Holiday Volunteering: Stop Child Abuse Now
Stop Child Abuse Now, or SCAN, serves the Northern Virginia area. It seeks to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect.
by Sharon McLoone
The holiday season is here and that means Alexandria communities seek volunteers for many and different causes.
The Alexandria Patches are highlighting good causes seeking volunteers during this holiday season. If you'd like your initiative to be featured, please email email@example.com.
This week's volunteer spotlight shines on:
Who: SCAN, or Stop Child Abuse Now
What: Contribute items to its holiday wish list such as children's snacks, protein bars for expectant moms and paper plates. If interested in providing holiday paper goods for celebration with children in foster care, contact SCAN for number and dates needed. SCAN also needs glue sticks and watercolor paint sets, among other art supplies, as well as bubbles, a kitchen play set and soft and safe stuffed animal farm animals. Click here for a full list (PDF).
When: During this holiday season
Where: SCAN of Northern Virginia, 1705 Fern St., 2nd Floor, Alexandria, VA 22302
Why: Help promote the well-being of children in the SCAN service area, which includes the City of Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties.
Warren County has 'secret problem' with child abuse, official says
by Tommy Rowan
In the more than 30 years Karen Kubert has worked for Warren County, she hasn't seen the child abuse rate improve.
"It's kind of a secret problem," she told county freeholders last month. "People don't talk about it."
Now they will.
Warren County has adopted a pilot program called "Enough Abuse," becoming one of three counties in New Jersey to implement a comprehensive child abuse prevention strategy.
In 2011, Warren County ranked 10th highest in New Jersey in percentage of confirmed cases of abuse and neglect, according to the State Department of Children and Families. Phillipsburg led the county with 745 reports, but only 58, or 7 percent, were substantiated, according to state statistics.
Hunterdon County had the highest percentage confirmed cases of abuse in the state: 847 cases with 137, or 16 percent, confirmed.
Click here to see a copy of the report.
Rush L. Russell, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey, met with Warren County leaders and officials from Project Self-Sufficiency of Sussex County. They reported seeing an increase in abuse cases from media reports and conversations with public health leaders and service providers around the county.
"They felt like they were seeing a significant increase," Russell said. "They described a situation where they had seen an increase in the number of reports ... around child sexual abuse in the last few years and were concerned."
Project Self-Sufficiency, which serves Warren, Sussex and Morris counties, is replicating the Enough Abuse program that originally launched in Massachusetts about 10 years ago with funding from the Centers for Disease Control. The Ms. Foundation for Women and Prevent Child Abuse America awarded Project Self-Sufficiency a $25,000 grant for the program.
The Enough Abuse program provides free training sessions to parents and other adults on steps they can take to prevent child abuse. Russell said there aren't many programs in New Jersey designed to prevent child abuse that focus on adult responsibility.
"(We've got to) change the mindset in terms of parents being able to talk to their kids and be able to recognize some of the warning signs that are out there so they can intervene before this happens," Russell said.
"I think this topic has kind of been swept under the table because people aren't comfortable talking about it," he said.
Hackettstown ranked second in Warren County with 201 reports of abuse with 17, or 8 percent, confirmed. Washington, N.J. reported 181 cases of abuse with 23 confirmed cases, and Belvidere reported 181 instances of abuse with 23 substantiated cases.
Nine municipalities reported no substantiated cases of abuse. The state reports 142 confirmed cases of abuse countywide. The 2011 abuse and neglect statistics provided by the state do not include cases investigated by the state and passed onto law enforcement for investigation.
Kubert, director of the Warren County's Department of Human Services, said that the county needs change.
"(The rate) is extraordinarily high," she said. "And I think people that work in the agencies decided maybe we ought to take a look at what we're doing and come up with some best practices and see if we can develop standards and then everybody can work toward those standards."
Statewide, officials reported 91,680 cases of abuse in 2011 with 9,414 confirmed cases. Essex County recorded the highest number of confirmed cases at 1,167.
Russell said this is just "the tip of the iceberg at best" and that an estimated 80 percent of abuse cases are never reported to authorities. A Centers for Disease Control 2010 study found that 1 in 4 girls under the age of 18 and about 1 in 7 boys experienced an incident of child sexual abuse.
Kubert said the prevention strategy should include not only parents, but professionals, store clerks and neighbors as critical partners to reduce child abuse.
"It's trying to touch on anyone that will come into contact with the child," she said.
High caseloads, state regulations pressure child abuse investigators
by Adam Rodewald
On a recent Friday, Wendy Axt raced to an emergency call from the Portage County Sheriff's Department to investigate an allegation of child abuse — one more complicated case added to the list of about 40 others sitting on her desk.
Normally, the 13-year social worker feels capable of balancing the workload, but lately she can't seem to catch up. Her newest case, involving two children, multiple adults and a custody dispute, has consumed nearly every working hour for five days and counting. She still has five other active investigations and a backlog of about 35 cases waiting for last minute details or a final report before she can close them out.
With eight to 10 new investigations added each month, she has found herself giving up evenings and weekends with her own children out of worry for the safety of others.
“When you look at it, there's no logical time for breaks — even to eat,” Axt said. “But I sacrifice for my clients, and I do what I have to do to get the job done.”
This is the reality for hundreds of social workers throughout Wisconsin who carry average monthly workloads 50 percent heavier than recommended by a leading national child advocacy group, a burden that has resulted in long backlogs of open investigations and rising stress on overworked investigators, a Gannett Wisconsin Media analysis found.
Social workers and their supervisors insist they haven't allowed harm to any child as a result of the ever-increasing demands, but child protection advocates warn that growing workloads will eventually stress the safety net, increasing the chances for mistakes that could ultimately put kids at risk.
The Child Welfare League of America recommends social workers who investigate child abuse and neglect should not carry more than 12 open cases at any given time. However, workloads across the state have averaged around 18 open cases for most of 2012, the newspaper analysis found.
The most stressed areas aren't necessarily the most populous, either. Workers in small and mid-sized counties such as Portage, Juneau and Polk carry average workloads exceeding 30 or 40 open investigations per fulltime worker. Milwaukee social workers average 18 open cases per month.
The high workloads come at a time when the state is putting more pressure on social workers to complete investigations quickly. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families in October began publishing monthly statistics online showing each county's performance so the public can hold them accountable.
According to the data, social workers failed to finish and close one-third of their investigations within the state-mandated timeline of 60 days between April and October of this year. Eleven percent of cases still active at the end of October had been open more than 90 days.
Social workers are frustrated by the increased scrutiny and complain of “unfunded mandates” they say force them to spend more time writing detailed reports for the state than doing actual field work. They said workloads are the worst they've known in years because the volume and complexity of cases has increased at the same time the state boosted the regulatory burden.
“It's a vicious circle. With all the best motives, the state tries to prevent egregious incidents. But the more requirements they put in place, the more workers are spending in front of a computer screen and not in front of families,” said Mary Wiatrowski, a veteran social worker who supervises the investigative workers in Winnebago County. “The state keeps asking more, but they never take anything else away and they never give us more money.”
State child welfare administrators counter that extensive standards and reporting requirements ensure children's safety and provide an added level of accountability. County-run child protection agencies must complete thorough reports quickly so supervisors and state officials can review the cases to make sure mistakes weren't made.
“We want to ensure families and children are getting appropriate services. The only mechanism we have for tracking that is through our data (which is submitted by counties). So, we want to make sure cases are handled promptly,” said Fredi-Ellen Bove, administrator for DCF's division of safety and permanence.
Bove wouldn't comment directly on the workload. She said the state's role is to set standards, and county government is responsible for determining the appropriate funding and staffing.
Throughout most of Wisconsin, child protection programs are run by county agencies and supervised by the state. The only exception is in Milwaukee County, where the state has full control.
This structure has its roots in a federal class action lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Children's Rights in 1993 on behalf of approximately 5,000 children. The lawsuit charged Milwaukee's child welfare system was grossly mismanaged and dangerous. A settlement agreement reached in 2002 launched a series of system reforms and accountability measures, including tougher standards and more publicly available performance data.
Today, social workers must follow a 72-page booklet of standards when investigating child abuse or neglect.
Social workers believe most of the changes improved children's safety, but they're frustrated by the growing burden of so many new requirements — from prescriptive responses to cases to the immense reporting requirements — that is not accompanied by any additional funding or staff.
Wisconsin's 72 counties received a combined $67.1 million in state and federal pass-through dollars each of the past two years, according to the state's biennial budget. That's slightly more than the last biennium when counties received a combined $64.7 million each year, but it's still less than the $67.3 million distributed during the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to a 2009 Legislative Fiscal Bureau report.
Today, cash-strapped counties cover two-thirds of the cost of child protection services, according to a 2010 report by advocacy group Wisconsin Partners 4 Children. State and federal monies, which mostly go directly to targeted programs, offer little flexibility or relief.
“We've not received additional state support, of course, despite the fact our caseloads have increased 30 percent this year, and at the same time our regulatory environment continues to be more burdensome,” said Brian Shoup, executive director of Human Services in Brown County, where social workers carry the eighth heaviest workloads in the state, averaging 26 open investigations per month.
Social workers said they are handling so many cases that they're forced to move on to new ones before fully closing out old ones. This has caused backlogs of cases where the investigations are concluded but the reports sit on a desk for weeks or even months before the social worker has time to write a finished report.
Since finished reports aren't turned in, they aren't being reviewed by a second pair of eyes — a job done by a supervisor and sometimes state officials — to ensure the case was handled appropriately.
As of the end of October, counties had a combined backlog of 1,053 cases waiting to be closed out, the newspaper analysis found. Dane County accounts for more than 40 percent of the backlog, or 430 cases. Milwaukee has a backlog of 99 cases.
Cases are kept open longer than 60 days for a variety of reasons, including waiting on police or medical reports, difficulty in completing interviews with uncooperative families and lack of time to finish paperwork, said Melissa Blom, children and families division manager for Outagamie County Human Services.
Blom said she takes timeliness standards seriously but doesn't fret over a late investigation if she knows the involved children are safe. Her 12 investigative workers carry workloads averaging 18 cases per month, and 64 percent of their investigations between April and October were completed on time.
“The best practice to me is letting them (social workers) do their work. Timeline statistics only tell you that they've made a check mark in the system. Most of the time they've completed the field work but haven't been able to sit down and enter it into the system. It's misleading to think we're so far behind,” she said.
Social workers across the state echoed Blom's statements, saying they do their best to prioritize workloads to ensure children get help. But, finding the right balance is becoming increasingly difficult.
Already by the end of October, child protection agencies across the state had received 13 percent more referrals for suspected abuse and neglect than during the same time period last year, state data shows. For many counties, staffing levels haven't kept pace.
“There is a point where you start to get more and more behind, where it starts to wear on workers where they feel they can't ever catch up,” said Portage County child protection supervisor Theresa Kovach, who, despite rising workloads, has had a staff of only three investigative social workers for the past 19 years .
“I have a committed staff, but there's only so much you can do in a work week,” she said.
Investigative social workers in Portage County carry the highest workloads in the state, with 46 open cases at once, according to the newspaper analysis. As of the end of October, the agency had a backlog of 102 late investigations waiting to be closed out.
“We have a county that recognizes the importance of child welfare work, but we still struggle to keep pace. I think there's a fiscal reality to what we need and what we actually get,” Kovach said.
About one in every 270 children in Wisconsin is the victim of abuse or neglect each year, according to state data. During 2010 and 2011, more than 180 children were killed or seriously hurt by a guardian, according to published reports detailing cases in which the victims were beaten, shot or starved.
Child sex abuse education law passed
LANSING - A law aimed at helping to prevent the sexual abuse of children is on its way to the governor's desk after being passed Friday by the Michigan Legislature.
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, was one of the sponsors along with Sens. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, and Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor.
"Erin's Law" is named after Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor from Illinois whose advocacy in her home state led to passage of a similar law there in 2011. After going public about abuse by a family member, Merryn made it her mission to try to ensure that children have the age-appropriate education so they can recognize and talk about sexual abuse.
Senate Bills 1112-1114 require school boards to adopt and implement policies addressing child sexual abuse and call for creation of a task force to make recommendations on how best to prevent the problem.
Under the law schools can adopt age-appropriate curriculum, train school staff on child sexual abuse and adopt policies concerning informing parents on the warning signs of abuse. Parents are to be made aware of the curriculum and can "opt out" if they do not want their children involved.
Similar laws have been enacted in Maine, Indiana and Missouri, and legislation has been introduced in several other states, including Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.
PARENTS, Inc: prevent and treat child abuse in Hawaii
by Teri Okita
For almost four decades, the local, non-profit PARENTS, Inc. has, not only been providing treatment services for child abuse and neglect, it's also tried to head-off the problem with positive parenting classes that are available for both at-risk communities and to the public.
Students in one Positive Parenting class are role-playing different scenarios - when kids aren't necessarily cooperative, and patience may be wearing thin. Student Lyonette Wa'a says the classes have really helped. They've taught her how to better relate to her children and grandchildren. "They have good structure. You know, the empathy and sympathy."
Positive Parenting, Confident Parenting, and Women's Life Skills are just some of the classes available through PARENTS, Inc. The organization's goal is to be pro-active in preventing child abuse and neglect - and not just for at-risk families.
Executive Director Lisa Groulx says, "We believe all parents need the parenting education classes, not because you're a bad parent, but because all of us struggle as a parent. Parenting is the most challenging thing to do."
"I was asking you guys different ways that you can teach your kids how to express themselves," says social worker, Kristen Wild. She runs this 16 week class and says, sometimes, parents just need to be shown a different path.
Wild says, "They don't think anything's wrong. and they're like, 'My parents gave me lickings when I was younger. It's fine for me to do it.' and I kind of just explain to them, 'You know, there's more positive ways to kind of reinforce behavior with kids.'"
Paula Kaleo made new discoveries in the Women's Skills class. "It showed me a lot to do with myself - communication, budgeting, family crisis, all kinds, relationships, and stuff like that."
The 30 employees of PARENTS, Inc. work with families throughout Oahu and in east Hawaii. PARENTS, Inc. launched an e-giving campaign just today. For more information on how you can donate, log onto its website, hawaiiparents.org or call (808)235-0255.
Jurors donate money to child abuse programs
by Janet Barber
JAY – Three agencies dedicated to the prevention of child abuse received a welcome financial windfall Friday thanks to jury panelists who donated their money received for serving as a juror on Delaware County jury panels.
“Jury service is one of the many opportunities that makes our country great and so does giving to those in need. We especially appreciate those who donate not only their time, but those jurors who donate their money to these good causes as well,” said Special District Judge Alicia Littlefield.
By state statute the clerk of the district court of each county in this state may provide forms for jurors and witnesses individually to voluntarily designate any fees due to them to be donated to an agency or agencies established for the prevention of child abuse.
Today, three checks for $2,141.41, a total of $6,424.23, was given to Lighthouse Pregnancy Center, Delaware County Children's Special Advocacy Network and ROCMND (serving Rogers, Ottawa, Mayes, Nowata, and Delaware County).
“The money couldn't have come at a better time,” said Karen Moore, director at the Lighthouse Pregnancy in Jay. “It's a wonderful blessing. We have 150 clients and are very grateful for this donation,”
Jennifer Lawson, director at DCCSAN said, “We are proud that the jurors give their money to organizations that help children.”
Robin McSpadden, executive director for ROCMND added, “We are so appreciative of this donation. We are a multi-county agency. This money will be used for Delaware County youth. Part of this will buy Christmas presents for our needy clients.”
The committee in charge of the collected monies are comprised of the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners Doug Smith, district #1, Special District Judge Alicia Littlefield, Delaware County Court Clerk Caroline Weaver, Assistance District Attorney Rogers Hughes, and Janie Sweeten Tipton. This committee recommends which child abuse agency receives the collected monies each jury session.
Men suffer in silence as sexual abuse victims
Calgary Herald Christmas Fund reaches $427,873.67
by Sherri Zickefoose
CALGARY — The sexual attack he suffered as a child tormented Kevin well into middle age, like a ticking time bomb planted with cruelty, without conscience or care.
The abuse at the hands of an adult went unnoticed, and was eventually suppressed out of self-preservation.
“I'd been walking with a cloud over my head for years,” said Kevin, who was sexually abused at the hands of an adult from age 13 to 16.
He'd kept the fear and humiliation hidden in a corner of his mind for 35 years.
But Kevin says he struggled daily. Five years ago, he knew he had to start dealing with his painful secret.
“It took me a while to get the courage up to actually talk to someone about the abuse. When I got to the point in my life that I was ready to make that revelation, my doctor was the one who got the ball rolling,” he said.
The doctor's advice was a referral to Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse.
As the only agency in the area offering specialized counselling and group support for male survivors of sexual violence, CCASA offered Kevin what he had been ardently searching for.
“I was excited that I was actually taking another step in really exposing the wound for what it was and trying to come to terms with it and make any stride toward healing it.
“It's been a real journey for me.”
The relief was welcome, but it wasn't easy. Through 12 weeks of one-on-one counselling, Kevin says the empathy and acceptance he received made an immediate difference.
“Compared to any other counselling, which felt like a pat on the head, this has been the most positive thing I've ever done for myself,” he said.
As he searched online to learn more about how to deal with being a male abuse victim, Kevin says he found little help for men.
Statistically, one in three boys will experience unwanted sexual advances before they're 18, according to the 1984 Badgley Report on Sexual Offences Against Children.
That means millions of Canadian boys and men are victimized each year and more than half were threatened or physically coerced.
Experts say most men who experience sexual assault choose never to reveal it, not even to wives, partners and those closest to them.
Male victims of sexual abuse have the added complication of feeling weak for not being able to protect themselves and prevent the attack, experts say.
The effects are crushing, said Kevin.
“Before, I was looking for reasons as to, ‘Why me?' and answers like ‘How can I get vengeance?' Counselling has made me more accepting and made me realize I can't change the past. The equipment I feel I've got from CCASA is to live my future,” he said.
“It's pretty powerful stuff.”
The organization's new men's group will go far in offering survivors a safe place to begin sorting through the hurts that have haunted them for a lifetime.
“It's the knowledge you're not alone. This puts you in a room with men you don't know exist. You feel so isolated, but this will help these victims feel less like victims and more prepared for the future.”
Opening up to talk about traumatic childhood sexual abuse is terrifying, Kevin says, but eventually something's got to give.
“I really felt like before I was really disingenuous. I blamed the child for not being stronger and having the ability to tell others at the time. I put a lot of distance and became detached from my childhood.”
That attitude can cripple a man, he said.
But through counselling, Kevin was able to look at his past coping tactics with a new eye.
“My counsellor told me what a great thing I did, what a terrific thing you were able to do for yourself. It made me more connected to that child.”
Attitudes toward men who suffered as children at the hands of sexual predators need to change, he said.
“We're told to be strong, to suck it up, to walk it off, to be really stoic, and there's certain things you're not equipped to deal with as a child, or as a man, and I think sexual abuse is one of them.”
“The most important thing is knowing you're not alone and knowing CCASA is there no matter what gender you are.”
Uncovering the truth
The horrifying tales of abuse and death at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna are the stuff of a Stephen King novel or lurid Hollywood B-movie.
And as bad as they have been, they just got worse.
Researchers from the University of South Florida this week reported they had discovered at least 19 more graves than the 31 that previously had been identified on the Dozier property. USF anthropologists have used historical documents to verify the deaths of two adult staff members and 96 children — ranging in age from 6 to 18 — from 1914 through 1973.
The school closed last year after 111 years of operation. It had opened in 1900 as the Florida State Reform School, and it didn't take long for stories of child abuse and slave labor to begin circulating. Instead of charging counties for the upkeep of the children they sent, the school decided it could do better financially by making the kids work for a living — in phosphate minds and cotton fields — many contracted out to local businesses. The more children the school had, the bigger the labor pool.
Thus, eventually more than just juvenile delinquents were sent to Dozier. Its inmate population included children who skipped school, orphans and those whose parents couldn't support them in hard times. Courts didn't provide terms of sentencing; instead, school officials decided how long each inmate needed to be held there. Many children attempted to escape. Several died trying.
By 2008, former inmates from the 1950s and '60s came forward with stories of barbaric physical abuse, rape and murder. This went far beyond “tough love” and strict discipline for wayward kids, even for those times. These witnesses called themselves “the White House boys” because they said the abuse took place in a small white building on the campus.
Then-Gov. Charlie Crist ordered a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation of Dozier. The FDLE identified 31 graves on the site, but said its investigation into the former inmates' claims was hampered by a lack of evidence.
The USF team, though, appears to have done a more thorough job. Not only did it find more graves, it believes there is at least one more burial site on the campus. Researchers sifted through historical archives, interviewed survivors and used high-tech methods to probe beneath the ground.
Even though the school closed in 2011, it's important that the state not close the book on its history until every effort is made to document what happened and who the victims were — and, if possible, bring those responsible to justice. It might unearth some uncomfortable truths about the state's and community's history, but it's necessary to sort fact from rumor — and to bring closure to the families who wonder what happened to their children.
Bullying, School Shootings & Potential for Redemption
While school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold continued their killing spree through Columbine High School, one student, Cassie Bernall, hid under a table and prayed fervently to God. "Dear God! Dear God! Why is this happening?! I just want to go home," reports the girl who crouched next to her. Klebold peered under and said sardonically, "Peekaboo." He then killed Cassie.
Fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal, a bespectacled ninth-grader, walked into Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, carrying a large parcel wrapped in a quilt. He lied and told a somewhat suspicious teacher that the bundle contained "props for a science project."
Shortly before 8 am, just before the first bell rang, this son of a respected lawyer and church elder put down his bundle, inserted earplugs, drew a weapon, and fired twelve shots into a circle of students gathered for Christian prayer in the lobby. Students screamed, clutched their own faces and each other, crying hysterically. Soon two girls lay dead. A third died a short time later. Five others were hospitalized; two partially paralyzed for life.
"I'm sorry," Carneal calmly told principal Bill Bond. According to Bond, Carneal's school essays and short stories revealed a recurring theme: The nightmare of bullying. He felt "picked on, weak, and powerless." He "had been teased all his life" and "just struck out in anger at the world."
School shooter, 16-year-old Luke Woodham, wrote in his journal before murdering two students and injuring seven others: "I am not insane. I am angry. I am not spoiled or lazy.… I killed because people like me are mistreated every day.… I am malicious because I am miserable."
Like innocent Cassie Bernall, our nation continues to ask: Dear God, why is this happening? The Secret Service knows why. It interviewed 37 school shooters and asked them why they did it. Nearly all of them said they murdered due to ongoing bullying. The Secret Service concluded that many cases met the legal definition of harassment and the moral definition of torment.
Bullying is about unequal power, not common conflict. And what history and today's headlines continue to tell us is that some will eventually reach for a weapon to level or exceed this gross imbalance of power. It's not about guns, knives or related weaponry. It's about unchallenged abuse, neglect, injustice and related afflictions. For people of faith, it's about leaving our spiritual Switzerland: our love for comfortable but faith-damaging neutrality while the war for human dignity rages onward. Bullying is preventable as the following Protectors success story demonstrates.
The sound and fury of a bullet ripping through a school's hallway is almost always the language of target rage: of the unheard, neglected, scorned, humiliated and abused. Sometimes it is a plea of a confused and tormented youth at the end of his rope, of someone who can no longer withstand the daily humiliation set around his neck like the millstone that it is.
Targets of the intentional and systematic abuse called bullying sometimes choose another drastic measure to relieve themselves of psychological turmoil. They attack themselves. This week The Protectors was contacted by the community of Fenton High School in Michigan for help. This is where around lunch time on November 27, senior Josh Pacheco quoted Bilbo Baggins on Facebook: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye." Josh was found unresponsive in his truck, which was running in the closed-up garage. He left a note: "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough." Few adults are strong enough to endure what we expect our youth to endure.
Help us Help More Children
Help us answer Cassie's haunting question: "Dear God. Why is this happening?" Because hundreds of thousands of children are having their God-given dignity, value and worth stripped from them everyday. These children are made in the image of God, yet some treat targets as if there is no God at all. And due to the unique dynamic of bullying, many targets are incapable of self-rescue.
They need a protector, which is what we do. We're defending them through our unique, faith-based solution. We're raising up a generation of bold, courageous and faith-filled youth who will no longer remain silent when they witness such cruelty. They are Protectors, like Melody, who witnessed bullying on her playground. Melody used assertive but non-violent words straight from The Protectors program, which ended the verbal attack immediately. Now Melody and the former bully, together, protect other children in their Tennessee school.
When Melody shared her Protector's victory story with her class, her 5th grade teacher says, "Her fellow students spontaneously, without my direction, stood up and applauded her…This is one example of how this program empowers students in my class to do the right thing…Thanks for sharing your God-inspired wisdom."
We want to create more courageous Protectors like Melody throughout the world. Numerous organizations contact us needing help right away, but they cannot afford our current program. So we've created an inexpensive but still powerful resource just for them. It's called the Hero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program and our fundraising campaign to complete this life-saving resource ends in just 21 days. To help rescue more children from this intentional but preventable form of abuse, click here: Hero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program.
Child Abuse Rates Up Locally
MASON CITY, IA-There may be some good news in the fight against child abuse.
Federal statistics say reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped for the fifth year in a row.
That's a positive trend around the country, but it's not really a trend we are seeing locally.
The report comes from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
It shows that there were 681 thousand cases across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year and that number has gone down over the past few years.
But locally, child welfare experts say they are not seeing that decline and more work needs to be done.
Every year, thousands of children across the country are abused.
"There is denial of critical care, where kids just are not getting what they need, there's physical abuse, there's emotional abuse and there is sexual abuse," said Robin McClelland with the North Iowa Child Abuse Prevention Council.
A new federal report shows those numbers are getting better, but locally it's a different story.
"Here in Cerro Gordo, we are ranking very high in the state of Iowa for child abuse rates. As a matter of fact, we rank 4th for the denial or critical care and third for the presence of drugs in children's system," said McClelland.
Organizations like the North Iowa Child Abuse Prevention Council are working hard to address these issues through community programs.
Leaders say abuse is a serious issue the public needs to be aware of.
"We know that child abuse has long lasting effects on children. Lots of times, kids who've been abused turn to substance abuse they may even abuse their own child," said McClelland.
But north Iowa is not the only area that is differing from the national data.
"Child abuse cases, serious child abuse cases are up," said Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi.
In fact, Mower county has seen it's fair share of child abuse cases in the past few years.
Most notably, in 2011 when Brian and Charity Miller were arrested for chaining their children to their beds.
Sheriff Amazi doesn't really know the reason they have more cases than others.
She says it could just have something to do with the way people are raising their kids
"All I can say is that it's very poor parenting and these people have no idea how to raise a child and what is needed in the care that goes into child rearing," said Sheriff Amazi.
North Iowa law enforcement leaders say the decrease in cases nationwide might also be related to a decrease in the cases being reported - not necessarily a drop in the amount of abuse.
"I think what your probably seeing nation-wide is maybe a budget cutting problem where maybe positions have been reduced, office hours have been cut back, I don't know if that got an effect on how many are confirmed or reported," said Captain Mike McKelvey, with the Mason City Police Department.
But even if that's the case, child welfare advocates say it takes the whole community to be the voice for children.
"Anytime we hear a story where kids have been hurt it tugs at our heart strings and I think the most important thing for community members to know is that there is something we can do," said McClelland.
Those that support the national report, stand by their findings, saying the decline is real due to adults getting married and having children later in life when they are more financially ready, which reduces stress.
Report criticizes Va. judges on child abuse cases
RICHMOND, Va. — Only a small percentage of suspected crimes against children are prosecuted in Virginia, and very few of those cases result in meaningful prison sentences, a child advocacy group says in a new report.
The National Association to PROTECT Children sent the report this week to members of two legislative committees that will meet Friday to interview judges who are up for reappointment. The report said three of the seven circuit court judges who will appear before the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees "show troubling and potentially dangerous patterns of sentencing on crimes against children."
But the association's report suggests the problems extend well beyond those judges, in part because of lax sentencing guidelines — including one that treats child sex abusers lighter if the victim is their own child — and the extensive use of plea-bargaining.
"There is no crime more serious than a crime against a child," the 2012 Report on Virginia Judicial Performance said. "Yet the data here show that preying upon children sexually — or committing other child abuse so serious it results in criminal prosecution— is likely to result in very little, if any, incarceration."
According to the organization's data, more than 66,000 suspected incidents of child abuse were reported to social services agencies in the last fiscal year. More than half were accepted, more than 10,000 were investigated, and just over 4,000 those complaints ultimately were labeled "founded."
Results varied widely. For example, the percentage of referrals accepted ranged from 35 percent in Chesterfield County to 94 percent in Washington County, and the percentage of founded cases of child abuse ranged from 16 percent of those investigated in Chesapeake to 66 percent in Rockingham County.
"We shouldn't have this kind of disparity and differences in accepted cases," said Camille Cooper, director of legislative affairs for PROTECT.
There currently is no easy way to determine which reports to social services ultimately are prosecuted. However, a separate set of statistics shows more than 6,100 child abuse charges were filed last year, about two-thirds of them resulting in convictions — mostly though guilty pleas.
"It is the rare case of child abuse — including sexual abuse — that makes it to a criminal trial," the report said.
The report also examined the records of the judges up for reappointment. Two of the judges heard only nine child abuse cases in a 5½-year period, according to the report, and a third judge heard 18. Of the seven judges' 188 child abuse cases over that period, only eight were tried by jury. Forty-two of those cases resulted in no jail time, and an additional 26 resulted in sentences of less than 1 year.
The report singled out the sentencing practices of Judges Isaac St. Clair Freeman of Smyth County, Junius P. Fulton III of Norfolk and William R. O'Brien of Virginia Beach. It said the three imposed effective sentences of no time behind bars for defendants convicted of indecent liberties with a minor, and Fulton and Freeman gave no jail time in cases of aggravated sexual battery of a victim under 13 and aggravated sexual battery of an incapacitated person.
None of the three judges immediately returned telephone messages seeking comment.
Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax and chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, said PROTECT also raised concerns about some judges in testimony before the panel last year.
"There were a couple of red flags, we asked the judges about it and they had a proper explanation," Albo said.
Cooper said this is the first year the organization has prepared a written report for lawmakers to consider during the judicial appointment process. She said the report was sent to legislators and the judges, who were told several weeks ago how to access the data on the organization's website. The judges were asked to share any concerns about the data, but none did, Cooper said.
Fla officials overhaul child abuse hotline
by KELLI KENNEDY -- The Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Child welfare officials have overhauled the state abuse hotline, saying they've added new technology so they can provide investigators with more updated information about alleged abuse and a family's background before a home visit.
The Department of Children and Families hotline receives more than 400,000 calls a year, yet staff were relying on the same outdated procedures and antiquated technology for the past 30 years. And operators were focusing more on speed more than accuracy, Secretary David Wilkins said Thursday.
In February 2011, the call center received multiple calls worrying about the safety of Nubia Barahona, a 10-year-old former foster child whose partially decomposing body was later found doused in toxic chemicals in the back of her adoptive father's pickup truck along a busy highway.
"Through that investigation and that process we uncovered some dramatic problems in the DCF process, procedures," Wilkins said. "A lot of the problems that happened were right at the call center."
A panel investigating problems after Nubia's death made several recommendations to overhaul the system. The new call center launched last month, but officials held a press conference this week.
In the past, operators collected information and sent it to child protective investigators who then had to conduct their own investigation. Often details were missing and didn't include past cases nor did the system coordinate information when multiple calls came in on the same case, Wilkins said.
Now, operators are using updated technology to provide investigators with better information about families at the beginning of an investigation so they can assess child safety and family risk factors before they go out on a case.
The new call center also features an online reporting tool, which Wilkins said will especially helpful for law enforcement and education officials, who are mandatory reporters.
"We're going to be able to respond to these cases in a much more professional manner and a much faster manner with significantly more accuracy," he said.
Child Abuse Hotline Upgraded
Child abuse is a crime that continues to affect the community, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has recently launched a new hotline to help make reporting child abuse easier.
The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a computerized system, which should help the agency eliminate unacceptable delays in sending investigators out into the field.
Beiser says this will help the agency get help to children and families in distress. Experts say efforts to prevent abuse and neglect before it happens include helping young parents and new parents develop skills to help them be ready for the responsibility of raising a child.
The hotline number is 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873).
California judicial panel admonishes O.C. judge for rape comments
Judge Derek G. Johnson had said the victim 'didn't put up a fight' and that the sexual attack was 'technical.' The panel called his comments outdated and insensitive.
by Christopher Goffard
A longtime Orange County judge who said that a rape victim "didn't put up a fight" and that her sexual assault was only "technical" has been publicly admonished by a state agency that said his remarks seemed outdated, insensitive and possibly biased.
The Commission on Judicial Performance said Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson's comments breached judicial ethics.
At a sentencing in 2008, Johnson denied a prosecutor's call to impose a 16-year prison term on Metin Gurel, who had been convicted of rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery, stalking and making threats against his former live-in girlfriend.
On the day he raped her, prosecutors said, Gurel had threatened to mutilate the woman with a heated screwdriver.
Johnson imposed a six-year sentence.
"I'm not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something," the judge said, according to documents released Thursday. "If someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case.
"That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn't necessarily willing, she didn't put up a fight," the judge said.
The judge, who has been on the Orange County Superior Court since 2000, also declared the rape "technical" and not "a real, live criminal case."
"To treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape," the judge said. "I think it's an insult. I think it trivializes a rape."
The San Francisco-based Commission on Judicial Performance said Johnson's remarks flew in the face of California law, which does not require proof that a rape victim tried to resist an attack.
"In the commission's view, the judge's remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not 'put up a fight,' " the agency said in a news release Thursday.
"Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary. In his response to the commission and at his appearance, Judge Johnson conceded his comments were inappropriate and apologized."
Johnson remains on the bench.
"Neither Judge Johnson nor I will be making comment," said Johnson's attorney, Paul S. Meyer, when reached by phone Thursday.
The commission, which is composed of judges, lawyers and members of the public, voted 10 to 0 that Johnson deserved a public admonishment.
The commission said it did not learn of the judge's remarks until May 2012. The OC Weekly published a story on the judge's remarks in 2008.
Pou-Vitale-Gill Landmark ‘Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act' Approved by Senate Judiciary Committee
Legislation Would Place New Jersey in the Forefront of Combating Forced Servitude
TRENTON – An omnibus human trafficking bill, sponsored by Senators Nellie Pou, Joseph F. Vitale and Nia Gill, that would broaden the definition of and penalties for human trafficking, putting New Jersey in the forefront of protecting victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Human trafficking is, simply put, a form of modern-day slavery and we as a state must do everything in our power to end these atrocities occurring within New Jersey's borders,” said Senator Pou, D-Passaic and Bergen. “The men, women and children who are victims of forced labor and prostitution often cannot escape their servitude, so it is imperative that we make the public aware of these actions and provide our law enforcement and advocates with the training necessary to break up these crime rings and bring traffickers to justice. By strengthening our human trafficking law and providing needed services and trainings, we can make a real difference in ending the trade of humans in New Jersey.”
“As a result of the various ways victims are trapped by their traffickers, physically, psychologically, financially or emotionally, they are often unable to self identify as victims of human trafficking,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Many are afraid to speak out or there are cultural and language barriers causing many cases of human trafficking to go underreported. We must take action to increase the public awareness of human trafficking and to provide our law enforcement and advocates with the training to end the enslavement of people in New Jersey.”
“While human trafficking has been illegal in the state of New Jersey for more than seven years, perpetrators of sex trafficking are not being discovered, arrested and prosecuted at the level that they should be,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex, sponsor of legislation making human trafficking a crime in New Jersey. “This legislation is important because many organizations believe there are thousands of people – disproportionally women and children – who are being held captive as labor and sex slaves through abuse, fear and intimidation. It is necessary that we examine ways that we can train those within our justice system and members of the community to recognize the signs of and report human trafficking so we can bring justice to those who are enslaved.”
In New Jersey, human trafficking occurs when someone knowingly holds, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means another person to engage in sexual activity or to provide labor or services. Human traffickers use threats of serious bodily harm, physical restraint and coercion to keep their victims captive. The “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act,” S-2239, would expand the definition of human trafficking to include actions involving abduction, fraud, deceit or other deception and abuses of power as a means of accomplishing human trafficking.
The bill would expand the penalties for the crime of human trafficking by ensuring that those who are convicted of human trafficking-related crimes would be subject to a minimum fine of $25,000, which would be deposited into a newly-formed Human Trafficking Survivor's Assistance Fund. The Fund would provide assistance to victims of human trafficking and promote human trafficking awareness across the state.
Additionally the bill would expand penalties as follows:
- Establish the crime of the first degree for anyone who knowingly owns, controls, manages, supervises or otherwise keeps any premises – such as a residence, apartment, hotel, motel or other lodging establishment – where human trafficking is regularly carried on, leases a premise used for human trafficking or fails to make a reasonable effort to abate this use.
- Make it a crime of the first degree to knowingly publish, disseminate or display any advertisement or to knowingly purchase an advertisement for a commercial sex act depicting a minor.
- Upgrade the criminal penalty for transporting a person into New Jersey to promote the person's engaging in prostitution and for knowingly leasing a place to be regularly used for prostitution.
- Establish the crime of criminal recklessness for licensed owners or drivers of commercial passenger vehicles that transport human trafficking victims.
- Increase the criminal penalties for knowingly possessing or viewing any photograph, film, videotape, computer program or file, video game or any other reproduction which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act.
The bill would also allow victims of human trafficking to seek civil damages against their perpetrators for their injuries.
The bill would create a 15-member Commission on Human Trafficking comprised of state agency officials, law enforcement, prosecutors, social service providers and advocates. Among other responsibilities, the Commission would be tasked with reviewing and evaluating current law and assistance programs and making recommendations for legislation. The Commission would report their findings to the Governor and Legislature annually.
Besides the Human Trafficking Survivor's Assistance Fund, the bill includes numerous additional provisions to provide services for victims of human trafficking including a rehabilitative program to educate those convicted of engaging a prostitute on health risks, legal ramifications and the correlation between prostitution and human trafficking; a 24-hotline to report suspected human trafficking; and a program to train law enforcement, judges, hotel and motel owners and health care personnel on how to respond to and investigate human trafficking.
Due to the underground nature of human trafficking and the use of fear and abuse, self-reporting of human trafficking is extremely rare. The Senators note that a broad awareness campaign to inform and educate the public of the signs of human trafficking and to ease the reporting of trafficking, will be the most effective way to end sex and labor slavery within New Jersey. These advocacy efforts, paired with training programs for both governmental and nongovernmental organizations, will help to bring those perpetrating human trafficking-related crimes to justice.
A 2012 report by Polaris Project – a national nonprofit organization that works to prevent human trafficking and modern-day slavery – ranked New Jersey as a tier-two state in combating human trafficking, meaning that New Jersey has passed numerous laws to combat human trafficking and should take more steps to improve and implement its laws. Twenty-one states received a tier-one rating, the highest awarded by the Polaris Project.
The bill was approved by the Committee with a vote of 11-0-2. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further review.
NJ Senate Democrats
Editorial: Sex trafficking continues
The sensational trial of Terrence "T-Rex" Yarbrough thankfully has ended with his conviction on most of the charges that he coerced eight women and two teenage girls into working for a prostitution ring operated by Yarbrough.
Testimony in the trial described Yarbrough's violent, domineering treatment of the women. Jurors heard a recording of a phone call he made from jail in which Yarbrough bragged about kicking one of his victims in the mouth so hard that she had to get dentures. He punished other women by beating them with crowbars, belts and dog chains.
So justice was done when he was convicted in federal court Dec. 5 on the sex-trafficking charges. Thanks to the brave testimony of his victims, Yarbrough will be going to prison for a long time after he is sentenced in April.
But his high-profile trial and conviction only underscore a larger, more serious problem in Greater Memphis and much of America.
According to recent Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports, hundreds of teenagers in Tennessee are victims of sex trafficking every year.
In cities and towns across the state, vulnerable young women are falling prey to pimps, gangs and other criminals who coerce them into unspeakable acts and crimes.
And the problem seems to be getting worse.
Gangs that once ran drugs are now making fast money through sex trafficking. The supply of runaway, confused young girls continues to expand at a time when the economy is making it tough for young people to find a legitimate job.
There is now an international market for these girls and multinational organizations that move them from place to place.
It's good that T-Rex Yarbrough will be sent away.
But there is much more work to be done if sex trafficking and modern slavery are to be reduced.
Human Trafficking In U.S. Raises Calls For Awareness And Legal Action
by Sarah Zahedi
When she was 17 years old, Ima Matul was trafficked from Indonesia into the United States for forced labor. Matul said she came to the U.S. when a woman offered both her and her cousin nanny positions in Los Angeles with a $150 monthly salary.
When she arrived in America, she was separated from her cousin and was forced into 18-hour workdays, seven days a week, taking care of the woman's home and children.
“My trafficker did not pay me," Matul said. "I was working for a salary that did not exist."
Matul's trafficker led her to believe that if she escaped, the police would arrest her and put her in jail. She said her trafficker brutalized her, verbally and physically abusing her on a regular basis.
After three years of forced labor and abuse, Matul built the courage to escape. Without knowing how to write English fluently, she wrote a letter to a woman working as a nanny next door to her. The nanny took Matul to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) in Los Angeles, where Matul was able to take shelter from her trafficker.
At CAST, Matul spent four years becoming fluent in English, learning computer skills and taking leadership and public speaking classes. She said the other survivors she took classes with became like her family.
“We all didn't have family here so we became like sisters,” she said.
After graduating from the program, she was offered a position as a Survivor Advisory Caucus member for CAST in 2005. In September, she started working as a survivor organizer and has had the opportunity to work for various anti-trafficking organizations across the U.S.
Through her experiences at CAST, Matul said she gained a great deal of confidence. She works with other victims as a member of the National Network of Human Trafficking Survivors, encouraging other victims to realize their own strength to try to escape their circumstances. CAST established this national network for trafficking survivors to come together to mentor each other and connect with survivors around the world.
“We support each other," Matul said. "It is important for victims to speak up and know we have a powerful voice."
In working as an advocate on the Survivor Advisory Caucus, Matul said she hopes to encourage awareness of the issue in order to prevent human trafficking.
“It's necessary to talk about human trafficking and teach individuals to be careful,” she said. “I didn't know I was being trafficked until it was explained to me at CAST. I didn't know what human trafficking was.”
Many other victims of human trafficking, like Matul, knew little about the issue before they were trafficked themselves.
Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Outreach Coordinator Donna Sarullo at the Mary Magdalene Project (MMP) is working to educate women in particular on the prostitution tracks in the Los Angeles area, hoping to prevent them from becoming victims of sex trafficking. MMP is a 32-year-old nonprofit organization located in Van Nuys, Calif., that provides services to victims of prostitution and sex trafficking, including a residential treatment program, a drop-in center, transitional living program, family reunification program and emergency intervention support services.
“When we do street outreach, we give information to the girls out there about our services and encourage them to stay safe” Sarullo said. “We also have survivors working with us to talk to the girls. Sometimes they know each other too.”
MMP also runs a program called My Life My Choice, an exploitation prevention program where MMP survivors share their experiences so they can spread awareness of the manipulation tactics used by traffickers.
Sarullo has worked at MMP since 2003. She has seen a number of victims go through major trauma after being kidnapped, raped and abused by their traffickers. She said that most of the survivors she has worked with didn't know that they were being trafficked, especially since many fall into the trade at a young age.
“They have usually been abused sexually as a child," she said. "The women we see in this program are often romanced into prostitution. They're manipulated by their traffickers because they're in love with them.”
Sarullo said that victim services at MMP facilitate positive change for many women. Like CAST, MMP emphasizes the advantage of building a support network of fellow survivors for victims.
“They are associating with women who have similar issues," Sarullo said. "Everyone understands each other so it's very beneficial. If they want longterm change, they can come through our home and our program.”
Sarullo said that the lack of educational programs, like the ones organized by MMP to spread awareness, is a major issue.
“More educational programs are necessary," she said. "If girls can understand traffickers' tactics then we can hopefully prevent them from becoming victims. Prevention is key. Education is key.”
Human trafficking victim advocates are also working to spread awareness of trafficking in the U.S. to inspire individuals to take action.
University of Southern California student Michelle Lau is the founder and co-president of World Vision ACTS , a student organization that encourages political activism to raise awareness about social issues.
In November, Lau ran a series of human trafficking awareness events on the USC campus, including a three-day interactive walk-through activity and art display that featured information about human trafficking on a global, national and local scale.
“It was an informative and engaging activity," she said. "Our organization was there as a source to guide them through a discussion of the issue."
Over 100 students attended the event, yet Lau said that few knew that human trafficking was an issue in the U.S.
“In America, we are not really exposed to the issue," she said. "Most of us don't know people who have been involved and many victims are scared to talk about it because they are probably being manipulated by their traffickers."
Lau said that educating Americans about the issue of human trafficking might eventually persuade them to endeavor to reverse the problem.
“The lack of awareness among Americans about the issue makes it hard for them to connect and empathize with the victims,” she said. “Awareness is the first step. It might not guide them directly to action but the more people talk about it, the more it will lead to people doing something about the issue."
Meanwhile, advocates like Matul and Sarullo are hoping for more extensive legal action to combat and prevent human trafficking and support victims in America.
Sarullo hopes legislators will take initiative on the statewide level to provide greater funding to trafficking prevention and victim support programs like those at MMP. She said increased funding will allow these advocacy organizations to help more victims.
“The lack of resources is staggering," she said. "There are not many places for these victims to go, especially in the Los Angeles area."
Furthermore, as a member of CAST's Survivor Advisory Caucus, Matul hopes to push legislators on the national level to reauthorize the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 , which provided tools to combat trafficking in persons and assisted in the coordination of anti-trafficking efforts worldwide and domestically.
Matul stressed that education on a global level is one of the most important methods to combat human trafficking.
“People need to be educated from a young age, especially because social media is being used to recruit victims and almost everyone uses social media,” Matul said. “Any social media user could be a target.”
This form of technology-facilitated trafficking has become a more common issue around the world. There have been cases of traffickers targeting victims via Facebook , as well as cases of traffickers advertising and bragging about their trade.
Research Director and Deputy Managing Director Mark Latonero at the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy conducted research on the role of social networking sites and online classifieds in human trafficking.
“What we found through our research is that sites that we use every day have been used for trafficking such as social networking sites and blogging sites,” Latonero said. “For example, we discovered cases of traffickers using sites like Twitter to brag about how they exploited minors, and others using Facebook and online classifieds to recruit and advertise.”
Nevertheless, Latonero said that administrators of these sites that are being abused by traffickers are taking it upon themselves to innovate around the issue.
“Private technology services want to become aware that their sites are being exploited,” he said. “For example, Facebook and Microsoft are doing great work in developing technology to identify and rid of human trafficking from their sites.”
Latonero is also pleased that California state officials have taken the initiative to address and combat human trafficking.
“California is way ahead of many states, particularly because California Attorney General Kamala Harris has been such a leader in this case,” he said. “On the 2007 report on the state of human trafficking, the Internet was barely mentioned. The 2012 report focuses quite heavily on technology-facilitated trafficking.”
Harris released a 2012 report on human trafficking in California Nov. 16. The state is listed as one of the nation's top four destinations for human trafficking. It is believed to be a $32 billion a year global industry. According to the report, California's human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims from mid-2010 to mid-2012.
Latonero said that researchers and legislators could work to combat technology-facilitated trafficking with technology as well. Through his research, he concluded that authorities could analyze websites and mobile phones to extract information on traffickers in order to prosecute them, to monitor potential cases of trafficking and to spread awareness of the issue through social media. In addition, technology can be used to create a support network of trafficking victims and survivors, like that instituted by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline.
“With any sort of technology-based communication, a digital fingerprint is left behind," Latonero said. "If there's a problem with technology and trafficking, the solution to that problem lies in technology itself too."
From the Department of Justice
Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence Presents Final Findings
Recommendations to Attorney General
Attorney General Eric Holder's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence today presented its final report and policy recommendations gathered from public hearings held across the country over the past year.
The task force report includes 56 recommendations and highlights the importance of identifying children who are victims or witnesses of violence and providing support and services to help them heal. It focuses on developing programs to help children access supportive and non-violent relationships with trusted adults in their homes and communities. The task force also calls for all children who enter the juvenile justice system to be screened for exposure to violence.
“I want to thank the task force for their diligent work on this important effort. This report will be carefully considered and used as the basis for action – and as a blueprint for strengthening our robust efforts to protect young people from exposure to violence,” said Attorney General Holder. “The findings of this task force will ensure that policymakers, criminal justice professionals, social service providers, and members of the public continue to regard preventing and remedying children's exposure to violence as far more than a professional obligation – but as a moral calling.”
As a key part of Attorney General Holder's Defending Childhood initiative to address children's exposure to violence, the task force is comprised of 13 leading experts, including practitioners, child and family advocates, academicians and licensed clinicians.
“Every child we help recover from the impact of abuse is an investment in our nation's future,” said task force co-chair Joe Torre, executive vice president of Major League Baseball and founder of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation. “Our report calls for renewed and expanded efforts to protect our children from violence and psychological trauma, to heal families and communities, and to empower children to claim safe and productive futures. The time for action is now.”
During four hearings held in Baltimore, Albuquerque, N.M., Miami and Detroit from November 2011 to April 2012, the task force heard from people of all ages residing in 27 states and the District of Columbia, including survivors of violence, researchers, practitioners, advocates and community residents. These testimonials, along with additional research, provided the foundation for the report and recommendations.
“We have the power to end the damage to children from violence and abuse,” said task force co-chair Robert Listenbee, Jr., Chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “We must mobilize resources on national and local levels to support teachers, health care professionals, police officers, juvenile justice professionals and others who work with children and their families. Our recommendations provide a path for effectively implementing policies, practices and procedures to keep kids safe from violence.”
The task force presented their recommendations today during a public meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The council, whose membership includes the cabinet officials and heads of 12 federal agencies and nine practitioners, coordinates federal programs for delinquency prevention, detention or care for unaccompanied juveniles, and missing and exploited children.
To view the task force's report, please visit: www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood/cev-rpt-full.pdf
For more information about the task force and Attorney General Holder's Defending Childhood Initiative, please visit: www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood
The Defending Childhood Initiative is supported by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). OJP is headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary and provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administers justice and assists victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at www.ojp.gov
The Year in Review: 2012 Marks the Highest Watermark Yet for Victims of Child Sex Abuse
by Marci A. Hamilton
The conviction of prominent Satmar Hasidic school counselor Nechemya Weberman for child sex abuse caps a year in which giant strides were taken to push back the sex abuse of children in institutional settings. Weberman is a depraved pedophile who deserves the maximum sentence, but the most important part of this story lies in the facts that the Brooklyn District Attorney finally brought a prosecution against someone in the politically-powerful Satmar community, and that the victim's family stood behind her.
Before this case, the situation was bleak in the Satmar community, where members, led by their rabbis, shared a commitment to keeping sex abuse and incest a secret from the outside world. The rabbis had the hubris to place the religious enclave above the needs of each child, thereby giving pedophiles like Weberman the space they needed to prey on children. With this brave survivor pressing charges, and a conviction successfully procured, we moved closer to justice for the victims in this insular community.
Moreover, there were other signs arising from this case that tell us that the world has forever changed for such victims. Not only did the victim here step forward, as so many have now done in the institutions that have covered up abuse, but her family supported her. Her mother actually applauded her daughter's bravery, and her parents stood behind her. That is a sign of a shift in the tectonic plates of our society.
Like the game-changing documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa , which I reviewed in this prior column here at Justia's Verdict , this case educated the public once again about the features of the abuse that happens in close-knit communities.
The predators are wily, as they place themselves in positions of authority where a child has few defenses, and then look for the child who is different, and unlikely to fight back. In this case, the girl who suffered abuse had asked innocent, but probing questions about religion at her school, and was rewarded by being sent to counselor Weberman, along with criticism and a sense that the principal did not approve of her. She was labeled a “rebel,” although her mother now explains that, “She wasn't a rebel at all. She was a shy, very smart child. She likes to know. Very bright child.”
The Groundwork That Has Allowed Child Sex Abuse Prosecutions to Be Brought Even Against Religious Authority Figures
The groundwork for this historic case has been laid over the last decade, starting with the now-iconic Boston Globe revelations about the Catholic bishops' complicity in the sex abuse of children by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. As that story was replicated in one American diocese after another, the public became more and more educated about such crimes, and the victims in other institutions started to emerge from the shadows. Now, virtually every religious organization has had to deal with this issue in some form. And those with theological beliefs that require them to keep scandal from seeping outside the organization, like the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jews, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, have had pronounced problems.
Just over a year ago, that pattern was also revealed at Penn State, where football was tantamount to a religion, and where the men in power permitted children to suffer while protecting the team, or, in other words, their own power. When the Jerry Sandusky story broke, you did not need a playbook to understand it, because the pattern of abuse and cover-up had been laid out, in all of its details, in one religious organization after another.
This past summer, the Summer of 2012 saw the parallel tracks of the criminal acts in the Catholic Church and Penn State cases intersect when on the very same day, Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse, and Msgr. William Lynn was convicted of covering up abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, as I discussed in this column. We now await in 2013 the trials of the high-level administrators who contributed to making the conditions right for Sandusky to abuse multiple children.
Then, the Fall of 2012 witnessed the historic release of the Boy Scouts' “perversion files,” which document decades of knowledge of abuse by Scout leaders in the organization, and, as usual, far too little attention paid to the protection of the children in the organization's care. The first case in Philadelphia was filed yesterday.
In another leap forward when it come to educating the public on this issue, next week, finally, the secret archive files of the Catholic Church's Los Angeles Archdiocese will be released to the public, as part of the Church's historic settlement, five year ago, with hundreds of clergy child-sex-abuse survivors. The Church paid quickly, but then litigated and stalled on the files, proving that these institutions are far more invested in retaining their secrets than they are in compensating their victims.
These issues have seeped into every part of our culture. Yesterday, I was at a meeting where one of the ground rules that were laid down by the organizer was “ELMO,”an acronym allowing a participant to be able to say “Enough, let's move on,” if the discussion got bogged down. That used to be a cute acronym, reminding us of the lovable Sesame Street character. Sadly, it is now a reminder that four victims now have come out, accusing Elmo's puppeteer, Kevin Clash, of sexual abuse. All of our sacred spaces have been defiled by the screed of child sex abuse, but survivors are taking back the space as their own, and demanding true justice from a society that has let them suffer in silence for decades.
The Final Two Frontiers When It Comes to Child Sex Abuse in America: Combatting Incest and Effecting Legal Reform
Two frontiers still remain in the fight against child sex abuse in America. The first is the place that hosts even more abuse than our revered institutions do: the home. Incest is still a nearly-taboo word, and those victims have had the hardest time going public, in part because they are dependent on their abusers, and in part because they are so isolated. But many, like “The 5 Browns,” a classical piano group composed of five siblings, have done so.
There is much to be done to improve our culture's reporting of abuse, as well as our safety net for kids who are being abused. The answer does not lie in expediencies that would only make the family stay together at a profound expense to the abused child. The family institution, like the large institutions involved in child sex abuse, does not deserve abject deference when a child is being hurt.
The second frontier is the legal reform that is needed to stop the abuse, deter the institutions the first instinct of which is self-preservation, and punish the adults who perpetrate abuse or create the conditions for it. Institutions are fighting against such reforms, with the Catholic bishops most recently driving the Pennsylvania Task Force off-track on the issue of statute-of-limitations reform. The Task Force's Report, which contains reforms that are no-brainers and should have been passed years ago, eschews statute-of-limitations “window” legislation that would create opportunities for victims whose cases would otherwise have ben barred by statutes of limitations to obtain justice. The contention of the bishops is that creating such a window is “unconstitutional.” But under Pennsylvania law, that is a lie, and one that is perpetrated regularly, and only, by the bishops. We will know that the era of institution-based child sex abuse is over when legislators listen to survivors, not bishops, on this one issue.
Right now, in Massachusetts, survivors, their supporters, and many organizations that are intent on the protection of children, are rightfully demanding that the state legislature finally enact proposed statute-of-limitations window legislation, which I discussed in this column. It is a simple procedural fix that grants the victims who have been shut out of court the ability to choose justice. The vast majority of victims, in most states, have been shut down by a system that gives pedophiles a free pass when the statute of limitations expires on their victims' claims. Institutions that have covered up abuse prefer to keep their victims out of court, but legislators are finally coming to the victims' rescue. Massachusetts may well lead the way for the victims at the end of 2012, by enacting child-sex-abuse statute-of-limitations reform, which would only make sense, given that the avalanche of public information about the realities of child sex abuse started in Boston in 2002.
Similar legislation was passed in Hawaii in April, with victims already naming a bishop and non-Catholic perpetrators. In addition, measures to the same effect await passage in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. If all goes as planned in the state legislature, then one year from now, I intend to write a column declaring 2013 the Year of Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims.
Marci A. Hamilton is a professor of law at Cardozo School of Law, and the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children, which was just published in paperback with a new Preface. Her email address is Hamilton02@aol.com.
Child Abuse Drops for Fifth Straight Year
by DAVID CRARY
Reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped nationwide for the fifth consecutive year, and abuse-related child fatalities also are at a five-year low, according to new federal statistics.
The latest annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, released Wednesday, estimates that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year. That's down from 695,000 in 2010 and from 723,000 in 2007.
"We have made excellent progress over the past five years," said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. "But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help."
The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 — down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About fourfifths of those killed were younger than 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly four-fifths of the deaths.
Texas had the most fatalities, with 246, followed by Florida with 133, while Montana reported no abuse-related deaths. The highest rates of child fatalities were in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Regarding the overall maltreatment figures, white children accounted for almost 44 percent of the victims, black children for 21.5 percent and Hispanic children for 22.1 percent. About 11 percent of the victims were physically or mentally disabled.
Regarding types of maltreatment, 78.5 percent of the victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.1 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 61,472 children who were sexually abused in 2011 — down dramatically from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. About four-fifths of the reports received by the agencies do not lead to findings of maltreatment, according to the report.
Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, says he finds the annual reports frustrating because of the lack of analysis of the trends.
"But at the same time, it does appear remarkable that overall child maltreatment has declined given that unemployment has been so high, the housing and mortgage crisis has continued, and state and local budgets for family and child services have been cut," he wrote in an email.
Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice and an expert on child welfare, noted that the decline in child maltreatment meshed with declines in the overall violent crime rate, the homicide rate and the level of violence against women.
Gelles said some child-protection advocates contend the declining child-abuse rates are a mirage, reflecting a tendency by child welfare agencies to investigate fewer cases in this era of tight budgets. But he contended that the decline is real — due in part to more adults delaying marriage and child-bearing, and thus reducing the number of high-risk situations where young, financially struggling adults are raising children that they can barely support.
Child assault case prompts officials to reconsider sex offender laws
by Steve Ryan
Melrose, Mass. —
With the arrest of John Burbine last week for allegedly sexually assaulting at least 13 infants and toddlers, state officials are examining what the commonwealth could do to prevent such crimes from happening.
Burbine, 49, of Wakefield, allegedly raped and abused more than a dozen children in their own homes, which he reportedly accessed through a child care service operated by his wife.
Two of the victims are from Melrose, according to Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone's office. (Click on the link, at left, for the latest story about the Burbine case.)
Burbine was convicted in 1989 of indecent assault and battery on a child, and was classified as a Level 1 offender, the lowest sex offender status. The identities of Level 1 offenders are available only to police.
“We can hopefully, in a quick fashion, take up how this happened, and what laws have to be changed to make sure it doesn't happen again, if a change in legislation would do anything,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Monday, Dec. 10.
DeLeo told reporters he is reviewing the state's sex offender laws, and is considering stalled legislation supported by Attorney General Martha Coakley that would make the identities of the lowest level sex offenders public. DeLeo said he has not made a definitive decision about whether information on Level 1 sex offenders should be available to the public.
Before he proposes legislation, he is looking at what types of offenses are classified under each level, he said. There are three levels of sex offenders under state law.
DeLeo said Burbine's alleged crimes are “so repulsive to me, we've got to do everything in our power to make sure this doesn't happen again.”
DeLeo said he wants lawmakers to look at the issue, which has failed to gain traction during this two-year session, as soon as the new session begins in January. He said he is troubled by the fact that Burbine was classified as a Level 1 sex offender because he was convicted in 1989 of assault on a child under the age of 14 years old.
“This gentleman, if he was considered Level 1, should not have been considered Level 1,” DeLeo said.
“My first question is how could this happen? How could this gentleman, who was convicted of that type of crime, be considered a Level 1 offender?” he said. “Is this a question of he was not placed in the proper classification, or do we have to strengthen our laws to make sure these types of folks are not out there again?”
When classifying a sex offender, the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board considers not just the crime itself, but a variety of other factors. These include criminal record, history of substance and alcohol abuse, the offender's relationship with the victim, and the age of the offender when the first sex offense was committed.
Gov. Deval Patrick reiterated last week his support for making Level 1 sex offender identities available to the public.
Patrick, in May 2011, filed legislation that would have made Level 1 sex offender information available to members of the public who called the local police, similar to how Level II information is handled.
“We have made that request in the past. I don't see any reason to change that position,” Patrick said as he left a cabinet meeting early Friday afternoon, Dec. 7.
The bill (H 3471) would have aligned state law with the requirements of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. The Committee on the Judiciary sent it to a study, usually a dead end.
State Sen. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, said local lawmakers are working with District Attorney Leone's office and with local law enforcement on ways to adjust sex offender registration laws to offer further protections to the community.
“We want to see if we can use information that doesn't rise to the level of a criminal conviction but demonstrate an increased likelihood to re-offend to reconsider their classification,” Clark said. “We are looking at current [sex offender] levels. Are they working? Are they set at the right levels?”
Clark noted federal sex offender levels are different, and the commonwealth might consider adopting the federal standards.
“We need to ask how can we classify sex offenders to make sure families have the best information possible,” Clark said.
Clark also said state lawmakers are looking at better coordination between law enforcement agencies and state agencies that deal with vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly.
“When there is a report of an issue and neglect, we should be able to connect that back [to the license],” Clark said.
Allegedly, aspects of Burbine's wife's child care business were unlicensed. A child care provider must put its license on full display, Clark said.
“It is not a perfect system, but I really urge parents and other guardians how important it is to look for that license,” Clark said, noting a criminal background check that includes family members who don't work for a child care business is part of the licensing process.
A day after the charges against Burbine were announced, state Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading, noted many legislators are waiting for all the details to come out before deciding the best approach to tighten laws regulating licensing and categorizing sex offenders and whether to make information about Level 1 sex offenders public.
He said there are many components to examine, including the day care licensing component, the sexual abuse component and the sentencing component.
“The allegations go above and beyond anything anyone can remotely comprehend,” Jones said. “It's human nature, emotion to rush to judgment. But we need to get a lot more data not available right now to policymakers and the public and do a top-to-bottom review of everything that went on.”
“If all the rules and regulations were followed, the question becomes whether we need new rules and regulations in place if the existing system was not enough,” Jones said. “This will serve as an unfortunate reminder that people will undertake these acts repeatedly.”
'I shed some innocent blood,' man says after carving pentagram on son's back
by Jethro Mullen and Joe Sutton
While many people saw Wednesday's memorable date of 12/12/12 as an auspicious moment to tie the knot or start a business, a Texas man appears to have interpreted the day as a reason to carry out a grotesque and sinister act.
"I shed some innocent blood," Brent Troy Bartel told a police dispatcher from the Fort Worth suburb of Richland Hills in a phone call just after midnight.
When the dispatcher asked him to clarify, Bartel responded in a matter-of-fact tone, "I inscribed a pentagram on my son."
"Okay, why did you do that?" the 911 operator wanted to know.
Bartel responded, "'Cause it's a holy day."
At the same time, police say, the boy's mother was also calling police from a neighbor's house.
She had run there, they say, to raise the alarm that Bartel was hurting their 6-year-old son.
When police officers arrived at the home, they say they found the traumatized boy standing shirtless with a large red pentagram carved into the skin on his back. His blood was smeared on the front door of the house.
A pentagram is a five pointed star that has associations with many different religions and belief systems.
The police officers wrapped a jacket around the child, who they say was "cold and shivering," and called paramedics, who took him to a children's hospital for treatment.
They arrested Bartel, whose manner was flat and emotionless, according to Sgt. Nathan Stringer.
He has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a family member.
"This is a very bizarre case," Stringer said.
What exactly may have motivated Bartel, who is being held in a local jail on a $500,000 bond, remains unclear. Police didn't disclose any comments from him beyond what he said on the 911 call.
The pentagram has had links with many of the world's religions and cults through the ages, including Christianity, Judaism and Paganism. It has also been used in certain forms by magicians and Satanists.
Wednesday's triple-12 date was considered noteworthy by numerologists because its digits add up to three, which has associations with the planet Jupiter, the largest in the solar system. The number 12 has astrological significance, since there are 12 signs of the zodiac.
It was the last such triple date for almost a century -- until January 1, 2101.
The boy's wounds were not very deep, Stringer said, and his condition was stable.
Police say they believe a box cutter recovered from the scene was used by Bartel to cut his son, but they are waiting for the results of laboratory tests.
Adult Survivors of Child Abuse Support Group
A support program for adult survivors of physical, sexual and emotional child abuse or neglect. Thurs. and second Thursday of every month. 6-7:15 p.m. $5-$10. Embarcadero YMCA, 169 Steuart St., S.F. (415) 513-0700. www.rachelgrantcoaching.com
'They put him in a dryer': grave sites found at notorious reform school
by Nick Allen in Los Angeles
Anthropologists have found evidence of 98 deaths at a notorious former reform school in Florida which has long faced accusations of abuse, beatings, rape and murder.
The researchers used ground penetrating radar to find at least 50 grave sites at the Arthur G Dozier School for Boys and said there could be more yet to be discovered. Evidence of other deaths was established by using archive records, other historical documents and interviews with relatives.
An investigation four years ago by Florida police that relied on the school's own records had reported that 81 died at the school, of whom 31 were buried on the property at a cemetery marked with white metal crosses.
But the team of anthropologists from the University of South Florida said they had verified the deaths of 96 children, mostly African-American boys ranging in age from six to 18, and two adult staff members, between 1914 and 1973. The reform school in Marianna, Florida, which was the largest in the state, opened in 1900 and closed in 2011.
According to the scientists' report: "The cause and manner of death for the majority of cases are unknown. Where causes could be documented, the most common were infectious disease, fires, physical trauma and drowning.
"Many questions persist about who is buried at the school and the circumstances surrounding their deaths."
Seven died during escape attempts, including one 16 year-old who suffered gunshot wounds to the chest, and 20 died within the first three months of arriving, the report said.
Records indicated that 45 were buried on school grounds from 1914 to 1952.
The new grave sites were found in an area known as "Boot Hill," but the anthropologists said there may be more elsewhere on the 1400-acre campus.
Charlie Crist, the state's then governor, ordered the police investigation in 2008 after former students from the 1950s and 1960s claimed they and other inmates were beaten and abused.
They called themselves "the White House boys" because they said the abuse took place in a small white, 11-room building.
One survivor, Roger Kiser, told NPR last year that he witnessed one boy die in the bathtub after being beaten. "I thought he'd been mauled by the dogs because I thought he had ran. I never did find out the true story on that," he was quoted as saying.
"There was the boy I saw who was dead who came out of the dryer. They put him in one of those large dryers," he said in the interview.
The anthropologists have recommended the exhumation of remains for skeletal autopsies to determine causes of death.
Among those who died at the school in 1934 was Thomas Varnadoe, just one month after he was remanded there aged 13 when he was accused of "malicious trespassing" through a woman's yard on the way home from school.
His nephew Glen Varnadoe said: "We as a family are eternally grateful. We really have no idea where Thomas is buried, on the north side or the south side of the campus."
Lawmakers Push Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Bill
by Nick Banaszak
HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-State lawmakers have put forth a bill that would require all Alabama residents to report suspected child abuse to the authorities.
House Bill 3 broadens an existing law which already mandates child abuse reporting for people who work in fields like education and health care. It would also give immunity to anyone who files a report that turns out to be false, as long as their claims were made in good faith and not blatantly dishonest.
The bill comes in the wake of several high-profile child abuse cases in Alabama, including one in Huntsville just two months ago when three children were found severly malnourished in a locked apartment. Huntsville police charged Norma Garcia, the children's mother, and Jose Vargas, her boyfriend, with three counts of child abuse after the troubling discovery on Eunice Street.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Scully-Clemmons heads up the family violence unit in Madison County, and called the proposed law a no-brainer.
“Obviously if we have another line of defense sort of allowing us to find out earlier about child abuse, that's a good thing,” said Scully-Clemmons. “The thing to keep in mind when you're dealing with child abuse is a lot of times you're not going to get an outcry from the child for a variety of reasons, usually because of fear. So we do rely on adults.”
Eighteen other states already have similar laws on the books. Alabama lawmakers will review the proposed legislation when they return to Montgomery in February.
Beaver County shows increase in child abuse in 2012
by Mark Shade
HARRISBURG — The number of substantiated child abuse cases in Pennsylvania dropped in 2012, according to an annual report that will be released today by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
The same cannot be said for Beaver, Lawrence, Fayette and Greene counties.
The group's report, “State of Child Welfare,” says the number of child abuse reports that authorities found to be true increased this year in all four counties.
Greene County's substantiated child abuse reports increased the most from last year to this year: 8.2 percent to 21.6 percent. Meanwhile, 26 more people than the 73 who reported child abuse in 2011 filed claims in 2012.
Lawrence County is still validating about one-in-four child abuse reports, the total of which remained statistically the same (151 to 153).
Beaver County substantiated 23 percent of its 187 child abuse claims this year, up from 19 percent of its 201 reports a year ago.
And Fayette County received the same number of child abuse reports but substantiated more of them: 10.5 to 13.5 percent.
Across Pennsylvania, the number of reports of abuse to ChildLine (the state's 24-hour-a-day hot line) and the state's abuse registry fell by a scant 237 to 24,378 in 2012. The number of abused children who were abused again dropped from 9 percent in 2011 to 7.9 percent this year.
However, the number of substantiated child abuse reports dropped nearly a full percentage point (14.9 percent to 14 percent), but an official said that is not statistically meaningful.
“We're basically hovering around a 14 to 15 percent substantiation rate,” said Mike Race, Pennsylvania Partnerships spokesman. “If it had dropped in half or doubled, then you'd start to think, ‘What's going on with these numbers?' ”
While the substantiation rate might seem low, Race said it does not necessarily mean people are filing bogus child abuse reports. He said there are times when more than one person will report a suspected case of child abuse. It only takes one of those reports to validate the fact there is child abuse, he said.
The number of children entering foster care dropped in 2012 as did the number of children living in foster care settings, the group's report said.
There were 24,229 foster care kids in Pennsylvania in 2011 and 22,443 this year, a difference of 1,786.
That's “progress,” the report says, but Race said the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is worried the state, as a whole, has hit a plateau in its efforts to reduce the need for foster care. He the group is hopeful the state will take advantage of the federal government's new permissions to spend its child welfare dollars on prevention and give counties the flexibility to spend those dollars as each sees fit.
“We've got counties that are way different than one another. Their budgets are different, their staffs are different, their needs are different,” Race said.
“If we give them flexibility, they can make the best decisions on what resources are working in their counties,” he said.
There are now 369 children in foster care in Fayette County. That's up from 188 children in foster care in 2011 and the increase represents the steepest jump compared to Greene, Beaver and Lawrence counties, where only slight movement occurred in each.
Most of Greene County's foster children, 41.7 percent, are between the ages of 2 and 5 years old, while the heaviest percentage of Lawrence County foster kids, 36.2 percent, is between 13 and 17. Nearly 36 percent of Beaver County's foster kids are also between 13 and 17, yet Fayette County is divided in its age spread as 26 percent of its foster kids are between 2 and 5 years old and 26 percent is between 13 and 17.
The majority of foster children in Fayette, Lawrence and Greene counties are white. Nearly 52 percent of the foster children in Beaver County are African American while 48 percent are white.
Despite the many numbers from a year that frequently linked child abuse with former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, Race says the overall takeaway from its 2012 report is that Pennsylvania cannot lose sight of the programs that actually help to protect children and keep them out of foster homes.
“As much as Sandusky garnered so much attention, the fact of the matter is most cases of child abuse and neglect aren't as high profile and horrific as Sandusky's was. A lot of these calls to ChildLine aren't for the kind of abuse you think of when you hear Jerry Sandusky's name,” Race said.
Winter Festival to raise awareness about teen date violence, child abuse, teen suicide
by GARY LONG
The Criminal Justice and SkillsUSA club at Veterans Memorial High School is taking on youth violence in a campaign to raise awareness among students and the community about teen date violence, child abuse and teen suicide.
Under the banner of Students Against Violent Encounters, or SAVE, the club will host a Winter Festival from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday in the VMHS courtyard. Members will share information about youth violence and there will be live music, challenge games, food and prizes.
“We picked these aspects of the topic because here in Brownsville we are no strangers to youth vio-lence,” club Vice President Justin Gonzalez said. “Just in our generation Tiffany Galvan and Brenda Lee Nunez have been victims but they are only two of many.”
Galvan was killed by her boyfriend on Aug. 10, 2010. When her body was found near Benavides Park, she had been stabbed 48 times.
Nunez was killed when her ex-boyfriend broke into her mother's home in 2008. She also had been stabbed multiple times.
Gonzalez said statistics show that only one of every 25 victims of teen date violence actually seeks help.
“We're trying to get the message out before more people become victims,” he said. “We're inviting the community to come to our campus for the Winter Festival and find out what they can do to help.”
The Criminal Justice Club and SAVE have partnered with Monica's House and Friendship of Women to get the word out about child abuse and violence against women. Proceeds from funds raised at the festi-val will be donated to Friendship of Women, Gonzalez said.
Last year the club partnered with Healthy Communities of Brownsville as part of that group's effort to get the word out about cigarette butt litter. The result was a first-place finish in regional and state Skill-sUSA competition and a second-place finish at nationals.
The SAVE campaign will be entered in the same SkillsUSA competition in which the club finished sec-ond at nationals last year, Gonzalez said, adding that the club hopes to finish first this year.
“Last year we found out that one voice can make a difference,” he said. “This year we want to make an even bigger difference.”
Club Secretary Marissa Marks said that all three topics involve violence.
She said teen suicide results in 38,000 deaths each year in the United States or one death every 14 min-utes. A death related to child abuse occurs every 10 seconds, club Treasurer Jasmine Flores added.
The key to prevention of teen suicide is early recognition that an individual might be considering such a course of action, the group said.
Tragedy Can Sometimes Beget Tragedy
Parent suicide linked to higher risk of suicide attempts in their children
reviewed by Joseph V. Madia, MD
(dailyRx News) Losing a parent as a child is difficult for anyone. Losing a parent to suicide can present even greater challenges for children to overcome in the grief process.
A recent study found that these children appear to be at a higher risk for committing suicide themselves, compared to other children who lose their parents prematurely.
However, the age of a child makes a difference in their risk of attempting suicide. Teens are at higher risk in the first few years after the parent's death. Younger children are at risk later on and as the years pass.
"Suicide isn't the answer. Call 1-800-273-8255 for help."
The study, led by S. Janet Kuramoto , PhD, MHS , from the Department of Mental Health at Bloomberg School of Public Health within Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, aimed to see whether children of parents who committed suicide were any more at risk of suicide than children who lost their parents to other circumstances.
The researchers included in the study 26,096 Swedish children whose parents had committed suicide and 32,395 children whose parents had died in accidents.
All the participants in the study were under 25 years old when their parents died and the deaths occurred in the time span from 1973 to 2003.
The children of the parents who died were divided into age groups for the study: 0-5 years old, 6-12 years old, 13-17 years old and 18-24 years old.
Specifically, the researchers looked at how much time passed before one of the children was admitted to the hospital for a suicide attempt, if they ever were admitted.
The researchers found that greatest risk for attempted suicide among children whose parents had committed suicide tended to be about five years after their parent's death.
Overall, children who had a parent commit suicide were more likely to attempt suicide earlier than children whose parents died prematurely of other accidental causes.
For example, among the children who were 0 to 5 years old when their parent committed suicide, 2.7 children per 1,000 attempted suicide in a single year. Among the children who lost their parents to other accidents, only 1.5 children per 1,000 attempted suicide in a single year.
Similar differences were seen among children who were older when they lost their parents. The children who were 6 to 12 years old when they lost a parent had a rate of 2.2 suicide attempts per 1,000 children if their parent committed suicide and 1.5 attempts if their parent died of other causes.
The rate of suicide attempts among teens whose parents committed suicide was 2 attempts per 1,000 teens in a year, compared to 1.7 attempts per 1,000 teens in a year among kids whose parents died in an accident.
Young adults who lost a parent to suicide had a rate of 1.8 attempts per 1,000 adults in a year, compared to 1.4 attempts per 1,000 adults in a year.
For the children who were younger when their parents killed themselves, the risk of suicide attempts for the child continued to rise as the years went on.
The children who were teens or young adults when their parents committed suicide, however, were at the highest risk for suicide themselves within one or two years of their parent's death. After two years, their risk of suicide declined.
"The results suggest critical windows for careful monitoring and intervention for suicide attempt risk, especially one to two years after parental death for the older age groups and over decades for childhood survivors of parental death," the researchers wrote.
The study was published December 10 in the Archives of General Psychiatry . The research was funded by an NARSAD Young Investigator Award and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.
Exposure to Violence Impacts Mother and Child in Complex Ways
by Kaukab Jhumra Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The well-being of children is intricately connected to the well-being of their mothers, starting from the multiplying cells of a baby's brain inside the womb, researchers say. But when it comes to physical violence, children's experiences have been increasingly treated as separate from their mothers' – and public health professionals say that needs to change.
Programs for children living with violence often fail to examine the possibility that women in those households may also be experiencing violence, said Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, director of the Pan American Health Organization, a public health agency that is part of the United Nations system and a regional office for the World Health Organization. As a result, troubling situations at home for the child or the mother may go unrecognized and unaddressed.
Periago spoke at a briefing in Washington, D.C., on Monday along with representatives from other public health and development organizations to address the intersection of violence against women and children. “Emerging evidence substantiates a complex relationship between violence against women and violence against children,” Periago said. “However, with very few exceptions, the programs, research and policies have grown in parallel paths.”
Public officials should view violence against women and children as part of a single whole, and develop strategies for responding in an integrated way, Periago said. Strategies should address ways to identify abuse early, develop compassionate care for survivors of violence and prevent the violence in the first place. Prevention strategies can include parenting programs, home visitation initiatives, and ways to help women become financially independent, she said.
In some countries, violence during a woman's pregnancy is as high as 32 percent, Periago said. When an intimate partner abuses a pregnant woman, her health and her unborn baby's health can suffer negative consequences, she said.
The developing baby's brain is particularly vulnerable to disruptions caused by trauma to the mother. “In the last trimester of pregnancy, our brains are being constructed at an incredibly rapid pace,” explained Dr. Neil Boothby, special advisor and senior coordinator for children in adversity at the U.S. Agency for International Development. “We can actually see this now through MRI.”
As the baby gets older, enters adolescence and then reaches adulthood, his or her exposure to abuse as a child serves as a factor in his or her own violent behavior, Periago said.
Jacquelyn Campbell, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, agreed. “Seeing your father beat your mother and or being abused yourself -- that's a strong risk factor for girls being violent toward their own children, and boys being perpetrators of that violence to their partners,” Campbell said.
Research also shows that the far-reaching effects of childhood exposure to violence can increase a person's chances of depression, alcoholism and chronic disease like heart trouble, Periago said.
“What's fascinating about that is that witnessing violence has almost the same impact as being abused yourself,” said Lori Heise, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
At least 133 million children around the world witness abuse between adults in their homes, trauma that can accumulate and create “a cascade of events” if it is combined with other adverse experiences in the children's lives, like their own sexual or physical abuse, Heise said.
Children who experience four or more types of adverse experiences are five times more likely to become perpetrators of violence against their own partners once they're grown, Heise said. “Poor parenting and gender socialization helps reproduce negative child outcomes across generations,” she said.
The solutions lie in teaching families how to be better parents, especially as violence against children is often intended to change their behavior for the better, Heise said.
“The aspirations are very good -- they want to create a moral child – but they lack the right skills,” Heise said about many families in developing countries who inflict corporal punishment. “They think that violence is the only mechanism to achieve that goal.”
Many times, the abuse of women by their partners is motivated by the same correctional goal, reducing women to the role of children, Heise said.
Teaching parents how to interact in a positive way with their children, how to use time-outs and how to use consistency in enforcing rules can go a long way toward reducing abusive punishment, she said. “Good parenting can buffer the effects of otherwise harmful factors on development of aggression and violence among boys,” Heise said.
Investing in children pays off for societies in the long run, whether one considers the scientific evidence of the effects of violence on the developing fetal brain or the economic view of prize-winning analysts, said Boothby of USAID.
On Dec. 19, the U.S. government will release its international action plan for children in adversity, which will focus on preventing the exploitation of children and the violence against them, Boothby said.
The costs to an economy go up tremendously when the investment is pushed to later in a person's life, Boothby said. “We have to invest early.”
Ken Hambleton: An important story told by Wayne sportswriter
He stood on the banks of the Missouri River in South Sioux City.
Two steps and it would be over. Decades after he was sexually assaulted as a 9-year-old, Mike Carnes decided to make a difference.
“I'm a survivor,” said Carnes, sports editor and managing editor of the Wayne Herald. “I have a daughter, friends, and I decided I was not going to die as a victim and was not going to make them victims, too.”
If you follow high school wrestling in Nebraska, Carnes is probably well known to you. He started Nebraska Wrestling Illustrated, flooded newspapers (even this one) with demands for more coverage and is the wrestling voice for more than a dozen radio stations during the annual state tournament.
He's bounced around from the Milford Times, Gretna Guide and News, Papillion Times and Norfolk Daily News to the Keith County News and now Wayne. Mike won plenty of awards for his writing and for his work for high school wrestling. He's one of us — an ink-stained wretch, used to 60-, 70-, 80-hour weeks, all for the joy of covering sports, writing stories and working for newspapers.
Unlike a lot of us, he's published his most important story, “Call Me A Survivor”, available at Amazon.com.
He gives a voice to those who reacted to the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the Penn State mess with the line, “What about the kids?” While others worried about the future of Nittany Lions football, and the trials of former UNL Chancellor Graham Spanier, among others, Carnes knew the kids were the ones facing trials the rest of their lives.
“If one book leads to one person finding help and finding an answer without having to think about suicide, then this is worth it,” Carnes said. “The numbers say one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually assaulted before adulthood. A lot of people stereotype and figure it's only girls, but that's not correct.
“And if you grow up like I did, you end up believing the assault was my fault, I could have done something, I should have stopped it, and now I know, I wasn't to blame. I was a victim, but I didn't have to be a victim forever and let that bully control my life.”
Carnes survived a divorce, some drinking binges and drugs. He survived a drunken drive home that he thought would end with his wrists slit. There were sleepless nights and constant questions. And only his family and his best friend, Kevin Dill, understood the problem.
In the summer of 1976, a bigger, older boy took Carnes' bicycle. Carnes was new to Newman Grove and had no idea what was going to happen next when the bigger kid said he'd take him home on Carnes' bike.
The bully took Carnes to the local swimming pool and assaulted him.
Carnes battled that and other bullying through his high school and college days at Southeast Community College-Beatrice.
He found a weapon in his columns but didn't see victory until he was sitting in a court room in Madison, holding hands with his parents (now divorced) while witnessing the prosecution of his assailant.
“Here this guy was, some 30 years later and he had sexually assaulted a vulnerable adult woman and he was about to get the minimum sentence,” Carnes said. “I wrote a letter to the judge and explained that guy had assaulted me and obviously hadn't learned a thing. The judge handed down the maximum sentence.”
That incident showed Carnes he could make a difference. He plans to approach the Legislature to toughen laws and lengthen sentences for sexual assault of minors and child abuse.
“We can make it happen. We can all help victims become survivors.”
Reach Ken Hambleton at 402-473-7313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Men haunted by sexual abuse find kinship, peace at support group
by BARBARA COTTER
Anyone who knew Randy Hamm in his younger days might have figured he was simply born to be bad. At age 12, he was drinking and smoking pot. He dropped out of high school. He ended up in jail on a breaking-and-entering charge. He wrestled with addiction.
“I was a rowdy one,” he admits.
It would be years later, with help from a counselor, before he figured out what was at the root of his bad-boy behavior. He'd been sexually abused at age 7 by a stranger, and later by a relative. At 21, he was overpowered by a male acquaintance and raped.
“It all came up; I just spilled my guts to this counselor,” says the 57-year-old artist. “The stigma of being a man and being molested and raped — whatever you want to call it — it's so shameful, so embarrassing because we've been taught that you don't tell people your secrets, your problems. Real men don't cry.”
His story is echoed in the tales of the other men taking part in a Colorado Springs support group designed to serve a subset of sexual abuse survivors that is less likely to find resources for help and more likely to act out in destructive and antisocial ways.
The group meets weekly, and although it started only three months ago, it's already helping the handful of men who have embraced it like an old friend.
“It starts my week off beautifully,” Hamm says. “If I get into a bind in my mind, I have contacts. Trust has already developed.”
The group was started under the auspices of Finding Our Voices, a nonprofit created in 2008 to provide support for victims of sexual abuse through peer-led support groups and therapeutic art activities.
“From the very beginning, we knew we needed a men's group, but we didn't have anyone brave enough to do it,” said Joyce Aubrey, the nonprofit's founder.
Enter Ric Wegrzyn, a 44-year-old Colorado Springs man who was sexually abused by an acquaintance for about two years, starting when he was 7 years old. He met Aubrey through a friend who also had been abused, and got on board immediately.
Wegrzyn says it appears to be the only such group in the Colorado Springs area, outside a limited one offered by the VA, and it's filling a much-needed gap in service.
“It's very difficult to find a group; they're just so few and far between,” says Curtis St. John, spokesman for MaleSurvivor, a national nonprofit that provides support and resources to men who have been sexually abused. “It's just getting around to where groups are forming, and people understand the need.”
Misperception of abuse
No one knows for sure how many males in the U.S. have been sexually abused or experienced unwanted sexual overtures. St. John says the common statistic is that 1 in 6 boys will have been abused by age 16 — or 1 in 4, if you include “no-touching” experiences such as being shown pornography.
Another organization goes with a 10 percent rate.
Safe Passage, a Colorado Springs nonprofit that works with child victims of sexual and physical abuse, says about 32 percent of its caseload are boys.
Regardless of which statistic is used, experts agree that sexual abuse cases involving male victims are vastly underreported and unrecognized.
“There's a community perception that boys are not sexually assaulted like girls are,” says Wilene Lampert, executive director of Safe Passage. “When you look at physical abuse, then I think people recognize more easily that both boys and girls are being physically abused — beaten, burned — by adults. But when people think about sexual assault of children or adults, there's a perception that males aren't sexually assaulted, and that's not true.”
Most men don't deal with the abuse in their past until they're at least in their late 30s, St. John says, but two cases involving sexual abuse of boys — one local, the other national — are raising awareness about the issue and might be encouraging more men and boys to acknowledge the abuse earlier and seek help.
“With the Jerry Sandusky case alone, our Web traffic jumped almost 55 percent overnight,” St. John says about the former Penn State football assistant. “Leading up to the trial, it jumped another 55 percent in a month. The reason is, men finally have permission to speak about sexual abuse. You don't talk sports without talking Sandusky, and a lot of men came out of the shadows and said, ‘I need help.' If ever there was a silver lining, that's it: thousands of men came forward to get help.”
In Colorado Springs, the case against former police officer Joshua Carrier also focused a spotlight on the issue.
“Sandusky and Carrier should wake us up,” Aubrey said.
A first step toward healing
At the Finding Our Voices support group for men, there are few rules. People can come and go as they want. Aliases are OK. Participants tend not to discuss the details of what happened to them, but other than that, there are no limits on what is said.
“It's no-holds-barred,” Wegrzyn says. “Some foul language comes out; people need to let it out.”
It's like opening an infected wound. At one meeting, a new member was “in crisis,” and the group let him take center stage. “He walked out lighter,” Hamm says.
Participants explore the many behavioral issues sparked by their experiences.
“This group deals with depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, alcoholism, eating disorders — ours is wrapped into one because of one common thing,” Wegrzyn says. “It's all tied to the abuse.”
Wegrzyn himself felt a weight lift after the group started.
“Finding Our Voices is the first group I ever told what happened,” he says. “I dealt with it myself. It was probably the dumbest thing I've ever done. I didn't know why I was such a jerk, why I was so pissed off all the time. I went from zero to rage in a heartbeat.”
Not everyone can handle the intensity of the meetings. Some drop out or start having nightmares as they delve into their past. But those who stay find relief.
“It's very scary, but very freeing,” Aubrey says. “It explains the inexplicable in your life.”
Hamm says he's found the peer-led model to be especially helpful.
“A counselor can say, ‘I know how you feel,' but they don't,” Hamm says. “In the group, they understand.”
The Finding Our Voices men's group meets at 7 p.m. Mondays at 2132 E. Bijou St. Suite 112. Meetings typically last 90 minutes. For more information, call 636-5065.
Local childhood sexual abuse victim launches support group
A Windsor woman who was the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest in the late 1970s is set to open a local chapter of a global organization dedicated to helping others who suffered the same fate.
Brenda Brunelle, who alleged she was abused by Rev. Michael Fallona, sued the church for $3 million three years ago and settled out of court in July.
Now she wants to offer a venue for others to find support and heal.
Brunelle has been given approval to open a Windsor chapter of the Survivours Network of those Abused by Priests — a Chicago-based organization founded in 1988. It has 60 chapters worldwide, mostly in the U.S.
“I feel with my matter resolved, I wanted to give back in some way for all the support I received over the years,” she said. “There really is no place for survivors to gather and support one another despite the high number of complaints and allegations made against the church.
“It would have been nice for me to have a support group to attend. I often wished there was such a group. As loving and supportive as my family and friends have been, it would have been nice to be with people who understood because they have walked the same walk.”
Brunelle met with SNAP founder Barbara Blaine in October. The closest SNAP chapter is in Perrysburg, Ohio.
“After meeting with her, I felt compelled to start a chapter in this area, Brunelle said. “There is clearly a need. There is still so many people who have remained silent with their story. This gives them a safe place to attend where they know they won't be judged. A lot can be said for peer support.”
No professionals will be on hand for the meetings, only victims supporting victims, Brunelle said. If those attending meetings require professional therapy or other support, they will be directed at the meetings.
When the diocese of London was asked to comment on SNAP opening a local chapter in Windsor, a spokesman noted it has had a sexual abuse policy since 1989. It is updated regularly and the current version is available at www.dol.ca, Mark Adkinson said.
“We are sorry for all of the hurt people have experienced as a result of sexual misconduct,” said Adkinson. “The diocese does offer counselling to all victims of sexual misconduct by clergy and we continue to work toward prevention of misconduct in the Catholic Church.
“We encourage anyone who may have been harmed to come forward.”
But Barbara Dorris, outreach director for SNAP, called it extremely important for the new chapter to be established in southwestern Ontario, given the growing number of reported Canadian child sexual abuse victims – not only by clergy, but teachers or scout leaders.
She pointed to the explosive set of circumstances around Jerry Sandusky – the former long-time assistant football coach at Penn State University – as an example of how child predators have for too long been allowed to repeatedly offend because victims were too afraid to talk or turn to law enforcement for help.
SNAP provides a venue where victims can not only turn for help and recover, but also gain enough strength to report a child predator, Dorris said.
“Victims need to know they are not alone,” she said. “Once they find out they are not alone, they feel safer and gain power. It encourages them to step forward.”
The organization's greatest attribute is helping people heal by converting them from a “victim” of abuse to a “survivour” of abuse, Dorris said.
“While that doesn't sound overly important, it's tremendously important,” she said.”After working with SNAP, victims often find their abuse is no longer the controlling part of their life. Taking back the power and feeling strong again is the most healing thing that SNAP does.”
It is not only victims of clergy who are welcome to attend local SNAP meetings, but any victims of childhood sexual assault wherever that may have occurred, Dorris said.
“Anybody who needs help should come,” she said. “Abuse has a pretty common denominator.”
The first local SNAP meeting is scheduled for this Sunday at an undisclosed location. To better protect anonymity, the time and location will be revealed after registering with Brunelle to attend which can be done by calling her at 519-800-3492 or by email at Windsor@snapnetwork.org.
“I've already received a lot of phone calls and I know people will be attending this Sunday,” she said.
Meetings starting in the new year will be held on the second Sunday of every month.
New York State
Know Your Kids: Parents Must Be Vigilant For Signs Of Sexual Abuse
S.E.S.A.M.E. Calls for Strengthening the Safety Net for Victims of Abuse
NEW YORK -- Though the Sandusky conviction and the nation's discussion of sexual abuse has faded, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.) calls on parents to stay vigilant for signs of child sexual abuse, especially at the hands of trusted adults, like educators and coaches. Terri Miller, President of S.E.S.A.M.E., pointed to gaps in the education system that allow predatory educators and coaches to continue to interact with and harm children.
Symptoms of abuse can include but are not limited to unexplained or recurring injuries such as cuts and bruises situated in areas of the child's body which are not normally prone to injury; physical signs such as stomachaches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, bed-wetting, damaged clothes, eating disorders, substance abuse, desire to drop out of school; and unexplained changes in behavior and/or attitudes toward adults or activities they have previously enjoyed. Children may become depressed, fearful, anxious, isolated, and/or experience suicidal thoughts.
"Administrators, teachers, coaches, trainers, and parents all have the power to end abuse," said Miller. "We must bring the discussion of abuse out of the shadows so that fewer young people suffer in silence."
Parents can help prevent abuse by requesting that the staff of their school and athletic club undergo criminal background checks; having an open dialogue about inappropriate or abusive behaviors and what they should do if they observe such behaviors; and request that their school or athletic club adopt policies that clearly define misconduct and abuse.
"It is unacceptable that adults who work closely with children do not undergo comprehensive background checks, and that there are not uniform reporting requirements for abusive educators," said Miller. "A patchwork of laws will not stop predators from getting new employment where they can continue to abuse children. We must enact laws, like the Jeremy Bell Act, so that our children are better protected."
Educator sexual misconduct has reached epidemic proportions in America's schools. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 10 children – or nearly 4.5 million current K-12 students – will be a victim of abuse before the end of his or her school career. At least a quarter of all U.S. school districts have dealt with a case of sexual abuse over the last decade.
S.E.S.A.M.E. is a leading national voice for prevention and awareness of educator sexual misconduct that provides support to survivors, their families and professionals seeking justice, and works with policymakers to strengthen the legal safety net for students. S.E.S.A.M.E. is working to pass the S.E.S.A.M.E. Act in Pennsylvania and the Jeremy Bell Act in Congress, both of which would mandate background checks for new educators, and create mandatory reporting guidelines for abusive educators in order to end the concealment of offenders known as, "passing the trash."
For more information on S.E.S.A.M.E., visit: www.sesamenet.org
COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER: Lutheran Social Services
by Samantha Sustachek
Approximately one out of three females and one out of six males will experience sexual assault or abuse in their lifetimes. These violations can and do happen to anyone, but unfortunately certain vulnerable populations are more likely to experience abuse. As much as we do not want to believe it to be true, children are one of those populations. So what can we do as parents, caregivers, and professionals when a child discloses abuse to us?
Stay calm. Hearing from a child that she/he has been sexually abused is upsetting and can be almost as difficult to deal with for an adult who cares about that child as it is for the child her/himself. Remember that the child is observing your reaction to the disclosure and may shut down if she/he feels that she/he is upsetting you. One of the reasons children do not disclose sexual abuse is fear that adults will be upset or angry or sad.
Believe. Believing the child is critical. Another reason children (and adult survivors as well) do not tell about sexual abuse is a fear that they will not be believed or that they will be blamed for the abuse. An unfortunate myth exists in our culture that people make up stories of sexual assault and abuse while in reality multiple studies have shown the rate of false reporting to be very low (somewhere between 2 and 10 percent). Having people believe their initial disclosure is the first step towards healing for children who have experienced abuse.
Protect. Be sure the child is removed from the dangerous situation. Be sure she/he does not have contact with the abuser, and report the abuse to the proper authorities. Here in Racine County, a report should be called in to the Human Services Department at (262) 638-7720. The police can also be contacted for help and if the situation is an emergency, call 911.
Don't investigate. Try not to ask the child too many questions. Children are suggestible and may tell you what they think you want to hear if you ask a leading question. In addition, asking too many questions or forcing a child to recount details of the abuse repeatedly can be very traumatic for the child and may interfere with the investigation. If the child wants to talk to you about the incident, listen and support the child, but leave the investigation to HSD and the police.
Reassure. The child needs to know that her/his problems are important to you, and that s/he did the right thing by telling about the abuse. The child may also need reassurance that the abuse was not her/his fault.
Get help. Sexual assault and abuse are difficult to handle by yourself. A child who has been abused should certainly receive medical care to be sure she/he did not suffer any physical damage, but emotional damage is a consideration as well. Counseling with a professional therapist who has experience with sexual abuse issues will go a long way toward helping the child and her/his family cope with the abuse. If you are looking for counseling for a child, feel free to call Sexual Assault Services of Lutheran Social Services at (262) 619-1634. We offer individual, family and group counseling free of charge to Racine County sexual assault victims and their families.
By properly responding to a child who has just disclosed abuse to you, you can start that child on the path to healing. With the proper help, care, and compassion, a child who has been sexually abused can go on to live a perfectly normal, happy life, and every child should have that opportunity.
This article is based on the National Child Traumatic Stress Network's factsheet, “What to Do If Your Child Discloses Sexual Abuse.”
When sexual assault counselling in US colleges is not confidential
All US student sexual assault counsellors should receive formal training, so people are not afraid to share traumatic experiences
by Caroline Kitchener
"Hi, I am a student peer health adviser who has been trained to work with victims of sexual assault. I am here to listen to your story, as your advocate, and let you know that you are not alone. You can trust me.
Just one small technicality to note before we get started. If asked in court, I will have to repeat every word of this conversation. Your parents, your professors, your siblings, your teammates, your future employer, your roommate, your rapist will know what you say here. I hope we have a good talk."
This introduction is probably not exactly how sexual assault consultations go down at Princeton University. But add the odd "I'm so sorry" and "This must be so hard for you", and you've got a fairly accurate transcript of the typical conversation. At the majority of US universities, when a student goes to see a peer sexual assault counsellor, she'll get sympathy, she'll get respect, but she'll also get a clear message: nothing that we say here today is guaranteed to be confidential.
By now, a lot of universities have some kind of peer-to-peer sexual assault counselling programme. And so they should. Peer counselling programmes offer the comfort of shared experience – counsellors who understand the social pressures of student life at the university. But while well intentioned, the vast majority of these programmes are not supported well enough to become what they need to be: confidential sources of advice and encouragement. Without a certain level of training, an advocate does not have what's called legal privilege: he or she can be forced to relay all information in a courtroom. In order to guarantee confidentiality at the beginning of a discussion, a peer health adviser needs to have undergone extensive training by a federally recognised organisation.
I am a member of the sexual assault response team at WomanSpace, a sexual assault and domestic violence nonprofit organisation in New Jersey. Last semester, I completed 90 hours of training. When it was over, I understood the steps for getting a restraining order, the specific effects of all kinds of drugs and alcohol and the myriad of emotions someone might be feeling in the weeks after an assault. That training gave me legal privilege. Unless a victim talks about harming herself, harming others or reports child abuse, everything we discuss stays between us.
At Princeton University, where I am a junior, victims of sexual assault are encouraged to seek support from a Share (Sexual harassment/assault advising, resources, and education) peer adviser. These undergraduate advocates complete 24 hours of training annually. They know what options are available to students and they give excellent referrals, but that's it. The Share peer adviser's involvement ends there.
So why is this a big deal? After all, Princeton, along with most universities in the US, employs professional counsellors to talk to student victims of sexual assault. These professional counsellors have privilege, so everything said to them stays confidential.
The problem is this: college women are prone to wonder whether their experience with sexual assault was real or warranted. They'll ask questions like, was my skirt too short? Did I drink too much? Was I asking for it? Chances are, they won't want to ask these questions to an adult. They'll want to talk to their friends, or at least someone their own age.
Without college-sanctioned programmes that fulfill the requirements for legal privilege, these peer advocates cannot promise confidentiality. And without that promise, victims are much less likely to want to share those most vulnerable moments. They end up feeling alone, ashamed and guilty. But students should not have to choose between empathy – knowing that their counsellor understands and can sympathise with the context in which their assault took place – and confidentiality.
At Rutgers University, sexual assault response teams offer both. Members from all branches of the university community – faculty, administrators and, most importantly, students – participate in 50 hours of state-approved training. That state-approved training gives these advisers legal privilege, and the power to promise your story will remain confidential. "As an advocate, confidentiality is the most important thing that you can offer to a survivor," said Laura Luciano, assistant director of violence prevention and victim assistance at Rutgers. "There are so many dangerous legal ramifications when a victim talks to someone without privilege."
Here's what's scary: Rutgers is one of the only programmes of its kind in the US. Most schools have no peer resources at all for victims of sexual assault, and the vast majority of the schools that do, don't offer programmes that are state-certified to train rape crisis counsellors. To become state-certified, programmes need to require a certain number of training hours (this varies from state to state) and use a government-approved curriculum. To cut a long story short: programmes like the one at Rutgers require more university staff, and more university money.
For most people who have experienced it, a sexual assault is the most vulnerable moment of their lives. When they are feeling that thoroughly shaken, they are going to be scared to talk. People might judge or criticise or – worst of all – might not believe them. That's why universities need to give victims easy access to the people that they will be most likely to trust: trained peers who can promise confidentiality.
AG recommends better foster care
by Jessie Balmert
Ohio must do a better job of keeping its 12,000 foster care children safe, according to a report released by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine Monday.
Limits on foster parent participation, unskilled child advocates and lack of mentorship opportunities were some of the complaints raised by stakeholders at eight child safety summits held across the state over the past year.
Concerns raised at those meetings were announced Monday along with the creation of a Foster Care Advisory Group, composed of legislators and other interested parties who will recommend reforms within 90 days.
Reforms could improve the system for the 23 children in foster care at the end of November in Coshocton County.
“(The meetings) were started because of tragedies that occurred in the state of Ohio where we had young people who were being killed who had been in foster care or sometimes they had been taken from their family and then being put back with their family and killed and that prompted me to renew my interest in this area,” DeWine said at a news conference.
Two deaths drew national attention in 2011: Makayla Norman, 14, of Dayton, weighed less than 30 pounds when she died of starvation; DeMarcus Jackson, 2, of Cincinnati, was beaten to death shortly after he was returned to his biological family. Their stories are unfortunately not unique. More than one in five children younger than 5 who died because of child abuse and neglect had an open child protective services case at the time of their death, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office report.
In fiscal year 2011, Ohioans reported 23,169 allegations of child neglect; 22,993 allegations of child physical abuse; 12,340 allegations of child sexual abuse; and 10,580 allegations of multiple types of abuse, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services figures. People who attended meetings across the state gave several reasons for these figures:
Even though Ohio law permits foster parents to speak in court, foster parents across the state said they were barred from presenting evidence or not notified of hearing times. Others said they were afraid of expressing a different opinion that the caseworkers' recommendations.
Stakeholders also were concerned that guardians ad litem, people who represent the interests of abused and neglected children in court, were not investigating each case as required under Ohio's court rules. Forty percent of attorneys who served as guardians at litem never met with the children, said Doug Stephens, executive director of Ohio Court Appointed Special Advocates.
Standards from guardians ad litem were established in 2009 and include a six-hour training session. Ohio Court Appointed Special Advocates comprises volunteers who take additional training to advocate for a child's best interest.
Thirty-seven counties take advantage of volunteer guardians ad litem. Coshocton County does not use volunteers.
Meeting attendees also recommended improving funding to children service agencies — Ohio ranked last in funding children service agencies — and accountability for that funding. Few counties have independent ombudsmen to determine if actions are in the best interest of the children, according to the report.
“There is reduced funding for just about everything we do,” said Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. “We have to do more with less. That is possible.”
Johnson pointed to the department's emphasis on differential response, which forgoes formal investigations in less-serious cases, saving money and keeping children in the home.
Other recommendations included expanding mentorship opportunities, easing restrictions on children's activities and potentially eliminating the “Planned Permanent Living Arrangement” status, a form of long-term foster care in which no effort is made to reunify children with their biological parents or find adoptive parents.
Some lawyers to seek trial in LA teacher sex case
by Christina Hoag
PASADENA - Two attorneys representing dozens of children in lawsuits brought against the Los Angeles Unified School District over alleged teacher sexual misconduct said Monday they are dropping out of settlement negotiations and want to go trial.
Luis Carrillo and Brian Claypool told a news conference they have received "insignificant" settlement offers from the district for only three of the 35 children and 33 parents they represent in three lawsuits over alleged lewd conduct by a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School.
The teacher, Mark Berndt, was arrested in January and pleaded not guilty to 23 counts that allege he fed his students his semen on cookies and photographed them in classroom "tasting games." The district faces 189 legal actions in connection with the case.
"The district really does not care about the emotional damage the children have suffered," Carrillo said.
District General Counsel David Holmquist, who said last week that he hoped to settle all lawsuits and legal claims by the end of January, said Monday that he hoped Carrillo and Claypool will continue negotiating to develop a "fair and reasonable" resolution to avoid having children testify in court.
"Our primary goal in this process is supporting the health and wellbeing of the students," Holmquist said in a statement. "We hope that Mr. Carrillo and Mr. Claypool will continue to engage with us in this process because we believe that it provides the best opportunity to develop a solution that is in the best interest of students."
Carrillo and Claypool said they plan to ask a judge on Wednesday to lift a litigation stay to allow them to resume preparing for a trial. The stay, which expires March 1, prohibits them from proceeding with the lawsuit while mediation is ongoing.
"All negotiations have ended," Claypool said. "We plan to proceed to jury trial."
Two other lawyers last week said they also were not participating in the settlement talks and jointly filed four lawsuits against the district.
Carrillo and Claypool presented state auditor's reports from 1997 and from this year that both stated the district needed to improve child abuse reporting procedures, as evidence that the district's negligence is longstanding.
They also presented documents from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, saying the district has never established clear procedures for principals about maintaining teacher personnel files that contain abuse allegations.
"This is a monumental failure of leadership," Claypool said.
District officials say they have tightened reporting procedures considerably this year in the wake of the Miramonte case.
Judge to Archdiocese: Turn over LA priest files to court
by Gillian Flaccus
LOS ANGELES - A judge on Monday ordered the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to turn over to the court the top-secret files it has kept for decades on dozens of priests accused of sex abuse, bringing the documents closer to public scrutiny.
The order by Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias came five years after more than 550 alleged victims reached a record-breaking, $660 million settlement with the archdiocese that also called for the public unsealing of the confidential files.
Individual priests have been fighting to keep the records closed, but the California Supreme Court declined to intervene earlier this year after a lower court decision in a related case cleared the way for the release of the documents.
Elias gave the archdiocese until Dec. 27 to give her the files on 69 priests to review and then set a hearing for early January to consider arguments from priests who want to keep their files private.
The judge will also hear objections to a previous order that allows the archdiocese to black out the names of some clerics and the church officials who handled the priests. The Los Angeles Times has filed court papers objecting to the order and had an attorney in court Monday.
Holding those officials, including the recently retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, accountable is critical, Ray Boucher, lead plaintiff's attorney, said outside court. He has reviewed the files under seal and called some of the never-before seen documents "explosive."
"These are files showing the hierarchy of the church making a conscious decision to protect itself ... knowing that they were putting children in harm's way," he said. "What we want to do is bring as much sunshine to this issue as we possibly can."
Archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said changing the rules for redactions to the files so late in the game would delay the release another six months. The church wants to release the files by Jan. 14, he said.
"We have made what we believe is a good-faith effort to comply," he said.
The archdiocese and plaintiffs are still fighting over several other issues.
Boucher estimates the archdiocese has files on 80 more priests that it is not turning over to the judge. He also said documents on priests who belonged to Roman Catholic religious orders are also missing.
The church says it has no records on another 105 priests who were included in the 2007 global settlement.
The settlement covered more than 245 priests and 550 plaintiffs.
Some plaintiffs' attorneys believe the full contents of the files could expose some top church leaders to criminal charges, although many documents related to the most notorious abusive priests have already been disclosed through civil litigation and earlier criminal prosecutions.
The cardinal has apologized for his handling of the sex abuse scandal and has acknowledged missteps in how he handled several highly publicized cases, including that of former priest Michael Baker.
Baker told Mahony at a retreat in 1986 that he had molested two young boys, but the cardinal has said he didn't alert anyone because the priest told him the children were illegal immigrants who had returned to Mexico.
That case seriously tarnished Mahony's reputation and prompted a criminal grand jury probe that never resulted in charges.
When the Los Angeles archdiocese settled five years ago, Boucher estimated that Baker's conduct accounted for $40 million of the total.
The former priest was arrested in 2006 as he returned from a vacation in Thailand and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for molestation.
New York State
‘Boy on the bus' recalls abuse by Scout leader
News article prompts man to share his story
by Maki Becker
He is 57 years old now, happily married with a beautiful little granddaughter.
But nearly a half century ago when he was a young Boy Scout in South Buffalo, he endured a week of unimaginable abuse that he has spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with.
Last month, he read an article in The Buffalo News about 13 local Boy Scout leaders who were accused of abusing children and banned from the Scouts by the national leadership. The News story followed the release of hundreds of files on alleged pedophiles that the Scouts kept between 1965 and 1985 to prevent predators from rejoining the organization. The files were released as part of a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America.
The newspaper report brought back a flood of memories for the man, and he called The News to share his story.
The article that appeared Nov. 12 reported on letters in the file of one South Buffalo scout leader, following a camping trip in Canada during the summer of 1967.
The letters were from parents who presented detailed allegations of abuse by the scout leader, mostly incidents on the bus ride from the trip.
“I'm the boy on the bus,” the man said in a message left on a reporter's phone.
And what happened on that trip was far worse than depicted in the letters, he later told the reporter.
The man who called The News recounted his terrible memories of that trip on the condition his name not be used. Because all of the names in the file have been redacted, it could not be determined whether the parents of the man who spoke to The News were among those who had written to the Boy Scouts of America. The man knew details about the allegations in the file that indicate he was indeed among the boys who endured the abuse.
The News is also withholding the name of the accused Scout leader because records indicate he never was criminally charged. Records also indicate that leader is dead.
Looking back at it, the man now knows there was at least one warning sign of what was to come.
Sometime before the trip to Canada, his troop visited a water treatment facility in Evans. The man recalled that he and another scout went to use the restroom, where the Scout leader exposed himself to them.
“It kind of was a shock,” the man said. “I didn't know how to take it. As a kid, you don't know nothing.”
He never said anything to his parents about the incident.
He can't remember how the abuse started but he recounted he hadn't been afraid of the man he said molested him repeatedly.
The leader was 26 at the time. He wasn't tall, but he was heavyset. The Boy Scout file on him said he was single and worked as a skilled laborer.
The survivor said he was 10 years old when he went on the trip to a lakeside camping site in Ontario.
“That was a horrible week,” he recounted.
Nothing happened on the bus ride over. But at some point, he recalled that the leader took him to an abandoned part of the camp site.
“It was a part of the camp, and he said because I was bad he was going to spank me,” the man recalled.
The leader pulled the boy's pants down, hit him and molested him.
The leader then told him: “Don't you say anything.”
The man recalled seeing the Scout leader doing the same things to two brothers.
On at least two nights, the man said, the leader came to the pup tent that he was sharing with another Scout. The leader told the other boy that he was needed somewhere. And then he would molest the lone Scout.
The abuse didn't end at the camp.
On the bus ride home, the leader sat next to him and repeatedly tried to molest him, the survivor said.
“If somebody walked by, he would kind of turn toward me ... and shield what he was doing, like he was looking out the window,” the man said.
Thinking back on what happened, the survivor said he finds it hard to believe none of the other adults figured out there was a problem.
“I can't believe that there wasn't suspicion amongst them,” he said.
But he also knows people are more knowledgeable about such things now.
“With the climate and culture at the time, people were naive. They just didn't want to believe things,” he said.
The man recalled how he was so upset by what the leader was doing to him that he wet his pants.
When he got home, the man said, he didn't tell his parents about what had happened.
“I was embarrassed, scared of all that,” he said.
But when his mother put him in the bath tub, there was no hiding the bruises and blood on his body.
The parents went to the church that sponsored the Scout troop to discuss with the priest what happened.
The man said he doesn't know exactly what transpired, but a month later the molester was gone.
“He wasn't there when I went back,” he said.
The man noticed that all of the other Scouts were looking at him.
“All the kids, they knew about me wetting my pants. I felt all these eyes on me. It just was uncomfortable,” he said. “I never returned.”
He tried to explain how it felt to be so terrified and helpless at the camp site.
“I kind of think like I was frozen,” he said. “Like a kid in a movie that was terrified, that something really scared them that they think they're going to die from fright. It was kind of like that.”
The man doesn't believe his parents or anyone went to the police. The News found no records that the leader was ever arrested. The man isn't surprised by that.
“My parents didn't want it noticed,” he sad. “They didn't want it publicized. They didn't want to bring shame on the family.”
The Scout leadership in Buffalo and on the national level did take steps to kick the leader out of their organization, acting within days of the parents writing about the camping trip, the released files show.
The survivor never saw the leader who abused him again. But there were many times when the street lights would dim, he was late getting back home and he'd worry that the man would suddenly show up.
Over the next couple of years, the survivor said he had a hard time at school.
But he also developed a protective instinct toward other kids being picked on. He had a gay friend in high school whom he often defended, often at the expense of being called derogatory names.
“That didn't really bother me, names like that,” he said. “I was tough enough. I had to get tough.”
He kept his terrible memories to himself for many years until he got married and finally told his story.
He never let his son join a Scout troop.
What happened at that camp site changed the man forever, he said.
“He stole my childhood from me. He stole my innocence.”
But he also tries not to harbor hatred.
And what would he do today if he could confront the man who abused him?
“I wouldn't do anything to him now,” the survivor said. “He's an old man now.”
Records indicate a man of the same name and age who lived in the Buffalo area died a few years ago.
“He probably paid his dues along the lines somehow,” the man said. “He won't be doing it to anymore kids ... I hope that the good Lord maybe forgives you.”
The survivor said he reached out to one of the attorneys who got the national Scout case files released. He was disheartened to learn that because of New York State's statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, there's nothing he can do.
He holds the Boy Scouts of America responsible for what happened to him.
The state's laws could change soon. Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey, D-Queens, has been pushing legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations in such cases, which currently is five years after the victim turns 18.
Because such a law could not be applied retroactively, her bill also includes a one year “window” of opportunity from the time the legislation passes for victims to file civil suits in old cases.
She has pushed versions of the bill for eight years, and it has passed in the Assembly four times but has gone nowhere in the Senate. She is introducing the latest version in January and has been working with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to try to get it passed.
The man said he hopes that by at least telling his story, other victims will know they're not alone and that they can go on to have happy lives.
“It's made me, I feel as far as my character, very honorable,” he said. “I've always tried to do the right thing. Not that I'm a perfectionist or anything like that. But right is right. Maybe it all stems from what happened. It altered my life. But I have a good life. A beautiful granddaughter. A good son. We do the family thing. Maybe it'll help.”
Ohio court's sex offender ruling clarifies some laws
CHILLICOTHE — Recent Supreme Court decisions likely will result in some changes to past classifications and sentences for sex offenders.
The decisions were released along with several other Ohio Supreme Court decisions as part of a year-end transition process. The decisions clarify some issues regarding the changeover from Megan's Law to the Adam Walsh Act regarding sentencing and classifications of sex offenders.
In one case, the court's decision clarified that any sex offense committed between the July 2007 repeal of Megan's Law and the January 2008 effective date of the Adam Walsh Act shall be classified under Megan's Law. An earlier ruling by the court had determined the law under which offenders are classified is determined by when the act was committed, not when the conviction occurs.
In a different case, the court ruled that when offenders are classified under Megan's Law and violate address notification rules under that law, the offender must be sentenced under the penalty provisions of Megan's Law, not the Adam Walsh Act.
However, another case ruling determined any indictments charging a violation of notification requirements of the Adam Walsh Act of offenders classified under Megan's Law continue to be valid. The court reasoned the indictments were valid because the two laws have identical address change notification requirements.
Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt said the rulings “seem consistent” with past rulings. As the state moved from Megan's Law to Adam Walsh, there was a flurry of changes back and forth.
“It's created a massive headache,” Schmidt said.
At first, all offenders were re-classified under the Adam Walsh Act (which carries a three-tier classification), but then a court ruling determined that was unconstitutional. As a result, those offenders had to be reverted back to classification under Megan's Law.
The Megan's Law classification system requires a sexual classification hearing and the judge determines the classification of the offender, such as sexual predator.
The new rulings, however are unlikely to create such a large issue.
Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk anticipates his office will see some motions filed on past cases, but not an overwhelming amount.
“I'll imagine we'll see a few,” Junk said.
Cases where any of the issues are present will not automatically be altered. Defendants will need to file a motion for a change.
“It's not our jobs to hunt them down and inform them of the changes in the law,” Junk said.
Sex offenders seeking more information about the rulings and how to file something in their case can contact their individual attorneys or the Office of the Ohio Public Defender at 800-686-1573 or visit www.opd.ohio.gov.
Claims for Del. child abuse settlement due Friday
DOVER, Del. (AP) — The window to submit claims on behalf of young children who were sexually abused by former Delaware pediatrician Earl Bradley is closing soon.
In November, a judge approved a $123 million settlement for about 900 victims. The deadline to submit claims is Friday.
Attorneys involved in the case say the settlement represents a new way of dealing with fallout from sexual abuse that involves multiple victims. The settlement is mediated through a class action instead of filing individual claims.
After attorney fees are paid, there will be about $90 million available for victims. Former judge Thomas Rugger, who managed payouts to victims of abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, will determine the compensation for each victim.
The settlement resolves claims against Beebe Medical Center where Bradley had hospital privileges.
Legislation helps train professionals about child abuse
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Tim Walz and Betty McCollum recently introduced bipartisan legislation to help train child protection professionals to detect and prevent child abuse.
The bill would create regional training centers – including the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, MN – that would create new curricula for undergraduates and graduates in fields where they will most likely be involved in identifying and reporting cases of abuse. The legislation also increases coordination between federal, state and local officials in creating best practices for the training of child protection professionals. Senator Klobuchar authored the legislation in the Senate and Representative Walz introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“As a former prosecutor, I know that child abuse is a life and death issue,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation is an important step in helping teachers, doctors, and others who work with children to identify and respond to child abuse, and will allow the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State to continue to lead the way in developing new programs to equip child protection professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to keep children safe.”
“As a parent, there is nothing I value more than the safety of our kids,” said Sen. Franken. "Hundreds of thousands of children each year are victims of child abuse, but sadly, some of the people best positioned to help aren't adequately trained. This bill will mean more kids who are in danger will get the help they need, by creating needed training centers, just like Minnesota's Winona State training center that helps educate the folks closest to our children on how to put an end to abuse.”
“As a parent and a teacher, protecting our children is a top priority for me. The work of the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State is essential to ending child abuse and I am proud to represent this outstanding organization. This legislation will help the NCPTC further their work to significantly reduce and end child abuse across the country,” Walz said.
“Strengthening programs that investigate child abuse and offer assistance to victims is essential to protecting children and families. This legislation will address the need for better coordination between law enforcement, educators, and doctors in combating child abuse nationwide,” McCollum said.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, an estimated 695,000 children were victims of child abuse in 2010. Yet studies indicate that those in the best position to identify and respond to child abuse – such as teachers, doctors, and prosecutors – are often not adequately trained to do so. For example, a 2001 survey of teachers found that 74% received minimal training on child abuse while earning their degrees and 58% had minimal training on the job.
The National Child Protection Training Act directs the Attorney General to coordinate with the National Child Protection Training Center to operate at least four regional training centers – including the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, MN – to be affiliated with universities, colleges, or community colleges. The regional training centers will be required to:
1) Develop undergraduate and graduate curricula on child maltreatment;
2) Disseminate curricula to colleges, law schools, medical schools, seminaries, and other institutions of higher education;
3) Develop ‘‘laboratory'' training facilities that include mock houses, medical facilities, courtrooms, and forensic interview rooms that provide a real world experience to students and professionals;
4) Assist communities in developing child abuse prevention programs; and
5) Assist states in developing forensic interview training programs.
In addition to Senators Klobuchar and Franken and Representatives Walz and McCollum, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Boozman (R-AR), and Representative Steve Womack (R-AR).
Klobuchar served for eight years as the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County, serving more than one million residents in Minneapolis and 45 suburban communities. Her responsibilities included prosecuting child abuse cases, and she also sponsored an initiative to improve the response to child abuse by strengthening the working relationships among police, prosecutors, child protection workers, educators and health care providers. Klobuchar is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight of the Courts, which oversees the Department of Justice's programs. Klobuchar has also helped secure over $2 million for the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona in recent years.
Strengthen laws for child abuse
Before Jerry Sandusky became a household name, the Pennsylvania laws intended to protect children from predators like him were notoriously weak.
Most notably, prosecutors were forbidden from calling expert witnesses to explain the seemingly strange behavior of victims of abuse - the unwillingness to report it, the fact that some victims maintain relationships with predators after the abuse occurred. That kind of behavior is common in cases of child sexual abuse, experts say, but to lay people, it may sound strange and be difficult to rationalize.
That was fixed when the state Legislature passed and Gov. Tom Corbett signed, reforms to the child abuse law that permits such testimony and also expands the statute of limitations, giving victims up until the age of 50 to report such crimes.
Those reforms were way overdue.
Yet, they didn't go far enough.
The same could be said for a new round of reforms recommended last week by the state Task Force on Child Protection, changes prompted by the Sandusky case and the ongoing scandal involving the Catholic church in Philadelphia.
Certainly, the changes are welcome. They include expanding the pool of people legally bound to report abuse and increasing penalties for those who fail to do so.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, chairman of the task force, said he believed had the changes been in place in the late 1990s, . Sandusky would have been stopped before he preyed on other children.
The effect of the new laws, as Mr. Heckler put it, is to change that culture, to change how people think of child sex abuse and to make it clear that it must be reported and must be thoroughly investigated.
The reforms, though, fall short when it comes to helping earlier victims of abuse.
The proposed reforms did not address the suggestion, championed by advocates for victims, that would permit victims who were abused outside the statute of limitations to sue in civil court. Victims' advocates believe that it is one of the best tools for exposing predators and, in some cases, those who enabled them.
But giving the task force the benefit of the doubt, it is a measure that should at least be explored and studied, not summarily dismissed as the panel seemed to do in its report.
It's could be a worthy legal tool. It could allow adult victims of abuse to seek the justice that was denied when they were young.
York Daily Record
Summit to tackle increase in child abuse
Brown County sees spike in reports
by Doug Schneider
As the number of reports of possible abuse approaches 5,000 in Brown County this year, dozens of area professionals will gather on Friday in an effort to address the problem.
More than 60 representatives from area human services agencies, police departments, school districts and other groups have been invited to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to begin mapping strategy to reduce the spike in reported child-abuse cases.
“It's going to be about what we can do in the area of prevention and early intervention,” said county Human Services Director Brian Shoup.
Police and human service agencies in the county have seen a spike in abuse reports this year, prompting repeated discussions among county lawmakers and comments from Human Services Chairman Patrick Evans that this issue should be the county's top priority. Abuse complaints in the first half of the year were up about 30 percent, and that increase has held steady as officials have scrambled to respond.
Six hours have been set aside for the meeting, which Shoup called “an important early step.”
“We won't find all the answers here, but hopefully b the end of the day, we'll have (agreement on) a substantial first step,” he said.
Shoup and Brown County United Way officials have been pushing the idea of a summit meeting involving multiple agencies, saying that the problem — and solutions — are best addressed using a team approach. Child abuse has been a concern for the county since earlier this year, when the Green Bay Press-Gazette revealed that reports of suspected abuse were running more than 30 percent above last year's pace, and the number of investigations of suspected child abuse also had grown.
Reports of abuse were on pace to approach 5,000 this year, significantly higher than last year's total. While some of the cases are investigated and determined not to involve actual abuse, officials say the spike in reports is sufficient cause for concern.
Steps taken at the county level so far include adding money to fund three child-protection workers in the 2013 budget.
Decades after crime, 73-year-old man to be sentenced in 1957 killing of Illinois girl
CHICAGO – A 73-year-old man who was convicted this fall of kidnapping and murdering a little girl more than a half-century earlier was expected to return to court Monday for sentencing.
Jack McCullough faces a maximum sentence of life in prison when he stands before a judge in the DeKalb County community of Sycamore, the same town where 7-year-old Maria Ridulph's life ended in December 1957.
The sentencing in one of the oldest unsolved crimes in American history to go to trial will likely be watched by members of Ridulph's family and McCullough's family, as well as 63-year-old Kathy Chapman, who was playing with Maria on the last day of her life.
Sentencing hearings typically include statements from relatives of the victim. Whoever gets a chance to speak, whether they are members of Maria's family or McCullough's, they will likely say the same thing: He deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
"He is as evil as prosecutors painted -- and some," said Janet Tessier, McCullough's half-sister, after he was convicted in September. Her decision to tell police about incriminating comments McCullough's and Tessier's mother made just before she died in 1994 played a crucial role in McCullough's 2011 arrest and subsequent conviction.
During the trial, prosecutors contended that on Dec. 3, 1957, a 17-year-old McCullough, who was known as John Tessier at the time, approached Maria and another girl playing in front of Maria's house. He played with them for a bit and when the other girl ran home to get her mittens, prosecutors said he dragged Maria into an alley choked her with a wire, and then stabbed her in the throat and chest. Then, prosecutors said, he loaded her body into his car and drove more than 100 miles away, where he dumped it into a wooded area.
Her disappearance and the subsequent massive search made national headlines, and it was said that President Dwight Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover were asking for regular updates on the case. Maria's body was found in April 1958.
McCullough was one of more than 100 people who were briefly suspects, but he had what seemed like a solid alibi. On the day of the girl vanished, he told investigators, he'd been traveling to Chicago for a medical exam before joining the Air Force.
McCullough ultimately settled in Seattle and was a Washington state police officer.
Once a new investigation was launched, authorities went to Chapman and showed her an old photograph of McCullough. She told them the picture showed the teenager who came up to her and Maria that snowy day and identified himself as "Johnny."
After his conviction, McCullough wrote a letter addressed to Sycamore residents claiming FBI documents that he said backed his alibi had been barred from the trial.
The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle reported that McCullough wrote: "If all parties had read the documents, it should have caused a reasonable person to conclude that I could not have been `Johnny,' because at the exact time of the kidnapping, I was in Rockford, 40 miles away."
McCullough did not testify during his trial. He will have a chance to speak at Monday's sentencing.