Mom angry that male vice principal spanked child
by Abby Ellin
Rather than spend two days in in-school suspension for allegedly letting another student copy her classwork, Taylor Santos, a well-regarded student and athlete at Springtown High School, near Fort Worth, Texas, chose to get paddled.
As her mother, Anna Jorgensen, told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas, Taylor didn't want to miss any classes because "her grades are very important to her."
So Santos went to the vice principal's office to request a paddling. She called her mom, who said that as long as her daughter was OK with it, so was she. According to school policy, parents who don't want their children to subject to corporal punishment must submit a written statement each year.
What neither Jorgenson nor Santos knew was that a man - the vice principal - would be doing the swatting, while a female watched. As far as Jorgensen knew, she said, school policy mandated that males spanked males and females spanked females.
Because of the force with with Santos was struck, her bottom was fire-engine red and looked as if it had been "burned and blistered," said Jorgensen, who took photos as evidence.
While paddling in public schools has been outlawed by 31 states, as well as by Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that it was legal unless it has abolished by local authorities, according to the web site Corpun.com.
It is legal in 19 states; efforts to ban it in Wyoming, North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas failed. However, in 2011 laws were introduced in both Texas and North Carolina giving parents the right to exempt their students from paddling.
"A lot of people think it was abolished 20 years ago," Jimmy Dunne, president of People Opposed to Paddling Students (POPS), told ABC News. A former math teacher in the Houston Middle Schools, Dunne founded POPS in 1981 and has been the spanker and spankee. But he refused to participate after noticing that some teachers were "getting sadistic pleasure out of hitting these kids."
He has actively tried to get schools to curb the practice ever since, but he has met with resistance. In June, he appeared at an anti-corporal punishment in schools rally in Washington, D.C., and will be attending a school board meeting on Monday after a 13-year-old student at Barbers Hill Middle School in Houston was covered with welts and bruises after a paddling he received for getting three consecutive zero grades.
"Members of the Texas legislature say, 'I was paddled, and I turned out OK,'" he said. "Or they say they want to leave it up to the local district to decide. They think it's good discipline. But it's legalized child abuse. I always say if this was done away from the school, the person would be arrested."
The day after her daughter's paddling, Jorgensen called the vice principal to complain, but was told it was "normal for her bottom to look like this after receiving swats." The vice principal added that he had no idea about the same gender swatting, Jorgensen said.
Neither Jorgensen, nor the vice principal nor Springtown ISD Superintendent Mike Kelley, was available for comment by ABC News. But according to WFAA, Kelley is going to ask the school board to abolish the same gender policy, since adhering to it can be difficult on some campuses.
Jorgensen told WFAA that she will be at the school board meeting to encourage them not to abolish the same-gender policy.
"I think Taylor is proof that we need to keep that policy," she said. "I don't believe a man intentionally meant to do that to her, but it still happens, because men are too big and strong to be hitting 96-pound girls."
York County woman, sexually abused as a child, creates a way to help others like her
Turning Point, scheduled to open in November, expects to offer various therapies.
by KATE HARMON
York, PA -
Kristen Woolley felt like she couldn't tell her family or friends.
Knowing that a family friend was sexually assaulting her from age 10 to 12 might break her already-stressed mother. And what would she do if her classmates found out?
So the Windsor Township woman buried the pain, the shame, and the confusion.
When she was 17, she disclosed the abuse to a mandated reporter who didn't report it.
So she buried it again.
A few years later, an attorney told her too much time had passed for her to file charges. That wasn't the right, but she thought it was.
Finally, at 23, a doctor encouraged her to tell her mother.
Her mother was shocked.
Ten days later, Woolley saw her mother again, and she disclosed that she, too, was abused as a child.
Ten days after that, Woolley's mother died.
"I thought I really did break my mom," Woolley said.
Years passed, bringing with them a husband, a nursing degree, a master's in social work, two children.
And somewhere along the way, a dream: To create a safe place where women like her could come and not have to bury that shame.
"Sexual abuse is so silent," she said. "I wanted to create a place where they can come in and not have to speak. They just know."
'A unique niche'
For years, Woolley has been talking to Deb Harrison of the York County Children's Advocacy Center -- where she serves on the board of directors -- about her dream.
In the York area, there are therapists experienced in trauma, and there are victim resource centers. Woolley wanted to "make sure she's meeting a unique niche," Harrison said.
Woolley's nonprofit will focus only on women who are victims of childhood sexual abuse. It will offer hands-on therapy and group discussions.
"I think you can see the power of someone who has come out of that experience and is motivated in that way to make life better for others," Harrison said.
There aren't a lot of resources, Harrison said, adding that in her experience many of those places have waiting lists.
"There's no end to the work that can be done," she said.
In her conversations with other medical professionals, Harrison said, she has heard there are people revealing information about their own abuse much later in life.
"They've closed the door on it and they don't think it's affecting them," she said.
The cost to society for not addressing abuse when it happens is profound, she added.
While the CAC deals primarily with children, Harrison said they'll often see that abuse is generational and they try to respond to the need for referrals.
"I think she'll be very very busy at her center related to the fact that the generations of women she'll be seeing were part of an era where this simply wasn't talked about," Harrison said.
Healing is possible
When she finally focused on recovery, Woolley recalls seeing a poem by Terri St. Cloud called "It's not your fault."
"I realized intellectually it wasn't my fault, but in my heart I didn't feel it," she said.
But it wasn't until she was tucking her then 10-year-old son in bed one night that it hit home. Looking at him, she realized just how small he was -- and how small she was when her abuse started.
Through her process, she saw a lot of work by a St. Cloud, who also had a poem called "The healing began."
It began: "feeling dirty, ashamed and damaged, she hid her story. not knowing that the woman next to her also hid hers."
That was the beginning of an idea that would follow her through her recovery, and into a nonprofit she'd fund with money her mother left her after her death.
Turning Point is a nonprofit based out of a home she owns on East Market Street in Springettsbury Township.
She's doing most of the work at the home by hand -- with help from her 10- and 14-year-old sons who help her paint -- to keep costs down.
And in November, she plans on opening Turning Point.
Woolley wants women to know that transformation from victim to survivor is possible. And it's liberating.
"She can say it, and she's not only still standing, but she's flourishing," said Joan Bitzer, her mentor and a local psychologist.
Woolley will run the center and have three other therapists on hand. Instead of using insurance for sessions, there are set prices she said she based on what exactly of an insurance payment goes directly to providers. Donors can choose to sponsor a therapy for clients.
The nonprofit will offer only outpatient therapy -- journaling, group and individual counseling, art and sand tray therapy. It will also offer legal advocacy and work with the county's Victim Witness Program.
The experiential therapies Woolley plans to offer are different, too, Bitzer said. Not a lot of facilities have all of the options together.
"It's an opportunity to get to some of the deeper emotions that are too hard to talk about at first," she said.
On top of that, Bitzer said she thinks the fact that Woolley's openness about personal experience will benefit clients since she knows what they're going through.
Bitzer added she doesn't think all therapists need to have the experience, but that it may be meaningful for someone going into therapy for the first time.
"I can identify with feeling it's your fault, feeling dirty," Woolley said. "It's not pretty to go back in time and heal, but it's possible."
And she wants women coming in to her center to know she knows what it's like to feel dirty and to feel like it's your fault.
"If one woman can walk in here and when she leaves, she leaves her shame at the door, then my abuse is worth it," Woolley said.
About Turning Point
Turning Point will host open house events to show off the new nonprofit for women who were sexually abused as children.
The events are at 5 p.m. on Oct. 18, and noon Oct. 19. The center is located at 2100 E. Market St., Springettsbury Township.
RSVP by Oct. 11 by calling (717) 755-8876 or emailing email@example.com .
For more about Turning Point, visit turningpointyork.com.
Statute of limitations
When Kristen Woolley disclosed her childhood sexual abuse, an attorney told her it was too late for her to file charges. The attorney was wrong, but since then the statute of limitations has been changed.
For cases involving child victims who turned 18 on or after Aug. 27, 2002, the commonwealth has until the victim's 50th birthday to file criminal charges for abuse that occurred before the age of 18.
The statute for sexual offenses committed against minors applies to the charges of: rape, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, indecent exposure, incest, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, sexual abuse of children and sexual exploitation of children.
-- The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape: pcar.org
|By the numbers
--- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.
--- There are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.
--- 73 percent of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year.
45 percent of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years.
--- Nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assault occur to children ages 17 and under
.................Source: Darkness to Light: darkness2light.org
Sexual abuse resources
Victim Assistance Center (717) 854-3131 or (800) 422-3204
Report child sex abuse by calling Childline at 1-800-932-0313
Vote online to help child abuse prevention center win $50K
The Exchange Club-Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse is one of five finalists in HORNE LLP's “$50,000 for 50 Years” charity donation contest, and the public is invited to vote online to help determine the winner.
The other four finalists are the American Cancer Society, Mid-South Division Inc.; Friends of Children's Hospital; the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; and Ronald McDonald House Charities, according to a news release from HORNE, an accounting and business advisory firm.
The contest is part of HORNE's year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary. The company's “$50,000 for 50 Years” program serves to bring awareness to the charities that HORNE team members support, the release said. HORNE employees nominated more than 30 nonprofit organizations that met a pre-established set of criteria, including alignment with the firm's mission, “Creating value, making a difference.”
Online voting will continue today through Wednesday. The winner of the online vote will be announced on Oct. 1, HORNE's 50th anniversary, and will receive a $50,000 check. To vote, visit www.horne50.com or www.carlperkinscenter.org.
HORNE LLP has served clients across the nation for 50 years. Ranked as a top 100 CPA and business advisory firm, HORNE has offices in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. For more information on HORNE, visit www.horne-llp.com.
'Help the Lions Tackle Child Abuse' charity event in Steelton will benefit RAINN
by Phyllis Zimmerman
”Help the Lions Tackle Child Abuse” will offer an opportunity to help a good cause and have a good time simultaneously.
The first-time event will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 29 at Champions Sports Bar and Grille, 300 Second St., Highspire. For a $5 donation at the door, patrons can enjoy pizza, wings and soda; music by American Posse, a Harrisburg rock/country band; and try their shot at a dunk tank and other games.
There's also a chance to win door prizes, a 50/50 raffle and T-shirts, while watching the Penn State-Illinois football game on the sports bar's 30 high-definition TVs.
“It's going to be a good time,” said Tim Reider, an event organizer.
Proceeds will go to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. A computer will be available onsite to post donations directly onto RAINN's website at www.rainn.org
“Tim has done such an amazing job putting this together, and we are so grateful for his support,” said Chelsea Bowers, RAINN's manager of online giving.
The charity event was inspired by the child molestation scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky
, organizers said.
According to RAINN's website, 44 percent of rape victims are younger than 18, while 15 percent are younger than 12.
“There's a lot of people who say they would have done things differently [regarding the Sandusky scandal]. This is a way to do something different with all of this,” said Anthony Zehring, another event organizer.
By Sept. 7, 220 people had registered for the event, including some former Penn State players.
Sponsoring the event with Champions are PA Deals, Dane's Cutting Edge Salon, Tony's Pizza, 230 Cafe, Roberto's Pizza, Loser's Music, Librandi's Machine Shop, Agostina's Pizza, Penn State Alumni Association, Office Basics and Americhem.
Reider, a purchasing/facilities coordinator for the Middletown Area School District, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who became disabled after an injury during training disqualified him from deployment.
Zehring, now Middletown Area High School's assistant wrestling coach, served four years in Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force. He is a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard's 193rd Special Operations Wing.
Also assisting with the event are John Acker and Brandon Shrawder, both of whom served in Iraq with the U.S. Marines. Acker was awarded a Purple Heart.
Reider, Zehring, Acker and Shrawder and other military friends plan to take turns hiking the event's proceeds to Penn State's Beaver Stadium in State College. The group plans to present the check to RAINN representatives at the Penn State-Ohio Buckeyes football game on Oct. 27.
“[The hike] is going to take roughly five days to do. We'll be starting in Duncannon and using the Appalachian Trail as far as we can until we hike the back roads to Beaver Stadium on game day Oct. 27,” Reider said.
|IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Help The Lions Tackle Child Abuse” event.
WHEN: 11 a.m. Sept. 29.
WHERE: Champions Sports Bar and Grille, 300 Second St., Highspire.
COST: $5 admission benefits the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Organization.
Child abuse awareness may become part of curriculum in PA schools
by Mary Wilson
Pennsylvania hasn't seen the last of legislative proposals written in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Lawmakers have started a bipartisan push to bring child abuse awareness into the lesson plans of the state's schools.
School districts wouldn't have to teach children how to recognize child abuse and protect themselves from it, but they would have the option, under a state House proposal.
Adding something to the elementary education curriculum that raises awareness about abuse could help the children who are being preyed upon, says Rep. Mauree Gingrich, who is sponsoring the measure.
"Most children don't possess the skills to verbalize what's happening to them and they truly fear that no one will understand them or believe them," said Gingrich, R-Lebanon. "The best defense that we can provide our children is knowledge."
The state Department of Education would create model curricula for kindergarten through eighth grade.
School districts could use that, or create their own lesson plans. Parents would be able to review the abuse awareness curriculum, and even pull their kids out of class if they don't approve of the material.
More whistle-blowers are needed to protect America's children, especially its tribal children
by Phillip Morris
The Internal Revenue Service awarded $104 million to Swiss banker Bradley Birkenfeld this month, weeks after his release from a three year prison stint.
Birkenfeld is being hailed a superstar whistle-blower, who has provided the U.S. government with a fiscal road map that will enable it to collect billion of dollars in taxes on income that otherwise would have gone unreported.
The banking rogue turned government witness reportedly understood all of the internal workings of one particular off-shore tax thievery scheme that cheats the U.S. Treasury out of $100 billion a year.
As a result of his lucrative whistle blowing, more than 33,000 Americans quickly come forward to voluntarily disclose offshore accounts, according to Bloomberg News. Some people now hail the repentant and very rich Birkenfeld, who lives in New Hampshire, as an upstanding American. The large IRS check he received (it's supposedly taxable) was his reward for spilling the beans.
That's good, I suppose. The rich should pay their federal taxes just like the middle-class folks, who can't afford to employ lawyers to help them identify tax loopholes or bankers to concoct elaborate schemes to hide income.
But for all the good Birkenfeld accomplished by outing his former Swiss banking colleagues and their rich clients, I don't consider him the type of whistleblower that this nation most needs.
The whistleblowers we need more of today are people who will stand up for abused children, the young who have precious few to speak or advocate for them.
We need more people – and children, for that matter, – to speak out on the abuses that legions of our most vulnerable suffer in heartbreaking silence every day.
A story in the New York Times last Thursday spoke to the epidemic of child rape on tribal reservations. It was the kind of story that either moves you to rage or sadness, if not both.
The nation has long known of the high rate of rape and sexual violence on many tribal reservations. One in three Native American women has been raped or experienced an attempted rape according to the Department of Justice.
That shocking statistic is more than double the rate of sexual assault of any other racial demographic in the country. Those with the knowledge of the trend say the far bigger problem is the number of rapes that simply go unreported.
But that's not breaking news, as the haunting plight of Native American women has long been discussed in federal policy and legislation dating back to the Violence against Women Act of 1994 and before.
What is far less talked about is the sexual abuse suffered by Native American children. Getting reliable numbers on the victims of child sex abuse on reservations is difficult, but it is believed by many close observers to be increasing, perhaps as a result of better reporting.
It has been estimated that one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys on a reservation is molested before age 18.
But in this age of awareness, the whistleblower and omnipresent social media, it is difficult to understand why safety conditions aren't improving for the Native American child.
Some defensive tribal leaders say that it is. They offer no proof. The National Bureau of Indian Affairs is also on the record saying that the media and whistleblowers routinely overstate the problem of tribal sexual abuse. That's expected.
The Times story, however, is just the most recent piece that leaves one with a horrible feeling that a serious problem of sexual violence continues to go unresolved. The assault of women, and the assault and neglect of children on too many reservations just doesn't seem to be a leading concern.
On the North Dakota reservation highlighted in the Times' story, for instance, the man who plays Santa Claus for the remote tribe is a registered sex offender and a convicted rapist.
Thomas F, Sullivan, a director of the federal Administration for Children and Families, a man that The Times identified as a leading whistle blower on the issue of tribal child sexual abuse, is prevented from speaking to reporters. But in a memo to his supervisors in Washington last month, he wrote the following, as quoted in the Times:
"If we fail in our role as leaders, we will deserve the same condemnation society so correctly applied to those leaders at Penn State and in the Catholic Church who, knowing of the abuse being inflicted on children by their colleagues, did nothing, failing in their basic obligation to protect children."
I'm all for Swiss bankers blowing the whistle on those who cheat the country of tax revenues. Similarly, we need a stronger culture of whistle blowers around Northeast Ohio, as too many public servants have shown a propensity for bottom-feeding gluttony and graft.
But there is a far greater need for whistle blowers in the sovereign tribal governments, as well as in our federal government, to identify and punish those who would sexually abuse children on reservations simply because there are limited efforts to prevent it. We all have an indivisible stake in protecting America's children.
If we can't do a better job of protecting our children – and, yes, it starts with families -- we've lost our nation.
Couple answers call to action over human trafficking
VIRGINIA BEACH -- Lori McKenna squirmed in her seat as she watched scenes from the human-trafficking film "Call + Response" at New Life Providence Church a few years ago.
The girls lined up in brothels. The pained faces of children and teenagers.
Afterward, Christian leader Lou Engle, who was hosting the event, challenged people to do something.
"There was definitely a call to prayer, a call to action," McKenna said. "Whenever you hear something like that, you can't sit still."
The graphic images stuck with her. McKenna let Engle's message marinate, and two years later, the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative was born.
Lori, a homemaker, and her husband, Pat, a lawyer, launched an unlikely crusade to battle sex trafficking in Hampton Roads, recruiting hundreds to their cause and working tirelessly on a problem that's been getting increased attention.
Married 23 years and with three teenage children, the McKennas devote up to 50 hours each week to address a hidden scourge.
Human trafficking is a fast-growing crime. Most victims are female, and some are minors. It's often a migratory offense, with pimps and victims rolling into town, renting hotel rooms and advertising sex for sale on Internet venues such as backpage.com, then moving on to the next town.
Pimps often use coercion and fear tactics. In one case, a 13-year-old Virginia Beach girl was lured into trafficking by a man on a social networking site in late 2010.
Court documents say she was forced to drink alcohol and perform sex acts in hotels in Chesapeake and Hampton.
The alleged pimp videotaped the girl and threatened to show the video if she didn't do as he said, which led to more sex with paying customers, according to court documents. Two men were charged.
The McKennas said victims are often charged with prostitution after police stings, which doubly victimizes them. The couple is working with local authorities to correctly identify victims.
Authorities often have a hard time prosecuting pimps because trafficking victims are scared of life without them and are uneasy about testifying against them. They become father figures of sorts, the McKennas said.
Lucky victims eventually escape. Some go into prostitution because it's the only thing they know.
The McKennas' group is working with Samaritan House, an organization that helps people fleeing domestic violence and homelessness, to designate a home for trafficked survivors. Only a handful of such houses exist nationwide.
Lori McKenna envisions a place where survivors can learn job skills and get faith-based counseling. She'll know next month whether a grant for the house goes through.
Robin Gauthier, program director at Samaritan House, said its partnership with the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative began in April when staffers contacted the group looking for help for trafficked victims they had come across. "We're thrilled to be working together," Gauthier said.
The group is a sister organization to the Richmond Justice Initiative.
Lori McKenna said the Virginia Beach group has applied for nonprofit status.
It has about 200 active members and partners ranging from students to professionals. They pray for victims, spread awareness and counsel survivors. In order to join, members undergo background checks. This year, the group has helped about 10 trafficking survivors with counseling and getting on their feet.
The organization will partner with Regent University's Center for Global Justice on Dec. 5 to hold a Regional Summit on Human Trafficking.
Pat McKenna said the victims are usually in their late teens to early 20s and come from different parts of the East Coast. The group mainly gets referrals from law enforcement.
The initiative is developing guidelines with area law enforcement officials to train hotel owners about the crime, Lori McKenna said. The training will start later this year.
Barb Uttaro, an agent at the Norfolk FBI bureau who has investigated trafficking cases, said trafficking awareness in Hampton Roads is on the rise. Agents have seen an increase in cases.
Chandra Moyer is executive director of Release Me International, a local nonprofit that also raises awareness about trafficking, and has partnered with the Virginia Beach group. "It's exciting for me to see that there's some movement, because there wasn't anything going on," Moyer said.
The McKennas, meanwhile, keep busy. They can't remember the last time they went on a date. But their small sacrifices are paying off.
They say their marriage has grown stronger, and so has their faith, and the organization. And just as Engle spread the word, so are they.
During a recent benefit concert, they raised nearly $500 and gained 10 new members. It was a small feat, but one that the McKennas were still thankful for.
"It's nice to see people becoming aware and taking up the cause," Pat McKenna said. "It gives us that shot of encouragement when you're dealing with something so heavy."
The fight against human trafficking
The battle is being fought across the border and in our backyard
by Elizabeth Aguilera
Editor's note: This package of stories, photos and video is a joint project between U-T San Diego and the International Center for Journalists, which provided funding from the Ford Foundation and the Brooks and Joan Fortune Family Foundation.
Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, Mexico - In a Mexican village some 1,800 miles from San Diego, girls and young women are coerced, threatened and forced into a life of prostitution. It is where pimps use the town's annual Carnival to show off their chicas, luxury vehicles and wealth that builds mansions with distinctive architecture to impress and then lock away victims.
Tenancingo is the beginning of a pipeline in an illicit, international trafficking trade where San Diego is a key nexus. This village and others in the state of Tlaxcala generate as much as 80 percent of all Mexican sex traffickers.
The perpetrators include multigenerational families, town officials, neighborhood gossips and lookouts.
Their business scheme is emblematic of systems from Asia to South America, from Eastern Europe to the United States, that profit from the slave labor of men and women. The victims toil in fields, build homes, do housework, beg on streets and work in brothels for little or no compensation.
The spotlight on their plight has grown during the past decade. The United States, Mexico and other countries have passed new laws, advocacy groups have formed to help victims and law-enforcement officials are trying to pursue more of these cases. Successful prosecutions have occurred in San Diego, New York City, Miami and Atlanta.
“As the fight against human trafficking becomes more normalized, I think the lay understanding of it stops being ‘over there' and people understand how it happens in their own backyard,” said U.S. State Department ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who oversees the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Each year, the agency releases its Trafficking in Persons Report, which grades nations on their anti-trafficking efforts.
Human trafficking is a lucrative affair, ranking as one of the top three most profitable criminal enterprises (behind the arms trade and drug trafficking), according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Interpol and the U.S. State Department.
It is estimated to be a $32 billion-a-year business that ensnares 21 million to 27 million victims worldwide, said the International Labour Organization and Kevin Bales, cofounder of Free the Slaves and author of “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy.”
San Diego County plays a significant role in human trafficking because it has the busiest land port in the world, miles of border territory, an international airport and easy access to interstate highways. Those factors make it one of the top 10 U.S. cities for child pornography and trafficking, said Joe Garcia, special agent in charge of Department of Homeland Security investigations in San Diego.
The State Department estimates that 15,000 to 18,000 foreign trafficking victims are brought to the U.S. each year. Many of them come from Mexico or cross through Mexico into America from distant countries.
Watch reporter Elizabeth Aguilera and Peggy Peattie discuss this project on U-T TV with Scott:
Cradle of trafficking
On the surface, Tenancingo is a charming town — despite the lurkers who follow and question newcomers.
The village plaza is large. Its trees are trimmed into the shapes of animals, tea pots and blooming flowers. An old man with a weathered face and a cowboy hat shines shoes near a gazebo in the municipal park. His view across the street encompasses the tall spires of the village's yellow Catholic church building.
Food carts line the square, and a nearby school provides the cacophony of sounds only children at recess would make. Beyond the school, a warehouse doubles as a gym where boxing and karate are offered to kids.
Then there are the teens and young women who arrive in Tlaxcala in the middle of the night from other parts of Mexico. They live behind the thick walls and barbed wire of the village's largest and most ornate houses.
These structures resemble tiered wedding cakes with single-room cupolas, or turrets, perched atop their steep, shiny, glazed roof tiles. The little rooms have steepled roofs and glass panes but no windows because, it is whispered, if a victim were to escape, she could not climb down and run away.
The homes stand out with facades painted the colors of navel oranges, fresh sod, sunflowers and salmon. Finials in the shape of gargoyles and angels emphasize the apexes of some houses.
Neighboring towns of Tlaxcala have a similar landscape. From this central Mexican state, men fan out across the republic to woo girls with romance and dreams of marriage, then use brainwashing and violence to press them into prostitution.
One in five young boys there say they want to be padrotes, or pimps, according to a local university's study. They are taught the ways of a Romeo pimp by brothers, cousins, fathers and grandfathers.
“They can have houses, cars and women, and they see that it is not punished,” said Emilio Munoz Berruecos, director of Centro Frey Julian Garces, a center that educates the community about trafficking and lobbies government officials to take action.
Spreading the blame
Researchers said sex trafficking in Tenancingo dates back to the 1960s, when a laborer witnessed it in Mexico City and returned home to start his own illicit business.
“Right now it's the third generation, the sons and grandsons of the original traffickers,” Berruecos said. “And in all of those years, we did not see any people working on this issue.”
Villagers acknowledge that traffickers are in their midst, though no one admits to being one. The mansions, they said, belong to professionals such as doctors, engineers and sports figures. When pressed, they admit that some do belong to traffickers.
Sex victims transported to San Diego County and across the U.S. have testified that their pimps took them to Tlaxcala, introduced them to their families and initially brought up the idea of prostitution as a way to help the household. If they resisted or tried to leave, they were often locked in, beat up or simply forced into prostitution.
In Tenancingo, village leaders and residents are quick to spread the blame. Trafficking is everywhere in Mexico, they said, not just in their Tlaxcala.
“We can't cover that up, it has marked our town both nationally and internationally. But it's a small part,” Jose Carmen Rojas Jimenez, president of the village.
But only towns in Tlaxcala, and particularly Tenancingo, hold historic festivals that have become an outlet for traffickers to showcase their slaves, cars and money.
Tenancingo leaders said Carnival's traditions and have nothing to do with trafficking, but former victims recall participating in the pageantry with their pimps. Witnesses say this year, for the first time, a Lamborghini made an appearance in the village's cobblestoned plaza.
Striving for change
While officials dispute descriptions of their village as a traffickers paradise, they are also desperately working to provide better options to young people, especially boys.
Rojas Jimenez and Mario Romero Flores, a retired boxer, started an athletic training program for kids that includes boxing, karate and other sports. Fathers have brought their sons to Flores and asked that he expose them to more career and educational opportunities.
“They say, ‘I don't want him to be like me, I don't want him to do what I do,'” said Flores, who comes from an extended family that was involved in sex trafficking during the 1980s and '90s. “They are padrotes (pimps), but they see how things are changing. More people are going to jail.”
One participant is national silver medalist German Rojas, 15. Even Rojas, however, said the sex trade is a choice by the prostitutes and their traffickers.
“It's up to each person to decide how to live. We are not the judges,” he said.
Marcelina Tones, who crafts handmade sopes and tacos from her food stand across from Tenancingo's city hall, shrugs her shoulders when asked about the village's reputation.
“Sometimes women are at fault, too,” she said. She recited an old Mexican saying: “A man will only go as far as a woman allows.”
Sex trafficking has existed in Tlaxcala since the 1960s, but it has persisted around the world for centuries. There have been concerted efforts to help some victims — white women trafficked to the new world for Spanish conquistadors, blacks enslaved in the U.S., children working as servants in nations developed and undeveloped.
In the past decade, more attention, money and law enforcement have been focused on the issue. Authorities said international organized-crime enterprises and local gangs, including those in San Diego County, have increasingly taken up sex trafficking. A recent gang case in North County led to the indictments of 39 people involved in drugs and forced prostitution.
In 2000, the United Nations adopted a trio of rules known as the Palermo Protocols to combat sex and labor trafficking, smuggling and the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms. That same year, the U.S. passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which helped bring the issue into the public sphere, said Ron Soodalter, author of “The Slave Next Door.”
The law provided a new legal foundation to go after human traffickers. It also created the T visa for victims of international trafficking who assist prosecutors in building a court case and want to stay in the U.S. More than 3,000 of those visas have been granted since 2002.
Mexicans, Filipinos, Chinese, Guatemalans and Indians make up the top five nationalities of foreign trafficking victims in the United States based on hot-line calls, said the Polaris Project, a nonprofit group specializing in the issue.
Mexico created its own anti-trafficking law in 2007 and bolstered it in June by requiring police to investigate all reports of human trafficking. In November, Californians will vote on Proposition 35, which would stiffen penalties for domestic and international human traffickers. In both countries, the greatest number of sex-trafficking victims by far are their own citizens.
“We cannot stop fighting this crime. It is an attack on society and women,” said former Mexico congresswoman Rosi Orozco, who wrote a children's book titled “Cuidado con Malo Gato” (“Beware of Bad Cat”).
Orozco has visited San Diego several times to collaborate with nonprofit groups and law enforcement on how to stem the flow of trafficking victims to the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Justice has worked on specific cases with the Mexican Attorney General's Specialized Prosecutorial Unit for Violent Crimes Against Women and Human Trafficking. Previously unheard-of extraditions to the U.S. of wanted traffickers are starting to take place.
In National City, Marisa Ugarte, founder of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, was one of the first in the region to focus on human trafficking. Her decade-old nonprofit group has helped nearly 100 labor and sex slaves, including many who were taken to Tenancingo, and recently opened a thrift store to help fund its work.
“There is a lot of money in selling the bodies and hurting the souls of these men and women. It is bondage,” she said. “And we must all help. It is all around us.”
A Misguided Moral Crusade
by NOY THRUPKAEW
BEATEN. Burned. Branded with a bar code or with a pimp's name carved into her thigh. Thrown into the trunk of a car for punishment. Forced to provide sexual services for countless callous and violent men. This is the dominant image of young people in the sex trade, and it is fueling deeply flawed campaigns against prostitution.
Galvanized by public outrage and advocacy groups, policy makers have started to push to eradicate all prostitution, not just the trafficking of children into the sex trade. Under the catchphrase “no demand, no supply,” they advocate increasing criminal penalties against men who buy sex — a move they believe will upend the market that fuels prostitution and sex trafficking.
These tactics have gained significant momentum, prompting an initiative by the National Association of Attorneys General, law-enforcement stings and sweeps across the country, and even attempts to prosecute clients as traffickers. The problem is that the “end demand” campaign will harm trafficking victims and sex workers more than it helps them.
In a ballroom at Boston's upscale Westin Copley Place Hotel this spring, more than 250 law-enforcement officers, advocates and survivors of the sex trade, sat riveted, some openly weeping, as they watched a video of a young woman in a dreary motel room, taking her clothes off, telling her grim life story to one uncaring, unhearing man after another. The videos's final message: If men didn't buy her, pimps couldn't sell her.
For these modern-day abolitionists, ending all prostitution is the only solution. As Lina Nealon, director of Demand Abolition, told the gathered participants through tears, “Because of the work you are doing, my 2-year-old daughter and my soon-to-be-born daughter will find the idea of buying people for sex as incomprehensible as separate water fountains are to me.”
End-demand advocates' prototypical victim — an abused teenage girl raised in the blight of the inner city and forced into the sex trade by an older man — does exist. But they disregard the fact that individuals, including boys, men and transgender people, enter the sex trade for a variety of reasons. The pimped girl who has inflamed the public's imagination needs government services and protection, not to be made into a symbolic figure in an ideological battle to eradicate the entire sex industry, which, like many other sectors, includes adults laboring in conditions ranging from upscale to exploitative, from freely chosen to forced.
Unfortunately, despite their righteous anger, the end-demand crowd is quick to dismiss what many sex workers actually have to say. Some activists have gone so far as to brand those who criticize their campaign as “house slaves” unable to recognize their own oppression.
The end-demand crusade is premised on the idea that all prostitution is inherently exploitative. Some end-demand advocates came to their position from their work against pornography in the 1980s; others worked with a coalition of conservatives and evangelical Christians during George W. Bush's presidency to abolish prostitution. Not surprisingly, these abolitionists ignore the legal distinctions between prostitution and human trafficking. Federal law states that trafficking for forced prostitution occurs only when a commercial sex act is induced through force, fraud or coercion, or when the person induced to perform it is under 18. Indeed, not all prostitution is trafficking, and not all trafficking — as those exploited and sexually assaulted in homes, fields and factories across our nation know too well — is prostitution.
Although it emerged out of anti-trafficking rhetoric, the end-demand campaign is actually a movement to change prostitution policy from our current legal framework — the criminalization of both buying and selling sex — to the “Swedish model,” in which selling sex is not illegal, but buying sex is a criminal offense. (Two other models exist: full legalization with government regulation and registration of sex workers, as in the Netherlands, and full decriminalization of both buying and selling sex with minimal state oversight, as in New Zealand.)
Based on an appealing, proactive vision of gender justice, the Swedish model has caught on in Iceland and Norway — even though it hasn't panned out as planned in Sweden, where street-level prostitution dropped temporarily after the law took effect in 1999, only to climb again. Sweden's sex workers say they are forced to rush negotiations and have to rely more on intermediaries to access wary clients. Prostitution hasn't gone away; it's simply gone underground.
Translating Swedish laws into an American context presents even more problems. America lacks the extensive services of Sweden's social welfare state, which are vital to anyone leaving the sex trade. And American politicians don't want to be seen as soft on crime or morally lax, making it unlikely that selling sex could ever be decriminalized here.
In this environment, any uptick in law-enforcement actions aimed at buyers inevitably results in increased criminalization of those selling sex. New York City's “Operation Losing Proposition” earlier this year resulted in nearly 200 arrests; the operation allegedly targeted the demand side of prostitution, but it netted 10 individuals who sell sex as well. Attempting to implement the Swedish law in our punitive environment would most likely mean the criminalization of even more of those it's intended to help — without a Scandinavian-style safety net for those leaving the life.
“You will see that in any country, when you criminalize both parts, the police go for the women,” said Kasja Wahlberg, a Swedish detective and the country's rapporteur on human trafficking. According to Meagan Morris, a Colorado researcher who has studied law-enforcement approaches to prostitution, even so-called “victim-centered” approaches disproportionately hurt women, leaving them more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation because they have criminal records, which limit their access to affordable housing and sustainable-wage jobs.
End-demand strategies could also lead to more pressure on sex workers from pimps and traffickers. “Pimps don't accept the rationale that there's a new law and fewer johns now,” said Paul Holmes, a counter-trafficking expert and former Scotland Yard official. “So if a girl is working 16 hours, she'll have to work 20, and under more brutality. You'll also drive the trade underground, which makes it more dangerous for them and more difficult for us.”
However well-intentioned law-enforcement strategies might be, they have been engineered with little attention to the wants and needs of sex workers — and to the violence many of them have faced from government employees.
A study in Illinois found that police account for 30 percent of all reported abuse, compared with just 4 percent arising from pimps. According to one young person cited in the Young Women's Empowerment Project's study: “I was going to meet a new john. It turned out to be a sting set up by the cops. He got violent with me, handcuffed me and then raped me. He cleaned me up for the police station, and I got sentenced to four months in jail for prostitution.”
In New York, a woman who was trafficked into the sex trade as a minor told me sometimes “the cops are the ones abusing you, taking your money, beating you up” and they offer no help “even if I get raped” by a john. “I've had to provide services more than once in exchange for not being arrested,” she added. “Who is really going to hold them accountable?”
THE best law-enforcement strategy to prevent trafficking into forced prostitution is not an end-demand campaign that harms current sex workers. What's needed instead is a commitment to seriously investigate and prosecute traffickers and impose harsh punishment on those who rape and assault sex workers. Police departments also need public ombudsmen, tough internal-affairs bureaus and vigorous monitoring to combat corruption and abuse. If those in the sex trade felt comfortable reporting rape to the police rather than running from them, police departments would have a much easier time discovering cases of trafficking.
But law enforcement is only one part of the solution. Many young people living on the streets turn to “survival sex” in exchange for food or shelter — and many do so without an intermediary. “I ran away from all the drug activity at home at 11,” one woman in Chicago told me. “I had to do it just to have somewhere to sleep, something to eat.”
Nearly 90 percent of the minors profiled in a John Jay College study indicated they wanted to leave “the life” — but cited access to stable housing as one of the biggest obstacles. In New York City alone, almost 4,000 homeless youths lack stable housing, yet there are barely more than 100 long-term shelter beds to serve them.
Starting in 2008, staff members at the Queens County AIDS Center could barely get the door open on cold days: the office was packed with young people sleeping on the floor. One of them was Donna, a transgender 25-year-old who started selling sex at 13 after running away from abusive foster and group homes.
For people like Donna, ending demand for prostitution is not the answer; satisfying the demand for basic social services is. Shelter, job opportunities and a responsive and sensitive law-enforcement system are vital to those who want to leave the trade. “People call you a survivor after you leave the life,” Donna told me. “But I was a survivor when I was in it.” She added: “I didn't really like prostituting. But then, I had no other way out.”
Georgia / California
New details emerge on Georgia teen found in Los Angeles
by Russ Bynum
DALLAS, Ga. - An emaciated teenage Georgia boy told police he was forced to kneel for hours at a time by his stepfather and mother, who now face charges of child cruelty after allegedly confining the teen in a bedroom for years and then sending him by bus to Los Angeles to seek a homeless shelter.
Investigators in Paulding County, Ga., planned to conduct an afternoon search at the home where authorities allege Mitch Comer was kept in such seclusion that his two younger sisters in the same house did not know what he looked like.
"The sisters haven't seen the brother in over two years," Paulding County sheriff's Cpl. Ashley Henson said. "They didn't even know what color his hair was."
Stepfather Paul Comer and mother Sheila Comer face charges of false imprisonment and cruelty to children, Paulding County jail records show. They were being held without bond.
Arrest warrants filed Sept. 12 and 13 in Georgia say the couple "made Mitch kneel on the floor, bend his head and place his forehead against the wall, and place his hands behind his head for long periods of time."
The boy said he was fed small quantities of food daily, according to a Los Angeles police statement.
Phone messages left for lawyers for Paul and Sheila Comer were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
The FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have joined the case, Henson said.
Mitch Comer told police his stepfather gave him $200 and a list of homeless shelters before he was put on a bus to Los Angeles on this 18th birthday, police in Los Angles said Thursday.
Retired Los Angeles police Sgt. Joe Gonzalez was working security at a downtown bus station Sept. 11 when he spotted the 87-pound teenage boy who stood just over 5 feet tall and looked much younger, Los Angeles police said in a statement Thursday.
The boy told Gonzalez his stepfather declared that he was now a man before putting the teen on a bus.
Because he was so childlike, police worried that he wasn't as old as he claimed and decided to investigate further. The teen told authorities he had suffered years of abuse after being taken out of school in the eighth grade.
Paul Comer had his own business repairing home appliances, said next-door neighbor John White. They rarely spoke.
Comer's wife never left the house unless she was with her husband, not even to check the mail, White said. Their two daughters would sometimes come outside and play, but only in the back yard. Neighbors assumed the girls didn't go to school either - they never caught the bus that picked up other children in the cul-de-sac every morning.
Neighbors said they had no clue the Comers had a son until a detective came knocking at their doors asking questions last week.
"I had no idea, no clue. There were no signs of a son at all," said Dion Walker, who's lived next to the Comers for two years. "The few occasions we would see them go to the van, it was always the parents and the two girls."
She said her 8-year-old daughter would occasionally play with the Comer girls, who she initially thought were the same age as her own daughter. They were the same size and seemed to have the same maturity level. However, she said police later told her the Comer girls were 11 and 13.
Walker said the Comer family did not take part in neighborhood association meetings and their girls never attended the neighborhood Halloween block parties.
"We said one day, why don't you come over here? And they said their father would not let them cross the yard. So from that point I stopped letting my daughter go over there. And they would just stare at us."
Walker said police swarmed the Comers' home last week, arresting the parents and taking both girls into protective custody.
Ex-LAUSD teacher Paul Chapel gets 25 years for molesting 13 students at Pacoima's Telfair Elementary
by Barbara Jones
| Also: Victims' parents speak |
SAN FERNANDO - After warning parents to be wary of anyone who has access to their children, a judge sentenced a former Los Angeles Unified teacher to 25 years in prison for molesting 13 of his students.
Paul Chapel, 51, declined to make a statement during the 20-minute hearing held at San Fernando Superior Court, two miles from the Pacoima campus where he taught third grade for 13 years.
But Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash said Chapel violated the "most sacred trust - the trust of children," when he preyed on students at Telfair Elementary School.
Chapel, of Chatsworth, pleaded no contest last month to committing lewd acts against seven girls and six boys. In exchange for a 25-year sentence, prosecutors dropped 15 additional counts that could have sent him to prison for life.
Nash said he rarely makes extemporaneous comments from the bench, but felt compelled to speak out because of the horrendous and tragic facts of the case.
"I want to say to people: Be suspicious, be skeptical. People who do these kinds of crimes operate under cover of darkness. Always pay attention and see what people are doing," he said. "This is the way these kinds of individuals operate."
Nash's comments came after veteran sex-crimes prosecutor Elena Abramson read letters from parents of three of Chapel's young victims.
"Mr. Chapel has hurt my daughter's childhood and has put unfair stress and worry on my family," Abramson read. "Now, all we can do is hope and pray that one day she gets better. It's hard to imagine she ever will."
Said another letter: "He hurt my daughter's body, he hurt her heart and he hurt her soul."
A third mother wrote that Chapel was "the popular teacher" who always had candy and snacks for his students, and that her son felt special when Chapel asked to have the boy assigned to his class.
The boy's mother lashed out at Los Angeles Unified officials, saying they ignored warning signs that Chapel was a danger to children.
"The failure of our school district's policies, the failure of school administrators to identify signs that are common `red flags' were ignored and for that, our children and our families have paid a tremendous price."
District officials declined to comment on the mother's statement.
The two girls cited in the letters have filed a civil suit against Los Angeles Unified, claiming that officials hired Chapel despite his troubling history and ignored repeated complaints about him.
Prosecutors have declined to detail the accusations against Chapel. However, the lawsuit said he forced the girls to sit on his lap while he kissed and fondled them and touched their genitals.
"Los Angeles Unified was supposed to be supervising this man and these children, and they didn't," attorney Thomas Cifarelli, who filed the civil suit, said in a phone interview Thursday. "With his background, he should never have been in the classroom in the first place, with access to children."
Los Angeles Unified denied the plaintiffs' allegations in a response filed last month.
Chapel was hired by LAUSD in 1988, just a few months after he was asked to leave his teaching job at Chaminade High School. Two sisters filed a lawsuit claiming Chapel had made inappropriate sexual comments during a biology class, and the private school paid $56,000 to settle the case.
Then in 1998, he was charged with molesting an 8-year-old family friend during a sleepover at his home in Simi Valley, where he was living at the time. Chapel had been teaching at Andasol Elementary in Northridge, but was reassigned to Telfair when that trial ended in a hung jury.
Chapel was in his 13th year at Telfair when he was arrested last October and his teaching credential was suspended. However, the school district failed to notify parents until the Daily News reported his arrest in February. Chapel was fired the next month.
His no-contest plea - the equivalent of a guilty plea in a criminal case - came last month as his young accusers were set to testify against him in a preliminary hearing.
Among the handful of spectators Thursday was Chapel's 27-year-old adopted son, Donald, who submitted a letter of support to the court and later defended his dad.
"I know he didn't do what they say he did," Donald Chapel said in an interview.
"I've been with him in his classes, and I've seen how he acted with the kids. Sure, he gave them hugs and kisses, and that may have been inappropriate. But he's a good person."
Donald Chapel said he was a 9-year-old foster child with "no future and who nobody else wanted" when he was adopted by Paul Chapel, who has never married.
"He gave me a place to live. He gave me a life," said Donald Chapel, who manages a fast-food restaurant. "I am the person I am today because of him. This breaks my heart."
Outside of court, Chapel's attorney, Jeff Weiss, said his client was "matter-of-fact" about his fate.
While Chapel still doesn't believe he was guilty of lewd behavior, he feared a jury might be swayed by the Miramonte Elementary scandal, Weiss said.
Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt has been accused of spoon-feeding his semen to nearly two dozen second-graders in a bizarre "tasting game."
The cases against Chapel and Berndt also sparked efforts to change state law to make it easier to fire teachers accused of misconduct. However, those efforts have not been successful.
Aside from reading the victims' letters, Deputy District Attorney Abramson didn't make any statement during Chapel's sentencing.
Afterward, however, she said cases like Chapel's help raise awareness about the dangers facing today's children.
"Parents entrust the safety of their kids to a lot of people - teachers, coaches, doctors, dance instructors," she said. "They need to have the age-appropriate safety discussion with their children.
"And if they have any concerns, they should report them immediately. The longer they wait, the harder it is to investigate and prosecute."
Child Sexual Abuse: Please Act If You Suspect a Child Is at Risk
Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Another day, another front page story or news headline about how a child was horribly, sexually ravaged by an adult, probably someone they knew and trusted. And, how those who had the knowledge or the authority to help them, failed them miserably, leaving them at risk for further abuse. Children of every gender, age, race, ethnicity, background, socioeconomic status and family structure are at risk for child sexual abuse. No child is immune. Let these stories serve as a call to action.
National statistics show that one in every five children will endure sexual assault by the time they are eighteen. The rates are a bit higher for girls than for boys, but that could also be due to the fact that boys tend to report less often. While there is risk for children of all ages, children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Think about these statistics in terms of children that you come in contact with each day.
Here are a few important points for parents and concerned adults to keep in mind:
Contrary to any myths surrounding "stranger danger," research estimates that approximately 40% of victims are abused by a family member; another 50% are abused by someone outside the family whom they know and trust. Only about 10% of children are sexually abused by strangers.
As opposed to the more obvious indicators of physical abuse, evidence that a child has been sexually abused is not always obvious. In many cases, there is no physical evidence of the act and many children do not report that they have been abused. Young children may not label or experience their victimization as sexual abuse, particularly in cases of fondling, where the act itself does not feel bad or hurtful.
There are many reasons why children do not disclose being sexually abused, including: threats of harm (to the child and/or the child's family), fear of being removed from the home, fear of upsetting their parents, fear of not being believed, shame or guilt. It is also not uncommon for children to "recant" the abuse due to fears about what will happen to them, their family or the perpetrator.
The thought of someone sexually abusing a child is horrifying to most adults. The idea is so foreign, that many adults cannot fathom that the perpetrator can be someone who they know, like and trust. This, paired with the perpetrator's ability to manipulate others, can often convince anyone, even at times professionals, that they do not have a problem. As many cases that are portrayed in the media have shown, perpetrators are so convincing that parents may even doubt their own child. Perpetrators may also be very good at giving excuses, such as being intoxicated or claiming that the child "came on" to them.
"Grooming" refers to a range of behaviors that offenders use to "prepare" children for child sexual abuse. By building connections with a child, offenders aim to lower their inhibitions or desensitize the child. Offenders usually select children who are easily available to him/her. They focus on children who are open to adult friendships and enjoy this attention.
|• The first step in grooming is the offender seeking out the child.
• The second step is forming a relationship, building trust, buying gifts, taking the child on special trips, usually with their parents' full endorsement.
• The third step is finding ways to touch the child as often as possible, thereby confusing the child when the touch becomes sexual in nature.
• Following this, the offender finds ways to get the child alone, such as on overnight trip, babysitting, taking the child for a day trip etc.
As the process continues, the offender may start to make the child feel guilt or blame and promote secrecy. This is done with the intent that if the child feels responsible for the behavior, they will not tell anyone about the offender. At this stage, the perpetrator may bribe the child, or in contrast, threaten the child in order to maintain secrecy.
If you have suspicions that your child, or a child you know, may be caught in this type of perilous situation, you need to take action. Remain calm and try to get the child to tell you what happened in their own words. Ask open ended questions and let them tell you as much as they can. Once you have some of the details, act. If the alleged perpetrator is a parent or caretaker of the child, the State Child Abuse Hotline must be called. Every State has one; just type Child Abuse Hotline and the name of your State into your browser and it will appear. If you believe that the perpetrator was someone outside of the home, such as a family friend, neighbor, teacher, etc. the police should be contacted. These officials are trained in responding to these types of situations. You will have taken action to protect your child, and probably other children, from the perpetrator.
For more information on signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse, talking to your child about sexual abuse and other child safety information visit www.nyspcc.org
Hotline bill calls for more action against human trafficking
Letter to the Times:
If you have never looked into the eyes of a rescued survivor of human trafficking, you have never seen the greatest depth of hope imaginable or the pain that will haunt a human for a lifetime. In the eyes of survivors, I have witnessed both.
My first encounter with rescued slaves was in India in 2004 at a center for children liberated from quarries, domestic servitude, rug factories, the circus and the sex trade. A brief interaction with an 11-year-old girl named Maina led me to seek reasons that slavery still exists worldwide — although I thought it ended in the United States after the Emancipation Proclamation — and ways to help survivors and to prevent new victims. My quest led me later to other remote villages and rescue shelters in India and to the place I least expected: my own country and state.
My most recent experiences with survivors of human trafficking have been throughout this past year as the founder of a volunteer Circle of Friends at Dawn's Place, a local adult residential program.
To be clear, the people I refer to as slaves are unpaid, unable to leave their situation, and subjected to violence or threat of violence to themselves or their loved ones. They are not sweatshop laborers; the term is not applied glibly. Slaves are found in nearly every industry, commonly in agriculture/food processing and in forced sex trade, where they are mistaken as prostitutes who chose their career. According to Kevin Bales, co-founder of Free the Slaves, there are approximately 27 million slaves worldwide today; many are in the U.S. and many are children.
The root causes of human trafficking and slavery are complex: poverty, illiteracy, violence, natural disasters or political strife that leave individuals or families homeless and hungry. In short, when people are vulnerable and without options, they are easy prey for traffickers and slaveholders.
The solutions to helping survivors and preventing additional victims are many. Raising awareness of this terrible crime, switching to or demanding fair-trade products, supporting organizations that help survivors recover, and befriending youth at risk are just a few. One way for Pennsylvanians to take a stand without traveling across the globe or spending a fortune is to support Senate Bill 338, known as the Hotline Bill. The Hotline Bill would require certain establishments such as restaurants, hotels, and massage businesses to post the Polaris Project's Hotline number, which victims or tipsters can call for help. On space donated by outdoor advertising companies, digital billboards throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland already post this number: 1-888-3737-888.
On Sept. 25, 2012, along with members of the Chester County Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Philadelphia Anti-Trafficking Coalition, York County Human Trafficking Task Force, Berks Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Lancaster Anti-Trafficking Network, Delaware County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, Montgomery County Anti-Trafficking Coalition and The VAST (Lehigh Valley's coalition, Valley Against Sex Trafficking) , I will attend a rally in Harrisburg to call attention to this important piece of legislation and to fight this monstrous crime. I hope others will join us.
CAROL HART METZKER
Human Trafficking Happens More Than We Know
by Vanessa L. Pinto
In my early '20s, I lived in Costa Rica. One day I went out shopping to a local mall that I had been to many times before, but this was the first time I had ever gone alone. The entire time I lived there, I had always been told to go out in groups by other residents. As the brazen, independent American woman that I am, I figured people had to be overreacting, so off I went. As I wandered trough the mall, I found a shop with beautiful things in the window.
A blouse caught my eye, and I picked it up. As I looked at the blouse, a man approached me and said in Spanish, "Do you like the shirt?" Thinking he was a sales person, I said in Spanish, with no American accent, "Yes, but I wish it was in green. Do you have it in green?" When this man saw me, he clearly did not register me as an American. It was when he spoke to me next that I realized he didn't work there.
I will never forget what he said to me with a charming smile. "What if I bought it for you?" Alarm bells immediately went off when he said this. He continued: "You see, I acquire beautiful women, such as yourself, and take them to Las Vegas in the United States to make them famous." It was in that moment I realized he was trying to buy me. I looked at him and very firmly responded, "Oh yeah? Because I'm an American."
His face went white; he excused himself and disappeared faster than I could turn around. I was very upset, and it wasn't very long after that I returned home to the United States. Looking back, I realized that this man was probably trying to traffic me.
Human trafficking is a very ugly topic that people don't like discussing, and it gets tied to prostitution far more than I would like. There is a big difference between coercing and choosing.
As a sex positive writer, I cover all aspects of sexuality and sex work, but trafficking is not sex work; it is modern day slavery. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I had let that man take me to Las Vegas. What would have happened? My guess is that I probably would not have ended up a show girl. I may have ended up in some brothel, massage parlor or as an indentured domestic slave. Any way you play out the scenario, no good is at the end of it.
Men, women and children that are taken into slavery, especially sexual slavery, have things happen to them that we simply cannot imagine. Human trafficking is something that I believe is on the rise. Human beings are seen as commodities that can be sold again and again, generating billions of thousands of dollars each year. Recently I met someone who shared with me a recent incident that happened while they were in the Tenderloin.
"Mike" was parking his car on Turk. He noticed a man in his mid to late '40s with a girl that appeared no more than 14. The man helped guide Mike's car into his parking spot. At first he assumed that they were homeless and wanting some cash for the parking help, but they did not ask him for money when he got out of his car.
What Mike was asked, was, if he was interested in purchasing the company of this young girl, in a sexual way for a certain amount of time. Mike, not knowing what to do and not wanting to cause a scene, declined and decided to call the police station on Eddy in the Tenderloin. They took a report, but they were not particularly helpful. He also told me, he was worried they would handle the situation wrong. This girl was not a sex worker; she was clearly a minor and not willing to give consent of any kind to something like this. At times police just arrest these girls, and when they get out, they end up right back with their captors.
Mike then called the national hotline for human trafficking 1-888-3737-888, and he said that they were extremely helpful. They took a much more thorough report, and they asked very specific questions. They even called him back to do a follow up. I began to wonder about this girl and what her story is. I wondered how many other people have seen her, and how many people have purchased her. I wonder if she will ever get out, or if she will disappear forever like so many others.
Sex work and human trafficking are not the same and should not be viewed in the same manner. A sex worker is someone with agency, who is over the age of 18 and willfully choosing to do sex work. Trafficking victims and survivors are people who are trapped, coerced and threatened on a daily basis. It is crucial that we find a way to separate these topics; we need to help these people, not add to their trauma. A child or adult trapped in this social injustice is not a 'child prostitute' - they are anything but empowered, they are victimized again and again.
Regardless of one's moral or personal opinion on sex work, each of us can agree that slavery is despicable. Social justice is something each of us should have the right to. If you believe you have seen someone who is the victim of human trafficking, please contact 1-888-3737-888.
Catholic Church upheld 618 child sex abuse cases
THE Catholic Church in Victoria yesterday admitted that it had upheld 618 cases of criminal child abuse by clergy in the past 16 years.
All but 13 of the cases were before 1990, some dating back to the 1930s, church spokesman Father Shane Mackinlay said. The four Victorian dioceses of the church yesterday lodged a joint submission to the State Parliament inquiry into the handling of child abuse cases by religious and non-government organisations.
Father Mackinlay told The Saturday Age 302 of the 330 cases upheld by the Melbourne Response of the Melbourne Archdiocese applied to criminal child abuse and 310 from the Towards Healing response, which covers the dioceses of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst (Bendigo) and the various religious orders. Another 45 cases, though not all children, are still being investigated.
Submissions to the inquiry closed yesterday, with ''hundreds'' received, according to Georgie Crozier, the chairwoman of the Parliament's family and community development committee, which is hearing the inquiry. They came from victims, advocates, churches and other interested groups. Ms Crozier said public hearings would begin next month, continuing in Melbourne and regional areas into next year. The committee is due to report by April 30.
Judy Courtin, a lawyer supporting several victims in their submissions, said that, according to the Victorian Law Reform Commission, only one in 10 victims ever came forward, suggesting a real toll closer to 6500 Victorian victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church yesterday launched a website dedicated to the inquiry, facingthetruth.org.au, and held meetings on Thursday and yesterday to brief clergy, church workers and members of religious orders.
Father Mackinlay said more than 100 turned up yesterday. ''There are 1.5 million Catholics in Victoria, and they all have a stake, they are all affected and many know victims. The message I hear consistently is that hiding behind closed doors makes the problem worse,'' he said. In a joint statement about their submission, titled Facing the Truth, the four Victorian diocesan bishops say they will co-operate fully with the inquiry, and they have been open about the horrific abuse. They say they will waive any confidentiality requirements victims may have signed.
''In our submission we discuss the church's commitment to caring for children, the failures of the church and the developments in society's and the church's understanding of the pernicious nature of paedophilia,'' the bishops say. ''The submission shows how the church of today is committed to facing up to the truth and to not disguising, diminishing or avoiding the actions of those who have betrayed a sacred trust.''
The Law Institute of Victoria has echoed calls for a full royal commission into clergy abuse, arguing that the parliamentary committee does not have the powers, resources or time to complete a thorough review.
In its submission to the inquiry, the institute also calls for mandatory reporting, legislation requiring organisations to establish compensation funds, and an independent statutory body to monitor how churches respond to complaints of clergy abuse.
Child Abuse Victim Reaches Settlement with Planned Parenthood After Failure to Report Incest and Rape
CINCINNATI, Sept. 21, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- A child abuse victim has settled with Planned Parenthood, after a lawsuit included multiple charges such as failure to report incestuous statutory rape and sexual abuse of a minor by her father. The case, Denise Fairbanks v. Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region et al., filed by Denise Fairbanks in the Hamilton County Ohio Court of Common Pleas on May 7, 2007, named Planned Parenthood, Southwest Ohio Region, in failing to report the abuse committed by her father.
The Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) supported Denise, who had been sexually abused by her father from the time she was 13. When she became pregnant at age 16, her father took her to Planned Parenthood for an abortion. Although she informed the abortion clinic staff that she was being forced to have sex, they chose not to comply with mandatory reporting procedures. The Planned Parenthood staff did not inform local law enforcement, nor did they make any further inquiries into Fairbanks' paternal abuse. After the abortion, Fairbanks was returned to the same abusive situation, where she remained for another year-and-a-half. More than a year later, her father was apprehended through a report filed by Denise's basketball coach, and sent to jail.
"This is just one of multiple cases that have demonstrated Planned Parenthood's willingness to cover for sex offenders," said Dana Cody, Executive Director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. Cody was referring to another example, the case of Roe v. Planned Parenthood from the same Hamilton County Court, which was resolved last year. "What this young woman went through as a young teenager is horrifying enough," added Cody. "She was forcibly raped, impregnated, forced to have an abortion, and then sent back for more abuse -- a tragedy that Planned Parenthood could have prevented by simply complying with the law."
After her lawsuit against Planned Parenthood was resolved, Denise Fairbanks remarked that it had been a long and difficult battle. "I am so grateful to Life Legal Defense Foundation for sticking by me throughout this ordeal. I would have never been able to fight this battle for over seven years."
Attorney Brian Hurley, from the law firm of Crabbe, Brown & James LLP, who represented Ms. Fairbanks, stated only that the lawsuit had been resolved and dismissed. But LLDF observed several favorable outcomes as a result of the resolution of Fairbanks' lawsuit against Planned Parenthood. Among the outcomes they noted were:
A confirmation that in Ohio, all abortion providers must obtain the written consent of at least one of a minor's parents before an abortion can be performed on a minor.
An amendment to Ohio law establishing that minors who are victims of sexual abuse have the right to bring claims in civil actions against those individuals who breach their duty to report the abuse.
An amendment to Ohio law establishing that minors who are victims of sexual abuse have the right to seek punitive damages in civil actions to punish individuals and entities who breach their duty to report the abuse.
The finding by a nationally renowned, pro-choice psychologist that girls and women who have had abortions can, and often do, suffer from long-term and serious psychological problems as a result of abortions, something which Planned Parenthood continues to adamantly deny.
A confirmation that under Ohio law, girls and young women whose "informed consent" rights have been violated by abortion providers may seek injunctive relief in civil actions to prevent the abortion providers from violating those rights of other girls and women.
"Of course, we'd rather see Planned Parenthood hit with huge court-ordered fines and lose business licenses over this kind of reprehensible behavior," said Cody, "but any progress toward championing the girls and women that abortion providers exploit is helpful." She also noted the irony of Planned Parenthood touting child sexual abuse awareness workshops via the Web, even while being accused of continual cover-up of the sexual abuse of a minor. "Ms. Fairbanks' case, like others before it, has demonstrated a disturbing trend in Planned Parenthood practice, a continued disregard for the health and well-being of women and children," Cody added.
Abuse survivors need a support system
My brother molested me as a child. As a teenager, I entered a verbally abusive romantic relationship. I grew up feeling like I was never worth anyone's attention. I felt pressure to always be perfect while simultaneously feeling like I was irreparably damaged by my past experiences. The sad part is that a painfully large portion of students and adults reading this article can relate to what I went through, even others on Tulane's campus. Sexual abuse affects one in every four women and one in every six men. Chances are, everyone has a friend affected by abuse in some capacity. These instances, however, are rarely reported.
Fortunately, Tulane has services to help those who have been abused. Tulane's Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline & Education acts as a support system from fellow students who are specially trained to help in the most appropriate and understanding ways. In addition, Tulane, Loyola and Dillard students team up for Take Back the Night every year, which is an event that raises awareness for sexual assault and gender-related crimes.
These resources should be utilized, and Tulane students are lucky to have them at their disposal. Survivors of abuse should never go through the process alone; it's unbelievably difficult. I was molested in slight but influential ways throughout elementary school with one major experience occurring in fifth grade. As a 10-year-old, I did not understand the situation. In fact, I did not fully grasp the concept of the abuse until I entered high school. I always felt unworthy of other people's love but never truly understood why. I was afraid of my brother but wasn't sure of the reason. He kissed me and told me it was practice for when he had a girlfriend. He came into the bathroom while I was showering and ripped back the curtain in order to stand there and tell me that my singing was off-key. He taught me what masturbation was far before I ever had interest in finding out.
Once I realized the legitimacy of my experience, I did not know where to turn. I couldn't tell my parents, because it would tear my family apart. I couldn't tell my friends because I was ashamed. I didn't want them to fear my brother as I did. I was completely alone, holding this huge secret that I couldn't begin to figure out. I lived in the same house as my abuser for almost 10 years after the incidents happened, and no one knew the pain I felt. Every night, I thought he was going to come into my room and attack me again. Home became the place I felt the most vulnerable.
I felt like I had nowhere to turn because I didn't have the courage to stand up and ask for help. Finally, when my brother refused to support me in a fight with my parents a year ago, I realized that he was not interested in protecting me like I was protecting him. This incident was the catalyst for me to finally open up about what I had experienced.
I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself, and I'm done blaming my personal problems on my issues with abuse. The fact is that I survived a difficult event. I can either grieve, or I can talk about what happened and tell other people who dealt with a similar situation so they can move past it. Survivors of abuse can be happy. They just need to surround themselves with the people who make them feel like the best version of themselves; that is the version that everyone else sees.
Events such as Take Back the Night and programs such as SAPHE are for a great cause. Many of the people who come out to support such events, however, are those who already know a great deal about the subject or those who have been affected by it in some way. I challenge Tulane students to open up and start showing support for events that they may not know much about. If you show you care through a club or event, you tell the people affected that you care about what happens to them. You may never fully understand how many people will appreciate the simple fact that you support them.
Child abuse awareness for PA's K-8 curricula?
by Mary Wilson
The state hasn't seen the last of legislative proposals written in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. A bipartisan push is on to bring child abuse awareness into the lesson plans of Pennsylvania schools.
School districts wouldn't have to teach children how to recognize child abuse and protect themselves from it, but they would have the option, under a state House proposal sponsored by Rep. Gingrich (R-Lebanon).
Adding something to school curricula to raise awareness about abuse, she said, could help the children who are being preyed upon.
“Most children don't possess the skills to verbalize what's happening to them and they truly fear that no one will understand them or believe them,” said Gingrich. “The best defense that we can provide our children is knowledge.”
The state Department of Education would create model curricula for kindergarten through eighth grade that would include instruction on “how to recognize dangerous situations and the warning signs of grooming and testing the child before actual abuse can take place,” said Gingrich.
School districts could use the state's model curriculum, or create their own lesson plans. Parents would be able to review the abuse awareness curriculum, and even pull their kids out of class if they don't approve of the material.
The bill was introduced last spring and awaits a vote from the state House Education committee. Both the panel's chairman, Rep. Paul Clymer (R-Bucks) and ranking Democrat, Rep. James Roebuck (Philadelphia) said they support the measure.
Georgia / California
LAPD detectives uncover 'bizarre and tragic' abuse case
A couple in Georgia has been taken into custody on suspicion of child abuse and false imprisonment after their malnourished son was discovered at a downtown Los Angeles bus station last week, the Los Angeles Police Department said Thursday.
Authorities called it a "bizarre and tragic child abuse case" that started Sept. 11, when 18-year-old Mitch Comer arrived at the Greyhound Bus Station on East 7th Street.
Retired LAPD Sgt. Joe Gonzalez, who was working security at the station, discovered Comer. Police described him as pale, standing just over 5 feet tall and weighing 87 pounds. Thinking he was a missing child, Gonzalez called police.
Comer explained to officers that his stepfather had given him $200 and a list of homeless shelters, then put him on the bus in Jackson, Miss.
The teen was interviewed further by LAPD Det. Dan Gersna. Comer gave limited details of the abuse he had endured for the past four years, authorities said.
Comer told the detective that his stepfather, Paul Comer, 48, had removed him from the eighth grade and eventually locked him in a room and never allowed him to leave, police said.
He told the detective that he was fed small quantities of food and for eight hours every day was forced to put the top of his head against a wall and stand on his toes with his fingers interlaced behind his head, according to police.
Comer also told the detective that he had two younger sisters back home. Although Comer didn't know where he lived, Gersna was able to trace his residency after tracking the business owned by Comer's stepfather.
Gersna then notified detectives at Paulding County Sheriff's Department in Georgia, who later arrested Comer's stepfather and mother, Sheila. Mitch Comer's siblings were placed in protective custody.
"I'm greatly relieved and thankful that one of our retired officers brought this victim to our attention and started the process to uncover these heartbreaking circumstances," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. "Without the intervention of retired Sgt. Gonzalez, Mitch Comer and his young sisters would still be suffering."
Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact LAPD Newton Division detectives at (323) 846-6556 or the Paulding County Sheriff's Department's Crimes Against Children Division at (770) 445-610.
Justin Bieber praises ‘strong' mum as she reveals child abuse in tell-all book
's mother Pattie Mallette has revealed she was subjected to abuse as a child in a new revealing book called Nowhere But Up: The Story Of Justin Bieber's Mom.
The singer's mother uses the book to go into detail about how she was abused by both men and women when she was growing up, saying that she was 'sexually violated so many times' that 'it began to feel normal'.
She said: 'I did what I was told. Just like a good little girl'.
Mallette's 'many different abusers' included a male babysitter and the grandfather of a friend.
Of her first long-term abuser, she writes: 'He was a familiar face in my family. He walked into the room where I played. I thought, "Why is he naked?" I was confused.
The book goes on to reveal how Pattie tried to kill herself at the age of seventeen by throwing herself in front of a moving truck.
Now a devout Christian, the Girlfriend singer's mum told an American TV show that she has not had sex for fifteen years, and that she wouldn't again until she gets married.
In the book's foreword, Bieber describes his mother as 'the strongest woman I've ever met'.
Earlier this year, Justin released a US Mother's Day song called Turn To You which he dedicated to Mallette.
VIDEO: Watch Justin Bieber's mother Pattie on The Ellen DeGeneres show
Jerry Sandusky Was Part Of Child Porn Ring, Greg Bucceroni, Former 'Child Prostitute' Claims
Jerry Sandusky was involved in a tri-state child porn ring and helped a now deceased youth football school coach arrange to have sex with a child prostitute, according to a newly released email.
Sandusky is expected to spend the rest of his life in jail after being convicted of 45 counts of sex abuse.
The New York Daily News reports that on Monday, Greg Bucceroni, a self-described former child prostitute, sent an email to officials at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn.
In the message, Bucceroni said he was associated with a child sex ring that included Sandusky and former Poly Prep football coach Phil Foglietta. The email said that, in 1979, Bucceroni was originally expected to have sex with Sandusky, but, because of time constraints, he was introduced to Foglietta instead.
From the email:
|Foglietta was introduced to us as Coach Phil who coached youth football in NYC. Foglietta agreed to pay $200.00 for child sex and followed us back to a Philadelphia hotel, myself (sic)ad another child prostitute then engaged coach Phil in child sex.”
Twelve alumni of Poly Prep have filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming they were raped and abused by Foglietta,
the Wall Street Journal reports. The suit claims school officials knew about Foglietta's crimes and covered them up, "continuing to publicly celebrate Mr. Foglietta as an upstanding member of the school."
The Atlantic points out that the feds are already investigating whether Sandusky may have shared child porn with others.
It's unclear whether the suspected child porn ring being investigated by the feds is the same as the one mentioned by Bucceroni.
AAPS considers adopting new curriculum to help prevent child sexual abuse
by Amy Biolchini
A new curriculum designed for students in preschool through second grades to teach safe body rules under review by the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education could help prevent child sexual abuse.
The Board reviewed the details of the new curriculum during its regular meeting Wednesday night from the Sexual Health Education Advisory Committee, a state-mandated entity that has given its full support to the new program.
The curriculum is one currently used by the Washtenaw Area Council for Children, the Michigan Children's Trust Fund designated agency for the prevention of child abuse and neglect in Washtenaw County. The council brought the program to the committee for approval.
Trained representatives from the Washtenaw Area Council for Children would visit classrooms for 15-minute sessions for 10 days over two weeks. Lessons start with identifying "private parts," and developing the rule of who is the boss of your body.
The curriculum later includes the correct naming of body parts, what to do when home alone or alone in a car, and who is allowed to touch and see a person's private parts.
The program includes handouts from each lesson for the students to take home and share with their parents. Parents are notified of when the program begins, and can choose to opt their child out.
The Washtenaw Area Council for Children offers the program free of charge to the school district.
Between 25 and 35 percent of sexually abused children are abused before the age of 7, said Dr. Patricia Wells , incoming co-chair of the advisory committee.
“It's important to find quality, evidence-based curriculum that empowers children to understand their personal boundaries,” Wells said.
Trustee Andy Thomas expressed his concern that recent cases of child sexual abuse - both at Penn State and locally - would leave many children with questions for their teachers that could be brought up with the program. Thomas asked the committee what their guidelines were for leaving the script of the lesson plans in the program.
“On the playgrounds of elementary school, I'm assuming a lot of things get brought up that we'd probably not rather have brought up,” Thomas said.
“I don't know if kindergartners or first graders would be aware of what happened at Penn State,” said Margie Long , outgoing co-chair of the committee.
Marcia Dykstra , program director for the Washtenaw Area Council for Children, said that when students push the limits of the curriculum and the approved script, the students are instructed to ask their parents about the matter.
The scripted lesson plan allows the student to get the information they need in a developmentally-appropriate way.
Trustee Susan Baskett asked the committee to explain where in the curriculum children are instructed as to how and why they should report if their body safety rules are violated.
Dykstra responded by explaining students will learn about mid-way in the curriculum that teachers are good people to report the information to, and that it's not good to keep that a secret.
Teachers in the school district are currently recommended to cover body safety information, but often feel ill-equipped to deal with the sensitive subject and appreciate having the resource of the program, according to an emailed statement from Dykstra to AnnArbor.com.
“For many years we provided a similar program for children in grades K-5 which was approved by AAPS and all the other school districts in Washtenaw. We reluctantly retired it a few years ago, mainly due to funding. The need for sexual abuse programming in the schools however has not gone away,” according to the statement from Dykstra.
Dysktra stated parents should be the ones talking to their children about personal safety, but many times it's not the reality.
No public comment was given at the Board's meeting Wednesday night on the adoption of the curriculum. A second public hearing will be Oct. 10 at the Board of Education's regular meeting.
The Board also reviewed an updated puberty video for students in fifth to eighth grades during its meeting Wednesday. Committee members said the update was necessary because students were previously distracted by the dated nature of the actors' clothing in the current video.
Both the “We're Just Around the Corner” DVD and the Body Safety Training lesson plan are available at the Board of Education's office at 2555 S. State St. in Ann Arbor for review.
Lebanon County lawmaker introduces child-abuse-prevention bill
by JOHN LATIMER
In an effort to fight child sexual abuse, Lebanon County state Rep. Mauree Gingrich is introducing legislation requiring schools to teach classes that will raise a child's awareness about exploitation and what to do if abused.
"In this country, one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 18, yet many of these child victims are either unaware of what just happened, what to do or are afraid to act," Gingrich stated in a news release announcing House Bill 2318.
Unlike other legislation that focuses on the perpetrator, Gingrich noted, her bill is a proactive way to prevent child sexual abuse by raising awareness in potential victims.
"Many cases of child sexual abuse go unreported because children either do not know it is wrong or they think no one will believe them," she said. "Under my legislation, the Pennsylvania Department of Education will develop an age-appropriate model child-exploitation curriculum to be in the health curriculum for children in grades K-8."
A public hearing was scheduled to discuss the bill by the House Education Committee Wednesday afternoon.
On the agenda were two adult victims of child sexual abuse, including former NFL linebacker, Al Chesley who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Chesley, who works with the National Center for Victims of Crime, was expected to testify about his experience as a 13-year-old being sexually abused by a trusted police officer who worked in the same police department as his father - an attack that he said he kept secret from his parents because of fear and shame.
The other scheduled speaker was Erin Merryn, the author of two books on her life as a child-sexual-abuse victim, who is working to have laws like Gingrich's passed by state legislatures across the country. So far, four states have enacted laws and eight others are pending.
Program teaches adults prevention of child sexual abuse
by Barbara Henigin
“Stewards of Children,” a child sexual abuse preventive program, was presented to adults from a variety of area agencies who provide services to children Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange,.
The program introduced and reinforced practical steps that adults could take to help them to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
This program was offered through the partnership of the Governor's Office for Children and Families and the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, working with Darkness to Light, an international nonprofit organization. The “Stewards of Children” course is approved for three hours of continuous education by both the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Board for Certified Counselors. The two facilitators of the program were very knowledgeable and skilled in the presentation of the day's informative, and at times sensitive, material.
The Director of Prevention for the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, Tiffany Sawyer, started the program with introductions of herself and Krista Gonce, Western Georgia regional prevention coordinator for the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. Sawyer presented the group with solid statistics and facts that supported the need for more adults to be educated concerning child sexual abuse.
“One out every four girls and one out of every six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Child sexual abuse is a common problem and it is a community problem,” stated Sawyer.
Sawyer explained that the prevention of child sexual abuse is the responsibility of adults of the community and the topic needs to be brought out into the open and dealt with. The goal of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy is to have five percent of the adult population trained in this program in every county of Georgia.
The program featured a video that had adult survivors of child sexual abuse and professionals in the field, giving frank and clear information on the topic. A interactive workbook, that followed along with the video, was given to the participants and was used to focus group discussions throughout the presentation. During the day's training session Sawyer and Gonce reinforced the seven steps that “Stewards of Children” presents.
The program stresses that to protect children from sexual abuse, adults should:
• learn the facts and understand the risks
• minimize opportunity
• talk about it
• stay alert,
• make a plan
• act on suspicions
• get involved
The entire training program is designed to have adult participants not only learn these steps but feel comfortable and confident when following them.
After viewing the video and participating in the group discussions, the message was heard load and clear; adults need to be educated, active participants in the prevention of child sexual abuse.
This program is being offered in other areas of the state. Further information may be obtained online at www.GeorgiaCenterForChildAdvocay.org, by contacting Krista Gonce by email, Kristag@gacfca.org
NWACC putting spotlight on recognizing child abuse
by Michelle Edmonds
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Sept. 20, 2012) - With most people's focus currently on education and children going back to school, one community college is putting the spotlight on recognizing and reporting child abuse.
Child abuse knows no boundaries and NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) is facilitating a statewide/region-wide service to train teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers, counselors, childcare providers, health professionals, and members of our legal and judicial systems to better Recognize, Report and Respond to victims of child abuse across Arkansas and a 16-state southern region.
The Division of Children and Family Services was called on to respond to over 33,000 reports (involving approx. 73,000 children) last year alone.
Using Prevent Child Abuse America statistical methodologies, it is estimated that Arkansas spends $365 million annually on the aftermath of child abuse.
Many of us have been shocked by the Penn State tragedy, but reporting issues like those at Penn State happen every day in every state.
Children we know and love are those who pay the price when professionals don't know what to do or fear to act when presented with the possible abuse of a child.
In response to this immense need, NWACC has become the first regional partner for the National Child Protection Training Center and is offering hands-on, specialized training to future and current child protection professionals in the mission to eradicate child abuse in three generations.
The Southern Region National Child Protection Training Center at NWACC has been operating since 2010 and trained over 3,000 professionals. Presently they are in the process of expanding the programming capacity and services through a $3 million renovation campaign to transform a presently owned former medical clinic into a hands-on training laboratory.
Once renovated, some of the hands-on laboratories that support the heart of the programming include:
|- a two-story mock house including exterior entrance, bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and living area
- mock courtrooms
- forensic interview rooms
- medical exam training
- online crimes against children training room
The Center offers current professionals affordable, contemporary training in those same environments to hone their skills, practice working in multi-disciplinary teams across departments, and learn new techniques to better serve victims.
THV's Alyse Eady spoke to Amy Benincosa with the Northwest Arkansas Community College and Stephanie Smith from the National Child Protection Training Center on the school's mission to end child abuse. Click on the THVideo!
To learn more about the Training Center at NWACC, those involved in the mission, what this program offers and how to donate, visit www.nwacc.edu/web/ncptc/. To learn about NorthWest Arkansas Community College itself please visit www.nwacc.edu
PSU student organizers ready for ‘Blue Out' football game to support child sex abuse victims
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Student organizers are hoping Beaver Stadium will be awash in blue for Saturday's football game against Temple.
Fans attending the “Blue Out” are being encouraged to wear blue to show solidarity with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.
The first such event occurred for the Nov. 12 game last season against Nebraska, a week after retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child sexual abuse charges. Sandusky is in jail awaiting his sentencing next month after being convicted in June of 45 criminal counts.
MBA student Stuart Shapiro, a Blue Out co-founder, said Wednesday the goal is make the Blue Out an annual event. Volunteers plan to hand out blue ribbons and collect donations for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Coach Bill O'Brien said he's looking forward to the team helping to raise awareness of ending the problem of child abuse.
“I believe it's going to be a great day for the Penn State community,” O'Brien said Tuesday at the stadium. “And now to have the crowd dressed in blue T-shirts for the Blue Out game — and helping put an end and to have awareness to the child abuse problem in this country and everywhere — I think it's going to be a great day.”
Organizers also plan on distributing information on recognizing warning signs and speaking to children about suspected abuse.
While the Blue Out is organized by students, the efforts are intended to reach out to Penn State workers, faculty and others in the community, Shapiro said. “We want to encompass everybody that was involved in what happened here.”
He added that efforts were built on the tradition of another high-profile philanthropic event for a cause related to children — the annual dance marathon, or THON, to raise money each February for pediatric cancer patients and research. Last year's dance marathon raised a record $10.68 million.
Shapiro said he and co-founder Laura March are graduating in May, so they plan to pass on the organization of the Blue Out to another student group founded last November called “One Heart. “ Similarly, the group is also dedicated to raising money and developing educational initiatives for the cause of preventing child abuse.
Seeking to Stem Endless Abuse of Tribe's Children
by TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
SPIRIT LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION, N.D. — The man who plays Santa Claus here is a registered child sex offender and a convicted rapist. One of the brothers of the tribal chairman raped a child, and a second brother sexually abused a 12-year-old girl. They are among a number of men convicted of sex crimes against children on this remote home of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe, which has among the highest proportion of sex offenders in the country.
Federal officials are now moving to take over the tribe's social service programs, according to members of the tribe, government officials and documents. The action comes after years of failure by government and tribal law enforcement officials to conduct proper investigations of dozens of cases of child sexual abuse, including rape.
While members of the tribe say that sexual violence against children on the reservation is common and barely concealed, the reasons for the abuse here are poorly understood, though poverty and alcohol are thought to be factors. The crimes are rarely prosecuted, few arrests are made, and people say that because of safety fears and law enforcement's lack of interest, they no longer report even the most sadistic violence against children. In May 2011, a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother were killed on the reservation after being raped and sodomized.
“It bothers me that it is so accepted, that it is considered so normal. It's lawless,” said Molly McDonald, who was a tribal judge until March, handling juvenile cases.
The reservation has 38 registered sex offenders among its 6,200 residents, a rate of one offender for every 163 residents. By contrast, Grand Forks, N.D., about 85 miles away, has 13 sex offenders out of a population of 53,000 — a rate of about one in 4,000. In one home on the reservation, nine children are under the care of the father, an uncle and a grandfather, each a convicted sex offender, a federal official said. Two of the children, brothers who are 6 and 8, were recently observed engaging in public sex, residents said.
“Those little boys are crying out for help,” said a neighbor, who called the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police but said that officers declined to take a report or notify child welfare officials.
Another member of the tribe said that police officers and social workers failed to act after a 9-year-old girl described giving oral sex to a man.
Neither the tribe nor the federal government provided current figures on abuse, but in 2007 there were 26 confirmed cases of child sexual abuse and nearly 10 times as many allegations of abuse or neglect. Ms. McDonald said she presided over 20 to 30 cases of child sexual abuse each year. In 2011, fewer than a dozen cases of sex crimes against children were prosecuted by either the tribe or the federal government, which has jurisdiction, according to federal and tribal records.
Betty Jo Krenz, a former tribal social worker, said she oversaw 131 children — 100 more than the state's average caseload. In some instances, members of the tribe say, there are generations of victims from the same family who have been preyed upon by generations of child rapists from other families. Others abuse their own children, including one tribal government employee who publicly complained that his young daughter had bitten his penis, according to a relative of the man and a federal official.
Federal agencies, however, have sought to minimize the extent of the problem, including disciplining employees who have spoken publicly about sexual abuse and questioning the competence of others, according to federal and tribal officials.
Thomas F. Sullivan, a director of the federal Administration for Children and Families, who has emerged as a crucial whistle-blower, is among those who have been prevented from speaking to reporters, he said. Still, his periodic reports to his superiors in Washington have been blistering.
“If we fail in our role as leaders, we will deserve the same condemnation society so correctly applied to those leaders at Penn State and in the Catholic Church who, knowing of the abuse being inflicted on children by their colleagues, did nothing, failing in their basic obligation to protect children,” Mr. Sullivan wrote last month to his supervisors.
And weeks before the scheduled federal takeover on Oct. 1 of the reservation's social service system, which is responsible for the care of the tribe's sexually abused children, senior staff members at the Bureau of Indian Affairs continued to play down the issue.
Hankie Ortiz, deputy bureau director of the Office of Indian Services, said the news media and whistle-blowers had exaggerated the problem. “Their social service program has made steady progress,” Ms. Ortiz said, adding that she was unable to discuss specific cases under privacy laws or because she was unaware of them.
Roger Yankton, the tribe's chairman, did not respond to requests for interviews.
But in a letter published last month in The Devils Lake Journal, a local newspaper, tribal officials cast blame on whistle-blowers and a lack of federal money.
“The tribe's elected leaders and its people are well aware of the gravity and difficult nature of these problems,” the letter said, “particularly because we live with their consequences every day.”
But members of the tribe say their leadership has often sought to hide abuse.
Ms. McDonald said that the police investigated sex crimes against children only if a victim requested hospitalization, and that tribal leaders frequently sought to sway judges' opinions improperly. She said she was forced to dismiss many cases because social workers forgot to submit required paperwork.
“The perpetrators know they can get away with it because the authorities don't do anything,” said Joanne Streifel, a tribal elder.
Among the sex offenders is Quentin Yankton, 61, who stands 6 feet 5 inches and is a brother of the tribe's chairman. He was first convicted of raping a child in 1976, state records show. In 1992, he was convicted of a similar crime after he forced his 15-year-old niece into sex. The girl became pregnant with twins, and DNA analysis showed that he was the father.
Mr. Yankton told the police, according to court documents, that he thought he was entitled to have sex with his niece because she told him that she had previously been sexually abused by her father.
Mr. Yankton was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The girl's father was never prosecuted, but Alfred Longie, 67, a half-brother of the men, was convicted in 2008 for undressing and rubbing the genitals of a 12-year-old who had passed out after he had given her alcohol.
Joseph Alberts, 59, who plays Santa Claus for the tribe, was convicted of rape in 1983, and in 1986 was found guilty of committing lewd acts with a child under 14 on four different occasions. He served one year in jail for that crime and 18 months for the rape.
In another case, after a woman tried to burn down her house with her 5-year-old daughter inside, the girl was put in a foster home where a sex offender was living, according to Mr. Sullivan and a member of the tribe. Once the foster parent's criminal record was discovered, the tribe removed the child and put her back in her mother's home.
But when the child proved too much for the mother to care for, Mr. Sullivan said, she sold her daughter back to the family of the registered sex offender for $50 and a ride to Grand Forks.
Las Vegas is ‘ground zero' for child sex trafficking, Metro vice officer says
by Jackie Valley
The number of Nevada children dragged into prostitution is on the rise — a scary reality that will take a community effort to reverse, a Metro Police lieutenant told an interfaith group Wednesday.
The Las Vegas Valley Interfaith Sponsoring Committee hosted a discussion at the Islamic Society of Nevada about child sex trafficking.
Karen Hughes, a lieutenant in Metro Police's vice section, asked the attendees, who represented diverse religious backgrounds, to spread the word about the existence of child sex trafficking in the valley.
“I consider Las Vegas ground zero,” Hughes said. “The landscape of Las Vegas brings those who traffic young women and boys into this hideous life to Las Vegas because there's spending that occurs here … very discretional income.”
Last year, the department rescued 131 children in Las Vegas who had been forced into prostitution, Hughes said. Nearly three-quarters, or 74 percent, of those children were from Nevada, which Hughes said was an increase compared with previous years.
“These pimps and traffickers are recruiting out of our schools, out of our churches, out of our homes,” she said. “They're everywhere.”
The cycle results in scores of children subjected to beatings, torture, gang rapes and sexual assaults, Hughes said. The youngest victim discovered by Metro last year was 13 years old.
One particularly brutal case involved a 15-year-old girl who suffered second- and third-degree burns across her back and arms after attempting to flee a pimp.
“These are our kids,” she said. “These are lives that are of value and need salvation.”
To that end, Hughes called on the faith community to help find safe housing for victims and to support proposed legislation that stiffens penalties for pimps.
Michon Martin, chief deputy attorney general for Nevada, said criminals have realized they often face harsher sentences for trafficking drugs than trafficking humans.
“If a pimp is turning out one of our babies, one of our children, that is the same as him raping that baby,” Martin said. “The penalty needs to be the same.”
A proposed bill addressing that issue and others related to sex trafficking will be introduced during the upcoming legislative session, Martin said.
Preventing child sex-trafficking is the interfaith group's latest focus, said the Rev. Dennis Hutson of Advent United Methodist Church, who is on the group's board of directors. The interfaith group meets monthly to discuss various issues plaguing the community.
“We are very concerned about child sex trafficking in particular,” he said. “As people of faith, we are mandated by our holy texts to be concerned about children.”
Washington man gets life without parole for killing sex offenders
There was extra security inside a Washington courtroom Tuesday for the sentencing of a man who in June murdered two sex offenders on the Olympic Peninsula.
Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor told the killer, Patrick Drum, 34, that the beefed up security was in place for his protection.
"We treat you better than you treated them (his two victims)," Taylor said, according to The Sequim Gazette.
Drum, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole, pleaded guilty in August for killing 28-year-old Gary L. Blanton Jr., and 56-year-old Jerry W. Ray. Authorities say it was part of a vendetta against sex offenders.
The Sequim Gazette reported that Ray pleaded guilty in May 2002 to two counts of child rape involving a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old. Blaton's wife told the paper that his charges stemmed from being "caught having sex in high school."
Blanton was living at Drum's residence in Sequim when he was killed. Drum drove to Ray's home a few miles away and killed him the next morning, authorities said.
Drum also stated that he had intended to drive to Jefferson County where another sex offender resided, with the intent to kill him, too, a probable cause statement read.
Deputies found a note in a rental car that led to the victims and identified Drum as a suspect. The note said, "It had to be done."
Drum, a convicted felon who reportedly served four years for drug-related offenses, knew both men were sex offenders. Both were shot multiple times and Drum was armed with a 9mm pistol when he was arrested, authorities said. He took full responsibility for "taking care of some problems," authorities said.
During the sentencing, Deb Kelly, the Clallam County prosecuting attorney, reportedly spoke out against Drum's vigilantism and said, "It is unfortunate there are those people who admire what he did. It is despicable and disgusting."
Paul Ray, the father of one of Drum's victims, told the court that his son was his primary caregiver and he has "no sympathy for the man that shot and killed" him.
Judge Ken Williams warned others against vigilantism.
KOMO-TV reported that the judge told Drum's supporters to back off from attacks on the victims' families. The wife of one of the victims said people who support Drum and consider him a "hero" have stalked their house, thrown things at their car, spat on them and more.
Drum said he never intended to hurt the families and called it "collateral damage," The Peninsula Daily News reported.
As Drum was being lead out of court he turned to his friends and family in the gallery he loved them and a friend of Blanton responded, "See you in hell."
Ga. may expand call center for child abuse reports
by RAY HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) — People reporting child abuse in the Columbus area could be routed toward a central call center and away from a child welfare office where two supervisors were recently arrested, Georgia's top child protection official said Tuesday.
Officials at the Division of Family and Children Services previously discussed whether it would be better to have a call center receive reports about child abuse rather than delegating that task to each county office, DFCS Director Ron Scroggy said.
That discussion has intensified since two supervisors at the division's Columbus office were arrested this month and charged with destroying, delaying or otherwise tampering with initial reports about suspected child abuse. Authorities at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said they were examining whether supervisors in the office systematically falsified information so it would appear they were meeting internal guidelines.
"We believe it would be in everyone's interest to move to a centralized, 24-hour intake system," Scroggy said in an interview.
Scroggy said he is unaware of any evidence that children were harmed as a result of the alleged document tampering. But the probe is ongoing.
"... We'll have to wait and see what the investigation leads us to," he said.
In the meantime, DFCS has sent agency leaders and a specialized five-person team from its central office to assist the branch in Columbus because its intake supervisor, Phyllis Mitchell, and former acting director, Deborah Cobb, were arrested Sept. 5 on two state charges accusing them of document tampering. Mitchell and Cobb did not return calls seeking comment. They have been suspended with pay from their state jobs, according to agency records.
One staffer from the agency's central office has been sitting with the workers in Columbus who answer phone calls reporting child abuse, said Kathy Herren, the division's deputy director. That outside staffer signs off on every report.
"We've talked with staff about the importance of their work and their job and the need to import all that work into the system," Herren said.
The division already operates a call center in Albany that handles after-hours reports of suspected child abuse for most of the state outside Atlanta. Division officials said that call center could be expanded on a trial basis to handle daytime calls for Columbus and other nearby offices. Scroggy estimated that effort would cost about $500,000 through June, but he emphasized the spending figure was preliminary.
The probe in Columbus started in 2008, according to a brief memo that the Georgia Department of Human Services sent to lawmakers.
At the time, Georgia was under pressure to improve the performance of its child protection agency. The U.S. Administration for Children and Families penalized the state for failing to meet key requirements by cutting some of its child-related funding by an average of about $732,000 annually for nine years starting in late 2000, according to Ravae Graham, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, which oversees DFCS.
To get that money back, Georgia officials created improvement plans. The last plan focused in part on improving how the agency handled initial reports of child abuse. Under the plan, DFCS agreed to revise and update its policies for handling those calls and to retrain its staff. County offices were evaluated on whether they met the overall goals in the plan.
DFCS officials will likely face questions about the arrests when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, said Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, who heads the Human Resources Subcommittee. She expects that discussion to happen when lawmakers review the agency's budget.
"I think we're going to have to see what the process reveals," Dempsey said. "I feel good there is some light shining on the concerns."
Join Me in Supporting Survivors of Child Abuse With a Simple Act of Kindness
Advocate, Emmy Award Winng Actress on Law & Order: SVU, Founder & President of the Joyful Heart Foundation
Thirty reports of child abuse will be made in the five minutes it takes you to read this article. That's 3.3 million reports each year, involving six million children. In this country, five children die every day as a result of child abuse and neglect.
When I began my role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit , my eyes were opened to the staggering statistics of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. But what really opened my eyes -- and subsequently my heart -- was the fan mail I started receiving. Instead of asking for an autographed photo and telling me about their favorite episodes, survivors were disclosing their stories of abuse -- many for the first time.
In 2004, I founded the Joyful Heart Foundation with the intention of helping survivors heal and reclaim their lives. Today, our mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
I know these issues are difficult to discuss. They're heavy and complex, and they involve pain, fear and isolation -- and an entrenched lack of understanding. But the greater the number of people willing to bear the heavy burden of these topics, the lighter each individual's load will be.
This month, Joyful Heart is proud to team up with Do the KIND Thing, an initiative launched by KIND to try and make the world a little kinder. Each month, Do the KIND Thing challenges people to carry out a specific act of kindness with the promise that if enough people sign up to do so at KINDmovement.com, KIND will pay it forward on a larger scale by carrying out a BIG KIND Act. To date, Do the KIND Thing has inspired hundreds of thousands of unexpected acts of kindness and bettered the lives of more than half a million people in need.
We all have a role to play in supporting survivors and preventing abuse. Now through October 2nd, I am asking people everywhere to commit to support a parent or caregiver by offering a helping hand, preparing a meal together or simply asking how they're doing. Your kindness can have a huge impact. Studies have shown that parents and caregivers with strong support networks are less likely to abuse or neglect their children. And if enough people pledge to participate at KINDmovement.com, I, along with friends and supporters of Joyful Heart and KIND, will package and deliver healing kits to hundreds of abused children currently seeking protection at the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center in New York City, as well as centers in Los Angeles and Honolulu, where Joyful Heart also offers its programs and services.
Together, we can shed light on the issue of child abuse and engage people everywhere to be part of the solution. Please join me.
And thank you for your kindness.
Mariska Hargitay is the Emmy Award-winning star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on NBC and the Founder & President of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Joyful Heart's mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
Guidelines established for PSU's five-year, $60M fine
The NCAA created a task force to allocate funds accrued after the Sandusky scandal.
by Michael Rubinkam
A 10-member task force has been named to come up with guidelines for how to distribute the record $60 million fine that Pennsylvania State University will pay in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the NCAA said Tuesday.
The money will fund programs designed to combat child sexual abuse and help victims around the country. The task force will set policy for the endowment and hire a third-party administrator who will choose which nonprofit groups receive funding each year.
"This fund will exist, presumably, for a long, long time, and putting it together right, putting a good solid foundation under it, a thoughtful philosophy under it, is just going to mean it will be an effective, respected source of funding in this area for a long time," said task force member Nan Crouter, dean of Penn State's College of Health and Human Development.
The NCAA imposed tough sanctions on Penn State over its handling of sex-abuse allegations against Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach convicted of abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years.
The governing body acted swiftly following a school-sanctioned report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that accused coach Joe Paterno and three top officials of hiding child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky to protect the school and its powerful football program.
Paterno died in January at 85. His family and the other school officials have all denied Freeh's allegations.
The NCAA levied a four-year postseason ban, significant scholarship cuts, and other sanctions to punish Penn State over its failure to report a serial child predator to authorities.
Penn State also agreed to pay $12 million a year for the next five years into an endowment to fund programs for the detection, prevention, and treatment of child abuse.
Pennsylvania politicians including Republican Gov. Corbett and House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody wanted the NCAA to keep all the funds in-state. Instead, 25 percent of the annual grants will be reserved for Pennsylvania organizations. In-state groups will also receive the first round of funding.
"Recognizing that child sexual abuse is a national issue, the NCAA has determined that grants from the endowment will be available in other states as well," Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in a statement.
An NCAA spokeswoman declined comment on a timetable for the first distribution of funds.
Penn State got to name two people to the task force: Craig Hillemeier, vice dean for clinical affairs at the medical school, and Crouter.
Other members of the task force include administrators from other NCAA member schools; nonprofit executives including United Way Worldwide CEO Brian Gallagher; and a representative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Red flags: Parents need to know who is with their children
by Kate S. Alexander
Cases like that of Jerry Sandusky, the football coach who used his charity and prominence to sexually abuse children, might make headlines, but nearly every day child victims in Montgomery County report similar sexual abuse.
Abusers often are opportunists who groom their victims, building a rapport that can turn into violence.
It might start out as simple as buying candy and gifts, or being the cool person that the kids trust, said Detective Katie Leggett, a child abuse and sexual assault detective in Montgomery County Police's Family Crimes Division.
However, when that attention focuses on one child, or progresses to special dinners, trips, sleep-overs or late-night text messages, it can be a red flag, she said.
Unfortunately, parents often are not alarmed because they trust the person, or are too consumed in their own lives to see what is going on.
In her eight years investigating child sexual abuse, Leggett's unit has had cases involving celebrities, teachers, priests, high-ranking officials — and coaches.
Although not every involved coach or teacher is or will become an abuser, parents should know who they are leaving their children with as much as possible.
Sandusky, the former Penn State University football coach, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in June. A month later, a woman came forward claiming she and prominent Washington, D.C.-area swimming coach Rick Curl had an inappropriate sexual relationship when she was 13 years old. Montgomery County police is investigating her allegations.
Sexual abuse of children is not isolated in select socioeconomic levels, communities, ethnic groups or genders, said Larissa Halstead, who investigates child sex abuse for Montgomery County's Child Welfare Services.
It happens to children of all ages, from all backgrounds, at the hands of offenders ranging from coaches, family members, teachers and adult acquaintances to even other children, Halstead said. It happens to boys and girls. It happens everywhere.
From July 2011 through June 2012, Montgomery County investigated 322 allegations of child sex abuse, Halstead said.
Not every child victim reports what has happened to them.
Some fear they will be blamed. Some feel guilty. Some feel responsible. Some face threats from their abuser. Developmentally younger children also may think everyone already knows what they know, Halstead said. Others do not tell what happened until they reach adulthood.
In the case of Curl's alleged victim, it took 29 years for her to come forward.
Frequently, teachers, doctors or other caregivers are the ones who make a report, but Halstead said her unit also receives anonymous tips from community members and some children do come forward as victims.
Children can be adept at hiding abuse, but victims often display symptoms, red flags that something sexually traumatic has happened to them, Halstead said.
Bed wetting, regression in potty training, a sexual knowledge beyond a child's normal awareness, sexual play with toys or peers, drawings or even statements made by children can indicate sexual abuse, she said.
Unfortunately, because child sexual abuse is not in most people's frame of reference, they can mistake a symptom of abuse, such as regression in potty training, as a medical or other problem, she said.
“Child sex abuse will always exist,” Halstead said. “I think the more that we can come together as a community and acknowledge that, the better off our kids are and the safer our kids are.”
Disclosure is probable cause
When allegations are made, police operate on the basis that the victim is telling the truth, Leggett said.
“The only evidence that we need is a victim's disclosure. That's the probable cause that we need and at the end of the day that's chargeable,” she said. However, police work to build a case with more evidence.
The Family Crimes Division, the county's largest specialized police unit, frequently investigates allegations together with the county Child Welfare Services unit that handles cases of sexual abuse by caregivers — including coaches — or family members.
It can be easier for parents to stay in denial because coming to terms with the abuse can force very challenging circumstances on a family, Halstead said.
Beyond the abuse itself, reporting what happened can be traumatic for a child, she said. In child welfare services, the goal is to minimize the trauma as much as possible.
“We put the child before the criminal investigation, we put the child, really, before anything else,” Halstead said. “We're not going to compromise the child's emotional well-being to get a conviction or two, for our own purposes.”
Justice cannot always be served, but the child can be, said Tom Grazio, director of the Tree House Child Assessment Center in Rockville, which works with officials to investigate cases and victims to reduce trauma and promote healing.
“I like justice,” he said. “I mean, these guys are criminals.”
But focusing on the child can make a difference so that, in time, the child can cope with what they suffered.
“The only way to heal is to face what happened,” he said. “In time, getting past it is justice if you can make that happen.”
‘Not a normal person anymore'
As a mother of two young children, Leggett said what she has seen in her years investigating child sex abuse has changed her.
“I'm not a normal person anymore,” she said. “My life has changed because of what I see. All of the signs are there for me. I don't look at people the same anymore.”
But that does not mean she will prevent her children from participating in sports, which she said provide valuable lessons and experiences for children.
“I think the concern still is how do we stop this,” Leggett said. “I don't know. Nobody has that answer.”
When Grazio was first hired to work in child protective services in 1970s, he said his hope was to help “wipe out” child sex abuse in his lifetime.
That is not likely to happen, but not for lack of trying, he said.
Now his hope is that someone else is entering the field with the same goal.
For now, education remains the most effective tool police and social workers have.
“While I think we have made, as a community, great strides in educating, our work is clearly not done because we are still getting cases,” Leggett said. “And that is just probably a smidgen of what is really going on out there.”
Founder of Aurora nonprofit suspected of sex crime
The Associated Press AURORA, Colo. -- The founder of nonprofit to help at-risk homeless youth has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault by a person in position of trust.
Aurora police Tuesday say officers arrested Stand Up For Kids founder Richard Lee Koca (KOH-cha) on Saturday. Police say they began investigating Koca on Aug. 29 and have so far identified one victim in Aurora. Because of his contact with children through his nonprofit that started in 1990, police fear there may be more victims.
Police say Koca, a retired Navy officer, has lived in Atlanta, Houston and San Diego. Details of the allegation were not immediately released. Koca remained in custody on $250,000 bail.
There is no phone listing for Koca and it's unclear whether he has an attorney.
Board Denies Clemency To Death-Row Inmate Experts Say Was Sexually Abused By The Men He Killed
by Nicole Flatow
The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons denied clemency
today to the Pennsylvania inmate who faces execution Oct. 3 for killing two men that he alleges sexually abused him.
Three out of the five board members voted to spare Terrance “Terry” Williams from a sentence of death, but a unanimous vote was required. Reports the Philadelphia Inquirer:
With Williams' state and federal appeals exhausted all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 46-year-old former Germantown High School quarterback's last hope of escaping becoming the first person executed in Pennsylvania in 13 years lies in a hearing Thursday before Philadelphia Common Pleas M. Teresa Sarmina.
The court agreed to hear testimony from two witnesses whom Williams' lawyers argue covered up evidence of Williams' sexual abuse.
The clemency petition filed on behalf of Williams was supported by 22 former prosecutors and judges, 34 law professors, 40 mental health professionals and more than 36 religious leaders, and urged the board to spare from execution a man with an extensive childhood history of abuse that was never revealed to the jury. Even the widow of one of the victims submitted a letter asking that his life be spared. It was accompanied by a letter from 26 child advocates and sexual abuse experts, which stated: “The evidence of abuse in this case is clear. There can be no doubt that Terry was repeatedly and violently abused and exploited as a child and teenager by manipulative older men. Terry's acts of violence have, alas, an explanation of the worst sort: enveloped by anger and self-hatred, Terry lashed out and killed two of the men who sexually abused him and caused him so much pain.”
The clemency petition explained:
At the time of the killing, Terry was only three and a half months past his eighteenth birthday, the minimum age for the imposition of the death penalty. On that tragic day, Terry and another 18-year-old, Marc Draper, beat Mr. Norwood to death in a cemetery in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
At trial, the jury was informed that Terry had prior convictions for a 1982 armed robbery and the 1984 killing of Herbert Hamilton, which Terry committed at ages 16 and 17, respectively. The jury never learned, however, that both Herbert Hamilton and Amos Norwood had sexually abused Terry, or that both killings directly related to Terry's history of sexual abuse by these and older males, which began when Terry was only six years old. In fact, jurors heard very little about Terry's childhood, which was marked not only by over a decade of sexual abuse, but by years of physical and emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment by those who were supposed to love and care for him. The unrelenting abuse and neglect made Terry an easy target for sexual predators. […]
Five of the jurors from Terry's capital trial agree that Terry's life should be spared. In recent sworn statements, they have explained that if they had known the truth about Terry's childhood, the fact that he was exploited and sexually assaulted by the men he killed, as well as the fact that a life sentence meant life without parole, they never would have sentenced Terry to death.
Protecting yourself and your children from sexual assault
by Amanda Edwards Women
There are tools women have been taught since childhood to stay safe from sexual assault . We do these things without even thinking about it in an effort to reduce our risk of becoming a victim. However, in this new age of technology, there are new tips we can use and strategies we can teach our children to reduce the risk of sexual assault.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in every six women in the United States will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape in their lifetime.
How to protect ourselves from sexual assault:
- Don't share too much information on the internet whether it is selling something on a classified page or checking in via social media, the entire world wide web does not need to know where you are and what you're doing all the time.
- Park under the light in the parking lot and carry keys like a weapon, sticking out between fingers.
- Make eye contact with individuals who cross your path instead of looking down or texting on your phone (this one is new as cell phone use has increased and we often walk and talk or text.)
We can protect our children too:
- Teach children to never disclose their personal information to strangers (this includes on the internet) and warn them of possible consequences of oversharing.
- Explain that your child should not be afraid to report any adult contact that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.
- Instill a sense of self-confidence and respect for self in your children. Targets for sexual assault are often kids who seem weak and insecure, needing love or approval from an adult.
- Never leave them unattended.
- Teach them to use their phones appropriately and to never be distracted by their phone when alone in their community.
- Get to know their teachers and coaches.
- Teach children to say “no” and to use stranger awareness skills.
- Do your best to keep them in your direct care and supervision as much as possible since up to 90 percent of child molestation cases are perpetrated by someone they know.
Women and children are most often the victims of sexual assault (although men are victims of rape too and can use these same prevention strategies) and the internet has only increased our risk of being victimized.
While most internet use is safe, it's important to remember to value your (and your family's) privacy in the interest of self-preservation. And, as always, be aware of your surroundings and teach children to respect themselves so much that they'd never be dreamed of as a target for a perpetrator they may already know.
Jerry Sandusky built a sophisticated grooming operation, outsourcing to child-care professionals the task of locating vulnerable children, all the while playing the role of lovable goofball.
How child molesters get away with it.
by Malcolm Gladwell
- The New Yorker -
A CRITIC AT LARGE
IN PLAIN VIEW
September 24, 2012
In a 2001 book, “Identifying Child Molesters,” the psychologist Carla van Dam tells the story of a young Canadian elementary-school teacher she calls Jeffrey Clay. Clay taught physical education. He was well liked by his students, and often he asked boys in his class to stay after school, to do homework and help him with chores. One day, just before winter break, three of the boys made a confession to their parents. Mr. Clay had touched them under their pants.
The parents went to the principal. He confronted Clay, who denied everything. The principal knew Clay and was convinced by him. In his mind, what it boiled down to, van Dam writes, “is some wild imaginations and the three boys being really close.”
The parents were at a loss. Mr. Clay was beloved. He had started a popular gym club at the school. He was married and was a role model to the boys. He would come to their after-school games. Could he really have abused them? Perhaps he was just overly physical in the way that young men often are. He had a habit, for example, of grabbing boys in the hallway and pulling them toward him, placing his arms over their shoulders and chest. At the gym club, he would pick boys up and turn them upside down, holding them by the legs. Lots of people—especially gym teachers—like to engage in a little horseplay with young boys. It wasn't until the allegations about Clay emerged that it occurred to anyone to wonder whether he might have been trying to look down the boys' shorts.
“We weren't really prepared to call the police and make it into a police investigation,” one of the mothers told van Dam. “It was an indiscretion, as far as we were concerned at this point. It was all vague: ‘Well, he put his hands down there.' And, ‘Well, it was inside the pants, but fingers went to here.' We were all still trying to protect Mr. Clay's reputation, and the possibility this was all blown up out of proportion and there was a mistake.”
The families then learned that there had been a previous complaint by a child against Clay, and they took their case to the school superintendent. He, too, advised caution. “If allegations do not clearly indicate sexual abuse, a gray area exists,” he wrote to them. “The very act of overt investigation carries with it a charge, a conviction, and a sentence, a situation which is repugnant to fair-minded people.” He was responsible not just to the children but also to the professional integrity of his teachers. What did they have? Just the story of three young boys, and young boys do, after all, have wild imaginations.
Clay was kept on. Two months later, after prodding from a couple of social workers, the parents asked the police to investigate. One of the mothers recalls an officer interviewing her son: “He was gentle, but to the point, and he wanted to be shown exactly where Mr. Clay had touched him.” The three boys named other boys who they said had been subjected to Mr. Clay's advances. Those boys, however, denied everything. A new, more specific allegation against Clay surfaced. He resigned, and went to see a therapist. But still the prosecutor's office didn't feel that it had enough evidence to press charges. And within the school there were teachers who felt that Clay was innocent. “I was running into my colleagues who were saying, ‘Did you know that some rotten parents trumped up these charges against this poor man?' ” one teacher told van Dam. The teacher added, “Not just one person. Many teachers said this.” A psychologist working at the school thought that the community was in the grip of hysteria. The allegations against Clay, he thought, were simply the result of the fact that he was “young and energetic.” Clay threatened to sue. The parents dropped their case.
Clay was a man repeatedly accused of putting his hands down the pants of young boys. Parents complained. Superiors investigated. And what happened? The school psychologist called him a victim of hysteria.
When monsters roam free, we assume that people in positions of authority ought to be able to catch them if only they did their jobs. But that might be wishful thinking. A pedophile, van Dam's story of Mr. Clay reminds us, is someone adept not just at preying on children but at confusing, deceiving, and charming the adults responsible for those children—which is something to keep in mind in the case of the scandal at Penn State and the conviction, earlier this year, of the former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child-molestation charges.
Jerry Sandusky grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania. His father headed the local community recreation center, running sports programs for children. The Sanduskys lived upstairs. “Every door I opened, there was a bat, a basketball, a football somewhere,” Sandusky has recounted. “There was constant activity everywhere. My folks touched a lot of kids.” Sandusky's son E.J. once described his father as “a frustrated playground director.” Sandusky would organize kickball games in the back yard, and, E.J. said, “Dad would get every single kid involved. We had the largest kickball games in the United States, kickball games with forty kids.” Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, adopted six children, and were foster parents to countless more. “They took in so many foster children that even their closest friends could not keep track of them all,” Joe Posnanski writes in “Paterno,” his new biography of Sandusky's boss, the former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. “Children constantly surrounded Sandusky, so much so that they became part of his persona.”
Sandusky was a hugger and a grabber and a cutup. “He liked practical jokes and messing around, knocking a guy's hat off his head, making prank calls, sneaking up behind people to startle them,” Posnanski goes on. People at Penn State thought of him as “a knucklehead.” Much of Sandusky's 2000 autobiography, “Touched,” is devoted to stories of his antics: the time he smeared charcoal over the handset of his chemistry teacher's phone, the time he ran afoul of a lifeguard for horseplay with his children in a public pool. Four and a half pages alone are devoted to water-balloon fights that he orchestrated while in college. “Wherever I went, it seemed like trouble was sure to follow,” Sandusky writes. He was a kid at heart. “I live a good part of my life in a make-believe world,” he continues. “I enjoyed pretending as a kid, and I love doing the same as an adult with these kids. Pretending has always been part of me.” There was a time when one of the kids he was mentoring became “cold and unresponsive” to him. It upset him. He writes:
|“You know it's not right to treat people like this,” I told him. “You should talk to me.” The boy laid into me, screaming from the top of his lungs. “Get out of here! Get out of here!” His voice echoed into the hallway and staff people came rushing into the room. I looked at him with sincere tears in my eyes. “I can't believe you're doing this to me,” I said quietly as I walked out of the room.
In 1977, Sandusky and his wife started a nonprofit called the Second Mile, to help troubled and disadvantaged boys. At its height, the Second Mile had a budget of millions of dollars and programs that reached tens of thousands of children. Three times, Sandusky was offered head-coaching jobs at other universities. Each time, he said no. The kids came first. “We had a young foster child whose name was Christopher staying with us,” Sandusky writes, of the time he considered whether to accept a job offer from Marshall University:
|I spotted Christopher at the bottom of the stairs. He had a ball in his hands, and as he looked at me, he said, “P'ay ball! P'ay ball!”. . . Christopher threw me the ball, and as I tossed it back, I came to the realization that we wouldn't be able to take him with us. . . . Seeing Christopher at that moment kind of told me all I needed to know.
We now know what Sandusky was really doing with the Second Mile. He was setting up a pipeline of young troubled boys. Just as important, though, he was establishing his bona fides. Psychologists call this “grooming”—the process by which child molesters ingratiate themselves into the communities they wish to exploit. “Many molesters confirmed that they would spend anywhere from two to three years getting established in a new community before molesting any children,” van Dam writes. One pedophile she interviewed would hang out in bars, looking for adults who seemed to be having difficulties at home. He would lend a comforting ear, and then start to help out. As he told van Dam:
|I was just a friend doing things a friend would do. Helping them move, going to baseball games with them. What I found myself doing was getting close to the kids, becoming more of a father figure or a mentor, doing things for them that the parents weren't doing because the parents were out getting drunk all the time. And, of course, it made it easy for me to baby-sit. They'd say, “Oh yeah. We can off-load the kids with Jimmy.”
One of the most remarkable and disturbing descriptions of the grooming process comes from a twenty-two-page autobiography (published as a chapter in a book about pedophilia) by a convicted pedophile named Donald Silva. After graduating from medical school, Silva met a family with a nine-year-old named Eric. He first sexually molested Eric on a ski trip that the two of them took together. But that came only a year after he befriended the family, patiently insinuating himself into the good graces of Eric's parents. At one point, Eric's mother ordered an end to the “friendship,” because she thought Silva's friends had been smoking pot in her son's presence. But Silva had so won over her husband that, he writes, “this beautiful man found it in his heart to forgive me after I assured him that such a thing would not happen again.” Silva describes an unforgettable night that he and Eric spent together after they were “reunited”:
|I had recently broken up with Cathy [his girlfriend] when Evelyn, my future wife, arrived for a visit. In that month, Evelyn met Eric's family, and she and his mother became good friends. Evelyn stayed with me at my parents' house, and we enjoyed an active sex life. Eric slept over one night, and the three of us shared a bed for a while. He was going to pretend to be asleep while Evelyn and I made love, but Evelyn declined with him there and went to sleep elsewhere.
To recap: A man uses his new girlfriend to befriend the family of the ten-year-old boy he is molesting. He orchestrates a threesome in a bed in his parents' house. He asks the girl to have sex with him with the ten-year-old lying beside them. She says no. She leaves him alone with his victim— and then he persuades her to marry him.
The pedophile is often imagined as the dishevelled old man baldly offering candy to preschoolers. But the truth is that most of the time we have no clue what we are dealing with. A fellow-teacher at Mr. Clay's school, whose son was one of those who complained of being fondled, went directly to Clay after she heard the allegations. “I didn't do anything to those little boys,” Clay responded. “I'm innocent. . . . Would you and your husband stand beside me if it goes to court?” Of course, they said. People didn't believe that Clay was a pedophile because people liked Clay—without realizing that Clay was in the business of being likable.
Did anyone at Penn State understand what they were dealing with, either? Here was a man who built a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar, fully integrated grooming operation, outsourcing to child-care professionals the task of locating vulnerable children—all the while playing the role of lovable goofball. “If Sandusky did not have such a human side,” Sports Illustrated ' s Jack McCallum wrote, in 1999, “there would be a temptation around Happy Valley to canonize him.” A week later, Bill Lyon, of the Philadelphia Inquirer , paid tribute to Sandusky's selflessness. “In more than one motel hallway, whenever you encountered him and offered what sounded like even the vaguest sort of compliment, he would blush and an engaging, lopsided grin of modesty would wrap its way around his face,” Lyon wrote. “He isn't in this business for recognition. His defense plays out in front of millions. But when he opens the door and invites in another stray, there is no audience. The ennobling measure of the man is that he has chosen the work that is done without public notice.”
In 1990, the Second Mile was awarded one of President George H. W. Bush's Points of Light awards. After the formal ceremonies were over, Sandusky grabbed the microphone and shouted out, “It's about time, George!”
“I had reverted back to the days of my mischievous youth,” Sandusky writes, in “Touched.” “I had always professed that someday I would reap the benefits of maturity, but my lifestyle just wouldn't let me. There were so many things I had done in my life—so many of them crazy and outlandish. . . . My time on this earth has always been unique. At the times when I found myself searching for maturity, I usually came up with insanity.” Years later, at Sandusky's criminal trial, a Penn State coach said that he saw Sandusky showering with boys all the time—and thought nothing of it. Crazy Jerry and his horseplay. Who knew what he would get up to next?
On the afternoon of May 3, 1998, Sandusky called the home of an eleven-year-old boy he had met through the Second Mile and invited him to a Penn State athletic facility. Sandusky picked him up that evening. The two wrestled and worked out on the exercise machines. Sandusky kissed the boy on the top of his head and said, “I love you.” Sandusky then asked the boy if he wanted to take a shower, and the boy agreed. According to the formal investigation of the Sandusky case, conducted by the law firm of the former F.B.I. director Louis Freeh:
|While in the shower, Sandusky wrapped his hands around the boy's chest and said, “I'm gonna squeeze your guts out.” The boy then washed his body and hair. Sandusky lifted the boy to “get the soap out of” the boy's hair, bringing the boy's feet “up pretty high” near Sandusky's waist. The boy's back was touching Sandusky's chest and his feet touched Sandusky's thigh. The boy felt “weird” and “uncomfortable” during his time in the shower.
This is standard child-molester tradecraft. The successful pedophile does not select his targets arbitrarily. He culls them from a larger pool, testing and probing until he finds the most vulnerable. Clay, for example, first put himself in a place with easy access to children—an elementary school. Then he worked his way through his class. He began by simply asking boys if they wanted to stay after school. “Those who could not do so without parental permission were screened out,” van Dam writes. Children with vigilant parents are too risky. Those who remained were then caressed on the back, first over the shirt and then, if there was no objection from the child, under the shirt. “The child's response was evaluated by waiting to see what was reported to the parents,” she goes on. “Parents inquiring about this behavior were told by Mr. Clay that he had simply been checking their child for signs of chicken pox. Those children were not targeted further.” The rest were “selected for more contact,” gradually moving below the belt and then to the genitals.
The child molester's key strategy is one of escalation, desensitizing the target with an ever-expanding touch. In interviews and autobiographies, pedophiles describe their escalation techniques like fly fishermen comparing lures. Consider the child molester van Dam calls Cook:
|Some of the little tricks that always work with younger boys are things like always sitting in a sofa, or a chair with big, soft arms if possible. I would sit with my legs well out and my feet flat on the floor. My arms would always be in an “open” position. The younger kids have not developed a “personal space” yet, and when talking with me, will move in very close. If they are showing me something, particularly on paper, it is easy to hold the object in such a way that the child will move in between my legs or even perch on my knee very early on. If the boy sat on my lap, or very close in, leaning against me, I would put my arm around him loosely. As this became a part of our relationship, I would advance to two arms around him, and hold him closer and tighter. . . . Goodbyes would progress from waves, to brief hugs, to kisses on the cheek, to kisses on the mouth in very short order.
Sandusky started with wrestling, to make physical touch seem normal. In the shower, the boy initially turned on a showerhead a few feet from Sandusky. Sandusky told him to use the shower next to him. This was a test. The boy complied. Then came the bear hug. The boy's back was touching Sandusky's chest and his feet touched Sandusky's thigh. Sandusky wanted to see how the boy would react. Was this too much too soon? The boy felt “weird” and “uncomfortable.” Sandusky retreated. The following week, Sandusky showed up at the boy's home, circling back to test the waters once again. How did the boy feel? Had he told his mother? Was he a promising lead, or too risky? As it turned out, the mother had alerted the University Police Department, and a detective, Ronald Schreffler, was hiding in the house. According to the Freeh report:
|Schreffler overheard Sandusky say he had gone to the boy's baseball game the night before but found the game had been cancelled. The boy's mother told Sandusky that her son had been acting “different” since they had been together on May 3, 1998 and asked Sandusky if anything had happened that day. Sandusky replied, “[w]e worked out. Did [the boy] say something happened?” Sandusky added that the boy had taken a shower, and said “[m]aybe I worked him too hard.” Sandusky also asked the boy's mother if he should leave him alone, and she said that would be best. Sandusky then apologized.
A few days later, the mother asked Sandusky to come by the house again; the police were once more in the next room. She questioned him more closely about what had happened in the shower. According to the Freeh report:
|Sandusky asked to speak with the son and the mother replied that she did not feel that was a good idea as her son was confused and she did not want Sandusky to attend any of the boy's baseball games. Sandusky responded, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won't get it from you. I wish I were dead.”
Put yourself in the mind of the detective hiding in the house. Schreffler was there to gather evidence of sexual abuse. But there was no evidence of sexual abuse. Sandusky didn't rape the boy in the shower. That was something that might come only after several weeks, if not months. He gave the boy an exploratory bear hug. Now he was back at the boy's home. But he didn't seem like an aggressive predator. He was carefully soliciting the mother's opinion and apologizing, with all his considerable charm. “I wish I were dead,” he says to the mother. Is that an admission of guilt? Or is Sandusky saying how mortified he is that he—savior of young boys—could possibly have alienated a child and his mother? Sandusky had been caught in the subtle, early maneuvers of victim selection, and what Schreffler witnessed was Sandusky aborting his pursuit of the boy, not pressing forward. Sandusky had looked for vulnerability and hadn't found it.
The episode was, as the parent said of the first allegations against Mr. Clay, “all vague.” The mother saw her son come home from the gym with his hair wet. He told her that he had showered with Sandusky. He seemed upset, and showered again the following morning. The mother called a psychologist, Alycia Chambers, who had been working with her son, and one of her questions to Chambers was “Am I overreacting?” She wasn't sure what had happened. Nor, for that matter, was her son. Here is the Freeh report again:
|Later that day, Chambers met with the boy who told her about the prior day's events and that he felt “like the luckiest kid in the world” to get to sit on the sidelines at Penn State football games. The boy said that he did not want to get Sandusky in “trouble” and that Sandusky must not have meant anything by his actions. The boy did not want anyone to talk to Sandusky because he might not invite him to any more games.
Chambers wrote a report on the case and gave it to the University Police Department and Child and Youth Services. She thought that Sandusky's behavior met the definition of a “likely pedophile's pattern of building trust and gradual introduction of physical touch, within a context of a ‘loving,' ‘special' relationship.” But Jerry Lauro, the caseworker assigned to the incident by the Department of Public Welfare in Harrisburg, disagreed. He thought that the incident fell into a “gray” area concerning “boundary issues.” The boy was then evaluated by a counsellor named John Seasock, who concluded, “There seems to be no incident which could be termed as sexual abuse, nor did there appear to be any sequential pattern of logic and behavior which is usually consistent with adults who have difficulty with sexual abuse of children.” Seasock didn't think Sandusky was grooming. Someone, he concluded, should talk to Sandusky about how to “stay out of such gray area situations in the future.”
Of all those involved in the investigation, only one person—the psychologist Alycia Chambers—recognized Sandusky's actions for what they were. Here was someone with the full authority and expertise of psychological training, who identified a prominent man with virtually unlimited access to vulnerable children as a “likely pedophile.” But what more could she do? She had told the police. Patient confidentiality constrained her from going to the media, and her responsibility to her client made her wary of turning him into a public victim. Then, there was the fact that two other trained professionals had seen the same evidence she had, and reached the opposite conclusion. She was in the grip of the same uncertainty that afflicts even the best people when confronted with a child molester. She thought Sandusky was suspicious. No one agreed with her. Maybe she decided that she could be wrong.
Lauro and Schreffler—the man who had hidden in the other room—met with Sandusky. He told them that he had hugged the boy but that “there was nothing sexual about it.” He admitted to showering with other boys in the past. He said, “Honest to God, nothing happened.” Everyone knew Sandusky, and everyone knew that he was a bit of a saint and a bit of a knucklehead. For all we know, he quoted those lines from his book: “At the times when I found myself searching for maturity, I usually came up with insanity.” Penn State officials had been apprised of the investigation from the beginning. After the meeting between Lauro, Schreffler, and Sandusky, Gary Schultz, Penn State's senior vice-president for business and finance, e-mailed Graham Spanier, the university's president, and Tim Curley, the school's athletic director, and told them that the investigators were dropping the whole matter. Sandusky, Schultz wrote, “was a little emotional and expressed concern as to how this might have adversely affected the child.”
Joe Paterno, Sandusky's boss, was a football obsessive. He played quarterback at Brooklyn Prep and at Brown University, which he attended on a football scholarship. Aside from a short stint in the Army, he never held a job outside of football. He began at Penn State as an assistant coach in 1950 and never left. He talked and thought football, around the clock. “At night,” Posnanski writes, “he wrote countless notes (all his life, he was a compulsive note-taker) about football ideas he wanted to try, plays he wanted to run, techniques he wanted to teach, improvements he wanted to make, thoughts about leadership that crossed his mind.” Shortly after Paterno arrived in State College, he moved into the basement of a fellow assistant coach, Jim O'Hara. Finally, O'Hara confronted him. “Joe, you've been with us ten years. Get the hell out of here.” Paterno, puzzled, replied, “Have I been here that long?”
Paterno was strict and uncompromising. “Even as a boy, when he played quarterback on his high-school football team back in Brooklyn, he would lecture his teammates in his high-pitched squeal when one of them unleashed a swear word,” Posnanski writes. “ ‘Aw gee, come on, guys, keep it clean!' They thought him a prude even then. He had lived a sheltered life—not by accident but by choice. The Paternos never even watched any television except ‘The Wonderful World of Disney' on Sunday nights.”
He scripted practices down to the minute. He did not like distractions. “He would scream at us all the time, ‘Would you just let me coach my football team,' ” a friend tells Posnanski. “That's all he wanted to do. Every other thing made him crazy.” Once, while hard at work drafting a new defensive scheme, he all but disappeared. “We could have moved out, and he wouldn't have noticed,” his wife, Sue, said. “He might have noticed when he came out and there was no dinner for him. But he might not even have noticed that. He was in his own world.”
Paterno did not like Sandusky. They argued openly. Paterno found Sandusky's goofiness exasperating, and the trail of kids following him around irritated Paterno no end. He considered firing Sandusky many times. But, according to Posnanski, he realized that he needed Sandusky—that the emotional, bear-hugging, impulsive knucklehead was a necessary counterpart to his own discipline and austerity. Sandusky never accepted any of the job offers that would have taken him away from Penn State, because he could not leave the Second Mile. But he also stayed because of Paterno. What could be better, for his purposes, than a boss with eyes only for the football field, who dismissed him as an exasperating, impulsive knucklehead? Pedophiles cluster in professions that give them access to vulnerable children—teaching, the clergy, medicine. But Sandusky's insight, if you want to call it that, was that the culture of football could be the greatest hiding place of all, a place where excessive physicality is the norm, where horseplay is what often passes for wit, where young men shower together after every game and practice, and where those in charge spend their days and nights dreaming only of new defensive schemes.
In 1999, Paterno made it plain to Sandusky that he would not be the next head coach of Penn State. Sandusky retired and took an emeritus position. On February 9, 2001, a former Penn State quarterback named Mike McQueary saw Sandusky in the shower with a young boy at a Penn State athletic facility. What exactly McQueary witnessed is still in dispute. That evening, he spoke to a family friend—a local doctor—and told him he had heard “sexual” sounds. The doctor asked him several times if he had seen any sexual act, and each time McQueary said no. Eleven years later, in his grand-jury testimony and at Sandusky's criminal trial, McQueary's memory grew more explicit: he had seen Sandusky raping the boy, he now said. What is clear, though, is that whatever McQueary saw or heard upset him greatly. He went to Paterno. Paterno called Tim Curley, the Penn State athletic director.
Posnanski, in one of his final interviews with Paterno, asked him if he had considered calling the police. “To be honest with you, I didn't,” Paterno said. “This isn't my field. I didn't know what to do. I had not seen anything. Jerry didn't work for me anymore. I didn't have anything to do with him. I tried to look through the Penn State guidelines to see what I was supposed to do. It said I was supposed to call Tim [Curley]. So I called him.”
Curley met with McQueary and Paterno. Then he and Gary Schultz, the university's vice-president for business and finance, went to the Penn State president, Graham Spanier. Here is the Freeh report again:
|Spanier said that the men gave him a “heads up” that a member of the Athletic Department staff had reported to Paterno that Sandusky was in an athletic locker room facility showering with one of his Second Mile youth after a workout. Sandusky and the youth, according to Spanier, were “horsing around” or “engaged in horseplay.” Spanier said that the staff member “was not sure what he saw because it was around a corner and indirect.” . . . Spanier said he asked two questions: (i) “Are you sure that it was described to you as horsing around?” and (ii) “Are you sure that that is all that was reported?” According to Spanier, both Schultz and Curley said “yes” to both questions. Spanier said that the men agreed that they were “uncomfortable” with such a situation, that it was inappropriate, and that they did not want it to happen again.
Horsing around in the shower? That was Jerry being Jerry. It did not occur to them that the goofy, horseplaying Sandusky they thought they knew was another of Sandusky's deceptions. Those who put all their ingenuity and energy into fooling us usually succeed. That is the lesson of a world-class swindler like Bernard Madoff, and of Donald Silva, in his parents' bed with a ten-year-old boy and the woman he later married—not to mention Jeffrey Clay. Clay, van Dam writes, got his teaching certificate reactivated. He went on to teach the handicapped and take foster children into his home. “Needless to say,” she adds, “his expertise, enthusiasm, and exceptional generosity to those who are needy has been very much appreciated by the community in which he now lives.”
Tim Curley and Gary Schultz currently face criminal charges. Graham Spanier was forced out of office last November, a few days after the grand-jury indictment of Sandusky was released. At the same time, someone came to Paterno's house with an envelope. According to Posnanski:
|Paterno opened the envelope; inside was a sheet of Penn State stationery with just a name, John Surma, and a phone number. Surma was the CEO of U.S. Steel and the vice chairman of the State Board of Trustees. Paterno picked up the phone and called the number.
“This is Joe Paterno.”
“This is John Surma. The board of trustees have terminated you effective immediately.”
Paterno hung up the phone before he could hear anything else.
A minute later, Sue called the number. “After sixty-one years,” she said, her voice cracking, “he deserved better.” And then she hung up.
Paterno died two months later.
Shift in abuse reporting foreseen in post-Sandusky world
by DAVID SINGLETON
The ChildLine child abuse reporting system operated by Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare normally receives about 2,300 calls a week.
In the week after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest on child molestation charges last Nov. 5, the call volume more than doubled to 4,800-plus. Overall, ChildLine fielded 14,856 reports of suspected abuse during the month, up 4,300 over November 2010.
For advocates of child sexual abuse victims, Mr. Sandusky's arrest and conviction - and resulting controversy that engulfed Penn State and its football program - have become a watershed event with the potential to help finally shatter the stigma and give voice to the survivors.
"There was something about this case," said Kristen Houser, vice president of communications and development for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. "We didn't have the victim-blaming and some of the other things go on that we often see.
"I think the sheer number of victims they documented in the grand jury report, the similarity of the stories, helped the public feel like there is real credence to this and we want to support the victims because it is heinous. We don't always see that in sexual assault cases."
Area prosecutors said they anticipate more adult survivors will disclose childhood sexual abuse as a result of the Sandusky scandal.
"It seems to have empowered victims who have held back about that abuse for 20 or 30 or 40 years to come forward and be willing to tell somebody about it," Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said. "That seems to have given some spark to victims who otherwise had been silent for decades, which is obviously a positive thing."
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge, who heads Lackawanna County's special victims unit, said she hopes one outcome of the Sandusky case is a better public understanding of the "whole delayed disclosure thing."
In almost all child sexual abuse cases, there is a delay of "anywhere from days to months to years" before the victim tells someone about the abuse - if they ever do, she said.
"There are obviously reasons behind that, but it may make sense only to that particular victim why they didn't tell or why they chose a particular time to tell," Ms. McCambridge said.
Susquehanna County District Attorney Jason Legg said while some abuse victims who are now adults may find the courage to come forward, others will opt not to.
Mr. Legg said he is excited about a new state law inspired by the Sandusky case that will for the first time allow prosecutors to call expert witnesses to explain the delayed disclosure phenomenon to juries.
Another consequence of the scandal was the establishment of the Governor's Task Force on Child Protection, which is examining how child abuse is reported and investigated in the state and will make recommendations for improving the systems.
Delilah Rumburg, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and a member of the task force, said there is a chance to create something good out of the scandal, starting with a much more educated public.
"People have had in some cases a great awakening as far as the seriousness of this and how we can be blindsided by people that we know and trust and maybe uphold as leaders," Ms. Rumburg said. "I am very hopeful that we will begin to see people be more thoughtful and more proactive."
Still to be determined is how the $60 million in fines levied against Penn State by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, will be used. In fulfillment of an NCAA directive, the school has agreed to pay $12 million annually over five years into an endowment to support child sexual abuse prevention programs and to assist victims.
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association last month recommended using at least part of the money to fund children's advocacy centers in the state.
The centers are a one-stop shop for services for child abuse victims and their families, giving them access to counselors, therapists, medical personnel, child protective service workers, investigators and prosecutors in a single location. By consolidating services under one roof, the centers save an average of $1,200 per abuse case.
Mary Ann LaPorta, director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania, said a dedicated funding source would ease the financial uncertainty her center and others face. More than that, it would mean a greater number of victims would have access to the services, she said.
Jerry Sandusky to be sentenced Oct. 9; hundreds of years possible
Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach convicted of child sex abuse
, will be sentenced on Oct. 9, the judge in the case has ordered.
Sandusky, 68, faces hundreds of years in prison after he was convicted of 45 counts of abusing 10 boys over the course of 15 years. The former coach, who has been in jail since the June verdict, has maintained his innocence.
Judge John Cleland, who presided over the much-publicized trial, scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. on Oct. 9 at the courthouse in Bellefonte, Penn., to determine if Sandusky should be classified as a sexually violent predator. An assessment board has recommended the designation, which requires special reporting procedures if a convict is released -- unlikely given the amount of time Sandusky faces.
After the hearing, Sandusky is scheduled to be formally sentenced.
Cleland also asked the prosecution and the defense to submit written statements by Oct. 5 to help him decide on the sentence. The judge scheduled a pre-sentencing hearing, to be held in chambers, for Oct. 8 as well.
Sandusky was accused of repeatedly molesting boys who were clients at the charity the coach founded for disadvantaged youth. Sandusky was convicted of grooming the boys, giving them gifts of athletic memorabilia and taking them to football games, often involving Penn State teams.
Some of the sexual abuse took place in the shower room of the football training facility on campus; other incidents took place at Sandusky's home.
The scandal roiled the campus and eventually led to the ouster of the late football coach Joe Paterno and cost Graham Spanier his post as university president. The NCAA also fined the school $60 million, banned the team from post-season bowl games and vacated Paterno's victories from 1998-2011.
An internal investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh found that the school mishandled an allegation of abuse against Sandusky in 2001.
Two other school officials, former athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schulz, face trial on charges of perjury and that they failed to report suspected abuse.
Support war against child abuse
The St. Clair County Child Abuse/Neglect Council has our community's attention — and the council's message is a simple truth: “It shouldn't hurt to be a child.”
The council has reminded us with that message through its annual fundraising campaign. Since Sunday, Community Roof-Sit 2012 is featuring WSAQ radio personality Chuck Santoni, who is broadcasting his program from atop the Birchwood Mall in Fort Gratiot.
Until he descends from the roof Friday evening, Santoni will be drumming up pledges for the donations to the council's child-abuse prevention efforts.
It's a contribution worth making.
The council reminds us that each year, 3 million children are reported abused and neglected in America. In Michigan is about 124,000. In St. Clair County, more than 3,000 children a year are reported victims.
The numbers are sobering. They also speak to another important truth: Child abuse occurs anywhere. It is not limited to any social class or ethnic group. Harm to children can happen in the best or worst of families.
Communities are best served by organizations such as the St. Clair County Child Abuse/Neglect Council. In working closely with law enforcement agencies and child protective services, the council is important resource. Its Blue Water Area Child Advocacy Center, enables law enforcement officers and child welfare investigators to interview victims in a child-friendly setting.
Through the years, St. Clair County has been stunned by child-abuse cases that were spectacularly cruel and heinous. For every crime against a child that commands the public's attention, there are many more that exist in the shadows.
The council's fight against child abuse is bolstered by its prevention efforts. Educational programs strive to raise public awareness about the proper ways to treat children and how to identify abuse and to alert the appropriate authorities.
Roof-Sit is making the case for the welfare of children and the necessity of keeping them safe. This week's invites us to affirm the preciousness of children and to support our community's efforts to protect them.
Child Abuse Concerns Spur Federal Takeover at North Dakota Indian Reservation
by Sarah Childress
The Bureau of Indian Affairs said Monday that it will take control of social services on a North Dakota reservation, amid concerns from federal officials that the tribe's mismanagement of the agency led to the abuse of children on the reservation.
The reservation, home to the Spirit Lake tribe, a group of roughly 6,600 people living in a remote area of the northern United States, has been under scrutiny since August 2011, when federal officials from the bureau began working with tribal authorities to improve child safety after the local BIA office reported “serious deficiencies” at the agency.
The tribe requested federal intervention last week, the BIA said in a statement (pdf) announcing the move on Monday. Tribal officials told the BIA that the move would be in the “best interest of the Tribe, its children, and its families.”
The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has oversight of some federal funding given to the reservations nationwide, had established a corrective action plan for the tribe in April to improve its social services program. It sent in what it called a “strike team” of federal officials on Aug. 26 to meet with tribal authorities to discuss the tribe's progress in following the plan, which included supervisory social workers who assessed how Spirit Lake's Tribal Social Services (TSS) conducted home visits and child protection referrals, as well as its documentation procedure.
The federal control means that the government will now administer social services on the reservation, until the tribe can show that it is able to reassume control.
The decision, made over the weekend, offers a window into the patchwork of federal, state and tribal jurisdictions that oversee social and legal matters on Native American reservations. Tribes have jurisdiction over family law, for example, but the federal government has primary authority to investigate and prosecute violent crimes, including sex crimes. Jurisdiction can, however, overlap with tribal authorities, depending on whether the perpetrator and victim are members of a tribe, and whether the crime occurred on or off a reservation.
Rape and child sex abuse cases in Indian country are rarely prosecuted, according to tribal advocates. It's up to the FBI to determine whether it will pursue a case. The bureau doesn't publish data on how often it declines a case, though it will be required to do so by law beginning next year. However, a Syracuse University study of data from 2004 to 2007 found that the federal government declined to prosecute 50 percent of murder or manslaughter cases in Indian country, 76.5 percent of adult sex crime cases and 72 percent of child sex crime cases. Federal officials have argued this is because evidence is difficult to come by, and the cases aren't always clear-cut.
Since 2008, FRONTLINE producer David Sutherland has followed a member of the Spirit Lake nation, Robin Charboneau, as she tried to protect her daughter from abuse. He tells her story in the film Kind-Hearted Woman — you can see a preview above.
But the problem at Spirit Lake extends far beyond one woman's story. In an April assessment obtained by FRONTLINE, the BIA found “high-risk findings” that “pose an imminent danger to the health, safety and well-being of children either in placement or referred for protective services.” Federal officials, former tribal employees and other members of the Spirit Lake nation have said in interviews that in subsequent months, the system has continued to leave children at risk.
Roger Yankton, the elected tribal chairman at Spirit Lake, didn't respond to two phone calls and an e-mail seeking a comment on Monday. In a written statement to a local paper earlier this year, he said the tribe had worked “diligently” to prevent child abuse. “Compounding issues of system-wide response are legal and jurisdictional complexities, severe funding and personnel deficiencies and difficulties in securing and retaining the services of qualified and well-trained personnel to name a few,” he wrote.
What Happened at Spirit Lake
The abuse allegations gained national attention in April after a letter from Michael Tilus, who at the time worked as the director of behavioral health at the Spirit Lake Health Center was leaked to media outlets. He wrote what he called a “letter of grave concern” [pdf] to federal, state and local officials about the safety of children on the reservation, which was then leaked online. Tilus argued that despite BIA attention to the problem since August 2011, no major progress had been made.
The allegations centered around TSS, a tiny agency charged with the welfare of children enrolled in the tribe. The office is required to investigate allegations of abuse, remove children from a home where abuse is suspected, and place the children with a safe relative or in a foster home until the child's first home is deemed safe.
It's set up and run by the tribe, with the help of state and federal dollars, and reports to the tribal council. The tribe acknowledges the office is understaffed, and former employees say a typical caseload is about 150 cases, compared to the standard 15-20 for a social worker off the reservation.
Proper documentation on child cases was often lacking, according to the BIA's April assessment obtained by FRONTLINE. According to its review, TSS workers had failed to properly document removing the children from their homes, or document that their new placement homes met minimum safety standards. They also didn't provide documentation to show that federal background checks had been done on people in the homes, nor had the children's guardians been properly evaluated.
In his report, Tilus said that TSS had demonstrated “unchecked incompetence” that endangered children on the reservation. Tilus was employed by the federal government through his work at the Spirit Lake Health Center, and his office worked closely with TSS officials.
Among other charges, Tilus said that the TSS often failed to keep proper records of abuse allegations and removed children from homes without legal authority. “TSS staff misrepresented themselves in court, lied about fact-finding, and had serious boundary violations in their professional work,” he said in his letter.
Molly McDonald, an associate juvenile judge hired by the tribe in February 2010, told FRONTLINE that about half of the cases she heard involved allegations of child abuse, in which the children had been removed from their homes.
But when TSS staff members showed up in court for a hearing on where to place the children, the social workers tended to lack proper documentation or didn't always have all the facts about the case, McDonald said. McDonald said that TSS workers often had no information on whether the parents had been getting necessary help, such as anger management classes or drug and alcohol treatment.
The workers often couldn't say whether they had followed up on the case to ensure the child was safe in their new placement, according to McDonald. Sometimes, the workers would recommend placing children in homes without vetting the people who lived there — on occasion, she said, these were homes where registered sex offenders lived or visited.
McDonald said her supervisor, the lead judge, complained to the tribal council on her behalf, but no action was taken. McDonald and the supervisor, who didn't return phone calls, were both later fired without explanation. “I pushed too hard,” McDonald said. “I was wanting answers, and that rubbed people the wrong way.”
TSS also hired a caseworker who had pled guilty to a felony charge of “abuse or neglect of a child” in a state court several years earlier. This worker remained on staff even after her plea was reported to the TSS director, according to Betty Jo Krenz, a nurse who worked as a caseworker for a year and a half with TSS. Krenz was fired by the tribal council, she says, because she complained about the agency's procedures.
Tilus, the initial whistleblower, received a formal reprimand from his supervisor at Spirit Lake for not following the proper chain of command with his report. That punishment was subsequently rescinded by the Department of Health and Human Services in August.
In the meantime, others were expressing concerns about what was happening at Spirit Lake. In June, Thomas Sullivan, the regional administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, wrote a letter of his own. Sullivan has oversight of human services programs in six states, including North Dakota, and describes himself in his biography on the D.H.H.S. website as having worked throughout his career to prevent child abuse.
In his letter, sent to his superiors, Sullivan said that he suspected that “many children” at Spirit Lake “have been abused and are at continuing risk of further abuse.” He blamed the tribal authorities and federal and state officials for not taking action.
Sullivan specifically blamed the tribal chairman, Roger Yankton, who was elected in May 2011, alleging that under his leadership, children were removed from safe foster homes off the reservation and returned to their families. “When placed back in these previously abusive homes, the abuse and neglect began again,” Sullivan wrote.
In his letter (pdf), Sullivan charged that the tribal leadership also fired TSS staffers who were not enrolled members of the tribe and hired new staff members who were members of the tribe but weren't qualified to perform social services.
In August, the tribal council defended its efforts to reform the social services system in an editorial [pdf] published in the local Devil's Lake Journal , under the name of the “Spirit Lake Tribe.” While the authors declined to address allegations about specific cases due to confidentiality concerns, they noted a series of reforms the tribal council, under Yankton's leadership, had put in place to address problems with social services.
The tribe also said that Sullivan and Tilus had ignored its efforts at reform.
In recent months, the tribe lost state funding it receives to pay families that provide foster care for children enrolled in the tribe. The state found that 31 cases were “out of compliance,” meaning that they weren't properly documented, according to Scott Davis, the executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, a state agency that coordinates state and tribal affairs. After the tribe showed Davis and other officials that it was taking steps to improve the process, the funding was reinstated in July, Davis said in an interview last month. “We get pressured that we should be doing more,” he said then. “Legally we can't. That's just the way it is.”
On July 18, federal and regional representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs met with Spirit Lake tribal leadership to discuss other problems with social services.
In its August editorial, the tribal council said that it was “well aware of the gravity and difficult nature of these problems,” but added that the tribe has struggled with “substantial funding and other resource deficiencies,” and multiple floods in the past 18 years that had complicated efforts to provide social services.
The tribe also noted that it had reorganized Tribal Social Services according to the action plan from the BIA, and conducted a comprehensive review of its procedures, cases and records. It also hired a new TSS director, and a child protection services supervisor who was to begin work last month. For the first time, the tribe hired a judge with a J.D. to sit on its tribal court.
“By these actions, the current tribal government has demonstrated a sincere commitment to confronting these issues faced by the Spirit Lake people and improving services and operations,” the editorial said. “Far from a cover-up, the Tribe has been actively working to reform the Department.”
But in a follow-up report to federal officials on Aug. 14 that was obtained by FRONTLINE, Sullivan said that little had changed. He wrote: “Everything else appears to remain as it was or has become even worse for the children of Spirit Lake.”
Children At Risk: Horses help victims 'figure out their journey'
by Denis J. O'Malley
She shivers in a warm breeze.
"The bad things happen when the heat comes out," the girl, now 8 years old, will tell her mother when summer sets in and July 5 approaches.
As the temperature rises, she is invariably reminded of that night three years ago, the night Felix Montoya crept into the 5-year-old girl's bedroom and savagely beat and raped her.
"She was seconds from death," her mother, April Loposky, said.
For 24 hours, the little girl was carted between hospitals for surgeries to repair her physical injuries, but the real healing was a long way away.
The community responded with an outpouring of money and well-wishes. The family left the Taylor home where the rape happened and never looked back.
From trips to the ice cream shop and amusement parks, Ms. Loposky spent the money on anything she could think of to cheer her daughter up. Everything fell short.
Then she remembered the one thing her daughter always wanted: a horse.
"We took all the money and bought Strawberry and from there, this is what happened," she said.
Three years since the screams, the sirens and the surgeries, Ms. Loposky and her oldest daughter spend much of their time on a secluded swath of land in Wayne County, where little more than the clucks of chickens and whinnies of horses break the silence. The equine-assisted therapy program Ms. Loposky runs there for children who have suffered trauma is called Marley's Mission, after her daughter's pet guinea pig.
The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual assault.
For the survivors of child sexual abuse, the road to recovery is long, uphill and must be traveled under the weight of trauma - "so our job is to make sure we help them push the rock up the hill," said Lackawanna County First District Attorney Gene Talerico, who prosecuted Mr. Montoya and now also serves as president of Marley's Mission.
"Can you survive? Can you be, quote, 'normal'? ... You absolutely, positively can. There's thousands and thousands of people out there who do it and do it well," he said.
The psychological effects that sexual abuse can have on children are not surprising: learning problems, attention issues, poor performance in school and an inability to relate well with others socially.
Among the less obvious outcomes is the fact that child victims are "significantly more likely" to develop post-traumatic stress disorder - a disease most commonly associated with veterans returning from war - as well as depression, anxiety and substance abuse problems, said Judith A. Cohen, M.D., medical director at the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
In fact, children who have suffered sexual abuse are six times more likely than those who have not to develop substance abuse disorders, to suffer from suicidal urges and to attempt suicide - an act such victims are "much more likely to actually complete," said Dr. Cohen, who has been working to develop trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for 30 years, focusing particularly on traumatized children.
Some victims may develop a tendency to engage in sexually risky behavior, putting them at a higher risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, Dr. Cohen said.
The explanation for that tendency is as understandable as it is tragic.
For most victims of child sexual abuse, their perpetrator was someone they believed loved them - a parent, caregiver or other relative, Dr. Cohen said.
Often they are told by their abuser that they "deserve" what happened to them, that it "is the only way anybody will pay attention to you or care about you or love you," Dr. Cohen said.
Feelings of shame and guilt will lead to self-blame and a belief that "this is all they're worth or all they deserve ... so they begin to allow themselves to be treated in that way again in future relationships," she said.
From an outside perspective, it may appear as risk-taking behavior, Dr. Cohen said, but "when you talk to these kids ... what they'll tell you is this is the only person who cared about me or this has become a way of life."
One issue in treating the mental problems caused by trauma is that they manifest themselves in ways that, at first glance, could easily be blamed on any number of causes.
"The domains of trauma impact are basically everything. Anything can be a sign of sexual abuse ... basically everything can be trauma impact," Dr. Cohen said.
Problems can arise when plausible alternative explanations of a child's behavior lead caregivers to overlooking whether sexual abuse may have been a factor.
In Dr. Cohen's view, that hole in a child's psychiatric treatment can often lead to children receiving medication for perceived disorders "when perhaps what they need is to be asked about their trauma experiences, including child abuse, and for us to understand that perhaps they need less medication and more evidence-based treatment."
Beyond the mind
And the effects of child sexual abuse are not limited to a child's mind.
The stress associated with sexual abuse affects a victim's brain in such a way that their hormones and immune systems can undergo changes that lead to medical problems, Dr. Cohen said.
The resulting weaknesses in a victim's immune system can leave the individual less able to fight off disease, she said.
"Kids start missing school, they start having illnesses, they start getting sicker than other kids," Dr. Cohen said.
Dr. Cohen cited a study of adverse childhood events among thousands of people that found "adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse had significantly higher rates of basically every type of serious illness in adulthood compared with those who had not experienced childhood sexual abuse and were at a higher risk of earlier death."
Tell their stories
Once children or adult survivors of child sexual abuse seek psychiatric help, having them tell their stories is often the basis of treatment.
The effect disclosure has on a victim ultimately depends on the venue. Investigators and prosecutors will often cite the "retraumatizing" effect of testifying in court. Telling the story of what are likely the worst moments of their life to a group of stone-faced jurors and doubting defense attorneys can leave the latent scars of a victim's trauma feeling fresh and raw.
"(In court) the purpose is not to help the child process (the abuse) ... it's to get more details and just the facts, not the meaning; not to help the child come to a different understanding of the meaning," Dr. Cohen said.
But in treatment, when the focus is on healing rather than fact-finding, the act of telling their story takes on an entirely different significance.
A child is not expected to sit down and speak about abuse as soon as therapy begins.
An important step in a victim's therapy is identifying "trauma triggers."
The triggers can come in any number of forms - for Ms. Loposky's daughter the heat does it. For some children, it could be a smell, a sight, a song that instantly throws them back to that moment.
"These trauma triggers are all around, because usually the sexual abuse happened in their environment in their town," Dr. Cohen said.
As part of therapy, victims and nonoffending parents must recognize these triggers and common reactions to them so they can build skills to manage them, relax and "modulate their angers, their fears and their sadness," Dr. Cohen said.
What might be the most important goal of therapy is making victims realize they are not alone, that there are people in theirs lives who love and support them.
For the survivors of child sexual abuse, justice and success are different things.
In the case of Ms. Loposky's daughter, her abuser will spend the rest of his life plus 20 to 40 years in prison, but that has almost nothing to do with the girl's recovery.
"Its very difficult to tie success with a conviction, because that's really not realistic all the time," said Mr. Talerico. "It's important to tie success with a voice."
However long that voice has been silent - a week, a month, a decade - once a child has found it again "that in and of itself is a huge success because it begins and it opens up the process to healing," he said.
Ms. Loposky's daughter struggled before the family bought Strawberry "and we saw her come back," she said.
One day, her therapist came out to see Strawberry and struggled with the horse, so the little girl led Strawberry for her.
"Every ounce of power was taken away when they were victimized, and you get to give that back," Ms. Loposky said of equine-assisted therapy. "They get to be the boss and they get to figure out their journey."
Free Workshop “Human Trafficking: Recognizing the Signs”
LAFAYETTE, Ind. -– A free workshop will be offered for youth workers to identify human trafficking in Indiana, and how to report it once it has been identified. Human Trafficking is a $32 Billion industry and the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world. The average age children are pulled into these commercial sex acts is 12-14 and 83% of underage sex trafficking involves United States citizens.
The workshop is presented by Tamara Weaver of the Indiana Attorney General's office. Anyone who works with youth (volunteer or staff youth worker) is invited and encouraged to attend.
|“Human Trafficking: Recognizing the Signs” will be held on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012, at Big Brothers Big Sisters, 3805 Fortune Drive, Lafayette, and will run from 11:30a to 1:30p. This is a free event and lunch will be provided by the Indiana Youth Institute.
Registration is required. To register for this workshop, call Jillian Miller at 765-413-6049 or register online at www.INRNWEST.blogspot.com
Youth Workers Cafe is a quarterly networking and professional development opportunity for anyone who works with young people, and is offered by the Indiana Youth Institute in conjunction with a variety of community partners.
'Walk With Your Best Friend' set for Oct. 6 on Medina Square
by Sun News staff
The Medina County Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition and Medina County SPCA are teaming up to present “Walk With Your Best Friend Against Abuse” at 9 a.m. Oct. 6 on Medina Square.
The fifth annual one-mile walk highlights the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Men, women, and children are invited to come out with their four-legged friends (non-aggressive dogs only).
The walk will be held in coordination with National SAF-T Day, which recognizes the human-animal bond and that family pets can provide comfort, reassurance and healing to adult and child survivors. National SAF-T Day was created in recognition that families who are abused often have pets and do not wish to be separated from them when fleeing their abusive environment.
Walk registration begins at 9 a.m. on the square. There is a $10 registration fee on the day of the event and participants will receive the 2012 event shirt. Radio personality Ravenna Miceli will serve as master of seremonies.
Walk activities will include a K9 demonstration, survivor speaker, 50/50 raffle, refreshments and participants will have an opportunity to enter their pet into a dog costume contest by donation. Prizes will be awarded to the top dogs in several categories.
For more information, contact Rebecca Hewit, Chairperson of the Domestic & Sexual Abuse Coalition, 330-723-9610, or email at BeckyH@scmcbws.org.
Children At Risk: Investigators detail tools used to nab pedophiles
by Denis J. O'Malley
Vincent Uher can still remember seeing little boys' underwear hanging above the suspect's bed.
Then there were the cutouts from children's underwear advertisements, the soap carvings of male genitalia strewn about the Linden Street home.
"He had all that kind of stuff, and it was a creepy, creepy thing," Detective Uher said. "He had hundreds and hundreds of images in his house."
By the time Michael M. Baranow's case landed on his desk in early 2003, it had only been about a year since Detective Uher had been promoted from the patrol division.
Mr. Baranow, then 61 years old, had been downloading and printing images of child pornography at the Albright Memorial Library.
The fledgling detective went to the library, took a seat and watched as Mr. Baranow printed out a new batch of images.
After an arrest team tailed Mr. Baranow home to take him in, it was time to get a search warrant and take a look inside.
"It was just very disturbing," Detective Uher said.
The case was solid, though, and within a few months Mr. Baranow was sentenced to five to 40 years in state prison.
Soon after, Detective Uher was told the Lackawanna County district attorney's office was putting together a special victims task force and wanted him to investigate child abuse exclusively.
"I figured I'd take it for about a year or so," he said. "Here I am eight years later, nine years later still doing it."
Today, that team is made up of Detective Uher and his partner, Detective Jennifer Gerrity, and the prosecutors and detectives who make up the special victims unit of the county district attorney's office.
Every job in law enforcement comes with the understanding that on any given day one may face the most depraved, indefensible human behavior.
They face it every day.
"It's a shock to the system," Detective Uher said. "One minute you're working on an identity theft or a robbery. Next thing you're looking at a 5-year-old little boy being forced to have sex with somebody. â¦ It's like the sun - you've got to look, but you don't want to."
'Get the ball rolling'
The investigations can start any number of ways: a family member may raise concerns to Children and Youth Services, a tipster may phone in a report to Child Line - Pennsylvania's statewide hotline for reporting child abuse - or, on occasion, a victim will simply walk into the district attorney's office.
No matter how authorities become aware of abuse, the reaction is generally the same, said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge, head of the office's special victims unit.
"There's a team in place, there's a plan in place. We try to treat every case the same," she said
More often than not, a victim's report comes long after the alleged abuse - a "delayed disclosure."
"It's different if they come in saying something happened yesterday or 10 minutes ago or ... 10 years ago," Ms. McCambridge said. "That really dictates how we then proceed and what the next step is."
At that point, an investigator will begin a police report "and get the ball rolling," Detective Uher said.
As far as the victim is concerned, the first step in a child abuse investigation is a forensic interview at the Children's Advocacy Center of Northeast Pennsylvania.
"A lot of times, (the victim) and the perpetrator are the only people that know what happened, so it's huge," Ms. McCambridge said.
Lackawanna County protocol mandates that any victims under 18 years old are interviewed by forensic interviewers rather than police officers, Detective Uher said.
"There's all kinds of issues: Was the child led there? Was she tainted? Did someone put it in her mind that that's what happened? â¦ You have to watch how you ask those questions," he said.
Forensic interviewers at the CAC are trained to ask questions differently from police officers, allowing the child to make a disclosure independently, without any possible leading.
"The interview process, it starts out wide and then it kind of funnels down, and then you hit the piece where the disclosure is, and then you kind of let it flow back out," said Kristen Cashuric Fetcho, one of the forensic interviewers at the center.
While Ms. Fetcho sits with a victim in one room, a team of prosecutors, investigators, counselors and CAC employees will observe via closed circuit television from another room.
Toward the end of the interview, Ms. Fetcho will excuse herself, check with the team to make sure nothing is left uncovered, then go back to the child and ask an important question: "Do you think there's anything else that's important for me to know?"
"A lot of times kids will throw extra stuff out," Ms. Fetcho said.
When a child discloses abuse, every last detail has value.
A child may say the abuse took place in a bedroom and there was a certain poster on one wall or a strange piece of furniture.
"So we'll be getting search warrants to go in that house and if this is exactly what the room looks like, does it prove what happened? No. But it goes toward credibility. â¦ That's a little chip," Detective Uher said.
Or maybe just before the abuse occurred the offender took the victim out to McDonald's.
"And we'll go to McDonald's and get the tape," Detective Uher said. "We'll see them going through the drive-through."
Tattoos, the smell of cologne, even what was playing on television while the abuse occurred - anything that can be backed up is worth backing up.
"All those little things just start adding up and adding up and adding up to prove credibility of a child's statement," Detective Uher said. "Of course it's always great when we have trace evidence and DNA evidence - unfortunately that hardly ever happens."
It's a common refrain among investigators and prosecutors in Detective Uher's line of work. As much as any number of police procedural dramas would lead viewers to believe, cases are very rarely closed in a laboratory.
"It's extraordinarily rare that you're even within the realm of possibilities," First Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico said of physical evidence.
Even physical injuries rarely come into play as evidence.
"It doesn't take very long for, even if there were injuries, for them to start repairing," Ms. McCambridge said. "It used to strike me as odd â¦ but the body by nature fixes itself."
Generally speaking, investigators have a 72-hour window after abuse occurs to recover DNA evidence or document the existence of physical injuries before they heal, Mr. Talerico said.
But with so many cases beginning with delayed disclosures, sometimes years after the abuse occurred, that is hardly ever a possibility, he said.
Rather than finding a sample for the lab, investigators' top priority in these cases is confessions.
Not only does it bolster the case significantly, Detective Uher said, but if it leads to a plea agreement, it could save the victim from having to tell his or her story in court, which can be traumatic.
"And it's not going to be in that cozy room up at the CAC (Children's Advocacy Center) anymore. It's going to be in front of a judge, the bad guy's going to be there, you're going to have a jury there, a defense lawyer coming down hard on a child, so we work hard to get confessions," he said.
That's where those details from the forensic interview come in.
"We get so much corroborating evidence that we go in there and show them that and tell them, 'By you lying it's just making everything worse,'â" Detective Uher said. "I hardly even raise my voice, and I get a lot of confessions."
In their experience, Detective Uher and Detective Gerrity have found that leveling with suspects and almost consoling them is most effective.
"I get a lot more (confessions) by holding hands, patting backs and saying, 'This sucks. I'm sorry,'â" Detective Gerrity said.
Investigators working on child molestation cases have the benefit of a victim - a living, breathing child with a story that can be backed up and brought to bear on a suspect.
County Detective Justin Leri has computers.
Detective Leri's primary task is investigating Internet crimes against children, most often child pornography.
His investigations often begin with his performing an undercover file-sharing session, during which he browses peer-to-peer file-sharing networks looking for child pornography.
"They're horrible pictures to look at, but send me those pictures because I'm going to get you," he said. "That's the biggest part - to take these people who have sexual interests in children off of the streets."
Once he downloads images and determines that they are either child pornography or child erotica - non-nude but sexually suggestive images of children - he identifies the source computer's IP address, which will give him a general idea of its location.
"It could be within 50 miles, 100 miles of that area. â¦ But it gives a general idea - this one is in Northeast Pennsylvania," he said.
The other number he checks into is called a hash value. Every file on a computer has one, and each is unique, like a fingerprint - "except it's much more specific than a human's fingerprint," Detective Leri said.
He then searches that number in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database to see if the file has been investigated in the past, if the victim has been identified or any other information gathered on the file.
The next step is to subpoena the Internet service provider for the IP address sending the file to determine who was sitting behind that computer.
From there, Detective Leri can obtain a search warrant for the home and seize any and all electronic storage devices - everything from external hard drives to thumb drives to cellphones.
"It's not just the big black computer," Ms. McCambridge said.
Those items are carried straight into a mobile computer forensic van outfitted with computer equipment investigators use at the scene to find child pornography on a certain hard drive or other storage device.
"That's very, very valuable," Detective Leri said. "If we can preview and establish whose computer this was we can focus our interviews to that individual."
If the suspect does not come clean, Detective Leri can simply go back to his or her computer and perform a more in-depth forensic investigation to prove that the suspect was using the machine in question at the time the pornography was downloaded.
"The forensics tell a whole big story because the use of someone's computer records everything," he said. "I always say I can learn so much about someone by going through their computer."
Whether it's an Internet search history of the suspect's known interests or visits to their personal email account around the time the files were downloaded, there is always something left behind.
While Detective Leri has a specialized knowledge of computers and the Internet, most jurors do not, which presents a certain challenge for prosecutors.
"To say 'hash value' to someone in the jury means nothing so you really have to instruct them in terms of what it is and what it means," Ms. McCambridge said.
When it comes to bringing cases to court, all of the evidence, interviews, digital files must be there, but there's something else.
"There is a very big human element to prosecuting sex crimes," said Assistant District Attorney Mariclare Hayes, one of the prosecutors in the special victims unit.
That part is always more complicated than the nuts and bolts of an investigation.
Children are often testifying against people they love, despite the harm they have caused them.
"It's nice to think that every victim came to court with their mom and dad by their side rooting them on, but the reality ... because of coming forward those children are out of their home. They've lost their families," she said.
13-year-old accused of murder, sexual assault
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A decade before he was charged with murder, a 2-year-old Cristian Fernandez was found naked and dirty, wandering a South Florida street. The grandmother taking care of him had holed up with cocaine in a messy motel room, while his 14-year-old mother was nowhere to be found.
His life had been punctuated with violence since he was conceived, an act that resulted in a sexual assault conviction against his father. Fernandez' life got worse from there: He was sexually assaulted by a cousin and beaten by his stepfather, who committed suicide before police investigating the beating arrived.
The boy learned to squelch his feelings, once telling a counselor: "You got to suck up feelings and get over it."
Now 13, Fernandez is accused of two heinous crimes himself: first-degree murder in the 2011 beating death of his 2-year-old half-brother and the sexual abuse of his 5-year-old half-brother. He's been charged as an adult and is the youngest inmate awaiting trial in Duval County.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Fernandez could face a life sentence — a possibility that has stirred strong emotions among those for and against such strict punishment. The case is one of the most complex and difficult in Florida's courts, and it could change how first-degree murder charges involving juvenile defendants are handled statewide.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that it is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders to get mandatory life sentences without parole. Because of that, Fernandez' defense attorneys said they can't advise their client what kind of sentence he could face. Another complication involves whether Fernandez understood his rights during police interrogations.
Richard Kuritz, a former Jacksonville prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, said everyone agrees that Fernandez should face consequences if convicted — but what should they be?
"What would be a fair disposition? I don't suspect this case is going to end anytime soon," said Kuritz, who has been following the case closely.
Supporters of local State Attorney Angela Corey say she's doing the right thing by trying Fernandez as an adult: holding a criminal accountable to the full extent of the law. But others, like Carol Torres, say Fernandez should be tried in juvenile court and needs help, not life in prison.
"He should be rehabilitated and have a second chance at life," said Torres, 51. Her grandson attended school with Fernandez and she has created a Facebook page to support him.
In other states, children accused of violent crimes are often charged or convicted as juveniles. In 2011, a Colorado boy pleaded guilty to killing his two parents when he was 12; he was given a seven-year sentence in a juvenile facility and three years parole. A Pennsylvania boy accused of killing his father's pregnant fiancée and her unborn child when he was 11 was sent this year to an undisclosed juvenile facility where he could remain in state custody until his 21st birthday.
The Justice Department said that 29 children under age 14 committed homicides around the country in 2010, the most recent year for which the statistics were available
Fernandez' judge — and jury, if the case gets that far — will have to decide whether to consider the boy's past when determining his future.
Fernandez was born in Miami in 1999 to Biannela Susana, who was 12. The 25-year-old father received 10 years' probation for sexually assaulting her.
Two years later, both mother and son went to foster care after authorities in South Florida found the toddler, filthy and naked, walking in the street at 4 a.m. near the motel where his grandmother did drugs.
In 2007, when Fernandez was 8, the Department of Children and Families investigated a report that he was sexually molested by an older cousin. Officials said other troubling incidents were reported, including claims that he he killed a kitten, simulated sex with classmates and masturbated at school.
In October 2010, Fernandez and his mother were living in Hialeah, a Miami suburb, with his mother's new husband. Fernandez suffered an eye injury so bad that school officials sent him to the hospital where he was examined for retinal damage. Fernandez told officers that his stepfather had punched him. When officers went to the family's apartment, they found the stepfather dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Soon, the family moved north to Jacksonville and Fernandez enrolled in middle school, getting straight A's. They settled in a bland, beige public housing complex.
A few months later on March 14, 2011, deputies were called to the apartment: Fernandez' baby brother, 2-year-old David, had died at a local hospital. The medical examiner determined that the toddler had a fractured skull, bruising to his left eye and a bleeding brain.
Susana, then 25, admitted to investigators that she had left Fernandez, David and her other children home alone. When she returned, she said she found David unconscious. She waited eight-and-a-half hours before taking him to the hospital and searched "unconsciousness" online and texted friends during that time.
Susana also revealed that two weeks before David's death, Fernandez had broken the toddler's leg while wrestling.
Susana was charged with aggravated manslaughter; the medical examiner said David might have survived if she had taken him to the hospital sooner for the head injury. She pleaded guilty in March and could get 30 years.
Fernandez, who had first been questioned as a witness, was soon charged with first-degree murder. The other felony charge was filed after his 5-year-old half-brother told a psychiatrist that Fernandez had sexually assaulted him.
The boy has talked openly to investigators and therapists about his life; the gritty details are captured in various court documents.
"Christian denied any plans or intent to kill his brother," one doctor wrote. "He seemed rather defensive about discussing what triggered his anger. He talked about having a 'flashback' of the abuse by his stepfather as the motive for this offense ... Christian was rather detached emotionally while discussing the incident."
Based on psychological evaluations, prosecutors say that Fernandez poses a significant risk of violence. That's why he is being detained pre-trial and why they charged him with two first-degree felonies.
Yet difficult questions remain for Judge Mallory Cooper: Should a child so young spend his life in prison? Does Fernandez understand his crimes, and can he comprehend the complex legal issues surrounding his case?
In August, Cooper ruled that police interrogations of Fernandez in the murder and sexual assault cases are not admissible, because the boy couldn't knowledgeably waive his rights to remain silent and consult an attorney. Prosecutors are appealing.
The defense wants the charges dismissed, saying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning sentences of life without parole for juveniles makes it impossible for them to advise Fernandez since the Florida Legislature has not changed state law. Prosecutors say they never said they would seek a mandatory life sentence — they say the old Florida law that called for a 25-year-to-life sentence could apply.
Mitch Stone, a Jacksonville defense attorney who is familiar with the case, said Corey and her prosecutors are in a tough position.
"I know they're good people and good lawyers," he said. "But if a resolution short of trial doesn't occur, this case is on a collision course to sending Cristian Fernandez to life in prison. That's why this is one of those very difficult cases. It's hard to understand what the appropriate measure is."
Boy Scouts Face Release Of Damaging Child Sex Abuse Files
by Chris Francescani
Sept 16 (Reuters) - The Boy Scouts of America could face a wave of bad publicity as decades of records of confirmed or alleged child molesters within the U.S. organization are expected to be released in coming weeks.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported the organization failed to report allegations of sex abuse of scouts by adult leaders and volunteers to police in hundreds of cases from 1970 to 1991. In some cases, the Boy Scouts helped the accused "cover their tracks," the paper said.
The story was based on a review of 1,600 internal Boy Scouts case files the newspaper said it obtained that detailed accusations against confirmed or alleged child molesters within the youth organization.
About 1,200 "ineligible volunteer" files dating from 1965 to 1985 are set to be publicly released under a June order by the Oregon Supreme Court, including some already reviewed by the newspaper.
Those files played a key role in a 2010 civil trial in which an Oregon jury found the Boy Scouts liable in a 1980s pedophile case and ordered the organization to pay nearly $20 million in damages.
The files will be released within three to four weeks, said Paul Mones, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff in the Oregon case.
In the wake of revelations about systemic child sex abuse within the Catholic Church and the recent Penn State sex abuse scandal, the files threaten to damage the reputation of one of America's most trusted institutions.
Mones said the allegations revealed in the Oregon case are not necessarily comparable to the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.
"In the Catholic Church there were overt cover-ups, and I don't think you see a lot of that here with the Boy Scouts," Mones told Reuters on Sunday.
The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement on Sunday that while it regrets past incidents where scouts were sexually abused, its current policies require even suspicions of abuse to be reported directly to law enforcement.
"The BSA (has) continuously enhanced its multi-tiered policies and procedures, which now include background checks, comprehensive training programs and safety policies," the statement said.
The organization said it has maintained an internal "ineligible volunteer" file since at least 1919 to prevent suspected or confirmed child sex abusers from joining or re-entering its ranks.
Boy Scouts of America officials and attorneys have said the files represent only a fraction of the adults who participate as scout leaders each year.
The Boy Scouts have annually counted between 3.5 and 5 million scouts and more than 1 million adult leaders and volunteers among its members since the 1960s, a spokesman for the organization said.
The organization is facing more than 50 pending child sexual abuse cases in 18 states, according to Kelly Clark, another plaintiff attorney in the Oregon case.
Mones said he did not expect many new lawsuits to result from the upcoming release of the Scouts' files, predicting that statutes of limitation on sex abuse charges in most U.S. states would prevent victims from successful civil or criminal prosecution of alleged molesters.