National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse


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EDITOR'S NOTE: Occasionally we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

November - Week 4
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.


Foxborough schools, police, YMCA offer forum on child sex abuse

The Foxborough public schools, the town Police Department, and the Hockomock Area YMCA will offer a forum Monday on ways to prevent child sexual abuse.

The 7 p.m. meeting at the Ahern Middle School auditorium, 111 Mechanic St., will provide an opportunity to bring the community together to discuss the issue of child sexual abuse, learn more about its impact, and see what Foxborough can do as a town to prevent it.

No pre-registration is required, and all are welcome to attend.



Special DCFS team secures children's safety amid raids, arrests, crime scenes

by Christina Villacorte

It was midnight near the docks in Wilmington, and dozens of registered sex offenders rousted from their sleep stood against a wall, their hands tied behind their backs, as armed parole agents searched their rooms.

A helicopter gunship whirred loudly while swarms of police cars blocked potential escape routes.

Looking frightened amid the commotion were a young woman and her children - innocents caught up in the September parole sweep called Operation Safe Haven.

The older boy, 5, sat on his mother's lap, looking bewildered, not speaking, and Xiomara Flores-Holguin of the county Department of Children and Family Services tried to make him feel at ease.

"You're beautiful," she told him, in a friendly manner. "You look like your mom."

In years past, the family might have been left to fend for themselves.

Back then, law enforcement officers tended to focus solely on their criminal targets. Now, they ride out with specially trained social workers, who care for minors encountered in raids on illegal gangs, drug cartels, weapons dealers, human traffickers, child pornography rings, cults, terrorists and others.

"These are not your everyday social workers," said Emilio Mendoza, a supervisor of the DCFS' Multi-Agency Response Team.

They are on call 24/7, undergo training in tactical operations, and can quickly spot signs of abuse, neglect and danger to children.

"To this day, there's nothing like this in the country," Mendoza said.

On this particular night, MART was part of a parole sweep of three city blocks listed as the addresses of about 60 registered sex offenders, who are barred by state law from living near schools and parks.

One of the men happened to have company during the raid. While parole agents questioned him, MART looked after his girlfriend and her sons.

This collaboration between law enforcement officers and social workers was forged in 2004.

"MART started out as a conversation with a sheriff's captain who handled child abuse cases and then was transferred over to gangs," said Flores-Holguin. "He asked them, `What do you do with the kids?' And there was no answer."

"The reason we're successful is we're able to maintain integrity of law enforcement investigations," Mendoza added. "We don't compromise their undercover agents or informants and, in return, we ask that child safety never be compromised in order to maintain a case."

To date, MART has accompanied law enforcement agencies such as local police and sheriff's departments, as well as the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on about 8,000 operations.

They have rescued about 10,400 children encountered in raids and then handed them over to DCFS caseworkers.

Mendoza remembers a mother in Lakewood using her children as human shields to prevent law enforcement officers from searching their home. The father, a suspect in a crime, was hiding in a bathroom.

MART social workers persuaded the mother to let them take the children away. As the evacuation got under way, however, the father started shooting.

"The father opened fire on law enforcement, and they returned fire," Mendoza said. "This as our MART team is pulling the kids out the door."

MART social worker Yvette Vega recalled rescuing children from a father who participated in a drive-by shooting while they were in the backseat.

Then there was the father caught trying to escape through the backdoor of his house, leaving his toddler asleep in a room with black tar heroin and syringes all over the floor.

MART also took care of a 9-year-old boy who showed deputies where an adult had stashed three loaded guns in their home. One of the guns had been used in a murder.

They have found many instances of children being exposed to weapons and drugs.

Often, it is hidden in their cribs, closets and even milk bottles.

For parole administrator Joseph Martinez, who helped lead Operation Safe Haven, MART can be indispensable.

"Usually when we have these large operations, we like to bring them along," he said. "MART is able to assess the situation and take the action they believe is necessary for the safety of children."

Even after decades on the job, Flores Holguin is still shocked that parents would use their babies' cribs to store drugs and weapons, and teach their toddlers to flash gang signs.

"I don't know if I've seen the worst," she said. "It's a very scary thought."



Child abuse, neglect reports rise in region


Reports of suspected child abuse and neglect are on the rise in downstate Illinois, but even more alarming, indicated, or substantiated, child abuse and neglect cases in several Southern Illinois counties were more than double the state average last fiscal year, according to a recent report released by Department of Children and Family Services.

A total of 35 downstate counties had abuse and neglect rates more than double the statewide average of 91 indicated cases of abuse or neglect for every 10,000 children.

Southern Illinois counties on that list include Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Wayne and White.

Union County was ranked second in the state for the number of abuse and neglect cases with 345; Jefferson County was ranked third with 341 cases; and Saline was ranked seventh with 272.

“Statewide, about 1 in 100 children were touched by neglect or abuse, but when you look at some of these areas really hit hard, you see 1 in 50 children, 1 in 30, even 1 in 20,” DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin said.

The number of suspected cases reported to the agency in downstate Illinois increased by 5.4 percent from July through October compared to the same period the previous year.

The increase in child abuse and neglect rates reflects a decade-long trend, Clarkin said.

Ten years ago, DCFS received reports of suspected abuse of 61,930 kids across downstate while last year's total of 74,102 represents a 20 percent increase.

The increases in reports and indicated cases are likely caused by a number of reasons.

For instance, increased awareness of child abuse and neglect could account for increased reporting, said Linda Reiss, associate executive director of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, which serves families and children in 14 Southern Illinois counties.

Awareness increasing

“People are much more aware and more vigilant about saying something if they see neglect or abuse. I think people are more protective of children,” she said.

Mariah Hayes, executive director of the Court Appointed Special Advocate of Franklin County program, agreed.

“More people are aware that it is all of our roles to report neglect and abuse, so as a community we are getting involved,” she said. “People are stepping up.”

The poor economy and high unemployment in the region could also affect the rates.

“Unfortunately, we live in an area with high unemployment and a lot of poverty that sometimes equals high stress, substance abuse and domestic violence. So many factors come into creating an unstable environment resulting in abuse and neglect,” Hayes said.

Child neglect and abuse are “obviously a problem, not just for the children and families but for the communities we live in,” Clarkin said. “Over the past few years, as our economy really struggled, if there is no infrastructure in place to help families meet basic needs — seeing that children are adequately supervised, fed, sheltered, clothed — we will see a rise in numbers.”

As times grow increasingly tougher for some families, social service agencies and community resources that help families in need, such as food pantries and churches, can be stretched to the limit.

“Southern Illinois does a wonderful job — we're a very giving community. There is a lot of assistance, but it's getting harder to meet the growing need and that makes it difficult,” Reiss said.



Commission urged to hear prisoner victims of child abuse

by Judith Ireland

THE victims support group Broken Rites will call on the federal government to directly contact prison inmates and people on government benefits to make sure they are included in the royal commission on child abuse.

A Broken Rites spokesman, Wayne Chamley, said both groups were likely to have experienced high rates of child abuse but may not be inclined to participate in the royal commission, due to issues with literacy or low levels of trust in authority figures.

''They run the risk of being the forgotten ones,'' Dr Chamley said, suggesting that a letter could be sent to individuals.

He said about 40 per cent of prison inmates had a background of child abuse. Last year, a Department of Juvenile Justice report found 60 per cent of those in the NSW juvenile justice system had a history of child abuse or trauma.

Dr Chamley said he would raise the issue with federal government officials during a meeting on Wednesday, as Broken Rites submitted its feedback on the royal commission's terms of reference.

Submissions from individuals and organisations are due by the close of business on Monday as the government hurries to get the royal commission running by early next year.

''I think one would hope the government's going to be smart … about communicating with people that this is their opportunity [to have their say about child abuse],'' Dr Chamley said.

Broken Rites is also calling for about three royal commissioners, with one appointed as a ''truth commissioner'', who could travel ''to listen to the truth of victims' experiences''.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which has welcomed the royal commission, said there could be concurrent hearings and interim reporting to ''facilitate timely action on issues''.

The federal government released a consultation paper on the term of references a week ago.

It has said that late responses may be accepted.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, said details on the number of submissions received would be released ''after the end of the period for submissions''.

After the royal commission was announced the government set up a national call centre and email address so that people could have their details passed on to the commission.

A spokesman for Ms Roxon said that as of last week there had been more than 400 phone calls, more than 1000 emails and more than 6500 visits to the website.



New Australian Child Sex Abuse Scandal Involves Multiple Counts Of “Intercourse With A Child”

The defendant, who recently appeared in a Melbourne Magistrate's Court and who has not yet been named publicly, is charged with 25 counts of sexual abuse, including multiple counts of “intercourse with a child.”

by Shmarya Rosenberg -- Australian journalist

Dan Goldberg reports that the new branch of the Melbourne Jewish community's child sexual abuse scandal involves 25 counts of sexual abuse, including multiple counts of “intercourse with a child.”

The defendant, who recently appeared in a Melbourne Magistrate's Court and who has not yet been named publicly, is not thought to be Jewish. The abuse took place at a Jewish organization which has not yet been named because of a court suppression order.

However, has learned that the organization involved is a Jewish community sports organization, and some of the alleged abuse may have taken place on a trip to the US approximately 10 years ago.

The accused pleaded “not guilty.” His trial is expected to begin next year.

The Office of Public Prosecutions reportedly confirmed that there are several complainants. Not all of them are thought to be Jewish, either.

“We understand why Julia Gillard made [the decision two weeks ago to call a royal commission to investigate child sexual abuse and coverups at religious and state institutions], but we are nervous for certain people in our community,” a Chabad follower, Timmy Rubin, who runs a mikveh in Melbourne told Goldberg. “Some people are really nervous because 25 years ago, they probably did the wrong thing…With [the Malka Liefer serial sexual abuse of teenage girls at the Adass haredi school several years ago], the problem is that nobody pressed charges, and that's why she got away with it. People whose daughters were mucked around with were furious, but they were scared to press charges because they didn't want their girls to be shamed in the community — that's the real tragedy,” she said.

“The fact that there don't seem to have been any abuse claims for a number of years now shows that the Jewish schools have tackled it and cleaned up their act,” Shlomo Boruch Abelesz, a former secretary of the Adass Israel community, told Goldberg.

For complicated reasons detailed in the professional literature, abuse victims usually do not come forward until they are adults, often when their own children reach the same age they were abused.

In the various Chabad cases of child sexual abuse at its Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne case, victims allege that Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, the head of Chabad in Australia until his death in 2008, covered up allegations of child sex abuse, ordered victims and their families to be silent, and helped alleged pedophiles escape or flee potential prosecution.

In a statement on November 14, the Chabad dominated Rabbinical Council of Victoria backed formation of the Royal Commission and “reminds the community that alleged halachic reasons to refrain from reporting abuse to the police or other relevant authorities are completely without foundation.”

But police and judges have been sharply critical of various Chabad leaders and the community, citing apparent lies, obstruction of justice and attempts to mislead.

That criticism is echoed by Manny Waks, the lead alleged victim in the Chabad scandals.

“The [Chabad] Yeshivah leadership has excelled in doublespeak: They inform the public that they are cooperating fully with the relevant authorities, yet in private they are engaged in the most vile and irreligious acts,” Waks said.

His family has suffered retaliatory abuse from Chabad since Waks came forward.

There are more than a dozen alleged Chabad victims already vetted by police and Waks notes that more victims who have not yet been vetted have recently come forward.

“I'm receiving more and more allegations of child sexual abuse coming from the Melbourne, Sydney and Perth Jewish communities,” Waks said.



Picking up the pieces

by Michele Morgan Bolton

FOXBOROUGH — William E. Sheehan was born in Mansfield but had deep roots in neighboring Foxborough even before he became a teacher there in 1962.

His grandfather, George Jones, founded the local Grange organization, while his uncle, Ernest Jones, was the town's first Eagle Scout. Sheehan's father, Edward, operated the town's first taxi. And William Sheehan established himself in Foxborough as a teacher, a Boy Scout leader, and a recreational swim program coordinator.

But in those deep ties is a terrible truth hidden away for decades: William Sheehan, authorities say, was a serial child sex abuser who has forever changed the town's psychic landscape.

In September, the town was rocked when the local police chief announced that eight men had reported they were repeatedly fondled, sexually abused, and raped over a period of almost 20 years by Sheehan when they were children.

By last week, that number had risen to 23 local allegations, as well as one in Florida at a Lee County Boy Scout camp that caused that state's Education Practices Commission to revoke Sheehan's teaching license there in 1990.

No criminal charges were filed against Sheehan in the Florida case. Foxborough police have charged him with nine felony counts of indecent assault on a child under age 14 and two felony counts of indecent assault on a child age 14 or older in cases involving four of the eight men who reported attacks. David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, said the Massachusetts investigation of Sheehan is ongoing.

But justice may never be fully served because prosecutors say Sheehan, who moved to Florida in 1981 with his wife and two sons, may be too ill now to face any of the charges that could be brought against him. Sheehan is in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease and may never be deemed cogent enough to be prosecuted, authorities say.

His son, Steven Sheehan, of Fort Myers, said he knew nothing about the allegations against his father.

“I have no prior knowledge,'' the son said. “I never witnessed anything like that or walked in on anything like that.”

He declined to respond when asked whether his father has a lawyer.

The statute of limitations has run out for prosecuting a number of the allegations. The alleged victims, if they want to pursue a case against Sheehan, may have no choice but to file a civil lawsuit.

As the case unfolds, Foxborough police Detective Timothy O'Leary says he believes it could grow to include as many as 100 victims, maybe more.

Police have heard allegations from the time when Sheehan first came to town, and closer to when he left, but in the middle there's a big gap yet to be revealed, he said.

Armed with a warrant based on four of the eight cases for which the criminal statute had not expired, prosecutors and O'Leary traveled to Florida in early September to arrest Sheehan. But when they arrived at the Fort Myers nursing home where Sheehan lives, O'Leary said, they found him unresponsive in a wheelchair.

By law, a defendant has to be able to participate in his case for it to go forward.

“We got a warrant to gather intelligence and place him in custody and then discovered he was ill,'' said O'Leary. “We had no idea. And yes, it was disappointing.”

O'Leary said the mounting evidence against Sheehan is clear.

“This guy was a monster, there is absolutely no sugar-coating that,'' he said. “It's Foxborough's version of [Jerry] Sandusky,'' the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach recently sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

O'Leary questions why Sheehan's name was not included in the Boy Scouts' list of ineligible volunteers and in the “perversion files” the Scouts made public last month about potential child molesters, since Florida's case for revocation of Sheehan's teaching license in 1990 was clear-cut.

Sheehan's registration with the Boy Scouts was suspended in 1989, after he was accused of molesting a minor employee at Camp Miles, a Boy Scout camp in Punta Gorda, during the summers of 1986 to 1989 by hugging him and rubbing up against him in the boy's bed, and while swimming and promising special benefits like a pay hike and a promotion.

Sheehan denied those allegations in Florida news reports at the time, and spokesman Robert Carpenter of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department in Punta Gorda said recently that any records of the case are long destroyed because there was no arrest.

Deron Smith, a Boy Scouts of America spokesman, declined specific comment about the case, but said, in an e-mail, “I can confirm that this individual is barred from participating in Scouting.”

In Massachusetts, the first allegation against Sheehan, who turned 74 on Nov. 19, was disclosed to Foxborough police in 1998, but at the time officials said the statute of limitations — which is 27 years from reporting, or from a victim turning 16 — had expired, according to O'Leary. Since then, the time frame to bring criminal charges has been frozen in cases where an alleged abuser leaves the state, giving authorities a better chance to investigate, locate the suspect, and file charges.

Sheehan taught at the former Lewis Elementary School, the Igo Administrative Center, Burrell Elementary School, and Ahern Middle School, all in Foxborough, from about 1962 to 1981. He was the swimming director at the former Cocasset River Park, and led Boy Scout Troop 70, now defunct.

O'Leary said Sheehan abused children at various locations including Cocasset River Park, the Ahern Middle School, the Burrell School, and at the Lakeview Road swimming hole.

“They have nightmares about him chasing them around and brutally raping them,'' he said. “It wasn't just touching. Those were the mild cases.”

Sheehan also abused children in his home while his wife was in the house, O'Leary said. Catherine Sheehan died in 2009 in Fort Myers.

O'Leary, a policeman for 26 years, said he knows many of the alleged victims and is determined to “tear away the veil of secrecy'' that has cloaked Sheehan, at the very least.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian represents four of Sheehan's alleged victims, now ages 53 to 59, and is investigating a fifth case. He said his clients were sexually abused between 1966 and 1979 when they were between ages 8 and 13. Crimes included repeated fondling, sexual exposure, and rape, he said. One victim was sexually abused on a scouting trip to England in 1969, he said.

“Some were molested for years, and two were molested 20 times each,'' said Garabedian. “In any capacity that he could sexually molest, he would. He knew no bounds. And I have no doubt the number of children he molested is in the hundreds, because pedophiles don't stop until they are caught, or become infirm.”

Garabedian said he is still exploring whether civil charges can be brought.

“Where were the supervisors, and why didn't they prevent William Sheehan from molesting children?” he said.

One of Garabedian's clients, Kevin Corliss, 56, of Norfolk, a 30-year Foxborough school maintenance employee, said Sheehan abused him from ages 8 to 13 in the schools, at Cocasset Park, the Lakeview Road swimming hole, and on scouting camp-outs.

“It happened to me too many times to count,'' he said. “But I'm moving forward now and there's no stopping me.”

Foxborough Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli, who is mandated by state law to report allegations of crime, disclosed Corliss's allegations to Police Chief Edward O'Leary after Corliss met with her in August and told her what had happened. Long before then, she said, the school district had been working on training to spot sex abuse.

“We have always believed that training is important, because as adults we are more confident in our ability to recognize signs of physical abuse and neglect and less confident on our ability to recognize signs of child sexual abuse,'' she said.

Detective O'Leary, who is not related to the chief, said Sheehan's former neighbors talk of an “abrupt” decision by Sheehan to move his family to Florida in 1981 that he attributed to job security under the then-new Proposition 2½ tax limit legislation.

But police suspect someone exerted pressure for him to leave, he said.

“In my opinion, he would have spent the rest of his life in jail on this,'' O'Leary said.

But Sheehan apparently left town in good standing. In his personnel file, former superintendent of schools Robert F. Weiss praised the 18-year teacher.

“Bill has made a great contribution to the youth of Foxboro, Mass., through his school work, Boy Scouting, and as a Director of the local swimming facility,” Weiss wrote in a reference.

He could not be located for comment on this story.



Child protection group calls for more advocacy centers

Task force formed in response to Sandusky child abuse scandal to release recommendations

by Bill Heltzel

After 10 months of deliberations, a task force formed in response to the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal will recommend that all children in Pennsylvania have better access to centers that specialize in investigating child abuse.

The Task Force on Child Protection will recommend that a children's advocacy center be located within a two-hour drive of every child in the state, said David Heckler, the Bucks County district attorney and chairman of the task force. The report will be released Tuesday.

"If there had been a children's advocacy center in Centre County in 1998 to 2000," Mr. Heckler said, "I'm telling you they would have heard about Jerry Sandusky then, and a decade of suffering by his victims would have been prevented."

There are currently 21 Children's Advocacy Centers in the state. However, they receive no state money. The nearest advocacy center to State College is in Harrisburg, a little more than an hour's drive.

Mr. Heckler, a former judge and state senator, said the task force will recommend sweeping changes, including new crimes, revised criminal codes and new policies. However, he declined to detail them.

Sandusky was arrested a year ago on charges that he sexually molested eight boys from 1994 to 2009. He often took boys he met through his Second Mile charity to Penn State University facilities. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

The Sandusky scandal called into question the effectiveness of Pennsylvania's child-abuse laws. For at least 15 years, Sandusky eluded detection and prosecution. As a former assistant football coach at Penn State, he was admired as a sports celebrity. As founder of the Second Mile charity for troubled kids, he was revered as a humanitarian.

When questions were raised about Sandusky's conduct, Penn State leaders engaged in what state Attorney General Linda Kelly has called a "conspiracy of silence." Three former administrators -- president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz -- have been charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and other charges.

Their lawyers have said they are innocent. A preliminary hearing for the three is scheduled for Dec. 14.

Protocols for teams needed

Pennsylvania appears to under-report child abuse, according to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The state substantiates abuse in 1.3 cases per 1,000 children screened for investigations -- the lowest rate in the nation -- compared with a national average of 9.2.

The Task Force on Child Protection was created by the General Assembly in January to review the state's child protection laws and procedures. Lawmakers, for the most part, have withheld proposing legislation while the task force met and deliberated.

One major concern was how child abuse is investigated. For example, police, social workers and prosecutors are supposed to form multidisciplinary teams in every county to coordinate investigations. Multidisciplinary teams are less likely to drop cases or ignore follow-ups, Mr. Heckler said.

"It's the accountability of having people from several disciplines looking across a table and saying, 'this is your job.'"

Pennsylvania law requires multidisciplinary teams, but teams in some counties do not meet regularly or have not developed protocols. Mr. Heckler said the task force will recommend "putting teeth into the law."

While multidisciplinary teams are the foundation of effective child-abuse investigations, children's advocacy centers are an extra layer of protection.

They are places, often hospitals, designed to help children feel safe. They employ doctors, nurses and mental health practitioners who examine and treat children. The child is interviewed once, by a forensic examiner skilled at eliciting crucial information.

"Children's advocacy centers ensure justice," Mr. Heckler said.

Pennsylvania authorities received 24,378 reports of child abuse last year, according to the state Department of Public Welfare annual report. The state's 21 advocacy centers report that they served 7,991 children.

About half of the state's 67 counties either do not have an advocacy center or have no arrangements with one in a nearby county. More are needed, said Abbie Newman, president of the state association of Children's Advocacy Centers and Multidisciplinary Teams.

"Children need to be brought to a place where they can be comfortable, as opposed to a police station," she said.

Money could be a hurdle

Mr. Heckler said it would be too expensive to put an advocacy center in every county.

Money could be an obstacle. The centers are expensive to run and Pennsylvania provides no funding.

Philadelphia Children's Alliance has a $1.5 million budget, for example, for treating about 1,200 children a year. The Child Advocacy Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh has a $500,000 annual budget that does not include the hospital's medical staff. The Bucks County Children's Advocacy Center operates on a $215,000 budget. The centers are supported by individual donors, foundations, corporations and federal grants.

"It always comes back to money," said Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, who co-sponsored the resolution that created the task force. "That could be a stumbling block."

State House representatives have proposed raising money by increasing fees for court proceedings, property records, or for background checks on people who work with children.

No task force recommendation will be enacted this year. This legislative session ends this month and lawmakers won't reconvene until mid-January.

The House Judiciary Committee would be responsible for drafting legislation that changes the criminal code. Committee chairman, Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County, estimated that turning recommendations into law could take two to three months, "if there is support for the laws."

The Senate Committee on Aging and Youth already has prepared a packet of proposed bills. Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, held hearings on child abuse last year before Sandusky was arrested. She said new laws could be approved in two or three months.

"As soon as we get the report and make sure nothing is in conflict," she said, "I think we will move quickly."

"I tried to go through these laws as if I were a kid who had been abused," said Mr. Heckler.

"I asked, how does each provision protect the child or cut the child off from protection. Hopefully, we've come up with recommendations that will help kids."



What happens after child abuse is reported?

by Alvin L. Sallee

A teacher sees circular bruises on the arm of a 6-year-old girl. Her schoolwork is going downhill.

The teacher knows she must make a call. The call she makes is to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Protection Services, 800-252-5400.

She also could have called any local law enforcement office or gone on line at If a child's health is being threatened at that moment, of course 911 should be called.

The child abuse system in the U.S. is only about 100 years old. The first case, Mary Ellen, was brought under laws against cruelty to animals, as there was no law against child abuse! Today's system is a complex balancing of the concerns of the child, parent, reporter (in this case, the teacher), society and accused abuser.

The teacher, as with anyone in Texas, must report suspected child abuse or neglect. There is no choice. See Attorney General Greg Abbott's “When You Suspect Child Abuse or Neglect” webpage for information. Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $2,000 (Texas Family Code, Chapter 261).

Only the Department of Family and Protective Services or law enforcement can investigate the abuse. Well-meaning residents might cause the child more harm or lose a criminal case.

When you report child abuse, you are protected from liability as long as the report is in good faith. The more information you can provide, including your name, the better the outcome for the child. Your name is never given to anyone but the officials investigating the case. Social workers are well trained to deflect questions from abusers.

Many professions are necessary to protect children. Social workers or caseworkers are the front line, conducting the investigation and providing services. Police and district attorneys handle criminal cases. Doctors diagnose and treat physical and sexual abuse and neglect.

Court-appointed child advocates are volunteers who review the child's situation and provide the judge a report, serving as their eyes and ears. Guardian ad liems are attorneys assigned to protect the child's legal rights. And judges have the ultimate say in the child's plan.

The teacher's call goes to a central intake, where an experienced social worker gathers information and prioritizes the investigation based on risk to the child's safety.

Risk factors are based on research, which helps decide how the Department of Family and Protective Services's limited resources are deployed. In this case, a worker would make a house call or go to the school within 24 hours.

Galveston County appears to have a well-functioning referral process with the school districts and the Department of Family and Protective Services. Law enforcement and the Department of Family and Protective Services cooperate on investigations, and the judges really get to know the family situation. That is not to say everything is perfect and children are always protected. Caseloads are far above the recommended levels, and there is a critical need for more prevention.

Children in crisis

Alvin L. Sallee of Galveston, director of the Center for Family Strengths and a visiting professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, is writing a series of columns on issues that face children of families in distress.


United Kingdom

More child abuse victims seeking help following Savile allegations

A RAPE and child sexual abuse support centre in the Borders has seen increased numbers of people seeking help following the Jimmy Savile allegations.

The Scottish Borders Rape Crisis Centre (SBRCC) says 44 people have asked for help since April – more than the whole of last year.

And service coordinator Dawn Osborne expects numbers to double following claims that the famous television entertainer sexually abused children.

She said: “Since the Savile case we have had survivors contacting us because it has triggered memories for them of their own abuse, even though it may be many years ago.

“Many rape crisis centres are reporting increases. All over Scotland it has resulted in survivors finding the courage to speak up and ask for help. I expect these figures to rise.”

She continued: “The main thing the Savile case has done is to open ‘the can of worms' and make people face the fact that this is happening and we must do more to help those who are or who have experienced child sexual abuse. Refusing to talk about or deal with childhood sexual abuse only colludes with the perpetrators.”

The Galashiels centre opened in July 2010, helping at least 15 women who had been raped and 12 who were victims of child sexual abuse between then and March the following year.

From April 2011 to March this year, 43 people asked for help, at least 21 for child abuse and 12 for rape.

Of the 44 this year, “a large number” were child sex abuse survivors, said Ms Osborne.

She explained: “In our data we have a certain amount of unknown abuse because survivors often find it too hard to name their abuser and they may also not be ready to talk about their experiences and not continue the support.”

NSPCC data suggests that nearly a quarter (24.1 per cent) of young adults experience sexual abuse by an adult or peer during childhood. More than one in three children aged 11 to 17 (34 per cent) who are abused by an adult did not tell anyone else about it, and that statistic rises to four out of five if the abuser is a peer.

Scottish Borders Council figures from 2010 show children up to the age of 15 make up nearly 18 per cent of the region's population and number 19,880 in a total of nearly 113,000.

Applying the NSPCC findings, Ms Osborne concludes: “Only a small percentage of those who have potentially been affected have disclosed or sought help so far. Although the number of people coming to us is quite a lot, there are obviously more people out there who will have experienced sexual abuse and might need support.”

She told us: “Childhood sexual abuse is a very hidden form of abuse and is still something people don't like to talk about or admit goes on. It is not just celebrities who carry out this abuse. The majority of perpetrators are family members or close family friends.”

Both boys and girls are abused, though girls more so, she said.

“Children are targeted because they are vulnerable, easily manipulated or scared, trusting and often not believed. They also do not have the understanding of what is happening to them.

“We have a duty to protect our children and provide support for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are often profoundly affected by their abuse for the rest of their lives.

“In our area, there are very few resources and services which provide specific support for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, and most of those that do need more support to provide the consistent trauma response which is needed.”

The centre aims to provide a safe, non-threatening environment, and provides free help to women and girls aged 12 and over who have experienced sexual violence at any time. It also offers phone support to men.

The service is holding a ladies' night with music and stalls at Quins, Galashiels, on Sunday. For more information contact the centre on 01896 661070.



Child abuse is being ignored by community, experts say

by Alex White

THOUSANDS of Victorian children are being brutally assaulted in their homes and experts are accusing the community of turning a blind eye.

Victoria Police figures have revealed 2915 cases where a child was assaulted during a domestic dispute last financial year.

Almost 650 of the children abused were under the age of 10. The figures shocked the state's top child advocate, Bernie Geary, who called on the community to report all suspected cases of domestic abuse - especially when children were involved.

Sexual and family violence unit Det-Supt Rod Jouning supported the call and said the smallest action by friends and family could save lives.

"These cases can range from neglect right through to homicide and everything in between," he said.

"There is a frustration, because these kids are supposed to be loved. In most cases it is the father or the step-father.

"We really need to look after these kids, it takes a village to raise a child, only the community can get rid of this problem."

In the past two years shocking cases included:

A MOTHER and her two children, aged 6 and 2, abducted by her ex-boyfriend, who drove a car at high speed into a building, leaving the kids seriously injured;

A 13-YEAR-old girl exposed to "sadistic" violence by her mother's new partner and forced to watch her mother's abuse.

Mr Geary, Victoria's Child Safety Commissioner, said neighbours, friends and family needed to help break the cycle and report domestic abuse.

"Often the community for some reason turns its back on domestic violence, which includes children who will be mentally and physically scarred," Mr Geary said.

"Domestic violence often involves serious harm to children.

"Police and protective services already work well together, but it is the community's responsibility to pass on the information and ensure all services are working together."

Since June 2007 police have responded to 70,000 domestic incidents where children were at the scene.



Abuse survivors flood helplines

by Jill Stark

Suicide helplines, psychologists and victim support groups are struggling to keep up with a surge in demand for counselling, as the royal commission into child sexual abuse triggers renewed trauma for survivors.

Callers distressed by media coverage of the upcoming inquiry flooded Lifeline with requests for help in the week following Prime Minister Julia Gillard's November 12 announcement.

The national suicide helpline - which usually manages 1500 calls a day - experienced a 16 per cent increase in calls, taking an additional 250 calls each day from abuse survivors, some of whom had never spoken of their ordeal.

While the number of royal commission-related calls has since dropped to about 40 a day, Lifeline chief executive Jane Hayden said the service is still over-stretched and warned demand is likely to increase further when proceedings begin.

"Callers are not coping with their own emotional reactions to the news and not knowing where to turn. People want to tell their story but they're distressed because the media coverage reminds them of what they suffered," she said. "We know that people who have been sexually abused run a higher risk of dying by suicide so that's a real concern."

Ms Hayden called for additional government funding to support abuse survivors as the royal commission - which is likely to run for several years - gets under way.

The plea was backed by Frank Quinlan, chief executive of the Mental Health Council of Australia, which represents 180 mental health services across the country, many of which are already reporting increased demand.

"I have been personally approached by people who are experiencing increased levels of distress in relation to matters that they thought had been put to bed a long time ago. It's important that we talk about these things but we need to be aware that it causes distress to people and that services are appropriately supported," Mr Quinlan said.

"We will be approaching government to make sure that the spike in demand is met because it's really important that people get a good response on their first call for assistance."

Kathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Childhood Abuse, said their daily call volume had jumped from about 15 to 60 calls since the royal commission was announced.

"Many people don't start to deal with their issues of abuse until they're in their 40s and 50s and some people never disclose, but as people give the example of speaking out others will follow suit so when the commission kicks off we expect an increase again in people needing support."

Ursula Benstead, a psychologist and counsellor advocate for the western region Centre Against Sexual Assault, said the centre was experiencing an increase in calls, particularly from men. "We had experienced earlier in the year quite a spike in calls as a result of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry [into child sexual abuse], now with the royal commission we're seeing a further increase and our service is already really stretched. We have a waiting list and often can't get back to people in the same day or perhaps even the next business day because there is such a demand."

The Australian Psychological Society has also seen a significant increase in the number of people seeking specialists in childhood sexual abuse through its online "find a psychologist service".

Heather Gridley, manager of public interest, said that while the scale of the royal commission may empower some abuse survivors it would be also be traumatic. "The secrecy around sexual assault in a systemic way like this is one of the biggest things, so someone's had to live with a secret, be blackmailed, threatened, cajoled into not telling and all those kinds of things. It's like sitting in a dark room and then you've been out of the dark room for a long time and suddenly you're back in there again so it's not surprising that it triggers such distress."

Care Leavers Australia Network, which represents people who experienced abuse and neglect in orphanages, children's homes and foster care, has been inundated with callers worried that their ordeal will not be recognised.

"People are highly anxious and contacting us saying what about all the floggings that happened to us, the criminal assaults and the unpaid labour we all did in orphanages, polishing floors and working on farms and in commercial laundries?" said co-founder Leonie Sheedy.

"We're talking about children having to eat their own faeces, eat their own vomit, the dehumanisation of little children. It looks at this stage that the royal commission will only look at the sexual abuse of children and that is triggering a lot of distress for a lot of our people who feel their experiences of abuse won't be addressed."

Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler said he understood that revisiting the past would be a traumatic experience for many and that mental health service providers may experience an increase in demand for services.

"The government is investing $2.2 billion to strengthen the mental health support system, including for victims of child abuse dealing with mental health issues," he said.

For help or information call Lifeline on 131 114 or Adults Surviving Child Abuse on 1300 657 380.


Black Friday bargain hunter leaves boy in car, goes home with TV but no child

by The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Police say a Massachusetts man left his girlfriend's 2-year-old son in a car while he went shopping for Black Friday bargains, then went home with his new 51-inch flat screen television and left the toddler behind.

Police, alerted by store security, found the boy asleep in the vehicle in a Kmart parking lot at about 1:30 a.m. Friday.

They forced their way into the car and took the boy to the hospital as a precaution.

Meanwhile, they tracked the man to his Springfield home.

He told police he lost the boy while shopping, panicked and called someone else for a ride. The boy's mother was working.

The 34-year-old man was not arrested and not immediately charged, but police say they expect to charge him with reckless endangerment to a child.



Old Colony YMCA to hold child sexual abuse prevention training

by Brittany Burrows

Stories of child sexual abuse are an all too common occurrence and seem to make headlines on a daily basis.

The Old Colony YMCA is partnering with Darkness to Light, a national nonprofit committed to ending child sexual abuse, to present free training to educate parents on how to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse.

The training will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Briggs Building, 207 Main St., Kingston.

“It's a child sexual abuse prevention training. It is basically a video with survivors telling their story in a very personal way,” Senior Executive of Community Based Child Care Kim Moran said. “There are three different parts to the video and a workbook that goes along with it. We talk about seven steps to preventing to abuse.”

The YMCA believes that everyone shares a responsibility to keep children in the community safe and is hoping to spread the knowledge so that sexual abuse can be stopped before it starts.

The training will be interactive, teaching attendees about choice, personal power, compassion and becoming conscious in a different way.

According to Darkness to Light, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays. Children are victims in nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults, and in more than 90 percent of these cases the abuser is someone the child knows.

“We basically do it to put awareness out there. It is out in the public a lot, so we are trying to get out there and prevent it from happening,” Moran said. “We want people to take action rather than sitting back and ignoring it.”

This program is part of the Old Colony YMCA's partnership with Stewards of Children and a five-year plan to increase awareness throughout the community. Moran said that the goal is to have 10,000 people in the service area (Brockton through the South Shore, including Carver) trained to recognize the signs and respond responsibly to child sexual abuse. The YMCA is currently two years into the plan.

The training is free but the Old Colony YMCA asks attendees RSVP to Kim Moran at before Nov. 30 to ensure your spot and let her know if you need childcare, space is limited. Childcare for children over four years of age will be provided, and refreshments will be available.


United Kingdom

Report: Thousands of children face sex abuse by gangs in England

by Laura Smith-Spark

Thousands of children in England have been sexually exploited by gangs or groups of men or are at high risk of sexual exploitation, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report, which calls for urgent action to protect young people, comes amid wide public concern prompted by revelations of child abuse by a former BBC TV presenter, Jimmy Savile.

There were 2,409 victims of child sexual exploitation in gangs or groups from August 2010 to October 2011, the inquiry by the Office of the Children's Commissioner found.

Another 16,500 children in England were identified as being at high risk of sexual exploitation during the year from April 2010 to March 2011.

Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, described the report, titled "I thought I was the only one. The only one in the world," as "a wake-up call" for the nation.

The report is based on the findings from the first year of a two-year study, based on evidence from the government, police, local authorities, health services, voluntary workers and young people.

Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz, who is leading the inquiry, said: "The reality is that each year thousands of children in England are raped and abused by people seeking to humiliate, violate and control them. The impact on their lives is devastating.

"These children have been abducted, trafficked, beaten and threatened after being drawn into a web of sexual violence sometimes by promises of love and sometimes simply because they know there is no alternative.

"This abuse and violence can be relentless and take place anywhere -- as they go home from school, as they walk to the shops, in their local park."

Berelowitz said the study found the majority of perpetrators were male and that they ranged in age from young adolescents to older men.

"The evidence is clear that they come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims -- contrary to what some may wish to believe," she said.

In a high-profile court case earlier this year, nine men were jailed for "grooming," sexually abusing and raping five girls, one of them only 13, in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The men were all of Asian origin and the girls were white, prompting questions over whether the perpetrators' ethnic origin was a factor in their actions or in the failure of local authorities to uncover the child abuse ring sooner.

The report suggests better record-keeping is needed in order for the ethnicity of perpetrators in gangs, many of whom are never arrested or convicted for sexually exploiting minors, to be tracked.

The victims come from a range of ethnic backgrounds but 28% are from black or minority backgrounds -- higher than previously thought, the report says. Of the 2,409 victims reported to the inquiry, 155 were identified as also being perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, in what the report describes as a "deeply troubling" overlap.

Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England, urged people to look out for the signs of sexual exploitation in young people around them. "Each and every one of us owes it to all victims to be vigilant, to listen and to act to stop the sexual exploitation of children," she said.

The report's list of warning signs includes children going missing from home, care homes or school; repeated sexually transmitted infections; committing crimes; misuse of drugs or alcohol; self harm and other physical injuries.

The issue of child sexual exploitation is in the forefront of many people's minds following wide UK media coverage of a series of scandals.

The furor erupted several weeks ago with the claims against Savile, who died last year but who police now believe sexually abused as many as 300 young women and girls, sometimes on BBC premises, in past decades. Two other men have been arrested in connection with the investigation.

Also in the past month, a BBC program looking into historic sex abuse allegations at children's homes in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s alleged that a Conservative, Thatcher-era politician, whom it did not name, had been among the children's abusers. Internet speculation over who that politician might be led to Lord McAlpine being falsely identified via Twitter. He is now planning multiple libel suits, and the BBC has already settled.

A number of government inquiries have been launched as a result of questions over how past allegations were handled.



Our View: Set a defense against child sex abuse

Players and parents of players on the Massachusetts Maple Leafs want the hockey team to continue competing despite the arrest and detention of the team's owner/coach in a Florida lock-up on charges of soliciting sex from teenage boys by computer.

Coach Anthony DeSilva was arrested at his Acushnet home last week, but he has been convicted of nothing. Nevertheless, other recent sex cases remind us how common it is for our children to be sought out and pursued by adults with dastardly, selfish aims.

Hardly a week goes by without scandalous tales of adult predators of children. This week, The Associated Press reported that Kevin Clash, the 52-year-old actor who portrays the beloved Elmo character on "Sesame Street," had a habit of "trolling gay chat lines for underage boys and meeting them for sex."

The Boy Scouts of America's secret "perversion files"; clergy abuse; Jerry Sandusky ... we seem never at a loss for such accounts of twisted adults preying on youth.

The sexual predation of children spreads like a virus, infecting and traumatizing the victims and their families for years, even generations, whether or not the crime is discovered and the criminal punished.

So many predators have proved expert at infiltrating youth organizations to gain access to children; children for whom the grooming process has already begun in our sexualized society.

But it's the protectors of children who should be grooming them — to recognize threats, to understand adult influence and power, and to let them know that when a youth has been victimized, sweeping it under the carpet keeps the predator free to attack again, spreading the social virus to more victims.

The Boy Scouts' creation of the perversion files early last century must surely have started with a desire to keep the "perverts" away from the children. The same logic likely contributed to the adoption of a "no gays" policy.

To the parent of a child hurt by a sexual predator, the desire to spare their son or daughter from further trauma may encourage silence in the hope that the pain will fade away.

As heartbreaking as it would be to learn of one's child's suffering, as heartbreaking as it would be to further ask the child to bring the traumatic events into the open, it could be multiplied over and over if left to the archives of private family sorrow, leaving the predator unscathed, free to victimize others.

In so many high-profile cases of institutional child sex abuse, breakdown occurs when organizational goals are threatened by the proper reporting and response to accusations.

The same dynamic is no doubt at work in individual families.

But our children need more than that. Real advice on dealing with trauma will help children and their families find a way to heal, and to bring appropriate consequences to perpetrators.

Our children need to see courage and integrity from the people and institutions responsible for their care and safety.

The Massachusetts Maple Leafs season is still young with dozens of games to play for the 18- to 20-year-old players, all who've paid thousands in tuition. But we have to wonder. As tough as hockey players are, as resilient as youth can be, what would it be like to play under the cloud their coach has left them under? Even if DeSilva is found to have been wrongly accused, his players will have been victimized by the case's notoriety.

That is the stigmatizing nature of sexual abuse and informed children, parents and leaders must play a role in diminishing it by instruction and vigilance before the fact, and courage after.



Police to investigate claim of sexual abuse 41 years ago

by Rachael Griffin

Authorities are investigating recent complaints from two Anniston residents who say they were sexually abused as children 41 years ago.

A division of the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office is investigating the reports from siblings claiming two family members sexually molested them on several occasions in 1971. The female victim, who is now 46, was 6 years old when the alleged abuse began. The male victim is now 51 years old and was 12 at the time he was allegedly abused.

Steve Robertson, a sex crimes investigator for the Calhoun-Cleburne Children's Center, says this isn't the first such case he's looked into decades after the alleged abuse.

“It's not unusual, I've had cases come forward from 25 years ago,” Robertson said.

Robertson said he is unsure why the victims waited so long to come forward in this particular case. He explained that allowing so much time to pass before reporting a crime doesn't make it easier to investigate, but the facts remain the same.

Normally when a child molestation case is brought to Robertson, the Department of Human Resources is also contacted and the child is referred to the Calhoun-Cleburne Children's Center. Since the victims are now adults, the process is shortened and Robertson can immediately begin his investigation.

Robertson said he is gathering information from those involved and narrowing down the exact crime allegedly committed. He said the abuse allegedly began when the victims went to live with their grandmother for the summer. The alleged suspects are the victims' uncles, one of whom is a registered sex offender, Robertson said.

Years can make the little details of an incident, such as the exact date or time, somewhat hazy for victims. Robertson's investigative experiences have taught him when someone goes through a traumatic experience like this that the event “still stays with them in their memory.” It's his job to piece together the rest of the missing information.

Once Robertson has completed his investigation, he will present his findings to the District Attorney's Office. From there, the DA will research statutes of limitations on similar cases.

“The variables are going to be the children's ages at the time and the alleged perpetrators' ages at the time of the offense,” Robertson said.

According to state law, there is no statute of limitations for any sexual offense involving a victim 16 years of age or younger, meaning the case can be prosecuted no matter how much time has passed since the alleged crime. However, this section of the law applies only to cases that occurred after January 1985. Therefore, prosecutors will likely examine any statutes of limitations which may have been in place while the alleged abuse transpired in 1971.

Even with the amount of time lapsed, Robertson said he is optimistic about the investigation.

“We've been pretty successful getting convictions on sexual assault cases,” Robertson said.



Advertisers to Fight Bill Against Trafficking

After many attempts to slow down human trafficking with stricter punishments for criminals and treatment programs for victims, legislators may get the civil courts involved, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

In a bill presented a week ago, victims from human trafficking can contest for civil damages against traffickers and advertisers. Human trafficking is prostitution of an unwilling person, normally under the age of 18. Traffickers post ads online through unbiased websites.

Senate Bill 94 is one portion of three human trafficking bills that were delivered last week. The two others, known as Senate Bill 92 and 93, would keep compensating for the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. That task force will be under watch of the Texas attorney general for an extra two years and establish a treatment program for juveniles engaged in prostitution.

SB 94 faces some stiff challenges. Victims can sue and request compensation from the trafficker and the original publisher whose ad led to the trafficking. Any website that does not monitor and remove trafficking posts on their pages becomes liable.

Legislators believe the proposition will see resistance from websites and those who believe it breaches the First Amendment.

“The thing they usually do is hire lobbyists to kill the bill,” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who co-sponsored the legislation with state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston. “But Rep. Thompson and I are very strong that somebody should not profit off of someone else's misery. There is a fine line on First Amendment rights and the promotion of criminal activity. But do you really want to be known as a site that charges money for slavery?”

Other places such as Tennessee and Washington approved laws to prosecute who promotes commercial sex acts with an underage person. sued, stating that this new legislation breached First Amendment and the commerce clause of the Constitution.

In 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated that the state amassed the biggest share in the country of sex trafficking calls, about 12 percent. Governor Rick Perry approved law SB 24 to bump the penalty for trafficking to a max 99 years in jail.

Victims are concerned that they are the ones being pursued as criminals.

“What I see more often is victims getting arrested. They don't go after the trafficker,” said victim advocate Dottie Laster, who runs a consulting service on trafficking prevention.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio couldn't believe the amount of money that website ads rake in thanks to trafficking.

Laster believes victims should be allowed as much time as necessary before filing a suit.



We All Must Report Child Abuse

by Adam Rosenberg

Elie Wiesel once wrote “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Sadly, as we learned at Penn State University, silence among leaders empowered an alleged child abuser.

The Baltimore Child Abuse Center sees more than 900 abused children annually. In 90 percent of these cases the children know their abuser, who is frequently a trusted adult such as family members, neighbors, coaches, and people who we believe will have children's best interests at heart but sadly do not. Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky shows us that the abuser can be anyone among us. There is a Sandusky in every neighborhood.

The sad lesson worth noting is the failure to help the children who were abused due to the silence of all those who discovered Sandusky's sexual abuse. There simply is no excuse that no one did anything to stop Sandusky. Were they all so afraid of being wrong to accuse, or even worse, afraid of the fallout if Sandusky's crimes were discovered? Their inaction wasn't really any different than [German anti-Nazi theologian Martin] Niemoller's famous quote that “When they [the Nazis] came for the Jews, I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.”

Abuse only stops when someone steps in and reports it. When all too many responsible authority figures turned a blind eye to Sandusky's abuse of a minor in a locker room, the “leadership” of Penn State all failed in their basic ethical responsibilities as human beings. Kids cannot protect themselves alone; adults need to stand up for children and to insist that abuse stops and something gets done about it.

Maryland Family Law states in several sections of its code that a “person … who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect shall …notify the local department or the appropriate law enforcement agency.” It doesn't get clearer than that. And those laws are in addition to the mandatory requirements placed upon health practitioners, police officers, educators and human service workers to report suspected abuse. These laws state that you need to report abuse when it's suspected. You call 9-1-1 and you call Child Protective Services (410-361-2235).

But what good are laws if citizens don't use them? It's time we stopped our collective communal inaction. Our leaders urge us to report suspected terrorists; it's time we report suspected child abusers.

Perhaps another quote from Elie Wiesel should explain what we must do as a society: “One person of integrity can make a difference.” It's time to be that person of integrity and stop the continued abuse of children.

Adam Rosenberg is executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, which will host free town hall meetings on reporting child abuse at 7 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the Y on 33rd St. in Baltimore and Nov. 29 at the JCC in Owings Mills.



Protecting the abused from further trauma during the Royal Commission

by Sally Hunter

There is great support within the community for the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. Many people have high hopes it will right the wrongs of the past and help us, as a nation, to eliminate future child sexual abuse.

But how will the Royal Commission affect those who were abused?

Research from Australia and around the world has told us a great deal about the impact of child sexual abuse. We know, for example, that people who have been sexually abused as children are 2.4 times more likely than others to suffer from a mental disorder in adulthood and have a higher risk of addiction.

In adolescence, those who have been sexually abused are more likely to become involved in risk-taking behaviour, and are therefore more likely to be re-victimised in early adulthood and experience difficulties in their intimate relationships.

We also know that disclosure is a lifelong process. This is because children often feel ashamed of what has happened to them, blame themselves, or are fearful they will be punished if they speak out, or they won't be believed. If the sexual abuse involves same-sex acts, the child or adolescent can feel a great deal of shame and confusion over their own sexuality.

These are powerful reasons why a child or young person does not want to talk about the abuse. So most children choose to remain silent for many years. As adults, they often realise that if they do speak out, there will be negative consequences for themselves and their families. Many choose to remain silent in order to protect family members from the reality of what has happened to them.

It may be slightly easier for children or young people to speak out, and demand justice, if the abuse took place outside the family or within an institution. But it's important to remember that it requires remarkable courage to make any disclosure, given the stigma that attaches to victimhood.

In order for the Royal Commission to live up to society's expectations, it's important the rights of those giving evidence are protected. Survivors of child sexual abuse must be treated with respect and their stories must be honoured, even if the person telling the story is not considered an “ideal witness”. Adult survivors should not need to prove they are of good character; they have suffered enough.

It's important people giving evidence are not shamed or questioned about their sexuality. The majority of paedophiles are heterosexual, not homosexual as is widely assumed. Paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder that involves sexual attraction to a child or adolescent and child sexual abuse is a crime – none of this has anything to do with the sexuality of the child involved.

My own research demonstrates that some people, especially men, don't want their identities to be defined by their childhood experiences. They don't see themselves as victims, or even as survivors, preferring to view themselves as more than their abusive pasts. As such, they may be reluctant to come forward to give evidence to the Royal Commission. But if do, they won't want to be patronised or be portrayed in any way as “damaged goods”.

Most people who testify will want to tell their stories and seek justice. They will expect the police to lay charges against perpetrators and those who have broken the law by protecting criminals. Provided this occurs in a timely manner, they should find the experience worthwhile and, to a certain extent, healing.

Of course, there are legitimate concerns the process will re-traumatise people, and this is certainly possible if the situation is handled poorly. But provided people are not coerced into giving evidence, the experience is more likely to be cathartic than re-traumatising.

Unfortunately, some people listening to the proceedings from their homes around Australia may become traumatised as they realise that what they are experiencing – or have experienced in the past – is wrong. This will include children, in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, who are currently being sexually abused. It will also include adults who have been sexually abused by family members.

All those drawn into the Royal Commission will be embarking on a journey through grief. Hopefully, they come out on the other side having achieved some reforms, some prosecutions, and some healing.

The people who will be failed by the Royal Commission are the children who are too afraid or too ashamed to disclose what is happening to them now, and who unfairly blame themselves.


'Right under our noses': Defeating human trafficking in Texas begins with schools, legislature

by Kelley Chambers

With 27 million slaves suffering around the globe, human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic. But in the United States - specifically in Dallas - it is a hidden one. On Nov. 13, a Fort-Worth based anti-human trafficking organization opened the eyes of the Plano Republican Women's Club to this ever-growing problem and showed how the state has become a hub for trafficking.

"They are finding kids who are very poverty-stricken, very hopeless, and they're hiring them to be recruiters for them," said Deena Graves, executive director of Traffick 911. "These are what we call 'throwaways' in our society. These guys are preying on vulnerable kids."

Traffick 911 is a team of people driven to stop the sale of American children into sexual slavery. Because the scope of the problem is far too large to tackle alone, the charitable organization meets with groups like the Republican Women's Club to educate and increase collaboration with schools and the local community.

In the past few months, Traffick 911 has fed information to the North Texas Anti-Trafficking Taskforce - which is responsible for 54 counties in Texas. Their leads have resulted in 22 felony arrests involving people selling children, Graves said.

"With every one of those arrests, there's a little girl," she said.

With the Department of Justice naming the I-10 corridor as the No. 1 route for human trafficking in the U.S., and I-45 and I-35 meeting with the interstate in Dallas, Graves said children are moved around constantly using these highways. A trafficker's goal is to get out of big cities like Dallas and into smaller towns or suburbs where law enforcement isn't as threatening, she said.

The average age that children are forced into sexual slavery in the U.S. is 12 to 13, but they can be abducted at an even younger age, Graves said.

Traffick 911 recently identified a 14-year-old Collin County girl as a trafficking victim. The girl - who at the time was being held at the Collin County Juvenile Detention Center - had been sold in six states within a 30-day period.

"American children are being forced into sexual slavery right under our noses," Graves said. "Once a kid is sex trafficked, they lose their entire sense of who they are. These guys take over every single corner of their mental space."

The National Human Trafficking Hotline gets more calls from Texas than any other state except for California, Graves said. With approximately 45,000 missing children in Texas alone - as of 2010 - it's easy for missing children to be sold over and over because no one is looking for them, she said.

In some instances, abducted children are actually used to attract children from both poor and affluent families. These recruiters can be planted in local schools via false registration, and are paid by gangs or cartels to befriend a classmate for the purpose of eventually handing her over to be sold, Graves said.

While these recruiters may or may not know the gravity of their actions, they are the first link in the human trafficking chain, she said.

"The truth is, it can happen to any kid," Graves said. "I can tell story after story of kids who have become victims who were just everyday kids."

By and large, many of the people on the frontlines for combatting this - school nurses, teachers, police officers, judges - either don't know the problem exists, or see it as just teens making poor choices, Graves said.

"How can you help a victim of a crime if you don't know what's happening in their life?" Graves said.

Traffick 911 works with schools, organizations and local government to train them in knowing what to look for and what to do if they suspect one of their students is a victim. The training is free and gives them the tools they need to increase both awareness and prevention.

According to the FBI, the average life expectancy is 7 years once they are abducted. This is due to many factors, including drug use, suicide, disease and murder. However, human trafficking can earn very high returns because there's very little investment. Sometimes, all it takes is a cheeseburger to lure a homeless runaway into the car, Graves said.

On average, a trafficker can make $200,000 a year on one child, she said.

Perpetrators can be military veterans, doctors, government and law enforcement officials - virtually anyone, including women and other children. They do not fit the stereotypical description of what most people might visualize when they think of a human trafficker.

Organized crime bosses and gangs also have a strong arm in this clandestine crime, Graves said.

With the normalization of commercial sex and the glamorization of pimping, society is driving this horrific crime against our children, according to the Traffick 911 website. One pimp revealed to the organization, "We don't have to groom girls anymore. Our society is doing it for us."

At any given time, there are 50 million predators on the Internet in search of a vulnerable child, Graves said. Those who exhibit problems at home are typically targeted, as are those who are depressed, neglected or hungry, she said.

Perhaps what is even more shocking is the lack of legal teeth the U.S. has when it comes to prosecuting traffickers. While 99 percent of children are never found, less than 1 percent of the cases involving those who are rescued are prosecuted, Graves said. Many times, the victims are put on trial for willingly going with these predators. That's why Traffick 911offers outreach programs for teens booked at juvenile detentions centers like the one in Collin County.

State and federal laws need to be tougher in order to protect these children, Graves said.

"These kids are sitting in our jail cells charged with the crime being committed against them, and they are not getting the help they need because of that," she said. "There's something really wrong when we have 45,000 missing kids in our state and no one knows about it. There are some huge, huge issues here that we have to get to the root of."

Republican Women's Club President Stephanie Casson was overcome by Graves' presentation and said she hopes her group can help Traffick 911 and other organizations increase awareness in Plano and beyond.

"It's a difficult subject to bring to the ladies, and I guess none of us had really thought about it," she said. "But we're always trying to educate and brings things out that they might be interested in. And I've been wrestling with myself, finding something that I need to get involved in. I think, actually today, that I've found something. It just breaks my heart."

By the Numbers

• The FBI named Dallas on of the top 14 cities for human trafficking in the U.S.

• A Texas study found that 740 young American girls were sold in a one-month period just online. More than 250 of these girls were in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

• 1 out of 3 children who become homeless are approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of hitting the streets.

• Running from Florida to California and through Texas, the I-10 corridor has been designated as the No. 1 route for human trafficking in the U.S.

• Human trafficking generates $32 billion annually for perpetrators, more than Starbuck's, Nike and Google combined.

• A Texas study done in February 2011 found that 625 girls were sold in a one-month period on websites like

Source: Traffick 911




The effects of sexual abuse go on forever


THE bravery of Hunter police officer Peter Fox has finally helped lift the lid on the widespread nature of the sexual abuse of children in Australia.

Within days of his interview in this newspaper and subsequent television appearance, the federal government called for a Royal Commission with almost unanimous community support.

Much media attention has focused on the abuse in institutions, in particular the Catholic Church, including what has happened within this region.

It is appropriate to spend time and money trying to uncover the extent of abuse within such institutions and the ways in which they did, or did not, confront the issue.

Community anger has understandably been directed at the perpetrators, as well as the institutions that failed so spectacularly in their duty of care.

It is crucial we must not forget the survivors. There are hundreds of thousands of Australians who continue to live every day with the scars of childhood sexual abuse. It is true many have had the resilience to successfully get on with their lives because their family situation was sufficiently safe or the abuse not so severe. However for many the effects have been profound and they continue to struggle.

Studies into childhood sexual abuse have found it to be implicated in a significant percentage of suicides, mental health problems, a history of drug, alcohol or gambling dependencies, criminal behaviour and difficulties in intimate relationships.

Indeed the effects of childhood sexual abuse are so broad they can impact on all areas of a person's life. Apart from the costs to individuals, the cost to the Australian community is breathtaking.

In a Kids First Foundation study released in 2003 it was estimated that the cost to Australia of neglect and abuse (including sexual abuse) was about $5billion a year. The enormity of the problem would indicate that a Royal Commission is well overdue. Indeed as many survivors are asking, “Why has it taken so long?”

Childhood is a vulnerable time and sexually abused children, including teenagers, have had their safety and integrity compromised. Contrary to “stranger-danger” warnings, the adult who abuses a child is most often someone known to the child and is frequently in a caring role. In other words, abuse is a fundamental breach of trust and an assault on the safety of the child. It is sobering to acknowledge that the person trying to come to terms with what is happening and attempting to understand it, is only a child.

Perhaps the most tragic outcome of childhood sexual abuse is that victims almost universally blame themselves. In their struggle to make sense of their situation abuse survivors often claim that somehow they “let it happen” or that there was something intrinsically bad about them that made it occur. That is why it is so important in recovery for survivors to truly understand it was not their fault.

For many survivors the struggle to understand what happens continues well into their adult lives.

The numbers who say they feel as if they have “dirty”, “bad person”, or simply “victim” written on their foreheads, visible to all, shows the level of shame and guilt adult survivors endure. As one survivor claimed “it is written in neon because they can see it at night too”. Although the most likely child sexual abuse scenario is of a girl abused by a male known to her, boys are more frequently represented when the abuse occurs in the context of an institution. Again the perpetrator is nearly always a male and is often a serial offender. This can give rise to the erroneous description of the relationship being homosexual.

Child abuse is child abuse, irrespective of the gender of the victim. These serial perpetrators often have hundreds of victims and are experts at grooming children, appearing trustworthy to other adults and skilled at covering their tracks. Clergy abuse usually targets the children of devout families and the loss of faith is often a cause of despair both for victims and their families.

Most of those who have been abused call themselves survivors, acknowledging that they are now attempting to move on.

As the Royal Commission proceeds we must not forget the survivors and neglect their ongoing need for support. It is one thing to acknowledge what happened to them but this alone will not be enough to help them heal. There is a desperate need for specific survivor-support services and for those existing services, such as in the mental health area, to acknowledge their role in service provision to this group.

Mark Griffiths is a registered psychologist with many years' experience helping male and female survivors of sexual assault. He led a workshop in Newcastle recently for male child abuse survivors under the auspices of


United Kingdom

How Facebook and social networking sites are used by child abuse gangs to groom victims for 'sex parties'

Thousands of vulnerable children are targeted through social networking sites, deputy children's commissioner warns

Report says it is 'rare' for abuse cases not to involve technology including mobile phones and computers

Labour calls for Facebook to be grilled by Parliament

by Matt Chorley

Gangs of child abusers use Facebook and other social networking sites to trawl ‘menus' of potential victims and plan sickening sex parties, a devastating report warns today.

Naive young people are ‘wandering round' in the ‘thicket' of the internet, which plays a central role in grooming and planning abuse.

Sue Berelowitz, deputy children's commissioner for England, claimed groups of men use ‘menus of girls' and warned that it was ‘rare' to find abuse cases where technology such as mobile phones and computers were not in some way connected.

This includes encouraging girls to swap sexually explicit images on mobiles, adults grooming children on social networking sites such as Facebook, and the viewing of extreme or violent pornography and discussing it during sexual assaults.

Children groomed online are taken to ‘parties', where they are drugged or plied with alcohol ‘so that they did not know what was happening to them', the study found.

‘This made it impossible for them to identify the perpetrators.'

The interim report found that 2,409 children and young people were confirmed victims between August 2010 and October 2011. A further 16,500 children were at 'high risk'. of sexual exploitation between April 2010 and March 2011.

In one abuse network, 2,900 vulnerable children were connected to the main perpetrator who used social networking sites to maintain contact with potential victims.

The report highlighted the case of Becky, not her real name, a 13-year-old White British girl, who was sexually exploited by a group of boys form her school.

When her parents were not at home a group of boys went round for a ‘sex party' which was advertised on Facebook.

‘Following the incident Becky was coerced into throwing further ‘sex parties' whenever her house was empty,' the report said.

Teegan, a White British teenager, revealed ‘a book being available with photographs and ages of all of the girls being sexually exploited by this particular group. Men could choose which girls they wanted'.

Aged 13, she was taken by a Turkish man to a variety of ‘parties' across England at several smart houses and ‘mansions'.

The report found groups of men aged 14 to 70 trawled Facebook and other social networking to groom vulnerable children and arrange parties where there would be raped.

Miss Berelowitz said: ‘We've found people who are perpetrating these terrible crimes against children up to men in their 70s, so sometimes they are organised, and yes, there are different models, so sometimes we have organised groups of Pakistani males in relation to white girls, but that is not the only model.

‘It is desperately important that people wake up to all the evidence. I've seen, for example, hard evidence from police. I've got a picture in my mind of an enormous piece of paper with photographs on it of victims and offenders in one part of the country. The vast majority of the offenders there were white, so everybody needs to recognise that this is happening in a number of different cases in various communities,' she told Sky News.

Social networking sites like Facebook have come under growing pressure to act amid claims they are used by perpetrators of child abuse.

Shadow Children's Minister Lisa Nandy told the Daily Mirror: ‘Companies such as Facebook and other social media should be called before MPs to explain what they are doing to stop this happening.'

A Facebook spokesman said: 'We have a zero tolerance policy for child exploitative behaviour on the site and such activity is rare.

'However, when illegal behaviour is detected Facebook works with law enforcement agencies such as CEOP to ensure that these people are brought to justice.'


United Kingdom

Internet porn and the rape suspects aged TEN: New fear for young after 24 police forces arrest under-13s for sex crimes in a year

Scale of sexual offences committed by primary school children revealed

Seven police forces detained at least one ten year old, Mail survey finds

NSPCC: Link between sexual assaults and easy access to online porn

by Paul Bentley

Children as young as ten are being arrested on suspicion of rape amid fears that online pornography is twisting their view of sex and relationships.

The scale of sexual offences committed by primary school children was revealed in disturbing figures from police forces across the country.

Twenty-four forces arrested children under 13 for suspected rape in the past year while seven detained at least one ten year old.

The figures, obtained by the Daily Mail under a Freedom of Information request, highlight growing concerns at the influence of online pornography on impressionable young minds.

Yesterday NSPCC spokesman Jon Brown said there was ‘undoubtedly' a link between children carrying out sexual assaults and easy access to online pornography, which gives them a ‘distorted picture of what sexual relationships should be about'.

John Carr, from the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, said: ‘There is already a widespread feeling that the internet is playing an unhealthy part in the early sexualisation of children and these revelations about the arrests of ten-year-olds for rape will add fuel to the flames.'

The Prime Minister has promised to toughen controls on internet pornography by offering a series of optional filters whenever a customer buys a new computer or signs up to a new provider.

But the Mail has called for much stricter controls which would see an automatic pornography block, with users having to ‘opt in' to view adult material.

The figures were uncovered in a survey of all 52 police forces across Britain.

Of the 39 that responded, 31 forces had arrested children between the ages of ten and 13 on suspicion of rape in the past year.


A boy of 12 raped a nine-year-old neighbour because he wanted to ‘feel grown up' after watching hardcore porn online.

With unrestricted access to the internet, the schoolboy, now 14, looked at explicit sites before taking the girl to a garden shed and copying what he had watched.

The shocking case, on the Isle of Skye, came to light because the girl started to feel ill and told her mother that she was scared she had a ‘baby in my tummy'.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard earlier this year how the boy repeatedly attacked the girl between December 1, 2010, and January 31, 2011. He also abused her in his bedroom while a 12-year-old friend watched.

The boy later confessed to police and showed them the hardcore sites he had seen online. Asked why he copied them, he said it was because of ‘temptation' and ‘to feel grown up'.

He was placed in a secure unit after pleading guilty to one charge of rape and two of sexual assault.

He will be closely supervised by social workers until the age of 18.

Seven said the youngest child arrested for rape was aged just ten while six said the youngest was 11, and 11 forces said the youngest suspect was 12.

Forces reported only the age of the youngest child they had arrested for the crime, meaning the actual number of very young children detained in each age group could be much higher.

According to the figures, 357 children aged 18 and under were found guilty of a range of sex crimes including rape, sexual assaults on other children, grooming, incest and taking or possessing indecent photographs of minors.

The NSPCC's Mr Brown said pornography was a powerful influence on this generation of children.

‘Some young people do not have an understanding of consent – if they want something they will go out to get it, whatever the consequences,' he said.

‘There is a definite link between this and watching hardcore porn. It is an issue of entitlement. If a child has watched a rape scene the same child might attempt to act that piece of behaviour out. The children talk about acting out what they have watched.'

One child abuse investigator said the easy availability of pornography was changing children's behaviour.

The civilian investigator, who works for a South East England force, said: ‘When we arrest juveniles for sex crimes we increasingly find they have accessed hardcore pornography.

‘This is often on their phones where they store videos and pictures to share with their friends. It is not something my colleagues would have dealt with ten years ago.'

In one case in Merseyside, a ten-year-old boy was involved in the suspected gang rape by three boys of a 12-year-old girl in a public park.

Avon and Somerset police also arrested a ten-year-old ‘alleged to have forced a friend to perform a sex act on several occasions'. Police in Essex, Derbyshire, Durham, Gwent, and Strathclyde also arrested ten-year-olds on suspicion of rape in 2011.

The Daily Mail's campaign for an ‘opt in' system on internet pornography is supported by the Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz.

Earlier this year, Mrs Berelowitz told MPs that online porn is turning children into sex attackers. ‘They have watched things and then they've enacted them,' she said. ‘It has definitely affected children's thresholds of what they think is normal.'


New York

Facing second sex accuser, Elmo puppeteer resigns

by Frazier Moore

NEW YORK -- Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from "Sesame Street" in the wake of an allegation that he had sex with an underage youth.

In its statement Tuesday, Sesame Workshop said "the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want," leading Clash to conclude "that he can no longer be effective in his job."

"This is a sad day for Sesame Street," the company said.

In a statement of his own, Clash said "personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."

As the announcement was made, a lawsuit was being filed in federal court in New York charging Clash with sexual abuse of a second youth. The lawsuit alleges that Cecil Singleton, then 15 and now an adult, was persuaded by Clash to meet for sexual encounters.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $5 million.

Clash, who had been on "Sesame Street" for 28 years, created the high-pitched voice and child-like persona for Elmo, a furry, red Muppet that became one of the most popular characters on the show and one of the company's most lucrative properties. Sesame Workshop produces "Sesame Street" in New York.

Clash's exit followed a tumultuous week that began on Nov. 12 with a statement from the company that Clash had requested a leave of absence following the charge by a man in his early 20s that he had had a relationship with Clash when he was 16.

Clash denied the charge from that man, who has not been publicly identified, calling it "false and defamatory."

Clash, the 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, acknowledged that he is gay in that statement.

Sesame Workshop, which said it was first contacted by the accuser in June, said it had launched an investigation that included meeting with the accuser twice and meeting with Clash. Its investigation found the charge of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.

The next day Clash's accuser recanted his charge, describing his sexual relationship with Clash as adult and consensual. Clash responded that he was "relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest."

In addition to his marquee role as Elmo, Clash had served as the show's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain. He won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.

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."

Though it remained unclear who might take over for Clash performing as Elmo, other "Sesame Street" puppeteers have been trained to serve as his stand-in, Sesame Workshop said.

"Elmo is bigger than any one person," the company said last week.



Philly couple helps survivors of child abuse tell their stories

by Carolyn Beeler

In the wake of abuse scandals at Penn State and within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the horrific details of child sexual abuse dominated headlines.

But one Philadelphia couple was frustrated by the lack of attention given to the aftermath of abuse. So, they decided to publish a book giving voice to survivors.

Joel Hoffmann, 30, is co-editor along with his wife, Nina. He was sexually abused by his stepfather as a young boy, and an account of dealing with the legacy of abuse has now been published for the world to see. Still, he's a bit edgy when talking about his experiences.

"It makes me uncomfortable talking about, it frankly, Hoffmann said. "But it's something I know that I have to do."

Hoffman first wrote about his abuse last year in Philadelphia Weekly at the urging of his wife, a senior editor there. Back then, he wrote under a pseudonym. This spring, he came out publicly as a victim after being frustrated by coverage of the Penn State crimes.

"It focused very much on the crime and on the sentencing and the most horrifying details of sexual abuse," Hoffmann said. "But I didn't see a whole lot about what it takes to come back from that."

The stories in their new e-book, "The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse," focus on how abuse affects relationships and intimacy for decades -- including an account from Hoffman on how his past abuse almost destroyed his relationship with his wife.

He said editing the stories was both disturbing and cathartic.

"I feel closer to these people than I feel to a lot of people I've known for a long time and have met over and over again," Hoffmann said. "There's no substitute for that bond. "

Philadelphia Children's Alliance head Chris Kirchner hopes the book will encourage former victims to seek help for psychological or substance abuse problems they may suffer in the wake of abuse.

"When we talk to adults about the impact abuse has had on their lives, most people are surprised by the depth and breadth of the negative impact that child sexual abuse can have on someone's life, and these stories echo that," Kirchner said.

According to Nina Hoffman, the project is Philadelphia Weekly's first book-length publication. It includes 57 stories from survivors and their loved ones, many from the Philadelphia area.

Their book is available for download on the Kindle now. Versions for iPad and Nook will debut in upcoming weeks.



Overcoming sexual abuse - a victim's story

by Ronnie Polaneczky

NINA AND JOEL HOFFMAN had an awful time conceiving their first child, a daughter they'll name Mia, who is due Dec. 22. Lack of fertility wasn't the issue. Absence of intimacy was.

Without getting too graphic, let's say that their young relationship (they met in 2008, married in 2010; both are 30) was not characterized by the kind of frequent and insatiable sex we associate with new committed love.

That's because Joel was scared to death to be close to Nina.

As a child, he had been sexually abused by his stepfather, who later pleaded guilty to child-endangerment. The abuse was so shattering, Joel slept with a knife under his pillow.

When he was just 11, he spent five weeks in a psychiatric hospital. He recovered enough to finish grammar school, high school and college.

But he had not healed. That process began when Joel met Nina in Temple University's graduate journalism program. She was taken by his gentle eyes. He was taken by her open heart. They fell in love and married.

And then hell broke loose as Joel resisted Nina's attempts to forge a deeper emotional connection with her new husband. The more she pushed, the more he numbed out. Sex stopped, but so did other communication as he went silent on her, for days.

They realized that his childhood abuse had left him terrified of vulnerability. They also knew their marriage wouldn't survive unless Joel did the excruciating work of healing - and if Nina didn't figure out how to stand by Joel while protecting her own spirit as he faced his past.

They entered therapy, alone and together, at Women Organized Against Rape as Joel relived buried memories and confronted family about the past. Step by step, he and Nina resumed intimacy.

And now, her swollen belly is evidence of how far they have come.

"I can't believe this is our life," says Nina, as she and Joel relax in the sweet nursery they've created for the baby in their Center City apartment. "Life was hell for us, and now it's not."

Their story is so much more painful and complicated than words can convey in this column. It is also more beautiful and redemptive. Thankfully, Nina and Joel tell it themselves in The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse . It's a collection of more than 50 essays by sex-abuse survivors and by those who have been affected by the abuse of someone close to them.

Nina is a former copy editor at the Daily News and now a senior editor at Philadelphia Weekly . Joel is a government worker and college journalism instructor. Together, they edited the anthology, an e-book produced by Review Publishing, which publishes PW .

The book grew out of an essay Joel wrote for PW about being an adult survivor on a mission to save his marriage. Reader response was so powerful, Nina penned an editorial calling for submissions of first-person stories from sex-abuse survivors, their loved ones and advocates. She and Joel had been so transformed by his healing process, they hoped stories of healing would give strength to others.

"Most survivor books are written by psychologists who use anecdotes from patients," says Joel, whose serious demeanor is countered by Nina's brilliant smile. "Or the book is just one survivor's story. We wanted a lot of voices, to expand the pool of people a reader might identify with."

While the details of the stories differ, most are linked by the denial that victims experienced from those who didn't believe that the crimes happened, or who looked away as it did. Others write of staying silent and dying within.

Reading the stories, it's clear that abuse doesn't damage only the victim. It sends shrapnel into those who suffer from the unhealed pain of those they love.

In Joel's case, Nina's love made him feel safe enough, for the first time in his life, to fall apart. But then he had to put himself back together, for the sake of that love. And Nina had to be strong enough to endure the loneliness of allowing Joel the space to reckon with his past.

"Joel is the bravest person I know," she says. "He clawed his way out of a dark grave to be my husband. People have such a warped idea of what love is and what it is supposed to look like. But sometimes love means you have to do really hard things. It's ugly and sometimes it's cruel."

And it's the only thing that can save a broken life.

Author proceeds from The Survivors Project will support Women Organized Against Rape and the Philadelphia Children's Alliance.



Sexual abuse victim offers help to others

Pittman Center to host free program

by John Jarvis

MARION — A victim of sexual abuse as a child and teenager, Judy Lawson said she knows the pain such experience inflicts and can go on inflicting in a person's life.

Through Tiqvah Ministries, a program she created, she attempts to help other women who were victims of sexual abuse, telling her story in hopes it will enable others to open up and begin a healing process she said can be daunting.

She will begin leading her latest class Tuesday at the Arnita Pittman Community Recovery Center in Marion Centre mall. Anyone interested in the program, which is free, is invited to call the center at 740-386-2000.

Lawson said she hopes by the end of the 16-week program, participants will have the inspiration and support they need to overcome the self-destructive behavior she said childhood sexual abuse can trigger.

“You have everything you need, now just to move on with your life,” she said. “I want to see them, obviously if a lot of them are addicts, I want them to be freed from what keeps pulling them back down into the addiction, because it is that pain and all of that that took them there in the first place.”

Lawson started her program in 2006 at Franklin Pre-Release Center in Columbus, a correctional institution for adult female offenders that provides specialized programming, services and supervision, and conducted it for six years. In 2011 when a number of prison assignments was changed, she was “kind of up in the air. ... I was just kind of waiting to see where I was going next.”

A friend put her in contact with Pittman, whom the friend met at a Bridges Out of Poverty event.

“She said in literally 30 years of doing intake she had never once done a drug intake that the addiction wasn't somehow tied to sexual abuse,” Lawson said. “That was huge to me.”

Pittman, who worked at Marion Correctional Institution, Richland Correctional Institution and the Ohio State Reformatory for Women in Marysville, said women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction frequently also have to deal with their own feelings about incidents of sexual abuse.

“A very high percentage, when it comes to females, they have issues of sexual abuse or assault of some kind,” she said. “When I worked at Marysville, the majority of women who were in the recovery program, when you did the assessment, they had a history of being molested or raped or being abused.”

When she learned Lawson had helped female prison inmates dealing with such experiences, she determined, “We can work with them when they get out of prison, also, so that's how that came about.”

Lawson said she does not counsel the women who sign up for her class.

“It is faith-based,” she said. “The beginning of it I share my story, which is usually pretty hard for them. I tell them I'm well and truly healed. I'm quite open. What's amazing to me is how many of them have lived with this all of their life and never told anyone until my class. It's just the fact there is someone who is willing to say, ‘This happened to me.' To hear someone say, ‘It wasn't your fault. You were a child, and it wasn't your fault.'”

She provides a class a week for 12 weeks and provides after-care sessions for the ensuing four weeks.

“It's not counseling, because I'm a teacher, not a counselor,” she said. “And I just know what they're going through. I know how they feel. So, it's support. ... It teaches you how to walk through those things. Forgiveness is such a big one. I try to break it down. We can't control our feelings. The only thing we're in control of is our actions. When we choose to make the right choices, ultimately you just forgive.”

Lawson attributes to faith her ability to recover from abuse she said began occurring when she was 3 years of age and continued into puberty.

“I had two kids and my husband, and my marriage was the pits,” she said, adding her life has turned around since her belief in God led her through the difficult healing process.

“... It was my faith that allowed me to reach out and say, ‘I can't do this by myself, and you're going to have to help me with this.' It was faith that started the journey.”

She said participants in her class can gain tools to help them recover without faith, “but it certainly wouldn't be the kind of benefit I'd like to see in them.”

Lawson's plans for the class impressed Pittman, who said adding the Tiqvah (Hebrew for “hope”) Ministries program is part of her center's “holistic approach” to helping individuals put their lives together while recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

“All a woman has to do is call the center and tell us they want to be part of it, and we will get them here,” Pittman said. “If they need transportation, we will provide transportation to get them here for the program.”


New York

MaleSurvivor Conference Examines Sexual Abuse in Sports


It was the summer before high school, and Christopher Gavagan, then 13, was preparing to leave the safe familiarity of the friends he had known during his boyhood. With a plan to excel at ice hockey, he began training on inline skates, moving through his New York City neighborhood, up and down the streets until, he said, “I turned down the wrong street.”

Gavagan, now a filmmaker, was one of eight panelists who participated Friday in a discussion about young athletes who have been sexually assaulted or abused by their coaches. The panel was part of the MaleSurvivor 13th International Conference, held this year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The conference brought together men who have been sexually abused, as well as psychologists, social workers, academics and members of the legal community.

A dour procession of stories about sexual misconduct by coaches toward their male charges has come to light in recent months. Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, was sentenced in October to 30 to 60 years in prison on 45 counts of child molesting. Sugar Ray Leonard wrote in his autobiography last year that he was sexually molested by an Olympic boxing coach. The N.H.L. players Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy were sexually abused as teenagers by their hockey coach Graham James.

The prevalence of sexual abuse among all boys 17 and under has been variously estimated to be as low as 5 percent and as high as 16 percent. For some of the millions of children who participate in sports nationwide, and their parents, sexual assault in a sports context has its own dynamic.

“Sports is a place where parents send their boys to learn skills, to learn how to be teammates and how to work together — to make boys stronger and healthier,” said Dr. Howard Fradkin, author of “Joining Forces,” a book about how men can heal from sexual abuse. “It's the place where we send our boys to grow up. The betrayal that occurs when abuse occurs in sports is damaging because it destroys the whole intent of what they started out to do.”

When Gavagan, now 38, turned down that fateful street, and stepped briefly into the house of a man recommended as a hockey coach by a couple of female acquaintances, what greeted him, he said, was “a young boy's dream come true.”

The dream Gavagan glimpsed was embodied in the trophy room of the house.

“It was everything I wanted to be right there,” recalled Gavagan, who is working on a feature-length documentary on sexual abuse in youth sports, in which he interviews other sexual-abuse victims and his own attacker, against whom he has never pressed charges. In addition to the shiny relics that seemed to give testimony to the man's coaching prowess, Gavagan said, the trophy room had pictures of hockey teams the man had coached and workout equipment — the physical tools promising the chance to get bigger and stronger.

“To a skinny 13-year-old, it was like winning the lottery,” Gavagan said.

Christopher Anderson, the executive director of MaleSurvivor, said sexual abuse — basically nonconsensual touching or sexual language — is devastating under any circumstance, but coach and player often have a special relationship.

“Especially as you progress higher and higher, the coach can become just as important in some ways to an athlete as the relationship with his parents might have,” Anderson said. “In some cases, it's a substitute for parents.”

He added: “There's also a fundamentally different power dynamic. When you're a young star, the coach can literally make or break your career as an athlete.”

But caution has to extend beyond coaches who guide future Olympians, Gavagan said, noting that his coach was not of that caliber.

“The entire grooming process was so subtle,” Gavagan said. “It's not like when I first went into his house that he tried to grope me.”

First, Gavagan said, the coach said it was all right to curse in that house. On another visit it was fine to have a beer, which led on another day to Playboy magazine and on subsequent days to harder pornography and harder liquor. It was six months before the coach laid an explicitly sexual hand on him, Gavagan said.

“I didn't feel like a sudden red line had been crossed — the line had been blurred,” Gavagan said, explaining that he avoided his parents when he returned home with liquor on his breath by telling them he was exhausted and going straight to his room. (Unlike many sexual-abuse victims, Gavagan said his parents, with whom the coach had ingratiated himself, were supportive of their son, and his was a loving family. He said that if he had approached them about the coach, they would have listened.)

Another aspect of sexual abuse in sports is the environment, which emphasizes a kind of macho ethic.

“What is most different about abuse is the sports culture itself,” Fradkin said. “It is a culture that promotes teamwork and teaches boys to shrug it off. When a boy or man is abused, he risks being thrown off the team if he should speak the truth because he'll be seen as being disloyal — and weak.”

At 17, after four years with his coach, Gavagan said he “aged out” of his coach's target age.

“At the time I had no idea of how it would impact my life, but the unhealthy lessons about relations, trust and the truth set a time bomb that would detonate my relationships for the next 10 years,” Gavagan said.

As a word of caution, Anderson said the lesson for parents should not be that sports are dangerous.

“It should be that there are sometimes dangerous people who gravitate to sporting organizations and our safeguards aren't good enough yet to adequately protect our children,” he said. “That doesn't mean that we should be pulling our kids from soccer and baseball and basketball. What it means is that parents need to be vigilant.”

He added: “They need to be proactive with athletic organizations to make sure that policies are in place — such as doing criminal background checks on staff and having a procedure where young athletes can complain about inappropriate behavior — that make sure children are protected.”



Speaking at KSU, Elizabeth Smart says her ordeal has helped her battle child abuse with stronger conviction

by Lindsay Field

KENNESAW — Elizabeth Smart, the now 25-year-old who was abducted from her Utah home more than 10 years ago, bravely spoke about her kidnapping and abduction to a crowd of 375-plus people Monday morning during the sixth annual World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse conference at Kennesaw State University.

“I am grateful for what happened because it taught me so much … I learned so much and I realized what a problem kidnapping, child abuse, sexual abuse, bullying really is in our society,” she said.

“(Child abuse) is such a difficult topic to talk about because no one wants to think about their child being hurt. No one wants to think that there are people out there who are sick enough to hurt a child, to take advantage of a child, but they are out there. There are so many out there actually that for every square mile in America, there would be one. I am (honored) to be here today because of the stance that you are taking and the education you are seeking and for what all of you do every single day.”

Smart was the keynote speaker for the all-day event, which invites the community and members of local child advocacy centers to learn how they can prevent child abuse.

Monday also wrapped up the 19 Days of Activism hosted locally by the Children's Advocacy Centers of Georgia and nationally by the Woman's World Summit Foundation.

For nearly an hour, Smart told the story about how Brian Mitchell and his partner, Wanda Barzee, abducted her, how she was rescued and how it made her grateful to be alive today.

The night she was abducted, June 5, 2002, Smart said she was woken up to the feeling of a cold, sharp object on her neck.

“I have a knife at your neck, don't make a sound, get up and come with me,” she said Mitchell told her.

She was lying in bed next to her 8-year-old sister and Mitchell had reportedly been planning the abduction since November 2001.

She recalled walking through the mountains north of her Salt Lake City, Utah, home with her “captor,” as she called him, crawling on her hands and knees through the scrub oak.

“I'm going to be that girl on the news … whose body would be found,” she said she thought to herself during that time.

Shortly after meeting Barzee at a tent in the middle of the woods, Smart said Mitchell deemed Smart his wife and raped her.

“I remember lying on the floor of the tent feeling absolutely worthless,” she said.

She woke up the next day with a cable tied to her leg and the other end tied to a large tree.

This tragedy didn't keep her down though.

Smart said thoughts of her friends, more specifically her mother's morning ritual of singing to wake Elizabeth and her five siblings up each day, kept her spirit alive.

“I decided that no matter what happened, if it was within my power, I would survive,” Smart said. “It didn't matter if it were three days or 30 years. I would make it home one day. That decision saw me through nine months of a lot.”

Smart and her abductors ended up in California and while trying to determine where to go next, she underhandedly convinced them that “God wanted them to return to Utah.”

“Maybe that just stroked his ego the right way because he went and asked and he said, ‘You know, I think you're right, we are supposed to go back to Salt Lake,'” she said. “I was so excited!”

They hitchhiked back to Utah and just outside Salt Lake City, police picked up Smart after two people had called in to report they thought they saw her.

“Seeing my family again for the first time … I thought, this must be what heaven is like,” she said. “It was the happiest day of my life, second to my real wedding.”

The morning after she was found, Smart said her mother gave her the best piece of advice she's ever received.

“You may never feel like justice has been served or true restitution has been made, but the best punishment that you could ever give (Mitchell) is to be happy, is to follow your dreams, to do exactly what you want to and never let him take another second of your life,” she recalled. “Never think you can't do something because of what he's done to you, because that will be him stealing more of your life away than he deserves … the best thing you can do is to be happy, move forward, never give up, be so stubborn that you finally do win.”

She continues to carry that message with her while speaking about her cause and the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

“There are so many more children who are waiting for their miracle, waiting for their happy ending,” she said. “What you do every day does make a huge difference and God bless you all.”

Cynthia Howell, of Smyrna, executive director of the state advocacy center, said Monday's conference was the best turnout so far.

“We were expecting between 150 and 200 and we should have about 380,” she said.

Although Howell said Smart helped draw the large crowd, she believes people want to be educated on child abuse and neglect.

“There are so many different facets to it and by us taking one day and focusing on a theme and being able to put statistics out there and links on resources, that was great,” she said about the 19 days of child abuse prevention themes leading up to the event. “We actually had partners who asked that we start it earlier next year.”



New Report Details Human Trafficking Trends in California

LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today released The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012. The report outlines the growing prevalence of the crime of human trafficking in the state, the increasing involvement of sophisticated transnational gangs in perpetrating the crime and the modern technologies that traffickers use to facilitate it.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying, or selling of a person for purposes of exploitation, prostitution, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, migrant work, agricultural labor, peonage, bondage or involuntary servitude.

While human trafficking often involves the smuggling of human beings across international borders, numerous Americans are trafficked around the United States ever year. Human trafficking strips people, especially women and children, of their freedom and violates our nation's promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights.

The report finds that from mid-2010 to mid-2012, California's nine regional anti-human trafficking task forces provided training to 25,591 law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, victim service providers and other first responders. During the same period, the task forces identified 1,277 victims, initiated 2,552 investigations, and arrested 1,798 individuals for the crime.

California is one of the nation's top four destination states for trafficking human beings. Despite public perception, 72 percent of trafficked human beings in the state cite the United States as their country of origin, with the remainder coming from foreign countries.

The report also describes the evolving challenges California faces in addressing this crime, which has become a $32 billion-a-year global industry. Among the key findings in the report, organized criminal networks and street gangs are increasingly responsible for trafficking persons into and throughout the state. The prevailing wisdom among these criminals is that human trafficking is more profitable and has a lower risk of being detected than drug trafficking.

In addition, innovations in technology make it possible for traffickers to recruit victims and perpetrate their crimes online. However, technology is also key to successful enforcement as the Internet, social media and mobile devices provide new avenues for identifying perpetrators, reaching out to victims and raising public awareness about human trafficking.

Key Highlights from The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012

From mid-2010 to mid-2012, California's nine regional human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims, initiated 2,552 investigations, and arrested 1,798 individuals.

In the same two-year period, California's task forces provided training to 25,591 law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, victim service providers, and other first responders.

Seventy-two percent of human trafficking victims whose country of origin was identified by California's task forces are American. The public perception is that human trafficking victims are from other countries, but data from California's task forces indicate that the vast majority are Americans.

Labor trafficking is under-reported and under-investigated as compared to sex trafficking. Fifty-six percent of victims who received services through California's task forces were sex trafficking victims. Yet, data from other sources indicate that labor trafficking is 3.5 times as prevalent as sex trafficking worldwide.

Local and transnational gangs are increasingly trafficking in human beings because it is a low-risk and high, renewable profit crime. It is critical for federal, state, and local law enforcement and labor regulators to collaborate across jurisdictions to disrupt and dismantle these increasingly sophisticated, organized criminal networks.

Early and frequent collaboration between law enforcement and victim service providers helps victims and prosecutors. Victims who receive immediate and comprehensive assistance are more likely to help bring their traffickers to justice.

Traffickers are reaching more victims and customers by recruiting and advertising online. Traffickers use online advertising and Internet-enabled cell phones to access a larger client base and create a greater sense of anonymity.

For more information on the trafficking of human beings and to view the report online, go to



A Traffic Warning

Human Trafficking Is Growing Problem, Speaker Says

by Derek Bartos

SANTEE, Neb. — A child walks into a mall alone and meets a stranger, who offers to buy the child some food. While handing the child the food, the stranger drops in a drug. Twenty minutes later, the child wakes up in a horrible situation, with no idea where he or she is.

“This is not fiction. This is today's world,” said Patrick Atkinson, founder and director of the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons (ITEMP). The North Dakota-based organization seeks to investigate and prevent human trafficking and rescue and rehabilitate its victims.

Atkinson spoke about human trafficking and the steps to help prevent it during a presentation Monday afternoon at the Nebraska Indian Community College campus in Santee (Neb.).

“There is so much that we can do to stop it, and the first thing is becoming aware of the problem,” Atkinson said.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.”

However, Atkinson said he prefers to define it as two words — force and fraud.
“Is someone being made to do something they don't want to do? Are they being tricked into it? Are they being deceived?” he asked. “It's like, ‘Come on, I'll give you a ride.' Then you get into the car and you think you're going to get a ride, but then they take you to a field or they take you to a bar.”

Human trafficking can be broken down into three categories, Atkinson said. It is done for sex (sex tourism, prostitution, stripping and pornography), forced labor and the selling of body parts (organ trafficking and illegal adoption).

While forced labor is the number one reason for human trafficking worldwide, in the United States, most victims are abducted for sex, Atkinson said. An estimated 100,000 American children are trafficked for sex within the U.S. each year.

“This is the biggest risk for our children,” he said.

Atkinson added that with the development of Internet social sites and the increased availability of date rape drugs, targeting victims has become much easier in recent years.

“(Date rape drugs) are so easy to get nowadays,” he said. “It used be this really deep dark secret. And now someone can go online and order it, or get the recipe or figure out how to do it.”

Atkinson also stressed that while many people might think human trafficking is a “big city” problem, that's not necessarily the case. He pointed to several South Dakota trafficking cases within the past few years.

“It's business,” he said. “If there is a demand in the market for a product, somebody will step forward and provide that product for making a profit.”

Atkinson said that many residents from the region are also at risk to become human trafficking victims elsewhere, as many people who find themselves in bad situations will leave the area only to become victims in a larger city. He said he saw a lot of these instances when he worked to combat trafficking in New York City earlier in his career.

“A lot of kids would have problems with alcoholic parents, or women were getting beaten by their alcoholic boyfriends or husbands, and they would run away, and they would go into the streets, and they would go from a small town to the next town, and the next town to a bigger town,” Atkinson said.

He said these people followed this “pipeline” until they arrived in a large city, vulnerable with no one to turn to. This made them easy targets for human traffickers.

“You're hungry, you're starving, you're cold, you're sick, you're alone, you're scared,” Atkinson said. “And someone comes up to you and says, ‘Hey can I buy you a burger? You're a nice-looking girl, a nice-looking boy. Do you need a place to stay?'”

To help prevent such human trafficking situations, as well as others, one must first become informed, Atkinson said.

“You have to first understand it yourself,” he said. “Be aware of the problem.”

Human trafficking information can be found at ITEMP's website at

Next, Atkinson said the most important action is communication. He advised parents to talk to their children about the dangers of becoming a human trafficking victim.

“The entire success of human trafficking is keeping it secret,” he said. “It's a multi-billion-dollar industry based on secrets.”

Atkinson also recommended taking computers out of children's bedrooms.

“You wouldn't go in a shopping mall in Sioux Falls and bring home a strange man and put them in a bedroom with your daughter,” he said. “Why would you do it digitally over the Internet?”

As for people who believe they are in a bad situation at home, Atkinson pleaded to them to speak out.

“If you're in a alcoholic household, if you're a victim of physical abuse or sexual abuse ... get help,” he said. “Talk to somebody so that the problem can be resolved.”

Atkinson also encouraged everyone to voice their concern if they see any situation that could lead to human trafficking, whether it is an abusive home or a drink that is drugged, regardless if the circumstances are uncomfortable.

“We will never be completely ready. We will never be in the perfect situation,” he said. “Do it because it's the right thing to do.”


New York


Talk to your kids today about sexual abuse

by Observer-Dispatch

The growing number of child sexual abuse cases is frightening. And it sends a strong message that we all need to remain vigilant in raising awareness to this horrendous crime so that more children will come forward if they have been victimized.

Parents or other caregivers, don't put off addressing this issue. Have an age-appropriate discussion with your child today. It's one of the most important things you'll ever do.

Scandals abound. The latest comes from Britain, where police said last week that a renowned BBC TV host who died last year was one of the nation's worst pedophiles, possibly abusing several hundred children. Meanwhile, the Penn State scandal percolates a year later, with former president Graham Spanier facing charges that he lied about and concealed child sex abuse allegations involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is serving up to 60 years in prison after being convicted of abusing young boys over a 15-year period.

Also last week, Trenton Town Supervisor Mark Scheidelman was charged with felony sex abuse, accused of abusing a 7-year-old boy. Police say Scheidelman, 52, might have abused others over the past three decades, and are asking alleged victims to come forward.

Earlier this year, it was announced that reports of sexual abuse against children in Oneida County steadily increased between 2005 and 2009. If there's any ray of hope in this, it's that more children are coming forward to report abuse because of heightened awareness.

Talking about such things with our kids can be uncomfortable. But there are many agencies such as the YWCA Mohawk Valley, Oneida County Child Advocacy Center or Mohawk Valley office of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that can provide information for discussing this with your child.

Don't put it off. Begin a dialogue now and help your child understand that they must come to you if they are uncomfortable with anything. And by all means, if you suspect abuse, report it by calling the YWCA's 24-hour confidential hotlines: 866-4120 in Herkimer County; 797-7740 in Oneida County. You can also call the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center at 732-3990.

Tips for parents, caregivers:

-- Talk. Maintain a dialogue with children identifying good touch versus bad touch and helping them understand that their bodies belong to them.

-- Tone down the stranger danger. While children need to be aware of strangers and how to keep themselves safe, the vast majority of child sexual abusers are individuals the child knows, such as a parent or other relative, a teacher, coach, clergy, neighbor or family friend.

-- Break the silence. Child sexual abuse thrives on secrecy. Children need to be able to tell a trusted adult if someone tries to hurt or touch them inappropriately.

-- Get educated. Encourage professional prevention programs in the local school system and throughout the community.

YWCA Mohawk Valley



In Close Relationship Between Player and Coach, Potential for Sexual Abuse


It was the summer before high school, and Christopher Gavagan, then 13, was preparing to leave the safe familiarity of the friends he had known during his boyhood. With a plan to excel at ice hockey, he began training on inline skates, moving through his New York City neighborhood, up and down the streets until, he said, “I turned down the wrong street.”

The former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard wrote of being sexually molested by a coach.

Gavagan, now a filmmaker, was one of eight panelists who participated Friday in a discussion about young athletes who have been sexually assaulted or abused by their coaches. The panel was part of the MaleSurvivor 13th International Conference, held this year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The conference brought together men who have been sexually abused, as well as psychologists, social workers, academics and members of the legal community.

A dour procession of stories about sexual misconduct by coaches toward their male charges has come to light in recent months. Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, was sentenced in October to 30 to 60 years in prison on 45 counts of child molesting. Sugar Ray Leonard wrote in his autobiography last year that he was sexually molested by an Olympic boxing coach. The N.H.L. players Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy were sexually abused as teenagers by their hockey coach Graham James.

The prevalence of sexual abuse among all boys 17 and under has been variously estimated to be as low as 5 percent and as high as 16 percent. For some of the millions of children who participate in sports nationwide, and their parents, sexual assault in a sports context has its own dynamic.

“Sports is a place where parents send their boys to learn skills, to learn how to be teammates and how to work together — to make boys stronger and healthier,” said Dr. Howard Fradkin, author of “Joining Forces,” a book about how men can heal from sexual abuse. “It's the place where we send our boys to grow up. The betrayal that occurs when abuse occurs in sports is damaging because it destroys the whole intent of what they started out to do.”

When Gavagan, now 38, turned down that fateful street, and stepped briefly into the house of a man recommended as a hockey coach by a couple of female acquaintances, what greeted him, he said, was “a young boy's dream come true.”

The dream Gavagan glimpsed was embodied in the trophy room of the house.

“It was everything I wanted to be right there,” recalled Gavagan, who is working on a feature-length documentary on sexual abuse in youth sports, in which he interviews other sexual-abuse victims and his own attacker, against whom he has never pressed charges. In addition to the shiny relics that seemed to give testimony to the man's coaching prowess, Gavagan said, the trophy room had pictures of hockey teams the man had coached and workout equipment — the physical tools promising the chance to get bigger and stronger.

“To a skinny 13-year-old, it was like winning the lottery,” Gavagan said.

Christopher Anderson, the executive director of MaleSurvivor, said sexual abuse — basically nonconsensual touching or sexual language — is devastating under any circumstance, but coach and player often have a special relationship.

“Especially as you progress higher and higher, the coach can become just as important in some ways to an athlete as the relationship with his parents might have,” Anderson said. “In some cases, it's a substitute for parents.”

He added: “There's also a fundamentally different power dynamic. When you're a young star, the coach can literally make or break your career as an athlete.”

But caution has to extend beyond coaches who guide future Olympians, Gavagan said, noting that his coach was not of that caliber.

“The entire grooming process was so subtle,” Gavagan said. “It's not like when I first went into his house that he tried to grope me.”

First, Gavagan said, the coach said it was all right to curse in that house. On another visit it was fine to have a beer, which led on another day to Playboy magazine and on subsequent days to harder pornography and harder liquor. It was six months before the coach laid an explicitly sexual hand on him, Gavagan said.

“I didn't feel like a sudden red line had been crossed — the line had been blurred,” Gavagan said, explaining that he avoided his parents when he returned home with liquor on his breath by telling them he was exhausted and going straight to his room. (Unlike many sexual-abuse victims, Gavagan said his parents, with whom the coach had ingratiated himself, were supportive of their son, and his was a loving family. He said that if he had approached them about the coach, they would have listened.)

Another aspect of sexual abuse in sports is the environment, which emphasizes a kind of macho ethic.

“What is most different about abuse is the sports culture itself,” Fradkin said. “It is a culture that promotes teamwork and teaches boys to shrug it off. When a boy or man is abused, he risks being thrown off the team if he should speak the truth because he'll be seen as being disloyal — and weak.”

At 17, after four years with his coach, Gavagan said he “aged out” of his coach's target age.

“At the time I had no idea of how it would impact my life, but the unhealthy lessons about relations, trust and the truth set a time bomb that would detonate my relationships for the next 10 years,” Gavagan said.

As a word of caution, Anderson said the lesson for parents should not be that sports are dangerous.

“It should be that there are sometimes dangerous people who gravitate to sporting organizations and our safeguards aren't good enough yet to adequately protect our children,” he said. “That doesn't mean that we should be pulling our kids from soccer and baseball and basketball. What it means is that parents need to be vigilant.”

He added: “They need to be proactive with athletic organizations to make sure that policies are in place — such as doing criminal background checks on staff and having a procedure where young athletes can complain about inappropriate behavior — that make sure children are protected.”



Progress made in preventing child abuse, lawmaker says

DENVER - The state Department of Human Services is making progress in its attempt to improve the child welfare system in Colorado.

However, a senator told the 9Wants to Know investigators that more needs to be done.

The multi-part report, jointly produced by The Denver Post and 9NEWS, caught the eye of State Senator Linda Newell, D-Littleton.

"Every citizen should be called to action from what you've shown," she said.

She praised a new state law which will allow DHS to provide more information to the public when a child dies or suffers severe abuse, but said more should be done. She also said the Colorado Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman has increased neutral oversight of the Department of Human Services.

"We've set some of these things in place and have done a really good job of significantly reforming child welfare over the last four years," she said. "But we have a long way to go."

State Department of Human Services Director Reggie Bicha, who has been in the position for nearly two years, said increased transparency when a child dies or suffers severe abuse will benefit the system.

"We'll talk to caseworkers and other people and we'll come up with our own conclusions about what happened," he said. "That information, to the greatest extent possible, will be made public."

The new law does not require the department to answer additional questions beyond what's included in the state child fatality review.

Newell, who is the vice-chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, said the state could reduce child abuse and neglect by having a statewide number to report child abuse.

"I think it's devastating and I think it's a real mistake that we haven't addressed it yet," Newell said.

Each county has its own number to report child abuse. The Child Welfare Action Committee, created by Governor Bill Ritter, suggested the state create one number that would accept child abuse complaints and monitor a county's review of each complaint.

"The state needs that ability to better track and that's one of the things that's missing," Newell said.

9NEWS and The Denver Post asked Governor John Hickenlooper for his thoughts on a statewide child abuse hotline.

"I don't think that's a bad idea," he said.

However, he wasn't sure counties would be in favor of such a plan.

"If you ask them, many of them feel we are overburdening them and putting too much of this too fast," Hickenlooper said.

Newell would like to see the issue stay in the spotlight.

"What we need to do right now is be bold," Newell said.



Dyess airman accused of not reporting child abuse

ABILENE, Texas (AP) — An airman at Dyess Air Force Base is set to appear at a military hearing related to the case of an Abilene toddler who died from dehydration and malnutrition.

Senior Airman Christopher Perez is charged with child endangerment, failure to report child abuse and adultery. Perez allegedly was dating the toddler's mother, Tiffany Klapheke, who claims she neglected her children because she was distraught over her husband's military deployment.

Her 22-month-old daughter died in August after being found unresponsive at their home at Dyess. The preliminary autopsy report says the toddler had chemical burns from human waste.

Klapheke, a civilian, is charged with three counts of injury to a child.

Evidence will be presented at the Article 32 hearing to determine if Perez should go to trial.



Most Wanted: Man sought in child sex abuse

Tulsa police are seeking information regarding the whereabouts of a man accused of child sexual abuse.


Prosecutors allege Maurieko "Rico" Lavell Thompson, 29, sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl, with whom he was acquainted, between March and April, Tulsa County District Court documents show.

He was charged with child sexual abuse on Aug. 29 and a warrant was issued for his arrest the next day.

During an interview with Tulsa police in June, the victim told investigators Thompson got into bed with her and touched her under her clothes. She said she fled from the room but Thompson followed her. He reportedly apologized and told her not to tell her mother.

The victim told a detective the assault made her feel "disgusted" and like she "couldn't live with herself," according to an affidavit.

The detective interviewed Thompson days later and he "admitted to getting in bed with (the victim) after being out at the club drinking and using ecstasy," the affidavit states.

Thompson said at one point that he put his arm around the victim and touched her thigh. He later denied intentionally touching her and said he was asleep.

Thompson is described as black, 6 feet 3 inches tall and 145 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information about Thompson or his location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS (2677) or submit a tip online at