Protecting children from sexual abuse is a community responsibility
by Deanna Norris and Robin L. O'Grady
A recent column published in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "How to help abused children," reflected upon the Penn State scandal and focused on the lack of adequate federal funding for programs that protect and rescue children from sexual abuse.
The authors, R.A. Dickey and Grier Weeks, called on readers to take action, make noise and remind the "powers that be" of their need to act on behalf of victimized and traumatized children who are unable to protect themselves.
We are fortunate in Livingston County to have numerous agencies that work in partnership to safeguard our children from sexual abuse-including LACASA and LACASA's Child Abuse Prevention Council.
Supporting federal legislation and urging the government to fund critical programs are both ways concerned citizens can use their collective voices to help children.
There are other ways we can protect our children, however, on a smaller scale right here at home. Choices can be made by individuals, steps can be taken by parents, and knowledge can be shared by adults in our community, all of which will help keep our children safe.
LACASA and the CAP Council recommend that schools, churches, sports leagues and child-serving organizations implement policies that minimize opportunities for abuse, such as restricting situations in which one adult is alone with one child.
"We have a duty to act," said Dickey and Weeks. Taking action on a local level can be as simple as learning the facts about child sexual abuse.
Understanding the nature of abuse, why and how it occurs, and who it is that most often perpetrates sexual crimes against children is critical.
Stranger danger has proven to be a misnomer. In more than 90 percent of the cases, sexual abuse of a child is committed by someone the victim knows and trusts. This information gives us immense power in the fight to keep sexual abuse from happening in the first place.
"(Children) need us to be strong ... and to step in as protectors," the article said. As parents and concerned community members, we must learn how. The CAP Council advises that we:
Talk openly with our children and listen to what they have to say
Find out why our children feel uncomfortable around certain people
Allow children to choose whether or not they want to share hugs and affection with relatives and friends
Speak to other adults about child sexual abuse
Avoid putting children in situations that place them at risk
Several times each year, LACASA's CAP Council hosts Stewards of Children, a free training program that teaches adults how to react responsibly to suspected child sexual abuse.
Together, armed with knowledge and simple strategies, we can prevent child sexual abuse. In fact, Darkness to Light, the national organization that created the Stewards of Children program, estimates that for each adult trained, 10 children are less likely to become victims.
It is imperative that we provide programs that support victims of child abuse, encourage them to share their stories and enable them to begin healing.
LACASA's CARE (Child Abuse Response Effort) oversees forensic interviews of children who are suspected of being abused. Individual counseling and support groups offered through LACASA's counseling program help child victims in Livingston County process the abuse they have endured so they can move past the pain toward a future of wellness.
Prevention programs, like Stewards of Children, help to ensure that the children in our lives never suffer the trauma of sexual abuse.
In reference to drastic federal cutbacks made to the Protect Our Children Act, authors Dickey and Weeks said, "the rest of us should be stepping up to a bigger plate because our failure to follow through on past lessons of child abuse is leaving more children vulnerable."
It is true that funding for programs that help victimized children — and for programs designed to prevent child abuse before it occurs — continues to dwindle. Both LACASA and the CAP Council have experienced deep funding cuts this year — not only at the federal level — but at the state and local levels as well.
This is an unfortunate reality that makes our work difficult. However, community members should be encouraged by the news that each of us has the power to make a difference.
We can become educated. We can become vigilant. We can volunteer as child advocates. We can make charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations like LACASA and the CAP Council that support and protect our children right here in Livingston County.
Dickey and Weeks stated, "With more than 400,000 American children in foster care and millions more urgently needing protection, we could fill stadiums with children who are counting on us. They need us to be strong, to look evil in the face, and to step in as protectors."
The authors concluded: "There's no greater feeling, on or off the field, than protecting a child." On behalf of the CAP Council and the entire staff of LACASA, we concur.
Deanna Norris, is director of LACASA's Child Abuse Prevention Council, and Robin L. O'Grady is LACASA's communications director. E-mail your comments to email@example.com
The Child Abuse Prevention Council is hosting a free Stewards of Children workshop for the public from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday at LACASA, 2895 W. Grand River Ave. in Howell Township. Participants will learn the seven critical steps for preventing, recognizing and reacting responsibly to child sexual abuse.
A seminar on Mandated Reporter Training and Stewards of Children will be held for professionals and interested community members from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at the Livingston Educational Service Agency, 1425 W. Grand River Ave. Howell.
Registration is required for either workshop and space is limited. For more information, or to register, visit www.lacasacenter.org or call the CAP Council at (517) 548-1350, ext. 287
Children At Risk: Pervasiveness of sexual crimes against children in NEPA difficult to assess
by DAVID SINGLETON
The case is burned in Susquehanna County District Attorney Jason Legg's memory, a reminder of both the repugnancy of sexual crimes against children and why the offenses can be so challenging to uncover and prosecute.
More than a decade ago, an older man stood accused of repeatedly raping two girls. The girls came forward after several years of abuse.
As the case went to trial, and with the defendant counting on the victims' refusals to take the witness stand, one of the girls balked, Mr. Legg said. In the end, she testified, providing key evidence, but only reluctantly.
"In her mind, if she testified, she was going to lose everything important to her. This guy had a farm, and her horses were on the farm, and she wanted to keep her horses," Mr. Legg said. "She had forgiven him. Why couldn't I?"
It typifies one of the constants in the child sexual abuse cases Mr. Legg has handled during his 13 years in the office, the last nine as district attorney.
"It's all about power and control, and it's always been about power and control," he said. "In 13 years, I can't really say it's changed."
Despite indications that sexual crimes against children are declining in the state and across the nation, sexual abuse and exploitation are still a shadowy reality in the daily lives of untold numbers of young people in Northeast Pennsylvania.
With the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal shining an unusually bright light on a class of horrific crimes that for most Pennsylvanians are out of sight and out of mind, prosecutors and others are optimistic more victims will be empowered and emboldened to report the crimes - and the public will be more comfortable listening and believing.
Their optimism is tempered, however, by the knowledge that most victims are likely to never tell, and most offenders are likely to never face justice.
Beverly Mackereth, deputy secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare, said the unfortunate truth is cases like that of Mr. Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach who awaits sentencing for molesting 10 boys over 15 years, happen all the time in Pennsylvania.
The only difference, she said, is who Mr. Sandusky was and his affiliation with Penn State and its football program.
"This is a crime that is prevalent in our society, and it always has been," said Ms. Mackereth, who oversees the department's Office of Children, Youth and Families. "It is just a secret crime."
The best estimate is that only 10 to 12 percent of child sexual abuse nationwide is ever reported to a child protective service or law enforcement agency, said Kristen Houser, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. She and others say there is no way of knowing what that figure is in Northeast Pennsylvania.
"How much goes unreported? Who knows?" said Mary Ann LaPorta, executive director of the Scranton-based Children's Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania. "It's so trite that I wish I could think of another really good analogy, but I think what is reported is just the tip of the iceberg."
The highly personal nature of such crimes almost guarantees they will be under-reported, said Lackawanna County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge, who leads the county's special victims unit.
"There are a lot more people that it happens to than report it - people who decide for whatever reason not to come forward," Ms. McCambridge said. "It's not like a burglary, where nine out of 10 times if a home is burglarized, you're calling the police. It doesn't lend itself to that."
Although child sexual abuse statistics are available from a number of sources, the difficulty is trying to reconcile them:
- According to the state Department of Public Welfare, there were 85 substantiated cases of child sexual abuse in Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties annually on average from 2007 through 2011, with a high of 94 in 2010 and a low of 80 last year.
Lackawanna County averaged 45 cases a year over the period, according to DPW figures.
The DPW numbers reflect "founded" cases, in which there has been a judicial determination of abuse along with "indicated" cases, in which there has been a finding that abuse happened based on medical evidence, a child protective service investigation or an admission by the perpetrator.
- On a statewide basis, the department also tracks substantiated injuries related to a broad range of sexual offenses involving children, including rape, incest, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, prostitution and the production of child pornography.
Those numbers have been on a consistent downward trend for at least seven years, falling from 4,629 in 2005 to 3,872 in 2008 to 2,691 in 2011.
- Sexual-abuse referrals to the Children's Advocacy Center, where victims of physical or sexual abuse from across the region are interviewed and medically evaluated, have mushroomed in recent years.
As recently as 2004, the center and another now-closed center in Carbondale received a combined total of only about 300 sexual-abuse referrals annually.
In 2011, the center handled 577 referrals, including 442 from Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties - and both totals were actually down slightly from 2010. The center had 364 referrals just from Lackawanna County last year.
Child-welfare advocates acknowledge the primary problem with available child sexual abuse statistics - and one they say is not unique to Pennsylvania - is the use of often inconsistent definitions and methodologies by the agencies and organizations compiling them.
The Department of Public Welfare numbers, for instance, include only abuse or exploitation investigated by a child protective service agency, said Ms. Houser, the PCAR spokeswoman. A case investigated by a local police department would not be counted by DPW unless a child protective agency got involved.
Ms. McCambridge said the increase in referrals to the Children's Advocacy Center is not indicative of an alarming surge in the incidence of child sexual abuse. Rather, it reflects a greater sensitivity to the issue and an "err-on-the-side-of-caution approach" by investigators, she said.
For example, if a child discloses he or she has been sexually abused by a parent or step-parent, all the children in that household would be referred for an evaluation, Ms. McCambridge said. A child who starts acting out sexually at school may be sent to the center just to find out if there is an underlying issue.
"It's better to know for sure that there is nothing going on and to be able to say it is an unsubstantiated claim than to just leave it lingering out there and not really know," she said.
Ms. Houser said PCAR's position is that while the available evidence suggests there has been a slight decline in child sexual abuse, it has not been significant enough to alter the accepted statistic that one in every four girls and one in every six boys will have been sexually abused by age 18.
"We are far from being able to breathe a sigh of relief," she said.
Children are most often sexually abused by people they know and trust. Among the substantiated abuse cases in Pennsylvania last year, a family member was the perpetrator about 45 percent of the time, according to DPW statistics. In nearly a quarter of the cases, it was the child's father or mother.
Although people don't like to hear words like incest, Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said the public understands it happens.
"Certainly it would be nice to say it doesn't happen here and have that be the truth," Ms. Edwards said. "But I don't think our community says that or believes that."
Similarly, she and other prosecutors say, there is also a better public understanding that child sexual abuse crosses all cultural and socio-economic lines. As evidenced by the Sandusky case, it is not a crime perpetrated solely by the poor or the uneducated.
"I've seen both genders. I've seen all races, different income levels, different professions, different family structures," Ms. McCambridge said. "It's not a creepy guy in a trench coat or looking through someone's window. ...You see people that have great families and then there are these accusations. It is very difficult to get your mind around that. You have these people who seem so normal to everyone around them and they are committing these types of crimes."
Ms. McCambridge has been a prosecutor for seven years but did not take over the special victims unit until January. In the months since, she said, she has developed a deeper appreciation of the impact sexual abuse has on the lives of child victims and their families.
"The victims and, really, everyone around them are changed from that point forward," she said. "It's not learning how to get over it as much as learning to live with it."
As a prosecutor, her job is to put the offender away, but the task needs to be accomplished in a way that doesn't make it worse for the child, she said. The court process for an adult who has been sexually victimized can be a nightmare, but "when you are a 5-, 6- or 7-year-old, it's torture."
"Even when the bad guy goes to jail, the turmoil the victim is going through is really only beginning," Ms. McCambridge said. "The awfulness of what one human can do to another is evil, and there is pure evil out there, without a doubt."
Recent Polk child abuse cases concerning advocacy groups
by Cheryl Glassford
POLK COUNTY -- Several shocking child abuse cases in Polk County in recent weeks have some child advocacy groups pushing for more community involvement.
Law enforcement and social service agencies gathered Saturday in Winter Haven for a Crime Prevention expo, and one of the topics was preventing that abuse.
In the past couple of weeks, a Polk County mother has been accused of locking her 4 year old in a kitchen cabinet for hours on end. A Lakeland father is behind bars charged with head-butting his own baby. In Lake Wales, police say a woman chained her child's hands together, and then stabbed him multiple times.
They are the types of crimes that concern Polk County Ad Litem volunteer Christy Ford.
"These children have burdens that are so great," Ford said.
Ford handed out educational information to families during the expo on Polk State College's Winter Haven campus. She said what's happening is alarming.
"The number of children that have entered foster care in Polk County has increase greatly - over 40 percent in the past five years," she said.
She and other social service groups, along with law enforcement at the event, pushed the importance of working together.
"The solutions that we need to seek to our problems are here in the partnerships between our local governments and our citizens," said Winter Haven Police Chief Gary Hester.
To prevent some of the crimes they've been seeing, Chief Hester asked community members to communicate what's going on in their neighborhoods to those who are here to help.
"The resources need to be available for these parents to learn proper coping techniques," said Ford.
Ford said by the time a child needs their agency; many have already been through neglect or abuse. But other organizations in the county can provide parenting tips, for those who might be struggling.
DeSoto center to aid abused children nearing reality
by Henry Bailey
Sunday, September 16, 2012
These are the numbers. These are real children hurting.
Every month in DeSoto County, there are some 100 reports of child abuse and neglect made to the county Department of Children's Services. Just three years ago, the number was about 75 a month.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be a victim of sexual abuse before age 18.
"People's jaws drop when they hear those numbers," says Southaven-based social worker Ashley Schachterle. "After all, this is the place everyone wants to move to. But we're not exempt because we're DeSoto County. As we've grown, this problem has grown, and we as a community have to address it."
She and other advocates are leading the charge for a center here which could provide services within months.
"From my perspective, a child advocacy center is a need, not a want," said state Assistant Dist. Atty. Steve Jubara of the 17th District that includes DeSoto County. "We have sex-crime perpetrators here who are getting away with it because we don't have a child advocacy center."
Nationally, statistics show abuse is the second leading cause of death, behind Infant Sudden Death Syndrome, for children from birth to 5 years. Nearly five children die every day from abuse and neglect. In 2009, 1,770 children died from abuse across the U.S., with 14 of those deaths in Mississippi.
In that same year, child advocacy centers across the country served 254,000 children with therapy and victim assistance, and by 2011 the number had grown to more than 270,000. In Mississippi last year, such centers — called CACs in the social service and law-enforcement communities — saw about 187,000 children.
But no such help was forthcoming in DeSoto County because no such center exists here. Already-traumatized child victims caregivers, prosecutors and others are required to travel to centers in Oxford or Tupelo or elsewhere for forensic interviews and other procedures. Nineteen months ago, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center decided that if funds could be raised and DeSoto County agreed, MACC specialists could provide such services. However, largely owing to budget constraints, no action followed.
Over the past several months, all the pieces have been put in place for a child advocacy center in DeSoto County called Healing Hearts to coordinate care, therapy and investigations for young victims of abuse. All except funding, that is, but fired-up licensed clinical social worker Schachterle and supporters intend to close the gap.
"The community needs to get behind this, to obtain this resource that we need so badly," she said.
"Everything is done — we were certified as a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt nonprofit on Aug. 29; we have a seven-member board, a functioning multidisciplinary team that's been meeting since June; and office space waiting. If I had the money, I could open a CAC tomorrow."
On deck is United Way of the Mid-South, which is seeking to get Healing Hearts on the nonprofit coordinator's regular allocation list, said Fred Ashwill of United Way's DeSoto office.
"This will get them funding each year from our campaign," he said.
Also, Regina Walker, United Way senior vice president for community engagement and alignment, is working to clear the way for a $10,000 multi-disciplinary-team training grant through Merck and United Way board member James Pleiman, an area Merck vice president.Shachterle owns and operates Journey to New Beginnings mental health services at 5627 Getwell Roadin Southaven. The planned center would be housed in her landlord's vacant space next door.
Schachterle has applied for a grant for forensic equipment and other needs through the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Ala., which compiles the abuse statistics she employs. Also ahead are fundraisers. slated for November and December and visits to local government, including the county Board of Supervisors and the cities' aldermen, to give them a progress report, address concerns and ask for support and allocations.
"I'd welcome a center here," said Supervisor Bill Russell of Walls, who added he wants to hear more details on Healing Hearts. "This is a very sensitive area."
He said DeSoto had enjoyed years of service provided by the Memphis CAC, much of it free of charge.
"They were good to us, and we were able to give them some funds for a couple years, but we parted by mutual agreement. Their load was growing and we could see we were becoming a burden to them, and we also wanted to try and keep our expenditures within Mississippi."
Law enforcers, including Sheriff Bill Rasco and state Dist. Atty. John Champion and staff, also endorse a CAC.
"It would be a great asset," Rasco said. "We have more of a need for this than we ever imagined."
For more information on the planned child advocacy center or to make a donation, go online at healingheartscac.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail directly to the Healing Hearts CAC address: 5627 Getwell Road C-2, Southaven, MS 38672. Information also can be obtained by calling 662-470-4789.
From the FBI
Teen Prostitution --
Gang Used Social Media Sites to Identify Potential Victims
It's yet another reason why parents need to keep a close eye on their kids' involvement with social networking websites—during a three-year period ending in March 2012, members of a violent Virginia street gang used some of these websites to recruit vulnerable high-school age girls to work in their prostitution business.
After a multi-agency state and federal investigation, all five defendants pleaded guilty to various federal charges related to the sex trafficking conspiracy. The leader of the gang—27-year-old Justin Strom— was just sentenced on September 14 to 40 years in prison, while the sentences handed down for the other four defendants totaled 53 years.
Protect Your Kids on Social Networking Sites
Talk to your kids about the dangers of being sexually exploited online and offline.
Make sure your kids' privacy settings are high, but also keep in mind that information can inadvertently be leaked by friends and family…so kids should still be careful about posting certain information about themselves—like street address, phone number, Social Security number, etc.
Be aware of who your kids' online friends are, and advise them to accept friend requests only from people they know personally.
Know that teens are not always honest about what they are doing online. Some will let their parents “friend” them, for example, but will then establish another space online that is hidden from their parents.
Teens sometimes employ an “Internet language” to use when parents are nearby. For example:
|- PAW or PRW: Parents are watching
- PIR: Parents in room
- POS: Parent over shoulder
- LMIRL: Let's meet in real life
Strom headed up the Underground Gangster Crips (UGC), a Crips “set” based in Fairfax, Virginia. The Crips originated in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and since then, the gang has splintered into various groups around the country. Law enforcement has seen a number of Crips sets in the U.S. engaging in sex trafficking as a means of making money.
That's certainly what was happening in Virginia. Strom and his UGC associates would troll social networking sites, looking for attractive young girls. After identifying a potential victim, they would contact her online using phony identities...complimenting her on her looks, asking to get to know her better, sometimes offering her the opportunity to make money as a result of her looks.
If the victim expressed interest (and many did, being young and easily flattered by the attention), Strom or one of his associates would ask for her cell phone number to contact her offline and make plans to meet.
After some more flattery about their attractiveness, sometimes hits of illegal drugs and alcohol, and even mandatory sexual “tryouts” with Strom and other gang members, the girls were lured into engaging in commercial sex, often with the help of more senior girls showing them the ropes. The girls might be sent to an apartment complex with instructions to knock on doors looking for potential customers…or driven to hotels for pre-arranged meetings…or taken to Strom's house, where he allowed paying customers to have sex with them.
In addition to using the Internet, Strom and his associates recruited vulnerable young girls from schools and bus and rail stops. He also went online to find customers—postings ads on various websites showing scantily-clad young women.
Some of the juvenile victims were threatened with violence if they didn't perform as directed and many were given drugs or alcohol to keep them sedated and compliant.
Strom and his associates did not discriminate—their victims were from across the socio-economic spectrum and represented different ethnic backgrounds.
The FBI's Washington Field Office worked the investigation alongside the Fairfax County Police Department, with the assistance of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force.
After the group's indictment in March 2012, then-Special Agent in Charge Ronald Hosko of our Washington Field Office reiterated the importance of working with our partners and community groups in combating these types of despicable crimes. He also said, “Trafficking in humans, especially for the purpose of underage prostitution, is among the most insidious of crimes…and the FBI will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to track down those who exploit our children and engage in human trafficking.”
Oakland clinic is serving six times as many sex trafficked minors as in 2009
WestCoast Children's Clinic (WCC) is now three years into C-Change: Transforming the Lives of Sexually Exploited Minors, a program to help change the life trajectory of sexually exploited youth,” Executive Director Stacey Katz , announced. “Unfortunately, demand for our services has dramatically increased in the last three years. We've gone from serving 16 youth per year to over 100. “
Oakland's WCC is a nonprofit children's psychology clinic that has been serving child victims of trauma for over 25 years. It is community-based clinic for the Bay Area , providing evaluation and therapy to children and families, developing foster youth, training psychologists, and conducting research to improve policy and practice.
WCC's most recent research project, entitled “ Research to Action: Sexually Exploited Minors (SEM) Needs and Strengths,” was released in July. The two-year collaborative research project is a detailed assessment of the needs and strengths of sex trafficked minors based on 113 girls and young women between 10 and 24 years old who have been receiving services in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
The average age of the study participants was 16 years and 11 month old, and 80% of them were WCC clients. The study describes the characteristics of the East Bay's portion of the 100,000 American children who are victims of commercial sex trafficking every year, according to a “conservative estimate” from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
WCC has served children as young as 10 years old who have been sold for sex in the Bay Area. Of the 113 who participated in the study, 60% of them were trafficked before the age of 14. Due to their emotional immaturity and other factors such as a desire for positive adult attention, “fewer than half recognize that their pimp or exploiter is not operating in their best interest.”
Yet the study, as part of its attempt to avoid “pathologizing” sexually exploited youth, lists 15 strengths exhibited by 23% to 83% of the participants, including cultural identity, creativity, self-expression, peer relationships, resourcefulness, leadership, and spirituality. The goal of the research is to inform policy and practices so sexually exploited minors can be provided “safe and healthy environments where they can thrive.”
The policy recommendations targeted getting minors out of sex exploitation through coordinated efforts of child welfare, behavioral healthcare, and juvenile justice. “While SEM are often under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system after being arrested for prostitution, the appropriate system to serve them is child welfare,” the study says.
The study reports that most minors trafficked for sex are arrested for prostitution during some point of their exploitation, treating young victims “as criminals under the law.” This criminalization re-victimizes children and youth who have been sold for sex in our communities to predators.
WCC's executive director Katz calls for decriminalizing minor victims and increasing penalties for men who pay to rape them. According to Katz, “As a community, we have to target the ‘demand' side of this problem--the men who purchase sex with our most vulnerable youth as well as helping victims after the fact.
Katz's recommendation is: “California should pass the legislation needed to specifically prohibit buying of sex with a minor, and to classify it as a felony. These men must be held accountable for their criminal activities. Just as buying illicit drugs is illegal, so is buying children for sex. The value of a child's life is priceless; it's not a part of any market in communities that care for their children.”
In this composite case example by Susan Drager, C-Change Program Director, the likelihood of a victim of minor sex trafficking in the East Bay never having an opportunity to “thrive” is very real based on current California law:
“Kari entered our C-Change program two years ago. She was bouncing around in the foster care system, kicked out of home after home nearly weekly due to her aggressive outbursts and frequent episodes of running away. When she came to us, Kari was not in school—she spent those hours forced to sell herself for sex on the streets of Oakland.
Two years later, after working with April, a psychologist at WestCoast, Kari is off the streets. Over these two years, April worked with Kari no matter which of the 13 foster and group homes she was living in, whether located in Oakland or Antioch. They met in locations in which Kari would be comfortable and safe—sometimes at McDonald's or Starbucks.
Over time April earned Kari's trust. April guided her through a psychological discovery process that enabled Kari to identify and articulate her hopes and dreams. She also learned the coping skills necessary to protect herself from predators. Further coaching on how to turn dreams into goals, and to understand the kind of effort and timetable needed to attain them, has helped her escape exploitation.
For example, Kari recently passed her GED exam, and wants to work in the culinary industry. She is excelling in a culinary employment program. A job, a career, a network of friends, a life are now possible.
But Kari could just have easily been charged with prostitution, put in jail, and had a very different future. “
Time to open our eyes to child sex trafficking and put a stop to it
by Beth Kassab
The teen was rail-thin. She looked nervous as she paced along the side of the road. She didn't belong on South Orange Blossom Trail.
Katherine Norfleet looked closer and thought she recognized the teen. She pulled over.
It didn't take long for the 19-year-old to break down. She was going on her 24th hour out on the street. Her pimp kicked her out of her hotel room and told her not to come back until she had the $1,000-a-day quota he demanded.
"She said she didn't want to be out there," Norfleet said. "The child was tired ... she was so lethargic."
Norfleet, who runs a mentoring program for victims of sex trafficking, quickly assessed the teen's reality. She was homeless with nowhere to turn, which is how a man coerced her into prostitution in the first place.
Promises of money. Pledges of love. Then the threats. Intimidation. Abuse. Whatever it took until she turned tricks and gave him the money.
At 19, she was too old for the state's foster-care system.
But Norfleet knew whom to call anyway: Sue Aboul-hosn, a missing-child and human-trafficking specialist with the Department of Children and Families.
Aboul-hosn took her information and made a call to Jesse Maley, a former sex worker who last year opened a safe house in Seminole County for prostitutes who want to get out of what many of them refer to as "the life."
Maley picked the teen up and now is working with her.
"All she had was a little 7-Eleven bag," Maley said. "No toothbrush, no clothes, no anything."
And Maley knew whom to call to help with that: Aboul-hosn again.
"She spent an hour on the phone with me helping me iron out her [food-stamp] benefits," Maley said. "That's not her job."
She's right. But Aboul-hosn has a knack for expanding her job description.
Officially, she helps search for the roughly 50 children missing on any given day from the 16 counties she covers for DCF.
Unofficially, she's the go-to resource for social workers, law enforcement and others trying to get a grip on the atrocity of young girls and boys being trafficked for sex in Central Florida.
Trafficking is still a relatively new term for Florida. It wasn't added to DCF's categories of abuse until 2009.
But it's an old problem. The difference now is that the state recognizes that child prostitutes aren't just young entrepreneurs in the seedy underbelly of this state's glossy, happy-ever-after vacation appeal.
More than not, child prostitutes aren't criminals, but victims under the control of men and even some women who force them into the sex trade through violence or mental abuse.
"Years ago, even myself and probably you, too, if I saw a child on the side of the road, I thought that child just chose the wrong side of the tracks," Aboul-hosn said. "I thought choice. I never thought this child is being controlled. Now we're realizing these kids are being abused, and we weren't really doing much about it."
People such as Aboul-hosn, Maley and Norfleet toil anonymously on what largely remains an anonymous problem in Central Florida.
The girl walking the streets last weekend who today is in a safe house is a perfect example. One call leads to another. And another. Until someone can help.
Most of us don't think of sex trafficking as an everyday crisis for children and teens in Central Florida. It's just not part of the public consciousness, as homelessness or drug addiction are.
For many of us, talking about an 8-year-old forced into prostitution — the youngest Aboul-hosn has seen — is just too gruesome and depraved.
We grimace and look away just as we would before the heroine is bludgeoned in a horror film.
Ads for "escorts" on websites advertise 14-year-olds as 28. Aboul-hosn has learned how to comb the ads and match the photos with runaways.
Some kids are recruited in local high schools, with some girls trained by their pimps on how to lure others into their world.
It's a ghastly sight. But it's time we look this problem in the eye.
More law-enforcement agencies are training their officers on what to watch for.
Last week a man was arrested on sex-trafficking charges in Osceola County, the result of an investigation that began earlier this month during a traffic stop on International Drive.
The Orlando police officer who made the stop had just been trained on signs related to sex trafficking. He noticed a 14-year-old in the car and sensed something wasn't right.
It turned out the girl, a runaway from the foster-care system, was high. She was taken to a hospital and later revealed to investigators that the man she was with took her from Cocoa and was advertising her online as an escort.
Aboul-hosn got that call, too.
"My phone just keeps going," she said.
Thank you, Melinda, for your warm introduction and for inviting me to be part of this important summit today. Melinda and her fellow U.S. Attorneys have shown incredible leadership in recent years by shining the spotlight on bullying and harassment in communities across the nation – from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Lexington, Ky., and Detroit, Mich.
I am so privileged to be here with you at the Bay Area Stop Bullying Summit. Melinda, Annemarie and the many others who helped to bring us together here today recognize that we will need every tool in our arsenal to stop bullying and to restore a sense of dignity and safety in our children's lives. Many of you have been instrumental in efforts to raise awareness about bullying, as well as how to prevent it, how to intervene to stop it, and how to address it once it has occurred. You remind us that bullying is not simply a part of growing up; not a rite of passage that we each must go through. You remind us it's wrong and that we all share in the responsibility to bring it to an end – root and branch. And many of you are helping to give us the tools we'll need, the data we'll reference and the strategies we'll use as we continue to seek to change the climate in our schools and communities and improve the lives of our children.
In recent years, bullying incidents - many with devastatingly tragic consequences – have increasingly weighed on the conscience of our Nation. Nearly one in three middle and high school students report being bullied, and over half of our children report that they witness bullying in school. For Attorney General Eric Holder and those of us at the Justice Department, addressing bullying and harassment is of paramount importance.
Today, we are brought together in a common mission. To keep our children safe. To protect their dignity. To make our schools places of learning and our playgrounds and school hallways, our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, points to connect to, not harm, one another.
We at the Justice Department are here to stand with you - students, parents, community leaders, social media companies and local, state, and federal officials – and partner in this mission. For when I visit communities across the country who are working hard to tackle bullying in schools and violence in their neighborhoods, I have seen time and time again that the most successful efforts are in partnership; they are borne from a willingness to break out of everyday silos to solve problems and achieve synergies that could never be realized while working separately. And when it comes to the safety and well-being of our children, the importance of such partnership to achieve success cannot be understated.
Our common mission comes from common experience. Most of us can remember being bullied, harassed, or teased during our childhood. Those experiences from an early age stay with us. The experiences of our children, nieces, nephews, and godchildren, live with us. And far too often – indeed for a majority of our young people – those childhood experiences include exposure to some form of violence, crime, or abuse – from a brief encounter as a witness to being directly attacked.
We know that some of the violence that our children endure is linked to bullying. The research suggests that those who bully are more likely to grow up and abuse their partners, spouses or children. So when we talk about effectively protecting our children from violence in the home, at school or on the streets, we must talk about strategies to prevent and eradicate bullying . Indeed, when we think of how we might prevent the tragedy that occurred at the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis., we must look to the harassment endured by Sikh-American children in schools. Here in the Bay area, according to a 2010 survey, three quarters of Sikh-American boys reported that they were harassed at school.
Our common mission to stop bullying must start in our schools. It is in our schools that our children learn to live, play and work together. It is in our schools that fear and intolerance can take root; and it is in our schools that respect and compassion can be nurtured.
Yet our common mission must not end in our schools. Because as research and experience tells us, the impact of bullying – and far too often the bullying itself - extends far beyond the schoolhouse doors.
When students who have been bullied are too afraid or traumatized to attend school, they become more likely to drop out or suffer drops in grades and test scores, and bullying becomes an even bigger education challenge.
And when children who have been bullied suffer from anxiety or depression – or like 13 Asian American students at a South Philadelphia high school who were sent to the emergency room after being physically assaulted in December 2009 – bullying becomes a health care challenge.
And when students who have been bullied are not able to fully engage in or complete school, and can't find jobs because they don't have the skills employers need, bullying becomes a business challenge.
And when those who bully come into contact with the criminal justice system as convicted defendants, as the research suggests they are more likely to do, bullying becomes a law enforcement challenge.
So in addition to doing what we each can to support our children at our kitchen tables, our community centers, and our places of worship, we at the Justice Department have been actively engaged to prevent and address bullying and harassment in schools.
Together with my colleague at the Department of Education, Russlynn Ali, we in the Civil Rights Division have actively enforced this nation's civil rights laws to prevent and address harassment in schools.
We are working to amend school policies and provide training to teachers and administrators on how to rid schools of harassment and promote positive school climates in school districts across the country. This includes efforts in Tehachapi, Calif., where 13-year-old Seth Walsh took his own life after suffering verbal, physical and sexual harassment in school for over two years. And it includes our work in Anoka-Hennepin, Minn., where the school district failed to adequately address and remedy a negative climate for gender nonconforming students in its schools. Students in Anoka-Hennepin were afraid to go to school because they were repeatedly harassed with threats, physical violence, and derogatory language. As a result, some stopped attending school for periods of time, dropped out, and even contemplated or attempted suicide.
For students in Tehachapi and Anoka, and other students like them, we have responded to harassment and negative school climates not just with shock and outrage – but with resolve. Our nation's civil rights laws protect young people who are targeted just because they're perceived as “different” and require that we ensure that students can have trust in their schools and communities to address bigotry before it becomes fuel for violence. At the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, we have made enforcing those laws a first priority.
In addition to our enforcement work, Attorney General Holder launched the Defending Childhood Initiative, which aims to address violence that kids and youth experience in the home, on the streets, in school or online. The Defending Childhood Initiative seeks to raise the nation's awareness about the real costs that violence and witnessing violence has in communities, and to promote evidence-based practices to help intervene with kids early.
Part of this effort is a demonstration initiative which provided grants to eight jurisdictions aimed at developing strategic plans for comprehensive, community-based anti-violence efforts, including anti-bullying programs. In Boston, Massachusetts, for example, we're supporting work to implement state-wide school bullying intervention and prevention legislation. In Grand Forks, North Dakota, we're funding efforts to expand restorative justice services for youth involved with bullying. And in Portland, Maine, we're helping to train teachers and other school staff in bullying prevention strategies.
Bullying prevention is also an important issue for the Obama Administration. In March of last year, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and other federal partners welcomed students, parents, and teachers in addition to non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers to the White House for a Conference on Bullying Prevention. Also, earlier this year, the White House announced its support for both the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. These bills will help ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.
Now, notwithstanding these efforts and all of the other progress we've made to elevate bullying prevention as an issue of national priority, our work is far from over. We must all continue to stand up, to speak out, and to act in ways both big and small – public and private – to reinforce the message that bullying knows no proper place.
Thanks to the efforts of this administration, and many of you, the chorus is growing stronger across the country. Yesterday, as part of this summit, 3,000 San Francisco public school students screened the film “Bully” and became part of the Million Kids Campaign. That campaign, born out of the strength of a few families and students in the film –the Smalleys, the Longs, Alex, Kirby; the courage of school districts willing to learn and reflect; and the vision of filmmaker Lee Hirsch is being brought to communities across the country in partnership with U.S. Attorney's offices, school districts, teachers' unions, big city and small town mayors. It is an example of the work that we can do together.
We must continue our work because t oday, somewhere, there's a child who will feel the sting of a punch because the clothes he's wearing aren't cool; who will believe her difference is a detriment as she eats alone in a crowded school cafeteria; who will skip school to avoid a terrifying confrontation; or will contemplate suicide because nothing seems like it can hurt more than the humiliation she feels right now.
And for each one of those kids – children we know, children we love, children who more than a few of us here were at one time – for each of them we can't afford to be bystanders. And because of summits like this and commitment like yours, I'm confident that we won't. Together, we can create atmospheres of tolerance, climates of trust, environments both virtual and real where people young and old can feel welcome to be who they truly are.
Thank you for everything you do on behalf of young people here in the Bay Area and across the nation.
Boy Scouts helped alleged molesters cover tracks, files show
When volunteers and employees were suspected of sexually abusing children, Boy Scout officials often didn't tell police, files from 1970-91 reveal. In many cases they sought to hide the situation. By Kim Christensen and Jason Felch Over two decades, the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.
A Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 has found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.
Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, "chronic brain dysfunction" and duties at a Shakespeare festival.
The details are contained in the organization's confidential "perversion files," a blacklist of alleged molesters, that the Scouts have used internally since 1919. Scouts' lawyers around the country have been fighting in court to keep the files from public view.
As The Times reported in August, the blacklist often didn't work:
Men expelled for alleged abuses slipped back into the program, only to be accused of molesting again. Now, a more extensive review has shown that Scouts sometimes abetted molesters by keeping allegations under wraps.
In the majority of cases, the Scouts learned of alleged abuse after it had been reported to authorities. But in more than 500 instances, the Scouts learned about it from boys, parents, staff members or anonymous tips.
In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.
In 1982, a Michigan Boy Scout camp director who learned of allegations of repeated abuse by a staff member told police he didn't promptly report them because his bosses wanted to protect the reputation of the Scouts and the accused staff member.
"He stated that he had been advised by his supervisors and legal counsel that he should neutralize the situation and keep it quiet," according to a police report in the file.
That same year, the director of a Boy Scout camp in Virginia wrote to the Scouts' top lawyer, asking for help dealing with a veteran employee suspected of a "lifelong pattern" of abuse that had not been reported to police.
"When a problem has surfaced, he has been asked to leave a position 'of his own free will' rather than risk further investigation," the director wrote. "The time has come for someone to make a stand and prevent further occurrences."
There is no indication the Scouts took the matter to law enforcement.
In 1976, five Boy Scouts wrote detailed complaints accusing a Pennsylvania scoutmaster of two rapes and other sex crimes, according to his file. He abruptly resigned in writing, saying he had to travel more for work.
"Good luck to you in your new position," a top troop representative wrote back. He said he was accepting the resignation "with extreme regret."
Scouting officials declined to be interviewed for this article. In a prepared statement, spokesman Deron Smith said, "We have always cooperated fully with any request from law enforcement and today require our members to report even suspicion of abuse directly to their local authorities."
The organization instituted that requirement in 2010. Before then, the policy was to obey state laws, which didn't always require youth groups to report abuse.
In some instances, however, the Scouts may have violated those state laws. Since the early 1970s, for example, New Jersey has required anyone who suspects child abuse to report it. In several cases there, the Scouts received firsthand reports of alleged abuse, but nothing in the files indicates they informed authorities.
In the 1970s and '80s, secrecy was embedded in the Scouts' policies and procedures for handling child sexual abuse.
A cover sheet that accompanied many confidential files included a check box labeled "Internal (only scouts know)" as an option for how cases were resolved. A form letter sent to leaders being dismissed over abuse allegations stated: "We are making no accusations and will not release this information to anyone, so our action in no way will affect your standing in the community."
That letter was included in the organization's 1972 policy on how to remove unfit leaders, which, according to an attached memo, was kept confidential "because of misunderstandings which could develop if it were widely distributed."
The files at times provide an incomplete account of how abuse allegations were resolved. In his statement, the Scouting spokesman said, "In many instances, basic details are missing as they were not relevant to the BSA's sole reason for keeping files, which was to help identify and keep a list of individuals deemed to be unfit for membership in Scouting."
Still, they reveal a culture in which even known molesters were shown extraordinary deference.
In a 1987 case in Washington state, a district executive wrote to the national office complaining that his boss had refused to put a former scoutmaster on the blacklist, despite a molestation conviction, "because he has done so much for camp and is a nice guy."
He had handed a newspaper clipping of the conviction to his boss, who "crumpled it up, said he saw it already, and then said, 'Why don't you just put it up on a billboard for everyone to see?'" the executive wrote. "Since that time, nothing has been done."
A Maryland leader, who in 1990 "readily agreed" that abuse allegations against him were true, was given six weeks to resign and told he could give "his associates whatever reason that he chose," his file shows.
"This gave him an opportunity to withdraw from Scouting in a graceful manner to be determined by him," an official wrote. "We also reminded [him] that he had agreed to keep the whole matter confidential and we would not talk to anyone in order to give [him] complete ability to voluntarily withdraw."
In many cases, Scouting officials said they were keeping allegations quiet as a way of sparing young victims embarrassment.
The result was that some alleged molesters went on to abuse other children, according to the Scouts' documents and court records.
With 50 years in Scouting, Arthur W. Humphries appeared to be a model leader, winning two presidential citations and the Scouts' top award for distinguished service — the Silver Beaver — for his work with disabled boys in Chesapeake, Va.
Unknown to most in town, he also was a serial child molester.
A few months after Humphries' arrest in 1984, local Scouting official Jack Terwilliger told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that no one at the local Scout council had had suspicions about Humphries.
But that was not true. Records in Humphries' file show that six years earlier, Terwilliger had ordered officials to interview a Scout who gave a detailed account of Humphries' repeated acts of oral sex on him.
"He then told me to do the same and I did," the 12-year-old boy said in a sworn statement in 1978.
Officials not only failed to report Humphries' alleged crime to police, records show — they also gave him a strong job reference two years later, when he applied for a post at a national Scouting event.
"I believe the attached letters of recommendation and the newspaper write-up will give you a well rounded picture of Art," Terwilliger wrote. "If selected, I am sure that he would add much to the handicapped awareness trail at the 1981 Jamboree."
Humphries continued to work with Scouts and molested at least five more boys before police, acting on a tip, stopped him in 1984. He was convicted of abusing 20 Boy Scouts, some as young as 8, and was sentenced to 151 years in prison.
By then, one of the Scouts he'd abused a decade earlier had become his accomplice. He was convicted of molesting many of the same boys at Humphries' house.
Humphries and Terwilliger are both deceased.
The Boy Scouts' lawyers have long contended that keeping such files confidential is key to protecting the privacy of victims, of those who report sexual abuse and of anyone falsely accused. But over the years, hundreds of the files have been admitted into evidence — usually under seal — in lawsuits brought by alleged victims. The Times reviewed 1,600 of the nearly 1,900 files that came to light as a result of a 1992 court case.
Hundreds more will soon become widely available. In June, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of 1,247 of the Scouts' confidential files covering two decades beginning in 1965. The files were submitted in a 2010 lawsuit that resulted in a nearly $20-million judgment against the Scouts.
The release of the files, many of which were included in The Times' review, raises the prospect of a costly wave of litigation for the Boy Scouts. In many states, however, statutes of limitation will curb victims' ability to sue.
The Boy Scouts of America generally has responded to allegations of past abuse by emphasizing its increased efforts to protect children in recent decades.
In the 1990s, for instance, it mandated background checks of staffers and in 2008 extended that requirement to all volunteers. The organization also has stepped up child abuse prevention training. The effect of those policies is hard to gauge because the Scouts have neither released nor analyzed more recent files.
Regardless, the Scouts have taken no steps to account for unreported crimes years ago. In some of those cases, not even parents of abuse victims were told what happened.
At a Rhode Island Boy Scout camp in 1971, a scoutmaster discovered a 12-year-old boy performing oral sex on an assistant troop leader, William Lazzareschi, behind a tent.
"Mr. Lazzareschi made me do it to him," the young Scout told officials, according to the file.
Lazzareschi "admitted his role in the act" and said he'd never done it before, the file states. He was expelled from Scouting and told to stay away from the boy. Nothing in the file indicates the Scouts called police.
The records do show that the boy was counseled "with positive results" by the Rev. Edmond C. Micarelli, the camp's Catholic chaplain.
"Upon Father Micarelli's recommendation, the parents were not notified," a report states.
Micarelli's reasoning was not explained. But in 1990, he also wound up on the blacklist after a man told a Scouting official that the priest had raped him and his younger brother as boys. In 2002, the Diocese of Providence paid $13.5 million to 36 victims who sued Micarelli and 10 other priests, alleging sex abuse dating to at least 1975.
Lazzareschi was convicted of sexual assault in 1997 and possession of child pornography in 2005, but he is no longer in prison, state records show. Neither he nor Micarelli, who retired to Florida more than 20 years ago, could be reached for comment.
The Scouts sometimes had help in keeping abuse out of the public eye.
When a Los Angeles Scout leader was caught by police with hundreds of photos of naked Scouts in 1984 — many showing him giving enemas to boys — Scouting officials worked closely with police and the county children services department to keep the case from becoming public and embarrassing the Scouts.
A summary of a meeting between Scouting officials and local agencies contained this conclusion: "We recognize that this unfortunate situation was no reflection on the Boy Scouts of America whose integrity and reputation must be maintained."
In July 1987, a top official at Boy Scouts headquarters sent an internal "news advisory" to national leaders about allegations against a high-ranking Scout council leader in Milwaukee.
"Dr. Thomas Kowalski, chairman of health and safety for the Milwaukee County Council, one of the most prominent physicians in the state and one of the authors of the Wisconsin laws on child abuse, has been removed from his BSA volunteer position(s) following allegations that he made sexual advances to two 16-year-old youths at the council's summer long-term camp," the advisory read.
Kowalski admitted masturbating while fondling the two boys. Wisconsin Scouting officials reported the incidents to police, as required by state law, but the parents chose not to press charges, the file says.
The Scouts then turned to a well-connected board member to keep the matter out of the news media — an unnamed publisher of local newspapers.
The publisher "is aware of the situation but apparently will not be passing the information to his editors," the Scouting official wrote.
The case was not reported in the press, and Kowalski continued to work with children for the next 14 years, until he retired from his medical practice in 2001.
In an interview, Kowalski, now 75 and living in Milwaukee, said that he had received psychiatric counseling for years and had never re-offended.
"The topic has not come up until your phone call today," he said. "Had that been publicized, I would have been out of business, reputation destroyed, and I don't know how I would have faced people at church."
Sexual-assault awareness campaign emerges in Steubenville after football players accused of rape
(2 Radio podcasts on site)
by Rachel Dissell, The Plain Dealer
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Nearly a month after the arrest of two Steubenville High School football standouts on charges of rape and kidnapping divided this Ohio River Valley town , there's been a swell of public support for the West Virginia teen who reported the assault -- and for a second girl who has since reported an earlier assault which also involved student athletes.
But as the legal cases against the two 16-year-old football players continue through the justice system, many in the town are still struggle with where their loyalties belong.
And the case has placed importance on a wider discussion that could include the Ohio High School Athletic Association , about educating coaches and athletes on the issues of consent for sex and social media use.
Friday, a visiting judge ordered that the two teens remain in a local detention center because of the seriousness of the charges they face. Their attorneys had asked for their release.
A hearing on the evidence in the case had been scheduled for Friday and the courtroom was packed with people supporting the football players, including a wresting coach, according to local television reporter Natalie Herbick, who was Tweeting from the courtroom. Football Coach Reno Saccoccia was at the courthouse. Saccoccia also later spoke to Herbick.
The hearing was delayed after special prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General's office asked for more time, saying that they need more time to review and analyze an enormous amount of evidence that has been recovered, including cell phone data.
However, they told the judge that they have witness statements and other physical evidence that will be presented as part of their case.
In the week leading up to the hearing, sexual assault advocates and members of the community prepared ribbons to pass out at Friday's football game to show support for the girls who reported the rapes. Although, organizers were told they may not be permitted to pass them out.
They also sent out Tweets with the hashtag #SupportOhioSurvivors or attached virtual "Twibbons" to photos on Facebook or Twitter in the color teal, which represents sexual assault awareness.
Those same social media platforms were partially responsible for the surge of attention given to the initial report of rape on Aug. 14 by the parents of the 16-year-old high schooler.
Police said the teen was raped and driven around, possibly drugged and photographed nude.
Dozens of students and recent graduates posted photos, videos and had online conversations related to the reported attack for more than a week before the two arrests were made.
Investigators are still downloading and poring through images from confiscated telephones, that were so numerous that they were downloaded onto hard drives.
They continue to interview witnesses, some who are reluctant to be involved, Police Chief William McCafferty said.
Those searching the Internet after the rape allegations surfaced in August also unearthed a months-old conversation among Steubenville baseball players and wrestlers about a possible April attack involving a 14-year-old student.
After those conversations were revealed, the girl came forward with her mother to make a report.
That case, along with the August case, are being handled by the Ohio Attorney General's office because of conflicts of interest for the local prosecutor, whose son is also on the football and wrestling teams.
The statewide Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence sent out an email last week urging people to support the two Steubenville girls and victims of other recently reported cases around the state.
"Dialogue about these two recent reported sex crimes underscore that we live in a culture that continues to blame the victim if she was drinking. . .Yet, none of that matters. She matters. No one deserves to be raped and it's never the victim's fault," the email, sent out by statewide director Katie Hanna said.
Yet that issue continues to be debated in the Steubenville area, particularly by hugely popular morning radio host David Bloomquist, known as "Bloomdaddy."
On one recent program he said : "These girls at these parties, sometimes they drink a little bit too much, sometimes they get a little promiscuous, all of the sudden they're being called, you know, a whore, what have you, and it's really easy to say that you were taken advantage of rather than own up to the fact that 'Hey look, I did what I did.'"
Bloomquist then went on to say that he thinks the report by the 14-year-old was "she said - he said" and was likely consensual.
"I guess the best way to sum up what I'm saying is this: It's easier to tell your parents you were raped then, 'Hey mom or dad, I got drunk and decided to let three guys have their way with me.' "
Bloomquist told The Plain Dealer this week that his roll as a host is to talk about both sides of the issue and provoke conversation.
"I'm not pointing a finger at the girls," he explained. "I am trying to tell the story from all angles."
"Who's to put the blame on the boys until they are found guilty?" he said. "Rape is a heavy word. ... Rape to me is forced. Rape to me is taking advantage of someone when they have no idea what's going on."
Comments like Bloomquist's perpetuate dangerously false myths about rape, Hanna said. In Ohio, she said, an intoxicated person cannot legally give consent for sex.
"Going to a party, drinking and flirting are just that. But when someone else crosses the line and commits a crime, we have to keep the focus on the offender and the bystanders and stop blaming victims," she said.
Karen Tronsgard-Scott, former executive Director of Tri-County Help Center in St. Clairsville, south of Steubenville, said in the Ohio Valley and other places where high school sports and, football in particular, is used to express civic pride and identity -- there needs to be balance between teaching children about life through sports, supporting community pride, and entertaining an audience.
"The adults involved can promote a sense of privilege for high school athletes, which is out of proportion with the reality of high school sports. In these cases, student athletes are idolized by coaches, faculty and parents," she said.
And in rare cases, she said, student athletes perpetrate heinous, inexcusable acts.
"When this happens, it is a failing of the school and community and the adults involved, and it is incumbent on those adults to take the hard steps necessary to hold perpetrators accountable and to examine and change the institutional behavior that created the conditions that made those acts possible."
Tim Stried, director of information services for the Ohio High School Athletic Association, said that they are monitoring the situation in Steubenville and when the case is over it will consider whether to urge player education about sexual assault. He also said the use of social media by students and coaches has been addressed.
But another former Steubenville student, who is now in college, said it was the preference the community gave to athletes that kept her from making a formal report when she said her ex-boyfriend – a Big Red football player – sexually assaulted her several years ago.
"Everybody knew what happened to me, adults knew, kids knew," she said. "They just closed their eyes and acted like it never happened. I felt alone. I just wanted one person to say this was wrong."
She said the community became the focus of reports about the August incident because of the way people reacted.
"What these boys did is wrong," she said. "These boys were already making a reflection on Big Red football with their actions but people standing up for them, that's why it's become about Steubenville. The rest of the football players should stand up against those boys."
The student contacted The Plain Dealer after reports of how those in the community were defending the athletes at the expense of the victims.
She said she was not interested in revisiting her ordeal, but said she felt the young women who have come forward are brave.
"I'm sure I'm not the only victim or survivor," she said. "In a way, they are standing up for everyone who couldn't do it for themselves."
After being interviewed by The Plain Dealer David Bloomquist did another show pertaining to the Steubenville cases where he criticized the paper and the reporter.
Child Abuse Violence
by Sarahbeth Ackerman
Children are aware of violence, even at a young age.
"Children will know that the abuse is going on at home even if parents think they are sleeping, I bet they are sleeping with one eye open," says Children Coordinator,Ashley Counts.
Domestic violence is a serious issue and it is on the rise in Minot.
"The population is rising and with that comes more people and when there`s more people, there`s more violence, absolutely we can say their numbers have been a lot higher this year," says Counts.
There is a link between domestic violence and child abuse and sometimes the children experience the violence first hand, while other are just witnesses.
"If they are living in a violate home we certainly don`t want the children to be abused or even if it`s not intentional," says Counts.
The program helps the children set up a safety plan, where they can teach the child about a safe place to go or who to call when violence occurs.
"Domestic violence is a cycle, so, children grow up seeing this kind of behavior they may end up forming relationships that are just as abusive when they begin dating so we want to kinda stop that cycle," says Counts.
While child abuse continues..we only hope that parents utilize programs like the crisis center to help their children work through the violence.
Counts says if the child is under the age of eighteen, they will need a `"permission to treat" form before coming to the center on a regular basis.
Stratford child abuse program widens aid
CARES Institute goes worldwide
by Bob Holt
The Child Abuse Research Education and Service Institute, or CARES, in Stratford, has been helping children from the South Jersey area recover from sexual abuse, neglect and violence for more than 25 years, but its reach is worldwide.
Dr. Martin A. Finkel, the founder and director of the CARES Institute, said work done at CARES has both a national and international footprint. He traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, in late August to speak at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Congress and is on the ISPCAN board of directors.
Finkel says the number of abused children that CARES sees rises every year. “Last year we evaluated approximately 1,387 children for child abuse and neglect, and we saw 574 children for foster care and gave comprehensive medical health evaluations.”
CARES' main services are medical and mental health treatment, and psychiatric and evaluative services, work he has done for more than 30 years.
“We called CARES the Center for Children's Support at first, but we changed the name when we expanded the scope of what we were doing to have a much stronger link with the state child protective services,” said Finkel. “As a formal team and center, we've been here 25 years.”
Finkel's co-director of CARES Institute is Esther Deblinger, an international expert on post-traumatic stress disorder who has co-authored numerous scientific articles and co-authored four books.
Deblinger's treatment model, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for sexually abused children, has been adopted in more than 90 countries. More than 100,000 clinicians have taken introductory training to learn its use.
Deblinger has received funding and worked for several years providing mental health services and training professionals in Mississippi, New Orleans, and Louisiana for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “About a year after Katrina hit, they called and said there are a lot of kids that don't want to go back to school,” she siad.
A delegation of Japanese officials visited Deblinger so that she could help them address the trauma of the 2011 tsunami. “Now there are quite a few projects going on in Japan where they're disseminating training and education for children who have been affected by the tsunami, and for those who have been victims of abuse,” Deblinger said.
“A few years ago, I had a whole delegation of Chinese professionals come here to learn about how we address child abuse and neglect,” Finkel said.
Earlier this year Finkel, a pediatrician, received the 2012 Ray E. Helfer Award, which is given every year to a physician for outstanding contributions to child abuse pediatrics.
“It's been a very rewarding career, that's for sure,” said Finkel.
Deblinger explains that feeling negative emotions at the time of a trauma is normal. “When people develop PTSD, those negative emotions are also often connected with things that are present at the time, and they often continue to have intense negative feelings when they are reminded of the trauma.”
Those feelings are triggered by many components. “Out of the blue, you're angry or you're sad, and you don't know why,” she said.
CARES Institute patients usually have eight to 20 therapy sessions. “We have kids write about it, so they get increasingly comfortable with their memories,” said Deblinger. “Sometimes kids get to where they feel mastery over them, and feelings are on the side of pride or courage.”
CARES looks to get the parents involved and to help the family communicate more openly.
“Our hope is that by actively involving their parents, we have an opportunity for continued healing,” Deblinger said. “Their last session here is not necessarily the end.”
Deblinger said any child can be sexually abused. “We have to anticipate that any group may be vulnerable. There's a lot of shame associated with sexual abuse, and that's one of the reasons they don't tell (anyone about the abuse).”
Deblinger is looking forward to being part of Rowan University as the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine merges with the Glassboro school.
“There are opportunities to educate young people about the kinds of abuses that we see. This is, unfortunately, a public health epidemic.
“Children are incredibly resilient, and able to bounce back. They are often able to gain strength, and families grow closer and stronger.
“That's our hope.”
Child services agency starts reviewing public data
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Department of Child Services is drawing fire for its decision to screen all information that it releases to the public, including news releases and external emails.
The agency has been stung in recent months by media reports and criticism of its handling of child abuse cases. On Tuesday, DCS Director James Payne announced in a memo issued that no information was to be released from the agency without first being reviewed by a committee.
"Recently, we've encountered some problems with multiple people releasing information from various sources," said the memo, which an agency spokeswoman released to The Associated Press on Friday. "Sometimes this information gets misinterpreted" and results in inconsistent reports, the memo said.
The policy applies to all data, including financial and staffing information, data used in PowerPoint presentations, external emails, verbal or written communications, community presentations and press releases, according to the memo.
"This is essentially a review process that many organizations use," agency spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland told the AP on Friday. "They're making sure this data has a proper review from people who work with that data every day."
Democratic state Sen. Vi Simpson said she had not heard of other departments using such a review process.
McFarland said the review policy is aimed at accuracy, but Simpson called it disturbing.
Simpson, who is running for lieutenant governor, said it sounds like Payne is trying to withhold information because of dissatisfaction with recent reports of the department's handling of cases.
"This department was created to protect children, not to protect the director of the department," Simpson told Indianapolis television station WRTV-TV. "It sounds like he is dissatisfied with the reports of the department's outcomes so he's trying to withhold information from the public."
The South Bend Tribune was among the newspapers reporting on the agency. DCS in March lost its court fight against the newspaper to keep details of a May 2011 call to the state's child abuse hotline secret. The call detailed abuse in a South Bend home where 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis was beaten to death last November.
Concern about the agency's statewide child abuse hotline and how it screens and responds to reports of child abuse have grown as child deaths around Indiana have been investigated by local media outlets. A special legislative committee has been reviewing the agency.
Public Access Counselor Joseph Hoage said the change is legal under Indiana public records laws, but he was concerned about potential delays.
"The committee should be mindful of the time limits in responding to a request for records ... and in providing all records within a reasonable period of time," Hoage told WRTV.
McFarland told the station in an email that the policy wouldn't add time to responses for public information and might actually reduce it.
Man claims he was sexually abused as a child by Warren County Sheriff's Department employee
by Phillip Molnar
A 35-year-old man claims he was sexually abused as a boy by a former employee in the Warren County Sheriff's Department and that county officials covered it up, according to a tort claim filed with the county this week.
The employee and the victim are not named -- as per state law -- in the legal notice sent to county administrators by Phillipsburg attorney Brad M. Russo.
The attorney said his client decided to come forward now because of recent media reports of child sexual abuse. Russo would not be more specific.
County spokesman Art Charlton said county officials would not comment on potential litigation.
The alleged victim, identified only as "W.M", claimed that as a 10-year-old boy he was repeatedly abused, and raped at least once, by the county employee "in or about the winter of 1987 and/or 1988."
W.M. had been abandoned by his father and his mother had an alcohol addiction, the claim says.
At one point, W.M. was being transported from the Hackettstown Police Department to a county-run youth homeless shelter in Oxford Township when the employee volunteered to drive him, the claim says.
The legal notice says the employee, during work hours and in a county-owned vehicle, engaged in several "egregious acts of sexual abuse."
W.M. was commanded by the employee not to speak of the incident and the employee told the boy he would "take care of him," the claim says.
Two days later, the claim says, W.M. told a county shelter employee what had happened. The shelter employee then punched him in the stomach, called him a homosexual epithet and demanded he never "say anything like that again," according to the claim.
The claim says the county sheriff's department was aware of the "sexual pedophiliac tendencies" of its employee and the county shelter, which has since closed, failed to report the incident or take other proper actions.
Russo wrote in the claim that the alleged victim had suffered "lifelong psychological trauma" and asks the county for punitive and compensatory damages. No dollar amount was given.
Russo said the legal notice -- tort claims generally are filed leading up to a civil lawsuit -- was about more than just the alleged abuser.
"This case involves the destruction of the innocence of a child in a horrific way," he said, "and the deliberate suppression by those who were in a position to protect him."
It is unclear if the tort claim is related to a controversy in which the sheriff's office was embroiled regarding former Sheriff Edward G. Bullock, now 83, around roughly the same time as W.M.'s allegations.
Bullock, who served as sheriff from 1982 to 1992, said in a Thursday interview by phone the tort claim did not refer to him.
When asked if he knew of sexual abuse of minors taking place while he was sheriff, Bullock said, "No, I don't recall."
Bullock resigned in 1992 after he admitted in court he tried to curry sexual favors from a state trooper posing as a teenage boy in a sting operation.
Unsubstantiated complaints against him to the prosecutor's office went back to 1986, according to two former investigators with the prosecutor's office cited in a May 1993 article in The Express-Times.
In a 1991 confession, Bullock admitted he used his authority over boys at Warren Acres, the county's youth detention center, to cultivate future sex partners, according to state police reports.
He pleaded guilty to sex-related official misconduct in 1992 after he struck a deal with the New Jersey Attorney General's Office for a lighter sentence. He served nine months in the Hunterdon County jail.
Bullock told state investigators he had sexual contact with eight juvenile boys he met at Warren Acres but was never charged with any wrongdoing related to it.
Then-state police Maj. Patrick Vona told The Express-Times in May 1993 that Bullock could not be charged under state law because the boys had already left Warren Acres and were 16 or older, the state's age of consent.
Bullock now lives in Ocean County, N.J. He receives $19,023 a year as part of the state Public Employee Retirement System, according to public records.
Statute of limitations
New Jersey has no statute of limitations for criminal sexual assault of victims less than 13 years old. But, a civil complaint is more ambiguous.
According to the state Child Sexual Abuse Act, a complaint must come two years after a victim makes a "reasonable discovery of the injury and its causal relationship to the act of sexual abuse."
A bill introduced by state Sens. Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union, would eliminate the two-year rule and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Vitale said in a statement a statute of limitations made sense in some civil cases but sexual abuse is different.
"When it comes to the difficulty that victims endure to speak out about and seek justice for sexual abuse," he said, "they should be given a little more leeway."
Seattle minister, former foster parent pleads guilty to child rape
SEATTLE -- A minister and former foster parent accused of sexually abusing at least 10 young boys pleaded guilty Thursday to a number of charges, including child rape.
Timothy L. Dampier, 39, pleaded guilty to a total of 22 counts involving ten victims between the ages of nine and 17 years old, according to prosecutors.
Dampier had been involved in a number of Seattle-area youth programs at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, New Hope Baptist Church, Ruth Dykeman Children's Center, Ruther Child Center, Samuel House, Union Gospel Mission and Seattle Parks and Recreation. He also works as a minister at several Seattle churches, detectives said.
The allegations of abuse came to light after Dampier was hired as a musician at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in the city's Central District in April 2011. Prosecutors say he committed the crimes between 1997 and 2011.
Detectives said Dampier had been investigated for inappropriate sexual contact with children at least four different times in the past, but because witnesses did not wish to cooperate with investigators, he was never charged.
Dampier initially denied the charges, but on Thursday he pleaded guilty to first and second degree rape of a child. He also pleaded guilty to first, second, and third degree child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor, possession of child pornography and communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 22 years in prison when Dampier is sentenced on October 12.
Terry Williams Execution: Man Who Killed Alleged Sexual Abuser Scheduled To Die Next Month
A Philadelphia judge on Friday granted a condemned man a rare hearing to weigh whether prosecutors failed to disclose key evidence indicating the true motive behind a grisly killing nearly 30 years ago.
The ruling is a major break for Terry Williams, 46, slated to be the first prisoner in more than 50 years to be executed in Pennsylvania while still appealing his sentence. Attorneys for Williams say his life should be spared due to his traumatic and violent childhood, and the fact that he was sentenced to die for killing a man who sexually abused him and other teenage boys.
Judge Teresa Sarmina, of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, did not stay Williams' execution, which is scheduled for Oct. 3, but allowed a hearing next Thursday that opens the door to that possibility. His attorneys want Williams' sentence reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Williams was sentenced to die for murdering Amos Norwood, 56, a chemist and church volunteer, whose body was found stabbed, bludgeoned and partially burned in a Philadelphia cemetery in June 1984. Police traced Norwood's stolen credit card to Williams and Marc Draper, a childhood friend who pleaded guilty to murder and implicated Williams in the crime.
His arrest and trial shocked the city. A college freshman, Williams was the star quarterback of his championship high school football team, and a popular and academically gifted student.
Prosecutors argued at trial that the murder was a robbery that went wrong. Williams' attorneys now say the killing was motivated by rage Williams felt toward Norwood, who Williams said started paying him for sex when he was 13.
But jurors never heard Williams' claims that he and Norwood were involved sexually, or that Norwood was implicated in the sexual abuse of underage teenage boys in his church congregation. The jury also did not hear Williams' claims that he had been sexually victimized by neighborhood men and older teens from early childhood through adolescence. Williams was three months past his 18th birthday -- the legal cutoff for execution in the U.S. -- when Norwood was killed.
After his arrest in the Norwood murder, Williams was charged and convicted of third-degree murder for the savage stabbing death of another man, later identified as a prolific abuser of teens. The man's body was found in room scattered with dozens of Polaroid photographs of nude teenage boys.
State and federal appellate courts found that Williams' attorney in the Norwood case was negligent in not presenting evidence of abuse at trial, but rejected his appeal anyway, ruling that the negligence did not materially impact the jury's verdict.
Mamie Norwood, the victim's widow, has pleaded for clemency for Williams, but Philadelphia prosecutors are pushing hard for his execution, recently filing a 107-page brief opposing defense motions for a stay.
The approaching execution has touched a nerve in Pennsylvania, where several high-profile child sex abuse trials this year have forced widespread soul-searching over the failure by church leaders and educators to root out and report sexual predators in their ranks.
"If any state should know what sexual trauma does to somebody, it's Pennsylvania," said Marc Bookman, executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, an anti-death penalty group. "And this is the person that gets executed?"
In July, a senior priest with the Catholic Church's Archdiocese of Philadelphia was sentenced to three to six years in state prison after being convicted of allowing a priest known to him as a sexual predator to maintain extensive contact with children. Judge Sarmina, who ordered the new hearing for Williams, oversaw the trial.
In June, Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach at Penn State University, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse over 15 years. Testimony at Sandusky's trial established that top university officials were repeatedly told of the abuse but did not report it to police.
Next week's hearing will feature testimony from Draper, who pleaded guilty to acting as Williams' accomplice in the murder of Norwood and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Andrea Foulkes, the Philadelphia assistant district attorney who prosecuted Williams and Draper, also was called to testify.
In sworn declarations to Williams' defense team, Draper described the events of Norwood's murder and said that Philadelphia prosecutors told him not to discuss sexual involvement between Williams and the older man.
According to his declarations, the night of the killing, Draper and Williams were hanging out on a street corner when they were approached by Norwood in his car. Norwood picked up the two boys and drove to a nearby cemetery. "Norwood was very comfortable," Draper wrote.
At the cemetery, Williams and Norwood went off alone, presumably to have sex, according to Draper.
"After some time passed, Terry came back to the car and told me to come with him," Draper wrote. "Terry was acting crazy. He started yelling stuff and began hitting Norwood with a tire iron."
"He was yelling 'so you like boys, so you like boys' as he hit Norwood."
Draper's statements about Norwood having sex with Williams were never disclosed to the defense or at trial, according to Williams' attorneys. "Neither Ms. Foulkes nor the police wanted to hear anything about the case having to do with Norwood having sex with Terry," Draper said in his statement.
Foulkes, who now works as a federal prosecutor, told the Philadelphia Inquirer Friday that she could not comment on the case.
Williams' defense team also wants to present affidavits indicating that Norwood propositioned and molested teenage boys he oversaw as a youth leader at a Philadelphia church.
In February, the Rev. Charles Poindexter, 80, pastor at St. Luke's Church in Philadelphia for 33 years, provided a signed statement for Williams' defense and an investigator, describing his suspicions that Norwood was abusing teenage boys in the congregation. Norwood spent an inordinate amount of time with the teens, lent them money and let them sleep over at his house, Poindexter said.
In his statement, Poindexter also said that several years before Norwood's death, the mother of a 15-year-old boy told him that Norwood had fondled her son's genitals while driving him home from a church event.
"She also told me that Amos had inappropriately touched a number of other boys at the church," Poindexter said in the statement. "The mother and her son eventually left the church."
Reached by phone at his home in Virginia, Poindexter denied making any incriminating statements about Norwood to the defense team. But the signature at the bottom of the defense affidavit is identical to the one at the bottom of a police statement Poindexter gave police in 1984, days after Norwood's murder.
In the police interview, Poindexter was asked whether he was aware of "any homosexual tendencies involving Amos." He said no.
"He was one of the straightest persons as far as I knew," Poindexter told officers.
Man accused in Illinois girl's 1957 murder left her body in woods like ‘garbage'
by Associated Press
SYCAMORE, Ill. — The murder of a 7-year-old Illinois girl that haunted the nation more than 50 years ago went to trial Monday, starting with a prosecutor accusing the defendant of discarding the body like “a piece of garbage.”
Jack McCullough, 72 and a former Washington state police officer, has pleaded not guilty to the 1957 kidnapping and slaying of Maria Ridulph, of Sycamore. It's one of the oldest cold-case murders brought to trial in the United States.
Maria's friend, Kathy Sigman, told authorities that a young man calling himself “Johnny” had approached them while they were playing outside on Dec. 3, 1957, and offered to give the girls piggyback rides. Sigman left to get mittens and when she returned, Maria and the man were gone.
Prosecutors say McCullough, whose name was John Tessier in the 1950s, was “Johnny.”
“This ordinary night would end in horror,” said DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell. “It would end with this defendant dumping her body in the cold, dark woods like a piece of garbage.”
Ridulph's abduction captured national attention, and even then-President Dwight Eisenhower asked to be kept up-to-date. Her badly decomposed body was found months later 120 miles away from Sycamore.
Forensics examinations indicate that Ridulph was stabbed at least three times in the throat and the chest, prosecutors said Monday.
The slain girl's friend, now in her 60s, is expected to be called to the stand to identify McCullough, who was arrested last year in Seattle and brought to Illinois.
“The defendant thought he could get away with it,” Campbell said Monday. “What he couldn't count on was that Kathy Sigman could never forget his face.”
Public defender Thomas McCulloch says there's no evidence linking his client to the crime.
“Jack McCullough did not commit this murder,” he said. “The reality is it has not been solved by charging Jack McCullough.”
The girl's older brother, Charles Ridulph, was the first witness for prosecutors Monday, describing his younger sister as a smart and outgoing girl.
The defense opted for a bench trial, meaning that the judge rather than a jury will assess the evidence and decide on a verdict.
McCullough lived a few block from the Ridulph family home and was on an early list of suspects. But he had an alibi, saying that on the day the girl vanished, he traveled to Chicago to get a medical exam before enlisting in the Air Force.
He later moved out of the area, served in the Armed Forces and ultimately worked as a police officer in Washington and a security guard at a retirement home — where he was arrested on July 1, 2010.
Investigators reopened the case in 2008, after McCullough's former girlfriend told them she found his unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago from Dec. 3, 1957, the day Maria vanished.
Richard Keller, an Andover pediatrician and Phillips Academy head, held over child porn
Prominent Andover pediatrician Richard Keller — of Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Phillips Academy — has been arrested on child pornography charges.
by Freya Petersen
Prominent Andover pediatrician Richard Keller has been arrested on child pornography charges.
Keller is reportedly a Boston Children's Hospital pediatrician, Harvard Medical School pediatrics instructor and former medical director at Phillips Academy.
According to the Eagle Tribune , federal agents found more than 500 photographs and as many as 100 films on DVD of children involved in sexually explicit conduct when they raided Keller's Andover home Wednesday morning.
A 56-year-old is accused of buying and owning child pornography from an unidentified overseas movie production company.
Federal investigators said the films showed mostly underage boys, WHDH reported.
Keller "appeared to have a dedicated sexual interest in children, going back several decades," the Boston Herald quoted Assistant US Attorney Michael I. Yoon as saying.
The Yale grad, who specialized in pediatric diabetes, spent the last 20 years as on-site doctor as Camp Joslin in Charlton, according to the Boston Herald.
He was also "affiliated with Camp Mah-Kee-Nac" in Lenox.
Officials at Children's Hospital released a statement that said:
"When the hospital learned of the allegations against Dr. Keller earlier today he was immediately put on administrative leave… No complaints or concerns have been expressed by any patients or family members about the care Dr Keller provided while he was at Children's."
The pornography was allegedly delivered to Keller on campus at Phillips Academy, where he was a medical director for 19 years before resigning last year — "for reasons completely unrelated to the charges being brought against him right now," spokesman Stephen Porter reportedly said.
"The Academy told him they were not going to renew his contract for reasons not related ... He chose to resign," Porter said, adding that the school was not aware of any inappropriate behavior.
Among the Phillips Academy alumni are both George Bushes, actor Jack Lemmon, actress Olivia Wilde, novelist Julia Alvarez, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.
Keller has pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in Boston.
As US marshals escorted Keller from the court, he mouthed the words "I love you" to his wife.
The next hearing is set for Monday. If convicted, Keller faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Tribune cited Keller's neighbor, Mary Carbone, as saying the doctor and his wife moved onto the street about a year ago and had a baby shortly after.
Two Brown sisters honored for aid to abuse victims Award
Deondra Brown presses for no statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes
by Erin Alberty
For the girls of the 5 Browns, life in the public eye could not shine light on the abuse they kept secret — even from each other — until they found security in their own adult lives, one of the renowned musical sisters said.
“We didn't discuss it, even with each other,” Deondra Brown said of the childhood sexual abuse she and her two sisters suffered at the hands of their father and manager, Keith Brown. “We shared everything — but that.”
Deondra, the second-oldest of the Juilliard-trained 5 Browns family piano quintet from Alpine, received the Champion Against Child Abuse award Thursday from the Family Support Center in Salt Lake City. She and her sister Desirae were honored for launching the nonprofit Foundation for Survivors of Abuse.
Deondra, now 32, and her two sisters reported the abuse to Lone Peak investigators in 2010 — more than a decade after it occurred, but only three years after the women confided in each other that they had been abused.
“As a child, especially if abuse happens in the home, you have to wait until you are removed from that environment long enough,” Deondra said.
Police documents alleged Keith Brown committed hundreds of acts of sexual abuse against the three girls in the 1990s. At the time Deondra was being molested, her trust in her parents trumped her instinct that her father's behavior was wrong.
“You get the feeling something is off, but you shove it away. You don't think about it,” she said. “You put such faith in the adults close to you.”
She said she can't remember the conversation in which she discovered their father's abuse had extended to all three girls, but it didn't come out until all three girls were stable adults in supportive marriages.
The siblings confronted their father.
“We first tried to resolve it privately,” Deondra said. “But the recognition on his part wasn't there.”
Not long after that, they learned their father was looking to manage other young female clients.
“We saw that other people were going to be at risk,” Deondra said. Were anything to happen to them, she said, “I would not be able to live with myself.”
The siblings met with detectives and prosecutors — including some who had worked with Elizabeth Smart in the case against her abductor, Brian David Mitchell. Utah had removed its statutes of limitation for child sex abuse cases, allowing the Browns' case to go forward. Keith Brown pleaded guilty to first-degree felony sodomy on a child and two second-degree felony counts sexual abuse of a child. He was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison.
Now the Browns have picked up the standard for similar laws in states that give child victims a much smaller window to seek charges after they become adults.
“The laws don't protect people the way they should,” Deondra said. “We're able to show the plus-side of what happens when these things are changed.”
One of the biggest reasons for delay in child-sex cases: “You don't know how people are going to react,” she said. “I had to believe I had strength in myself, even if people fall away from me.”
Most children aren't independent enough to make that choice, she said. In the Browns' case, the family was not entirely in agreement with the girls' decision to come forward. Deondra would not discuss her mother's role in the case except to say, “We stuck close to the people that we could count on.”
“We were very blessed to have the support we needed to get through it,” she said, especially from her brothers- and sisters-in-law.
Now the siblings are finding their own roles in the extended family.
“Where we each feel we need to go from here — that's a personal decision,” she said. “If someone wants to have contact with my parents, we're supportive of them.”
Terry Williams Sentenced to Execution for Killing Two Men Who Sexually Abused Him as a Child
by Ashley Davis
Terrance Williams of Pennsylvania has been sentenced to death after killing two men when he was 17- and 18-years old. What the jury did not know, however, was that Williams had been brutally raped as a child by the two men he killed.
Williams and another teen killed one man just a few months after Williams had turned 18, according to Change.org . He also admitted that he killed another man five months earlier. One man was a church leader and another was a sports booster. The men used their positions to get access to young boys.
Williams was allegedly sexually abused for years by these men, but he was also abused by other older individuals throughout his life. His mother had abused him frequently and his father was absent from the home. His first experience with sexual assault was when he was just six years old, and the abuse continued steadily for the next 12 years of his life.
He did not receive treatment or help from anyone for the duration of his suffering.
How do we know these abuse accusations are true -- and not just Williams making a calculated attempt at saving his life?
According to The Nation, "It was not until this past winter that another witness would come forward, a former pastor named Charles Pointdexter, who knew Norwood for thirty years. He admitted having known that he had sexually abused teen boys.
“Amos seemed to have lots of close relationships with young men…” he stated in an affidavit signed February 9, 2012, saying that he began to suspect that they were “inappropriate” in nature. A few years before Amos's death, one of the parishioners, the mother of a 15-year-old boy, told him that he had “touched her son's genitals” during a car ride and that “Amos had inappropriately touched a number of boys at the church.” Pointdexter kept the knowledge to himself.
Because Williams was embarrassed and ashamed by the abuse, he says he did not present his experiences as evidence for trial. His lawyer also failed to conduct a thorough investigation of Williams' motivations for killing the men, and ignored obvious signs of sexual abuse.
Many notable people have come forward to state that they would like his sentence to be reduced to life without parole. Among those objecting to his sentencing include the wife of one victim, five jurors from the trial, judges, child advocates, former prosecutors, faith leaders, mental health professionals, and law professors.
Jurors from the trial now say they would not have voted for execution had they known about his experiences with sexual abuse as a child.
A widow of one victim said that she has forgiven Williams and does not want any more deaths to come of the incident. She expressed hope that Governor Tom Corbett, the Board of Pardons, and District Attorney Williams will reduce his sentence to life without parole.
Courts have agreed that Williams' lawyer failed to give him a fair trial, but they also have stated that evidence of sexual abuse would not have made a difference in the sentencing.
Jurors, however, have signed sworn affidavits saying they would not have voted for death if they had known about his past.
Several jurors have also said that they voted for him to be executed because they believed that, if they had not, Williams would be eligible for release on parole.
However, a life sentence in Pennsylvania means the convicted will never be eligible for parole. Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. that does not require judges to explain to the jury that a life sentence means there is no possibility of parole.
No explanation of life sentencing was given at Williams' trial.
Terry Williams' death warrant for October 3 was signed by Gov. Corbett last week. Corbett is a Catholic Republican.
Child abuse topic for Seymour meeting on Sept. 27
SEYMOUR — The Seymour Breakfast Rotary Club, in cooperation with all Seymour area public schools and The King's Academy, will host an event on Thursday, Sept. 27 concerning child abuse and how to prevent it.
At 6 p.m. at the Seymour High School, adults from across the community are invited to hear from Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center on how they can take a stand against child abuse through prevention and advocacy.
There will be a panel discussion and time for questions and answers led by Safe Harbor staff and child protective investigative team members, including mental health, and law enforcement representatives.
Adults are encouraged to attend and learn how to protect children entrusted to their care. Child care for children ages 2 years and up will be provided.
Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, children under the age of 12 will not be permitted in the auditorium.
For questions contact Jack Funderburk at (865) 356-4330 or email to email@example.com; or Jan Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org
New child abuse law takes effect in Delaware
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Legislation aimed at strengthening prosecution of child-abuse cases is now law in Delaware. A bill signed by Gov. Jack Markell on Wednesday broadens language in existing statutes, creating the new felony of second-degree child abuse. Second-degree abuse includes intentionally or recklessly injuring a child who is 3 years old or younger or who has significant intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Because the bill defines injury as "any impairment of physical condition or pain," some critics worried that parents could be prosecuted simply for spanking their young children. Supporters say the measure does not outlaw spanking or prohibit parents from using reasonable and appropriate discipline.
Officials say the new law will help prosecutors win cases involving babies, toddlers and disabled children who are unable to describe what happened to them.
Abuse prosecutors seek predator hearing
by Mark Scolforo
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania prosecutors told a judge Wednesday they want convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky to be designated as a sexually violent predator under the state's version of Megan's law.
The filing by the attorney general's office, seeking a court hearing on the matter, said prosecutors expect to rely on testimony from an official with the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.
Sexually violent predators are subject to intense reporting requirements upon release from prison, but that may not mean much in the case of Sandusky, 68. The former Penn State assistant football coach is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison after he is sentenced for 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola said that after Judge John Cleland schedules the hearing, he will meet with Sandusky to determine if they will oppose the designation. Sandusky maintains his innocence.
“The question is whether we want to spend the time and resources fighting it,” Amendola said.
Amendola said that the board's recommendation in favor of sexually violent predator status for Sandusky was not a surprise, given his conviction for abuse of multiple victims, the number of counts and the serious nature of the charges against him.
“What they're saying is, essentially, he groomed them,” Amendola said. “That basically fits the definition.”
Pennsylvania law designates certain offenders as sexually violent predators if they are considered to have mental abnormalities or personality disorders that make them likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.
While registration under Megan's law can last for 10 years in some cases, that requirement is lifelong for sexually violent predators. They also must update their home address to state police every three months and show they are participating in approved counseling.
Local police are required to notify neighbors that a sexually violent predator lives nearby and produce fliers that bear the predator's name, address, photo and offense.
Girl Leaves Dental Dungeon With Mangled Teeth; 3 Charged With Child Abuse
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Three people were charged with child abuse after a dentist operating out of a home left a 14-year-old girl with permanently disfigured teeth.
And now the victim's mother is speaking out, urging others to use licensed dentists and never trust anyone who is performing dentistry out of their home.
“The message is that people have to be careful with what they do,” said Claribel Agramonte, the victim's mother. She told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, “I was just trying to help my daughter and look what happened.”
Miami police on Wednesday busted a couple and their daughter at a home-operated dental office at 1039 SW 11 th Street in Little Havana, according to Miami police spokeswoman Officer Kenia Reyes.
Humberto Perez, 81; Maria Perez, 69; and Odalis Hernandez-Perez, 41, were arrested and were charged with performing dental services without a license and two charges of child abuse, said a statement from Officer Reyes. Maria Perez and Odalis Hernandez-Perez bonded out of jail late Wednesday night.
The child abuse charges came after the 14-year-old's mother reported her daughter's teeth were permanently disfigured following work at the clinic.
“My daughter was crying all the time and they didn't stop,” said Agramonte. “They just gave her more anesthesia. I feel really bad because my daughter is suffering and she's going to stay suffering.”
“Because I heard my daughter crying and crying, I couldn't take it anymore,” she said. “I had to go outside so I couldn't hear it anymore. I hope no other family goes through what we went through.”
“We are from the Dominican Republic where it is common for dentistry work to be done in a home,” said Agramonte. “We thought we could trust this person.”
When the girl's mother and grandmother took her inside the home-based dental clinic, they saw a fully operational dentist office, the police statement said.
The girl described the room as being small, with pots, medical instruments and teeth, according to the arrest affidavit for Humberto Perez .
Major David Magnusson of Miami Police described the room as “everything a dentist's office should not be.”
As Humberto Perez conducted dental work on the girl, the young girl said she felt weak and sick.
According to Humberto Perez's arrest affidavit, he injected a syringe of prescription medication into her mouth to help, then immediately started filing down her teeth.
That's when, according to the affidavit, the girl told Perez she felt uncontrollable pain.
According to the statement, Perez continued with the dental procedure anyway.
Agramonte told D'Oench the painful procedure went from 10:30 a.m to 4:00 p.m.
The arrest affidavit for Perez's daughter claims the 41-year-old told her dad, “Dad, I hate when you work on children. They always put on a show with the crying.”
The girl lost four teeth during two visits to the office and left with an infection that caused her teeth to separate from her gums, leaving them permanently disfigured.
“That's what happens when someone practices medicine without a license,” Magnusson said.
Agramonte's daughter, who is now 15, is being treated by a qualified doctor.
“The licensed dentist said that in his 30 years of experience, he has never seen anything as horrible as what they have done to this girl,” Magnusson said.
Detectives believe there may be additional victims that have yet to come forward. It's not known how long the illegal clinic had been operating.
To report unlicensed activities, contact the Florida Department of Health at 1-800-HALT ULA (425-8852).
Kentucky launches new website to report child abuse
The Kentucky Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) has launched a new web-based abuse/neglect reporting portal that will modernize and enhance the current intake system. The online Kentucky Child/Adult Protective Services Reporting System makes it convenient, confidential and secure to report non-emergency situations that do not require an immediate response from DCBS staff.
DCBS, part of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), is the state's primary agency for child and adult protection. DCBS Commissioner Teresa James said the system was created to better protect Kentucky's children and vulnerable adults.
“The safety of Kentucky's children, adults and seniors depends on a shared responsibility,” James said. “We launched this website so concerned members of the public can more easily report suspected abuse and neglect and so that child and adult welfare investigators and law enforcement officials can better do their jobs.”
The website can be accessed at https://prd.chfs.ky.gov/ReportAbuse/home.aspx, and will be monitored from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday. Website reports will not be reviewed during evenings, weekends or state holidays. If situations arise during these times indicating a child or adult is at risk of immediate harm, these should be reported to 911, local law enforcement or (877) KY SAFE1.
The website is accessible by any computer or smartphone. James said the ease and immediacy of the portal should make the reporting system more efficient.
“Reporting suspected abuse and neglect is the right instinct, and it is the law in Kentucky,” James said. “With this new tool, we are giving people another direct method to contact our intake staff. If you see something of concern -- don't wait, make the report.”
Professional partners like law enforcement and judicial officials, medical professionals, educators, child and senior caregivers and other advocates have been using the program since July. Users have given feedback to DCBS staff to help refine the system for the general public.
Users of the portal are required to enter an email contact and will receive an immediate, automated response that their online report has been made. Centralized intake staff will review reports as they are submitted. Users will receive a response message within 48 hours only if their report has not been accepted because it doesn't meet criteria for investigation. Reports that are accepted do not generate a follow-up email message.
The reporting portal has several mandatory input fields so that intake staff can get adequate information about the incident, the alleged victim, the alleged perpetrator and any safety issues in order to screen reports effectively. Users who cannot complete information in all the required fields should call the toll-free reporting hot line: (877) KY SAFE1 or (877) 597-2331.
Learn more about recognizing the signs of child and elder abuse at http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/
Adults should be on lookout for child abuse signs
by Don Coker
Adults should be on lookout for child abuse signs
As children transition to a new school year, teachers, parents and neighbors need to be attentive to possible signs of neglect or child abuse.
About one in 80 children in South Carolina is a victim of child abuse or neglect, according to Dr. Olga Rosa, who practices at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital and is director of forensic pediatrics for the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.
She cautions that it is important to recognize that every case of child abuse is individual and that no single warning sign proves that child is being abused. When warning signs appear repeatedly, or in combination, it should prompt a closer look.
If the child is 2 or younger, some hints of possible abuse include increased clinging, biting, hitting, temper tantrums, throwing things and becoming agitated. For ages 2-6, additional indicators are nightmares, acting out, separation anxiety, becoming withdrawn, loss of appetite or overeating or going backward on already acquired skills.
Some of the warning signs for children 6-10 include difficulty concentrating, complaints of frequent headaches and stomach aches with no apparent physical cause, loss of appetite or overeating, or sleeping difficulties such as nightmares and trouble falling or staying asleep.
As children reach ages 10-14, additional signs include anger, mood swings, being very critical of themselves and withdrawal from family, friends and school.
If you see an injury on a baby that is too young to walk or crawl, this is an important red flag. “If you can't cruise, you don't bruise,” Rosa said. “A child too young to walk or crawl should not have bruises.”
If you are concerned that abuse may be occurring, contact the local office of the Department of Social Services or the police department.
Host an event for Blue Knot Day
ADULTS Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) is calling on all community members, churches, religious groups and leaders to organise and host events in support of Blue Knot Day on October 29.
Australia's annual Blue Knot Day is about people from all walks of life uniting in support of the estimated four to five million adult survivors of childhood trauma.
It is an initiative run by ASCA - the leading national organisation advancing the needs of Australian adults who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma.
ASCA president Dr Cathy Kezelman said the day had been expanded from the organisation's previous national day, Forget-me-knot-day, to recognise the effects of all forms of childhood trauma, including abuse.
"Despite the prevalence of child abuse, supporting adult survivors remains a largely ignored issue," she said.
"Everyone knows someone who has been affected by some form of childhood trauma. We need awareness and understanding, as trauma in childhood, impacts not only its victims but also their families, partners and communities.
"This year we are inviting individuals to take action and unite with us. We have maintained a week long effort so communities nationwide can have the opportunity to hold local events and participate in activities which support survivors."
"With your support, this Blue Knot Day, we can bring hope and optimism to those affected and create open and accepting communities, encouraging those affected to reach out for support because with the right help, people can and do recover."
Some ideas for activities and events include:
- Hosting a breakfast, morning tea or luncheon
- Hosting a bake-off with proceeds going to ASCA
- Holding a faith-based service
- Ceremonially unwrapping a building or object in recognition of survivors
- Creating a Blue Knot Day themed display
- Engaging in an activity in which you are able to raise money through sponsorship.
- Buying and wearing a blue knot pin and/or friendship bracelet - available from www.asca.org.au
- Making a donation to ASCA to support more programs
ASCA encourages those organising public Blue Knot events to register event details on the ASCA website www.asca.org.au/blueknotday
By doing this, people across Australia who want to attend an event will be able to easily access information about events in their area or choose to host their own event if none is listed.
For the full range of activities and details being held during Blue Knot week (October 29 - November 4), visit www.asca.org.au
New Haven child abuse case 'most horrific' in officer's 21 years
by William Kaempffer
NEW HAVEN — The case at first began as a runaway call — the kind in which the child inevitably turns up safe — but ended as one of the most horrific in a 21-year career.
The 9-year-old girl's account had the same effect on the other people who heard her story about being terribly abused since she was 3.
“What struck me the most was this girl's resilience,” said police Officer Kristen Fitzgerald, who found the girl and followed her to the hospital. “She was just so happy to be safe. She said, ‘I don't want to be abused anymore.'”
In professions where people can be steeled, the people around her reacted differently than the girl did to the ordeal.
“This was the most horrific thing I have experienced in 21 years on the job,” Fitzgerald said. “I was crying. The paramedic was crying. The DCF worker was crying.”
By the end of the day Saturday, a 45-year-old stepfather was charged with second-degree asault and jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail, the girl's four siblings were in foster care and the girl was in the hospital. By Sunday, Fitzgerald was back at the hospital after compiling a care package of a hand-me-down fairy costume for Halloween, jewel bedazzled jeans, purple tops, head bands, Hello Kitty lip gloss, flip flops and other girl-friendly accessories that she picked up “in case my daughter has to go to a party.”
“No one prompted her to do this. No one asked her to do this,” Assistant Police Chief Archie Generoso said of Fitzgerald. He said her actions were an example of “what goes on a daily basis” by New Haven officers but goes “unrecognized.”
Fitzgerald said she didn't know what else to do after spending so much time with the girl Saturday and learning what she had endured. “You just feel so helpless. You want to do more,” Fitzgerald said Tuesday.
Fitzgerald was reluctant to discuss specifics of the investigation because she didn't want to compromise the ongoing case. She couldn't help but imagine how the situation could have turned out differently if she or another cop had accepted the girl's original version that her little brothers' roughhousing had caused her injuries. Or that the couple who found the girl, when speaking on the phone with the mother, could have agreed to bring the girl home instead of insisting the mother come to the park to speak with police because it looked like the girl had been assaulted.
When Fitzgerald responded to the original call, she said in her report, she noted that the step-father's expletive-laced and defensive interaction seemed “over the top” for a runaway situation. After taking the report, she drove to nearby Edgewood Park to look for the girl near the swings and then heard a radio call that a couple had found an unattended young girl in a nearby section of the park. The girl had taken a liking to them because she liked their dog. She walked with them, explained she was a runaway and asked if she could come live with them.
When she saw the girl and her fresh and healed injuries, it was evident to her that not “a simple runaway” case.
The girl at first said that her baby brothers beat her up. An ambulance arrived and a paramedic sat down with them on a shaded bench. That's when the girl opened up.
At first, Fitzgerald said she didn't know what to make of the account. It wouldn't be the first time a child exaggerated or even made false claims. But the girl's injuries and her accounts added up. And when the girl described being handcuffed by the ankle to a radiator as punishment, Fitzgerald looked down and saw a series of injuries all the way around the circumference of her ankle “so you know that she's telling the truth.”
In the ambulance, medics found even more injuries as they treated her.
“We asked her how long this has been going on and she said ‘My life has been a nightmare since I was 3 years old. He hates me because I'm not his kid.'”
Safe in the hospital, though, the girl shared laughs and hugs and sang, said Fitzgerald, who has two children of her own.
“Her little spirit was amazing. She's just a wonderful little kid.”
An Inside Look at Reporting Abuse
by Cherie Miller
Emergency vehicles appeared again this week at the door of a family we know. It's such a common occurrence that the family greets the firemen by first names. After hearing about the latest event, I was sorely tempted to call the state of Georgia's office of child protective services to check out what actually goes on behind closed doors. Maybe they'll find concerns, but maybe not. There are a couple of reasons why I hesitate.
First, I was a foster parent for more than two years for some girls that had been involved in an abuse/neglect case. The girls' parents were sent to jail for a drug offense and the children spent six to eight years as wards of the state of Illinois. As I've written before the state makes a terrible parent.
Second, I was a licensed day care provider for more than 10 years in Wheaton, Ill. I had the licensed limit of eight children under the age of 12 that I cared for each day, some before and after school. I took great pains to have a healthy, nurturing environment. I attended provider professional development classes, followed federal nutritional guidelines serving only hot breakfast and lunch, and I cared a lot for the kids.
That's why I was beyond shocked when I opened my front door one August morning to find a badge shoved under my nose by a child protection agent. He politely asked to come into my home and sat down to “interview” me about a child abuse charge that had been made against me. As I was interviewed, it occurred to me what had actually happened. In the spring, I helped a friend out by taking in a 10-year-old for a before-school slot. I didn't want to take in an unknown child and parent duo, but she vouched for the family. So, I took in “Johnny.”
My normal schedule began early, usually before 7:00 a.m. The first hour was spent taking care of breakfast. The second hour was reserved for a pre-school curriculum I taught. This last week of school included a lot of fun projects including one the kids really loved – involving popcorn, food coloring and sticky marshmallow fluff. Using their creativity, the kids came up with some pretty wild popcorn creations to add to our “Zoo.” Just before this activity, but after everyone had finished breakfast, Johnny was dropped off at my front door by his mom, who worked at the local high school.
Johnny joined in the activities and made a popcorn elephant, along with the other critters that were soon drying. I cleaned everyone up and soon we were on the way to walk to school.
The “child abuse and neglect” charge stated that I served kids popcorn for breakfast. On the surface it sounds terrible. When I informed the officer that the “child” in question was 10 years old (not the 2-year-old he expected), he realized that the “child” who had been dropped off for day care was perfectly capable of asking for a breakfast. He left and said that I'd be receiving a letter detailing the conclusion of his investigation.
I was horribly upset for the next few weeks, considering that this letter and this charge would also be a permanent part of my record as a licensed child-care provider. I seriously considered closing down my day care home, because I already was taking such a risk. I had to pay premiums on a $1,000,000 insurance policy to protect myself in case of any injury or death of a child while in my care.
Despite the fact that this incident was years ago, I've never forgotten feelings associated with this abuse/neglect report. Many others have experienced the same thing. According to Child Help in American there are child abuse reports made every 10 seconds. There are such long-term consequences to child abuse that many find themselves as members of the juvenile justice system and later, residents of adult prisons. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 percent more likely to commit violent crime.”
The good news, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is that half of the states reported fewer cases of child abuse in 2010 than 2009. However, the number of children found to have actually suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of a parent or caregiver were still staggering – 695,000 children according to the Child Maltreatment 2010 report. Eighty one percent of the abusers of children were parents, either birth, adoptive or stepparents.
So what's an outside observer to look for to understand the real signs of abuse or neglect? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet, watch for these signs:
An abused or neglected child will:
- Show sudden changes in school performance or behavior.
- Have a medical issue that wasn't brought to the attention of a medical professional.
- Lack adult supervision.
- Be overly compliant, passive or withdrawn.
- Come to school or other activities early, stay late and not want to go home.
- 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.
- 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.
- States that there is no one at home to provide care.
An abusive parent will:
- Show a lack of concern for the child
- Deny the existence of—or blame the child for—the child's problems in school or at home
- Ask teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
- See the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
Some people are in positions of Mandatory Reporters of suspected child abuse. They are:
- Social workers
- Teachers and other school personnel
- Physicians and other health-care workers
- Mental health professionals
- Child care providers
- Medical examiners or coroners
- Law enforcement officers
Let's hope you're never in a position to report suspected child abuse or neglect. When in doubt, report. If you do, you may be the only adult in the life of a child who cares enough to make a difference
Task force focused on human trafficking
by Christopher Shelton
Kathryn Griffin-Townsend's phone is always buzzing, even late at night.
Griffin, the founder of “We've Been There, Done That,” is a victims' rights advocate, specializing in the aid of women in the Houston community who are caught in the cycle of prostitution, drug abuse and human trafficking.
“I deal with the healing and trauma. My phone hardly ever stops. I come to wherever they are,” Griffin said.
Griffin will come if the victim is willing to receive help.
“In the faces of human trafficking, the veins run deeper than people know,” Griffin said.
“A lot of prostitutes who are adults have aged out and were put into the sex industry as juveniles. They end up not knowing anything else but to go into the sex industry, and it leads to criminal behavior.”
In recognition of her efforts, Griffin was appointed to the Blue Ribbon Committee, a 10-official task force assigned with finding solutions for and bringing awareness to human trafficking. The formation of the Blue Ribbon Committee was announced in a press release at the beginning of September, the city's sixth annual human trafficking awareness month.
Susham M. Modi, a supervising attorney at the UH immigration clinic, said the problem of trafficking is two-fold. “Getting to the authorities is problem one. I think the second problem is if they're undocumented, like our cases are, they don't know that they can go through a process in which they may be able to get valid immigration status if they cooperate with law enforcement.” If victims of trafficking cooperate with authorities, they may qualify for a U Visa or T Visa, which provide temporary legal status.
According to a Department of Justice report, Houston and El Paso play a prominent role in human trafficking because of their position on the I-10 Corridor and proximity to Mexico connection to much of the southern portion of the US.
“The Department of Justice declared the I-10 corridor as one of the main routes for human traffickers in the United States. It is estimated that 1 out of 5 U.S. trafficking victims will travel through Texas along the I-10 corridor,” said Human Rescue and Restore Coalition in a fact sheet.
“It's hard to drive on I-10 after knowing this information,” said Terence O'Neill, the manager for the Office of International Communities
“It's an eye opener. One of the things you start to realize as you move down I-10 is that you'd never know as you sit there in traffic, idling in you car, that there could be a victim of human trafficking in the truck next to you,” O'Neill said.
Some are not aware that human trafficking is an encompassing banner that includes more than the sexual slavery of young girls and boys. “There is also labor trafficking, where the victim could be of any age or nationality,” said Maria Trujillo, the Blue Ribbon Committee's chair and executive director of Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition.
“It could be the maid or nanny that lives next door. It could be the person who's knocking on your door selling magazines or CDs. It could be the guy working at the construction site near your house or business. It could be the person doing your nails or braiding you hair at the braiding studio,” Trujillo said.
From sexual slavery to labor slavery, the faces of the traffickers shift from pimps and gang members in shady motels to 24-hour massage parlors, and even to the homes and businesses of affluent members of the community.
No one personified this more than Sugar Land resident Rozina Ali, who brought an Indonesian woman from Malaysia to Houston in 2002. According to court documents, the woman was beaten, kicked in the stomach, punched in the head and hit across the back with clothes hangers. She did not escape until 2007.
Chuck Foreman sees trafficking every day, and part of his job description involves returning runaways to their family. “Many are coerced into leaving home by so-called “Romeo's” involved in gang activity that do not have the child's best interest at heart,” Foreman said.
Foreman, a private investigator from CFSI International, states that law enforcement is doing a good job on the ground but that they can't do it by themselves.
“Houston PD, Harris County and sheriffs departments don't play around. I can orchestrate three different agencies to do welfare checks at three different properties at the same time,” Foreman said.
“They'll work with me for a child or they'll work as a group because we don't want them to be tipped off. We'll hit six houses in an hour span.”
All involved in the effort against human trafficking admit that it cannot be solved in a day, but if everyone works together, maybe Griffin's phone will not be buzzing as much in the near future.
Fannin Co. CAC teaches adults to "Recognize and Report" child abuse
by Jalah Gray
FANNIN COUNTY, TX - It's estimated that only 1 in 10 children will tell someone they're being abused, and that's why Children's Advocacy Centers say adults need to learn the signs to look for and how to step up to the plate when the time comes.
The class was originally created by the Dallas CAC and Fannin County has now included it in their series of child abuse prevention classes.
It's called "Recognize and Report" and directors say an alarming new trend of unreported cases of child abuse across the county is what's sparking a lot of interest in developing these vital skills.
"I was just kind of stunned, I was just listening to her and I didn't really know what else to say to her." said teacher, Melinda Campbell.
It was a conversation with a student, that Melinda Campbell says she can't forget.
She says it was then that she knew, she needed to educate herself more on how to respond when a child confides in you.
"Adults have to protect kids, you know we can't leave it up to kids to protect themselves." said Fannin County CAC Executive Director, Sandy Barber.
Child abuse statistics are alarming, but even more alarming, experts say, is the number of people who look the other way and let it go on.
"What we're seeing in Fannin County is that in the past year we had a pretty tremendous drop, about a 25% drop in the number of reports that went in about child abuse in our county, yet the number of confirmed victims stayed about the same." Barber said.
Sandy Barber says lack of knowledge and fear are what keep a lot of people from reporting abuse.
"There's been a lot of studies done that say a pretty small percentage of people actually will report when they suspect abuse. So in other words, a lot of people will suspect child abuse but then for different reasons will not make that report." Barber said.
"Recognize and Report" is a new class that educates people on the red flags of child abuse and how to report it.
And that's what brought concerned citizens like Campbell here today.
"It's important if you work with children every day that they learn to trust you and that you're a good listener and that we have the experience and the knowledge to help them with any kind of situation that they might have." Campbell said.
For more information on the classes offered at Fannin County CAC, call 903-583-4339 or visit the web site http://www.fanninccc.org/
Prevent Child Abuse loses funding, keeps going
by Crystal Tatum
COVINGTON -- Prevent Child Abuse Newton has faced tough challenges over the last six months, but the organization's volunteer board of directors is determined to keep it going.
The state Department of Behavioral Health cut grants that fund operational costs for more than 100 nonprofits throughout the state, including Prevent Child Abuse Newton. The agency diverted those funds to organizations focused on preventing underage drinking.
As a result of the loss of the grant, Prevent Child Abuse lost its director, Sheena Berry, earlier this year.
The nonprofit had only newly reorganized under the name Family Resource Center, intent on expanding its scope of services to the community, and located in a new facility. But the funding cuts changed all that, with several new programs having to be canceled before they got off the ground. In addition, a planned partnership with organizations that provide mental health services in the county and shared space and rent fell through.
Now, the organization is once again called Prevent Child Abuse Newton and is located at Cousins Community Center on Geiger Street.
Dr. William Allen, chair of the board of directors, said he's thankful for The Community Foundation of Newton County, which allowed Prevent Child Abuse to move back into its former office space and for grants from General Mills and United Way.
"Those funds have helped keep the doors open so far," Allen said, but said the organization will not be eligible for United Way funds this grant cycle .
The organization's mission is the same -- to prevent child abuse and neglect in all its forms -- but funds are needed to do that, he said.
A partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale has at least provided access to a parental support program, at this point provided by one person on a referral only basis.
Eventually the goal is to once again hold group sessions for parents in need of learning better skills related to child development, managing behavior and discipline, for example. The Active Parenting Now Program, similar to the nurturing program previously offered by Prevent Child Abuse, is a six-session course the board of directors is hoping to offer to the community.
But additional funds and volunteers to administer the program are needed, "people who have a heart for helping the effort to protect children and support parents in what is at best a difficult process, raising children," Allen said.
Meanwhile, volunteers are committed to forging ahead with their mission by continuing to inform the community, with a special emphasis on the new mandated reporter law, requiring anyone who works with children with a reasonable suspicion of abuse to report it.
The organization is also focusing on educating the public more about child sexual abuse.
"The public has become much more aware of the harmful nature of these crimes against children with the Sandusky scandal," he said, referring to the conviction of former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky of dozens of counts of sexual abuse.
Anyone interested in volunteering with Prevent Child Abuse can call 678-342-4004. Volunteers must submit to a criminal background check, undergo orientation and training. Anyone who would like to make a donation can make checks payable to Prevent Child Abuse Newton and mail to P.O. Box 2933, Covington, GA 30015.
Cybercrime unit gets tough
Team takes on any case with digital evidence, particularly child porn, sex crimes
by Paul Suarez
A silver unmarked police car pulls into the parking lot of a two-story apartment complex off St. Johns Road late Wednesday afternoon, drawing attention of local residents. The three officers inside look for a burgundy four-door sedan in one of the complex's garages.
It isn't there. The officers will have to come back later.
It's a typical situation for officers with the Digital Evidence Cybercrimes Unit, a group of civilian investigators and police officers with the Vancouver Police Department and Clark County Sheriff's Office.
The group was looking to arrest the car's owner without getting a warrant to enter his residence to save time. Unfortunately for them, the owner wasn't home.
They stopped by the next morning and found the suspect getting into his car on his way to work.
Officers arrested Michael Basom, 57, Thursday on suspicion of 29 counts of dealing and 10 counts of possessing depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, aka child pornography.
He will make his first court appearance Friday morning.
The unit helps with almost any case involving digital evidence, but it spends a lot of time investigating child pornography and sex-related crimes.
Basom was on the unit's radar for allegedly dealing and possessing child pornography, but his case got kicked into overdrive after he allegedly confronted a boy in the bathroom of a local department store, said Sgt. John Chapman, who manages the unit.
“It's one thing to distribute and possess,” he said. “Now we have a guy who attempts to go hands on with a child.”
It's because of cases like this that the unit is stretched thin.
The severity of the crimes the unit handles forces its members to pick and choose which battles they can fight with the resources they have. Crimes such as child pornography, child predation and sex trafficking are high-priority cases because they are extremely damaging, Chapman said.
“With computer forensics, 90 percent of the time is spent on child pornography now,” he said. The other 10 percent is spent helping with other cases, including suspicious deaths and the occasional fraud case.
The unit, which operates out of the old section of Vancouver Police's west precinct along Northeast Stapleton Road, is responsible for everything from processing surveillance footage to investigating online fraud cases. It also deals with sex trafficking, sexting in schools and online bullying.
The team was brought together under one roof earlier this year. That means that three investigators (one from Clark County and two from the city), a federal agent, Chapman and two detectives work under one roof. Pooled resources allow the team to work more effectively on cases.
“It's working pretty well,” Chapman.
On Wednesday, the unit arrested James Mehas, 47, of La Center on suspicion of communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Mehas allegedly began a texting and phone relationship with a 14-year-old girl from Alaska, Chapman said. The girl's father reported the case to police in Juneau. The department in Alaska got in touch with Chapman's unit to investigate.
Earlier this month, officers with the unit arrested James J. Blunt, 46, on suspicion of 607 counts of possession of child pornography. He was also arrested on suspicion of three counts of alleged dealing in child pornography, police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.
Before officers could make the arrest, they spent more than a year investigating.
“Every one of those investigations can be extremely time consuming,” Chapman said.
Typically, investigations start from tips and sometimes a sting. From there, a warrant is issued. Investigators don't usually make an arrest at that point, Chapman said. Instead, they search the home for “every kind of storage medium” they can find and take them as evidence, he said.
Back at headquarters, civilian investigators make copies of the storage devices and sift through files to prepare a report for the detective on each case and evidence for court.
“We're kind of jacks of all trades,” said Eric Thomas, a civilian investigator with the unit.
The unit gets involved in virtually any case where there is digital evidence, which can be “anything from arson to harassment,” he said. “If you think about it, almost every crime has a digital evidence component to it.”
Now that electronics are becoming more sophisticated, investigators find themselves analyzing files on cellphones too, Thomas said.
Sometimes they'll download contacts, text messages, videos and GPS information when the phone supports it, he said.
Some of the latest features that make life more convenient for smartphone owners, especially GPS-tagged photos, also make investigations easier for the unit, Thomas said.
“Some of those features are turned on automatically,” he said. “It's very nice to find out exactly where photos are taken on an iPhone or on a Droid.”
In the case of child pornography, investigators must look at the images to see if they are in existing databases or are new files representing new cases of abuse, Thomas said.
It's a high price the small team has to pay to put online criminals behind bars.
Chapman said looking at the images day after day takes a toll.
“I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the people working for me,” he said. “It's awful. That's why I don't let myself see them (the images).”
Investigators say seeing the abuse keeps them motivated.
“Yeah we've seen those images, and we know what those children have gone through,” Thomas said. “That motivates us more to get the person responsible.”
The unit is also responsible for keeping tabs on the 600 or so sex offenders who live in Vancouver city limits.
That means detectives must make random visits to addresses where sex offenders claim to live to see if they are actually there. Sometimes offenders are at work or just not home — as happened twice Wednesday afternoon.
Why don't they call ahead of time?
If check-ins are scheduled, a sex offender could be at one address for the check-in and live somewhere else the rest of the time, Chapman said.
The unit also tries to help kids and people who work with kids learn how to prevent problems before they happen or to respond when they do.
“We can't just go out into the public,” Chapman said. “I'd love to, but we don't have the time.”
Instead, he meets with school counselors and administrators to help spread information. He also forged a partnership with a Christian nonprofit agency called AWARE that places speakers in local schools to talk about the sex trade, pornography and other things.
The unit hopes to solve part of its resource problem by hiring another civilian investigator in the near future with money from a two-year grant.
“That would make the turnarounds faster, which would be great,” Chapman said.
The extra body may help investigations take several weeks instead of several months, he said.
But for now, the group is continuing to do as much as it can with the resources it has.
“We're putting ourselves between an abuser and a child,” investigator Thomas said. “When you do that you feel like, OK, it's been a good day.”
Police say Texas teen killed to keep her quiet
by JAMIE STENGLE -- The Associated Press
CARROLLTON, Texas — A Texas man accused of raping a 16-year-old girl used social media to lure her to a meeting, abduct her from her school and drive her to a river, where he killed her to keep her from testifying against him, police and a family spokeswoman said.
The man insisted in a jailhouse interview Monday that he only wanted to talk to the teen and prove his innocence but said he was overcome by "demons" once they were face-to-face.
Franklin B. Davis, 30, of the Dallas suburb of Irving, was charged with capital murder Sunday in the death of Shania Gray. Gray was last seen alive Thursday afternoon at Hebron High School in nearby Carrollton. Her body was found Saturday in a secluded area near the Trinity River.
Carrollton police say Davis confessed to arranging a meeting with Gray under false pretenses, driving her to a trail near the river and shooting her twice with a .38-caliber pistol. According to an arrest affidavit, Gray fell into the river and called Davis by his nickname: "Why, Wish?"
Davis told police he then stepped on her neck until she stopped breathing, the affidavit said.
Carrollton police spokesman Jon Stovall said in an email that police believe Davis killed Gray because she was about to testify against him.
A spokeswoman for Gray's family, Sherry Ramsey, told The Dallas Morning News that Gray met Davis when she babysat his two children. Ramsey said that later, after the teen declined many requests to babysit, Gray told her grandmother that Davis had raped her.
The crime was reported to Mesquite police, and Davis was charged with four counts of sexual assault of a child. The trial was scheduled to start next month.
Ramsey said Davis had warned Gray he would kill her if she told anyone about the assault.
According to an arrest warrant, Davis contacted Gray through social media and pretended to be someone else in an attempt to get information about the sexual assault case. Davis then used a pre-paid cellphone to set up a meeting with Gray at her high school on Thursday.
Davis told WFAA-TV in a jailhouse interview that he tracked Gray down because he wanted to prove his innocence in the sexual assault case.
"I needed to get some kind of evidence, some kind of proof myself to show I did not have sex with her and that she's lying," Davis told the television station. He said he didn't intend to harm Gray but was overcome in the moment.
"I was fighting demons," Davis told the station. "It was like a different person was in me. It wasn't me."
Davis told authorities that Gray was surprised to see him but got into his car when he told her he wanted to talk to her about the sexual assault case. He said he then drove her to the remote area.
Stovall said police believe Gray was killed within an hour after she was picked up.
Karen Permetti, spokeswoman for the Lewisville Independent School District, told The Associated Press that Gray had enrolled at Hebron High School on Wednesday and attended school for two days. She was a junior.
Permetti said district officials weren't aware of any threats against Gray and heard about her upcoming testimony only after her parents filed a police report Friday.
Davis was being held in the Dallas County Jail on $2 million bail. Attorneys listed for him did not return messages left Monday by The Associated Press.
Hundreds of friends and well-wishers joined Gray's parents at a candlelight vigil Monday night outside Horn High School in Mesquite, where she previously attended.
KTVT-TV of Dallas and Fort Worth reported that one student was taken to a hospital after her friends said she was crying so hard that she had a seizure.
"This hurts me to my soul," close friend Janell Brown told the station. "This is the most tragic thing I've felt in my young age."
"Focusing on a man like that, or the likes of a man like that, is not how we want to remember her," Shelby Holland, Gray's junior varsity basketball coach at Horn, told KDFW-TV of Dallas and Fort Worth. "We want to spend our time talking about the hugs she was constantly giving out, the wonderful life she held for us while she was here. To see the kind of kid she was and that untapped potential for the kind of woman she would become — it's just sad to sit here and think, 'We'll never know what kind of great young woman she'd become.'"
People Speak: Victim pushes for stricter human trafficking penalties
by Douglas Kennedy
"I was constantly at risk of rape or murder,” says Leah Albright-Byrd while walking in a public park near Century City in Los Angeles. “I have a friend who was killed as a result of being exploited.”
When she was in eighth grade, Leah started living on the streets in Sacramento, Calif. She quickly became a victim of what law enforcement officials now call “human trafficking.”
“It was a very traumatizing experience,” she says. “I ran away from home at the age of 14.”
Almost immediately, she says, a pimp found her and began selling her for sex on the Internet throughout the state of California.
“There were quite a few things that made me really vulnerable to being sexually exploited” she recalls. “Coming from a very dysfunctional, abusive family background and then being preyed upon by predators in the community I was in.”
She says the penalties for “human trafficking” did not dissuade anyone from exploiting her and now she's pushing a ballot measure that would dramatically increase human trafficking jail terms.
California Prop 35, “Ban on Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery,” would increase sentences from 5 years to 15 years for most convicted of human trafficking.
In addition, the ballot measure would:
|• Require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders
• Require all registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet accounts
• Require criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims
• Mandate law enforcement training on human trafficking
Defense attorneys across the country are skeptical, calling the new penalties “draconian.”
“It's going much further than it needs to,” says Randy Zelin, a former defense attorney from New York. “Much further than it should.”
“People who would otherwise be engaged in garden-variety prostitution, who would never, ever see the inside of a jail, are looking at insane amounts of time in jail.”
Zelin predicts California's criminal justice system is going to be “clogged” with human trafficking defendants who will have no choice but to fight the long penalties. He says that will eventually cost the taxpayers a lot of money.
“As a defendant, I have nothing to lose,” says Zelin. “I am going on trial. Who's going to foot the bill for that?”
It's not something Chris Kelly is concerned about.
“I think people who are engaged in the exploitation of women and children online should be serving long jail sentences,” he says.
Kelly is the former Privacy Chief at Facebook, and spent more than $1.5 million of his own money to get Prop 35 on the November ballot.
“I'm really happy,” he says, “to use some of the good fortune California has brought to me to help us build a safer Internet for Californians and people nationally.”
“It's important to take a stand against sex trafficking on the Internet and the offline world.”
Kelly says there are holes in the system that often allow human traffickers to escape without punishment.
“We are not going after the pimps as effectively as we need to,” he says, “and that's what prop 35 will do.”
Zelin says that's exactly the problem with Prop 35. He says they are simply re-labeling a crime that's existed since the dawn of time.
“You do run the risk of taking ordinary prostitution and morphing it into something so horrific, like human trafficking,” he says. “You're really painting with too broad of a stroke.”
Albright-Byrd says that's OK with her.
“We need this,” she says, “so what happened to me doesn't happen to anyone else.”
Human trafficking a domestic issue too
by Christi McEntyre
It was perhaps an unusual topic for the Walker County Chamber of Commerce members to hear at their monthly luncheon, but a presentation by Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agents Renea Anderson and Sara Thomas of the human trafficking unit helped provide a sobering glimpse into one of the more common and under-acknowledged criminal problems plaguing Georgia.
Anderson and Thomas were part of the five-person team tasked with putting together the human trafficking unit in July 2011.
“My first thoughts were, we're not going to have enough to keep us busy,” said Anderson. “But that is actually just the opposite. We have more cases than we know what to do with and it's because now we're actually starting to look for it. And so you're looking around and you're saying okay what I just thought was maybe a runaway or a child that got into some trouble was actually going to be considered human trafficking.”
“Most people," said Anderson, "the first thing that comes to mind with them is that oh, wow, that's a really big problem – in other countries.”
In fact, human trafficking has a strong seedy underworld in Georgia and presents a real danger for vulnerable children, especially young women and girls.
There are two different types of human trafficking that the GBI office sees, and although sex trafficking is the most common, labor trafficking also occurs – in this scenario, young women are enticed to come to another country, for instance the United States, under the guise of a promised job or educational opportunity. Instead, they find themselves held hostage, their documents often taken away, as they are essentially kept on house arrest and made to perform domestic labor as live-in maids, with no compensation or opportunity to leave.
“It is equally as heinous as sex trafficking,” said Thomas. “With labor trafficking, there was a case that was handled by one of our federal counterparts a few years ago a little bit north of Atlanta where an individual approached a family overseas and asked if that individual could bring the daughter back over here to get a United States education as well as employ the daughter as the family nanny…Unfortunately, when she got over here, it wasn't the circumstances that were described. Yes, she was acting as the nanny, but unfortunately she was also a labor slave. She was forced to sleep in the garage with no blankets. She cooked for all the children but she couldn't eat normal food; she could only eat food that had been thrown away or spoiled…Physical force, everything you can imagine. That's to say, labor trafficking, you're not going to hear it all that often as the main topic in the newspaper, but it is equally as bad.
“While that is a problem," said Anderson, "the biggest thing my office has chosen to focus on is domestic sex trafficking, with a bigger emphasis on commercial sexual exploitation of children, which you guys probably know better as child prostitution...We're trying to get rid of the mindset of saying juvenile prostitution.”
Equally as surprising and counterintuitive as their discovery that human trafficking was much more common than anticipated was its relation to areas that weren't necessarily urban.
“When we come, especially to rural counties, and I was the same way, I used to think that this just isn't happening here,” said Anderson. “But in the year that I've been doing this I'd say that 90 percent of our cases come from runaways. So then what you have to ask yourself when you encounter a child that's a runaway is, number one, what is she running from? What is so bad in her home life or what is she missing, what is she lacking that's causing her to think about this? To run into something like this? So you've got a lot of psychological issues that you already have in mind.
“We're not saying that every child that runs away is going to become a victim of human trafficking,” she said. “But most of these girls that we encounter, a lot of these girls are going to be runaways from your area. It's not just runaways from Atlanta.”
Anderson and Thomas emphasized the importance of teachers and officers of the law in keeping an eye open for warning signs of human trafficking, and that children can become vulnerable and exploited much younger than one might think.
“We know from our experience that the average age of entry into human trafficking or into CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children) is 12 years old," said Anderson. "So these girls, they get upset, maybe they're being molested at home, for whatever reason they're being beaten, they're missing something, they're just looking for a father figure. They get out on the streets and they find themselves with nowhere to go, no money for food, no clothes. And so it's usually with 24 to 48 hours, they're going to be approached by an exploiter. And whether he takes the ‘Hey come and stay with me, I'll give you shelter' approach or the ‘Hey honey you're gorgeous, you're beautiful' and starts befriending this girl and acting like a boyfriend. So you're going to have all of these emotional ties. So the question becomes why didn't she just leave?
“We've asked many many girls this. I asked one girl, I said ‘What was going on? What made you choose this lifestyle?' And she said, ‘Well, I was being molested at home by my stepfather, I might as well get paid to do it.' It's a slap in the face of reality.
“There's a lot more going on with these girls — and I hate to keep saying girls but that's the majority of our cases — than what's really on the top of the surface,” said Anderson.
If anyone notices new or unusual behavior in children — including injuries or other signs of physical abuse, malnourishment, disorientation, a lack of identification or documentation, avoiding eye contact or appearing fearful of authority figures or law enforcement — it is recommended to contact the GBI human trafficking unit at 404-270-8555.
California / Mexico
SPECIAL REPORT: US Demand Fuels City in Mexico Dedicated to Sex Slavery
In Mexico there is an entire city dedicated to the illegal sex trade.
Southwest of Mexico City, the small town of Tenancingo, home to some 10,000 residents, is built on the business of illegal human trafficking. If you are brought to that place as a captive outsider, expect hell and the possibility of death.
by Catholic Online
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The sex trade is a major part of the world economy, and a backbone of many black markets. Overall, the annual figures suggest the annual value of the industry is some $32 billion and includes some 10 million workers around the globe.
Thanks to the insatiable American appetite for drugs and illicit sex, this problem isn't going away soon.
In the sex trade, the overhead is low and there's less killing than there is in the drug trade. There's also considerable shame associated with sex and sexuality, so these factors combined make illegal sex trafficking one of the least discussed crimes in existence.
However, the crime is real and the human misery associated with the practice is so great, that moral people can no longer ignore its reality.
Opportunities to escape poverty are slim in Mexico, and that's where the traffickers start.
Grooming girls, sometimes as young as 9 years old, and more commonly in their teens, traffickers attract their victims by offering promises of work and better lives away from home. It should be mentioned that not all victims are female; about 21 percent of sex trafficking victims are male.
Lured away from home, victims end up in places like Tenancingo where as soon as their very first night they are raped, sometimes by gangs of men who pay for the experience.
Victims are told they must have sex to repay various debts incurred by their transport, or they or their families will be harmed. In countries such as Mexico where violence is tragically common, few victims are willing to test these threats.
The victims are subsequently treated as commodities, traded and exchanged between pimps and brothels. In the town of Tenancingo, the trade is the only real industry, so everyone profits by it and supports it. This makes escape nearly impossible.
Commonly, victims are shipped all around Mexico and even into the United States from Tenancingo. Of course they must "pay" for their own shipping.
Once they arrive in the United States, it's Americans who pay for sex with these victims. Referred to as "Johns" in the US, these men often claim they had no idea the women and children they're essentially raping are unwilling victims. However, such excuses strain credulity.
In New York city, for $30, a man can call a truck to pick him up off the street. The trucks the traffickers use are no different than those used to transport goods from warehouses to stores. In the back of the truck, is a victim, who must do as her John wishes for 15 minutes. At the end of that time, the truck stops and the John is dropped off to make his own way home. The woman may work anywhere from 10-20 hours in the back of the truck.
For men who can afford a little more, the victims can be delivered to their homes. In cities such as Las Vegas and New York, it is a common sight in the evenings to see men handing out business cards to men as they walk down the street. Any man could become a client by calling the number on the card. Often, the cards offer massages or dances, but in reality, they're startlingly public advertisements for pimps and their human victims.
Part of the problem is an overall lack of public awareness. While a John should be suspicious when his victim does not speak English, or appears underage, the average citizen in the United States has no idea that sex trafficking is happening on such a scale in their own neighborhood. For most Americans, sex trafficking is something that happens overseas in the third world, not something that happens every day in America.
Worsening the problems are outmoded laws that blame women for prostitution and treat victims like criminals. Weak protections for victims and their families, inadequate social supports such as safe houses, and short sentences for pimps means that very few women are willing to cooperate with authorities that want to rescue them.
Thankfully, public awareness is growing and new laws are being written to combat sex trafficking in the United States. Police and district attorneys are also being trained in how to handle such cases. Activists are making new resources available to protect women and transition them into safer environments.
There's also a growing awareness that Johns can play a role. In New York, Johns that are arrested have the opportunity to attend an educational awareness class instead of jail, for their first offense. These men are encouraged to bring trafficking victims to the police instead of returning them to their pimps. Sometimes, according to the NYPD, it actually happens.
However, sex trafficking is an ancient industry with deep roots in many parts of the world, such as it is in Tenancingo. Dismantling the largest human slavery network in history will require a concerted effort on the part of millions. Governments, police, and citizens alike must work together to destroy the environment where this trade flourishes, as well as make every effort to curb demand to zero.
This is no easy task, and it may not be accomplished for years, if ever. However, every human with an ounce of morality has a sacred and fiduciary duty to do everything possible to save every victim and to punish every wrongdoer they can. Only then will we see such horrible destruction of human life fade into the dustbin of history, where it truly belongs.
Workshop targets child abuse
by NIKKI WILEY - The Brunswick News
Andy Chambers is on a mission to prevent child sexual abuse.
He wants to train 3,000 Glynn County adults in recognizing and reporting child sexual abuse because he thinks if 5 percent of the county understands the signs of sexual abuse and how to report it, local children will be better off.
"The belief is that when 5 percent of culture changes behavior, you see a cultural shift," said Chambers, pastor at Frederica Presbyterian Church on St. Simons Island.
That's why he's conducting child sexual abuse prevention training along with the Golden Isles Children's Center.
The training will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 900 Gloucester St., Brunswick.
Though Chambers is a minister, the curriculum will not revolve around religious teachings. He follows the Stewards of Children curriculum.
Anyone is welcome to join the training.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach the age of 18, Chambers said, citing national statistics.
"It's happening in Glynn County, and we want to empower adults by educating them of the problem and the correct way to respond to it," Chambers said.
A state law went into effect July 1 that expands who is required to report suspicions of child abuse. Now, volunteers in schools, churches and day care centers are legally required to report suspected abuse.
But under-reporting is still a problem nationwide, he said.
"I think a lot of people just don't know what to do," Chambers said. "This is not something that people just love to talk about, either. People think, 'That would never happen to me or to my child.'"
Dr. Lee Heery, a pediatrician, agrees that a lack of reporting is a problem.
As medical director of the Golden Isles Children's Center, Heery is working with Chambers to educate the public on the signs of abuse.
"(Under-reporting) is a problem everywhere," she said. "Is it more of a problem here? I don't know."
Part of Heery's job is conducting medical forensic exams on abused children. She knows what impacts sexual abuse can have on children.
But the signs aren't always easy to spot, she said.
Younger children may act out, have behavioral problems, be scared at night or wet the bed. Older children may turn to substance abuse, skip school or engage in sexual activity.
Prevention is the key to keeping children safe.
"One of the most important parts is just preventing child abuse by keeping children safe and making children aware of what's OK and not OK," Heery said.
Those who suspect child abuse can report it to law enforcement or to the Department of Family and Children's Services.
IF YOU GO
Limited seats are available for the child sexual abuse prevention training session. To reserve a spot, contact Andy Chambers at 634-2240.
Lant named to committee to study child abuse, neglect
by Susan Redden
A committee created at the urging of state Rep. Bill Lant, R-Joplin, will begin work soon to study state programs and systems designed to protect Missouri’s children.
Lant is among Republican members of the House named to the newly created Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. Other House members, appointed by Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, are Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, and Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis. Three Democrats will be appointed by minority leadership in the House and seven members of the Missouri Senate also will be named.
The committee became a cause for him, Lant said, after meetings with schoolteachers and principals in his district who told him of instances of abuse and neglect of children and the difficulties they had getting help for those youngsters.
Now that word of Lant’s efforts is out, the representative said he’s getting more calls about the problem. He said statistics show that age 9 is the average age for a child to be sexually abused in Missouri, and that one of every four children is abused before age 14.
“I hear three stories a week — minimum,” he said. “It’s not just child abuse, sometimes the situation is foster care. There are foster parents out there doing wonderful things, but some other things need to be addressed.”
Once the full committee is named, members will gather information for an analysis of the current child abuse and neglect reporting and investigation system. The committee will use the information to devise a plan for improving the decision-making process in removing a child from the home. Members also will work to determine if additional resources are needed to protect children and improve their welfare, and will discuss the need for additional foster care homes in the state.
The committee also will collect information in public hearings throughout the state, including the Joplin area, Lant said.
Schoeller said the goal of the committee “is to provide the strongest and safest network of support possible for children in harm’s way.
“We want to make certain we are providing the best working environment and training to identify abuse and an appropriate solution to ensure each child is protected when abuse is occurring,” he said.
Lant said the structure of the joint committee will increase its influence. Once appointed, the committee will meet year-round rather than just during the legislative session from January through May. The committee will remain in existence until 2018 and members will serve for the duration of their tenures in the House and Senate, “so work that starts one year can go right into the next year.
“We are going to make this a better state for children, and make children safer,” Lant said.
Lant said he is hopeful remaining members of the committee can be named during the General Assembly’s veto session this month.
Men walking in heels raise awareness of sexual assault
Some of the 36 men walked in scandals, some in pumps, others in high heels and a few in their own shoes.
by David Litt
WILLMAR — Some of the 36 men walked in scandals, some in pumps, others in high heels and a few in their own shoes.
Regardless of the footwear, all participants walked, jogged or ran to raise awareness and funds to provide safety and healing for victims of abuse and sexual assault during the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event Saturday morning at the Willmar Middle School track.
The event is part of a 10-year international movement in which tens of thousands of men have slipped into women’s shoes and raised tens of thousands of dollars to support their local agencies that provide services to victims of rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
Locally, this was the third annual walk sponsored by Safe Avenues of Willmar. The agency works for social change and provides shelter to those at risk of domestic abuse and survivors of abuse or sexual assault including children in the west central area.
Most walkers wore a black T-shirt with a pair of red high heels and statement across the top saying “I am strong enough to walk a mile in her shoes.’’
The shoes and statement have been the logo for the event during the past two years, said Kasey Baker, sexual assault victim advisory program coordinator at Safe Avenues.
“It just really says something because you don’t often see men dressed in heels,’’ Baker said. “I’ve seen people out in the community wearing those and it’s a conversation-starter, and that’s what this event is all about, to get them talking about things.’’
Baker told the walkers, along with sponsors, community partners and volunteers that Safe Avenues was grateful for everyone who was present to join the fight to end sexual violence.
“Last year, your efforts helped Safe Avenues and the Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Program open a second location where victims of sexual violence could be served here in Kandiyohi County,’’ Baker said.
By making this a reality, Baker said, a higher level of confidential services can be provided to victims of sexual assault.
“It also allows for enhanced security to our shelter residents in that it’s less traffic to our secure facility,’’ said Baker. “Finally, we are closer in proximity to the courthouse, the county attorney’s office and the hospital.’’
The walkers heard from Sarah Corder-Guggisberg of Clara City, who worked toward passage this year of a state law called Jacob’s Law, named after her son, which requires both parents to be told when a child is a victim of neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse outside of the home.
Before the walkers started out on their four trips around the quarter-mile track, emcee Chuck Blum of Olivia told them 10 things that men can do to prevent men’s violence against women.
Also, he gave them some walking tips. Participants could select from more than three dozen donated pairs ranging from scandals and pumps to high heels.
Kyler Olson, 25, of Willmar joined his buddies from Snap Fitness to raise awareness of the issue. Olson finished first after walking the first lap and running the last three laps in dark pumps.
“They weren’t too bad to wear,’’ he said. “It hurts a little on the balls of the feet. Running actually felt better than walking. It kept them loose a little bit.’’
Adam Ness from Swift County, who wears about a size 14, couldn’t find any shoes so he walked in his own shoes. Ness said he wanted to walk because it’s a worthy cause.
Renville County Attorney David Torgelson of Olivia has participated for three years in a row because he believes in the cause.
“It’s very good in that it assists programs. Our office does the prosecution but this program is extremely beneficial and helping support victims through the court process,’’ he said.
Torgelson said the pair of white scandals he selected this time worked out better than the heels he wore the last two times.
“It wasn’t too bad although I can kind of feel it in my lower leg here,’’ he said. “I’ll do it again.’’
Is the Church finally facing up to its failings?
An inquiry by the Archbishop of Canterbury has shed further light on the scandal which lies at the heart of the Church of England diocese in Chichester.
Police investigations have uncovered further evidence of sexual crimes against children, which leaves the impression that a paedophile ring has been operating at the highest levels of the diocese for years.
One has to admire the courage of these children – now adults – who have come forward to report such crimes. They should, I hope, be galvanised by the Church’s response as it now seeks to deal with the mess it made of child protection.
Three new arrests of priests from the Chichester diocese this year have provided a backdrop to this historic inquiry – the first for 100 years – by the Archbishop. His report charts child protection failures and a “profoundly negative culture” and says that “fresh and disturbing” evidence keeps coming to the surface about the way abuse claims have been handled in the past. The Archbishop will now oversee all appointments and deal with safeguarding issues, effectively sidelining the diocese’s own efforts. Last May, Baroness Butler-Sloss was asked to produce a report on the growing crisis and she found a disturbing lack of understanding of the seriousness of child abuse which she felt might be reflected elsewhere.
The time span involved in these cases points to two central issues; that child abuse in the Church is widespread, and that it is still very much an ongoing problem in the 21st century. Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard – who abused children in the 1970s and 1980s - have already been imprisoned for gross offences against children. Cotton was made a priest in 1966, despite having a previous conviction for assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s. He used his position to gain access to young boys and became a scout leader to further that purpose. Pritchard was the vicar of St Barnabus in Bexhill until 2007 when he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys in 2008 and was jailed for five years.
This year, Robert Coles, a retired priest from Eastbourne was charged with 29 sexual offences against three boys. Revd Wilkie Denford of Shoreham, West Sussex denies four charges of indecent assault on a boy under the age of 16 in the 1980s. These crimes however are likely to be “the tip of the iceberg” according to the Archbishop’s own report.
As a founding member of the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign, victims and solicitors have joined forces to call for a Government-led public inquiry into church child abuse in the UK, and if this report has done anything, it will have confirmed that this inquiry must now go ahead. How can Government now say that these issues are all historic, that things have changed, and that churches are capable of governing themselves on this issue?
Now is the time for the whole scandal to be exposedNow is the time for the whole scandal to be exposed – not just in Chichester but elsewhere (to include the Catholic Church, which has grown more and infamous for crimes of abuse). Survivors are calling for a ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission, and a redress board like they had in the Republic of Ireland, to make it easier to claim compensation for the vile actions of these paedophile priests and churchmen. The campaign supports that call whole-heartedly.
One thing is certain – with the Church of England’s damning report, claims in the civil courts claiming damages against the Church for failing to protect these children should be made so much easier. This can be used to pay for much-needed psychological support, and to help them come to terms with their traumatic ordeal.
Human trafficking: a misunderstood global scourge
Sex trafficking has become an American cause célèbre. But does it divert attention from the broader human trafficking issue of modern-day slavery ?
by Stephanie Hanes
During a diplomatic visit to Calcutta, India, in May, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped at a shelter for young women and girls. It was not an ordinary shelter, but one with a specific mission – a mission Ms. Clinton wanted reporters to broadcast to Americans back home. It was a shelter established to help victims of human trafficking, an international crime that Clinton and other international players have called one of the world's largest and most pressing human rights concerns. It was also, primarily, helping girls who'd been trafficked for sex.
This is a key cause for Clinton. In recent years, she and other international figures – from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to British Prime Minister David Cameron – have raised the alarm about human trafficking, a practice involving forced labor, from mining to domestic work to prostitution.
"These victims of modern slavery ... their stories remind us of what kind of inhumane treatment we are still capable of as human beings,"
Clinton said in June upon the release of the annual State Department report on global human trafficking. "Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life, and our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach."
Moreover, Clinton and others have said regularly, human trafficking is also an American problem. It doesn't just take place in the sweatshops of impoverished Indian villages or in Thai brothels, but on US streets from San Francisco to New York. The federal government has estimated the number of domestic trafficking victims to be in the tens of thousands annually. Victims range from Southeast Asian indentured nail salon manicurists to Mexican agricultural workers to underage American prostitutes.
Many advocates say this last group, made up of American girls – and a relatively small number of boys – victimized in America, is the primary trafficking problem in the United States. "Sex trafficking," as this particular strain of human trafficking is called, has become a national human rights crisis, they say, and deserves a huge public outcry.
Indeed, domestic sex trafficking has become a high-profile cause. Celebrities from Jada Pinkett Smith and Salma Hayek to former couple Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have picked up the bullhorn of the anti-trafficking movement, with a focus on sex trafficking.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's crusade last spring against domestic sex trafficking and the online marketer Backpage.com, which he accused of helping sell underage girls into sex slavery, prompted a widespread movement against the website and its owner, Village Voice Media. Many advertisers in Village Voice Media – including Starbucks, AT&T, and Best Buy – cut ties with the company.
There have been local benefit concerts against sex trafficking and, recently, even a Tennessee church rodeo to raise awareness about the issue.
Federal prosecutors have also increased their efforts against human trafficking – with a primary focus on sex trafficking. The Department of Justice prosecuted only two human trafficking cases in 1998; in 2011 it charged 120 defendants with human-trafficking crimes. The bulk of cases were related to sex trafficking.
"For years, whenever we talked about sex trafficking in America the reaction was surprise," says Andrea Powell, executive director and cofounder of FAIR Girls, an anti-trafficking organization based in Washington, D.C. "The perception was that it happened to girls in foreign countries.... We've seen the beginning of a shift in the attitudes in the US, and that has to do with public awareness."
On one level, the new and growing focus on domestic human trafficking seems straightforward. Clearly, enslavement of individuals, and sexual exploitation of children, is cause for concern. But when the international issue becomes a domestic one, and when forced labor starts to involve sex, there also comes an emotional debate about where the real problem ends and where hype and sensationalism begin.
As with anything that involves the letters S, E, and X, academics, advocates, and the general public are emotional and divided. Dig beneath the surface of the anti-sex-trafficking movement and there are ambiguities and confusions and facts and fictions.
Are all prostitutes really sex-trafficking victims? Does Internet porn or sex tourism encourage trafficking? Are underage prostitutes always exploited by pimps?
Rather than being a black-and-white, good-and-bad issue, trafficking touches on some of the most uncomfortable and conflicted areas of American public discourse. The resulting debate is about sex and abuse and human rights, for sure. But it's also about prostitution and attitudes toward commercial sex overall. It is a conversation about the sexualization of teens and social responsibility for troubled youth, even the tenuous relationship with cheap labor.
Understanding these interrelated issues, say many who have long worked against human trafficking in all its forms, is necessary for coming up with the most effective solutions. They contend that celebrity videos and sloganeering – even from the highest-ranking policymakers – oversimplify the problem.
Responding to reality or hype?
One of the most public campaigns against domestic trafficking was launched last year by the philanthropic foundation of Ms. Moore and Mr. Kutcher. It was called "Real Men Don't Buy Girls," and used a campy, interactive video format that enlisted other celebrities, such as Justin Timberlake and Eva Longoria, to raise awareness about "child sex slavery in the US."
Moore and Kutcher gave interviews, made T-shirts, and rallied the Twitterverse to the cause. One of the most troubling statistics they shared was that there are 100,000 to 300,000 sex slaves in the US – figures repeated by interviewers, blogs, TV hosts and other movie stars.
The problem: The statistics are wrong.
Those figures came from a 2001 University of Pennsylvania study ("The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico") that estimated that there might be 100,000 to 300,000 children at risk of becoming trafficked prostitutes because of an array of negative circumstances, from homelessness to drug addiction. The number of actual sex-trafficking victims has been estimated by the US government to be in the tens of thousands, but even those numbers have been criticized as unfounded and far too high; between 2008 and 2010, federally funded human-trafficking task forces opened 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigation. Among those cases, only 248 suspected sex-trafficking victims under the age of 18 were identified.
Anti-trafficking advocates acknowledge the goof but say the celebrities' point is still accurate: Far too many young girls are sold for sex in the US. The Department of Justice numbers, they say, reflect a fraction of the real victims.
But the misstep, say critics, is a prime example of the problem with how American activists have started to tackle the real problem of trafficking. Hype over such high and inaccurate numbers of "child sex slaves" leads to a misguided response at best, they say. At worst, it siphons financial resources away from preventing other sorts of human trafficking. These critics worry that the growing – alarmist – focus on sex trafficking in America, bolstered by this sort of sensationalism, undermines solutions to problems, such as poverty and homelessness, that lead to exploited youth in the first place.
One such critic – Ann Jordan, director of the program on trafficking and forced labor at American University's law school in Washington, D.C. – has watched the US anti-sex-trafficking campaign with dismay.
A longtime advocate against human rights violations associated with various types of forced labor globally – such as indentured servitude, debt bondage, and slavery – Ms. Jordan says the anti-domestic-sex-trafficking movement "just took off and created its own industry," in part because it touched upon a conservative social nerve.
"Everybody wants to save the virgins, right?" she states. The hype, she says, ends up sidelining other concerns – such as the broader categories of human trafficking or even forced labor, which do not have to involve sex. "You need to tailor your response to the reality. You should not tailor your response to the hype."
What exactly is 'sex trafficking'?
When nonprofits and celebrities and even sex-worker advocates throw around the term "sex trafficking," what do they mean?
Some are referring to girls and women who are enslaved, transported from country to country, and forced to work in brothels. Others mean girls who are essentially kidnapped, shuttled from motel to motel, sold for sex and subject to violence from pimps and johns.
But federal law defines sex trafficking broadly to include all children involved in prostitution with a pimp. Some even interpret the law as covering all minors involved in prostitution at all. This includes girls who seek out a pimp for work, who are engaged in prostitution in their hometowns, whose families know about their prostitution, and even those who turn down opportunities to leave their "traffickers." In some ways, sex-trafficking laws are similar to statutory rape laws – the government has determined that a minor simply cannot consent to being involved in this sort of commercial sex.
The law upon which much of the US anti-trafficking work is based, and to which many advocates trace the start of the domestic anti-trafficking movement, is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000. The UN adopted its own anti-trafficking protocol the same year.
At first, the US law focused primarily on problems abroad. This made sense, according to those who worked on the legislation. The international numbers for human-trafficking victims were – and are – high: The UN has estimated human trafficking to be a $32 billion global industry; in 2008 it estimated that 2.5 million people from 127 countries were trafficked – 79 percent for sex, the rest for other forms of labor, from farm work to sweatshops. Many are children.
(These numbers vary tremendously from agency to agency and year to year; they are also far lower than the 21 million to 27 million global trafficking victims reported by the US State Department and, recently, the International Labor Organization. The discrepancy depends on whether "trafficked" involves all forms of forced labor or a subset of situations, usually in which a person is actually moved from place to place. Some UN groups say that it is impossible to calculate an accurate number of victims.)
The US law required the State Department to include an analysis of trafficking in its annual country human rights reports and ordered the US Agency for International Development to put together programs to combat trafficking abroad. The law also established a new form of visa for trafficking victims as a way to encourage them to cooperate with law enforcement without fear of deportation.
But the federal law also gave a new definition of sex trafficking: "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age." The law states that coercion includes threats of physical or psychological harm to children, and that any person under age 18 induced to participate in commercial sex is a sex-trafficking victim.
The all-encompassing definition of victimhood, say social workers and advocates, is important because it doesn't matter how or why young women first begin "working" in prostitution. Often, girls who end up in prostitution are already vulnerable – they are abuse victims, come from unstable homes, have run away, or suffer mental impairments. Others are simply naive, susceptible to manipulation of a pimp, who often pretends at first to be a boyfriend.
"Pimps are professional exploiters," says Ms. Powell of FAIR Girls. "They know how to find their product, i.e., a young girl, and they know how to sell [her]. And girls are very easily lured if they are at risk. They're looking for love and attention and pimps know that."
Once girls have started working with a pimp, advocates say, they often feel trapped. They can be beaten, raped, or threatened with violence if they try to leave; they can simply feel they have nowhere else to go. But never, advocates say, are they wanting to be sold for sex to dozens of clients a night.
"A lot of people are calling sex trafficking 'modern-day slavery,' " says Megan Fowler, director of communications for the Polaris Project, a US anti-trafficking organization that runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hot line. "But it's not that physical chained-in-the-basement coercion. It's psychological coercion."
A case in point is the federal prosecution of Jose Ciro Juarez-Santamaria, a Salvadoran MS-13 gang leader in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., who became the pimp of a 12-year-old runaway. She had sought him out at a Halloween party for help.
He told her to see him the next day, and he began taking her to "customers." For the next three months, federal prosecutors say, Mr. Juarez-Santamaria plied the girl with alcohol and marijuana, sold her for sex multiple times a day, and offered her to other gang members for sex, free of charge. He also had sex with her himself.
During his trial in July 2011, Juarez-Santamaria offered the defense that the girl knew what she was doing – that she wanted to work as a prostitute for the money. Indeed, when US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers entered the Oxon Hill, Md., apartment where the girl was staying with Juarez-Santamaria, she denied she'd been prostituted; and when agents took her to a shelter, she quickly ran away and back to Juarez-Santamaria.
But, of course, "as a legal matter, the law does not recognize the defense that [an underage girl] did this willingly," says Neil MacBride, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia whose office prosecuted Juarez-Santamaria and has brought 16 human-trafficking cases over the past year or so. "And when you look at the facts of these cases, no reasonable juror would conclude that these girls were doing it willingly and voluntarily. They were lured in with promises."
The jury agreed and convicted Juarez-Santamaria of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a child, transportation of a minor to engage in prostitution, and sex trafficking of a child.
He was sentenced to life in prison.
A former prostitute's perspective
But here is where the concept of sex trafficking gets more controversial: If psychological coercion is at the root of the "slavery" aspect of sex trafficking, then it is only logical, many advocates say, to apply the "trafficking" label to adult prostitution, as well.
A number of studies put the average age of entry into prostitution in the teenage years; 13 is a regularly repeated – though disputed – age. Many researchers also estimate that between 60 to 70 percent of prostituted women were sexually abused as children. And while studies about this are both few and hotly contested, a high percentage of prostituted women in many research projects say they're unable to change their situations. Even policymakers and academics who argue that adult prostitution is a choice acknowledge that many women in the commercial sex industry suffer regular violence from pimps, johns, and others.
"Ultimately, pimp-controlled prostitution is trafficking," Ms. Fowler says.
This is what an activist who goes by the name of Stella Marr believes. Ms. Marr was 20 years old when she first entered, as people involved call it, "the life." Today she helps run a group called Survivors Connect, which encourages sex-trafficking survivors to take a leading voice in the anti-trafficking campaign, and writes a blog at "My Body The City: The Secret Life of a Manhattan Call Girl."
Although Marr says her profile was somewhat atypical, the way she entered prostitution was not. Impoverished and trying to find a place to live and work in New York City, she was disowned by her troubled family, who pulled her out of Barnard College. She found herself on the streets, sleeping in apartment and academic building lounges. She was so broke, she said, she would walk from 120th Street down to Midtown to save subway fare.
And pimps, she says, noticed: "I was a sitting duck."
One day a man came up to her and told her that one of his friends needed a roommate, and that another friend owned a restaurant and could get her a job there.
It was a ruse. The friendly man soon turned violent, Marr recalls. And eventually he told her she could not leave. For the next decade she worked as a call girl, living in an apartment-turned-brothel. But even when she moved into her own apartment, she didn't dare leave the business. Her pimps told her that she would suffer if she tried to escape. Having been beaten up regularly, and having witnessed violence against other prostitutes, she believed them.
Now, she says, living in the suburbs, with a husband and a dog, she realizes that her traffickers weren't, in fact, omniscient. But at the time it was impossible to find rationality through the trauma, she says. And she understands why others don't leave.
"It's Stockholm syndrome, traumatic bonding," she says. "You bond with people who are hurting you, to survive. Most women in prostitution have no other place to go. They don't have a safety net…. And after a while, it seems like it's the only thing you're good for.
"Anyone who has been in prostitution doesn't really see a distinction between trafficking and prostitution," she says. "In my lifetime – I'm in my 40s – I want there to be a time when a woman can say 'I was domestically trafficked' and it will be like saying 'I had breast cancer.' "
Evolution of the term 'trafficking'
Stories such as Marr's help improve the understanding of trafficking and the commercial sex industry, says Danielle Palmer of the Child Rescue Association of North America, a group that works to eliminate child trafficking in the US and Canada, with a focus on sex trafficking.
"A big part of the problem is that we've viewed women in a sexually exploitative way for so long," she says, adding that her organization hopes to mold a generation of young people who will understand that commercial sex is far from victimless.
But this is a highly contested point. Many groups that serve sex workers say that for many, prostitution is a choice, and that lumping the commercial sex industry with sex trafficking is inaccurate and adds to the hype.
It is such a contested issue that several academics with expertise on prostitution contacted for this article declined to speak with the Monitor, pointedly saying their studies are about sex work, not trafficking.
"To throw the net and label all prostitution as trafficking is too broad," says Sienna Baskin, codirector of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, a group that provides services to commercial sex workers – those who have been trafficked as well as those who say they were not manipulated into prostitution. "It doesn't recognize that people have a really wide array of experiences in commercial sex; it also means that you're trying to put the same solution on a bunch of different problems."
Equating commercial sex with trafficking, says Ms. Jordan, the American University law professor, is the most recent in a series of morally based antiprostitution campaigns in the past century and a half, starting with a campaign by educated British women during the 1800s protesting white prostitutes following men to the colonies. "The middle-class and upper-class women didn't like it," she says. "They called it the 'white slave trade.' "
More recently, she says, was a 1980s feminist effort to label pornography and prostitution as trafficking: "They were talking about prostitution and nobody was paying any attention. Then there were all these women flooding out of Eastern Europe, China opened up, women were migrating and ending up in debt bondage situations. They would escape, run away, and end up at women's organizations asking for help. People started calling it trafficking, and ... antiprostitution campaigns adopted the term."
Sometimes the portrayal of sex slavery was accurate, Jordan says, sometimes it wasn't. But the term stuck, and got even more attention under the George W. Bush administration.
The semantic fine lines, say advocates such as Marr, miss the point. If it weren't for the growing awareness of domestic sex trafficking within the US – if not for the Ashton Kutchers and Nicholas Kristofs and the many organizations explaining the background behind young girls on street corners – Marr says that she'd still feel ashamed, and hundreds of young women wouldn't feel they deserve to seek help.
Without "this new recognition of sex trafficking, I don't know if I'd have the courage to be speaking to you today," she says.
Funding at stake
But equating prostitution with sex trafficking isn't the only trouble with the domestic anti-sex-trafficking movement, critics say.
The focus on domestic underage prostitution diverts attention – and funding – from equally exploitative, but less sensational, forms of forced labor and slavery. These forms of human trafficking can just as easily happen in the US as elsewhere – an immigrant housekeeper without a passport whose employers force her to work, for instance, or an illegal immigrant smuggled into the country to work in a nail salon or on a farm and who is neither paid nor allowed to leave. Although estimates for these sorts of victims in the US are also in the many thousands, federal anti-trafficking task forces opened investigations into cases involving only 63 suspected victims between 2008 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Why I Reported Facebook to the FBI
Why sell your wares on a street corner when you can actively cold call prospective buyers of sexual services on a site like Facebook?
FEBRUARY 6, 2012
by RAYMOND BECHARD
I've reported crimes to the FBI before. This one was different. In all previous cases, I didn't know who the suspect was. This time I did. That's how I found myself sitting across from an FBI Special Agent at their New Haven, Connecticut offices. The crime I was reporting to him was child pornography. The perpetrator was Facebook.
First a little background on what brought me to the FBI's interview room that day.
The widespread use of the Internet by human traffickers, pimps, and pedophiles has changed the entire landscape of commercial sexual exploitation throughout the world. “Technology has played a fundamental role in this change,” wrote Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociology professor at Columbia University, “No self-respecting cosmopolitan man looking for an evening of companionship is going to lean out his car window and call out to a woman at a traffic light.” Quite simply, the web has become the new City Street Corner with all its former intrigue and ugliness. All manner of humanity roams there.
While the Internet is mushrooming with sex-for-sale sites like Backpage, Fling, Adult Friend Finder, Eros, and The Erotic Review, something else has emerged, bringing an entirely new dynamic to human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Social networking websites like Facebook, Microsoft Live, Google+, and Twitter have completely moved the game to a different playing field. Enormously popular – and growing every day – these free sites offer very powerful tools for men who are buying sex, pimps who are selling it, and worse, pedophiles trading child pornography.
To begin with, in a brilliantly devious marketing ploy, pimps have used these sites in such a way that men no longer need to look for girls on the street corner or the Internet. Using social networking, the girls now come to them.
In the world of online prostitution and human trafficking, individual females are advertised extensively with personal pages of information, photos, and updates. Facebook is the perfect forum to begin or continue conversations with potential johns. This has added a new dimension for pimps and other human traffickers to aggressively market females working in prostitution: Tugging . Now they can go looking for men – pull them in – instead of waiting for men to contact them. “Even before the crackdown on (Craigslist's) adult-services section,” observed professor Venkatesh, “sex workers were turning to Facebook.” He further estimated “that by the end of 2011, Facebook will be the leading on-line recruitment space.”
Some men, curious and perhaps willing to pay someone for sex, but unwilling to actively look for listings online, are open to having an attractive female “friend” them on Facebook and begin an innocent conversation. With millions of men sharing their profile on Facebook, it is extremely easy for those working in the sex industry to scour through profiles, seeking men in their geographic area who look like they have money to spend. This provides a new level of “sex marketing” efficiency since Facebook allows almost anyone to see enough information about an individual to determine whether or not they will make a profitable john.
Once the man receives the “friend” request, and not knowing from whom the request came, he may be curious enough to look at the sender's profile. With no limitations on who sees her Facebook page, he will find a wealth of information to beguile him. The female's profile begins with an exhibit of risqué photos, but still within the soft guidelines of the website so as not to raise any warning flags with its administrators. Her “Wall” will have references to her love of parties, men, and sex. Her updates will be perky, friendly, positive, and alluring.
At this point, the man has two options: “Confirm” or “Ignore” the “friend” request from his sexy new contact. If he takes the bait and presses “Confirm” she will be able to see his entire profile. He will receive constant updates from her and invitations to “Instant Message” her on Facebook, all in an effort to draw him in. After a short time, his new female Facebook friend will invite him to follow her on Twitter as well. Then, she begins inviting him, and other men, to dance where she is dancing, “party” wherever she is that particular night, or stay wherever she is staying “for the next few days.”
Women being sold are not only waiting on street corners. They are not only sitting by the phone waiting for men to call from their ads online. They are not waiting for e-mails and texts to come in. Now they are cold calling. Through legitimate and accepted websites like Facebook, they are knocking on the doors of men across America, peering into the windows of their virtual homes, and asking for an invitation to come inside.
Far more blatant is the use of Facebook by pedophiles to connect with each other around the world in order to trade sexually explicit images of young children. Typically, these men find each other by posting similar interests to their Facebook profiles. Using common profile “likes,” such as the novel “Lolita,” the movie “Thirteen,” or any profile name including the words, “young,” “kid,” “angle,” or “child,” pedophiles searching for explicit images of children can successfully search for their otherwise hidden brethren.
Recently, one profile on Facebook, “Marcos Teia,” had more than 500 “friends” with whom he shared hundreds of these photographs directly on Facebook's pages. His Facebook gallery began with a single photograph of a young girl, perhaps six or seven years old. She was not smiling in the picture. With her head turned slightly to the right, she looked coyly at the lens. Her hair was coiffed in a highly stylized arrangement with green and yellow ribbons. Along with other makeup, she was wearing lipstick, eyeliner, and shadow. She was standing outside, a blue sky and unidentified foothills behind her. She was holding an inflatable Daffy Duck. And she was completely naked.
Most of the child's body is exposed in a sexual manner – making this photograph a violation of Federal Child Pornography laws. Anyone involved in or possessing the photograph could be prosecuted. The photographer, the men posting it, the men downloading it and keeping it on their computers – all of them – are guilty of violating Federal and State laws.
At the time, this was part of a collection that was growing online by the hour. Along with other photos of naked, costumed, and posed children, the sexually explicit images were simply a collection called “Model Kids” on “Marcos Teia's” Facebook page. “Marcos” is clearly an online “avatar,” a falsified Facebook profile that effectively hides the true identity of the person behind the page.
“Marcos Teia's” profile, which used Spiderman as a profile photo and has a Brazilian e-mail address, disappeared every so often. One day he was on Facebook with hundreds of friends – whose profiles also exhibited sexually explicit photographs of children and adults on the social networking site – and the next day he was gone. A few days later he was back, eager to confirm friend requests from anyone.
Most of the reported 800 million users of Facebook probably think it was generally safe from such content and well patrolled. With some privacy concerns, the vast majority of Facebook users, from private citizens to major corporations, NGOs, politicians, and even the President of the United States, have no idea that it is home to a massive collection of unreported pornography of all kinds.
Having seen “Marcos's” profile, images, and friends growing worse every day, I reported “him” to Facebook several times – which could explain why he vanished so often. Facebook may have deleted his account upon each of my reports. Yet he always returned a day or so later with the same name, profile photo, birthday, e-mail address, and, worst of all, sexually explicit photographs of children in his “Model Kids” collection.
Then, Facebook “groups” began appearing with names like “love little kids,” “nude boys,” “teen sex,” and the like. A Facebook visitor must request permission to “join” these groups, though once the request is made, acceptance is generally given within minutes. The images here were far worse than anything I had encountered previously. These photos – on Facebook – were clearly in violation of several federal laws.
The proliferation of illegal photographs was so profound that I immediately contacted the FBI by phone. The person answering instructed me to fill out an online form – an “IC3” – at their Internet Crime Complaint Center. As I was doing so, I wondered if the FBI would send me to a website had I reported a bank robbery, a kidnapping, or a suspected terrorist. Nevertheless, I submitted the online report, detailing everything I had witnessed.
The following day, with my trust in the Internet having decreased that much further, I made the same report in person – along with a colleague – at the FBI offices in New Haven. Without an appointment we were immediately interviewed by an exceptionally professional and compassionate FBI Special Agent who took all the information we could give him. Though overworked and with a very busy schedule, the agent sacrificed a good part of his day to get a clear picture of what we had found on Facebook.
Our intent was to report the crime we had witnessed and make the authorities aware that these images were not being traded among pedophiles via some hidden, back channel website flying under the radar. This was Facebook. While the people of Egypt were using the website to essentially overthrow their dictatorial government, these others were openly using Facebook's system to display and trade images of children being sexually attacked.
Soon after filing the report, we began a Facebook Cause, “ Force Facebook To Block All Child Pornography,” which now has over 50,000 members (and so far, no comment from Facebook). We also started a Change.org petition, “ Stop Child Pornography and Child Sex Trafficking on Facebook,” and built an entire website to get the message out, StopChildPornOnFacebook.com. We also went to the media where some brave journalists reported the story.
On February 1st of this year, Facebook announced it was filing to make an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of the company's common stock. The deal is predicted to value the social networking site at $100 billion. This will give the company a value greater than most car companies, computer manufacturers, software firms, defense contractors, and other online businesses like eBay, Amazon, and most certainly Craigslist.
“Facebook faces a security challenge that few, if any, other companies or even governments have faced – protecting more than 500 million people (sic) on a service that is under constant attack,” said Simon Axten, a spokesman for Facebook, concerning security issues with his company's website. Those “challenges” don't seem to matter to the US State Department which remains totally unaware of the web-based exploitation issues. In June, 2011, the State Department praised Facebook in their annual Trafficking in Persons Report saying, “Whether through issue-specific media, or far-reaching platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the growing capacity of new media allows concerned parties around the world to connect and share information with a speed and breadth of access unimaginable at the start of the modern anti-slavery movement just a decade ago.”
Hopefully, another Federal Agency – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – will take a close look at the exploitation of children on the Facebook before it approves the massive IPO which will make Mark Zuckerberg one of the top ten wealthiest people in the world.
For now, the horror continues. And while many are eager to jump on the Facebook IPO bandwagon, it is one investment opportunity I am glad to ignore.