfairly listed.
The ABA's Washington-based Center on Children and the Law has noted that most people on state registries are there for neglecting, rather than abusing, children, and a disproportionate number are poor, which prevents them from challenging their listing.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2010 ruled that state's registry unconstitutional because it didn't give suspected abusers enough opportunity to defend themselves, forcing the state to temporarily stop releasing information about the 8,000 people on its list.
In California, a federal appeals court ruled that state's system invalid in 2008 because it didn't provide a way for innocent people to clear their names.
The court said that Craig and Wendy Humphries lived “every parent's nightmare” after they were exonerated in court of allegations that they abused their daughter but couldn't get their names off the state's list of 800,000 people.
Concerns about false listings and fairness have stalled a proposal for a national registry of child abusers, according to a May 2009 report to Congress from the Department for Health and Human Services.
The W.B. case began on Aug. 22, 2008, with an anonymous complaint to the cabinet's child abuse hotline.
A family that had stayed a few times at W.B.'s house complained that he had molested their daughter, according to DeMoisey and court records.
Louisville police investigated the allegation but never brought charges because of insufficient evidence, DeMoisey said in his Supreme Court brief.
But in December that year, the cabinet notified W.B. that it had substantiated the allegation and that he had a right to appeal.
That didn't satisfy W.B., DeMoisey said, in part because the hearing would be before a cabinet attorney who might be “more concerned about retaining his job” than being fair-minded.
When W.B. filed suit in circuit court, it stayed his hearing and listing on the registry.
Besides the “high probability of a rubber stamp,” DeMoisey also argues on his client's behalf that a person's reputation is so valuable it should only be taken away by a jury. “The two most important things this side of the grave are our reputation and our life,” DeMoisey said in his brief, quoting English cleric Charles Caleb Colton.
Need to know
The cabinet's lawyer, Erika Saylor, said the hearing process is replete with procedural safeguards, including the right to be represented by an attorney, to present evidence and to cross-examine witnesses. The accused also may appeal the cabinet's decision to its secretary, then to circuit court.
She also said names in the registry are only available to a “reasonably limited number of people on a need-to-know basis.”
And she noted that that virtually all juvenile matters are determined without a jury.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in an interview that he hopes the court upholds the registry process.
“There is a potential to be falsely listed and I can understand how somebody would feel aggrieved by it,” he said. “But as a state we need to err on the side of protecting kids, not protecting adults.”
Human traffickers could be forced to hand over profits made off victims
by Erika Aguilar
People convicted of human trafficking would have to fork over the profits their victims earned, if the governor signs a couple of bills on his desk.
The California legislature passed during the final week of the session SB 1133 introduced by Sen. Mark Leon (D-San Franscico) that would apply to traffickers found guilty of forcing underage minors into sex work.
The bill forces convicted pimps to hand over money made, including assets such as a vehicle or a house if it was used to facilitate trafficking. The state would use the money to distribute to various state counseling funds to help victims of human trafficking and try to prevent the practice from spreading.
Law enforcement agencies say traffickers require some victims forced into prostitution to bring in at least $500 a night.
But sometimes when they are arrested, traffickers hand over money or assets to another person for safekeeping.
So a second bill awaiting the governor's signature, AB 2466 authored by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley) would allow prosecutors to freeze the sale of any property — say a house or car — when prosecutors file human trafficking charges against someone to prevent the accused from liquidating. The money seized if the person is found guilty, would be used to pay the trafficked victims restitution.
Both bills enjoyed bipartisan support.
Two months ago, the FBI conducted a sweep that rescued five teen prostitutes from forced sex work in Los Angeles and nabbed three alleged pimps.
Sex traffickers force girls as young as 8 into prostitution in Central Florida
By Amy Pavuk
Fifteen-year-old C.G. was hanging out with friends in Tampa's popular Ybor City when she met a man, several years her senior, who offered her a ride home.
FBI agents say C.G. accepted the ride, but Weylin Rodriguez didn't take her to her house. Instead, he headed to Orlando with big plans for the girl: He was going to force her to become a prostitute.
Authorities say that like C.G., teenage girls across the country are forced into the sex industry. Sometimes, they end up in Central Florida because of the area's conventions and special events, which make it a lucrative region.
While Orange Blossom Trail is notorious for prostitution, law-enforcement and child-welfare officials say they also encounter teenage trafficking victims in the International Drive and Kirkman Road areas.
Agents say Rodriguez picked up three other girls on the way from Tampa to Orlando with C.G. and took them all to the Knights Inn on Orange Blossom Trail.
Rodriguez took C.G.'s cellphone and belongings and told her if she "made enough money" he would take her home. Rodriguez wanted C.G. to work as a prostitute. She refused.
The next day, Rodriguez moved C.G. and several other girls to the nearby Safar Inn.
There, one of Rodriguez's prostitutes and enforcers — Pria Gunn — slid furniture against the motel-room door so the girls couldn't leave, agents say. Rodriguez pulled phone cables out of the walls. C.G. wasn't even allowed to go to the bathroom by herself.
Rodriguez told C.G. she had to work the strip that night. When she began crying, Rodriguez told her to shut up or he would hit her. C.G. didn't fight Rodriguez that time.
The FBI estimates 293,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation in America.
Statewide, the Department of Children and Families has roughly 100 children in foster care who have been identified as victims of sex trafficking, said agency spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner.
While the national average age of a child involved in prostitution is 12 to 13, in Florida it is 10 to 11 years old, Hoeppner said. The youngest victim local DCF officials could recall: an 8-year-old from Central Florida.
Authorities say the majority of children being prostituted across the country are runaways. They're a prime target for pimps and recruiters who know the girls often don't have safe or healthy homes to return to. Malls and bus stops are prime recruiting areas.
In many instances, pimps take time to groom their would-be prostitutes and gain their trust. In some cases, they lead the girls into believing they're in a romantic relationship.
"They lure these girls in. They will shower them with gifts. They will dine them. They will build up a trusting relationship," said Sue Aboul-Hosn, a missing-child and human-trafficking specialist with DCF. "Then they turn. Then, it's payback time."
FBI agents reported in that in April 2011, several months after Rodriguez brought C.G. to Orlando, he told an 18-year-old woman he could help her become a model.
Rodriguez took B.W. to an apartment, where she met Gunn. Rodriguez and Gunn took pictures of the woman and posted them online so they could recruit clients, agents say.
During the next two to three weeks, B.W. was forced to prostitute, agents said. When she refused to have sex with a man, Rodriguez beat her.
Federal prosecutors filed sex-trafficking charges against Rodriguez, Gunn and a co-defendant. Gunn, 20, pleaded guilty last month in Tampa federal court. Rodriguez, now 28, is awaiting trial. He has prior arrests for second-degree murder and an indecent liberties with a minor conviction out of North Carolina, making him a sex offender.
Professionals at Orange County's Children's Advocacy Center — where law-enforcement, DCF workers, doctors and nurses jointly investigate the area's worst child-abuse cases — encounter local sex-trafficking victims.
Their goal is to help the children and prevent re-victimization.
Many of the teens who have been trafficked don't see themselves as victims and won't cooperate with staff. Some teens have tried to recruit other children in foster care to come work for their pimp. And the teens often return to their pimp, even after being offered help.
"Many of them do want to get away from it, but they're fearful," said Michael Hardman, assistant program manager for the Orange County Children's Advocacy Center.
It is not known publicly what became of C.G., B.W. or the other alleged victims of Rodriguez and Gunn.
Court records show that when C.G. was ordered to prostitute a night in December 2010, a man pulled up and started talking to the teenager as she stood off the road.
She got in his car and agents say the man "instantly" knew something was wrong. He inquired and the teen told him what happened.
The man allowed C.G. to call her mother, and they arranged to meet her at an Apopka gas station.
Boxer 'Macho' Camacho to face child abuse charges today
by Natalie Tolomeo
ORANGE COUNTY -- A former boxing champ is headed to court to face felony child abuse charges.
The trial of Hector "Macho" Camacho starts Tuesday in Orange County.
Camacho is accused of picking up his teenage son by his neck, slamming him to the ground and stomping on him. It happened in March 2011 at Camacho's ex-wife's Orange County home.
The state attorney's office issued a warrant for the former champ in November of last year. Camacho turned himself in to Orange County deputies in April after his attorney said he found out that he was a wanted man.
Camacho won several world titles in the 1980's, fighting against boxing legends Oscar De La Hoya, Julia Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad and Sugar Ray Leonard.
The Puerto Rican-born boxer is a two-time World Boxing Organization light welterweight champion. He last held the title in 1992.
Camacho is also a former World Boxing Council lightweight champion and super featherweight champion, having held each title once during the 1980s. His last fight in the ring was in 2009.
His next fight starts at about 9:30 a.m. this morning.
CAMC launches baby caps project to discourage child abuse
Charleston Area Medical Center's Women and Children's Hospital wants people to help discourage child abuse.
The hospital's prevention project focuses on shaken baby syndrome, which is often triggered by the child's crying. The project is known as "Purple," which is short for "Peak crying, Unpredictable, Resistant to soothing, Pain like faces, Long bouts, Evening occurrence."
To increase awareness, hospital leaders want people to knit, crochet or loom purple newborn caps.
Participants may use any baby cap pattern and any shade of soft baby-friendly yarn. The caps must be at least 50 percent purple with no pompoms or buttons. More instructions and patterns for the caps may be found at www.clickforbabies.org.
Caps may be delivered CAMC Women and Children's Hospital 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 6 during the annual Teddy Bear Fair.
The handmade creations will be distributed to newborns in the nursery starting in November.
The hospital's goal is 750 caps.
For more information, call 304-388-2545 and ask for Kelly.
New run to aid abuse prevention, victim support
Talking about child abuse can be difficult, but the Lighthouse Family Charity is looking for ways to make the conversation easier.
One new way will debut in Plymouth on Sunday, Sept. 23, when Lighthouse sponsors its first Run for Ribbons 5K, a fun run to raise awareness of child abuse and raise money for Lighthouse programs.
Lighthouse is an eight-year-old nonprofit that helps families in the Plymouth area cope with child abuse through support services, and also works to raise awareness of the problem and find ways to prevent it.
“Prevention, for any cause, is the first line of defense,” said Jasmine Millwood, the executive director of Lighthouse.
Millwood is herself a survivor of child abuse and spent several harrowing years in Michigan's foster care system. Now independent and a college graduate, she documented her and her two sisters' experience in a recently self-published book, Unbreakable, taken from journals she kept during those years.
Money raised through Run for Ribbons — a one-mile Pinwheel Parade, designed for younger runners, plus a 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) run through the city — will go toward buying informational booklets on child abuse to be distributed to fifth-graders, Millwood said. The books tell children that, in cases of abuse, it's OK to tell a trusted adult, she said.
“They kind of instill the idea in children that any kind of abuse is bad, whether it's physical, sexual or emotional,” she said. “That would've changed my life, had I had that idea.”
Millwood said much of the marketing for the run — like race T-shirts, signature blue ribbons, and blue pinwheels — is also designed to begin conversations about child abuse. Lighthouse is working to start “pinwheel gardens,” displays at, for example, schools, parks and doctors' offices, that can also spark such conversations, she said.
Run for Ribbons is being organized by the Plymouth-Canton Jaycees, or Junior Chamber, of which Millwood is president, with help from other organizations, including local Rotary Club chapters and the Plymouth Community Arts Council.
“The community has really rallied behind us, behind me, and it's been really rewarding,” Millwood said.
More than 100 runners have signed up so far; Millwood is hoping for 300 or more.
Abby Stonerook of Plymouth Township is a participating runner who sees a need to combat child abuse locally.
“I think it's something we gloss over in our community,” she said.
Stonerook, who works for the American Cancer Society as liaison for the Relay for Life in several communities, said she's viewed the abuse problem from different perspectives while working semester-long college internships, one at a rape crisis center in Philadelphia and another at a child abuse and neglect prevention organization in the slums on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.
“It's in the inner city, it's in the slums, and it's in a beautiful city like we live in,” she said. “Abuse does not discriminate.”
Stonerook said she met Millwood through the Jaycees in April and that she “immediately felt her passion for this cause.”
Millwood, Stonerook said, is an example of how abuse can be overcome and a testament to the need for the kind of work Lighthouse does.
“You just look at her and would never, ever guess that she is a survivor of childhood abuse,” she said.
Run for Ribbons
|The Run for Ribbons 5K, a 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) fun run and 1-mile Pinwheel Parade to raise money for Lighthouse Family Charity.
|The Gathering, and Kellogg Park, downtown Plymouth, with the run through the streets of Plymouth.
|Sunday, Sept. 23, with the Pinwheel Parade starting at 7:45 a.m. and the 5-K starting at 8 a.m.
|Register on line at lighthousefamilycharity.org; mail-in registration is available, see Website for details. Same-day registration begins at 6:30 a.m. Sept. 23 at The Gathering. The cost is $30 for the 5K, $15 for the Pinwheel Parade, $35 for both. T-shirts available for all registered runners.
When a boy is sexually abused by a woman ‘people do not often recognize the harm'
by Keith L. Alexander
Keyvette Gamble went to a friend's house with her 4-year-old daughter, playing cards into the early morning with plans to spend the night at the Southwest Washington apartment. After everyone had nodded off, Gamble slipped over to a bed where her friend's 14-year-old son was sleeping.
Gamble, 24, then sexually assaulted the teenage boy, according to court records. The attack in September was one of three child sex abuse cases to reach a D.C. courtroom this year that involved an adult female defendant accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
While sex abuse cases are all too common, prosecutors and child victim advocates say prosecutions of adult women sexually attacking boys are extremely rare. All unrelated, the three cases in the District surprised local authorities and have raised awareness of an often-underreported crime.
“This is unusual,” said prosecutor Kelly Higashi, chief of the sex offense and domestic violence section of the D.C. Superior Court unit for the U.S. attorney's office. “People do not often recognize the harm this does to a boy.”
Teenage boys rarely report such attacks to police or to close family members, authorities said. The boys keep the abuse quiet, either out of guilt or, in some cases, because they believe such incidents are a rite of passage to adulthood.
Child welfare advocates say there is a double standard that makes it more difficult to identify cases involving adult female attackers and young male victims.
“If you put a teenage girl in the same situation and the abuser is a male, you will have an entirely different reaction from society,” said Deborah Donavan Rice, executive director of Stop it Now, a Northampton, Mass.-based child sex abuse prevention group. “But child sexual abuse is child sexual abuse.”
It is difficult to determine how often boys are sexually assaulted by women. One group, the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, estimates that instances involving female offenders and male juvenile victims make up less than 14 percent of sex abuse cases nationwide. Other groups say such cases are less common. Still, advocates say, parents of boys who are victims are becoming more likely to report such crimes, and authorities are prosecuting them more aggressively.
Christopher Mallios of Aequitas, a District-based sex-crime victim advocacy group, said during his 16 years as a Philadelphia prosecutor he had seen police and prosecutors “high-five” teenage boys who had been sexually assaulted by women, saying that the boys were “lucky.”
Mallios said that view — that teenage male victims should not being taken seriously — is slowly being eradicated. “It's rape because the law says it is rape,” he said. “Minors legally cannot consent to sex with adults.”
D.C. sex crime prosecutor Higashi said it is often adults close to the victims who coax them into talking about the abuse and to come forward, and she praised adults in the D.C. cases for being willing to support the children involved. It is often because boys feel uncomfortable talking about what happened that leads them to keep silent, she said.
“The adult's reaction often impacts the child's reaction,” Higashi said.
Such were the circumstances with Gamble. Charges against her came after the 14-year-old victim told an adult about it.
In that incident, Gamble took advantage of her friend's son, in her friend's apartment, according to court records. When Gamble went to the boy, the teenager reached for a condom and then was sexually assaulted in his own bed.
Last week, Gamble, standing before a D.C. Superior Court judge and wiping tears from her eyes, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree child abuse. She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison when she is sentenced in October. At the hearing, Judge William M. Jackson encouraged Gamble to make “contingency plans” for the long-term care of her two children, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-month-old infant, by the time she returns to court for sentencing.
All three D.C. cases involved women who were friends of the victim's family. In the case of Zakiya Gaskins — a Southwest Washington woman charged with sexually assaulting her neighbor's 13-year-old son in January — authorities had to relocate the teenager and his family because neighbors harassed him after he told his mother that his friend's mother had sexually assaulted him.
“People were teasing him, asking if he was a ‘punk,' and what's wrong with him and why he didn't like it,” said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is still open.
Gaskins allegedly attacked the boy when he was spending the night with her 13-year-old son at her apartment, a night that was supposed to be filled with video games, prosecutors said.
The woman gave the teenager a glass of fruit juice mixed with vodka, according to court records. Later that evening, according to court records and testimony from a D.C. detective, Gaskins pulled the teenager into her bedroom and sexually assaulted him. Gaskins's children banged on her bedroom door, crying for their mother to “let him go,” according to court records. When Gaskins fell asleep, the teen fled her bedroom.
At the hearing on Aug. 20, a soft-spoken Gaskins, with her ankles and wrists in shackles, denied forcing the teenager to touch her sexually, but admits the teen did touch her. Gaskins's attorney, Kevin McCants, said his client was drunk at the time of the incident and unsuccessfully tried to stop the teen from touching her.
Gaskins, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree child sexual abuse, entering an Alford plea, meaning she admitted there was enough evidence to convict her but not conceding that she committed the crime. She is scheduled for sentencing in November and could face about 7½ years in prison.
Gaskins's three children, who are 13, 9 and 4, live with her mother. Beck ordered Gaskins to remain in D.C. jail until her sentencing. She also will have to register as a child sex offender.
In the third recent case, Heaven Wright, 18, of Northwest Washington, was sentenced in August to serve 180 days in prison after she pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old last summer. Authorities learned of the attack after the teenager's mother took the boy to a hospital, where he tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. Wright, according to court records, later admitted to police that she had a sexual relationship with the boy and knew his age. The two, who had known each other for a year, had three separate sexual encounters, according to court records.
“People need to realize these types of cases do happen,” Higashi said. “They are more rare, but they happen.”
After surviving sexual abuse, Bucks vocalist tells her story
by Gina Barton
Rhonda Begos stood backstage, gripped by an unfamiliar nervousness.
She had strolled into the spotlight hundreds of times - as a student at the renowned Berklee College of Music; as a backup singer for Susan Tedeschi on Conan O'Brien's show; as the lead female vocalist with Streetlife, the Milwaukee Bucks house band.
This time was different. Begos would use the microphone not to sing, but to tell her story: the story of surviving childhood sexual abuse.
Her whole life, Begos thought her purpose was music. But as she waited to address the International Women's Leadership Conference in 2010 in Honolulu, an epiphany struck.
"It was never about me making it as a singer," she said. "I realized that the singing was preparing me for that moment, and many moments to help others through speaking."
It took decades of struggle - even a brush with death - to reach that insight.
Now 43, Begos entered the Milwaukee music scene in 1983. She was 14 and sang Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" at a Summerfest talent show. Even then, music was her way of dealing with being molested by a relative four years earlier. Singing made her feel good about herself.
"Strangers are accepting of you," she said. "You long for that feeling. You long for that connection."
Her abuser was not prosecuted. Her family moved from their native Milwaukee to Stillwater, Minn., seeking a fresh start. Begos never shied away from discussing the incident. With a child's naiveté, she assumed what had happened to her was normal. It wasn't until she left for college that she realized it was not.
"In my early 20s, it became an issue," she said.
After moving to Boston for college, Begos began smoking and drinking heavily, both of which were particularly dangerous for her because she has diabetes. She experimented with drugs. With men, she tried to use sex as a form of control. With women, she was combative, never allowing anyone to get close.
She needed help, and there were moments when she knew it.
One weekend she attended a church service where gospel music icon Shirley Caesar was singing with the Berklee choir and preaching. Caesar spoke about trauma in life and trusting God, and then invited people to come forward. Begos stood and began to sing about wanting to be saved.
"My friends cried," recalled Begos, who was raised Baptist. "I always believed in God and Christ. I wanted to be saved at that time. I wanted someone to pull me out of the debris. But there were truths I did not want to face."
She did not yet understand that her struggles were rooted in the abuse she had experienced as a child.
"I had no idea the two were connected," she said.
After two years at Berklee, Begos dropped out. A year later, she moved back to Milwaukee, where she still lives.
A boyfriend, who had come to Wisconsin with her, left when he found out she was seeing other men behind his back. She was fired from more than 10 jobs because she couldn't handle criticism. An opportunity to sing with a great band led to more drinking, drugs and hangovers.
The substance abuse resulted in several close calls with hypoglycemia, a dangerous drop in blood sugar that can occur when diabetics binge drink. It can lead to fainting, seizures or even death. More than once, Begos was taken away in an ambulance, on the verge of a diabetic coma.
Death knocked the loudest in 2004. Begos was 35 and the mother of a 2-year-old son.
A night of drinking led to an argument with her son's father. She got up and went to work, but felt shaky all day. The next night, she fell asleep to a vivid dream.
The sun shone through a Monet sky. As she walked along, she saw a nephew who had died in a car accident and a friend's husband who had recently died of cancer. There was a third person, too, but Begos wasn't sure who it was. All three of them were telling her to come with them.
Then her son's screams broke through: "Mommy! Mommy!"
Begos opened her eyes to see her son standing at the top of the stairs. She tried to get up, but her legs wouldn't work right. Her mouth made a chewing motion she couldn't control. She drove herself to the hospital in tears.
The doctor, whom she had known for years, told her she had suffered multiple seizures during the night.
"If you had died last night," the doctor told her, "no one would remember Rhonda the singer or Rhonda the mom. All they would remember was you died because you were drinking too much."
A friend recommended a psychiatrist. Late one night, Begos called. Because it was after hours, the answering service gave her some hotline numbers to try. One of them connected her to The Healing Center, which provides counseling and resources for survivors of sexual assault.
Begos told her story to an empathetic intake worker.
"There is nothing you are telling us that is any different from what any other survivor has told us," the worker said.
Intensive therapy helped Begos come to some important conclusions. The first was about forgiveness: If you can forgive others, you can forgive yourself. Forgiving her abuser didn't mean what he did was OK. Instead, it freed her to accept and value herself.
The second was about her behavior: Even if her mistakes were caused by childhood trauma, she still had to take responsibility for them. That was the only way to avoid similar pitfalls in the future.
The third was about her son: He was the most important person in her world, and he was watching her every day.
Once Begos let go of her anger, the pieces of her life began to fall into place. She got a job at ASQ, where her boss became a mentor rather than an adversary. Warren Wiegratz, who had played in the band during the 1983 Summerfest talent show, called and asked if she would be interested in singing at Bucks games with Streetlife.
And then, during an open house at the Grain Exchange Room at the Mackie Building, restaurateur Jennifer Bartolotta asked Begos what was next.
"I guess singing," Begos replied.
"What about public speaking?" Bartolotta suggested.
"I've never really done that before," Begos said.
She will never forget Bartolotta's reply: "Rosa Parks never sat in the front of a bus before, either."
Bartolotta, who had gotten to know Begos through events for the American Diabetes Association and the Humane Society, had long admired both her musical talent and her resilience.
"She is a performer, and she has a great story to tell," Bartolotta said. "She wouldn't be who she is today had she not endured her life journey. Combining that journey with her ability to perform seemed like the next step for her. She just ran with it. It was like a light bulb went off in her head."
Begos put together a website and joined the National Speakers Bureau. When she received a letter from the governor of Hawaii inviting her to speak at the conference there, she thought it was a joke.
An audience of more than 2,000 listened to Begos' speech. Afterward, men and women waited to talk and cry with her. Seeing them gain strength convinced her that speaking the truth was the right thing.
"When I see others gain a positive perspective on where their lives could be, it validates for me that I can continue to live that way," she said.
In addition to her national appearances, Begos has shared her story with many groups around Milwaukee, including The Healing Center. Often, she leaves the audience with a song. One of her favorites is "Heal Over," by K.T. Tunstall.
Begos heard the song for the first time as she was gathering the courage to get help: Come over here, lady, let me wipe your tears away; come a little nearer, baby, 'cause you'll heal over, heal over, heal over someday.
"You can sense it, when she's singing that song, that she is singing from her heart," said Maryann Clesceri, the center's executive director. "She's singing about what it means to heal, and using her music to work through that healing. One year, she had the whole audience crying. That's how powerful it is."
On the Web
To learn more about Rhonda Begos, visit her website at rhondabegos.com or call (414) 202-3589.
High-profile cases of child abuse fuel flood of complaints
DA says 2 additional detectives needed
by Holly Herman
Berks County detectives are flooded with calls from child abuse victims in the wake of the arrest and conviction of Jerry Sandusky and several recent high-profile local cases, including the one involving a former Gov. Mifflin High School water polo and swimming team coach.
District Attorney John T. Adams said the increase in investigations has created a need for two additional child abuse detectives. The county has five full-time and three part-time child abuse detectives.
"Child abuse is clearly one of our priorities," Adams said. "We are in desperate need of two more detectives. There is nothing more important than protecting our children. We understand that budget times are difficult."
Adams said those detectives are the only additional positions he has requested from the commissioners this year. A detective's annual salary is $65,000.
The numbers show the child abuse caseload has increased by more than 60 percent since 2010, when county detectives began investigating cases for the financially troubled city.
Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach, chairman, said Adams' request will be considered seriously.
"The child abuse cases have a major increase in statistics," Leinbach said. "This is not a city of Reading issue. It's a countywide issue."
Leinbach said the arrest of Sandusky, former Penn State University football defensive coordinator, increased public awareness of the crime.
"If there has been a benefit of the Sandusky case it has brought serious awareness to this," Leinbach said. "People understand that it is critical that people take steps to report it."
Sandusky was convicted June 22 of abusing 10 boys and is awaiting sentencing.
Sgt. Gerardo Vega, head of the child abuse unit, said state law requires that every case be investigated.
Vega said the goal is to stop abusers before they get to more victims.
"Technology such as Facebook and other social media helps with investigations," he said.
Vega said not all allegations result in criminal charges and detectives work closely with local agencies and prosecutors to determine which cases are appropriate for prosecution.
Vega said there has been a slight increase in calls again since the Aug. 7 arrest of Jonathan Bell.
Bell, 31, has been charged with molesting a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old while they were students at Gov. Mifflin. He has since been terminated by Gov. Mifflin and suspended from his job as an Exeter High School art teacher.
Adams said a new law takes effect in January that makes it a crime for a teacher or school employee to have relations with a student regardless of age.
The April arrest of Paul S. Sewell, 46, on charges that he sexually assaulted a city girl more than 20 times also prompted more calls, officials said.
In a separate case, Sewell has pleaded guilty in federal court to running an Internet prostitution ring out of his city home.
Assistant District Attorney Ellen R. West, who handles child abuse cases with Assistant District Attorney Jonathan H. Kurland, said the detectives must be available immediately to talk to a victim or defendant.
"They are always busy," West said. "If they have a trial, it takes a lot time. Every case is important. There is an immediacy to the job."
Adams said the detectives also are speaking in high schools to increase students' awareness of child abuse crimes.
Oklahoma Law enforcement steps up efforts on human trafficking in state
by PHILLIP O'CONNOR
OKLAHOMA CITY - The October discovery of Carina Saunders' dismembered remains behind a Bethany grocery store stunned the community.
Then, shocking evidence surfaced that the 19-year-old Mustang High School graduate and varsity choir member might have been tortured and killed by members of a human trafficking ring.
The Saunders case is shedding light on what some law enforcement officials and others say is a growing problem in Oklahoma: victims, including underage children, being forced into prostitution.
"That really woke everybody up," said Mark Elam, director of Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans (OATH), a victims' advocacy group. "Unfortunately, her murder has forced everyone to recognize how severe this can be."
Once a crime more readily associated with the Baltics, Asia or Latin America, human trafficking is increasingly being recognized as a problem in the United States.
In 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, federal law enforcement charged 181 people and obtained 141 convictions in 103 human trafficking prosecutions.
Of those, 32 involved labor trafficking and 71 involved sex trafficking. That represented the largest number of federal human trafficking prosecutions initiated in a single year.
"Advocates like us around the nation have been rolling out information and trying to retrain law enforcement, legislators and the public to understand that slavery exists in a modern form," Elam said.
No comprehensive data is available on state prosecutions and convictions, but Oklahoma has been the site of several notable human trafficking cases.
In 2001, authorities said, Tulsa-based oil industry parts manufacturer John Pickle Co. Inc. lured 52 skilled laborers from India, confiscated their identification and immigration documents, crammed them into a warehouse "dormitory" and paid them only about $3 per hour.
The highly skilled welders and fitters also worked as janitors and performed other menial jobs for JPC officers under threat of physical harm. They escaped in 2002 with the aid of area churches. The business was closed.
In 2004, the FBI investigated children recruited in Oklahoma City being prostituted at truck stops and through call services nationwide. The investigation, dubbed "Stormy Nights," discovered 16 underage sex workers.
Nine defendants were charged with sex trafficking of minors and transporting juveniles for use in prostitution. Eight pleaded guilty and a ninth was convicted at trial. Defendants received prison terms ranging up to 17.5 years.
A grisly death
Human trafficking doesn't necessarily entail the movement of people. It also differs from prostitution in that participants are either minors or are coerced into commercial sex, often with drugs, threats of violence or both.
"You can't tell them apart without an investigation," Elam said. "If someone starts controlling her and keeps the money and is not letting her quit ... that ... makes it a trafficking case."
In the past, local prosecutors have been reluctant to take on such cases, Elam said.
"They were so inundated with the problems of gangs and burglaries and homicide and so many of what they considered these far more serious crimes that they didn't have the energy or resources to help dishwashers and labor workers and groundskeepers and women being prostituted. Those were misdemeanor issues compared to the severe felonies."
The torture killing of Carina Saunders may change that, he said. Two men, Jimmy Massey, 34, and Luis Ruiz, 37, are being held in the Oklahoma County jail in connection with her murder.
Court documents filed in the case suggest that Saunders was killed as a message to others not to defy a human- and drug-trafficking ring. Confidential witnesses have painted a picture of a criminal organization that wanted to show what happens to people who don't cooperate.
Saunders' dismembered body was found in a duffel bag behind a retail store.
Witnesses told law officers they saw, either in person or on videotape, her grisly slaying in an Oklahoma City apartment. Investigators say in court affidavits that Ruiz beat Saunders, tied her to a table and tortured her by sawing off her left foot, then trying to cut off her right foot. But the saw broke.
Massey, while jailed on drug charges, shared details of the slaying with two detainees, telling the first detainee that he participated in the torture-killing.
Jeanetta McCrery, 41, of Tulsa, said her heart is torn by the Saunders case.
"It's like walking through my own history," she said.
Taylor said she was kidnapped, drugged and assaulted at age 11 after going with friends to a house in north Tulsa. Within a year, she was arrested for the first time on a prostitution charge.
By the 1990s, she was working as a prostitute for what she described as the Mexican Mafia in Texas. When she sought to escape the group, Taylor said, she was stabbed 36 times and barely survived.
"You don't just walk away from that when you're in that lifestyle," McCrery said. "You know and see so much. I believe (Saunders) was one of those people. We knew and saw and were trusted too much."
McCrery moved back to Tulsa and went back to working the streets. In 2004, with the aid of friends, she finally quit the business. She went back to school and now is nearing completion of a master's degree in clinical social work from the University of Oklahoma. She works at a shelter for women and children.
As a trafficking victim, McCrery said she was too afraid to seek help but too scared to stay where she was.
"I think that's where (Saunders) may have been at," she said. "When a community is not aware of what's going on, it's hard to protect someone."
'Shocks the conscience'
The FBI's Oklahoma City office stepped up its efforts on human trafficking a couple of years ago. Agents focused primarily on the Hispanic community, looking for evidence of forced labor, abuse of migrant laborers and domestic servants and sex trafficking.
Other than a few individual cases involving pimps and prostitutes, the office has received few allegations of domestic servitude or forced labor and no allegations of trafficking by international-organized crime rings more prevalent in some larger coastal cities.
Since June, the FBI has participated in two local prostitution operations that resulted in about 70 arrests, including four underage girls. In such cases, authorities seek to connect the minors with the appropriate support agencies.
While the Saunders case is tragic and has drawn a large amount of media attention, FBI officials say human trafficking does not appear widespread here.
"I would not call it overwhelming," said Supervisory Special Agent Gary Johnson.
A law that takes effect Nov. 1 will give the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics broader authority to investigate human trafficking. The bureau recently established a seven-member anti-trafficking unit and partnered with the FBI and the Oklahoma City Police Department on the recent prostitution stings.
The need for greater investigative powers became apparent after confidential informants, undercover investigations and other intelligence gathering made it clear that many in the drug trade also plied in people.
"The same groups that are bringing drugs into the U.S. - the cartels - are finding there's more profit to be made in trafficking humans," bureau spokesman Mark Woodward said. "These cartels are criminal enterprises. They are not sole-sourcing drugs ... They will traffic drugs, humans, weapons, whatever, for a profit."
Narcotics bureau director Darrell Weaver is convinced the problem is growing.
Oklahoma ranks near the top in many high-risk categories for human trafficking including percentage of women incarcerated, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, children in poverty and youth homelessness.
Traffickers often use the promise of jobs or other enticements to seek out the most vulnerable, including runaways, the poor and uneducated, those previously molested or from uncaring homes.
Oklahoma also sits at the crossroads of three major interstates - 35, 40 and 44 - making it vulnerable to such activity. "We're just wrapping our arms around it," Weaver said. "It's really alarming what we're seeing."
That includes the death of Saunders.
"I don't have to wear a law enforcement hat to be concerned about that case," Weaver said. "It really shocks the conscience. We're in Oklahoma and things like that just don't happen in Oklahoma. And it did.
"We've got to look at this closely. How did this happen? What can we do to prevent the next case? If we can save one young lady like that, it's worth it."
Boy, 6, stabbed to death in New Jersey home; sister hurt
TRENTON, N.J. – Police are searching for clues after two young siblings were attacked by an apparent intruder as they slept in their New Jersey home Sunday morning, leaving one dead and the other critically injured.
Camden County prosecutors said 6-year-old Dominick Andujor was pronounced dead at the scene. His 12-year-old sister Amber Andujo, whose throat was slit, was in critical condition after surgery Sunday. A 9-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl, who was babysitting the three younger children, were unharmed, said Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor's office.
MyFoxPhilly.com reports Amber identified the man she believed to be her attacker to police, but officials would not divulge his identity. Police would also not say whether an arrest had been made or charges had been filed in the case.
The Associated Press reports law enforcement agencies are seeking to to talk to a man who lives in the area in connection with the attack who apparently had lacerations on his hand. However, authorities said they were not targeting one person, and it was not clear why the children were attacked.
Nakyta McCray, who lives nearby, said the man she believes police were looking for is well-known around the neighborhood. She said he plays with the local children and seemed to be a peaceful person.
"People would never think he would do something like this," she said.
Camden County prosecutors said Dominick was pronounced dead at the scene; they would not release further details on the attack, including what type of weapon was used.
Amber reportedly went door to door in the neighborhood to get help and finally reached the home of McCray, who called 911. McCray said the girl "was barely breathing" and bleeding profusely when emergency personnel arrived.
The teenager had been babysitting the other three children because their mother, who recently underwent surgery, was still in the hospital. Authorities said Dominick's father lives out of state. It was not known if he also was the father of the other children.
Camden, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, continually ranks as one of the nation's most dangerous. The double stabbing comes shortly after another child died a violent death in the city. On Aug. 22, a 33-year-old Camden woman allegedly decapitated her 2-year-old toddler and then fatally stabbed herself.