Foxboro steps up abuse prevention training
FOXBORO - Foxboro school, police and Hockomock Area YMCA leaders are stepping up their efforts to educate the community on child sexual abuse prevention.
But they say the active participation of adults is needed, and have paved the way with a free, two-hour seminar to be offered three times over the next two weeks.
The first "Stewards of Children" child sexual abuse prevention training session is set for 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Foxboro High School.
A second opportunity to get this training will be offered 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Public Safety Building, 8 Chestnut St., with a third chance 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the high school.
The program was designed by Darkness to Light, a national non-profit, based in Charleston, South Carolina.
Advanced registration is required 24 hours before the training. To register, contact Hockomock Area YMCA Vice President Tony Calcia at 508-643-5226 or email@example.com.
For more information call him or visit www.D2L.org.
According to a flier distributed by Calcia, the Stewards of Children program teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
Foxboro Police chief Edward O'Leary was among the town employees who took the workshop led by Calcia last year.
"The more people that have a foundation of knowledge I think the safer all children of Foxboro will be as we go forward," said O'Leary, whose department has been investigating painful allegations involving a former town employee.
Foxboro police have been contacted by 23 men over the past few months alleging they were sexually abused as children by William E. Sheehan Jr., a former Foxboro teacher and youth leader.
Boy Scouts' opposition to background checks let pedophiles in
Boy Scouts of America fought the trend of adopting criminal background checks for volunteers and staff, unknowingly allowing convicted child sex offenders to
by Jason Felch and Kim Christensen, Los Angeles Times
Amid reports of widespread sexual abuse of children in the late 1980s, several leading youth organizations began conducting criminal background checks of volunteers and staff members.
Big Brothers Big Sisters ordered the checks for all volunteers starting in 1986. Boys and Girls Clubs of America recommended their use the same year.
One of the nation's oldest and largest youth groups, however, was opposed — the Boy Scouts of America.
Scouting officials argued that background checks would cost too much, scare away volunteers and provide a false sense of security. They successfully lobbied to kill state legislation that would have mandated FBI fingerprint screening.
While touting their efforts to protect children, the Scouts for years resisted one of the most basic tools for preventing abuse. The result: The organization let in hundreds of men with criminal histories of child molestation, many of whom went on to abuse more children, according to a Times analysis of the Scouts' confidential abuse files.
Scouting did not require criminal background checks for all volunteers until 2008 — despite calls from parents and staff who said its vetting system didn't work.
In 1989, a Scout committee chairman in St. Paul, Minn., decried the organization's "half-hearted" screening in a letter to headquarters.
"BSA is only creating an illusion of performing what they claim," K. Russell Sias wrote to Scout Chief Executive Ben Love. "It becomes quite clear that BSA is more concerned in 'passing the buck' than in accepting responsibility for those who are its adult leaders."
That same year, a Las Vegas scoutmaster with a criminal history of exposing himself to boys was arrested for sexually abusing a 12-year-old Scout. One parent said casinos did a better job of screening workers.
"The black eye which scouting has suffered in this … could easily have been avoided if the council had taken the simple expedient of doing a background investigation," the parent wrote to Scouting officials.
From the time national background checks became widely available in 1985 until 1991 — when the detailed files obtained by The Times end — the Boy Scouts admitted more than 230 men with previous arrests or convictions for sex crimes against children, the analysis found.
The men were accused of molesting nearly 400 boys while in Scouting. They accounted for one in six of those expelled for alleged abuse during those years.
Scouting officials declined to be interviewed but said in a prepared statement that they have enhanced their policies over the years and tried "to ensure we are in line with and, where possible, ahead of society's knowledge of abuse and best practices for prevention."
"Numerous independent experts have recognized that our programs for protecting Scouts from abuse are among the best in the youth-serving community," it said.
The Scouts' past handling of child sexual abuse has come under increased scrutiny since October, after the court-ordered release of hundreds of confidential files dating back decades. The Times earlier obtained and analyzed a larger and more recent set of files — about 1,900 dossiers opened from 1970 to 1991.
The records, dubbed the "perversion files" by Scouting officials, have been a key tool for nearly a century, intended to keep out men expelled for alleged abuse.
The files also offer a detailed record of the system's failures. The Times reported in August that from 1970 to 1991 dozens of men previously expelled had slipped back into the program, only to be accused of molesting again. The Times later reported that Scouting officials failed to report hundreds of alleged abusers to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.
The organization has fought in court to prevent the release of more recent files, making it impossible to determine how many men with criminal histories were caught in the organization after 1991.
Court records and news accounts, however, show that convicted molesters continued to find new victims in Scouting.
Edgardo Luis Ortiz became an assistant scoutmaster in Providence, R.I., in the fall of 1997 — less than two years after completing a prison term for sex crimes.
Within months, he was accused of sexually abusing two boys on a camping trip. The Providence Journal asked the local Scouts council why it hadn't done a background check.
"We just don't," a top official said. "I don't know why. It's just the procedure of the Boy Scouts of America."
Scouting is a vast, decentralized organization — with 2.7 million youths and 1 million volunteers under the watch of about 3,800 paid supervisors.
It is up to chartering organizations that operate Scouting units — church groups, community centers and schools — to select and screen volunteers. Historically, they have received only general guidance from headquarters.
"In my opinion, it is the responsibility of parents to know who their leaders are and to know where their kids are," a Scouting spokesman explained after learning in 1987 that a Canyon Country Scout leader had allegedly abused 11 boys.
It wasn't until the late 1980s that the Scouts' application for volunteers asked about character references and criminal histories.
"We've gotten extremely tough in selecting leaders," Louisiana Scouting official Carlos del Hierro said in 1989. "We can't pussyfoot around on this."
Dozens of applicants with criminal histories simply lied on the form, the files show.
When Michael Flavin applied to be a scoutmaster in Pennsylvania in early 1989, he circled "no" on the criminal history question.
But officials were suspicious, and in one of the rare instances in which they decided to do a criminal check, it proved worthwhile: Flavin was wanted in Arkansas on a 1987 child molestation.
Arrested with 23 pictures of naked children in his pocket, Flavin was ultimately charged with molesting eight children and convicted of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse.
In some cases, convicted abusers were identified only by chance. In 1989, Scouting officials learned that a man who had been a scoutmaster in Hercules, Calif., for four years was a registered sex offender — only because he had confided his sexual interest in Scouts to an off-duty police officer.
When he'd signed on as a Boy Scout leader, the man was on probation for molesting a Cub Scout in his neighborhood.
One morning in 1991, a landlady went to the apartment of Norfolk, Va., Scout leader Michael Pitz to investigate a noise complaint. She found one Scout tied up on the floor, another bound on the couch and a third standing by, smoking a cigarette.
She later told police and Scouting officials that Pitz had "a long criminal record." It included a conviction for sodomizing a 10-year-old Maryland boy in 1978.
"She could not believe Mike's application as a Scout leader cleared the Scout office," an internal report in Pitz's file noted.
Pitz was part of a surge in Scouting volunteers expelled for alleged sexual abuse — more than 270 annually in 1991 and 1992. At least in part, the expulsions reflected rising concern nationally about child sexual abuse.
In 1993, leaders of several major youth organizations were called to testify before a congressional panel about a proposed law urging states to require employees and volunteers of nonprofits to undergo FBI fingerprint checks — the gold standard in criminal screening.
Some youth groups were supportive. Big Brothers Big Sisters already was doing background checks.
"This sometimes has met with great obstacles, but we have endured the cost and the burden of getting this done," testified former NFL star Lynn Swann, who then was serving as board president.
But the Boy Scouts said fingerprint screening would be an unacceptable burden. "Many worthy volunteers would simply not wish to subject themselves to being fingerprinted," testified Lawrence Potts, then the Scouts' head of administration.
Potts downplayed the risks of child sexual abuse in youth organizations, saying most molestations occurred among family members. As drafted, he added, the federal law would establish a standard that could result in "massive civil justice damages" against groups that did not do the checks.
The Boy Scouts were in a unique position to know how easily child molesters could slip into youth groups. Its files showed that at least 300 were caught in the Scouts from 1970 to 1991, according to the Times analysis. But the organization had never studied the files and wouldn't do so for many years.
The National Child Protection Act passed with limits on liability and costs that the Boy Scouts had requested. The Scouts then led a coalition of youth groups, including the YMCA and the Girl Scouts, that fought against mandates for fingerprint checks in Florida, Pennsylvania and other states.
In 1994, Scouting required background checks for employees — but not volunteers. A spokesman explained that screening volunteers might cost as much as $41 million. "We don't have close to that," he said.
That year, Scouting had income of $486 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and was the second-largest recipient of private support among youth groups nationwide.
Nine years later, the Scouts switched course. In April 2003, as the child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church was making headlines, Scouting began requiring criminal background checks for new volunteers.
In a news release, the organization said the "state of the art" screenings would complement its "nationally recognized" youth protection program.
But the new policy was flawed: It did not cover volunteers already in the organization.
Less than a year later, Norman Leach, a prominent Nebraska minister and longtime Scout leader, was convicted of fondling a Scout. Police learned he had been arrested in Napa, Calif., in 1974 on suspicion of sodomy and convicted of soliciting lewd conduct.
A judge in the Nebraska case said that Leach, then 64, had "sexually assaulted juvenile males in every area of the country he has lived in during the last 40 years," the Lincoln Journal Star reported in August 2004.
It would be four more years before the Scouts mandated criminal checks for all volunteers.
J.B. Van Hollen: Child sex trafficking happens right here in Wisconsin
J.B. VAN HOLLEN | Wisconsin attorney general
Julie (not her real name) is a 15-year-old runaway trying to survive. Coming from a broken home, she has no money, little education, no shelter and few if any real friends. She does, however, have her body, and unfortunately that has substantial value to many who are willing to exploit her. Predators who know that she is desperate for food and shelter “sell” her to “clients” willing to pay to use her body for their base sexual gratification.
Julie isn’t worried about homecoming or algebra like other teenagers. Julie is concerned about where her next meal is coming from and what her next “client” is going to do to her or make her do to him. Julie is worried about staying alive.
This is not a fictional story, nor is it based in a foreign country or New York or Los Angeles. This is a true story, based right here in Wisconsin. Child trafficking is the sexual exploitation of a child for commercial purposes and is happening every day to children in this state. Kids are bought and sold for the sex trade outside of sporting events, on the Internet, on street corners, and at truck stops all over our state. Our law enforcement officers report child trafficking victims from Wisconsin Dells, Sheboygan, Appleton, Elk Mound, Madison, Milwaukee, Onalaska and numerous other cities throughout Wisconsin.
Runaways are especially vulnerable. As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the U.S. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one-third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The trafficking trade does not just ensnare runaways, however. It is important to understand that any child can be trafficked regardless of race, class, education, gender, age or citizenship. Exploiters can lure a victim with an offer of basic necessities like food and clothing, but often the promise of attention, friendship, or a loving “relationship” is enough. Once they gain control, traffickers often resort to violence, intimidation, access to drugs, or psychological manipulation to trap the child in a life of prostitution.
The sheer magnitude of the problem is staggering, with the Internet creating an easy and accessible venue for trafficking transactions. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice estimated between 200,000 and 300,000 children were being forced into prostitution at any given time in the United States and that the average age of a new child prostitute was 13. Children can be re-sold multiple times, bringing in continuous profits for their exploiters, making it very lucrative. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates that human trafficking is a $32 billion industry and is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, second only to the drug trade.
There is no group of victims more vulnerable or more in need of law enforcement protection than these youth who are being sexually exploited. That is why I have made dismantling this criminal enterprise a top priority at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. By utilizing the resources and expertise that exist in DOJ’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, we can enhance our ability to identify and rescue child victims and hold their offenders accountable. At both the Attorney General’s Summit for Law Enforcement and the state prosecutor’s conferences this summer, we focused training on identification, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking.
Additionally, as part of my 2013-2015 biennial budget, I am requesting additional special agents and criminal analysts dedicated exclusively to fighting child sex trafficking. And this February, we are co-sponsoring a two-day conference entirely focused on human trafficking and the numerous issues that service providers, law enforcement and prosecutors face when attempting to rescue trafficking victims and prosecute their exploiters. Our website contains resources for law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service professionals and victims.
At the Wisconsin Department of Justice, we will continue to support all crime victims and strive to make sure that the criminal justice system response to victims of human trafficking is supportive and effective in holding offenders accountable. Our Office of Crime Victim Services helps victims understand their rights and access the assistance they deserve.
If you are a victim of human trafficking, or suspect that someone close to you might be, please know that help is available 24 hours a day by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
Sex trafficking on the rise
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina is one of the top 10 worst states for sex trafficking and Wilmington is one of the key cities.
"It's hard to believe that modern day slavery exists here in the US and it does and then more importantly that it exists here in Wilmington and it's happening everyday," said MaLisa, co-founder of the Centre of Redemption.
Sex trafficking isn't just happening to exotic people in exotic places, it's happening right here and it's growing.
"Here in Wilmington we see a lot of pimp control trafficking where a girl will meet a guy and he befriends her either maybe on facebook or maybe in a mall and then kind of starts dating her and they kind of have this relationship and it will turn into 'I love you so much if you love me, will you do this'," said MaLisa.
MaLisa is a woman on a mission to spread a message that it's happening here.
"Sex trafficking is happening in our city for multiple reasons," said MaLisa. "Wilmington is a destination city because of our tourism industry and we're also a transit city because of our access to highways."
The organization plans on opening a safe house for survivors.
"Focuses on long-term individual care for domestic minor survivors of sex trafficking who are pregnant and wish to keep their baby or set up an adoption plan," said MaLisa. "The safe house wont take any local survivors, we don't want to house a girl in the area who was trafficked for security purposes. For the local survivors we're able to provide clothing, food, money, the immediate needs of the first 72 hours."
Almost 300,000 people are forced into the sex trade every year. Majority of them are girls between the ages of 12 and 14.
"Right now the most profitable illegal industry is drug trafficking," said MaLisa. "Well, human trafficking is surpassing that because it's a supply and demand issue. You may be able to sell that gun just a handful of times but they estimate you can sell a girl 15 to 40 times in a single night."
Predators target malls and middle schools to find girls. "
Once a girl goes into the system, their average life expectancy drops to 7 years, with the first cause of death being murder and second, aids," said MaLisa.
Reading material for the Centre of Redemption has tips on how to identify victims of sex trafficking:
- Are there bruises or other signs of abuse, restraint, or confinement?
- Are there any signs of psychological abuse or dependency on another?
- Does the person appear to be submissive, fearful, tense, or nervous?
- Is the person being deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities?
- Is the person allowed to be in public alone?
- Can the person freely contact friends or family?
- Is the person a minor and appears to be in a relationship with a much older man?
- Does the person have any suspicious tattoos or brandings?
Visit Centre of Redemption for more information.
United Family Services becomes Safe Alliance
Social service agency United Family Services is changing its name to Safe Alliance following a year of studying how it can keep meeting the area's needs. The name change comes as the nonprofit tightens its focus on providing shelter, advocacy and counseling to women and children victims of abuse and sexual violence.
Meanwhile, a search is underway for a new leader of the organization's Lake Norman office, in Cornelius. Former area director Kathryn Sellers has been promoted to be the nonprofit's director of process improvement in Charlotte. Lucille Metts, who runs the Cabarrus office, is the interim director for Lake Norman.
Safe Alliance plans a reception Dec. 5 at 8am at Andre Christine Gallery, 148 Ervin Road, Mooresville, to introduce the new name in the Lake Norman area.
The name change took effect Tuesday, and Safe Alliance said it will spend the coming months on legal and marketing efforts associated with the rebranding. The changes include a new logo that incorporates a lotus flower, which officials said is a “powerful symbol of the work we do.”
“The lotus flower begins life in mud at the bottom of a pond. It grows upward through the water's waves and currents and blooms into a beautiful flower when it surfaces. This speaks directly to the inspirational journey our clients travel with Safe Alliance. Clients utilize the knowledge, resources and tools gained through their engagement with our agency to empower themselves to blossom like the lotus flower.
United Family Services has been around for more than 100 years. In a statement this week, President and CEO Phil Kline said the organization was “once again responding to meet the needs of the community.”
“Following a year-long strategic planning process we have restructured our services and chosen a new name and logo that best aligns with our new structure. We are now Safe Alliance and we provide hope and healing to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and child abuse and help adults and children build safe, healthy relationships,” Mr. Kline said.
Here's the group's current description: “Safe Alliance supports victims of domestic and sexual violence, and child abuse and helps people build safe, healthy relationships. We do this through a continuum of shelter, counseling, legal and advocacy services serving over 20,000 people a year in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union and south Iredell counties while reaching 20,000 more through advocacy and education. ”
More at safealliance.org
Justice 4 PA Kids Fights Childhood Sexual Abuse
The Malvern-based foundation combats sexual assault against children while making civil and legal recourse more accessible for victims.
by Emily Riley
Even in the wake of the most recent wave of child sex-abuse scandals, many parents still believe it can't happen to their family. Malvern's Maureen Martinez used to be among them—until the day in March 2011 when she learned that one of the priests at her Malvern church would be going on administrative leave. The Rev. Peter Talocci had helped Martinez through marriage counseling and baptized their children. He was now among the 21 clergymen suspended by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over allegations of sexual abuse. Even more disturbing: A February 2011 jury report found that dozens of priests remained active in the ministry despite credible evidence against them.
“I sat there shocked,” says Martinez of her initial reaction to the news that rocked St. Patrick's parish. “I was a lifelong Catholic. I never heard of anyone being sexually abused by priests.”
When the sex-abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston broke in 2002, Martinez had convinced herself that it was an isolated case. But as the scandal grew, so did her concern that the issue was bigger than she—and most others—first thought. “I spent some time doing research, and I couldn't believe what I was finding out. It bothered me to the point where I didn't want to go back [to church] ever again. It made me want to do something proactive.”
Martinez has funneled her rage and disbelief into Justice 4 PA Kids, which she cofounded with Malvern-based financial adviser Bob Riley. Backed by a staff and a board of directors, the coalition of advocates, lawyers, mental health professionals and concerned citizens is committed to eliminating the Pennsylvania statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. Under the current law, victims have until age 50 to bring criminal charges and until age 30 to sue alleged abusers. That may seem like plenty of time, but victims are often unable to speak about the crime for decades.
“Though it's received enormous attention from these big scandals, this kind of abuse typically occurs within the family,” says Upper Main Line YMCA president Joe Tankle, a coalition board member. “They don't want to tell anyone that their uncle did this to them.”
Victims also struggle with the question of whether anyone will believe them. “They have to expose someone, and they wonder if someone will think they've made it all up,” Tankle says. “The reason the statistics are so underreported is because of the distasteful nature of dealing with it properly.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that one in every five girls and one in every 20 boys are victims of child sex abuse. Those numbers indicate that, over the course of their lifetimes, 28 percent of U.S. kids ages 14-17 will be victimized at some point. And according to a National Institute of Justice report, three out of four adolescents who've been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they know well. As astonishing as these figures are, they represent only what's been reported.
On average, victims are 42 before they have the courage to come forward, says Martinez. Many go decades without saying anything. Meanwhile, fear, depression and shame often result in drug and alcohol abuse, and other destructive behaviors.
That in mind, Justice 4 PA Kids is seeking a one-time, two-year window in which victims could bring civil action in cases previously barred by the current statutes. The coalition is also committed to educating parents and kids in the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse.
Catholic bishops nationwide have lobbied strongly against legislation that would dissolve a statute of limitations for sex-abuse victims. In Pennsylvania, the bills Justice 4 PA Kids backs haven't left the House of Representatives.
In response, Martinez has “hit the ground running,” speaking at a press conference in Harrisburg last year and getting the word out at various public outreach and awareness events.
With the law as it stands now, alleged pedophiles protected from prosecution or civil suits by statutes of limitations cancontinue in positions that afford access to more potential victims. Nothing can be done with these offenders—or employers who shield them—even if the victims of previous abuse come forward. Besides holding abusers accountable for past crimes, the two-year civil-liability window that Justice 4 PA Kids seeks would potentially prevent further harm to kids.
Thus far, the life cycle of these bills has experienced the same frustrating pattern: After getting stuck in the judiciary committee, they move to the rules committee, where they're left to linger as the House cycle comes to an end.
Justice 4 PA Kids continues to put pressure on the rules committee to speed up the process that would move the potential legislation to the Senate, and then on to the governor for his signature. Among the problems the organization has encountered: inspiring the level of public interest necessary to make the issue a top priority in Harrisburg.
This past spring, the Chester County District Attorney's office assisted with a sex-abuse education program at Upper Main Line YMCA for parents and caregivers. It was attended by just 35 people. “It was incredibly disappointing,” Tankle says. “This is something that's incredibly important. And yet, people don't think it's going to happen to their family.”
For Martinez, the key to a better turnout is getting people to truly grasp the fact that, in 90 percent of the cases, the abuser is someone the family knows well. “It's not someone jumping out from behind a shed or luring [a child] away from the park while the parent isn't watching. It's the person you're familiar with—the one who's always around your kid,” she says.
For now, Justice 4 PA Kids continues to forge ahead with lobbying efforts and free public programs to increase awareness locally and statewide. As always, the biggest challenge is getting the public to come forward when it involves something so controversial.
“No one wants to talk about it. It's a hard topic to digest,” says Martinez. “But we're working hard to be heard.”
To learn more, visit justice4pakids.com
W&L Law Students to Serve as Court-Appointed Advocates in Child Abuse Cases
by Peter Jetton
Several law students at Washington and Lee School of Law recently completed training to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children appearing in local juvenile and domestic courts. The students received the training through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children, part of an association of CASA organizations nationwide.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges in abuse and neglect cases to gather information to help the judge decide what is best for the child, whether that means removing the child from his or her home or helping a struggling family get access to social services. The students' duties will include talking to everyone involved in the child's life – including parents and relatives, foster parents (if any), teachers, medical professional, attorneys, and social workers. The students will use the information they gain to provide information to the court and to assist with the determination of what would be the best placement for the child.
W&L adjunct professor Tammi Hellwig, director of externships and third-year program administration, serves as a facilitator for students volunteering for CASA. A CASA volunteer and former guardian ad litem herself, Hellwig says that the most important role these advocates play is as a reliable presence in the child's life.
“Child abuse and neglect cases are very complex and children often interact with a number of different social workers or lawyers as the case proceeds through the system,” says Hellwig. “CASA volunteers are the one adult constant in the child's life and they stay with the cases until it is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home.”
“The students are given a unique opportunity to vigilantly fight for the rights of children in abuse and neglect situations and ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect,” adds Hellwig.
The CASA program was started in 1977 by a Seattle juvenile court judge concerned about making such difficult decisions about child welfare in the absence of complete information. Over 600,000 children are placed in foster care each year in the U.S., but with a nationwide compliment of fewer than 78,000, CASA volunteers are often assigned to only the most difficult abuse and neglect cases.
The W&L law students serving as CASA volunteers are Cara Parcell, Mitzi Hellmer, Alisa Abbott, Lydia Cancilla and Rebecca Reed. Reed, a second year law student, served in a similar capacity in Florida before attending law school. She says children show remarkable resilience in these situations, recalling one child she worked with who channeled her anger and fear into poetry, eventually winning a competition and a scholarship to a poetry camp.
“It is such a privilege to see how strong children can be and to help them along the way,” says Reed. “In these cases, the state has lawyers and both parents have lawyers, but the one person this is supposed to be about doesn't have a voice unless you give it to them.”
Abbott, a third-year student, interned over the summer with the Office of the City Attorney in Richmond, helping represent the department of social services. She interacted with CASA volunteers during several cases and was eager to sign on to the program when it became available in the area.
The W&L students will receive their first cases soon, and after two years of mostly analytical exposure to the law, Abbott is eager to move even closer to experiencing the law's true impact on people involved with the justice system.
“Law students don't get much of a perspective on human interaction and how law changes peoples' lives,” says Abbott. “This program helps make it real.”
Domestic Violence Solutions Toasts Awareness, Prevention with Men's Cocktail Party
Local gentlemen gather in recognition of Domestic Violence Month, an effort to draw attention to the social epidemic
by Melissa Walker
It's not every day that men talk together about the ways they view and treat women or bond as advocates in a goal to stop violence against women, but when that happens it's a unique and inspiring site to behold.
More than 60 local gentlemen gathered at the fourth annual Domestic Violence Solutions Men's Cocktail Party held at the Santa Barbara Auto Group Porsche Showroom at 402 S. Hope St. in Santa Barbara to raise awareness that domestic violence is a crime that affects people all over Santa Barbara County.
The reception was held in recognition of Domestic Violence Month, which for more than 60 years has drawn attention to a social epidemic that can occur in any relationship regardless of a victim's socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion or gender.
“Domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds on a national basis and cost this country last year $3.5 billion,” said Dr. Loretta Redd, Domestic Violence Solutions' interim executive director. “That's a combination of law enforcement and medical costs and also for loss of productivity at work, and the statistics are staggering because of battering and abuse.”
Some people assume that domestic violence is limited to one partner who maintains control over another person through the use of physical force. However, there are other factors that contribute to domestic violence and high degrees of indifference to male violence against women in part because of the lack of knowledge about the issue.
Men Against Domestic Violence members work with young and adult men to help them recognize the signs and behaviors of domestic violence toward women and to the dismantle belief systems that may be mistaken as “manliness,” including forced or pressured sexual acts, verbal abuse linked to criticism of body parts, name-calling, threats and constant put-downs geared to make the victim feel worthless.
Victims also suffer from emotional abuse under the cover of mind games, jealousy, and isolation from friends and family members when abusers project intimidating tactics in order to enforce and maintain power and control.
Financial control over a victim is also achieved by affecting economic status, including the withholding of money or preventing the victim from working or seeking work, which is another debilitating factor of domestic violence that often hinders a victim from seeking outside help to break away from destructive patterns of domestic violence.
Other forms of abusive behavior include acts of vandalism, destroying property and harming or killing a pet.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
MADV's mission is to mobilize men as allies in preventing violence against women by working together to change learned behaviors and also act as positive male figures in a young boy's life.
Additionally, they promote equality, safety and justice for women and children by helping young boys understand the difference between healthy and abusive relationships and act as positive role models by speaking out against domestic violence at various civic organizations, churches, sports teams and neighborhood associations.
Members also act as advocates, encouraging younger peers to be brave, stand up and speak out to take a stand against violence toward women witnessed at school, during social events, or depicted in popular music, video games, television or movies.
A handful of women were on hand for the evening event, and casually mingled among the testosterone-laden group of gentlemen dressed in casual business attire who conversed in pairs and small groups.
A small open bar for drinks was provided as guests helped themselves to an array of appetizers presented on a large table surrounded by dazzling Porsche vehicles on display.
As guests settled in, everyone gathered around theguest speaker, Detective Chad Hunt from the Santa Barbara Police Department , who spoke of the importance of response partnerships between local law enforcement officers and DVERT Emergency personnel who co-respond to domestic violence calls for service, and either ride to the scene with law enforcement officers or arrive separately, in some cases acting as witnesses for the investigation.
Detective Hunt explained that while some intervention calls for police service are “minor,” other calls present officers with highly charged emotional situations that can be highly dangerous to everyone involved, and that officers and DVERT response representative are trained to respond and assist in ways that are supportive to the victim and children or family members present to safely defuse the situation.
“The beauty and revolution of DVERT in this community is that at the time of an explosive event, they have people on hand to talk to the woman and begin giving her education and the tools and information that she needs,” Hunt said. “Many of these survivors are fairly ignorant of the social system, law enforcement or the judicial system, and they truly do feel trapped in these relationships with economic and child custody considerations.”
When assessing domestic violence calls, an officer may encounter a defensive offender and a distressed and traumatized victim who may or may not provide accurate information required to make an arrest. Or the victim might minimize the extent of the violence thereby limiting the officer's ability to substantiate criminal charges.
The victim may want their abuser to be held criminally responsible but feels remorseful with difficulty letting go despite the abusive circumstances.
“The victim, typically a woman, feels guilt oftentimes for involving law enforcement, for making this a public event and for drawing attention to it,” Hunt said. “She's having second thoughts and is denial about him. When he is not drinking, he's a good guy. When he's not using cocaine, he's a good guy. And when he's not beating me, he's a good guy. At the same time the offender is now full of remorse and says, ‘I'll never do this again, I love you. Think of all the things we've done together. What are we going to do with Billy and Sally?'‘
Another guest speaker, District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig, concurred with Hunt.
“It's not easy as a prosecutor of domestic violence,” he said. “The level of cooperation falls dramatically after the first 24-hour period. Once an officer gets to the scene he has DVERT representatives there and an emergency protective order that is usually served on the abuser and says the perpetrator shall not contact the victim. But once the abuser is incarcerated, the first thing he does is call the victim.”
The victim may initially assent to pressing criminal charges and cooperate with law enforcement officers during the criminal investigation, but then at a later date bail the defendant out of jail, or appear in court requesting that charges be dropped.
Hunt stressed to the group that these types of rationalizations lead to false reconciliation and denial of the problems because the couple are not addressing whatever the underlying issues are that led to the build-up and emergency to begin with.
Hunt noted that when denial occurs, a DVERT representative is able to intervene immediately and talk to the victim when he or she is willing to accept the information and the memory of the event is new and clear.
“At that point, it's much easier to get them to take productive steps, and from that point forward DVERT is available to do immediate follow-up to prevent slipping into that false honeymoon phase with therapy, support and intervention for the male half of the problem,” he said.
Hunt also shared with the group one of his first domestic violence calls with a partner in 1995 on the Eastside of Santa Barbara that ended in tragedy.
The victim, a Hispanic woman, had been struck in the face by her husband and was hiding in the couple's bedroom behind the locked door refusing to come out. Officers kicked down the door, placed him under arrest and he was taken to county jail, but released 11 days later.
“Once he returned home the cycle of violence came around again,” Hunt said. “During an argument, he was upset enough to put a gun to his wife's head, over her right eye and murdered her. I'm not telling you this to bring up a morbid story. I say it by way of illustrating that that's not the way things are now. At the time, we had nothing to give the woman. She was a non-English speaker with zero accessibility to resources, no family here in town, no support system, no money and no way to get out.
“There was nothing for her really to do but wait in that apartment with her child for him to come home, and that's exactly what happened. That doesn't happen now. Now we have tools and resources enabling Domestic Violence Solutions, and I'm very proud to say that since that time in the last 17 years, we have not had one ‘true' domestic violence homicide in the city of Santa Barbara.
“You're going to have a hard time finding another town with 100,000 people anywhere that can say that, and I don't think it's a coincidence because that follows directly behind DVS and the DVERT program coming into effect. They're really saving lives.”
DVS is a full-service nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County focused solely on ending the cycle of domestic violence by providing trauma counseling services, confidential shelter to women and children, personal counseling and a 24-hour crisis hotline.
The organization has provided confidential emergency shelters and a range of support services to victims of domestic violence since participating in the CETA-funded “Violence in the Family” projects in 1977, and opened up its first emergency shelter in Santa Barbara that year followed by additional shelters in Lompoc and Santa Maria.
Up to 40 volunteers work in shifts to operate a 24-hour support and crisis hotline available to victims or at-risk victims of domestic violence. Additionally, DVS has incorporated the work of Anger Management Counseling Services into its prevention and intervention services and offers weekly free support groups for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The fourth annual Men's Cocktail Party was sponsored by the DVS Men's Committee.
Jessica Ridgeway latest news: Alleged killer Austin Sigg moved to adult jail
by Charisse Van Horn
On Nov. 30, 2012, Thornton News reported that Austin Sigg, the alleged killer of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, was moved from a Colorado juvenile facility to an adult jail. Sigg, 17, has been charged as an adult and faces charges stemming from the Oct. 5, kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault and murder of the young girl who disappeared on her way to school. Sigg faces 11 counts in regards to the Jessica Ridgeway case and an additional six charges due to an attempted kidnapping of a 22-year-old woman who was jogging in a nearby park. Sigg reportedly confided in his mother that he was responsible for the heinous crime and she contacted authorities. Police say they have DNA evidence connecting Sigg to the murder. Sigg is now housed at the Jefferson County Detention Center.
According to a report by 9 News, Sigg will be escorted by a deputy at all times, and will be kept separate from other prisoners. He turns 18 on Jan. 17.
“Sigg will be kept away from all other adult prisoners. He will not be able to see or hear them. When being moved around the facility, the jail staff will have to lock other inmates down while Sigg is in that specific part of the facility. The restrictions will be in place for 53 days, until Sigg turns 18 in January. Then the jail staff will assess what's safe for him,” the news outlet reported
My Fox Tampa Bay reported that Sigg's attorneys disagreed with the decision.
“We very much oppose moving this child to an adult jail," defense lawyer Katherine Spengler said.
Still, if Sigg hadn't moved to the adult facility, he would have once he turned 18.
In other news relating to the case, The Denver Post reported on Nov. 29, 2012, that the park Jessica Ridgeway was headed when abducted and murdered, Chelsea Park, will be renamed the Jessica Ridgeway Memorial Park in honor of the little girl who left the world too soon.
Sigg's next scheduled court appearance is Dec. 12, which is a motions hearing. A preliminary hearing will be held on Feb. 22. That hearing will determine whether the case will go to trial.
Radiothon to help end child abuse starts December 6
On Thursday, December 6, beginning at 1 p.m. and continuing for 23 hours until noon on Friday, December 7, KIKV-FM and Cool 94.3 will host a Radiothon to End Child Abuse. This event is co-sponsored by Prevent child Abuse Minnesota.
Proceeds will also be shared by the Douglas County Prevention Council, Pope County Help Council, Stevens County Family Well Being Committee, Todd County Peace Council and the Grant County Child and Youth Council.
During the broadcast, listeners will have an opportunity to phone in a pledge to help stop child abuse in Minnesota and in their local county. Listeners can designate which county their money goes to. Last year, KIKV-FM and Cool 94.3 listeners raised more than $38,000 during the radiothon.
Listeners will also have an opportunity to bid on auction items. There are many items and gift certificates suitable for holiday gift giving.
Human service professionals and community leaders will discuss child abuse prevention and what local resources are available to parents and children. Listeners will hear what has been accomplished in the past to end child abuse and what can be done in the future to prevent it.
There will also be two events held to help raise money for the radiothon. On Tuesday, December 4 at Broadway Ballroom, a free community dinner will be served from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday, December 19 at the Quad A Theatre, Shaun Johnson, Big Band Experience, will perform at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, call KIKV-FM or Cool 94.3 at (320) 762-2154 or, during the radiothon, at 1-877-836-5437.
Act of courage by victim
Audience at Y forum hears man tell of being molested by Sheehan as a child
by Frank Mortimer
Probably for the first time in Foxboro's history, a man physically stood up in public Monday and identified himself as a victim of child sexual abuse by a former town official.
Only about 50 people witnessed the extraordinary moment during an abuse prevention forum at the Ahern Middle School -- a slimmer turnout than police and school officials hoped for when they reserved the 550-seat auditorium to host the YMCA's "Darkness to Light" prevention program.
Before the session, the man, who has two adult children, told the Foxboro Reporter that he might get up to speak, and asked the newspaper not to name him or to take his picture.
"In 1998 I took the hardest step in my life," by driving to the Foxboro Police Department to report a crime, he told the audience.
He said he had gotten into a fight with his wife at the time, and she urged him to get psychological counseling. Just 15 to 20 minutes into his first session, he said, the therapist asked him if he'd ever been sexually molested.
He said yes. Asked if he's ever told anyone, he said no.
"One meeting with a trained professional and I went straight to the police department," he said. He reported his alleged molestation, as a child, by his former Foxboro Boy Scout Troop 70 scoutmaster, William E. Sheehan Jr.
"I was 11 years old and had no one to turn to," the man said Monday. "I can tell you first hand that those people are evil ... If we allow it to happen we become complicit."
He said he almost backed out of his decision to report the ordeal.
Arriving at the police department some 14 years ago, he said, he recognized an officer as one of his old Foxboro High School classmates. "I almost left" he said. "I turned around and walked back in and reported the crime."
He's glad he did -- even though, at the time, police ended up taking no formal action against Sheehan, who had moved to Florida 17 years earlier, in 1981.
But recently, he discovered that people such as school superintendent Debra Spinelli are trained to offer resources to help victims.
"I look at people like Debra Spinelli -- what she did for me: it blew me away how prepared she was, she was prepared for the moment."
Among other steps, Spinelli joined police chief Edward O'Leary and Hockomock Area YMCA leaders in offering the Y's "Darkness to Light" program to local adults Monday night.
Ed Hurley, president of the local area YMCA, said the organization tightened its focus on child sexual abuse prevention last year, after an incident came to light at another Y in Massachusetts.
The local area Y offered a prevention training program designed by the Darkness to Light, and promoted trainer Tony Calcia to the new position as vice president of social responsibility and child protection.
He stressed that child molestation is not exclusively a problem faces by churchs, schools, scouts or other group: "It's a society problem."
"There are people in our midst that would rob children of their innocence and they are people we know and trust," Calcia said, adding that child abusers are believed to be "among the most intelligent criminals," skilled at deception. "For too long its been an issue shrouded in secrecy and denial." He presented a short film in which adult survivors of child abuse tell discuss their childhood stories.
Calcia said there are millions of victims like these. "Folks, it's an epidemic -- an epidemic that needs to stop."
Adults are encouraged to sign up for one of the three no-cost "Stewards of Children" sessions Calcia is offering in Foxboro over the next two weeks (see details in accompanying story).
He encouraged listeners to themselves become "facilitators" of those sessions, in the hope of getting 5 percent of Foxboro's adult population trained in the next few years.
Minutes before Monday's event, the man who identified himself as a victim voiced one complaint -- about the Ahern School setting.
He said Sheehan had abused him in that very building, leading him from the old gymnasium to a side room during scouting events.
"I'd be pulled aside for a half hour at a time," he said. "At no time did other adults ask a question or say 'Where have you been?' I cannot believe that other adults didn't know."
Yet he added of Sheehan: "He was a master of deception."
"I just felt it was important to be here. I want other victims to have the strength to come forward, because coming forward is the most important thing. It takes the burden of the past off your shoulders."
Foxboro police in September obtained arrest warrants against Sheehan, 73, but found that he is seriously ill in a Fort Myers, Fla. nursing home.
After the meeting, one of the attendees Paul Gonsalves, assistant cubmaster for Foxboro Cub Scouts Pack 116, said scouts take seriously a "two-deep leadership" rule, meaning no adult is ever alone with a child at a scout event.
Christine St. Pierre, another leader with Pack 116, said the night's presentation convinced her to look into becoming a trainer in the Darkness To Light program.
John Foley, an adult leader with Boy Scouts Troop 7 and with the Cub Scout pack, said the most memorable thing he heard that night was the alleged victim's comment that he had, somehow, never directly asked his own two children if they've ever been victimized.
Ensure funds to help protect kids
As the sordid Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case unfolded, it exposed gaps in state-mandated abuse-reporting requirements that put untold numbers of children in peril.
The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, which was created by the state Legislature in response to the Sandusky case, has recommended a host of changes to require reporting by more people and to make it easier to do so.
Most of those changes are to the good but they only partially deal with issues raised by the Sandusky case. A full policy response won't be possible until Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane undertakes her promised investigation of the state's own bungled response to the Sandusky case, which extends far beyond the former administration at Penn State University.
Former PSU President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley await trial on charges related to their alleged mishandling of the Sandusky case in 2001.
But suspicions about Mr. Sandusky were reported to the appropriate local and state agencies in 1998, investigations were conducted and nothing happened. Then in 2008, when the incident that led to Mr. Sandusky's arrest and conviction was reported, an investigation launched by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett's office dragged on for three years during which Aaron Fisher, also known as Mr. Sandusky's "Victim No. 1," later said he contemplated suicide as Mr. Sandusky remained free.
There has been no action regarding school district personnel, who already have a statutory responsibility to report suspected abuse. Nor has there been any action regarding the Second Mile, the charity founded by Mr. Sandusky, through which he gained access to some of his victims.
The issue isn't simply the need to report but the need for those receiving reports to respond.
Meanwhile, the task force recommendations include: expanding the definition of child abuse so that actual physical contact is not required for an arrest; expanding the list of mandated reporters to include college employees, computer technicians and employees and volunteers of organizations dealing with children; replacing the current 1-800-932-0313 child abuse hotline with a three-digit number; requiring teachers to directly report suspected abuse through the hotline rather than to school administrators; and establishing a central database of abuse investigations.
State lawmakers should add rapid responses by appropriate state agencies to the list. They should ensure that agencies have the resources they need to do so. And they should be prepared for another policy update once Ms. Kane does her work.
An 11-year-old rape victim is not a temptress
A jury convicts a man of sexual assault -- but after his lawyer compares the case to "the spider and the fly"
by Mary Elizabeth Williams
It should not, in America in 2012, be this hard. Not just this hard to get a tough verdict on a crime that went on for months, one that was documented and shared like a trophy around the local middle school. It should not be this hard to get it through anybody's head that an 11-year-old child who's been repeatedly abused is not the problem here. Or that anybody who makes it his job to paint a little girl who's been raped as a predatory vixen is an inexcusably shoddy excuse for a human being.
In Texas on Wednesday, a jury convicted 20-year-old Jared Len Cruise of aggravated sexual assault for his role in the gang rapes of an 11-year-old girl from the small town of Cleveland. The case attracted national attention – including an outrageous New York Times story that quoted the child's neighbors' judgment of her: “She dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.” Investigators believe the assaults began when the girl accepted a ride from a local 19-year-old.
Appallingly for the girl, she's now involved in another sexual assault saga – police say that a 30-year-old convicted drug dealer has pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault stemming from an incident after the girl ran away from the facility Child Protective Services placed her in last year.
Cruse is only the second man convicted of sexually abusing the girl, in a spree that spanned a four-month period in 2010. A staggering total of 20 young men were accused in the case – the Houston Chronicle now reports that “seven juveniles received probated sentences; six adults received 15-year sentences in exchange for guilty pleas and agreeing to testify against their peers; and five are awaiting trial.”
Cruse's defense attorney Steve Taylor sure put up a good fight, though. Cruse, who's currently serving an eight-year sentence for robbery and assault during a home invasion while he was out on bail for the rape, did not testify at the trial. But Taylor had a few words to say on his behalf — and against the girl at the center of the story. As the Chronicle says, Taylor told the jury the girl “never shed a tear nor voiced a single complaint about her sexual encounters with any of the 20 males accused of assaulting her two years ago” and noted she had not reported the assaults to authorities.
When he asked her outright if she had been a “willing participant” in what happened to her, she replied, “Yes, sir.” And that , for anyone who knows anything about children or who knows anything about abuse, is one of the most devastating quotes from the whole story. Imagine what you'd have to have endured. Imagine what it'd be like to still be only a young teenager, and have to sit in a courtroom and account for your own actions in your assault. Imagine yourself saying, “Yes, sir.”
Taylor, who says the girl lied about her age, told the jury, “Like the spider and the fly. Wasn't she saying, ‘Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?'” And when the prosecutor replied, “I wouldn't call her a spider. I'd say she was just an 11-year-old girl,” Taylor answered, ”I hope nothing like this ever happens to your two teenage sons.” Because apparently those four months of sustained sexual abuse against a child are something that happened to Jared Len Cruise and 19 other guys.
In his closing remarks, Taylor capped off his truly spectacular assault on both logic and humanity by saying, “People don't come with signs telling their age. How does a young man know? You can't cut off their legs and count the rings like a tree.”
Oh, if only someone could have cut off the legs of that little girl who'd been gang raped! HA HA HA. No, he kids! And I guess if she'd been 17, what happened to her would have been totally fine . Prosecutor Joe Warren, meanwhile, cited the evidence. “Look at how proud he [Cruse] is on that video as his buddies say ‘beat that ho,'” he told the jury. And the jury convicted.
Now that this trial is over, let's say something. Again. Guys, this is getting old. Those of us who've moved into this century are sick and tired of your heartless, seemingly endless attacks on the integrity of people who've been raped. We are, in fact, angry about it. So you can put away your crap about what qualifies as “legitimate”; you can cool it with the smirking remarks on girls who “rape easy,” and you can get it through your heads that even an attorney can do better than paint an 11-year-old — one who said in her original affidavit that she faced “threats she would be beaten if she did not comply” — is not some wily temptress. She's not the “spider.” She's a kid who's been through a horror that very few of us can ever even fully imagine. And she doesn't deserve the additional abuse of being shamed for being raped.
Teen happy she spoke out about sexual assault
by Katie May
Her plight to raise money for child victims of sexual abuse has put Alison Lee and her past in the public eye.
Now all of the 15-year-old's peers in Coaldale know she is a survivor of childhood sexual assault, and in response the community has opened up to her. Some have opened their wallets, others their minds, and some have unsealed the silence that surrounded their own past abuse.
It's a lot for a 15-year-old to take, but Lee said she wouldn't go back and keep her story to herself.
"I don't regret it at all," she said.
"Me coming out that it happened to me has really helped a lot of people."
By selling Christmas light bulbs to decorate a downtown evergreen, Alison raised about $8,700 in the past month for Little Warriors, an Edmonton-based charity. The money will go toward building a "Be Brave Ranch" where child sexual assault survivors can go to heal. Alison also met the charity's founder, Glori Meldrum, who she calls "an inspiration" and learned she is the third child in Canada to speak publicly about her abuse while raising money for the charity.
That makes going public worth it, she said, although she has received some catty comments from her peers after sharing her story in local newspapers earlier this month.
But she tries not to focus on the negative. Instead, she thinks of the overwhelming number of people who have confided in her about their own abuse, and those who have offered their support.
"A lot of people are glad that it's becoming a conversation," she said. "When you have a child coming out and saying that it's a problem, people tend to listen."
Going public about their abuse is often a difficult, highly personal decision for sexual assault survivors, according to the University of Lethbridge's Suzanne Lenon. The assistant professor of Women and Gender Studies says victims shouldn't feel like they have to tell the world about their abuse in order to tear down society's victim-blaming "rape culture."
"The onus of challenging rape culture is on all of us. The responsibility for that just doesn't lay on the shoulders of survivors. I think we all, as individual members in our city and in our province and in our country and our society, have a responsibility to speak out against sexist jokes, against rape jokes, speak out for gender equality," she said.
The term "rape culture" refers not only to the prevalence of sexual violence, but society's attitudes about it that focus on the victim instead of the abuser. And society's attitude toward sexual violence isn't improving, despite the increasing number of victim services programs available, Lenon said, and victims today are still likely to keep silent for fear of being blamed if they speak out.
"Sexual assault and sexual abuse have always been very difficult for people to speak out about," she said. "People and society just don't want to believe that these kind of horrific things happen."
But for some, like Alison, talking about their experience helps.
"Every woman or man who is a survivor of sexual violence has their own means by which they need to heal. And for some people, it's not saying anything. For some people, it's just talking with a friend and/or counselling, and for other people, it's about really making it public," Lenon said. "And I think it's about honouring all the different types of disclosure or non-disclosure that happen."
Documents paint troubled picture of scoutmaster accused of assault
by K. Burnell Evans
Court records paint a picture of a life in disarray for David Brian Watkins: he faced a failing marriage, finances in shambles and signs of darker troubles.
His wife accused him of sleeping naked with a young boy, according to 2006 divorce records. A friend of hers testified that she called police concerned about Watkins' behavior, but later backed off, the records said. A forensic psychologist examined him but concluded he posed no threat.
The ex-scoutmaster and son of a J.C. Penney retail manager was jailed Wednesday on a forcible sodomy charge. An Albemarle County arrest warrant said Watkins, 49, had anal and oral sex with a boy under the age of 13 in 2005. The boy was a Scout under Watkins' command in Keswick Troop 1028 at the time of the alleged assault, police said. Investigators say more charges could follow.
The Boy Scouts of America severed Watkins' ties with the organization in June after Charlottesville police investigated a report of inappropriate sexual activity. No charges were filed.
“When the authorities came back to us and said, ‘We can't make an arrest,' we removed him from scouting forever,” said Stonewall Jackson Area Council spokesman Michael Hesbach. “When this was reported to us, it was the first time we had heard [any concerns].”
Charlottesville police said they investigated Watkins. They would not comment further.
A box containing thousands pages of court records from Watkins' divorce shows his marriage to Annette Morgan was on the rocks by 2001, when he broke her hand during an argument, according to the documents. She underwent two surgeries to repair her injuries, the records said. The owner of a Charlottesville business, Watkins Computer Services, Watkins faced federal tax liens for thousands of dollars dating to 2006.
A family friend testified that year that she called Albemarle police in 2004 with concerns about his contact with her young son, according to Watkins' divorce records. She later told the court that her suspicions were allayed after she confronted him about his interest in her child. Albemarle County police investigators did not have any record of the call, said department spokeswoman Carter Johnson.
Watkins' ex-wife, Annette Morgan, told an Albemarle County judge in 2006 that she had seen her husband shower and sleep naked with a young boy several times but did not go to the police with her concerns, according to public transcripts of the couple's divorce proceedings. The process was initiated in 2005, revived in 2009 and is still active. The cases' records overflow from the cardboard box housing them in the Albemarle Circuit Court Clerk's Office.
The latest person to come forward, now an adult, is a former member of the troop Watkins led from 2002 to 2008. The victim's initials on Watkins' arrest warrant are W.A..
“I am saddened and in shock,” the troop's scoutmaster, Pete Fenlon, said in an email. “I regret any circumstance that might hurt the Scouts or reflect badly on scouting.”
Watkins' interaction with children was not limited to scouting. He coached his son's T-ball and Little League teams, he testified in 2006.
His focus on boys gave his ex-wife pause.
“Maybe he has found someone at [Troop 1028] that he likes or loves,” she wrote in a journal saved to a family computer.
By “someone,” Morgan meant “lots of little boys,” she later told the court.
She became increasingly suspicious of Watkins' behavior in the early 2000s, when his monthly supply of the erectile dysfunction treatment drug Viagra far exceeded the dozen to two dozen times she recalled having sex with him, according to records.
An attorney grilled Watkins about the allegations during divorce proceedings in 2006: “Are you aware of these claims that you are a pedophile, a child molester, a bisexual, a homosexual, a pervert of the worst kind?”
“Yes I am,” Watkins replied.
“Have you ever done anything inappropriate with … [a] child?” he asked.
“No sir, I have not,” Watkins said.
Dr. Jeffrey Fracher, a certified sex offender treatment provider practicing in Albemarle, evaluated Watkins in 2005 under the conditions of the couple's separation agreement and wrote, “It is the opinion of this examiner, with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, that David B. Watkins represents no current threat to [children], with regard to his sexual behavior.”
Watkins' divorce from his wife was finalized in 2005. The couple have a son and a daughter, both of whom are adults.
Albemarle police said they have established a dedicated line for potential victims of sexual abuse and have received multiple calls.
Reaching out often takes time, especially for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, said Kristi VanAudenhove, co-director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, an umbrella organization that links state resource agencies and operates a 24-hour crisis hotline.
“We're as likely to get a first-time call about something that happened three weeks ago, three months ago or three years ago as we are about something that just happened,” VanAudenhove said.
The abuse is particularly difficult to process in situations where the aggressor is a mentoring figure or role model, she explained.
“When you're growing and someone that you trust violates you in such a way that you know deep-down it's wrong, but they're a right person in your life, it creates a huge contradiction for kids,” she said. “It rocks their sense of right and wrong and leads them to struggle with how to approach the world.”
Watkins is being held at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Victims' line -- Albemarle police have established a dedicated line for potential victims, 972-4045.
Audit finds failures, delays in LAUSD teacher misconduct process
by Barbara Jones
Systematic problems within Los Angeles Unified resulted in its failure to report teacher misconduct to the state credentialing agency and costly delays in investigating and disciplining abusive teachers, according to a state audit released Thursday.
Triggered by the Miramonte sex-abuse scandal, the eight-month review by state Auditor Elaine Howle identified serious lapses in LAUSD procedures, and makes four recommendations for improvement.
Superintendent John Deasy said the district already has addressed most of the deficiencies outlined in the 57-page report.
"The audit captured accurately what the district has done in terms of improvement and where the district was," he said.
The audit was ordered in March by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, after allegations that LAUSD had mishandled sexual-abuse cases involving teachers at Miramonte Elementary in South L.A. and Telfair Elementary in Pacoima.
Auditors visited those two campuses and four others as part of their review. They also interviewed district and state officials and pored through records, including the 600 personnel files sent to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
They found that the district had failed to alert the CTC that it had disciplined or fired 144 teachers, some for misconduct involving students. Of those cases, 31 were more than 3 years old, which officials said made it impossible to determine whether to revoke the teachers' credentials and prevent them from working in other districts.
In his formal response to the audit, Deasy said the district has created dual tracking systems to ensure that reporting rules will be followed.
"We've changed the internal structure to ensure that no case could not be reported," he said during a morning briefing with reporters.
Deasy also said the district is working to expedite the investigation and disciplinary process, which also came under fire by state auditors.
"We want to improve the time it takes to do investigations," he said. "It should be as short as possible but as thorough as possible."
Teachers suspected of physical or verbal abuse or harassment are pulled from the classroom and "housed" in an administrative office, collecting their pay until they're either returned to the classroom or fired.
| Read "LAUSD 'jails' fill with teachers as misconduct complaints rise"
While the average stay for a housed teacher is six months, auditors found instances where investigations stalled for months at a time. The report cites one case in which there was an eight-month delay in disciplining a teacher because the principal had trouble writing up the supporting memo.
Auditors also reviewed district records and found that 111 teachers and administrators were housed in 2011-12 for an average of 200 working days, collecting more than $4.2 million in wages.
The Daily News reported Wednesday that about 300 educators are now being housed, including 54 who are on unpaid leave. The remaining teachers are collecting an estimated $1.4 million a month in salary while district and law-enforcement investigations proceed.
Late Thursday, LAUSD officials released figures showing the district paid nearly $11 million in salary and benefits in 2011-12 to substitute teachers covering for housed employees. The costs top $5.7 million for the current fiscal year that began July 1.
The report found that because the process of firing a teacher can take years and be expensive - Deasy estimated $300,000 - the district may be more likely to pay an employee to retire instead of pursuing dismissal.
Of 61 settlements reviewed by auditors, 47 involved misconduct with a student, with payouts totaling more than $2 million.
Nevertheless, district officials say they fired 92 teachers last year for inappropriate conduct and six during the current school year.
Deasy said the school board will be advocating efforts to change state law to make it easier to fire teachers, especially in cases of sexual misconduct. A teacher dismissal bill by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, was defeated earlier this year.
In a phone interview from Sacramento, Padilla said he hoped to re-introduce the bill during the upcoming session, adding that the state report reaffirms the need for an expedited dismissal process.
"This is what we've been hearing from districts throughout the state - not just Los Angeles Unified," he said. "It adds weight and urgency to our argument."
Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the union concurs with Los Angeles Unified's goal of keeping students safe but believes the district has over-reacted in response to Miramonte.
"The pendulum swings between reporting nothing and reporting and suspecting everything. There is a middle ground," he said.
"We have to be serious about how we investigate and what we investigate ... It's more important to be vigilant than to look vigilant."
State Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, the South Gate Democrat who requested the audit, said the first-of-its-kind report provided "a good snapshot of what needed to be improved and how."
He said he plans to create a working group of district and law enforcement officials to discuss ways to improve the investigatory process.
He also wants to work on legislation to address the audit's recommendation for a statewide tracking system of dismissed support staff, like custodians and clerical workers, to prevent them from being rehired by other districts.
He's already been in contact with school board President Monica Garcia, who said the district has learned from the Miramonte crisis.
"Where we are weak, we have to strengthen it," Garcia said. "We have to do what we said we're going to do and check what we say we're going to check.
"There have been difficult situations that have been met with a strong focused response," she added. "There are issues that we have to continue working on. We have to keep moving forward."
The California State Auditor issued four recommendations as part of an eight-month review of Los Angeles Unified's handling of child-abuse allegations:
• LAUSD should comply with state requirements for submitting cases to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, including the timely reporting of teachers who retire, are fired or who are suspended or placed on unpaid leave for more than 10 days. The district should refrain from filing cases before they meet reporting guidelines.
• The Legislature should create a system for tracking misconduct cases involving classified employees such as clerical, janitorial or cafeteria workers, to ensure they are not hired by other districts.
• LAUSD should increase its oversight in investigating and disciplining misconduct cases to prevent unnecessary delays.
• LAUSD should track settlements paid to resolve employee dismissal actions.
Kansas agency works on sex trafficking bill
The Associated Press
TOPEKA (ap) — The Kansas Department of Children and Families is working with law enforcement officials on legislation that would increase penalties for those who engage in sex trafficking of children, while also providing help for the victims, an agency official said Wednesday.
The department is working with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office, law enforcement agencies and judges, Anna Pilato, DCF's deputy secretary for strategic development, faith-based and community initiatives, told Wichita child-service providers.
The legislation will treat children in the sex trade as victims rather than criminals, she said. The DCF's role would be to help those children get the help they need to re-enter society.
A bill to address sex-trafficking of minors passed unanimously in the Senate during the last legislative session but stalled in the House of Representatives, The Wichita Eagle reported.
National researchers estimate that about 200,000 girls and boys nationwide are involved in sex trafficking or at risk, said Lucy Bloom, a special assistant with DCF, which is working to determine the scope of the problem in Kansas.
Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, said a big part of solving the problem will be persuading people that youth prostitutes “are as important as any other child abuse we work with.” And she said it's possibly more important to deal with the adults who drive the sex trade.
It's a lucrative business for the procurers because a pimp “can sell a girl over and over again in one evening,” she said, and many people are willing to pay a lot to have sex with children. “If demand wasn't there, we wouldn't be seeing these victims,” she said.
In another meeting Wednesday, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said that her department also is drafting proposed legislation that would require notification to the department when a parent who is behind on child support payments receives financial benefits from an insurance company or the workers' compensation system.
Gilmore said if the department knew of the payments, it could issue liens to ensure that child-support payments are made.
Poor marks for region's anti-sex trafficking laws
by Ben Giles
Gaps in Maryland, Virginia and District laws have prevented officials from effectively protecting children from sex traffickers and prosecuting those who abuse them, according to a national report released Thursday.
The report card issued by Shared Hope International, an anti-sex-trafficking nonprofit, gave D.C. and the commonwealth an F for the second year in a row. Maryland was given a D, a slight improvement over the F it received in the 2011.
Few states received high marks in the report, which critiques sex trafficking laws by how well they help identify and protect sex trafficking victims and how effectively prosecutors can pursue cases against buyers and traffickers within broken criminal justice systems, according to the nonprofit.
Virginia received the lowest ranking in the Washington region and one of the lowest scores in the country -- only Maine, California, Hawaii and Wyoming received worse marks.
That's because the commonwealth is one of several states that have no laws specifically on human trafficking or sex trafficking, according to Christine Raino, policy counsel for Shared Hope International. To prosecute sex trafficking cases, Virginia officials rely on the state's abduction law, which doesn't recognize minors as victims except in cases where force, intimidation or deception are used, Raino said.
"Psychological manipulation and intimidation that's involved wouldn't necessarily qualify as deception or force," she said.
The District's laws on prostitution don't distinguish between minors and adults, and the city hasn't provided officials with the legal advantages needed to halt the growing trend of Internet sex trafficking, Raino said.
Maryland officials amended their definition of abuse under their child welfare statutes to include specific language about child sexual exploitation victims, earning them a higher grade, according to Raino. But the state can still improve its protective services for victims, she said.
Numerous bill have been passed in recent years helping to clarify laws protecting victims of sex trafficking, according to Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"Quite candidly, we're taking steps to chip away at this serious issue but there is still so much more that needs to be done," she said.
The D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force meets monthly, according to Bill Miller, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, giving prosecutors a chance to work with police to improve enforcement and prosecutions.
The Virginia Attorney General's Office dismissed the rankings. In a meeting with Shared Hope officials in December 2011, spokesman Brian Gottstein said the nonprofit agreed Virginia's laws contain all the elements necessary to prosecute human trafficking crimes. That the state should receive such a low grade is "absurd," Gottstein said.
Unsung heroes fight sex trafficking in Waco
by Holly Renner
Don't be fooled by the Baylor Bubble.
A woman in Waco can disappear in moments and become a victim of sex trafficking, an umbrella term that covers the recruitment or transportation of people for the purpose of subjecting them to involuntary service in the sex industry.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the country each year.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported in an online bulletin published in 2011 that some young people are recruited into prostitution through forced abduction, pressure from parents or through deceptive agreements between parents and traffickers.
According to the bulletin, the lifestyle of victims revolves around violence, forced drug use and constant threats.
It can take place in any state or city — including Texas. In 2011, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's hotline received 19,427 phone calls – almost double the calls from 2010. Next to California, Texas was the second state with the most incoming calls.
Children at Risk, a nonprofit organization created to help children through research and education, said in the research article “The State of Human Trafficking in Texas” that Texas is a big hub for international human trafficking because of its busy interstate highways, international airports, bus stations, shipping commerce through the Gulf of Mexico and its shared border with Mexico.
According to Children at Risk, the Texas-Mexico border is North America's number one supply site for young children subjected to sex trafficking.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported in an online bulletin published in 2011 that some young people are recruited into prostitution through forced abduction, pressure from parents or through deceptive agreements between parents and traffickers.
According to the bulletin, the lifestyle of victims revolves around violence, forced drug use and constant threats.
Unbound, Antioch Community Church's nationally-growing, anti-human trafficking organization that began in March in Waco, works to end sex trafficking through education, rescue and aftercare, public policy and prayer.
Currently, there are eight Unbound chapters in the United States: Waco, Bell County, College Station, Dallas, Seattle and three in Boston.
Susan Peters, the national director for Unbound and a Waco resident, said young girls are being sexually advertised every day in Waco, and Houston is the number one area for sex trafficking. Peters said one of the most important ways to bring an end to trafficking is through education.
“We've done several education and awareness training for the church and for the community at large because awareness saves lives,” Peters said.
Unbound teaches people to never approach a victim or a pimp, but to let police know what is happening so something can be done, Peters said. The training is done for all chapters.
In addition to Unbound's educational training, the organization offers specific trainings for police departments, social workers and other areas in the Waco community — those working directly with victims.
“We are committed to quarterly training and to facilitate specific training for professionals on the front line,” Peters said.
Peters said Unbound is in the process of developing curriculum for girls in juvenile centers and schools to educate them so they will be equipped to resist coercion or be able to get out of an abusive relationship if one has formed.
In addition, Peters said the organization is collaborating with members to create small support groups within poor areas where traffickers may look. Peters said they plan to have this finalized in January.
Peters said since March, Unbound in Waco has rescued two victims — both over 18-years-old — from sex trafficking. One of the girls, whose name could not be released, was a student who graduated from a local Waco high school and went to college, Peters said.
She was seduced by her boyfriend and dropped out of school, left her job and isolated herself from her family. She was trafficked all over the United States.
Peters said the rescued girl went to her mother's home and is still in the recovery process, but her recovery may be a long process because of the emotional suffering caused from her experiences. The second victim lived in Iowa. Peters said the victim's friend attended a Waco mission conference at Antioch with a seminar on sex trafficking.
Upon returning home to Iowa, the friend let a mentor know she was concerned the girl was a victim of sex trafficking, and they contacted the girl's mother. Peters said Unbound intervened with the help of lawyers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and volunteers who conducted research.
Through thorough investigation, they found the girl had been trafficked for two weeks. The girl is currently receiving treatment and therapy in a safe house.
Liz Griffin, Unbound's director for strategic growth, said on an average night, Waco has 20 to 40 minors trafficked through online sources.
“They're forced to post their own ads so it looks more like prostitution,” Griffin said. “If it's self-posted, under the control and supervision of the trafficker, it's kept secret.”
Griffin said Unbound has research teams that gather weekly to scan through Internet ads and are trained to identify girls because many of them are made to look much older than 15 years old.
Griffin said they are working to develop software to gather more data and cover more cities in order to take a large chunk out of Internet trafficking.
Most pornographic materials have a minor in them, which is considered sex trafficking, Griffin said. Since there is such a high demand for sex and a low supply, trafficking is rampant, she added.
Griffin said lowering the amount of sex trafficking victims could be done through education and awareness in the United States.
“We think it's a child chained to a bed in a brothel. Many times you pass a victim of trafficking at a mall,” Griffin said. “There are also students who attend school who are being trafficked. It's hidden in plain sight. The lack of understanding of what it looks like in a western culture is huge.”
Curriculum on sex trafficking to be introduced in area schools
by Sanah Sayani
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - There's new push in Wilmington to educate high school students about the dangers of sex trafficking.
A new organization called "Five14 Revolution" is working on a school curriculum to roll out in New Hanover County High Schools.
"The curriculum is in its early stages but its moving quickly," said Erin, founder of Five14 Revolution.
Sex trafficking is on the rise in Wilmington and local organizations are trying to raise awareness.
Through education, the group hopes to combat the issue from the inside.
"To give them a voice in their school, in their community, for it not to be a program that just says this is what trafficking looks like but to be engaging and for it to empower them to really make a difference," said Erin.
The average age of a victim is 12 to 14 but in Wilmington, girls as old as 17 are being forced in the sex trade.
"This could be something they're growing up with and they think it's normal," said Erin. "They need to be told it's not normal and the school can help you and we can help you and get you the right resources you need."
Erin, founder of Five-14 Revolution, started the group so she could bring to light a dark issue.
"When I found out it was here, I wanted to start something where our focus is here, in Wilmington and that we're known as a city that's going to stand up and come together; churches, organizations, government, law enforcement, that we all come together as one and stand up and say not in our town," said Erin.
The group is looking at other states like Georgia, where a school sex trafficking curriculum is already in place.
They hope to implement the program in the near future.
Convicted Child Sex Offender Campaigning for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s House Seat
by Eliana Johnson
Former Democratic congressman and convicted sex offender Mel Reynolds announced yesterday that he is running for the Illinois House seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr. First elected to Congress in 1993, Reynolds won reelection once, but was forced to resign when he was convicted of sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, solicitation of child pornography and obstruction of justice. He was having sex with an underage campaign volunteer.
In his announcement yesterday, Reynolds, openly acknowledged his checkered past. According to the Chicago Tribune , Reynolds, who was flanked by signs that read “Redemption,” acknowledged he is “not perfect” but insisted his campaign is not “a joke.” He also indicated that he is receiving many supportive phone calls and that he is determined to “finish the work” he began nearly a decade ago.
Jackson's seat will be filled in a special election. The Democratic primary is set to take place on February 26th, and state lawmakers are looking at April 9th as a potential date for the general election.
Dad says he missed 'red flags' in Harnett child abuse case
(Video on site)
A Harnett County man facing child abuse and child neglect charges after his ex-wife allegedly abused and starved their children for more than a year says he did not know they were being mistreated, although looking back on it, admits that he missed signs of abuse.
"I missed a lot of flags, and I'm going to have to live with that," Brad Thill, a defense contractor from Cameron, said in an interview Thursday on the TV talk show Dr. Phil.
Investigators say his ex-wife, Leslie Tieseler, 37, routinely locked three of their five children in a room and tool chest over a period of 14 months, denied them food, beat them with a wooden spoon and shot them with a BB gun.
Tieseler, who is in jail under a $1 million bond, was arrested in October on three counts of child abuse.
Thill, 38, who had been working in Afghanistan during that 14-month period, was later arrested on three counts each of child abuse and child neglect for failing to report the alleged abuse.
Tiesler has one biological son, and the couple adopted four boys in 2008. The couple divorced in March 2010, and Tiesler moved away with the children, according to Thill. They reconciled, and Thill allowed them to stay with her while he was overseas.
"All I want is for the kids to have a better life, and I thought I was doing the right thing, working, making good money and serving our country," he said on Thursday's show. "I'll never forgive myself."
Thill said that he had been home for a week when the Harnett County Department of Social Services began investigating after a concerned neighbor complained. Social workers left the children in the home for three more weeks before putting them in protective custody, he added.
"I had no knowledge of what my ex-wife was doing to the children," Thill said, even though his 14-year-old adopted son weighed less than 60 pounds. "I started asking questions. She told me one of the children had been treated for anorexia."
There were other signs of problems, too, he said, and for every question he had, Tieseler had an answer.
Clothes in the bedroom smelled like urine and feces, he said, but Tieseler said she was using a toolbox to temporarily store clothes messed up by the boy.
She also said the children had no beds in their bedrooms because they had broken them, Thill said.
He later learned from investigators that the beds were broken because the children were hungry and wanted out of the rooms.
When he pressed his children on the issues, he said, they confirmed what his ex-wife said.
It was after dinner one night during the three weeks after social workers' first visit when he hugged his children goodnight that he realized something was wrong.
"They were afraid to go to her, and she said, 'Don't even think about hugging me,'" he said. "Then, I knew something had been going on in this house. I could see the fear, at that point, in their faces."
When he confronted Tieseler about it, he said, "she would get upset with me and refuse to talk to me, and she would blame me that I left her alone with the children."
Thill's attorney says his client is expected to plead not guilty to the charges during a court appearance next week.
Meanwhile, the five children are still in the custody of social services. Authorities have reported that the three who were abused have all regained a significant amount of weight.
Speaking on the TV show, Thill had a message for them.
"I will get you back home. It's tough right now, but I love you and you will come home," he said. "I will fight tooth and nail. I will work 10 jobs to pay for a legal defense to get you home."
Parents busted after 5 kids, 18 cats found in back of moving truck
(Video on site)
NEW CASTLE, Ind. ( WRTV ) - A couple is facing charges for traveling cross-country with their children packed in the back of a moving van with more than a dozen cats.
Authorities said an anonymous call from someone claiming to be a relative tipped them off to a moving truck that had departed Pennsylvania early Wednesday. The caller said a mother, a father and their seven children and a number of felines were inside the box truck.
The Indiana State Police are still trying to grasp the scene they discovered Wednesday night after finding the truck parked at a truck stop near New Castle.
Troopers lifted the back hatch to find five children, ranging in ages 9 to 18, crammed inside the trailer with 18 cats and all of the family's belongings.
“They were wearing coats and they had sleeping bags but they had no way to communicate with their parents in the front of the truck,” Sgt. John Bowling with the Indiana State Police said.
The temperature when the children were discovered in the unheated storage area around 10 p.m. was around 32 degrees.
Witnesses, like Blaine Grider, were appalled at the scene.
“Definitely cold out, you can seem my breath right now,” he said. “I can't imagine being in that truck you know all crammed together with just a sleeping bag.”
The seven of the kids are now with child protective services. The parents are in the Henry County jail.
Child abuse prevention seminar in Putnam Dec. 10
by Staff reports -- GateHouse News Service
Putnam, Conn. —
Stewards of Children will host a child sexual abuse prevention seminar from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 10 at Putnam Elementary School, 33 Wicker St., Putnam.
Participants will learn how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to issues of sexual abuse in children. Childcare during the event will be provided.
This event is free and open to the public. Pizza will also be provided. Registration is required.
For more information or to register, call (860) 336-9377.
One with Courage campaign aids child abuse victims
NASHUA – The Granite State Children's Alliance has launched its statewide One with Courage campaign.
The national public awareness initiative is focused on helping communities and individuals respond to child sexual abuse.
The Granite State Children's Alliance, with the support of the National Children's Alliance, has partnered with the 10 Child Advocacy Centers and the Attorney General's Task Force Against Child Abuse and Neglect to roll out this awareness campaign. The campaign challenges communities and individuals to take an active role and stand up for children.
“Recent incidents at Penn State and other trusted institutions have revealed that no one, and no institution, is safe from abuse so long as shame and silence prevail,” said Kristie Palestino, executive director of the Granite State Children's Alliance.
It is estimated that 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday; only 1 in 10 will tell.
Nationwide in 2011, more than 275,000 children received services at a Children's Advocacy Centers; in New Hampshire, more than 2,100 were served. One with Courage highlights the role CACs play in providing comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to child victims of abuse in New Hampshire and throughout the country.
CACs bring together specialized expertise of law enforcement, child protective services, prosecutors, and medical and mental health professionals as a team to investigate cases and to best serve children and their families.
For more information, visit cac-nh.org
Illinois announces upgrade to child abuse hotline
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois' child welfare agency has launched a new computerized child abuse hotline in response to complaints its old system was failing to handle the volume of calls.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services announced the new $474,000 system Wednesday.
The department received more than 250,000 calls last year, but a majority of the callers didn't immediately reach a child abuse expert and had to be called back.
The department's new director, Richard Calica (KAHL'-ih-kuh), says the hotline's problems meant unacceptable delays in sending investigators out into the field and getting help to children and families. Calica says replacing the old hotline is a smart investment.
The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free number is 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873).
Child Defend aims to help stop, prevent child abuse
by Anthony Cook
As the former presiding judge over the family court in Lauderdale County from 2005-2011, Jimmy Sandlin was the only person assigned to hear child abuse cases.
What he heard shocked him.
"I lived in the Shoals area all my life. I thought we had a Mayberry-esque society," he said. "I learned that child abuse is a national epidemic. No one's immune."
Sandlin said he noticed a recurring theme over those six years.
"In almost every case, there was someone who knew something and could have done something, and they didn't," he said. "A family member, a teacher, a social worker ... They're either afraid, don't know what to do, or don't think it will make a difference.
"As a result, children were subjected to longer, more severe abuse because it escalates when it goes unchecked."
After completing his judicial term, Sandlin said he couldn't go back to ignoring the problem. Now, in partnership with Athens State University, he serves as director of Alabama Child Defend, a months-old program aimed at protecting children from abuse and neglect.
"We're not focused on trying to reform predators," Sandlin said. "We want to educate professionals who have regular contact with children to make them aware of the signs of child abuse and their responsibility with reporting child abuse. People in contact with children are in a position to do something."
Grandfathers. School teachers. Counselors. Pastors.
Sandlin said perpetrators of child abuse are often those who are the most trusted and least suspected. He pointed to the case involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who in October was found guilty of sexually abusing 10 children.
"A person no one would have expected, working at an organization beyond reproach, in a system of supposed checks and balances," Sandlin said. "And yet, how many people turned their heads? If Joe Paterno can turn his head to child abuse, we've got a long way to go as a society."
Sandlin said it's common for perpetrators to have no remorse or to be in denial about what they've done. He remembers presiding over a child sex abuse case that involved a grandfather who thought his actions were part of his duty to teach his granddaughter about adulthood.
"Those kinds of responses are typical," he said.
The sad truth is that the victims are our most vulnerable citizens, Sandlin said, adding that, because it crosses all socio-economic lines, child abuse is a societal problem that's going to take systemic change.
"We're going to be remembered as a generation that allowed children be abused under our very noses," he said. "Unless it changes, that's going to be our legacy."
One of Child Defend's primary tools is its online Legal Resource Center for judges and lawyers who work with child abuse cases, providing them with access to all legal research.
"I had zero training for dealing with these kinds of cases, and there were few resources to improve my skills for handling these cases," Sandlin said. "Also, young lawyers representing children don't have resources. Access to this kind of research is like having a staff to help them."
The website becomes a document vault for judges and attorneys. Judges and lawyers have access to all Alabama statutes and cases. "If they have contact with children, we want them to have the best information possible," Sandlin said.
Another component of the website is an online course that trains teachers how to recognize the signs of child abuse and how to respond. This is where Athens State partners on the Child Defend program.
"Athens State is a perfect fit because they already have an online program to train teachers," Sandlin said. "If I'm a superintendent and I have two teachers equally qualified and one has this certification, I'm going to hire the one with this certification."
The training includes four classes for a total of 12 credit hours, all online. The goal is to have key people in place to not only recognize child abuse, but prevent it.
"One of the biggest challenges with obtaining funding for child abuse prevention is showing numbers of how many cases you prevent," Sandlin said.
The local Child Defend is modeled after a similar program in Texas and was started with the help of foundation money that Texas received to replicate the system.
Kelley Parris-Barnes is director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, which also provided a grant to help start the program. Parris-Barnes worked seven years to get the program started in Alabama.
"I knew from the first time I saw the program in Texas, it could revolutionize the way we represent our children in the court system," she said. "It's a repository for resources and services for children in the court system."
The Child Defend system needs to be expanded to include mentors, pro bono attorneys who might volunteer to take a case, psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors as they come on line. Parris-Barnes encourages those professionals who deal with children and families to go to the website and sign up to serve in the program.
"If I'm in need of a child psychologist," Parris-Barnes said, "I should be able to go on this system and find one."
The website is not open to the public. Professionals would register through Sandlin, and submit to background checks to verify that they are indeed members of the profession.
Sandlin said there's no ongoing funding to support the program, which will require an annual budget of around $75,000 to support a paid staff. He said he'd like to see the program expanded across the region and eventually nationwide.
"We hope people will see the wisdom in doing this and will step forward," he said. "We need a benefactor to step up and say this is important, someone who wants to be a part of the systemic change that's needed."
Education: 1984 graduate of Samford University
Attorney: 20 years in private practice, focusing on family law
Judge: 6 years as presiding family court judge in Lauderdale County
How you can help
Contributions can be made to Athens State University and designated for Alabama Child Defend.
Send to the care of Mike McCoy, vice president for financial affairs, 300 North Beaty St., Athens, AL 35611.
Or call 256-216-3303.
For more information, or to sign up as a professional to serve in the program, contact Sandlin at 256-319-2798 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources for data showing child sex abuse decline
by BETH J. HARPAZ
NEW YORK (AP) — Researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center say data from a half-dozen sources suggest child sex abuse cases have dramatically declined since the 1990s. Here are details on data from the report, written by UNH professors David Finkelhor and Lisa Jones and published in the center's October 2012 bulletin.
— The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, which aggregates data from state child protective agencies, shows a 62 percent decline in rates of substantiated sexual abuse between 1992 and 2010. The raw numbers showed a drop from 150,000 to 63,000 cases, primarily in cases involving abuse by family members and other caregivers, who are statistically the most likely perpetrators in child sex abuse cases, although they are less likely to be the subject of news stories.
— The National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, a sample survey of professionals who work with children conducted by the federal government once a decade, documented a 47 percent decline in sexual abuse between 1993 and 2005.
— FBI statistics based on local law enforcement crime reports show a 35 percent drop between 1992 and 2010. The FBI does not break down rape by age of victim, but over 50 percent of victims of reported rapes are under 18, so a drop in FBI rape statistics is considered a good indicator of a drop in sex crimes against minors.
— The National Crime Victimization Survey, which collects information annually from a nationally representative sample of tens of thousands of U.S. households every six months, asks about sexual assault among 12- to 17-year-olds and found a 69 percent decline in the annual rate of sexual assaults against teens 1993-2008.
— The Minnesota Student Survey, conducted every three years among sixth, ninth and 12th grade public school students in selected school districts, asks about sexual abuse by family members and non-family members. The survey found between 1992 and 2010 that there was a 29 percent decline in sexual abuse by non-family members and a 28 percent decline in abuse by family members.
— The National Survey of Family Growth gathers information every few years from national samples of women ages 15-44 about sexual and reproductive activity. Between 1995 and 2008, NSFG found a 39 percent decline in the women age 15-25 who reported that their first experience with intercourse was before age 15 with a person three or more years older.
— The National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence, conducted in 2008, found 2 percent of children ages 2-17 had been sexually assaulted, down from 3.3 percent in a similar survey five years earlier.
One survey in the UNH report did not find a significant decline: The National Survey of Adolescents, in two studies 10 years apart, reported what UNH researchers described as a ‘‘non-significant decline'' in sexual assault for girls, from 13.2 percent in 1995 to 11.5 percent in 2005, and a ‘‘non-significant rise for boys'' from 3.5 percent to 3.8 percent.
The UNH researchers noted that other indicators of child welfare that could be associated with sexual abuse have also declined, including teen suicide, down 30 percent from 1990 to 2010; teen runaways as measured by police arrests, down 60 percent; and teen births, down 55 percent from 1991 to 2010.
In addition, violent crime rates overall in the U.S. have been declining for the past two decades. However, the researchers noted that there was conflicting data on whether there have been similar declines in the non-sexual physical abuse and neglect of children.
Although many high-profile child sex abuse cases have involved molestation of boys by men, including cases from Penn State, the Boy Scouts, and the Catholic Church, Finkelhor said that statistically, ‘‘about four girls are victimized for every one boy, and 95 percent of all offenders are males.'' However, he noted that girls are more often victimized within the family while boys are often victimized outside the family.
Awareness, enforcement help reduce child sex abuse
by BETH J. HARPAZ
NEW YORK (AP) — Increased public awareness of how child predators operate, along with better law enforcement and policies to protect children, may be helping to reduce child sex abuse despite this year's headlines about cases connected to institutions like Penn State, the Boy Scouts and the BBC.
A recent report from the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center found incidents of child sexual abuse have been declining in the U.S. for 20 years, with some statistics showing decreases as steep as 60 percent.
The findings may be surprising given the high-profile cases in the news. But many of those incidents took place years, sometimes decades, ago. Ironically, experts say, publicity surrounding such scandals may help reduce the problem.
"One or two or even five or 10 high publicity cases are not going to stop the problem in its tracks," said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center and a UNH sociology professor. "But there is a lot of evidence that the greater awareness and actions taken to improve safety in the wake of these things does reduce the amount of abuse."
The October report from the Crimes Against Children Research Center showing a decrease in child sexual abuse since the early 1990s is based on information from government agencies, FBI crime reports and national surveys. It includes data from state child protective agencies showing a 62 percent decline in substantiated sex abuse claims between 1992 and 2010, and a national crime survey that found a 69 percent decline in sexual assaults against teens from 1993 to 2008.
Finkelhor said that in decades past, pedophiles often behaved with impunity: "They thought nobody would ever detect them because they never heard of people getting caught, but nowadays they get caught, they get prosecuted, they get incarcerated," which "has a big deterrent effect."
In addition, said Finkelhor, "we've increased guardianship. Parents and leaders and staff people working in organizations are much more aware of the problem than they used to be and therefore take steps to reduce the likelihood that this will occur."
In some cases that made headlines, parents allowed children to have sleepovers or go on trips with adults who later turned out to be pedophiles. At Penn State, the school's former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of molesting children he met through a charity he founded. Revelations also emerged this year about a prestigious New York City private school, Horace Mann, where students said they were molested in teachers' homes and on school trips.
Michele Galietta, director of clinical psychology training at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a researcher on a 2004 report by John Jay about sex abuse by Catholic priests, agreed that public awareness has a major impact on child sex abuse: "Publicity around big scandals like Penn State, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, sensitizes people to the fact that a predator is more likely to be a neighbor, family friend, or familiar person" than the old stereotype of a creepy stranger or kidnapper.
Galietta added that while child sex abuse remains a serious problem, "because the stories are everywhere, it forces people to have conversations. Especially with boys, it used to be such a shameful thing, they could never tell anyone. Now if someone were to approach them, they wouldn't feel like they had to keep it secret."
Devorah Goldburg, spokeswoman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, also agreed that high-profile cases have made parents and others more conscious of warning signs, such as "if someone with a youth organization is spending more time with one person than another, or giving them special invitations."
Kelly Clark, a lead attorney in a successful $20 million lawsuit over the Boy Scouts' failure to report sex abuse accusations against Scout leaders from 1959 to 1985, cited the Catholic Church as an example of an institution where reforms changed a culture that once protected molesters.
"The fact is, we don't see a Catholic priest getting arrested once a month these days," he said. "The Catholic Church is undoubtedly a safer place than it was 20 years ago. It's not because the bishops got the holy spirit but because they got sued over and over again and the insurance company said, 'We can't have this.'"
The program used by the Catholic Church, VIRTUS, is a three-hour course that trains individuals to recognize signs of behavior that suggest potential sexual abuse and intervene. (The word VIRTUS is Latin for moral excellence.) VIRTUS was developed by the church's insurance company, the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, and it's mandatory for anyone who interacts with kids in church-sponsored activities.
Sister Pat Hudson, a therapist and VIRTUS consultant, says that "after people are trained, they have a keen awareness. So many times, cases have come forward where people have said they noticed something," such as adults who are overly affectionate or who single certain kids out for gifts.
Behaviors like that can be signs of "grooming," where adults cultivate children's trust as a gateway to sexual activity. VIRTUS stresses the importance of communicating concerns both to the perceived offender and to those in charge.
Many children's organizations also now mandate screening — including criminal background checks — for volunteers as well as employees. In addition, the "two-adult rule" — forbidding an adult to be alone with a child unless someone else is present — has become standard in children's activities, including team sports.
Finkelhor noted that "the priest abuse problem declined precipitously starting in the late 1980s, suggesting that as people started to pay attention to it there, the problem got reined in. The recently released data from the Boy Scouts show a decline in recent years there too as they've started to pay more attention to the problem. And there's data that shows recidivism among sexual offenders has been declining as well, which suggests we're doing a better job keeping them from reoffending." Finkelhor has served as a consultant on child abuse both to the church and the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts now require volunteers to complete youth protection training, which focuses on preventing sex abuse, every two years, according to spokesman Deron Smith.
At the BBC in England, the late Jimmy Savile, a popular children's entertainer, has been accused of molesting dozens of young girls in the 1970s and '80s. Victims say their original complaints were ignored, and police said the case has created a "watershed moment," with many adults reporting other claims of sex abuse they suffered as kids.
Brian Claypool, an attorney for families in Miramonte, Calif., where a teacher allegedly fed students semen-laced cookies, says headlines about these types of cases create "a ripe opportunity for our country to wake up." But he'd like to see "an independent agency or portal where parents can make a report of suspected child abuse. The one common thread in all these huge scandals is the first place where this is being reported is inefficient and ineffective. The people you report to have a conflict of interest to not do anything about it."
He added: "It's not a matter of if it can happen again, but when will it happen again, and will we find out about it?"
Police: Child sex abuse cases not uncommon
by Richard Yeakley
Five East Texans were in the Gregg County Jail on Wednesday, each arrested within the past 10 days and charged with the assault of a child.
While the incidents are disturbing, officials said it is about par for the course.
Roxanne Stevenson, executive director of The Martin House Child Advocacy Center, which assists law enforcement, said she does not believe more child abuse is occurring, but rather more people are now willing to report it.
The organization assists in hundreds of child abuse cases per year.
“In our last fiscal year, we helped 426 children from Gregg and Harrison counties,” Stevenson said.
Stacey Brownlee, Gregg County assistant district attorney, said the office provides an attorney who specializes in abuse cases.
In an effort to combat child abuse, the U.S. Senate this week passed the Child Protection Act of 2012, which increased the maximum penalties for child pornography convictions and protects child victims who testify against their abusers.
The Child Protection Act of 2012 now awaits the signature of President Barack Obama to become law.
“This is an example that Congress can get some important things done,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who helped spearhead the bill.
Although the bill was originally designed to discourage child sex trafficking, several provisions in the act extend to all victims of child sexual abuse.
The five people arrested in Gregg County since Nov. 19 help draw a picture of the bill's importance:
Nov. 19: Gladewater police arrest Ronald Dison, 51, of Gladewater, and charge him with indecency with a child sexual contact, accusing him of touching a 6-year-old girl.
Nov. 20: Peggy Weinberg, 26, and Cassandra Stone, 32, of Kilgore, are arrested. They, along with Jesse Smith, who was previously arrested, are accused of molesting a 2-year-old. According to a criminal complaint, Weinberg was with her boyfriend, Smith, and her friend Stone at a residence when “Peggy, Jesse and Cassie were all doing drugs and decided to have sex with each other.” According to arrest documents, investigators discovered the abuse of the child after finding images of pornography on Smith's camera.
Nov. 21: Christopher Townsend, 34, of Longview, is arrested and charged with sexually molesting a 10-year-old girl.
Nov. 22: White Oak police arrest Guillermo Morales, 17, of White Oak, on suspicion that he sexually assaulted a 3-year-old. According to a criminal complaint, Morales locked himself in a room with the child.
Lt. Kirk Haddix said every case involving abuse of a child is troubling.
“I would like to say it's the most perverse I have seen in recent months,” Haddix said of Weinberg's arrest. “But in the last three or four months we have had several (cases), and every one of them is bad.”
|2011 National data on Child Advocacy Centers
Total number of children served at the CAC during the reporting period: 279,157
Total number of children aged up to 6 years at first contact with center: 106,522
Total number of children who saw the center for sexual abuse: 187,862
From the National Children's Alliance
State agency, law enforcement team up to fight sex trafficking of children
by Dion Lefler
The Kansas Department for Children and Families is working with law enforcement on legislation aimed at reducing sex trafficking of teenagers, a department official told Wichita child-service providers Wednesday.
The legislation being drafted is designed to enhance penalties for traffickers and customers who drive demand for underage prostitutes, while treating children in the sex trade as victims rather than criminals, said Anna Pilato, DCF's deputy secretary for strategic development, faith-based and community initiatives. She said the proposed legislation is being written in conjunction with Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office, law enforcement agencies and judges.
DCF's role will be to ensure that girls and boys who become involved in the sex industry get the help they need to get out and receive ongoing support to re-enter society in a more productive role, Pilato said.
This year, a bill to address sex-trafficking of minors passed the Senate 39-0, but then stalled in the House of Representatives and died at the end of the legislative session.
DCF is also working to try to determine the scope of the problem in Kansas. National researchers estimate that about 200,000 girls and boys nationwide are involved in sex trafficking or at risk, said Lucy Bloom, a special assistant with DCF.
Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, said child sex workers generally come from family situations that don't provide them a lot of support. A big part of solving the problem, she said, will be getting everyone to understand that youth prostitutes “are as important as any other child abuse we work with.”
She said it's equally – and possibly more – important to deal with the adults who drive the sex trade.
It's a particularly lucrative racket for the procurers because while a drug dealer can only sell a given supply of drugs once, a pimp “can sell a girl over and over again in one evening,” she said.
And there are some who are willing to spend big money for sex with children.
“If demand wasn't there, we wouldn't be seeing these victims,” she said.
But even if advocates get the laws they want on the books, there isn't a quick fix to the problem, Schunn said.
“It isn't a situation that happened overnight, and it's not going to be fixed overnight,” she said.
While Pilato was meeting with the service providers, her boss, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, was meeting with city, county and law-enforcement officials on child support, another priority where the department is drafting potential legislation.
Gilmore said the DCF is considering a bill that would require the department to be notified when a parent who is in arrears on child support receives financial benefits from an insurance company or the workers' compensation system.
“Right now, there is no mandatory communication if something is coming forth,” Gilmore said.
If the DCF knew of the payments, it could issue liens to ensure that child-support responsibilities are met, she said.
Sex trafficking of L.A. County foster youth targeted
Times reporter Abby Sewell will join city editor Shelby Grad for a 3:30 p.m. Google+ hangout to discuss a task force launched by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to address the sex trafficking of foster youth.
The majority of juveniles arrested on prostitution charges in Los Angeles County come from the foster care system, officials said. Pimps have also used underage sex workers to recruit fellow group home residents. With the passage of Proposition 35, the responsibility for juvenile prostitutes from the criminal justice system to the foster care system.
From Sewell's Wednesday story:
Of the 174 juveniles arrested on prostitution-related charges in Los Angeles County in 2010, 59% were in the foster care system, according to Probation Department statistics. The department has launched initiatives to address the issue of sex trafficking, including running prevention workshops in juvenile halls.
But underage sex workers may no longer fall under the Probation Department's jurisdiction.
Proposition 35, which imposes tougher penalties on pimps, also includes language that decriminalizes prostitution for minors caught up in the trade — although there is debate about the effects of that change. But officials fear that greater numbers of young people involved in prostitution will become the responsibility of the county Department of Children and Family Services. Department director Philip Browning said his agency is "really unprepared at this point" to handle such an influx.
Browning and others said the department is not empowered to keep children in group homes and other placements against their will, and can't prevent them from running away. Emilio I. Mendoza, a children services' program manager, said many young sex workers fear they will be punished by their pimps if they don't leave foster homes when they have an opportunity do so.
"These kids see themselves as having no way out unless they're in a secure setting," he said.
Probation camps and juvenile halls provide that security. But advocates say the criminal justice system is not the proper setting for young victims of abuse and coercion.
Man Sentenced to One Month After Teasing Disabled Girl
by Christina Lopez
An Ohio man faces one month of jail time for teasing and taunting a 1o-year-old girl with cerebral palsy after a video of the incident went viral.
On Nov. 27, Judge John A. Poulos of the Canton Municipal Court sentenced 43-year-old William Bailey to 29 days in jail.
The taunting occurred on Sept. 26, when Tricia Knight and her mother-in-law were waiting for her children's bus to return from school. Knight's three children, including 10-year-old Hope, attend Walker Elementary with Bailey's 9-year-old son, Joseph.
What happened next was caught on an iPod camera by Knight's mother-in-law, Marie Prince.
William Bailey “was dragging his leg and patting his arm across his chest to pick his son Joseph up,” said Knight. “I asked him to please stop doing this. ‘My daughter can see you.' He then told his son to walk like the R-word.”
The next day Knight posted the video on her Facebook page while Prince uploaded the video they called “Bus Stop Ignorance” to YouTube. Within days, the video went viral.
The Knight family has lived next door to the Baileys for the past two years, and the incident at the bus stop, according to Knight, is the culmination of rising tensions and intimidation against her kids.
In the days that followed the taunting at the bus stop, the Knight family filed a complaint with Canton City prosecutors.
Jennifer Fitzsimmons, the chief assistant city prosecutor for this case, says in the three years she's been in this role, she's never seen anything like this.
“I think when we look at cases, there's case law out there regarding people commenting and gesturing against race and religion. But when there's nothing out there regarding disabilities, it took me a little bit longer to come to a decision.”
After Fitzsimmons reviewed the Knight family's complaint, a police report based on a phone call from the Knight family, and the video captured by Prince, she decided to press charges.
“It was settled without Hope having to relive what she saw and how it impacted her,” said Fitzsimmons. “I think the trial could have been just as traumatic as the event itself.”
Bailey, who works as a truck driver, was charged twice. He was originally charged for aggravated menacing, a misdemeanor of the first degree. In this charge, the victim was Knight, an incident she says took place the same day as the bus stop scene.
Bailey, she said, “was swinging a tow chain on his porch, saying he was going to choke me until I stopped twitching. I sent my kids with my mother-in-law to leave with them. My husband called the sheriff.”
In Ohio, a menacing charge is a misdemeanor fourth degree, which carries a maximum of 30 days in jail.
The second original charge, for the bus stop incident, was disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. A disorderly conduct is a minor misdemeanor and carries no jail time.
Although Bailey's sentencing technically reflects the charges brought by his actions toward Knight, Hope's mother, Fitzsimmons explains how the plea deal enabled the sentence to cover his actions toward Hope.
“Because the menacing misdemeanor charge was directed toward Hope's mother, and they're all interrelated, the judge took into account all the actions of Mr. Bailey and the entire Holcomb family,” said Fitzsimmons.
Bailey “entered a plea of ‘no contest' to a menacing charge and to disorderly conduct,” said Fitzsimmons. His sentence will go into effect on Jan. 2.
Judge Poulos required Bailey to pay $400 in court costs as well as other fees. He was given a credit for one day which is why his sentence is 29 days and not the maximum 30.
Following the Nov. 27 hearing, Bailey's attorney, John R. Giua, released a statement and apology on Bailey's behalf, according to the The Repository , an online newspaper for Stark County, Ohio.
“I don't think this sentence will change things because it hasn't so far,” said Knight.
Knight says living next door to the Baileys affects their everyday lives.
Just last summer, said Knight, 9-year-old Joseph Bailey came over to play with Knight's children and brought over a pocket knife, threatening to “cut [Hope] up,” followed by name calling. That harassment continued into the school year.
Since the bus stop incident, Knight has spoken with the bus driver and the school's principal. Knight now drives Hope to school every day while her other two children ride another bus to school.
Hope was born 29 weeks premature after Knight was involved in a head-on auto collision. When she was born, Hope weighed only two pounds, 12 ounces, which caused several medical problems resulting in two brain surgeries. Knight says her daughter fought for her life the first two years.
As for whether this case presents a new precedent in Ohio is another debate.
“I don't know if it sets a precedent so much maybe as it begins a conversation between people,” said Fitzsimmons. “I think conversation starts progress, and I think if it can bring something else to light, it would be good.”
Targets Warren Jeffs' Compound in 'Final Chapter' of Battle Against Sect
by NEAL KARLINSKY
It was once a gleaming symbol of a bizarre, hidden world -- a Texas compound where authorities say Warren Jeffs could make polygamy the law of the land.
Today, the 1,600-acre plot of land known as the Yearning for Zion Ranch is directly in the crosshairs of the Texas Attorney General's office.
According to a 91-page affidavit filed today by the State of Texas, "Warren Steed Jeffs orchestrated the purchase of the Suspected Place for the purpose of facilitating and perpetrating criminal offenses, including Bigamy, Sexual Assault, and Aggravated Sexual Assault."
Jeffs was convicted a year ago of sexually assaulting two of his underage brides.
Officials call their attempt to seize the group's compound "the final chapter" in a multimillion-dollar battle against the polygamist sect, which authorities believe was centered around sexual abuse and funded through money laundering.
Authorities say Jeffs used the compound's temple to commit his crimes, saying it "was constructed in a special manner so that Warren Steed Jeffs could perpetuate sexual assaults in the Temple building."
And they quote from Jeffs' own designs and the group's "Priesthood Records": "There is a table, but it will be made so it can be a table or it can be a bed. It should be made so the tabletop can come off. It will be on wheels… This will be made so that it can be taken apart and stored in a closet where no one can see it. When I need it, I will pull it out and set it up… It will be covered with a sheet, but it will have a plastic cover to protect the mattress from what will happen on it."
Authorities detail Jeffs in his own words to make their case that the compound's very existence was centered around protecting criminal activity.
"The devil knows where we are, but through our faith the wicked and the righteous can be blinded and not find this place," Jeffs wrote, according to authorities.
ABC News had rare access inside the compound following a police raid in 2008. At that time, women inside denied that young girls had sex forced upon them.
"That is a lie. They are not forced," a woman identified as Marilyn said.
But Elissa Wall, a former child bride from the ranch, says that terrible things went on within the compound and that its end is long overdue.
Already, most of the compound's residents have left, following a series of arrests involving the group's men. No word what will become of it if the State of Texas wins the right to seize it-- a rural chunk of land haunted by its past.
Old Colony YMCA holds 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 Thursday, Dec. 6, from 6:30 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) 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 Moran at email@example.com before Friday, Nov. 30, to ensure your spot and let her know if you need childcare, space is limited. Childcare for children over 4 years of age will be provided, and refreshments will be available.
Abuse hotline, legal definitions, and investigative teams the focus of child protection task force
by Mary Wilson
The panel tasked with reviewing the state's laws regarding child abuse has issued to the governor and the Legislature its final report, spanning the state's laws on child abuse and its institutions' responses.
The 11-member body was reluctant to single out any handful of their recommendations as highest priority, preferring instead that they be considered as “pieces of a puzzle,” said one member, Dr. Cindy Christian, a Philadelphia-area pediatrician specializing in child abuse.
The group was created in the months after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal came to light, and another panel member said some recommendations are in direct response to the school's debacle. Attorney Jason Kutulakis noted the task force's proposal to change to the law allowing reports of child abuse within an institution to go up the chain of command.
“We saw that at Penn State. There was supposed to be the report up through the designated individual, in this case, Graham Spanier,” said Kutulakis, noting the school's ex-president, who is contesting charges filed against him earlier this November that he allegedly stymied prosecutors' investigation into Sandusky. “This has been changed in these amendments to require the person, the individual, who discovers the abuse to report it immediately to Childline.”
The panel recommends that after calling Childline, the state's child abuse hotline, mandatory reporters should also be required to tell their supervisors at the institution, to make it even less likely the abuse report is buried. Had such requirements been in place at Penn State, Kutulakis said, former graduate assistant Mike McQueary and a school janitor who witnessed abuse by Sandusky would have been required to file a report with the state.
The report also spills no small amount of ink on one of the state's frontline responses to child abuse – Childline, the 24/7 child abuse hotline, which has long frustrated advocates and doctors who point to long hold times and a high number of dropped calls.
The law creating Childline requires it to employ only full-time workers. Those slots are hard to fill – harder still because of the sometimes mandatory overtime that comes with the job. So the panel is suggesting the understaffed hotline be allowed to hire part-time employees.
“There are many former and active child protective services workers who have a tremendous amount of experience who could staff – it doesn't have to physically be at Childline – who could help staff this and provide additional coverage,” said Rachel Berger, another task force member and a Pittsburgh-area pediatrician specializing in child abuse.
She characterized Childline's methods of relaying reports to the police and other agencies as a “game of telephone,” and said the office should adopt more efficient ways of taking and sharing information.
The panel also recommends erasing the 15-month lifespan of child abuse reports, which its members say limits advocates' ability to track both victims and perpetrators.
Other suggested reforms include expanding the legal definitions of child abuse, child abusers, and those who are required to report such abuse. The panel advises increasing the penalties for possessing child pornography. It is encouraging more open communication between pediatricians and child protective service offices by proposing that the two groups be able to share information without notifying a child's parents. Blair County prosecutor Jackie Bernard, another panel member, said one recommendation that counties can begin implementing right away is using multidisciplinary teams to investigate child abuse cases.
The state Senate Majority Leader acknowledged in a statement that some recommendations will take longer to implement, but he said he hopes legislation to put some of them in place goes to the governor's desk “early in 2013.”
Gov. Corbett said in a statement that his administration would “review each recommendation in detail.”
Safe surrender of more than 100 L.A. County newborns celebrated
by Christina Villacorte
Grateful families gathered at dusk Tuesday around a fountain in downtown's Grand Park, and lit candles to celebrate the 100th and 101st safe surrenders of newborns in Los Angeles County.
Several children who themselves had been safely surrendered lit the candles, while their adoptive parents watched lovingly.
"She's a joy, just a delight to have around," Jill Birdwell of Long Beach said about 3-year-old Adriana, a preschooler with a big smile who was safely surrendered at a hospital emergency room in 2009.
Not far away, 7-year-old Tessa Leavitt of Thousand Oaks flashed a dimpled grin after lighting her candle.
She had been safely surrendered at a fire station, and is now thriving with her adoptive family.
"They help me when I need help," Leavitt said.
Eleven years after California passed the Safe Haven Law, Los Angeles County reached the milestone of 100 babies saved when a newborn boy was safely surrendered in Torrance just before Thanksgiving.
Just hours later, another newborn was added to the total, raising the number to 101.
"While it's always difficult to celebrate a baby given up, when we think about what the alternatives and the other consequences could be, we realize how important this is for these kids," said Supervisor Don Knabe, who started the county's Safe Surrender program.
The Safe Haven Law allows parents and legal guardians to hand over an up-to-3-day-old infant with no signs of abuse or neglect to designated locations without fear of arrest of prosecution for child abandonment.
It was enacted to give mothers distraught from an unwanted pregnancy a chance to safely leave their newborns with families eager to adopt them.
At the time, there had been many news reports of dead newborns being found in Dumpsters, toilets, alleys and rail yards.
The parents and legal guardians of a safely surrendered baby have two weeks to change their minds. Otherwise, they can walk away - no questions asked.
Firefighter Ted Saref and his wife, Becky, a critical care nurse, already had a biological son and an adopted son when they decided to take in Jenna, now 4.
The girl's family had safely surrendered her at a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. She had bleeding in her brain and, even now, requires therapy for mild cerebral palsy.
"It's been stressful, but Jenna is the most positive individual I've ever known," Becky Saref said while her husband lifted Jenna in his arms.
"Every time she's in the hospital, every time she's sick, she has a smile on her face from morning until night," Saref added. "And she loves her brothers - there are nothing better than her brothers."
Debi Faris, founder of a charity that recovers abandoned newborns from morgues and gives them a dignified burial at a cemetery called the Garden of Angels, seemed emotional during the ceremony.
She had been one of those behind the passage of the Safe Haven Law.
"I just am so grateful," Faris said, looking at the safely surrendered children sitting in the crowd with their adoring families.
"I feel nothing but pure joy that this law works, and it works so well."
LAUSD 'jails' fill with teachers as misconduct complaints rise
by Barbara Jones
They call it "teacher jail" - the administrative offices where nearly 300 Los Angeles Unified educators accused of misconduct spend months on end reading, blogging or texting.
The cost is enormous: $1.4 million a month in salaries while district and law-enforcement investigations proceed, and $865,000 to hire substitutes to fulfill their classroom duties.
Los Angeles Unified officials insist the cost is worth it - the price the district has to pay for years of downplaying or ignoring suspected abuse. That practice exploded into a major scandal in February with revelations of longtime patterns of misconduct by teachers at Telfair Elementary in Pacoima and Miramonte Elementary in South L.A.
| Read "Where the Miramonte, Telfair abuse cases stand"
Now, under a new zero-tolerance policy, scores of educators accused of misconduct have been pulled from classrooms and are facing dismissal. The number of housed teachers has more than doubled in the last 18 months.
Even grabbing a student's arm or looking down a girl's blouse triggers a full-scale investigation, with the district moving aggressively to fire those found to have endangered the well-being of students.
"You touch a child inappropriately, expect to lose your job," said David Holmquist, the district's general counsel. "We have zero tolerance for inappropriate touching and that probably hasn't always been the case, to this degree."
That total of 300 includes 50 teachers who have been placed on unpaid status as the district moves to fire them. Officials say there also are "a handful" of teachers who have successfully appealed their dismissals and are collecting their salary, but who officials do not want back in the classroom.
The district's handling of misconduct complaints is the subject of a report set for release Thursday by the California State Auditor's office. Requested by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-South Gate, it is expected to look at the policies and procedures at the district and a sampling of cases at six schools.
The audit is likely to address LAUSD's more aggressive approach to pulling educators from the classroom - so many, in fact, that housed teachers are split into morning and afternoon shifts, with the balance of their "workday" spent at home.
Teachers union leaders say they certainly want to rid their ranks of abusers, but they believe the district is overreacting to the scandal and wasting precious resources by failing to differentiate between an inadvertent touch and predatory behavior.
"The district is diverting important resources away from investigating credible allegations of potential real misconduct and instead is abusing the system to smear the reputations of teachers," said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
"LAUSD is using the process to get rid of teachers they don't like or don't want by launching misconduct investigations against them when there's no reasonable belief on anyone's part that any real misconduct occurred."
Superintendent John Deasy disputes that contention, as well as claims by some housed teachers that he is conducting a "witch hunt" to thin the ranks of high-paid employees nearing retirement, when they'd become eligible for lifetime health benefits.
"That is completely inaccurate," he said. "What we want is for students to be safe. A witch hunt would be if we were going after teachers. But the complaints come to us, and we're responding by ensuring that policies are enforced."
LAUSD Human Resources chief Vivian Ekchian said it's not only the district that has changed its outlook in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal.
"Students have been educated and empowered, and they recognize harassment when they see it and they know they can tell someone," said Ekchian, a former teacher and principal. "Parents have expectations for high-performing teachers who are fit to teach with moral conduct that can be defended."
Under the updated guidelines for housing a teacher, employees can be pulled from the classroom and reassigned if officials receive a "credible allegation" of misconduct that warrants an investigation.
But some educators reassigned to administrative offices - which they've dubbed "teacher jail" or "rubber rooms" - say they've been ensnared in a system that denies them due process and is weighted heavily against them.
Employees complain that they have to sign in and out, even to use the restroom, and that they're not allowed to visit with their fellow teachers in adjoining cubicles.
While the district policy says teachers should be required to perform "duties within their job classification," housed teachers say there's no real work for them to do, so they spend their time reading, blogging or talking.
What's most upsetting, they say, is that they're not told of the specific allegations against them until the investigation is completed, to prevent them from contacting students or parents. That leaves the teachers in emotional limbo, compounded by the fear that they'll eventually be fired.
"I'm in tears every day that I'm here," said one arts teacher, adding that she's suffered from headaches, vomiting and hives in the three months that she's been housed.
The district tries to wrap up its probe in 120 working days - that's six months - although complaints involving physical or sexual abuse may take longer because police must first determine whether to pursue criminal charges.
"The number of calls skyrocketed in the weeks and months after Miramonte," said Juan Perez, one of three detectives assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department's Sexually Exploited Child Unit.
"We're again experiencing a significant increase in the number of calls, especially those like, `The teacher made me feel uncomfortable,' or `The teacher brushed my hair or touched my leg.'
"Some we can solve in a day or two, the others may take us months. It depends on the availability of the victims and the complexity of the allegations," Perez said.
Once police complete their investigation, administrators can interview students, parents and co-workers to determine whether the employee may have violated professional guidelines, such as the state Education Code or the district's Code of Conduct with Students.
According to the policy, the housed employee is interviewed last.
Some housed teachers say, however, that officials had completed their report and decided to take disciplinary action by the time they were finally asked for their version of events.
Randy Traweek is a sixth-grade teacher at the Westside Global Awareness Magnet, and a John Hopkins Teaching Fellow whose classroom was once featured on "Good Morning America."
He's been housed since April, when his principal heard rumors circulating around campus that Traweek had touched the buttocks of a female student in October 2011. The LAPD investigated and found no criminal wrongdoing.
The district, however, asked Traweek's students whether anyone had ever made them feel uncomfortable. Officials are pursuing a case against the 28-year LAUSD veteran for touching the girl, as well as one boy who said Traweek had hugged him and another who said the teacher had smacked him twice on the rear end.
Traweek is fighting the allegations, saying the boy he reportedly hugged wasn't yet assigned to his class at the time of the alleged incident, and the incident with the other boy wasn't corroborated by any witnesses.
"Oh, my God, I would never hurt these kids - never, never, never," Traweek said. "I just love teaching kids. It's my passion in life."
Despite the district's hard-line stance against misconduct, officials say they will return a teacher to the classroom if evidence shows that no wrongdoing occurred.
That's what happened Tuesday, when a veteran teacher was told she can return on Wednesday to her San Fernando Valley elementary school after being housed for 10 weeks.
"I am so beyond excited," said the teacher, who asked not to be identified.
According to the teacher, she'd accidentally "tapped" a student's stomach while trying to get him to stop squirming as he stood next to her desk. The boy began crying, so the teacher took him to the office, alerted the principal and contacted the boy's mother, who thanked her for the call.
"It made me really nervous," the teacher said. "Post-Miramonte, it's a new game."
Three days later, the boy's father filed a complaint and the teacher was pulled from the classroom. Parents at the school rallied around her, posting an online petition, and printing T-shirts with her name.
"I know the teacher and know she wouldn't hurt a kid," said mom Julia Bricklin.
"I don't begrudge another parent looking out for their own child, but we need a better process. We need to be able to put in a system that will punish them immediately or return them to the classroom if they're found to be innocent.
"If we conservatively say that many teachers deserve to be removed, then there's a number who don't," Bricklin said. "The process isn't fair and it's cruel and it's not fair to the children."
Officials say the process may be time-consuming and frustrating, but it's the best they can do as they try to balance student safety and teachers' rights.
Despite the pending audit and the continued outrage over the sex-abuse scandal, Ekchian said LAUSD's teaching corps is one to be proud of.
"The majority of our employees do an outstanding job," she said. "When we discuss our housed employees, it is a very small number who are being reassigned so investigations can occur for the safety of our students."
Audit: California agencies improperly managed child abuse prevention programs
by David Siders
The California Department of Public Health mismanaged public funds for programs to prevent child abuse and injury, violating state contracting laws and improperly spending millions of dollars on administrative costs, the state auditor said Tuesday.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report that the departments of Public Health and Social Services "exhibited weaknesses in their administration" of two relatively small funds established by the Legislature to support programs designed to prevent childhood injuries and abuse.
Howle said the Department of Public Health violated state contracting law when it contracted with the San Diego State University Research Foundation to administer the state's Kids' Plates Program, a prevention program for unintentional childhood injuries funded in part by the sale of special license plates. The department contracted with the research foundation from 2004 to 2010 without complying with provisions of state law prohibiting state agencies from contracting with private entities for work state employees could perform, the audit said.
After determining two years ago that it could no longer continue its contract with the research foundation, the state continued to allow the research foundation to perform services for 10 months without a contract, the auditor said. The research foundation was paid more than $300,000 for its work during that time, the audit said.
Howle said the Department of Public Health and its predecessor agency, the Department of Health Services, also violated state law when they paid the research foundation for administrative expenses using funds the Legislature intended only for direct program costs.
"Health Services and Public Health spent roughly 40 percent of their total appropriations received between fiscal years 2006-07 and 2009-10, or nearly $2.1 million, on the research foundation's administrative costs for the Kids' Plates Program," the audit said.
The state's Child Health and Safety Fund, which includes the Kids' Plates Program, was one of two funds that Howle audited. The fund, established by the Legislature in 1992, receives about $4.3 million to $5 million in revenue each year, according to the audit. The second fund audited, a trust fund established in 1982 for projects including child abuse awareness, received annual revenue ranging from just more than $800,000 to $1.5 million over the past six budget years, according to the audit.
In a written response, the Department of Public Health said it agreed with the auditor's recommendation that it should have adequate justification for hiring a private contractor. The department said it is distributing an email reminder about that requirement, among other measures.
The Department of Social Services said in a written response to Howle's criticism of its management practices that it has begun reviewing and updating grant and contract manuals to strengthen contract oversight.
Resiliency, Risk Taking, and Relationship Issues in Sexually Abused Women
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are vulnerable to relationship problems, particularly in intimate relationships. The violation of trust that occurs when a child is sexually abused sets the stage for fears, worries, and feelings of threat in adulthood. Female survivors of CSA often struggle with safety and security issues resulting from their abuse, and find it difficult to form adaptive, productive, intimate relationships. CSA also increases the chance that a woman will have psychological issues, including posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anger, or somatic and sexual problems that hinder her ability to function successfully in romantic relationships. Although there is a vast amount of research examining how CSA negatively affects interpersonal relationships in adulthood and how CSA increases sexual risk taking, there is little research looking at the dual effect of CSA on sexual risk taking and interpersonal functioning simultaneously.
To address this gap in literature, Brittain E. Lamoureux of the Department of Psychology at Kent State University in Ohio recently conducted a study involving 693 women with a history of CSA. The women were evaluated two times, six months apart, for levels of resiliency demonstrated through self-efficacy and self-esteem, and for psychological distress evidenced by symptoms related to PTSD and depression. Lamoureux found that CSA did indeed decrease resiliency and increase psychological distress. However, the effects were unique with respect to how CSA affected interpersonal functioning and sexual risk taking.
Lamoureux discovered that resiliency and psychological distress did not concurrently increase maladaptive functioning and sexually risky behaviors. Instead, the results revealed that resiliency deficits increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and sexual risk taking, while psychological distress increased the risk for relationship problems. However, Lamoureux believes that resiliency deficits increase psychological distress, which creates an indirect link between resiliency and sexual risk taking. The findings of this study could not clarify whether that indirect relationship was similar for psychological distress. Additionally, the participants in this study were demographically similar, which could limit the findings. Lamoureaux hopes that this research encourages clinicians to consider both resiliency and psychological distress when working with women with a history of CSA. “This possible differential impact should be considered in treatment planning and intervention development,” Lamoureux said.
Rep. Julie Brown honored for advocating against child abuse
by Liz Markhlevskaya
ROCHESTER — When it comes to violence at home, children can often become victims, and state Rep. Julie Brown hopes someday domestic violence will vanish from society.
In her past 24 years in the House of Representatives, Brown has strived to speak up for children, who she says often don't have a voice.
Earlier this month, she was among those recognized for going above and beyond to end domestic and sexual violence. Brown was among five people who were inducted into the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Hall of Fame on Nov. 8.
Others inducted in the hall of fame included U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen; Pamela Dodge, coordinator of N.H. Bar Association's Pro Bono Referral Program's Domestic Violence Emergency Project (DOVE); Debra Hastings, co-founder of New Beginnings in Laconia; and John Tobin, executive director of N.H. Legal Assistance.
It was at the coalition's third annual hall of fame luncheon that Brown was awarded for her work throughout the years. Brown said she was glad to be surrounded by a “fantastic group of people” also being awarded.
“I was honored that I was considered for this award,” said Brown on Tuesday. “I was thrilled to get the honor, I was thrilled at how beautiful of an award that they gave.”
For her entire time in the House of Representatives, Brown has served on the Children and Family Law Committee, working on issues relating to child support, child abuse and neglect, and sexual abuse of children.
Brown said she has always shown strong support for the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and was always ready to testify on behalf of children, the most vulnerable population.
In her time in the Legislature, Brown has met children who have been abused, or who have witnessed domestic violence. What has struck her, she said, is “how hurt they are because they couldn't do anything.”
“They're in the middle of it ... and they're little and they can't do anything about it.”
She said the harmful effects of such violence can be long-lasting.
“They suffer long term, it stays with them, and it stays forever,” said Brown. “It puts a blight on their life.”
Brown said her advice for children who are victims of domestic violence is to speak with a trusted adult — whether it's a policeman or a teacher at school.
“If I help in any small way I'm happy to do it,” said Brown.
Brown, 77, has four grown children and seven grandchildren.
She is a supporter of Youth Reach, a nonprofit group that aids homeless youth, and was also recently elected vice chairwoman of the Strafford County Meals on Wheels program.
Brown, who was not re-elected to the state representative position this year, will not be running again for office, she said Tuesday.
“We need to get young people involved,” she said.
Shaheen, who was the keynote speaker at the Nov. 8 luncheon, had been a longtime advocate for the rights of victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. As governor, she created the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee in 1999. In 1997, she announced the state's commitment to a major initiative designed to improve the way the health care system responds to domestic violence. New Hampshire was one of only 10 states chosen to work on this national health initiative that provided an opportunity for the creation of an education and training program.
In 2000, Shaheen launched the Corporate Citizens Initiative to help businesses recognize signs of domestic violence and offer meaningful support to employees who are experiencing it. This past year as a U.S. Senator, she urged her colleagues to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with full protective provisions in place.
Introducing Patty, Ionia County's canine advocate
5-year-old lab helps cut down child victims' anxiety in court.
by Karen Bota
When Jeannie Wernet interviewed last year for her job as crime victims services coordinator in Ionia County, she asked her boss, the county's prosecuting attorney, Ron Schafer, what he thought about bringing a dog to work.
Wernet had heard about a program in which highly trained canines are used to help child victims make it through the often overwhelming experience of court proceedings. Thirty such programs exist in the country, but the first of its kind in Michigan is the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP), a non-profit organization launched in 2010 by Dan Cojanu, the supervisor of Victim Services in the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office for 10 years and before that with the Oakland County Juvenile Court for 20 years.
"(Schafer) was open to it," she recalled. "Then we ran into Dan at a crime victims' vigil at the state capitol, and the rest is history."
The program intrigued Schafer because its focus is on assisting victims, particularly children.
"Anything we can do that would help a victim through what is usually a new, confusing, traumatic experience is something we should endeavor to undertake," he said. "Having looked at the program and how it was working, it was an easy decision. It works."
Cojanu's first canine advocate was a brown Labrador retriever named Amos, who works in Oakland County and in surrounding counties when requested. Besides his courtroom work, Amos also works in a survivor group at the Oakland County Children's Village.
Some of the dogs provide services both in the court and in residential placement settings. Eros, a Leonberger, makes weekly visits to the Children's Village Shelter Care unit called "Mandys Place."
After Amos came Dodger, a yellow lab and the first advocate dog sponsored by a prosecuting attorney in Michigan. Dodger works and lives in Bay County.
Canine advocates are hand-selected by Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills, Mich.
"They know the program and what temperament we need," said Cojanu, who is partial to labs because they have "a wonderful disposition and are cuddly for kids.
"If Leader Dogs has six dogs to look at, they look at each one individually and then pick out the right dog for our program," he added. "They have been spot on. They are a wonderful partner."
Patty, a black lab who turned 5 in September, belonged to an older woman who, due to health issues, could not afford to care for her any longer. Leader Dogs matched her with Ionia County's new program. In August, Patty started a new career as the state's third canine advocate, working with Schafer and Wernet in the prosecutor's office. Patty is owned and handled by Wernet.
"The woman was very happy to hear that Patty is working and still being useful," Wernet said.
The job of the canine advocate is to provide support to children who have been neglected, abused or sexually assaulted when they are preparing to testify in court, which is the most anxiety-producing time, Cojanu said.
"It's not about getting the kids to testify. It's about doing a little less harm in a system that is not child-friendly," he said. "Our judicial system is the best in the world, but we don't make enough accommodations for children."
Children have to sit and wait, sometimes for up to three hours, said Cojanu. They have to see a judge they have never seen before, sitting 20 feet away from the person who abused them, and tell people "the most horrifying things that have happened to them," he said.
"It's a lot to expect from an adult. To think of kids 6, 7 and 8 to be able to do that – it's terrifying for these kids," he said. "The dog gives the kid a new focus other than being scared to death about going into the courtroom. They don't have to worry about what is on the other side of the wall. They have this wonderful dog, and it is theirs for the day. They resume control over their situation."
Cojanu said he has an "Amos rule" when working with young victims.
"I tell them, 'Amos needs a hug before he goes in there, because he is proud of you for doing this.' Then another hug, 'because he'll miss you when you're gone,'" he said. "Kids have a rough time in court, and there is always crying, so it helps to have a big, fluffy dog waiting for them to wipe their tears on. Dogs respond to kids like something you've never seen. The impact is huge."
Patty has a similar rapport when she attends hearings and meetings with children, and even sits in the witness stand when they testify.
"She alleviates stress and anxiety for the little ones. They light up when they see her," Wernet said. "They don't want to talk about what happened to them, but she changes how they look at their experience. They are happy to come back. They are not afraid, and they don't dread it."
Children are not the only ones who benefit from Patty's presence. During a preliminary examination for an automobile death case, a victim's family member was struggling to listen to the details of the coroner's report. At one point, Wernet said, he was obviously very uncomfortable. Patty, who was laying at this feet, looked up at him directly into his eyes, and then got up and put her head in his lap. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her.
"She helped him to get through it," said Wernet.
"We've seen this work since Patty has been around several months," Schafer said. "There have been changes in the tenor of these really tense, emotional court appearances, particularly for kids, and even for adults."
Patty is all dog when she is off-duty. She enjoys walks, loves the water, chases the cat and plays with Wernet's three other dogs and her kids. Her favorite treat is carrots. But Patty also gets into the garbage, climbs on the couch, doesn't come when she is called and pees on the floor sometimes, Wernet said.
"But here, she's flawless," she said. "She knows she has to be on target – when she's wearing her uniform, it's time for work." That uniform is her canine advocate bandanna and a particular leather lead.
Any concerns Wernet had about the distractions a dog at the office could cause never came to pass. Most people have no idea Patty is even in the courtroom when she lays on the floor beside Wernet. When canine advocates are around, everyone smiles more, Cojanu said.
"Patty is such a benefit to victims," she said. "The judges are all very supportive. There is no issue in the courtroom."
When Patty is introduced to new people, it takes a matter of moments before she goes from standing to sitting to flopping over on her back for a belly rub.
"She's a love," Wernet said. "I've never seen a mellower, calmer, more gentle dog."
CAPS is currently working with St. Joseph County, which is considering a canine advocate of its own. In addition, three Dobermans work in veterans treatment courts in another first-of-its kind program. It operates under the same principle, but deals with older people.
"We keep expanding in different directions, everybody has something new to try," Cojanu said. "If it looks good, we'll do it. There is no downside.
"We're finally starting to 'get it' as far as what dogs can bring to the courts system. There is always going to be a struggle, because it is a step outside the box," he added. "But once people see what can happen, they say 'Why didn't we do it sooner?' Everyone benefits."
To learn more about the Canine Advocacy Program, visit www.capmich.com
For a video with more about Patty, visit www.sentinel-standard.com/section?template=videos
Uncovering the abusers
Our view: Recent cases of serial child sexual abuse demonstrate why Maryland must reform its reporting laws to discourage cover-ups and prosecute perpetrators
The case of John Merzbacher, the former South Baltimore Catholic middle school teacher who turned out to be a serial child sexual abuser, represents a terrible tragedy of child abuse fostered by too many others willing to turn a blind eye.
But if his case is extreme, it is not unique, and it's particularly galling to hear of cases like that involving Mr. Merzbacher, whose behavior went unreported for decades, or Penn State's Jerry Sandusky, where even an incident in the men's shower witnessed by a staff member failed to motivate school officials to alert authorities.
Last year, when the Sandusky scandal first came to light, we warned that the Maryland General Assembly should be cautious when taking up state reporting laws for fear of unintended consequences — that unfairly punishing certain professionals with criminal sanctions for failing to report suspected child abuse might actually work against the interest of children. But if anything, lawmakers have proven too reluctant to tackle the problem. It's time to take steps to address what amounts to a laxity in the law and provide the means to both discourage and discover serious incidents of abuse.
Many of the potential reforms need not be controversial at all. Teachers, guidance counselors, police officers, health professionals and other "mandatory reporters" ought to be better trained in how to identify symptoms of abuse and neglect. There also ought to be a centralized office where suspected incidents can be reported, with an 800 number and 24-hour switchboard taking those calls.
A state-funded education campaign informing people of how to spot and report child abuse should accompany those innovations. That may not be as simple a fix as passing some new penalty, but it's likely to be more effective.
But the reforms should not stop there. Last year, the state Senate overwhelmingly approved a law to make it a misdemeanor when mandatory reporters willfully fail to report child abuse under certain circumstances. A conviction would result in a potential fine but not imprisonment. The measure would also provide immunity from civil liability and criminal prosecution for good-faith failures to report abuse.
That seems like a reasonable update to existing law, yet the Senate bill never received serious consideration in the House of Delegates. Maryland is one of only three states in the nation (along with Wyoming and North Carolina) where there is currently no penalty (aside from a loss of license in certain instances) for failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect. And among the 47 states (plus the District of Columbia) with penalties, 39 classify it as a misdemeanor.
That's not to suggest we favor a criminal prosecution every time a pediatrician sees a bruise and fails to report it as suspected abuse, but a misdemeanor charge would give authorities a necessary tool to address an obvious problem — institutions that cover up incidents of abuse.
In that light, it would also seem prudent to extend the statute of limitations on civil claims by the victims of child abuse. Under current state law, victims abused when they were young have until age 25 to bring legal action. Given the potential psychological trauma inflicted upon someone by such incidents (and the natural reluctance of many, particularly the very young, to admit to being a victim of rape or abuse), a proposed 10-year extension seems appropriate.
That's unlikely to please organizations like the Catholic Church that might find themselves litigating additional lawsuits as a result, but their unhappiness is not sufficient reason to prevent those who suffered from seeking legitimate damages. If anything, leaders of those institutions ought to consider themselves fortunate there's any statute of limitations at all for those who deliberately cover up for criminals.
Child abuse is a crime, and Maryland law addresses it appropriately. But concealing child abuse is a problem as well, and in this, existing state law too often falls short. When legislators return to Annapolis in January, they ought to make addressing this shortcoming a top priority.
That's not to suggest that every incident of abuse should also result in an investigation of everyone who ever came in contact with the perpetrator or the victim. But strengthening the reporting law — as well as investing appropriately in education, public outreach and the means to more easily report child abuse and neglect — would not only help victims in Maryland but also reduce the likelihood of child sexual abuse happening in the first place.
Third child sexual abuse claim made against Elmo puppeteer, filed by attorney Jeff Herman
NEWS CONFERENCE TODAY AT 1PM, Lawsuit filed today by attorney Jeff Herman alleges voice of Elmo preyed on teenage boys
by Jeff Herman
Attorney JEFF HERMAN ( www.hermanlaw.com ), a nationally-recognized attorney for victims of sexual abuse, announces the filing of a lawsuit against KEVIN CLASH for the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy. Herman will also release excerpts from a manuscript, written by John Doe in 2009. The manuscript details the sexual encounters of John Doe and the character, "Mr. Tickles".
According to the Complaint:
- When John Doe, the alleged victim in this case, was just 16 years old and attending high school, he went on a gay chat line to meet friends who were also gay. John specifically stated his intention on the chat line as non-sexual.
- John was contacted through the chat line by Kevin Clash, who said his name was Craig and he was 30 years old. Kevin Clash was approximately 40 years old at the time. John and Kevin spoke on the phone for a couple of days and Kevin invited John to come to his apartment in Manhattan.
- In his apartment, Kevin Clash gave John alcohol and groomed him. Kevin Clash and John engaged in sexual contact, including oral sex and digital penetration of John's anus. This was John's first sexual experience of this type.
- While in Kevin Clash's apartment, John saw numerous Elmo dolls and photographs of Elmo with famous people such as Beyonce and Tyra Banks.
- Over the next year, Clash kept in touch with John. When John graduated high school, he moved to New York City. Kevin Clash engaged in a sexual relationship with John once he was living in New York City, after he had turned 18 years old.
The victim's attorney, Jeff Herman, said: "According to our lawsuit, Kevin Clash secretly trolled gay chat lines, preying on teenage boys to satisfy his sexual interests."
D.O. v. Kevin Clash (Case No. 2012-CV-08578) was filed in the Southern District Court of New York early Tuesday morning.
WHERE/WHEN: TODAY, November 27th, 2012, 1:00pm, at Hilton New York 1335 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 10019 Concourse B (downstairs from lobby)
WHO: The victim's attorney, Jeff Herman will release excerpts of a manuscript, written by John Doe in 2009. The manuscript details the sexual encounter of John Doe and the character, "Mr. Tickles".
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/27/5013099/third-child-sexual-abuse-claim.html#storylink=cpy
Panel to Recommend Child-Abuse Law Changes in PA
A commission set up by the Pennsylvania Legislature after Jerry Sandusky's molestation arrest last year will issue a report that could recommend changes to state law.
The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection Tuesday may also suggest new procedures to protect children.
The 11-person group was set up by the state House and Senate, with membership drawn from the legal profession, educators and health care workers.
The chairman, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, had hoped to have the report issued before the current legislative session ends so that lawmakers could take action, but the General Assembly is not expected to return until January.
Possible areas of focus include how child abuse is reported, the need to pass new laws or amend existing laws, and potential improvements in training.
Sandusky, 68, a former Penn State assistant football coach, is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence after being convicted this summer of 45 counts of sexual abuse of boys.
Revelations in abuse case spark calls for reform
Catholic officials knew of teacher's abuse, court documents indicate
by Justin George -- The Baltimore Sun
State legislators and sexual-abuse victim advocates called Monday for reforms in the way such cases are handled in Maryland, including stricter reporting requirements when incidents are discovered.
State Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore Democrat, said she would continue to push to strengthen Maryland's reporting requirements. She also said victims of sexual abuse should have more time to file civil suits — "so people can get out of college, get their lives together, have some kind of economy and have the understanding of the crime."
Anyone who doesn't report a child-abuse allegation needs "to be held accountable because if child predators know they're in a secret system and they are safe there, nothing changes," said Judy Jones, an associate director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The proposed reforms come in wake of a Baltimore Sun investigation related to John Merzbacher, a one-time teacher at Catholic Community Middle School in Locust Point. Court documents analyzed in The Sun investigation indicate that the school's principal and other Catholic officials were aware of the lay teacher's sexual abuse of students in the 1970s but did not report it until Merzbacher was criminally investigated in the 1990s.
Court documents and recent interviews with former students describe several situations in which critics claim the church had opportunities to protect schoolchildren from Merzbacher but did not notify police of the allegations against the teacher.
Merzbacher is serving four life terms for rape and other crimes committed while teaching at the school, but is seeking his release in a federal appeal.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore said its officials were not aware of the abuse until 1988, and its spokesman, Sean Caine, said the church didn't realize it was obligated to report the allegations when it first learned of them. But he said church officials cooperated with law enforcement in a 1993 investigation into Merzbacher's behavior, and informed the Department of Social Services of allegations against the teacher that year.
More than a dozen students were named in criminal complaints against Merzbacher, and he was convicted in 1995 of raping a student, Elizabeth Ann Murphy, in the 1970s. After he received his life sentences, prosecutors dropped the other cases. Two years ago, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Merzbacher's criminal defense attorneys failed to tell him about a 10-year plea deal and that he should be given the chance to accept it now — which would lead to his release. The Maryland attorney general's office is appealing the ruling.
Kelley, who has tried for years to strengthen the state's mandatory reporting requirements, said revelations about the Merzbacher case may finally help the measure pass.
Current requirements compel police officers, health practitioners, social service workers and educators to report suspected child abuse to local authorities and their bosses. But the state has no power to prosecute when they don't follow the law. Educators can face the loss or suspension of their teaching certificates, but the law's critics say that happens infrequently.
In the last General Assembly session, Kelley and several co-sponsors passed a bill in the Senate that would have made it a misdemeanor for workers required to report child abuse to knowingly and willfully fail to do so. The bill died in the House of Delegates.
Kelley said she will reintroduce the measure next year, along with stipulations that would require state medical examiners to report suspected child abuse in cases they investigate. She also wants to force employees or contractors of colleges or universities to report abuse claims to chancellors — a clause prompted by the recent Penn State University scandal.
A number of civil suits related to Merzbacher were also filed, but they were never litigated. They were dismissed by a state appeals court, which ruled the statute of limitations for such claims had passed.
In 2003, after several cases of alleged abuse by Catholic priests surfaced, Kelley tried to extend the state statute of limitations for such lawsuits. Victims abused while young have until age 25 to bring a lawsuit; she tried to raise the age limit to 33.
The bill failed, but Kelley said the issue should be revisited. She'd like to raise the limit to age 35.
Del. Brian McHale, a Baltimore Democrat, sponsored a similar bill at the time. He said Monday that he would have to study the issue again, but believes that it often does take years for victims of sexual abuse to be brave enough to come forward and that age is an arbitrary limitation.
McHale said he attended church in the area where Merzbacher taught, "and because of that it was one of the reasons I introduced that bill, and to this day I'm still convinced the archdiocese knew and shoved it under the rug and only perpetuated the problem that existed at the time."
But not everyone feels the need to lengthen the statute of limitations.
How is child abuse handled in hospitals?
It's been almost two weeks since a 3-year-old boy was dropped off at a New Hampshire hospital with severe injuries.
Since then, James Linscott has had two brain surgeries.
This as his mother, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Roland Dow, remain on the run following charges of child abuse and neglect.
Horrible as it is, sadly, this case is not unique.
What are best practices for hospitals presented with these situations?
Dr. Alice Newton has insight from Mass General where she is the director of the child protection team.
How are cases of child abuse handled in the hospital?
Pediatric hospitals, which see a lot of children and which have a pediatric intensive care unit, have Multidisciplinary Child Protection Programs staffed with doctors, social workers, nurses and lawyers. This team is called when a possible case comes in. The family is evaluated, and a child with severe or concerning injuries is often admitted for an extensive evaluation that will look for other hidden injuries such as fractures. The hospital is also mandated to file a report with the Department of Children and Families.
What happens if the parents want to leave?
Hospital security would be called, but they generally are not charged with holding suspects, as they are not necessarily trained in physically detaining suspects. This is a job better suited for the police.
What can we do?
You're asked to please call your local Child Protection Agency if you believe that abuse is taking place.
Watch the attached video for more from Dr. Newton.
Mediating the Effects of Child Abuse
Reviewed by Joseph V. Madia, MD
Are there factors that can help protect victims of child abuse from developing issues as adults? New research says yes, and marriage and education may play a role.
New research shows that adults who suffered abuse as children have worse physical and mental health than others.
However, these differences were less severe among those who were married or had graduated high school.
" If you suspect child abuse, call a professional. "
Led by Todd Herrenkohl , PhD, from the University of Washington, the research relied on data from the Lehigh Longitudinal Study, a study that stared in the early 1970s in Pennsylvania. The study looked at 457 children (aged 18 months to 6 years), 144 of who were involved in reports of abuse to child welfare and 105 whom were involved in reports of neglect.
Behaviors considered abusive included hitting, kicking and slapping to the point of creating a bruise, and behaviors considered neglectful included the deprivation of necessities like food and medical and hygienic care.
Several follow up interviews and studies were completed with the participants, the last of which took place in 2010, when their average age was 36. Questions covered a range of topics including physical health, mental health, relationships, employment, education and drug and alcohol use. Around 80 percent of the original participants were involved in the final follow-up, about half of whom were abused.
Herrenkohl and team found that mental health, physical health and substance abuse problems were more common in the adults who had been involved in reports to child welfare as children.
For example, 24.4 percent of those abused or neglected as children reported moderate to severe depression while only 6.9 percent of their non-abused peers reported the same levels. Twenty-four percent of the child welfare group also reported moderate to severe anxiety, as compared to 8 percent of the other participants.
Additionally, the authors reported that “those in the child welfare group reported lower physical functioning, more bodily pain and poorer general health.” When rating overall current health, 24.4 percent of those abused categorized theirs as “poor/fair” as compared to 9.7 percent of their non-abused counterparts.
Furthermore, 19 percent of abuse survivors reported the presence of alcohol problems over their lifetime, while 10 percent of those who had not been abused reported the same. The levels of moderate to high risk for substance abuse were present in 19.4 percent of the child welfare group and 6.9 percent of the non-abused group.
The researchers did find that being married and graduating high school partially lowered the risk of depression in abuse survivors, and graduating high school also partially lowered the risk for alcohol issues over the lifetime of abuse survivors. These factors, however, did not eliminate the presence of these issues, but only somewhat lowered the risk.
In an interview with dailyRx News, LuAnn Pierce, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), said that these findings are encouraging.
“People may find the emotional and social support of spouses or partners to be an antidote to the wounds of early abuse. Those who complete high school are more likely to find employment, thus experiencing greater financial independence and perceived well-being,” said Pierce. “Success in work and/or relationships can help people feel more confident and competent which can enhance their opportunities in life.”
The authors do take care to note that this study did not take into account variations in severity or duration of abuse.
Despite these limitations, "the results show that the effects of child maltreatment extend beyond the most common mental health diagnoses. It shows that adults abused as children experience the emotional consequences of early trauma well into their adult years," said Dr. Herrenkohl .
"As we understand more of how individuals overcome early trauma, we can develop programs to support and nurture kids exposed to abuse."
The study was published online September 28, 2012 in the Journal of Family Violence . The study was funded by departments within the National Institutes of Health and no conflicts of interest were reported.
$1M in Grants Awarded for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect in PA
by Gant Team
HARRISBURG – Nine organizations have been awarded $1.08 million in Children's Trust Fund grants aimed at child abuse and neglect prevention programs for parents and families to create better outcomes for Pennsylvania children.
Administered by the Department of Public Welfare's Office of Child Development and Early Learning programs, Children's Trust Fund grants focus on strengthening families, and building protective factors and resiliency within parents, caregivers and children in order to prevent child abuse and neglect.
“One child abused or neglected is one too many, so we must focus on prevention programs that will help families with the important skills that they need to raise their children in safe and attentive homes,” Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary D. Alexander said. “These grants are about helping to strengthen the family core and the values in raising children.”
Selected grantees in 2012 will use evidence- or research-based methods to provide comprehensive support services to pregnant and parenting teens and young adults that will strengthen families and family environments to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Since its inception in 1988, Pennsylvania has continued its commitment to keeping children safe by awarding over $33 million in Children's Trust Fund grants to 262 organizations across the state. The Pennsylvania Children's Trust Fund is funded through revenue generated from a $10 surcharge on all marriage and divorce applications filed in the state.
For more information, visit www.dpw.state.pa.us or call 1-800-692-7462.
Editor's Note : A list of grant recipients is below. The grants cover the period of Nov. 1, 2012, through Oct. 31, 2015.
- Butler County – Family Pathways, $120,000
- Delaware County – PA Pathways, $120,000
- Indiana/Armstrong County – ARIN Intermediate Unit #28, $120,000
- Lancaster County – Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit, $120,000
- Montgomery County – Pottstown Family Center, $120,000
- Philadelphia County – Einstein Healthcare Network, $119,999
- Snyder/Union County — Union-Snyder Community Action Agency, $120,000
- Somerset County – Community Action for Somerset County Partnership, $120,000
- Washington/Greene County – Community Action Southwest, $120,000
Child Abuse Center gets help
BALTIMORE - Party City Maryland has raised over $85,000 to help the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
The in-store campaign ran through the months of September and October at 11 locations throughout the state.
Employees at the White Marsh Party City store presented the Baltimore Child Abuse Center with a check at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The Baltimore Child Abuse Center provides help to victims of child sex abuse and their families. It also serves as a community resource in teaching all adults how to recognize, respond to and report suspected abuse.
Those representing the Baltimore Child Abuse Center say the donation is timely, as the center has seen an increase in people needing its service. The center reports more than 1,100 children were provided service over last year.
"Baltimore Child Abuse Center is so moved by the enthusiasm, generosity, and energy generated by this unique campaign that Party City Maryland created," says BCAC Executive Director Adam Rosenberg. "We always talk about the community's need to stand up and do something about abuse and the thousands of Party City Maryland patrons and employees who provided their own support demonstrate that this is a community yearning to provide a safer tomorrow for its children."
The 11 stores that participated in the fundraising campaign are located in Catonsville, Columbia, Eastpoint/Dundalk, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Hagerstown, Owings Mills, Rockville, Towson, Wheaton and White Marsh.
Need to awaken to the horrors of abuse
by Millie Cunningham
In the words of Elie Wiesel, "What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander." It continues to amaze me that in this area, and in the country as a whole, we fail to recognize the ever-present issue of child abuse. Every year in America, 905,000 children are abused. Every day, 4 of those children die from that abuse. We know it exists in our communities, and yet the public continues to turn a blind eye to it, imagining that if we don't acknowledge its presence, we have succeeded in abolishing it. Instead, we have only succeeded in creating a monster that moves silently through society, hiding in shadows and behind closed doors, ever-present and dangerous. It is our responsibility to call attention to this monster, to bring it into the light so that it can't hide anymore.
It wasn't until I started high school at Brien McMahon that I realized the magnitude of the problem. I came from a happy home, and I couldn't even imagine that anyone could live in perpetual fear that someone they loved so much would hurt them. I joined the Senators Community Foundation my freshman year an advocacy organization dedicated to raising awareness about and promoting legislation to fight child abuse. Through them, I have had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing kids, - all of whom have witnessed or experienced abuse. It was unimaginable to me that someone could hurt these sweet, happy children, and it was these children that really made me passionate about helping kids like them.
In Connecticut, 8,000 kids were abused between June 2011 and July 2012. 149 of those cases occurred in Norwalk alone. That means everyone involved in the Norwalk Public School system either personally knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone, who has been abused. It could be any of the kids in your child's class. It could be your child's best friend, or your neighbor, or the kid on the T-ball team. You never know.
All too often, people succumb to the bystander effect, whereby they see something terrible happening, but they assume that someone else will do something about it. I used to feel that way too. But we can't go through life expecting things to change if no one stands up for anything.
Imagine being that child. You're scared, you're in pain, and you think there's no way out. You never know which day could be your last. You tiptoe through life, always cared, always on edge, never fully trusting anyone else. Is that a way to live? Child abuse steals lives, and makes kids grow up too fast. Children deserve the chance to laugh and sing, dance and play. And we have a responsibility to give that to them. If it was you, how would you want the world to respond?
I feel strongly that people need to know more about the child abuse that goes on every day in their own town, and where better to start than in the pages of their own local newspaper? I hope that together, this town can expand its knowledge of child abuse, and destoy the shadows it hides now.
For more information on national child abuse statistics, visit www.childhelp.com
Millie Cunningham is a Norwalk resident.
Casey Anthony detectives overlooked Google search
The office's computer investigator missed a June 16, 2008, Google search for fool-proof suffocation methods
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida sheriff's office that investigated Caylee Anthony's death says it overlooked a computer search for suffocation made from the little girl's home on the day she was last seen alive.
Orange County sheriff's Capt. Angelo Nieves said Sunday that the office's computer investigator missed a June 16, 2008, Google search for fool-proof suffocation methods. The oversight was first reported by Orlando television station WKMG. It's not known who performed the search. The station reported it was done on a browser primarily used by the 2-year-old's mother, Casey Anthony.
The girl's body was found six months after she disappeared.
Casey Anthony was acquitted of her daughter's murder in 2011. Her attorneys argued that the toddler accidentally drowned in the family pool and that Casey Anthony's father helped her cover it up.
Scrap time limits on child sex abuse cases, urges head of bishops
by Peter Munro
THE head of Australia's Catholic bishops says alleged child sexual abuse offenders, including members of the clergy, should be barred from using statutory limitation restrictions to escape justice for their victims.
The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, who is president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which is meeting in Sydney on Tuesday, said all states and territories should abolish time limits on victims seeking compensation in civil proceedings.
''There shouldn't be any artificial restriction on our society's ability to redress such matters,'' he said. ''The evil of sexual abuse is so serious and so awful that the only way in which the victims will come to any sense of peace is if their matter can be dealt with by the offender being brought to justice.''
Archbishop Hart also called for mandatory reporting by priests of suspected cases of child abuse, in line with legal obligations on childcare workers, teachers and doctors.
The issue will be debated at this week's meeting of Catholic bishops, which will focus on the church's response to the forthcoming royal commission into child sexual abuse. Priests should be required to report suspected cases of abuse even when the victim does not want to go to police, Archbishop Hart said.
''The bishops will be discussing how we, as a church, can move together and act truthfully and responsibly to aid the work of the royal commission,'' he said. ''It's a moment of truth.''
In NSW, the limitation period for bringing child sexual abuse claims in civil proceedings is typically between three and 12 years from the date of the offence. There is no statute of limitation in criminal cases.
The general secretary of the Anglican synod in Australia, Martin Drevikovsky, supported the call for the government to abolish these time limits.
Without law reform, accused Catholic clergy should waive their right to rely on this statutory defence, Archbishop Hart said.
Child sexual abuse expert Annie Cossins, of the University of NSW, said scrapping the statutory ''escape clause'' for alleged offenders would help victims suffering prolonged psychological trauma.
''It might take an eight-year-old 10 years before they feel safe enough to tell people for the first time, particularly given the secrecy that surrounds the abuse and the degree of coercion the children are subject to,'' she said.
Shine Lawyers partner Roger Singh, who has represented hundreds of sexual assault victims, said current laws denied some people ''access to justice to fair and reasonable compensation''.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said that the government welcomed the discussion on limitation periods.
Focus on abuse-case insurers: church
by Milanda Rout and Jared Owens
THE Anglican Church in Brisbane has called for the royal commission into child sex abuse to put insurance companies under the microscope, saying some refuse to allow religious organisations to settle financial compensation and instead insist on fighting victims in court.
The submission, one of more than 300 contributions received by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon last night after a week-long consultation on the structure of the national inquiry, argues that often the diocese is "inhibited from acting as it would wish" by insurance companies that want to "litigate rather than settle".
The Brisbane Diocese, headed by Anglican Primate Phillip Aspinall, also says the commission should review mandatory reporting processes to deal with occasions when adult survivors report child abuse to churches but say they do not want to go to the police.
The deadline for responses to the government's consultation paper on the commission's terms of reference ended last night at 5pm, with state governments, victims' advocacy groups and churches among many making submissions.
Ms Roxon said she had received 33 formal submissions and 270 email responses, and had also taken information from stakeholder meetings. The responses received had so far highlighted a few key suggestions for the national inquiry.
"That is, the importance of designing the hearing process appropriately so that victims feel supported through the process of preparing and giving evidence," Ms Roxon told parliament. "(And) the need for multiple commissioners with broad expertise -- legal expertise and child protection expertise."
She said the responses also recommended the "commission should take whatever time it needs to get it right", reporting every one or two years.
"Importantly, these . . . submissions from stakeholders have sent a very strong message and that is the commission needs to focus on systematic issues of child sex abuse," she said.
In his statement to the government, the general manager of the Diocese of Brisbane, Peter Read, urges the commission to examine the "constraints insurers impose on institutional responses" to child sexual abuse.
"At times, the diocese is inhibited from acting as it would wish. From time to time, even when it is apparent that abuse has occurred, certain insurers have been hesitant to allow the diocese to apologise to survivors or to mediate a financial settlement in civil action," he says.
"Some insurers, with carriage of a matter under the terms of the insurance contract, have preferred to litigate rather than settle."
Mr Read goes on to say the inquiry should also look at the conduct of some law firms representing victims.
"(Our) experience includes instances where no win, no fee lawyers have attempted to appropriate the majority of the settlement monies paid to survivors," he writes.
"And instances where lawyers have litigated matters without any reasonable chance of success when generous settlements have been offered."
He also says the inquiry should examine the inconsistencies in state criminal record checks for people working with children and what is the best practice "of screening and information sharing".
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Denis Hart urged the government to expand the commission's focus to "all settings that represent a risk of abuse to children".
An Escape From Sex Slavery
Enslaved as a child, a young woman gives voice to the horrors of human trafficking with a breakthrough radio show.
She remembers a home that looked fancy on the outside but ominous on the inside, a dark maze of bare chambers. She remembers the parade of men, one after the other, day by day, forcing her to have sex. She remembers contemplating death. She wasn't yet 10 years old.
Her name is Sreypich Loch, and she was a slave in a Cambodian brothel. If she refused sex, she says, she would be beaten, shocked with an electric cord, denied food and water. “What else could I do?” she asks.
Loch, now around 20 years old, managed to escape that world and works today to rescue other girls. She helps grab them out of brothels, and she hosts a radio show in Phnom Penh, giving the girls a forum for their stories. It's a groundbreaking effort for a young woman and former sex slave in this male-dominated society.
She hopes that by talking about her past, she will help people understand that slavery is alive and well. When people “hear the voice of the survivor,” she says on a recent visit to New York City, “we can help others.” She traveled to the U.S. with the group that helped save her, the Somaly Mam Foundation, named for another survivor of the sex trade in Cambodia.
Loch's story may sound extreme, but it is not some isolated incident. An estimated 27 million people are victims of slavery around the world, according to the U.S. State Department. The buying and selling of humans is a multibillion-dollar global business, ensnaring vulnerable people who are often kidnapped or tricked into the trade.
She stayed silent. “I was young. I was scared,” she says, speaking softly. “In Cambodia, many fathers rape their daughters; brothers rape their sisters.” Consistently ranked as one of the poorest and most corrupt nations in the world, Cambodia is still reeling from the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, which massacred as many as 2 million people in the 1970s. Intellectuals and city dwellers were targeted and tortured in an attempt to create a completely agrarian society. Families were ripped apart.
One day Loch worked up the nerve to tell her mother about the rapes. She's not sure how much time had passed since the assaults, she says, as she was just a child and memories fade. But she has a vivid memory of her mother's response. “She hit me,” Loch says. “She didn't believe me. I think: she does not love me.”
Loch ran away from home, having lost faith in her family, she says. She remembers a heavy rainfall and the feeling of not knowing where to go. She hadn't thought that far ahead. “I cried and cried,” she says. And then she was found by a gang of men. “Five men raped me on the street,” she says. “I wanted to die.”
That might have indeed been her fate if a woman hadn't come along, offering to help. The woman took Loch to her home—or so Loch thought. The house turned out to be a brothel. She was locked in a basement room and forced to “sleep with many, many men every day,” she says. “I couldn't see light, just dark.”
Her eyes fill with water at the thought of it. Then she pauses, closes her eyes for a moment, and continues. “If I said no, pimp hit me,” she says. “I tell pimp, please kill me.” Then she adds, “I am people. I am not an animal. How could they do me that way?”
Loch's story mirrors that of many rescued Cambodian girls, who report being drugged, locked in coffins, whipped, even covered with biting insects in order to make them submit to sex. While their stories can be difficult to verify independently, the U.S. State Department confirms that the enslavement of girls in Cambodia is pervasive. “The sale of virgin girls continues to be a serious problem in Cambodia,” the State Department said in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report released this summer. “Cambodian men form the largest source of demand for child prostitution, though a significant number of men from the United States and Europe, as well as other Asian countries, travel to Cambodia to engage in child sex tourism.” Among local men, demand is often fueled by myths that sex with a virgin brings luck or good health.