Child sexual abuse: 'It could happen to anybody'
About a quarter of child abusers live outside their victims' families.
Chris B. of Carlisle said he was sexually abused by a scout leader nearly 40 years ago.
"It could happen to anybody," he said. "Just be aware of who your children are with, and believe them when they say something like that has happened."
Chris encouraged parents to get involved in their children's activities. For predators there are no better places than scouting groups to gain access to children. He urged caution even though Boy Scouts of America are to put scout leaders through background checks.
A vast majority of child abusers (89 percent in 2010) are caught for the first time, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.
"Don't let your children go alone because they are scout leaders," he said.
The BSA has a "Two-Deep" rule requiring at least two adults to be present at all activities.
Several independent child-protection experts told The Associated Press that the Scouts - though buffeted in the past by many abuse-related lawsuits - are now considered a leader in combating sexual abuse.
Dating back to the 1920s, the BSA has been keeping secret files about potential molesters.
Twenty years of the files became public (http://www.kellyclarkattorney.com/files/) in October after an Oregon court found the BSA negligent in allowing a leader to have contact with boys in the 1980s. Prevention efforts have intensified through the years. The scouting handbook includes an insert about child protection for new scouts and their parents to review.
"Society's knowledge about this topic and the tools we have have changed quite a bit," said Ron Gardner, executive director of the New Birth of Freedom Council. "For instance it hasn't been all that long where we can get a national background check."
The council includes the Chambersburg area and parts of five other counties.
The first national sex offender registry was launched in 2005.
Since 2008, all BSA employees and volunteers have been subject to a computerized criminal background check and must report any suspected child abuse to police. Leaders are required to take youth protection training.
Gardner said at first long-time leaders balked: 'What, you don't trust us?' But the changes have been accepted.
"I really think the youth protection stuff we've adopted is cultural in scouting," Garner said. "Parents and leaders understand that we're creating a safe place for kids who want to be scouts."
BSA president Wayne Perry said when the confidential files were released that the organization was "profoundly sorry" for the people who were hurt 40 years ago when the BSA failed to do what it should have.
The BSA has been held up as an example for other youth organizations to emulate in combating sexual abuse. Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, including many engaged in a youth oriented charity he founded called The Second Mile. Sandusky showered with boys - an interaction banned by the BSA.
Most child abuse, which includes child sexual abuse, statistically falls with the family.
Three-fourths of child abusers are either relatives or have a parental relationship with their victims, according to Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare 2010 Child Abuse Annual Report:
-- 61 percent of perpetrators were either a mother, a father, a stepparent or the paramour of a parent
-- 14 percent were a non-parental relative
-- 25 percent were non-relatives
For more information about child abuse visit http://lookoutforchildabuse.org/ and http://www.pennstatehershey.org/web/protection-of-children/
For information about the Boys Scouts of America ineligible volunteer files visit http://www.scouting.org/BSAYouthProtection.aspx
The LA Times has a map http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/19/local/la-me-scouts-oregon-20121019
New protocol signed for child abuse investigations
by Kelly Dame
Numerous organizations that have a hand in investigating cases of child abuse recently signed a new protocol with a goal of protecting the young victims.
The protocol, under the umbrella of the Safe and Sound Child Advocacy Center, draws not only law enforcement and prosecutors together, but also local agencies representing medical and mental health care, said Bethany Law, the center's forensic interviewer.
“In the past, each agency would collect their own information with their own agenda,” Law said. “Now, we coordinate so we can all share the same information.” The center is now fully accredited by the National Children's Alliance, which means the team of law enforcement, prosecutors and Child Protective Services is joined by the mental health and medical components.
“It just improves the investigative process as a whole. The main goal is to reduce trauma to the child,” Law said, adding now there is coordination on where to send children who have been abused for counseling or to receive the correct medical examination.
And with about 200 child forensic interviews conducted by the end of October this year, compared with a total of 165 interviews for all of 2011, lessening trauma to children seems more important than ever.
Coleman Police, Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, the Midland County Department of Human Services, Midland County Prosecutor's Office, Midland County Sheriff's Office, Midland Police, MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland, Michigan State Police and Shelterhouse representatives attended the ceremony to sign the new protocol.
Law's job at the center is to interview children who are between the ages of 2 and 17 about what happened to them. For children so young, Law has to be careful to establish that they know the difference between the truth and a lie.
She previously worked in law enforcement in Wisconsin, and said a 7-year-old girl who was discovered to have been sexually abused by her father had to talk to eight different agencies about the abuse. A foundation of the Safe and Sound Child Advocacy Center is that abused children should only have to tell what happened to them once, in order to avoid revictimizing them.
“I realize I'm helping the child and I have to forget it,” Law said about how she deals with the events revealed by children during the interviews.
As she speaks with the children, a team including police and prosecutors watches from behind a one way mirror, and is able to communicate with her through an earpiece to ensure all necessary questions have been addressed.
“Sometimes, they don't have to go to court,” Law said of the children due to their participation in the thorough interviews.
Because of the increase in the number of interviews this year, a second forensic interviewer is in training and should be starting at the center by the end of the year.
Human trafficking a growing concern among lawmakers, enforcers
by JB Clark
TUPELO – During the upcoming legislative session, the Mississippi Attorney General's Office will make a push to tighten Mississippi's human trafficking laws.
As it stands, someone who traffics humans to sell their forced labor or services is subject to up to 30 years in prison. Anyone who benefits from those services can be sentenced to 20 years in prison, and anyone who restricts access to a person's immigration or government documents in order to secure their labor can be dealt up to five years in prison.
The potential prison sentence for illegally selling the labor and services of people is the same as trafficking drugs, but with drug trafficking convictions come hefty fines of up to $1 million.
Heather Wagner, Mississippi's special assistant attorney general, said adding teeth to the human trafficking law will not only help enforcement, but also could deter the rising national criminal trend.
“Right now, even if we had a perfect investigation of a human trafficking case, what do we do with the victim?” asked Wagner. “If it's a minor child who's been involved with prostitution, putting them in a home with other children may not work and if it's an adult, they need resources we don't currently have.”
Two Mississippi men were indicted in Jackson in October for one count each of child sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and one count each of selling or buying of children. The charges are related to a video that authorities say shows them having sex with a girl who is 3 or 4 years old.
Wagner said access to the Gulf Coast ports, the I-55, I-10 and I-20 corridors, international airports and fast access to large cities like New Orleans, Dallas, Memphis, Birmingham and Atlanta make Mississippi prime for seeing human trafficking.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said he would like to see stricter laws before trafficking becomes a significant problem in the area.
“Here in our county you have two major corridors – Highways 45 and 78,” Johnson said. “It's already been proven that those two corridors link different states as a means of transport for drugs and ammunition. That's the route they'll be taking. The people organizing these things aren't going to be in Tupelo, Mississippi, or Louisiana or on the Gulf Coast, they're going to be somewhere else and they're going to farm this out and what they're doing is looking at which state has which laws and where arrests are happening.”
Proactive legislation to deter human traffic before it becomes commonplace is what Johnson said is key.
Wagner said the legislation they want to see passed will allow courts to charge traffickers with a heavy fine in addition to jail time. It also would create a victims' compensation system so that victims of trafficking can receive services to help them re-enter society.
Wagner said they also are hoping to add asset forfeiture language to the law that will allow authorities to take the vehicles used by traffickers to transport victims and the buildings used to house them in order to help pay for the investigations and victims services.
One Biloxi police officer who has been a part of multiple trafficking investigations, Sgt. Aldon Helmert, has been working with the Attorney General's Office to get practical language in the laws that law enforcement can use.
“If this guy is pimping these girls and getting some of the money or feeding them drugs to keep them around, there is no law – if he is in a brand-new Mercedes or a half-million dollar house – to penalize him.” Helmert said.
Helmert said he has seen traffickers and pimps come down to the Biloxi area from Memphis because the laws in Memphis are tighter. He also said drug dealers realized they can have their assets taken but pimps can't so criminals are making the transition.
If a trafficking charge can't be proven against a pimp, Helmert said the pimp, prostitute and buyer can all be charged under Mississippi's prostitution statute – but that statute calls prostitution a misdemeanor, which carries only a six-month prison sentence and $200 fine. Illegal fornication, cohabitation and adultery carries a stiffer fine of six months and $500 in Mississippi.
Helmert said at least elevating the penalties on the prostitution statute – like the DUI statute – would be beneficial for halting traffickers. A first offense DUI carries a $1,000 maximum fine and a suspended license, a second DUI carries a $1,500 fine and up to one year and jail and a third DUI carries a felony penalty with up $5,000 and five years in jail.
Mississippi Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, said a law that will force traffickers to pay for victims' services is something the state needs.
“I am generally supportive of their bill,” Collins said of the bill that the Attorney General's Office tried to pass last year. “I think it's a huge issue I was previously not aware of and something we've got to do something about. The restitution process is something we need to discus, to make sure people who are victims of trafficking receive services.”
Wagner said they will push for a revised version of last year's House Bill 845 and Senate Bill 2503 in the upcoming legislative session.
Male babysitter charged with 49 counts of child sexual abuse
by Alexander R Richter
A babysitting male Gateway Technical College student, Alexander R. Richter, 28, has been jailed after being accused of molesting six young children while in his care. Richter, from Racine, Wis., has been charged with 49 felony counts of child sexual abuse. Richter videotaped those sexual assaults.
Richter was arrested last week and is still in police custody. A Wisconsin court set set his bond at $1.5 million on Thursday.
Police said Friday that they're concerned more child victims are out there.
Authorities have stated that Richter volunteered his service as a babysitter and then “ repeatedly had sex with the boys and girls on camera as they cried and begged him to stop ,” according to the Associated Press.
Police have identified six of the children from Richter's videos.
"We're not putting a number on it, but from the evidence we've recovered we believe there are additional victims," Racine police Sgt. Marty Pavilonis said.
Charges against him include first-degree sexual assault of a child under 13, sexual exploitation of a child, and possession of child pornography.
Richter is accused of making at least 11 videos of himself having sex with both children, including one in which police say he guided the boy into attempted sexual activity with his sister.
The children in the videos informed police that Richter performed anal and oral sex with them on several occasions, used sex toys on them, and videotaped them taking baths.
DVDs recovered from Richter's home show Richter engaging in sexual activities with at least two of the children. There were also photos confiscated of the kids posing naked and performing sexual acts on one another.
One of Richter's DVDs was titled "Monster Unleashed" and showed Richter having sex with three young girls and one little boy.
The youngest of the children is a baby girl who was just four months old at the time of the abuse.
In some of the footage, the children are crying and can be heard telling Richter to stop or seen trying to fight him off, according to the complaint.
Wisconsin authorities are taking the investigation into Richter personally, and said “ we certainly investigate as if our own children were involved."
DCFS says reports of child abuse and neglect rise in 35 downstate Illinois counties
by Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Department of Children and Family Services says reports of child abuse and neglect are increasing across downstate Illinois.
From July through October, there were more than 25,000 calls to the state's child abuse hotline, representing a nearly 5 1/2 percent increase from the same period last year.
There were 35 downstate counties that showed abuse and neglect rates more than double the statewide average, according to the data compiled by Northwestern University.
Most of those counties were in the far southern part of the state.
The department offered no possible explanation for the increase but said it was part of a decade-long trend.
DCFS is encouraging anyone who suspects abuse or neglect of a child to call its hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE.
Dominick's Law could help curb child abuse
by Jane Park
FLINT -- Three-year-old Jordin Parkes fights for his life, while his mother is lodged in jail. 23-year-old Aleesha Wyatt was charged with first-degree child abuse Thursday, because prosecutors say she didn't protect her young son from her abusive boyfriend.
"She just put him in a very bad position and that's why we charged her,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.
Wyatt's boyfriend, Robert Martin III, was charged with the same crime earlier this month.
“We know for sure there was probably some shaking and at some point the child was slammed down against something, because the back of his head hit something causing that injury, so that we know,” Leyton said.
Jordin had bleeding in his brain and fractured bones. While he's still alive in critical condition, people are drawing comparisons between this toddler and Dominick Calhoun, the 4-year-old who was beaten and killed by his mother's boyfriend in 2010.
And it's the law Dominick's death prompted, Dominick's Law, that Leyton plans to use in the case against Wyatt and Martin.
"It's changed the way that we look at child abuse,” Rick Calhoun said. Rick is Dominick's grandfather. He helped draft Dominick's Law. The law now puts first-degree child abusers in prison for life and adds penalties for people who commit abuse in front of other children, as well as those who ignore and fail to report it.
“Because of [Dominick's] sacrifice, yeah. There is no excuse no more, there's going to be no more toleration,” Calhoun said.
A tougher law can help curb child abuse, but Leyton said, until teenagers and young parents are better educated about raising children, this epidemic will continue to claim young victims.
For the Love of God, Please Don't Be a Child Molester
How Elmo's nearly tarnished reputation pushed us closer to a world without heroes.
by Erica Palan
“Oh thank goodness!! And thus ends the worst 24 hours of my life,” my friend Lauren wrote on Facebook on Tuesday night. She attached a link to this story
clearing the name of Kevin Clash, who is best known as the voice of Elmo. This week, Clash was accused of having sex with an underage boy
Lauren's reaction might've been hyperbolic, but she wasn't the only one exclaiming with relief when Clash's accuser recanted. For the 24 hours that we had to ponder his guilt, the world felt a little more hopeless. To ponder the possibility that even our beloved pals on Sesame Street could fall from grace in such a reprehensible way seemed too much to bear. One friend remarked that the last 365 days have felt like “the year of the pedophile.”
It's not hard to see why.
Let's recap: Beginning in late 2011, the world was rocked by the nauseating Jerry Sandusky case, which is ongoing thanks to the recent arraignment of former Penn State president Graham Spanier, who allegedly helped cover up Sandusky's crimes. Happy Valley is still doused in images of the late Joe Paterno, whose name was shamed as more details about Sandusky emerged. In December 2011, there were accusations of child molestation against acclaimed Daily News sportswriter Bill Conlin. One of the accusers was his niece. Also in Philadelphia, Monsignor William Lynn was sentenced to time in prison for his role in covering up the wretched child abuse that come out of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Across the Atlantic, British TV star Jimmy Savile (who died last year) is facing mounting accusations of pedophilia.
It's always heartbreaking to read about child sexual abuse, but when the attacker—or an accomplice—is someone we collectively thought of as a role model, the feeling becomes worse somehow. We like to think of predators as evil-looking monsters who prey on children and other innocents. It's better if they are faceless, unrecognizable beasts with whom we have no connection. When it seemed that even Elmo —perhaps the most iconic symbol of childhood since Howdy Doody—could somehow be wrapped up in this kind of gut-punching tragedy, it felt like the last universal hero had been stolen away. If Sesame Street isn't safe, there truly must be no good left in the world.
I am relieved that Elmo and Clash's names have been cleared, and hope with an honest heart that we never get another whiff of pedophilia anywhere near Sesame Street. But while thinking about how few heroes we have left in the world, I pondered how I'd feel if other big-name do-gooders suddenly had tarnished reputations. After all, adored cancer survivor and athlete Lance Armstrong recently dropped a few notches on the admiration scale after it was—finally—confirmed that he doped his way through the Tour de France. It feels, these days, as if heroes are as fleeting as pop stars.
What if it were Julie Andrews? Or Ira Glass? Or—I almost can't bear to type it— Tom Hanks? What if we suddenly learned something horrible about Nelson Mandela? Or Barbara Walters. I think the outrage would, like Elmo's near-brush with infamy, hit a nerve in our society. It would make us question who is deserving of our trust and respect. As the last days of 2012 tick away, I hope not to lose any more of my role models. Who knows what shame 2013 will bring?
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, others vow crackdown on human traffickers
by Christina Villacorte
The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012 report is available online at oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking
To get help: Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris and other law enforcement officials vowed Friday to crack down on human trafficking - both sex trafficking and forced labor - that they said has become the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise.
During a news conference at the University of Southern California, Harris warned that with organized criminal networks and street gangs expanding their operations to sell not only guns and drugs but also people, it is imperative that law enforcement "counter the ruthlessness of human traffickers with our resolve, innovation and collaboration."
She said human traffickers have been able to snare more victims than ever before by using the Internet and social media to recruit and advertise. She said they lure vulnerable boys, girls, men and women from their homes with promises of a better life, only to exploit them and turn them into modern-day slaves.
According to a report released Friday, "The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012," California is one of the nation's top four destination states for human trafficking, believed to be a $32 billion a year global industry.
From mid-2010 to mid-2012, California's human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims. However, that number is believed to be only a fraction of the actual total.
Sheriff Lee Baca vowed to "pursue the highest penalties possible" against human traffickers.
"We believe federal prosecutions are the ultimate way of sending a strong message that if you're convicted of any kind of human trafficking, you're going to be spending an awfully long time of your life in prison," he said.
Voters last week passed Proposition 35, which increases penalties for people convicted of human trafficking.
According to the report, the number of victims identified by the state's task forces has tripled over the last two years, from 100 in late 2010 to 304 in early 2012.
Of those, 72 percent were born in the U.S.
The report called for raising public awareness of human trafficking and enabling people to identify and help victims in their midst.
Many victims are too scared to come forward, but there are red flags that can help identify them. Usually, they act fearful, tense, depressed, submissive, or paranoid, and defer to another person to speak for them. They also tend to show signs or physical and/or sexual abuse, confinement or torture, and work excessively long and unusual hours.
Sex trafficking victims are typically forced to work as prostitutes on the streets, in residential brothels, massage parlors, strip clubs and online escort services.
Labor trafficking occurs in sweatshops, as well as in legitimate businesses such as hotels, factories, restaurants, construction sites, farming, landscaping and nail salons.
Another form of human trafficking is domestic servitude, which is what Ima Matul endured.
She was lured away from her native Indonesia by the promise of a $150-a-week job as a nanny in an affluent household in Los Angeles. There, she was forced to work without pay 18 hours a day, sometimes more, and was subjected to physical and verbal abuse.
She escaped and, with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, is now an ardent advocate for other victims.
"My message for the victim out there is don't be afraid to come out," she said. "There's still hope."
Trucking groups launch campaign against human trafficking
by Deborah Whistler
The Colorado Motor Carriers Assn., Colorado Truckstop Conference, and local elected and law enforcement officials launched an educational and awareness campaign focused on combating the human trafficking of underage children with a kick-off event held Monday, Nov. 11, at Travel Centers of America in Commerce City.
Several elected officials, leaders in the trucking community, and members of law enforcement attended the event and spoke of the need for action and the importance of the issue.
The campaign was launched in conjunction with Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), a national non-profit organization based in Colorado that is working with the trucking industry to help truck drivers and truck stop employees recognize children and others who may be being trafficked as part of prostitution rings and report it to law enforcement.
“Having the support of the Colorado trucking industry and truck stops along with law enforcement and elected officials is critical to the work of Truckers Against Trafficking,” Kendis Paris, national director of Truckers Against Trafficking, said. “This means that thousands more will become educated and equipped about the realities of domestic sex trafficking and how they can help end it. When groups like this come together in their state it not only raises awareness of the problem but also ensures concerted action which will help curb this heinous activity which takes advantage of those least able to defend themselves.”
According to TAT, human trafficking is a $32-billion worldwide industry with more than 27 million people enslaved. While illegal, human trafficking is a booming business, second only to drug trafficking. It has been reported in all 50 states, and the number of victims in the United States is estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
Annually it is estimated that over 17,000 people are trafficked into this country every year. Most of the people trafficked are women and children. Many of them are used in the sex industry where they are forced into prostitution. The U.S. Dept. of Justice estimates that up to 300,000 American kids are at risk annually of entering the sex trade, Paris said.
“The Colorado Motor Carriers Assn. and its members are appalled that human trafficking occurs in our country today. Our association along with our companies and drivers are committed to stamping out this horrible problem that causes a great deal of pain and suffering for many people in our country today,” said Mike Adinolfe, the chairman of the board for CMCA.
“We in the truck stop community recognize the dangers associated with human trafficking and the pain and suffering caused by it,” said Scott Paulson, a prior chairman and current board member of the National Assn. of Truckstop Operators (NATSO). “NATSO and the CMCA Truckstop Conference support the Truckers Against Trafficking Campaign and we pledge to do our part in spotting and reporting underage trafficking at truck stops in our state throughout the country.”
Representative-elect Dominic Moreno commented, “I commend the people within the trucking and truckstop industries as well as their partners in law enforcement on this initiative with Truckers Against Trafficking. Through their combined efforts I believe that we may better be able to eliminate human trafficking and save many young people from a life of prostitution and abuse.”
“The Colorado State Patrol is proud to be a partner in this effort to curtail human trafficking. Human trafficking affects the lives of countless people, not only those runaway children being prostituted, but their families. In addition other crimes such as theft, drug dealing, and other offenses often occur along with human trafficking,” said Major Mark Savage of the Colorado State Patrol.
The campaign will use materials developed by TAT including wallet cards, DVDs, posters, and other materials to help drivers and truck stop employees to recognize and act when they suspect human trafficking may be occurring.
For more information visit www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org or call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.
When ‘Elmo' is falsely accused of child abuse, real victims suffer
by Michele Booth Cole
The lovable Sesame Street brand has been hit hard recently. First, Big Bird almost wound up on the chopping block. Now, Elmo — or more accurately, the muppet's doppelganger, revered puppeteer Kevin Clash — is still reeling from a bogus child sexual abuse scandal. A former paramour alleged that Clash sexually abused him, but by the next news cycle, the accuser had recanted his claim.
Here's the truth: Each year, one in four boys and one in six girls will be sexually abused, according to the organization Darkness to Light, which aims to end child sexual abuse. For real victims, the reality of child sexual abuse is painful and life-altering. Most child victims suffer in silence well into adulthood because the stigma of this underreported crime, paradoxically, is often projected onto the victim. Further, pernicious stereotypes and homophobia make the sexual abuse of boys even less likely to be reported.
Imagine what this means for boys of color, trying to survive in a world where their gender and race make them walking targets of countless negative presumptions. So it's all the more unconscionable to take up precious investigative resources and time with a false allegation when children need all the attention available to prevent and end child sexual abuse.
Many people of courage are waging the battle to make communities safer for children and to provide intervention, hope and healing to victims. The work is difficult because child sexual abuse is an utterly vile crime that exploits trust and robs kids of their innocence and hope. My colleagues at Safe Shores – The DC Children's Advocacy Center serve on the front lines of the battle, where victims disclose the harms done to them and begin the long process of healing.
I can't forget one young woman, a happy, thriving teenager until her pastor began sexually abusing her. D.C.'s Child and Family Services Agency connected her with Safe Shores. We have provided her and her family with ongoing counseling services. Getting involved with our skilled therapists helped her press the reset button and put her life back on track. Today, she is an honor-roll student with plans to go to college.
Her reclaimed hope and success speak to her personal courage, undergirded by the support of a team of professionals, including police officers, social workers, physicians, prosecutors, victim advocates, therapists and interviewers, who specialize in providing a coordinated response to child sexual abuse cases.
But preventing child sexual abuse can't be the province solely of professionals. Parents and other responsible adults must play a leading role in protecting kids, and there's a lot we can do. We must talk openly and often with our kids about their bodies and boundaries; listen and watch for any behavior changes; make sure that the places where our kids learn, play and worship implement policies that minimize the risk of abuse; be aware when adults exhibit an unusual interest in our children and avidly court our trust — they could be grooming us to gain unfettered access to our children.
By now, America has had a wake-up call on the issue of child sexual abuse. Penn State, the Boy Scouts and the ongoing revelations of other shameful scandals warn us to take the crisis seriously. False allegations like the one leveled at Kevin Clash waste time and risk undermining the credibility of real victims. Unlike Elmo, child sexual abuse isn't child's play. There's certainly no room in Elmo's world or the real world to make a mockery of this crime.
Michele Booth Cole is executive director of Safe Shores — The DC Children's Advocacy Center. The nonprofit serves child victims of abuse in the District of Columbia.
Sex abuse reporting bill advances in DC Council
WASHINGTON (AP) — The D.C. Council has tentatively approved legislation that would hold many more adults liable for failing to report the sexual abuse of a child.
The bill also expands existing automatic reporting requirements for teachers, government workers and counselors who work with children.
People older than 18 would be required to immediately alert the police or Child and Family Services if they know or have reason to suspect that a child is being abused. Those who don't would face a fine of up to $300, though the penalty would be higher for teachers, caregivers and government officials.
The bill must be moved on a second time before it can be signed by Mayor Vincent Gray.
Air Force trainers had improper relationships with dozens of students, report finds
by Ernesto Londoño
An investigation into misconduct by Air Force trainers at a Texas base found that at least 48 female students were victims of sexual assault or other transgressions by their instructors, according to a report released Wednesday that dissected the culture that enabled the worst military sex-abuse scandal in recent history.
The investigation, sparked by a rape allegation at Lackland Air Force Base in June 2011, has ensnared 23 trainers who were found to have engaged in inappropriate behavior ranging from sexual assault to online flirtation with students between October 2010 and June 2011.
The Air Force report said that at least 13 trainees were victims of sexual assault during that period, including six who were abused by the same instructor. Instructors had inappropriate relationships with 26 trainees that involved some form of physical intimacy, and they engaged in improper relationships with nine students that did not include physical contact, according to the investigation.
The report said that sexual misconduct at the San Antonio base, where roughly 500 trainers teach about 35,000 cadets each year, is “as abhorrent as it is rare” but noted that the scope of the problem has nonetheless become of great concern to senior leaders.
“It tears the fabric that holds us together as an Air Force because it destroys our trust, faith and confidence in each other,” the report said.
The Air Force launched the investigation under pressure from lawmakers and advocates for female service members, who contend that the service's training program allowed instructors to abuse students with impunity.
“There's something insidious and disturbing about what happened at Lackland,” said Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine captain who is now the executive director of the Service Women's Action Network. “It's evidence of widespread assault and widespread misconduct.”
Five instructors at the base have been court-martialed. The rest are awaiting trial or remain under investigation, according to the report.
The Air Force's review, conducted by Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, found that some past instances of misconduct were not dealt with sternly, creating a sense of impunity.
“These situations contributed to the perception that unprofessional behavior would be tolerated by at least some in authority,” the report said.
Trainers who suspected that their colleagues had acted inappropriately and trainees who witnessed abuse often chose to remain silent, fearing retaliation or that their allegations would not be taken seriously, the report found.
Gen. Edward Rice, the commander of the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command, said Wednesday that the investigation and its recommendations to implement stronger safeguards against abuse are not the end of the service's efforts.
“This is an ongoing process,” he told reporters at an afternoon news conference at the Pentagon. “The cultural piece is one we need to continue to understand better.”
Citizen awareness is critical to the prevention of human trafficking
by Christina Marie Duran
EL PASO – The car headlights flashed past the windows of a farmer's house out on a rural road in far west Texas on a sweltering, summer night bringing him outside to find out what the unusual midnight activity is all about.
In the distance, he saw the car slowly approach a trailer parked in a desolate area and a man get out and open the trailer.
“It has got to be a drug deal going on out there,” the farmer told Border Patrol officials in Hudspeth County, approximately 84 miles east of El Paso, Texas. Days later, Border Patrol officials broke into the trailer and found five Honduran women, dirty and barely clothed, shackled to cots.
Between 18,000 and 20,000 persons are trafficked into the U.S. each year with the majority of cases involving sex trafficking of women and children. Authorities say this major global problem can be discovered and dealt with if proper education and awareness is instilled in residents of the U.S.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), sex trafficking is defined as a commercial sex act that persons are forced into by fraud or coercion or if the person is a child. This also applies to those over the age of 18 who are forced into involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery to perform sex acts.
Women who are trafficked into the U.S. are usually promised a paying job and an opportunity for a better future, but are left unpaid and unable to contact family members back home. They are often kept secluded and isolated to avoid suspicion.
El Paso County established a human trafficking task force to combat trafficking in the area. The group includes various governmental and non-governmental institutions such as the F.B.I., the El Paso Police and Sheriff's Departments, and the Salvation Army.
“When being asked to help out with the issue of human and sex trafficking, I was told this story about these Honduran woman by border officials five years ago and it immediately convinced me and the other Sisters to join the El Paso Human Trafficking Task Force,” 65 year-old Sister Francis of Casa Alexia explained.
Casa Alexia, a Catholic border ministry that works with the El Paso Salvation Army and Rescue Mission of El Paso helps poverty stricken individuals find shelter, food and hope in times of economic hardship. Casa Alexia now helps undocumented women who have been trafficked into the U.S. find either shelter or guidance after their traumatic experiences.
“My main duty is to go inform the El Paso and surrounding communities about human and sex trafficking because many of the residents are not educated on the subject,” Sister Francis said. “They assume that these victims are just illegal immigrants but residents do not realize that they may be in danger of their lives.”
A Power-Point presentation, posters and flyers have been created by the five Casa Alexia Sisters to help educate the public. The posters feature the eyes of a woman with the words “Human Trafficking: A Global Problem. Prostitution. Servitude. Forced Labor,” in bold letters at the top with information explaining what sex trafficking is, indicators of victims being trafficked and an 800 number to call to report suspicious activity. Persons exhibiting the indicators usually lack ID, have been forced into sex trade and have been harmed or denied food, water, sleep or medical care.
Sister Francis explained that she goes out to annual Kermes', which are annual fund-raising events for the church in the community that have food, games and entertainment, and passes out flyers to educate the community on trafficking.
On one occasion, a local police officer in San Elizario, Texas got a hold of one of the flyers and started asking her questions about sex trafficking. “I was shocked that a police official was not well informed on Sex Trafficking and he's so close to the border where a lot of this happens,” Sister Francis said. “Residents and government officials need to be educated and aware of this terrible trend so they can save a person's life and prosecute those who tortured them. Without awareness, there is not much that can be done to save them.
Truck drivers are another target audience Casa Alexia tries to educate. According to a report generated by the Polaris Project and the NHTRC, out of 756 hotline calls in 2011, 185 were from callers identifying themselves as truckers. “Truckers are one of the main sources of information for the hotline about situations of sex trafficking involving minors. Of the total calls from truckers 52 percent included reports about potential cases of human trafficking,” the report stated.
These victims are typically controlled through “pimp-controlled” sex trafficking, which involves women and children engaging in commercial sex with their “pimp” or “daddy” often requiring their victims to meet a daily quota in order to avoid violent consequences. Truck stops across the U.S. are marketplaces used by pimps to maximize their profits.
“I've never been informed or educated to report unusual activity happening at truck stops but I have seen very young girls approach and knock on other trucker's doors,” Thomas Rocker of a private owned trucking company said.
The lack of education and information on sex trafficking can cause a trucker to not be fully aware of what to look for in enslaved victims and possibly save their lives.
“There is never any presence of police around these areas so I can see why these girls are exploited and sold here by their pimps,” Rocker said. “If there were more officials present, I believe situations like sex trafficking could be prevented.”
According to the El Paso Police Department, officers are not allowed to stay at truck stops unless they are specifically dispatched to the location. This makes it difficult for officers to patrol truck stop areas to observe any potential sex trafficking.
Victims become prized possessions to pimps because of the large amount of money they bring them. The Polaris project estimates that a pimp who demands $500 per night, seven days a week from three girls he traffics, has the potential to make an annual salary of $632,000 dollars. This requires his slaves to perform sex acts with more than 30 men per night.
The victims who are able to escape or be freed from their sex trafficking enslavement turn to non-governmental agencies like Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso to renew their lives.
“We work with human trafficking victims and help direct them to appropriate agencies that can provide them with a place to be housed, fed, clothed and counseled at little or no cost,” Katie Hudak of Las Americas said.
Las Americas also works alongside the Battered Immigrant Women Program to help victims deal with the post-traumatic stress of being trafficked, abused and lied to by their owners. Hudak stressed that awareness must be present in all regions throughout the country.
Hudak also reported that some victims have been offered T-Visas, which allow them residency in the U.S. and possible work while the individual who trafficked them are under investigation or prosecution.
Both government and non-government officials recognize that sex trafficking is an issue that needs constant supervision and the awareness of citizens so they can identify “red-flags” and report the criminals.
Sex-trafficked children to get Miami safe house
by AIMEE C. JUAREZ
MIAMI — In less than two months, Miami will become the first city in Florida to offer a temporary safe house for children who have been victims of sex trafficking.
Beginning in January, the new six-bed, 30-day treatment facility will be run by Miami-based Kristi House Child Advocacy Center at a location in Miami-Dade County that is not being disclosed in order to protect the victims, who are girls age 18 and younger, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Earlier this month, state officials with the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet met at the University of Miami campus to discuss progress setting up the shelter and an ongoing push to implement the provisions of the Safe Harbor Act which was signed into law this summer and allows for the creation of the safe house.
“Miami's going to be the leader,” David E. Wilkins, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, told the South Florida Times. State officials are looking to open three or four more safe houses in other parts of Florida in the near future, including Broward and Palm Beach counties, but their locations have not been determined as yet, said Wilkins, who also serves as chairman of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet.
In addition to developing ways to treat child victims of sex-trafficking, the Safe Harbor Act also aims to toughen penalties against sex-traffickers. Children who fall victim to sex-trafficking, Wilkins said, lack love and security and are “manipulated and brainwashed” by perpetrators, who view them as property.
The new shelter will help these children “break the cycle of trauma” in order to help them rebuild their lives, said Mary Faraldo, community relations officer at Kristi House.
Many times, with these children, “it's not just one trauma you're working with,” Faraldo said. “You're working with multiple traumas.” At a short-term facility, “you're able to triage that trauma to create stability for these kids,” she said.
Staff and counselors at the safe house will help victims sever all ties to the perpetrator who abused or exploited them, before helping them transition to a long-term care facility or a foster home or to be reunited with their family, depending on each child's individual case.
His House Children's Home in Miami Gardens also plans on opening a long-term safe house to assist sex-trafficking victims but a location for this safe house is still being scouted, state officials said at last week's meeting.
In addition to discussing the creation of the safe houses, state officials also talked about collaboration efforts with law enforcement agencies in developing a coordinated response to helping children who are victims of sex-trafficking, as well as the progress the agencies are making in researching the best treatment options, screenings and assessments that can be offered to the children.
According to the Polaris Project, its National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline has received 558 Florida-based tips and crisis calls so far this year.
By comparison, in 2011, the organization received a total of 865 calls from Florida, which ranks third in its top 10 list of states that call to report incidents of sex-trafficking.
Statics are unavailable on the number of children in South Florida who are sex trafficking victims because the crime and its effects are just starting to be researched. Officials dealing with the crime say black children are among those affected.
Kristi House hopes to begin generating statistics that can be used in the treatment of sex-trafficking victims through assessment tools they plan to implement, according to Faraldo.
Brother of Mia Farrow Accused of Child Sex Abuse
John Charles Villiers-Farrow, the brother of movie star Mia Farrow, was arrested Wednesday in Maryland on child sex abuse counts stemming from recent allegations of incidents going back to 2000, NBC Washington has confirmed.
Villiers-Farrow, 66, was arrested after an investigation that began when two men came forward in August 2012. At the time, Anne Arundel County Police had recently received information that several children were sexually abused in the Edgewater area.
The men told police that they were victims of sexual abuse from 2000 until 2008, when they were between nine years old and 16. They described Villiers-Farrow as a neighbor.
Villiers-Farrow has been charged with second- and third-degree sex offenses, two counts of perverted practice, two counts of second-degree child abuse, several counts of sex abuse of a minor, and two counts of second-degree assault. He is being held on $250,000 bond, which was reduced Thursday from $800,000.
Court documents claim that the boys were abused in Villiers-Farrow's home, and a few times in a nearby camper. The victims told police that Villiers-Farrow would show them pornographic movies. The encounters escalated to touching and then to oral sex, the documents said.
Anyone else who may have been a victim is asked to contact Detective Josh Williams at 410-222-3484.
Villiers-Farrow made headlines in 1992 when he commented on the controversy surrounding sister Mia's custody battle with Woody Allen and Allen's relationship with Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi.
At the time, Villiers-Farrow told People magazine, Allen "is going to be indicted, and he's going to be ruined. I think when all of it comes out, he's going to go to jail."
People described John as "a sometime screenwriter and boat salesman outside Annapolis, Md." A Baltimore Sun article from 1998 described "John Farrow" as co-owner of Chesapeake Catamaran Center in Annapolis, though that business has since been sold.
Villiers-Farrow also had a brush with fame back in 1968, when he accompanied Mia and their sister, Prudence, to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. The Beatles arrived in India to meet with Maharishi while the Farrows were there.
He appeared as a teen in in the Robert Stack movie "John Paul Jones," which was written by his father, screenwriter and director John Farrow. Villiers-Farrow's mother was actress Maureen O'Sullivan.
The website IMDB says Villiers-Farrow also had an uncredited role in the 1954 Elizabeth Taylor movie, "The Last Time I Saw Paris." And a Brooklyn newspaper said Villiers-Farrow was scheduled to have a movie role at the young age of 5 months, playing a baby in his father's movie "Blaze of Noon" with Anne Baxter and William Holden.
Mia Farrow became famous for her roles in the TV show Peyton Place and in movies including Rosemary's Baby, and Woody Allen movies including Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose and Hannah and Her Sisters.
More recently, she has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and as an activist for humanitarian aid and political change in Sudan.
'I am a survivor': Conference focuses on helping child abuse victims
by Loretta Park
LAYTON — Sisters Desirae and Deondra Brown of The 5 Browns are determined to not allow the man who sexually abused them as children to take any more from them.
To a crowd of 300 people, the two women spoke as the concluding speakers at the 25th annual Prevent Child Abuse Utah Joining Forces Conference at Davis Conference Center in Layton. The conference took place Monday through Wednesday.
The Browns are the co-founders of the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse. Both women were sexually abused before the age of 14 by their father, Keith Brown, who is now serving sentences at Utah State Prison.
“I am a survivor, and I will hold my head up high,” said Deondra Brown, 32.
It was her sister, Desirae, 33, who asked her sister several years ago if their father had sexually abused her also. They learned that their youngest sister had also been sexually abused. It took some time, but they decided they needed to go to law enforcement.
Utah is one of the few states that had changed the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse, so they were able to have their father prosecuted.
It usually takes 14 to 20 years before a victim of child sex abuse is ready to come forward, Deondra said.
The two women are currently working with others to have the federal laws concerning child sex abuse changed, so victims who come forward as adults can have their cases prosecuted. Changing the laws to help victims was the theme of the conference Wednesday.
A panel of four people, who each played a role in prosecuting Ryan and Angela Andrews for the murder of 10-year-old Shelby Andrews, were the keynote speakers.
The Syracuse girl's battered and bruised body was found on the living room floor of her home at 11:18 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2006, by paramedics and police.
An older stepbrother had called 911, while Shelby's father, Ryan Andrews, and stepmother, Angela Andrews, performed CPR.
Police later learned the young girl had been forced to stand inside a linen closet with the door shut after being severely beaten.
Shelby “was abused. She was tortured and eventually she passed away,” said Syracuse Police Detective Heath Rogers.
Rogers was one of the policemen called to the crime scene.
He said one of the first things he noticed was “there was not a whole lot of emotion going on.”
He ended up interviewing Ryan Andrews and Angela Andrews separately. Both are now serving life sentences in Utah State Prison.
Angela Andrews blamed Shelby for her death, Rogers said.
“She thinks she is the victim,” Rogers said. “Angela is a monster. Don't let her fool you.”
The community and law enforcement were disappointed they could not charge the Andrews with aggravated murder, because child abuse at that time was not considered an aggravating factor in murder, said Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.
Since then, Rawlings; Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton; Syracuse Police Department; the Attorney General's Office; and the Division of Child and Family Services worked to change the law, which is now known as “Shelby's Law.”
Rawlings said that because of the changes in the law, his office now seeks life without parole or the death penalty for those who kill children while abusing them.
Child abuse seen 'every single day,' DHS official says
by JERRY WOFFORD
Although aspects of the alleged child-abuse incident in which a toddler was found in a dog cage Sunday are considered shocking, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services said children are found to be abused nearly every day across the state.
According to the department's annual report, nearly 10,000 substantiated reports - including 1,325 in Tulsa County - were investigated by DHS' Child Protective Services section in the fiscal year ending in June.
"This incident is extremely indicative of all children who come into DHS care," said DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell. "The fact we have had to take three little children into DHS care is not unusual.
"Sadly, this is the type of situation our workers see every single day. It's the reality of the work of DHS."
Three children were taken into protective custody Sunday, and their father, William Todd Lewallen, 47, was arrested on a complaint of child abuse or neglect.
Police were called to the family's home in the 4600 block of North Frankfort Place after a neighbor who had heard a child crying went outside and found a 4-year-old naked, crying and locked out of the home while the temperature was in the 40s. The neighbor knocked on the door, but no one answered, so he took the child to his home and called the police.
Officers arrived and heard more crying from inside the house. They forced entry and found an 18-month-old locked in a metal dog cage and covered in feces, police said.
A 3-year-old child was found naked in a bed with Lewallen, who was "impaired to the point where he didn't hear his child screaming for help outside or the other child wailing to be let out of the cage," police said in a news release.
An attorney for the children's mother declined to comment to the Tulsa World but told KJRH, channel 2, that the mother has filed for divorce and is seeking to regain custody of the children.
Powell said she couldn't comment on this specific case but that in general, when abuse is alleged, police are the first to step in and protect the child until more permanent and safe housing is found.
"If a safe caretaker cannot be immediately found at home, they will notify DHS," she said. Children without immediate safe custody can be taken to an area shelter until such custody is found, she said. There they can be medically evaluated, get cleaned up and get fresh clothes.
Powell said DHS workers want to find a more permanent place as soon as possible, but finding it can sometimes take time, especially considering the shortage of foster families.
"Right now we are emphasizing and trying to recruit more foster families," she said. "It's an important part of making sure the children can have a safe environment. If we have more foster families, we can get the children to a home in the same day."
Foxborough to Host Community Forum for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
This forum offers the community an opportunity to discuss the issues of child sexual abuse, learn more about its devastating impact and to learn how to prevent it.
by Jeremie Smith
In light of the recent disclosures of sexual abuse in Foxborough, the Foxborough Public Schools, police department and Hockomock Area YMCA has come together to offer a community prevention forum for child sexual abuse prevention.
The forum, which will be held at the Ahern Middle School auditorium on Monday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m., will provide an important opportunity to bring the community together to discuss the issues of child sexual abuse, learn more about its devastating impact and to find out together as a community, what Foxborough can do to prevent it.
This meeting will demonstrate that child sexual abuse is an issue that affects everyone, not just those that were abused and their family members. It will reinforce that the cost, both human and economic, is high, but that the solution of prevention is inexpensive and effective. This meeting will help illustrate that child sexual abuse can be prevented in real-time and reinforce that by participating in a prevention solution, every adult in a community can be a part of a cultural change.
This presentation will be hosted by the Foxborough School Department and the Foxborough Police Department and facilitated and convened with the support of the Hockomock Area YMCA.
No pre-registration is required and all are welcomed to attend.
Allegations surfaced in September that a former Foxborough teacher and youth leader, William Sheehan, allegedly abused multiple children under the age of 15 in town over 30 years ago.
William E. Sheehan taught in the Foxborough Public Schools district from the late 1960s to 1981, served 19 years as a local Boy Scouts Scoutmaster and 20 years in numerous roles at Cocasset River Park, including a swimming instructor and the waterfront director.
Sheehan, now 73, moved from Foxborough to Florida in 1981. He currently resides at an assisted living facility in Fort Myers, Fla.
Three alleged victims came forward – separately – to Foxborough Police in August accusing Sheehan of multiple sexual crimes committed against each of them. A warrant for Sheehan's arrest was obtained from the Wrentham District Court on Sept. 12 but police were not able to arrest the former Foxborough resident, citing poor health. A Sept. 28 article in The News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla. says Sheehan is currently a late-stage Alzheimer's patient.
Jimmy Savile child abuse probe: Number of potential victims rises to 450 as police make new arrest
Man in his 60s, arrested at his Bedfordshire home on suspicion of sexual offences
Police investigating the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal made a further arrest today as they revealed the number of potential victims has risen to 450.
A man in his 60s, from Bedfordshire, was held at 7.45am on suspicion of sexual offences and is being questioned.
Scotland Yard said the allegations against him do not directly involve Savile, and are classed under the strand of their investigation termed "others".
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is leading a national investigation into abuse allegations made against disgraced TV presenter Savile.
So far, around 450 potential victims have come forward and 200 allegations of sexual assault have been made.
This has risen from around 300 possible victims the force said they were dealing with last month.
The vast majority of allegations have been made against Savile.
Officers are looking at three strands within their inquiry: claims against Savile, those against Savile and others, and those against others.
Most of the "others" allegations have been made against people associated with the entertainment industry.
So far Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr and a 73-year-old man have been arrested and bailed in connection with the investigation, along with today's arrest.
Children's charity the NSPCC said it had received 236 calls about Savile, an average of five per day, since the first sexual abuse allegations emerged.
The number of contacts made about other claims of sexual abuse has trebled in the last month, rising to 550.
Director of the NSPCC's helpline Peter Watt said: "It's crucial that people continue to come forward, whether they have information about Savile or anyone else. Our prime focus has to be on protecting children, particularly those unable to speak out themselves, and bringing offenders to justice.
"Sometimes people wait months or years before reporting abuse but we would urge them to act quickly so they can get help as soon as possible. While the whole Savile episode has been distressing it has also led to more victims of abuse seeking support, which is positive."
The former judge leading the BBC inquiry into the Savile scandal has launched an appeal for witnesses.
Dame Janet Smith, who is reviewing the corporation's practices during the Savile years, called on potential victims, witnesses, people who worked with the TV presenter and senior staff at the time to assist the investigation.
According to the inquiry's website, the review also wants to hear from people "who were familiar with the culture or practices of the BBC" in terms of "preventing or enabling the sexual abuse of children, young people or teenagers".
In addition, the Department of Health is investigating its own conduct after appointing Savile to head a taskforce at Broadmoor in 1988.
Increased enforcement against human trafficking planned during F1
by Jazmine Ulloa
Austin police say they are partnering up with other law enforcement agencies and nonprofit groups across Central Texas to boost efforts against a possible increase in human trafficking during the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix.
All big sports and entertainment events draw crowds that fuel prostitution, authorities said. But little is known on whether those same crowds also feed what is described as the modern-day slave trade, where victims are forced, threatened or deceived into sex work or other types of labor. The research that does exist on the so-called “demand effect” is vague and often disputed.
With an estimated 120,000 visitors expected on race day and thousands more throughout the week, Austin police officials said they are uncertain whether trafficking cases will rise but want to use their efforts during Formula One to study the reach of the shadowy enterprise within major functions. Investigators plan to collaborate with the School of Social Work at the University of Texas to track incidents and analyze law enforcement strategies.
“We want to measure the extent of the problem but also learn what methods are best to use in an approach against it,” police Cmdr. Donald Baker said. “We are hoping this will be a model for cities our size and larger to combat human trafficking when they have large events.”
At a regular meeting of the Austin Public Safety Commission this week, Baker said the human trafficking unit will focus its operations on preventing forced prostitution and on identifying and assisting minors exploited through the commercial sex trade. The department also will implement an advertisement campaign on Capitol Metro buses to educate residents on how to detect and report possible sex trafficking cases.
The crime is little talked about in Central Texas, despite its prevalence in the area, authorities said. Human trafficking investigators in Austin work about 15 trafficking cases a year where children have been sexually exploited through the commercial sex trade, but officials say criminal rings move fast from city to city and many victims are never found.
Around the world, the Olympics and FIFA World Cup have brought attention to potential increases in the illicit business. But the competition with the most infamous dark side nationwide has been the Super Bowl, which Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last year called “the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
In preparation for the 2011 game in Arlington, 17 local, state and federal agencies in North Texas participated in a joint effort to tackle security concerns, including an expected surge in sex trafficking and prostitution of children. The North Texas Trafficking Task Force initiative resulted in 133 arrests; eight were human trafficking cases, four involved minors, and the majority of the rest were related to prostitution.
That collaboration was applauded by top federal law enforcement officials, but authorities don't have statistics that show whether a spike in human trafficking incidents did in fact occur.
Critics call the lack of concrete evidence the “Super Bowl hoax,” and some anti-trafficking groups say police operations during major events distract attention and resources from the strategies that truly work.
“The real crime is happening when no one's looking and no one cares, not when every media outlet, advocate and cop has its sights set on it,” wrote Rachel Lloyd in a Huffington Post column. Lloyd, founder and executive director of the New York-based anti-trafficking group Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, said nonprofit groups and authorities should pay closer attention to releasing accurate information on human trafficking.
But Austin police officials said their Formula One initiative is part of a larger effort by the human trafficking unit and the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking to build a strong network of collaborating agencies that will continue to work together and help victims after the race is over.
“The U.S. Department of Justice has estimated that human trafficking is the second-largest criminal enterprise behind narcotics,” Baker said. “And that is something that our group is trying to get a proactive effort against, to make sure we have all the resources together as a community to be able to provide services.”
Portman uses star power to shine a light on human trafficking
by Jessica Wehrman
Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., launched the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking today – and they got a little star power to support their cause.
The two appeared at a press conference on Capitol Hill with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who has championed the cause. In the audience: Singer Willow Smith, Pinkett Smith's daughter, known for the pop earworm “Whip My Hair.”
Portman, R-Ohio, and Blumenthal are the authors of a bill that passed through a Senate committee in June that seeks to end human trafficking by federal government contractors and subcontractors operating overseas. Portman said he hopes the forming of the caucus will shine a light on the issue.
Toledo, Ohio, is the fourth in the nation for arrests, investigations and rescues of domestic minor sex trafficking victims among U.S. cities. In 2009, the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission estimated nearly 3,000 American-born youth in Ohio were at risk for sex trafficking or prostitution.
The caucus includes 13 other lawmakers. Among them: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
AL soldier accused of child sex abuse free on bond
by WAFF.com Staff
EL PASO COUNTY, CO (WAFF) -
The Alabama soldier accused of child enticement, sexual abuse and kidnapping is free on bond.
First Lieutenant Aaron Gregory Lucas now faces 24 charges from three different Colorado agencies.
Lucas has multiple court appearances in the near future, including two hearings in Colorado over the next four weeks.
Lucas will appear in court in Colorado next week on the 21st. The court will list all 24 charges against him.
Another hearing will take place December 13. That hearing will determine if there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.
Investigators in El Paso County and the cities of fountain and Colorado Springs said this all started in October when Lucas was picked up for charges including enticement, sexual assault of a child, and kidnapping.
The Army Criminal Investigation Division is also in on the case. In fact, they're working with the Madison County Sheriff's Office to determine if Lucas exposed himself to two young girls in Hazel Green several years ago.
At the time, Lucas lived just a few miles away from the girls.
Former suspect in Patz case to appear Pa. court
DALLAS, Pa. (AP) — A former suspect in the 1979 disappearance of a New York City boy is scheduled to appear in court on a Megan's Law charge.
State police say 69-year-old Jose Antonio Ramos gave them a bogus address for where he planned to live after his release from prison last week.
Ramos was released from a state prison north of Wilkes-Barre after completing a 27-year sentence on child molestation charges. He was immediately arrested and charged with failing to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law. His preliminary hearing is Thursday.
Ramos had long been suspected in the infamous disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz (AY'-tahn PAYTS'), who vanished in 1979 after leaving his home to go to a bus stop.
Another man was charged Wednesday with Etan's kidnapping and murder.
'Sesame Street' accuser recants charge of child abuse
The unidentified man now says he was an adult at the time of the relationship.
The unidentified man who accused Sesame Street 's Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of sexual abuse has recanted his account, and now says he was an adult at the time of their relationship.
Attorney Andreozzi & Associates, which acknowledged representing the 23-year-old man, said Tuesday, "He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship," and said he would have no further comment. The firm has also represented victims of Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky.
"I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest," Clash said in a statement. "I will not discuss it further."
The man had said he and Clash, 52, initiated a sexual relationship seven years ago, at age 16, initiating a storm of media coverage when TMZ.com reported the story Monday. Clash admitted the relationship but denied the man was a minor. "I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was," he said in Monday's statement.
Clash took a leave of absence to refute the charges, and Sesame Workshop said understudies would begin voicing the beloved Muppet character in the interim. Now, it appears that Clash's leave will be short-lived (though the Workshop hasn't specified a return date).
"We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode," the company said.
Investigative Report Reveals Some Religious Reform Schools Are Havens for Child Abuse
An investigation reveals extensive child abuse in youth programs in Florida
by Maia Szalavitz
They're advertised as “boarding schools” or “Christian” children's homes in Florida, but a yearlong investigation published in the Tampa Bay Times reveals lax oversight on dozens of youth programs, some of which had been shut down for abuse in other states and have continued to operate for decades.
In Florida, such unlicensed religious homes can operate outside state child-protection laws thanks to an exemption that protects religious practices. Some are structured more like military camps, while other boarding-school programs emphasize the “emotional growth” aspect of their mission, claiming to help teens with everything from defiance to depression to drug problems. Hundreds of students register at these schools each year, enrolled by desperate parents eager to pay $20,000 or more in tuition to put their children back on the “right” path — away from drugs, crime and even homosexuality.
The religious exemption protects the programs from inspections by the state's department of children and families, which means students can be imprisoned or shackled and, unlike with licensed youth programs, can be denied contact with their parents and prevented from accessing child-abuse hotlines. Regulatory authority over these religious programs lies almost entirely in the hands of the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies (FACCA). And these programs flourish in other states as well, since no national regulations exist to oversee such facilities for teens.
In the opening story of the Tampa Bay Times ' three-part investigation, reporters recount the experience of a former Christian-military-school attendee named Samson Lehman:
They shaved him bald that first morning in 2008, put him in an orange jumpsuit and made him exercise past dark. Through the night, as he slept on the floor, they forced him awake for more. The sun had not yet risen over the Christian military home when Samson Lehman collapsed for the sixth time. Still, he said, they made him run.
The screaming, the endless exercise, it was all in the name of God, a necessary step at the Gateway Christian Military Academy on the path to righteousness. So when Samson vomited, they threw him a rag. When his urine turned red, they said that was normal. By Day 3, the 15-year-old was on the verge of death, his dehydrated organs shutting down.
When the teen was finally taken to the emergency room, Lehman was immediately airlifted to a higher-level facility because his condition required more-complex treatment than a local hospital could provide. Dehydration had caused a potentially lethal buildup of waste in his body; an ibuprofen painkiller that staff had given him only made matters worse. Lehman required months of dialysis to help his kidneys recover.
“I thought I was going to die slumped up against a wall,” he tells TIME, describing the worst part of the ordeal. An honor student, Lehman had been placed in the program by his mother, who suffers from mental illness and was overly worried that he would follow in the footsteps of his older brother, who had been arrested. Lehman did not have behavioral problems, other than arguing frequently with his mother. She learned about the program from a boyfriend, who had heard about it while in prison, and she convinced herself it would help Lehman.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, the director of Gateway Christian Military Academy blamed Lehman's hospitalization on pre-existing “mineral deficiencies.” He also told the paper that the program has since hired a registered nurse to handle health issues, eliminated the intense, lengthy exercises that Lehman describes, and requires applicants to pass a physical before entry.
But Florida's child-welfare agency described what happened as “verified medical neglect.” Since Gateway is regulated only by the FACCCA (which is a voluntary association manned by two full-time and two part-time employees) and because the state did not chose to file charges, it remains open.
Gateway Christian Military Academy is also part of a national organization called Teen Challenge, which has a history of abusive practices carried out in the name of religion. For decades, Teen Challenge has run afoul of states with stricter oversight of youth facilities for some of its practices.
In the mid-'90s, Teen Challenge tangled with state regulators in Texas when officials demanded that all programs that involve locking up youth meet certain training, safety and education standards for counselors. Citing religious freedom, Teen Challenge resisted — and then-governor George W. Bush stepped in to save the program by exempting all religious youth facilities from oversight.
Reports of abuse at the exempted facilities began surfacing, including one in which a girl was found bound in duct tape, but without the licensing rules, the state couldn't act. When Texas officials rescinded the exemption in 2001, programs simply moved to other states, including Florida, where religion was still used as a buffer to protect such abuses.
(MORE: Increasingly, Internet Activism Helps Shutter Abusive ‘Troubled Teen' Boot Camps)
The Tampa Bay Times series shows that the beatings and abuse simply continued, while Teen Challenge facilities only expanded their reach further. Lehman says his grandfather recently encountered people trying to recruit youth to attend Teen Challenge at a Florida Walmart. “He was pretty upset about it,” he says.
Julia Scheeres, author of the best-selling memoir Jesus Land , which describes her forced participation in a similar Christian home, says reading about Lehman's ordeal and the network of such religious programs in Florida “made me so angry I could barely skim the articles. A school's ‘religious rights' should never trump a child's human rights. It sickens me to see this.”
She adds, “These are the same tactics that were used at my reform school: shaving heads for running away, monitoring all communication with the outside so kids couldn't complain, calisthenics to the point of vomiting, sleep deprivation.”
The consequences for her, as for Lehman, were dire. “Most of us came out of that school worse than we went in,” she says. “Living in an atmosphere of constant fear 24/7 is anything but therapeutic. Many of us alumni have struggled with fallout — depression, substance abuse, failed relationships, despondency, anger issues. And most of us have nightmares about being back there, decades later.” Lehman, now 20 and an engineering student, says, “If you are going to try to reform your child, you should look for a professional place that's monitored and has standards to go by.”
The debate over the role that corporal punishment has outside the home — in schools, and meted out by non–family members — continues to rage, despite growing research showing it can have lasting detrimental effects on child development and behavior. The issues are at the same time both similar and more compelling when it comes to residential institutions for youth — religious or otherwise — or for teen programs whose primary mission is to improve potentially disobedient or disruptive behavior. In a nonresidential situation, parents will see bruises and hear complaints if a child is punished too severely; and if children cannot contact a parent, use a phone or the Internet to reach out to child-abuse hotlines, serious abuse can go undetected for long periods of time. The problem is particularly challenging when youth with behavioral problems are involved, since program officials often successfully argue that their complaints are the result of manipulative or mentally-ill people who cannot be trusted.
In 2008, Representative George Miller, a California Democrat, introduced the first bill in Congress, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act, to regulate teen residential programs. It passed the House twice and was introduced in the Senate for the first time last year by Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa. It bans punitive use of restraint and prohibits programs from “physically, mentally or sexually abusing children in their care,” as well as requiring access to an abuse-reporting hotline.
If the bill passes, it will be too late to protect students like Lehman but hopefully in time to prevent hundreds more from enduring equally tragic experiences.
Priests may have to report child sex abuse
Priests could forced to break the "inviolable" Catholic seal of the confessional, after calls for the royal commission into the handling of child sex abuse to examine the controversial church rule.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says using the seal of the confessional to cover up child abuse is a "sin of omission" because all adults have a duty of care towards children.
"It's not good enough for people to engage in sin of omission and not act when a child is at risk," she said.
Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, insisted on Tuesday the seal of confession was inviolable, even if a fellow priest confessed to child sex abuse.
Priests should avoid hearing confession from colleagues suspected of committing child sex abuse to avoid being bound by secrecy of the confession box, he said.
But politicians of all stripes disagreed on Wednesday.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon labelled the seal of the confessional an anachronism.
"This is a medieval law that needs to change in the 21st century," he told reporters in Canberra.
"Church law, canon law, should not be above the law of the land."
It is an issue he wants the royal commission to deal with sooner rather than later.
"Right now there is a real issue in that it (the confessional) is specifically exempt from mandatory reporting requirements around the country.
"It appears that in every state and territory there is a specific exemption for the confessional," he said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says all Australians should report knowledge of child abuse.
"The law is no respecter of persons. Everyone has to obey the law, regardless of what job they are doing, what position they hold," he told reporters in Brisbane.
Asked if that applied to priests, the high-profile Catholic replied, "Indeed."
Federal Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne and NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell also said priests had a responsibility to report crimes to police, no matter how they learned about them.
Senator Xenophon said he had tried in 2003, as a member of the South Australian parliament, to introduce legislation to remove the seal of confessional but it had been "shot down in flames".
He recounted being stopped in the street recently by a man who told him he had been abused from the age of six to 13.
"As a 10-year-old he finally went to the confessional," the senator said.
"The priest effectively told him that he had sinned and he needed to repent. I find that sickening."
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Cardinal Pell was "out of touch with the common-day, commonsense thinking of Australians".
"It staggers me that there are still people in influential positions in this country who still believe that protecting a priest is more important that protecting a child," she said.
"I think that is something that does not fit with modern-day Australia."
Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the community found the idea of a priest not reporting child abuse if told about it in a confession to be "really abhorrent".
She is working with her state counterparts to outline the scale and scope of the royal commission, which will investigate how Australia can improve the way it prevents child abuse.
She said there would need to be more than one commissioner, and people with a child welfare or law enforcement background would be in the mix along with those having exceptional legal skills.
The royal commission would take "years rather than weeks or months", Ms Roxon said.
NYC nanny indicted on murder charges
A Manhattan nanny has been indicted on murder charges in the stabbing deaths of two children.
The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/ZEMXmC) says the charges are in court records released Tuesday.
Six-year-old Lucia Krim and her 2-year-old brother, Leo, were killed Oct. 25 in their Upper West Side apartment.
Their mother found them when she came home with the victims' 3-year-old sister.
The nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, remains hospitalized with self-inflicted stab wounds.
She's expected to be arraigned with a video link to the court. The hearing has not yet been scheduled
Child-abuse reduction efforts flawed
72 kids in child-welfare system have died within the last 6 years
by Jennifer Brown, Christopher N. Osher and Jordan Steffen
Many of Colorado's child-abuse workers are inexperienced and overwhelmed and, at times, fail to take basic steps to protect children: interviewing parents, properly assessing a dangerous home or checking a child's body for obvious signs of abuse, a Denver Post analysis of state data found.
Caseworkers failed to follow state policy at least half of the time when asked to protect a child who later died of abuse or neglect, Colorado fatality reports show. Their mistakes ranged from paperwork problems to not visiting a child within the time required, or at all, and dismissing – without proper investigation – abuse allegations before the child's death.
The job of a caseworker is tough – so much so that in a federal grant application submitted last year, state officials said they fear many of the state's child-protective workers are at the breaking point. A survey of more than 500 of Colorado's child-protective workers who had participated in training sessions found 59 percent suffered from high or very high levels of “compassion fatigue,” causing burnout, poor performance and turnover, the 2011 application said. Those caseworkers, it said, can suffer from “anger, fear, anxiety, hopelessness and helplessness.”
Skip Barber, executive director of the Colorado Association of Family and Children's Agencies, a group of not-for-profit advocacy agencies, said “We gave them an unmanageable, thankless job. If a caseworker makes a mistake, it's front-page news. The system was set up to fail.”
And it is failing. Seventy-two kids whose families or caregivers were known to the child-welfare system in Colorado have died in the last six years. Child-protection workers failed to note unsafe living conditions, concerns about caregivers and previous contacts with the child-welfare system before children were killed, according to 59 state child fatality reviews released to the Post.
While investigating reports of abuse or neglect, child-protection workers did not talk in 10 cases to the person accused of the abuse and did not talk in nine cases to other contacts such as doctors and teachers.
In addition to failing to properly investigate claims of abuse or neglect, child-protection workers struggle to correctly write safety assessment plans meant to evaluate the risk of harm. the Post's analysis found caseworkers did this wrong 24 times out of 59 cases where children ended up dead. “When you have a young, inexperienced staff, their ability to make good decisions is not huge,” said Tracey Feild, director of the child-welfare strategy group for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Elmo puppeteer accused of underage relationship
by Frazier Moore
NEW YORK --The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on "Sesame Street" is taking a leave of absence from the iconic kids' show in the wake of allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
Puppeteer Kevin Clash has denied the charges, which, according to Sesame Workshop, were first made in June by the accuser, who by then was 23.
"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame Workshop said in a statement issued Monday. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."
The organization described the relationship as "unrelated to the workplace." Its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It offered no details.
"I had a relationship with the accuser," Clash said in a statement of his own. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was."
Sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21. It was unclear where the relationship took place, and there is no record of any criminal charge against Clash in the state.
Clash, the 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, added, "I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.
"I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation," he said.
Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated how long his absence might be.
"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of 'Sesame Street' to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years," Sesame Workshop said in its statement.
"Sesame Street" is in production, but other puppeteers are prepared to fill in for Clash during his absence, according to a person close to the show who spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to publicly discuss details about the show's production.
"Elmo will still be a part of the shows being produced," that person said.
Though usually behind the scenes as Elmo's voice and animator, Clash has become a star in his own right. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."
In addition to his marquee role as Elmo, Clash also serves as the show's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain.
He has won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.
Clash has been a puppeteer for "Sesame Street" since 1984, when he was handed the fuzzy red puppet with ping-pong-ball eyes and asked to come up with a voice for him. Clash transformed the character, which had languished as a marginal member of the Muppets family for a number of years, into a major star that rivaled Big Bird as the face of "Sesame Street."
Among children and adults alike, Elmo was quickly embraced as a frolicsome child with a high-pitched giggle and a tendency to speak of himself in the third person.
"I would love to be totally like Elmo," Clash said in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press. "He is playful and direct and positive."
Besides "Sesame Street," Elmo has made guest appearances on dozens of TV shows. He starred in the 1999 feature film "Elmo in Grouchland." And he has inspired a vast product line, notably the Tickle Me Elmo doll, which created a sales sensation with its introduction in 1996.
Expert: 'Priests believe child abuse forgivable'
Sexual abuse by a priest is "the most damaging of all" for children
by Tory Shepherd
Priests who hear confessions of child sex abuse do not have to report offenders, but should tell them to go to police
SOME priests think pedophilia does not "break celibacy" and that sins can be confessed away, one of the nation's top child protection experts says.
Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs, who has just published a seminal text on child protection, says sexual abuse by a priest is “the most damaging of all" for children and that the Catholic Church is guilty of forgiving priests instead of punishing them.
Her comments come after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a sweeping federal royal commission into institutional child sex abuse, which was sparked by revelations of abuse within the Catholic Church.
Asked whether Catholic celibacy was a possible contributor to child sex abuse, Prof Briggs told news.com.au celibacy was not the problem “for men who are sexually attracted to children" anyway.
“There has been an acceptance over the years that having sex with a boy is not breaking celibacy," she said.
“What priests told me was that the biggest crime was to have sex with a woman."
Prof Briggs, from the University of South Australia, started out as a policewoman and has now been working in the area of child abuse and child protection for 50 years.
She says confession, which plays an important role in the Catholic Church but is also practised in other Christian religions, made churches attractive to pedophiles.
“Churches are psychologically attractive to sex offenders because they can ask for forgiveness one day and offend again on another day," she said.
“There was one priest in Victoria who admitted when caught that he had confessed 200 times and nobody had reported him, because priests are not allowed to report anyone who confesses in a confessional."
Priests are not subject to mandatory reporting laws so they don't have to report child abusers who confess to them. Generally, a priest who receives such a confession is meant to convince the abuser to report themselves to authorities.
Across Australia people such as doctors, nurses and teachers, who work with children, have to report child abuse but no Australian state or territory has included priests in their mandatory reporting requirements.
Only South Australia specifically mentions ministers of religion, but they have an exemption for the confessional. The Northern Territory's is the only state which extends its requirements to "any adult".
Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, says historically people in the Church did not realise that pedophilia was “an addiction".
“It wasn't just the Catholic Church that hoped (an abusive priest) would amend their conduct and give them a home somewhere else," he told The Weekend Australian.
“Back in those days, they were entitled to think of pedophilia as simply a sin that you would repent of. They didn't realise that in the worst cases it was an addiction, a raging addiction.''
Father Frank Brennan, a Jesuit priest and Professor of Law at the Australian Catholic University, told the ABC last night that in the past children were “sacrificed" for the interests of the church or particular clerics, and that “more work" was needed to understand why there was a disproportionately high number of child abusers among the Catholic clergy.
UniSA Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw, an adjunct professor in the School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, says ultimately it's power that's the problem, and that pedophiles join the church because of its structure.
“It's power and trust, manipulation, grooming and abuse," she said.
“Friends in the Catholic Church tell me that a lot of pedophiles actually join the church to be in a position to abuse children … it gives them a powerful position.
“It's the patriarchal nature of the system. They don't have women priests, I think they really think they're a cut above, that they're beyond the state."
News.com.au asked the office of Archbishop Philip Wilson, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, for a response. We were referred to what Adelaide's Father Philip Marshall told the ABC this morning:
"If somebody comes to confession and they're saying 'look I've done a terrible thing, I'm deeply sorry'… the priest is going to say 'good, if that's so you have to act ... you have to go to the police, you have to follow the processes'."
Victims' welfare key in abuse inquiry
by Cathy Kezelman
The royal commission on institutional responses to the sexual abuse of children in religious, government and non-government organisations offers a unique opportunity for Australia to establish robust child protection and victim support systems.
Schools, churches and other such organisations and institutions, and those who work in them, are in a position of responsibility and accountability for the children entrusted into their care. Any abuse of their power and authority, as happens with child sexual assault, can cause fear, horror and helplessness.
When that abuse is repeated, trust is further betrayed. When organisations and institutions ignore, minimise and dismiss survivors' experiences, the impacts can be further compounded.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) welcomes the royal commission. It brings an opportunity to fully, comprehensively and transparently investigate all allegations of child sexual assault, past and present, and the processes, practices, policies, laws and systems that conspire to perpetuate the actual and potential sexual assault of Australian children.
While Australia will be looking to the commission to provide recommendations that prioritise the safety and protection of our children, the commission must also make recommendations regarding apologies, redress, reparation, and professional support for victims.
Child sexual assault entails the abuse of power and a betrayal of trust. In many cases it has been perpetrated by those in a position of authority, in care-giving and pastoral roles.
The destructive effects of such assaults have, in many cases, been further exacerbated by organisations that could have stopped them, failed to validate the experiences of victims and failed to respond empathically or provide appropriate care and support.
In child sexual assault the traumatic acts are premeditated, often repeated and can occur over a long period of time. The impacts are cumulative and destructive. But with the right support, personal and professional, there is cause for hope and optimism – recovery is possible.
The damaging experiences on the brain can be repaired, and survivors benefit from ongoing therapy and counselling from those with expertise in recovery from child sexual assault.
The commission has a responsibility to recommend the provision of the right professional support for survivors and the resources to enable it.
In addition, it is imperative that the commission and its officers understand the effects of trauma on victims and their particular vulnerabilities and sensitivities. This includes survivors' susceptibility to repeated stressors, including subsequent betrayals, minimisation of their experiences, drawn out negotiations for compensation and other forms of re-traumatisation.
Child sexual assault is most commonly perpetrated by adults on whom the child depends and trusts – family members or other adults in regular contact through school, church, sports or other community activities.
In announcing research from callers to the 1300 support line last month, ASCA confirmed that for the vast majority of children who have been abused, the abuse was by someone they know.
Of those who spoke about their perpetrators, the research shows the majority, 62 per cent, were harmed by their immediate family and 23 per cent by extended family. Only 2 per cent were abused by strangers.
Other perpetrators include family friends (12 per cent), religious group (9 per cent) and teachers (5 per cent).
The safety and protection of children is an absolute priority. So too is the process of recovery for child and adult victims. When a person has experienced child sexual abuse they are prone to re-traumatisation, which can occur at any age, with trauma and its impacts being compounded over time.
When a child is sexually abused the child takes on an inappropriate sense of shame and self-blame, and these feelings often continue into adult life.
Even though survivors may want to talk about their feelings, their own shame, as well as fear of how others will respond, can stop them from doing so.
Overcoming the shame of child sexual assault and speaking out takes courage and fortitude. It means facing the betrayal of those who perpetrated the abuse and those who were complicit in protecting them.
Those conducting this commission of inquiry need to be informed about trauma to minimise the potential for re-traumatisation.
That said, the vast majority of survivors and survivor organisations welcome the royal commission as an opportunity to be heard, to see justice done and to influence real change.
Offering a choice to provide public or private testimony would enable more survivors to break the secrecy and silence of child sexual assault, to feel empowered and understood. Being listened to and being believed can be an important step in the recovery process. Genuine and heart-felt apologies, as well as a process of redress, can also go some way towards starting that process.
Let's seize the opportunity to work together to achieve that end.
Dr Cathy Kezelman is president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse.
Sex Trafficking In Hotels
(Video on site)
ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – Nuns, hookers and babies all come together in tonight's story about sex trafficking. Chris Hayes explains how these three worlds converge in his ongoing expose on prostitution in St. Louis.
It happened through Kim Ritter, who coordinates travel and convention events for nuns. One day the nuns told her to pressure the places pimps use most — hotels.
Ritter explained, “I was able to go online, go to Backpage.com and identify these hotel rooms by the throws in the room, by the curtains, by whatever was outside of their window.”
Almost every online sale of a human body shows a picture taken at a hotel or motel. Sometimes you can even see St. Louis landmarks in the background — like the Ed Jones Dome and the old St. Louis Courthouse.
Ritter said, “If we could just get all of the hotels to stand together, we could beat this.”
She brokered a groundbreaking pact with the Millennium Hotel, which courageously put fears of bad public relations behind `doing the right thing.` The hotel trained every employee to look for sex trafficking. Now both downtown St. Louis Hilton's are beginning training.
Ritter pressures other hotels with the backing of thousands of nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph. She added, “To let traffickers know we`re all watching for you. We won`t allow girls to be sold in our city.”
Pimps continue using rental rooms to make thousands in one night. They sold Tiffany Piper in hotels. Piper later told her mom, Shannon Tanner who told us, “When she got there, it was a hotel with ten other women who were prostitutes and he expected her to stay with them and I guess she had to for some time.”
To mother`s horror, she said Tiffany took her child. She said, “Every day we worry and wonder because we didn`t have any proof what she was doing. All we had was our feelings this was what`s going on, but we didn`t have any proof yet. We`re very worried about the baby.”
When mom finally learned the truth, police told her that Tiffany was also selling others humans, two 17 year old high school girls, out of a St. Peters motel. Piper`s in jail while Mom and Grandmom now care for the child. Former prostitute Katie Rhoades now rescues sex slaves. She remembers hopping from hotel to hotel, seeing hookers with kids.
I asked, “What happens to those babies, do they get sold into that trade?
Rhoades responded, “It`s uhm, yeah, yeah, that`s something. (She tries to keep from breaking down, then adds) I do wonder what happened to those kids. A friend of mine, she didn`t go with me to California, but she had a daughter who was involved in this life and I would go back year after year and check on her and when I got out she would still be there and she had a daughter who was about 6 when I left. I think about them a lot. I think a lot about the kid and the life that the kid is leading.”
Rhoades now works with Kim Ritter, training hotel and motel employees how to spot sex trafficking. Rhoades remembers how she could`ve been rescued, when hotel staff kicked her out of a room her pimp failed to pay for. Rhoades said, “Even if they would`ve said `what`s going on?` I probably would have spilled it because I was so angry.”
You can ask your next hotel if they`re trained. The easiest way? Ask if they`ve signed the `ECPAT` code of conduct, which stands for `End Child Pornography and Trafficking.'
Watch previous segment: Fighting Sex Trafficking In St. Louis High Schools
The Links takes on human trafficking
Over 200 influential black women and other high profile members of the Atlanta community gathered Saturday for a panel discussion of Human Trafficking, more specifically the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). This forum was organized by the Buckhead/Cascade City Chapter of The Links, a national volunteer organization whose members are primarily accomplished, dedicated, African American women.
Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a Links member, was the moderator. During her time in office, Atlanta was ranked at the top of the list of sex trafficking cities in the US, a ranking that would make any Mayor cringe. The distinguished panel of internationally recognized experts on this topic included former Fulton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Nina R. Hickson, EVP of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights Deborah Richardson, Assistant US Attorney Nekia Hackworth, and Lisa Williams, the Founder and President of Living Water for Girls.
When asked why The Links had made a decision to host this event, Gloria Patterson, Chairperson of the chapter's National Trends Facet said “When we realized how big this problem is, how many of our children are being sexually exploited for money in this country, how could we not do something?” She also indicated that this was the first event devoted to this topic, and that it would serve as a conversation starter and a call to action for the members and friends of The Links.
The event began with a video produced by Living Waters. Audience members heard first hand from an exploited teen girl about the horrible world of trafficked children. She was a “normal” teenager, experiencing the typical turmoil and family drama that come with growing up; and, like many, she decided that she would be happier and better off if she left home. What she didn't realize was that teenagers who are out on their own have to figure out how to eat and where to live, and the streets are not the friendliest place. Her world took a turn for the worse when she met a man who offered to help her and take care of her. Ultimately, she became one of the teen prostitutes in his “family” and he was a violent, controlling pimp who forced her to have sex with multiple men on a daily basis. She was one of the lucky ones. An arrest led her to the saviors at Living Waters, and they helped her escape prostitution and reconnect with her family.
Thousands of other girls in metro Atlanta are not so lucky. The average “Daddy,” what most of us refer to as a pimp, has a stable of 6 or more young girls who are given a nightly quota of $1000. They earn their quota $200 at a time at the hands of men who buy them on the internet much the way they would buy a pizza. Websites devoted to this $32 billion, yes billion , business are making more money than Wal-Mart; and the more than 20 million victims around the world are bought, sold and delivered much like any other online purchase. Our Congress believes that shutting these sites down would violate the First Amendment. If you disagree, take a stand and write your Senator or your Representative to share your opinion.
The panel discussion was largely devoted to sharing of information and educating the audience; but each panelist was asked what they wanted people's “take-away” to be. Judge Hickson encouraged each person in the room to leave with a commitment to do something to make a difference, something that would have an impact. Ms. Richardson suggested that the group mobilize to “… raise public awareness and outrage so that no man can ever be allowed to pay for sex with a child.” Ms. Williams made an emotional plea to the audience “Know that she is a child, she is our daughter. Know that rescue is not a singular act. We must not only rescue her, but provide her with a permanent way out. Who are those demanding to rape our girls for profit? Look to your right and to your left because that person could be sitting next to you in your pew, in your cubicle at work, in your neighborhood.” Ms. Hackworth reminded the audience that these girls who are trafficked are just like each of us, they have hopes and dreams and want a good life; but one wrong choice can change the course of their life forever. “…but for the grace of God, it could have been any one of us in this room.”
Several firm calls to action were also issued to the group. First, all attendees were informed about the EPCAT Code, which is an international coalition of businesses in the travel and tourism industry who are united to protect children from sex trafficking. Attendees were encouraged to check the list whenever they are travelling and/or planning a meeting; and to only patronize businesses who are on the list. Second, attendees were encouraged to act if they think a child may be a victim. Said one panelist, “Sometimes these victims are hiding in plain sight. They may be attending school, but you could notice a sudden change in the way they dress or act, or their grades may start slipping.” Attendees were also told that pimps tend to brand their victims, so a neck tattoo with a man's name is a sign.
Ms. Hackworth shared a resource piece from the UN Office on Drugs & Crime called Human Trafficking Indicators, and asked the audience to read it over and to make the call to authorities if they were ever suspicious of a situation. “Authorities receive these calls all the time and they know how to respond. 20% of these calls are accurate, so it's important to call even if you're unsure. A child's life may be at stake.”
At the end of the forum, audience members were alarmed at what they'd learned; and most felt called to respond in some way. Said one attendee “This is too big and too important to ignore. I would like to get involved with helping the victims and educating the public so that we can end this travesty.”
The Links is a very influential organization that has an opportunity to mobilize volunteers all over the country to end this scourge on society. The call to action has been made, and there are hundreds of thousands of victims in our country waiting for that call to be answered.
Palm City activist works to bring to light Florida's big human trafficking problem
by Isadora Rangel
Two years ago, 26-year-old Noel Thomas decided to become what he calls a "full-time abolitionist."
He quit looking for a "real job" using his degree in small-business administration and instead founded a nonprofit organization, Redeem the Shadows, to fight human and sex trafficking on the Treasure Coast and in Florida.
The Palm City resident is trying to bring awareness to an almost invisible issue and working to train people on how to spot young people who might be forced or coerced into prostitution. His big dream, however, is to open a rehabilitation home for trafficking victims in Stuart.
Human trafficking is the use of coercion or force for the purpose of controlling victims into performing prostitution or forced labor. Because the Treasure Coast is between Miami and Orlando, two major trafficking hubs, that makes it an attractive spot for traffickers, Thomas said. Some cases include the exploitation of migrant workers in rural parts of the three-county area. In 2005, Fort Pierce police raided five brothels that were suspected of trafficking women from the Dominican Republic.
Thomas has taken on the challenge to try to raise at least $500,000 needed annually to run a rehabilitation home, which a donor already provided. He has raised about $8,000 through campaigns on social media websites.
His biggest fundraising event is a gala planned for Nov. 15.
Finding donors with big money has been difficult because most people prefer to give to bigger organizations such as United Way, Thomas said. But running a nonprofit — like a small business, Thomas added — is all about taking risks.
"I consider myself to be a social entrepreneur and I think there's a small percentage of the population that has an entrepreneurial mind set," he said. "Part of it comes from being a risk-taker and seeing the macro picture and dreaming."
Thomas' first encounter with human trafficking happened during a trip to Europe, where he picked up a flier about the issue during a social justice conference. He was surprised by the statistics — 27 million people are enslaved around the world, according to the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking — and decided to investigate the problem firsthand.
He and a few friends went to India, one the largest human trafficking hubs in the world, to shoot a short documentary.
They drove an SUV down an alley in New Delhi with a camera tucked under a jacket. On one side of the alley, young girls locked in brothels pressed their faces against iron bars. On the other side, pimps negotiated prices with older men, Thomas said.
He started Redeem the Shadows a few months after returning from India and runs it with the help of 10 volunteers.
The organization's initial focus was to combat trafficking in India. But upon hearing that young people in the United States are sold into sex labor — sometimes by their own relatives — Thomas decided to tackle the issue locally.
Florida is the third-largest human trafficking hub in the country, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. The state has toughened its anti-trafficking laws recently and now designates and tracks convicted sex traffickers as registered sex offenders. A plan to work with community-based organizations to build safe homes for victims is in the works.Though social activism hasn't always been a part of his life, Thomas always has been entrepreneurial.At 10, he started breeding and selling python and corn snakes out of his home. At 18, he started a window cleaning business, which he quit when he started Redeem the Shadows. At 21, he started a record label that hired three local bands before Thomas shut it down for lack of money.
"It seemed like he was going to be business-minded," said his mother, Mary Thomas, "but I saw the process coming. He has a big heart and feels you're supposed to help others."
Thomas was home-schooled and taught himself to play keytar, a keyboard supported by straps like a guitar. He was part of an electro-pop band and a Christian rock band that found commercial success. A European tour led Thomas to the conference on social justice and that life-changing flier about human trafficking.
"What 14-, 15-year-old child truly wants to be a prostitute?" Thomas said. "I've seen from every victim I've worked with that it's usually through fear and coercion that they were pushed into it."
To make ends meet while fighting against that coercion, Thomas works part-time at Palm City Presbyterian Church and is writing a book about social movements. He also is planning a social media website where people can share and fund social movement projects. He calls it the "Craigslist of social justice."
He surfs in Costa Rica and hangs out at local bars, but no matter what he's doing, Thomas said he is on the lookout for someone to help his cause.
"I hope there is one person out there with the right resources who will be willing to fund these ideas to make lasting change," Thomas said. "I know that people want to see results and to see them locally."
Mississippi legislators consider 'Erin's Law' to curb child abuse
by The Associated Press
JACKSON, Mississippi -- "Erin's Law" is described as a tool to keep sexual predators away from children. Four states -- Maine, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri -- have enacted it and a dozen more may consider it in 2013.
Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, and Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, want Mississippi to be among them. They're drafting a bill for 2013 with help from the Children's Justice Center.
"The goal," Miles said, "is to make Mississippi a safe place for our children."
The law's namesake is Erin Merryn, a 27-year-old woman from Schaumburg, Ill., who was sexually abused as a child and now campaigns for increased education to protect children from sexual predators.
The law would require schools to create lessons to help children understand and talk about sexual abuse.
Supporters say teachers and administrators may be best positioned to identify children who are abused at home. The proposed law would also have teachers work with groups that help victims of sexual abuse.
Miles says material presented small children -- kindergarten to fifth grade -- would be age-appropriate and comply with research on child abuse.
Miles says he and Collins support a program that educates children "to know when they are being messed with and that they can go to an authority figure and not be scared to report it."
"It's also a deterrent to sexual predators who will now know that they will be reported to authorities," Miles said.
He said the law also should help child advocacy centers and social workers.
Mississippi courts recognize the "tender years exception" that applies to both hearsay rules and Sixth Amendment confrontation issues. The exception allows a parent or licensed professional to tell juries what abused children have told them, including descriptions of any sexual contact performed with or on the child by another person.
The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence says 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday, and the Crimes Against Children Research Center shows 93 percent of those cases are abuse from someone they know and trust.
Merryn speaks to audiences around the country -- as she did in Tupelo recently -- about being sexually abused as a child by an authority figure and a family member and not knowing how to tell anyone because of shame and fear of being in trouble. She has used her experiences and books about them as a platform for change.
The issue of child abuse made headlines with the scandal at Penn State and the failure of the Boy Scouts of America to report sexual abuse of children.
In Mississippi, a former Boy Scouts of America volunteer was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for having sex with boys. This past week, a federal grand jury in Mississippi indicted two men on charges of sexually assaulting a 3- or 4-year-old girl and recording it.
Rebecca Mansell with the Children's Justice Center says the Penn State scandal brought to focus the vulnerability of young children. She said it showed predators "usually target children from a single family, offering them something they normally couldn't receive."
"I see Erin's Law as a way to reach our younger children ... that our youngest children should know what the appropriate boundaries are with adults," Mansell said.
Mansell said schools are the proper forum for the program because "our teachers see more of our children than many of us do and teachers will report something quicker than anyone else."
Mansell said the Children's Justice Center intends to purchase the educational program, change it for Mississippi and make it available free online.
Colorado child abuse program failing
DENVER (AP) — Many of Colorado's child abuse workers are inexperienced and overwhelmed and at times failed to take basic steps to protect children, according to a report in the Denver Post.
The newspaper says (http://tinyurl.com/b78rey9) workers failed to follow state policy at least half of the time when assigned to protect a child who later died of abuse or neglect.
The mistakes ranged from paperwork problems to not visiting a child within the time required. There also reports that workers dismissed abuse allegations prior to the child's death without investigating.
Over the past six years, 72 children in the child welfare system in Colorado have died.
Colorado Department of Human Services director Reggie Bicha says there is no way to determine the best caseload ratio.
Local teens help fight child abuse
by Doug Walker
Teenagers from all seven high schools across Floyd County turned out on a blustery Sunday afternoon to raise funds to benefit victims of child abuse.
The second annual Harbin Clinic Pediatrics Torch Relay 4 Kids at Darlington's Chris Hunter Stadium benefited Harbor House
, the Rome-based child advocacy center.
“Our state network came up with this idea a couple of years ago and asked that every center like ours around Georgia do some kind of relay for kids,” said Harbor House Director Gail Garland. “We were the only center in the state to get excited about it, and it's because we knew we had great high schools who would be a part of it.”
Garland's goal was to raise $4,000.
Each of the schools ran a half-mile at a time, in alphabetical order, until representatives from each of the schools had completed a total of two miles. Precious Knight, a runner from Rome High, said it was a lot of fun.
“It shows the community kids our age do care about things like this,” Knight said.
Dr. Todd Kelley, a pediatrician with Harbin Clinic, ran along with the teens. He said the emotional trauma associated with child abuse could have an impact for many years.
“The psychological impact is going to be much more of a problem, and that's where the Harbor House helps with proper follow-up,” said Kelley, “That could involve a psychologist or a social worker or whatever the child needs. It can go on for weeks, or months and sometimes years, depending on the extent of the situation.”
Matt Towe, a runner from Coosa High, and Kylee Daitz from Armuchee said they felt it was important to help Harbor House do its work.
The chance to take positive action also resonated with Laura Graben from Model High.
“It's good to be involved in the community and reach out to help others,” she said. “It's a good message for other teenagers and for our school.”
Students from Darlington, Unity Christian and Pepperell also participated.
Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, Terrie Hess House work to help children
Prevent Child Abuse Rowan began as a grassroots organization following the first Child Abuse Prevention Walk held in 1997 and subsequently incorporated in 2000 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse in Rowan County through volunteerism, education and advocacy. Prevent Child Abuse Rowan strives to:
• Build a citizen-based network to organize child abuse prevention efforts;
• Educate about child abuse and prevention strategy;
• Advocate for policies and programs concerned with the well-being of children and families;
• Ensure that child abuse prevention services are available to all.
Since serving the first child in March 2005, the Terrie Hess House has provided for more than 577 children to date. More than 100 children have received our services each year for the past 2 years. Family members benefit from our services as well. Non-offending family members include the other children in the household as well as the primary caregivers including parents and grandparents.
With children advocacy centers like the Terrie Hess House in most counties, North Carolina has continued to see an improvement in how child abuse and neglect cases have been handled by the judicial process.
Prevent Child Abuse Rowan has worked diligently and been steadfast in maintaining the child advocacy center of Rowan County. The Terrie Hess House needs continued and increasing interest in supporting local efforts to serve and protect children.
Today Prevent Child Abuse Rowan is a nonprofit child advocacy center that gives abused children and teens long-lasting ways to survive and cope through a compromised time or era in their life. The agency processes child abuse cases by conducting forensic interviews, medical examinations, case managed counseling and case tracking. It does this in a child- and teen-focused setting. We comfort children, teens and adults through a time of crisis when they desperately need and deserve assistance in a safe environment.
Our center is designed as a great place for welcoming children and teens with peace and comfort - a place where they can receive hope, joy and support. The Terrie Hess House provides a bit of refuge that aids children and teens overcoming a crisis. Rooms are provided for interacting with children and teens displaying games, art, toys and other activities that help pass the time when a parent, family member or caregiver is receiving our support or counseling. Values promoted are acceptance of the child and teen as an individual, building character, developing a mutual understanding that the center is a safe place where they can share with others, where teens can build self-esteem, make healthy decisions, and view positive alternatives to what may be at times risky behavior. Our center is a place that will help strengthen a broken spirit.
The Terrie Hess House, Rowan's child advocacy center, operates solely on donations and fundraisers and will accept gifts such as grants, cash donations, private nonprofit donations, bequests, professional services and in-kind donations (computers, artwork for the center walls, supplies for children and teens, office supplies, etc.). In addition, we need volunteers to help us plan and conduct fundraisers, assist with prevention education, and help us conduct all of our services at the center.
We need the help of the community in monetary grants and donations to keep The Terrie Hess House open.
Terrie Hess House needs today:
• Monetary gifts
• Gift cards (Lowe's, Walmart, Office Supplies, etc.)
• Construction and colored paper
• Teen books
• Teddy bears and stuffed animals
• Individual snack chips, crackers, gold fish, juice boxes/bottles
• Bottled water
• Household supplies (paper towels, toilet tissue etc)
• Canned soft drinks
• Copy paper
• File folders
Examples of how we put your monetary donation to use:
• $75 provides a child with a forensic interview
• $100 provides medical supplies
• $100 provides a counseling session
• $150 provides a medical examination
• $200 provides lab work for a child that may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease
• $3,000 provides the resources for the a case tracking system
Gillard announces royal commission into child abuse
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has agreed to a royal commission into institutional responses to allegations of child abuse in Australia.
The royal commission will be recommended by Ms Gillard to the governor-general and the terms of reference would be worked on in coming weeks.
“I want to get this right,” the Prime Minister said.
“So over the next few weeks we will be consulting with the organisations that represent the survivors of child abuse, with religious organisations, with state and territory government to ensure the terms of reference are right.”
Mr Gillard said she had already spoken to the premiers of NSW and Victoria, states which are already pursuing their own inquiries.
“Both of them are prepared to take a cooperative approach,” she said.
Mr Gillard said any instance of child abuse was a vile and evil thing, she told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“Australians know, from the revelations that they've read in recent weeks that too many children have suffered child abuse but have also seen other adults let them down.
“They've not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser but other adults who could have acted to assist them have failed to do so.”
"Australians want to see action taken," she said.
"They don't want to see institutions fail again to deal with allegations of abuse. I hope that this royal commission can guide us to that place."
The terms of reference will include children that were in the care of religious organisations, state care and schools - private and state.
"We need to learn lessons about how institutions can best respond when there are allegations of sex abuse," she said.
Ms Gillard said federal cabinet was supportive of a royal commission.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon would work on the terms of reference, with the acting minister for families Brendan O'Connor.
“Child abuse is always wrong, always heart breaking, always distressing,” she said.
“We all want to do all we can to ensure that we do not see in the future institutions fail to respond if there are allegations of child abuse in their midst.”
The prime minister acknowledged it was an “incredibly complex and sensitive area”.
“Some people may want there to be the maximum public airing of what happened to them - that might be biggest healing that they could have.
“For others, I imagine that standing somewhere public and telling their story would be their version of hell.
“This will have to be dealt with sensitively and be a job for the commission to work through.”
She said a royal commission offered “the broadest sweep of potentials for the working of the commission”.
“That's why I've chosen it.”
She said they needed to ensure the royal commission process did not end up holding up prosecutions that may be underway.
Ms Gillard gave no timeframe for the inquiry but said it would take some time.
She also said she had spoken to the Catholic Church's senior cleric in Australia, Sydney Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell.
“This is a royal commission that would be looking across religious organisations, as well as state-based care and into the not-for-profit sector,” she said.
“So this is not a royal commission targeted at any one church.”
But Ms Gillard said her discussion with Cardinal Pell “indicated that he's taking a very co-operative attitude”.
Earlier today, the coalition said it would support a wide-ranging royal commission into the sexual abuse of children.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says such an investigation should not be limited to one institution.
Federal Labor backbenchers, independent MPs and the Greens have been calling for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to establish a royal commission into child sex abuse inside the Catholic Church.
The demand for a national response comes after NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell last week announced a special commission to investigate allegations of abuse by clergy in the Hunter region and a possible cover-up.
Mr Abbott says the coalition “would be prepared to support” a wide-ranging royal commission investigation into the sexual abuse of children.
“Its clear that for a long period there was insufficient awareness and insufficient vigilance when it came to predatory behaviour by people in positions of authority over children,” he said in a statement today.
“A lot of terrible things have been done, and a lot of people have suffered deeply.
“For these reasons, if the government were to propose a royal commission to investigate the sexual abuse of children, it is something the coalition would be prepared to support.”
Mr Abbott said any probe must be wide-ranging, must consider any evidence of the abuse of children in Australia “and should not be limited to the examination of any one institution”.
The community must have zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of children, victims must be allowed to heal and perpetrators must be brought to justice, he said.
Human Trafficking Victims Uncover Gem
by Ashleigh Ruhl
Long Beach resident Mary White works the streets every Friday night — she's one among a group of volunteers who hope to help women get away from selling their bodies for money.
It's been more than a year since White first organized Gems Uncovered, a company of friends from 7th Street Church (formerly a part of Parkcrest Christian Church) to volunteer their time every Friday night — no matter the weather. Members of the Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force also are involved in the effort.
This month, White says Gems Uncovered celebrated the opening of a drop-in center for women in sexual servitude. There was a ribbon cutting at 1140 E. PCH, and the facility is now officially open to the women seeking services there.
On the street, White — wearing a purple volunteer shirt and manning a table of snacks, hot coffee and gifts for the people she meets on the street — estimates that her volunteers have reached out to more than 1,800 women who have been sexually exploited in Long Beach. That doesn't include the many other people she meets who are simply in need of a prayer and a hug.
On a chilly night near Pacific Coast Highway and Long Beach Boulevard (which is just one of the regular locations where Gems Uncovered volunteers donate their time), White held hands and said a prayer for two men on the street. Two more women came up to her table and received gifts and prayers from another volunteer.
“These people know they can come here and this is a safe zone,” White said. “I'm never nervous to be out here because God is with me. We have to be here every week and be consistent because we are the only consistent thing in many of these people's lives because other people in their lives come and go.”
The work the volunteers do on the street is incredible enough, but White said she is glad the organization is growing and that the women she has seen on Friday nights will be able to go to the much-anticipated drop-in center.
“We just passed the fire marshal inspection, and now we are able to open our doors to the women who need our help,” White said. “We are using word of mouth and passing out flyers on Friday nights to let them know that services are available. They (the women) have been waiting for this.”
Since founding the organization, White's group of volunteers has grown from 10 people to more than 25 people (a few among them have overcome their own drug addictions, homelessness or prostitution and now are helping others). Now, the group will be able to offer professional mentoring, job skills training and counseling in addition to connections with other organizations or resources that can help at the drop-in center. The facility also will host healing art and dance workshops.
“These individuals who are caught up in sex trafficking have no voice about what is going on in their life,” White said. “Until they find their voice, we want to be there for them. We want to help other sisters in need to escape the cruelty and overall wickedness of what is happening.”
White says that her volunteers are there to end modern-day slavery by helping sex workers realize that they are priceless and that someone in the community cares about them. The organization's motto is: “Loving people to life … unveiling beauty and value.”
“We engage these women at first by giving them a gift,” White said. “We give them a compact mirror so that they can see themselves as God sees them… We hope that we can inspire them and instill in them that they are something valuable.”
Once she started talking to the women on the street (some of whom have pimps, but most are prostitutes working because it's the only way they know how to make the money they need to survive), White said she realized that what the women needed most was faith, love and support from other women. She said the women need to know that someone believes in them.
“We spoke with one woman named Tiffany, and we were saying how priceless she is, and she said, ‘No one has ever told me that I am priceless,'” White explained. “She said, ‘Remember my name and remember my face.' She doesn't want to just be a statistic. She has dreams, but she is so caught up in where she is that she can't get away.”
Christeen King, another passionate woman volunteering her time at 11 p.m. on a Friday night, said she is a part of Gems Uncovered because it's her way of returning the love that God has given her.
“I tell these women that God loves them no matter what they have going on in their lives,” King explained.
Gems Uncovered is asking for partnerships, sponsors and donations to help the drop-in center succeed. In particular, White said the drop-in center desperately needs a conference table that could seat eight or more people (right now, a folding table is being used). The organization also needs office supplies and beanbag chairs for group sessions. Travel-size hygiene items and nonperishable food items also are in demand.
For details about Gems Uncovered, visit www.gemsuncovered.org.
Women Took Pictures Of Children With Drugs
Deputies call it a case of great community policing as a tip from a photo developer lands two Leslie County women in jail on drug charges.
On Friday, police were told about pictures containing children doing drugs with help from adults. Leslie County Sheriff's Deputies traced the photos to a house where they found Tracy and Beth Ann Hensley living with Tracy's five children, all under the age of 5.
Police say the home was in very bad shape and there was no running water. 19 marijuana plants were found growing in the backyard.
Beth Ann is charged with growing and trafficking while Tracy is charged with endangering a minor.
All five kids were taken by social services.