Overwhelming public response to Bikers Against Child Abuse
(Excellent video on site)
by Karina Bland
The monthly meeting of the Arizona chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse International had already started. Pat and I attempted to slip inconspicuously into seats at the back of the room at the Disabled American Veterans post in Glendale, but the legs of the metal folding chairs gave us away, scraping against the floor.
All heads turned toward us.
The place was packed with bikers, long-haired and tattooed, wearing black leather and heavy boots, sitting at long tables. We grimaced in apology for the interruption.
The state president, who goes by the name Pipes, calls these meetings “church” because they're on Sunday mornings, and it's here that the congregants talk about what they believe:
No child deserves to live in fear.
Members wear that motto on their black-leather vests, their T-shirts and the do-rags they tie around their heads, but they also put that belief into action in uniquely biker fashion.
They bring kids who have been abused into their motorcycle club.
The bikers make a big show of roaring up the children's streets, gunning their engines, and standing, big and scary, in their driveways. But they're really there to make a promise.
No matter what, if the children feel threatened, or even just scared, the bikers will ride over and stand guard. All night if they have to.
If the children are afraid to go to school, the bikers will escort them there and watch until they're safely inside.
And if the children have to testify against their abusers in court, the bikers will go, too, and walk into court with them. (One child testified while sitting on a biker's lap.)
Even kids know that nobody messes with bikers. They're big and strong and afraid of nothing. And they take care of their own.
“When we tell a child they don't have to be afraid, they believe us,” Pipes says. “When we tell them we will be there for them, they believe us.”
This is the season for believing.
Republic photographer Pat Shannahan and I met this motley crew for the first time in April and followed them for a few months for a story. I had never heard of Bikers Against Child Abuse, even though I have covered child-welfare issues for decades, and the bikers had been doing their work in Arizona since 2006.
The group, a non-profit that relies on donations and grants, had received $5,000 from The Republic and 12 News' Season for Sharing campaign. Gene D'Adamo, vice president for community relations, thought it might make a good story.
I imagined that, like so many others, maybe BACA raised money to benefit abused children, or collected toys for them.
I did not imagine that they would be standing in a child's driveway in the middle of the night, smoking cigarettes and watching out, so when that ashen-faced child peeked out of the window, she'd see them there, keeping her safe.
Pipes, the leader of this motorcycle club, is a 55-year-old with a salt-and-pepper Fu Manchu with hair past his shoulders. The first time I talked with him about what BACA does, he choked up when he explained how he sees scared little kids transform during their first visit from the bikers.
I'd need to see that for myself, I told him.
So I was there when a pack of bikers roared up to a young girl's house, and I watched as they introduced themselves by their road names, as is custom in biker culture, one at a time — Nytro, Tool, Rembrandt — the bigger guys bending on one knee to shake hands with the girl.
The bikers gave her a denim vest with the BACA logo on the back and her own road name — Rhythm — on the front.
And in the short time the bikers were there, less than an hour, I saw the change in Rhythm. She warmed up and moved in closer to the group. She looked them in the eyes and answered questions about school and the kind of music she liked. And she laughed.
Even to a cynical journalist, it seemed magical. This is the season for magic, too.
The story ran in July. It now was months later, and Pipes had invited us to his church.
Pipes noticed us and, from the front of the room, he asked how many people were at the meeting now because they had read our story. Hands rose, about 50 in all.
Pat and I grinned at each other. We couldn't help it. Three months earlier, membership hovered at 30. Now there was almost three times that just in this room.
And then Pipes talked about what we couldn't see from where we were sitting.
More than $60,000 has been donated to the Maricopa County chapter alone, some of it from big corporations but most of it in small denominations, like the $109 from a car wash at Eagle College Prep Elementary School in Phoenix.
The bikers have received thousands of e-mails commending their work and have gotten thousands of letters. They have been asked to speak at Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, churches and universities. Chapters nationwide have reported more members joining and more invitations from child-welfare agencies and courtrooms that hadn't been open to them before. And there have been inquiries about starting new chapters, including one in France.
People have donated boxes of denim vests; 25 handmade blankets with matching teddy bears from the Christ Child Society of Phoenix; BACA T-shirts made into pillows as gifts for the kids.
This is the season for giving, too.
But most important, Pipes said, have been the calls from people who knew kids who needed the bikers. Kids who were scared.
“That article changed everything for us,” Pipes said.
Because although the tough biker image makes kids feel safe and keeps the bad guys away, it also can make it difficult to raise money or get a foot in the door of the kinds of agencies that can help them connect with kids.
“With a single story,” Pipes told the bikers, “she changed the way people think about us, about bikers. So we are not all lumped into the same category. She told the world that we are here for good, here for the kids.”
I blinked hard. The inside of my nose was stinging. (I will not cry, I will not cry, I told myself.)
And then Pipes said, “I want you to meet the people who did all that.”
He asked Pat and me to stand, and we pushed back our chairs, the legs scraping the floor again. And the noise became a chorus as the bikers pushed back their chairs and stood, clapping.
I choked back a sob.
“Don't you start,” Pipes warned me, his eyes filling, too.
Pat and I were at a loss for words. (A particular rarity for me, right?)
I knew the story had struck a chord from the flood of e-mails, some from as far away as Australia, and the number of times it was shared on Facebook. But presented so neatly like this, it felt so much more real. Journalists get used to doing one story and then moving on to the next. Rarely do we get the big picture of the total impact that a single story might have.
I was overwhelmed, and humbled. Pat could only shake his head.
Pipes gave each of us plaques and, more important, our own road names. Pat is Spielberg; my handle is Cronkite. (I could not wait to tell my mom I had joined a motorcycle gang. I think she had always worried I might.)
And then Pipes gave me my own denim vest, like the ones that they give the kids. On the back, it says “BACA BELIEVER.”
I spent months covering Pipes and the other bikers as a reporter, an independent observer, so I believed only what I saw.
That when you're a little kid and someone hurts you, someone even bigger and scarier can make you feel safe again.
That people give what they can, whether it's an envelope from a first-grader with four quarters or 100 cupcakes from the Cupcake Lady for the picnic the bikers had for their kids, or a check to Season for Sharing. It all matters.
That people don't stop caring. Even in our fast-paced world, where our attention spans are growing ever shorter and new causes replace old ones in seconds, I'm still getting calls from people who want to help. Like Ardy Aleshire, who manages the Superstition Lookout RV in Apache Junction with her husband, Dwight. In past years, residents at the park have collected clothes for the homeless or toys for foster children during the holidays. This year, she's going to cover an empty shoebox in wrapping paper and ask people to donate money to BACA. No one cares that they're bikers, she said. Some old bikers even live there.
I believe that people can change the way they think about a group of people and look past the black leather and tattoos to see the good.
I believe that what people do speaks volumes more than how they look.
As journalists, we pay our own way and don't typically accept gifts from sources. So later, I would hang the jacket on the back of my office chair at home and make a donation to Season for Sharing to cover the cost.
Just before Pipes' church let out, he introduced us to Lightning, whose boss had left the article about BACA on her desk and told her to call. Lightning's daughter had been molested and was called to testify against the man who abused her. She's just 11.
“I wanted to thank you,” Lightning said, keeping hold of my hand.
On the morning her daughter testified, Lightning said, they left their house in Tucson with an escort of seven motorcycles. Before they reached the courthouse, at a curve on the freeway, 18 motorcycles from Phoenix joined the pack.
Lightning's daughter testified, and her mother swears she grew taller and braver right in front of her eyes.
“I have never seen her so strong,” said Lightning, who almost couldn't believe it.
How to contribute to Bikers Against Child Abuse:
Rummage for vests: BACA members scour stores and secondhand shops for good deals on new or gently used denim jackets and vests in a range of sizes for kids and teenagers.
Give money: Donations can be sent to the Maricopa County chapter at P.O. Box 1111, El Mirage, AZ 85335, and the Pima County chapter at P.O. Box 18897, Tucson, AZ 85711, or online at www.bacadonations.org.
Volunteer: You must be at least 18; have regular access to a motorcycle; submit to a federal fingerprinted background check; attend monthly BACA meetings, rides, court hearings and other events for a minimum of a year; and receive the unanimous approval of the local BACA board to become a patched member.
More information: arizona.bacaworld.org
Who is helped? Last year, 145 Arizona agencies received $2.7 million to help Arizona's children and families, the elderly, victims of domestic violence, and literacy and education programs. Since 1993, when the campaign began, more than $49 million has been raised and distributed, including a $5,000 grant last year to the Arizona chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse.
Where does the money go? All of it goes directly to non-profit agencies in the Valley and state. All fundraising costs are paid by The Arizona Republic and 12 News.
How do my dollars help? The Gannett Foundation will match donations 50 cents on the dollar until donations reach $800,000. That's an extra $400,000 to local agencies. If you donate $50, it becomes a $75 contribution.
Who makes this possible? The Republic , 12 News, the Gannett Foundation and our new community partner, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Season for Sharing is a donor-advised fund of the Arizona Community Foundation.
How can I donate? Go to sharing.azcentral.com or use the coupon on Page A2 and mail your donation to Season for Sharing, P.O. Box 29616, Phoenix, AZ 85038-9616.
Parents' addiction, unemployment and divorce are risk factors for childhood abuse
Adults who had parents who struggled with addiction, unemployment and divorce are 10 times more likely to have been victims of childhood physical abuse, according to a new study prepared by the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
The study, which was published online this week in the journal Child: Care, Health & Development, found that more than one-third of adults who grew up in homes where all three risk factors were present reported they had been physically abused by someone close to them while under the age of 18 and still living at home.
The results found that only 3.4 per cent of those with none of the three risk factors reported they had been physically abused. However, with each additional risk factor experienced, the prevalence of childhood physical abuse increased dramatically.
Approximately 13 per cent of those with one risk factor reported childhood physical abuse (CPA). The prevalence of child physical abuse was between 8% and 11% for those who had experienced parental divorce alone or parental unemployment alone but increased to between 18% and 19% for those who experienced parental addictions alone. Between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of those who had experienced two risk factors reported they had been abused in childhood. Among those with all three risk factors, the prevalence of CPA was between 36 and 41 per cent, representing a ten-fold increase from the 3.4 per cent reported by those without any of these risk factors. The study was based on two representative community samples, one study conducted in 1995 and the second, with a different sample, in 2005. Each survey included approximately 13,000 Canadians aged 18 and older.
"We were so astonished by the magnitude of the association between the combination of these three risk factors and child abuse in the 1995 survey that we replicated the analysis with a different sample from a 2005 survey," says co-author Jami-Leigh Sawyer, a University of Toronto doctoral student and a social worker at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. "The findings in both data sets were remarkably consistent and very worrisome."
The study's findings have important clinical implications for pediatricians, family doctors, social workers and other healthcare providers working with children and their families, says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Chair at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Department of Family and Community Medicine. "It appears that children from homes with parental addictions, parental unemployment and parental divorce are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Such knowledge will hopefully improve the targeting of screening for childhood physical abuse."
Watson: Human trafficking widespread in region
by DAVID DAVIS
Study after study shows the United States is facing an epidemic of human trafficking. The perpetrators of the crime target states like Tennessee, which serve as the intersection for numerous interstate highways and have multiple regional airports.
State Rep. Eric Watson, District 22, recently participated in a conference hosted by the Office of the Vice President at the White House to discuss human sex trafficking. The delegation of 25 included members from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney General's office.
Watson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said people assume that a crime such as human trafficking does not occur in our country, let alone in Tennessee. However, he said it does take place at every border, in every country and in every community.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report on human trafficking dated May 2011, human sex trafficking is the slavery of women and children forced to perform various sex acts for money at a variety of locations across the state for the purpose of making money for their captors. The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children reports that 1 in 4 children who run away from home are approached for commercial sexual exploitation within 48 hours of running away. The average age of entry into the business of sex trafficking is 13.
As an example, Watson cited a multi-agency investigation that led to a federal indictment of 29 individuals affiliated with Somali gangs in the Middle District of Tennessee.
“They were arrested for trafficking girls as young as 12 years old across the U.S., including Tennessee,” Watson said. “That same year, a man in East Tennessee was arrested for trafficking more than 400 women. Victims from Cleveland and Chattanooga have also made numerous calls to the human trafficking hotline about this type of activity taking place in our community.”
Although the report was not community specific, 85 percent of Tennessee counties had investigated at least one human sex trafficking case in the 24 months prior to the report. Seventy-two percent of the total counties reported at least one case of minor human sex trafficking, 16 reported 50 cases, and eight reported more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking involving minors.
Since that report, the General Assembly passed tough new laws against human trafficking and the TBI has added a training segment on the subject for officers and agents.
Watson said earlier this month a federal jury in Memphis convicted a man of running a human trafficking ring. One of the victims was only 15 years old. Jurors in that case heard stories about the defendant kicking and beating his victim.
“U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton is to be commended for his efforts to bring such thugs to justice,” Watson said. “Mr. Stanton has earned national attention for aggressively prosecuting sex traffickers. After the trial Stanton stated, ‘The brutal and depraved acts that this individual inflicted upon these women are almost impossible to fathom.'"
Because of legislation passed in 2011 to strengthen Tennessee laws, the “Polaris Project,” a leading national advocate against human trafficking, should rank Tennessee's laws regarding human trafficking among the strongest in the nation.
Polaris Project is one of the leading organizations in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star "Polaris" that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally.
“While in Washington, D.C., I shared some of our recent legislative victories in Tennessee. We passed legislation that no longer treats victims of sex trafficking as criminals,” Watson said. “In addition, we have provided a mechanism for developing a strategy to deliver services to them. My staff and I recently attended a strategy session hosted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Human Services that brought together nonprofit organizations, law enforcement, state departments, and victims.”
The group is tasked with assisting the commissioner of DHS in developing a timeline to implement vital services to victims. The goal is to use existing resources with the nonprofit organizations throughout the state to provide necessary services to the victims.
“Our legislation appropriated money to the TBI to develop a training course for law enforcement to help prosecute the traffickers,” Watson said. “Casual observers can see the evidence of human trafficking as we travel Tennessee's roadways and it will take cooperation from law enforcement and prosecutors from all levels of government to effectively fight this battle.”
President Barack Obama signed a new federal law called the Child Protection Act of 2012, which enhances federal, state, and local efforts to fight child pornography, sexual predators, and human trafficking.
Watson said that while people are starting to accept this reality, there haven't been many convictions.
“About 1 in 5 cases result in a prosecution. We have found that the problem lies at the local level because local law enforcement and prosecutors lack the necessary training to distinguish differences between a human trafficking victim, and a prostitution or kidnapping victim,” he said. “Other states should follow our lead in our willingness to stand up for the innocent victims of this atrocious crime. I stand ready to take each and every step necessary to ensure that Tennessee remains a leader in the fight against human sex trafficking.”
Sex trafficking sequels: New meaning to physical and emotional pain
by Hope Gillette
Sex trafficking is not something reserved for non-industrialized countries, nor is it something out of a creative fiction novel. Sex trafficking is very real, and according to LibertadLatina.org, Hispanic women in the United States are bought and sold through international sex trafficking rings and local gang networks.
The practice is not a new phenomenon, either, and back in 1997, the San Francisco Examiner interviewed Catalina Suarez, a young woman who was held captive for 18 years and trafficked around Latin America and the United States.
“I was always under the influence of some kind of drugs, or I was traumatized by the beatings or the pain or the fear,” Suarez at the age of 36 told the San Francisco Examiner. “I was put into trunks of cars with rats and roaches. I screamed and screamed and screamed. No one would help me.”
Health ramifications of sex trafficking
Sexual abuse and the emotional and physical damages associated with sex trafficking can be one of the most difficult experiences to overcome for any woman, especially those forced into it at younger ages.
Women exposed to sex trafficking, where sexual abuse is experienced often daily for years on end, face enormous hurdles on the road to recovery—provided they are freed from the life of slavery they have endured.
“Trafficking often has a profound impact on the health and well-being of women,” wrote study authors from a 2003 sex trafficking report published by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “The forms of abuse and risks that women experience include physical, sexual and psychological abuse, the forced or coerced use of drugs and alcohol, social restrictions and manipulation, economic exploitation and debt bondage, legal insecurity, abusive working and living conditions, and a range of risks associated with being a migrant and/or marginalised.
“These abuses and risks impact women's physical, reproductive, and mental health, may lead to the misuse of drugs or alcohol, diminish women's social and economic well-being, and limit their access to health and other support services.”
Most women subjected to these forms of sexual abuse and torture are often kept heavily drugged. Many have problems with addiction when they are rescued, and just as many have to face serious dangers associated with sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.
Different forms of sex trafficking
According to a report from Wendy Freed, M.D., sex trafficking generally includes:
- Massage parlor work
- Escort services
- Servile marriages
Approximately 50,000 women are victims of sex trafficking in the United States alone every year, and globally, more than 700,000 women and children are subjected to this form of slavery.
Those who operate the sex trafficking rings often use violence, threats, document manipulation and isolation as methods to control their victims.
Eventually, many women overcome the initial feelings of shock, fear and resistance, and develop what is known as Stockholm Syndrome, a mental survival technique where victims become ‘grateful' for their survival, look at their captors as caretakers and start to identify with the way the trafficker sees the world. For these women, rescue is often difficult, because at this stage, they are attached to their handlers.
Health rehabilitation for sex trafficking survivors
For women in industrialized countries, treatment options are often similar to anyone who has suffered sexual abuse. Physical ailments are addressed in hospital settings, and then rigorous therapy sessions can begin to help heal the mind. Often, treatments are similar to those used for postraumatic stress disorder patients and drug addiction.
In some cultures, however, a women who returns home, rescued from the trafficking world but harboring a sexually transmitted disease, is shunned, though the fault is not her own.
Such is the case in Nepal, where sexual trafficking rehabilitation centers have sprung up to help women who have nowhere else to go.
“We try to give them whatever work they want to do, whatever training they want to do, because when you're economically empowered, people forget everything. People even forget [she is] HIV-positive or was trafficked,” Anuradha Koirala, who operates such a safe haven, told CNN . “The trafficking of the girls is done by people who are basically known to the girls, who can lure them from the village by telling them they are getting a nice job. It's a lucrative business.”
Latinas at a high risk for sex trafficking
Latinas are increasingly becoming the target of sex trafficking in both Latin American and the United States, largely because they often fall into many of the categories considered vulnerable.
According to experts, some Latinas are more likely to take a subservient role to men due to cultural stigmas and are more likely to come from low-income backgrounds, which limits their resources and access to help, especially if they are new U.S. immigrants.
“The U.S. CIA estimates that 15,000 enslaved Latin-Americans are trafficked into the United States each year,” stated a report published on LibertadLatina.org. “Across Latin America, an estimated 20 to 40 percent of women are raped on an annual basis. In Ecuador, 80 percent of married women face spousal violence. A social service agency study in Ecuador found that secondary school teachers had raped 8 percent of their girl students in the country's largest city, Guayaquil. Tens of millions of women, and at least two million children across Latin America survive through prostitution. In Brazil alone, studies have determined that between 500,000 and 2 million children under the age of 16 survive by engaging in prostitution.”
Experts agree this common-place violence against Latinas is a major factor when it comes to falling victim to sex trafficking ploys, and public health policies must address this issue in order to prevent the serious mental, emotional and physical health sequels of this type of violence against women.
Nationwide search for child sexual abuser ‘Jane Doe' ends in arrest
Corine Danielle Motley
A young child being sexually abused in a woman's video posted to the web has been identified and rescued. Thanks in large part to a vigorous social media campaign and help from the public, a nationwide manhunt for a "Jane Doe" suspected child sexual abuser and child pornographer ended Wednesday evening with the arrest of an Okaloosa County, Fla., woman.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) reported today that 25-year-old Corine Danielle Motley was arrested by HSI Pensacola special agents and Northwest Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force members late Wednesday evening, hours after HSI issued a public appeal for assistance to identify "Jane Doe."
"The quick identification of the victim and suspect in this case demonstrates the power of the press, social media and the general public in helping solve these cases," said ICE Director John Morton.
"Literally hours after we asked the public for their assistance in identifying Jane Doe, a tip came in that led to her identification and arrest.
There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that, due to these efforts, a child is now safe and her tormentor now in custody."
HSI's Child Exploitation Investigations Unit's Victim Identification Program obtained a "Jane Doe" arrest warrant Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the suspect and issued a news release with photos seeking the public's help to identify the suspect, after all other investigative leads had been exhausted.
Motley is believed to have produced at least one long-form child pornography video featuring herself engaging in explicit sexual conduct with a 4 to 6-year-old victim.
HSI special agents received an investigative referral from the Danish National Police, after the video was downloaded by law enforcement officers in Denmark.
The video was referred to HSI as Danish police believed that the video had most likely been produced in the United States.
HSI submitted the material to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the national clearinghouse for child sexual exploitation material. The center determined that the victim had not yet been identified or rescued.
Investigators believe that the video was posted on the Internet for the first time Nov. 27.
Motley is being detained at the Escambia County Jail on federal child pornography charges and is being held without bond.
Childhood nonsexual trauma: The long-term outcomes of physical and emotional maltreatment and neglect
by Maggie Brown, MS, ELS
Estimates on the prevalence of child maltreatment vary widely, but the numbers are wrenching: around the world, 4%-16% of all children are physically abused each year, and 10% are psychologically abused or neglected (1). Up to 10% of men and 20% of women report having been sexually abused as children (2).
It is increasingly understood that the emotional and mental injuries of childhood maltreatment do not remain locked in childhood; adult mental and physical health can be substantially affected by traumas experienced in childhood – especially when those traumas are perpetrated by parents or others in a position of trust. A body of research is accumulating that sheds light on these long-term effects, especially those arising from child sexual abuse.
Childhood maltreatment falls into four main categories: sexual, physical, emotional/psychological, and neglect. Although outcomes due to sexual abuse have been fairly well studied to date, relatively neglected have been the effects of childhood nonsexual maltreatment. Recently, PLOS Medicine published a paper (3) by a research group, led by Rosana Norman and based at the University of Queensland, Australia, that helps fill this knowledge gap.
In this paper, the authors reviewed and analyzed data from 124 carefully selected studies on the relationship of the three forms of childhood nonsexual abuse to a number of mental health and behavioral outcomes later in life.
What they found should not be surprising, given what we may sense intuitively and increasingly know from emerging studies on the long-term effects of early-life trauma, but they are still striking. The odds of developing depressive disorders, using or abusing drugs, attempting suicide, or engaging in risky sexual behavior and contracting sexually transmitted infections are all significantly increased with a history of childhood nonsexual abuse. A few striking examples (see Tables 4 and 5 in the article for the complete list):
- Adults who were physically or emotionally abused and children have more than three times the odds of attempting suicide.
- Adults who were emotionally abused as children have about three times the odds of developing depressive disorders. Neglect about doubled the odds.
- Children who are emotionally abused have three times the odds of developing anxiety disorders later in life.
- Physically or emotionally abused children have about double the odds of later becoming infected with HIV.
- Physical abuse doubles the odds of drug use.
Many of these outcomes have a substantial and wide-ranging impact at both the individual and the population level. For example, depression—a well-substantiated outcome of childhood abuse—is the third leading condition contributing to the global burden of disease, ahead of heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and stroke (4).
Alleviating the immediate and long-term suffering due to childhood abuse is a daunting task, but one opinion is shared among workers in this field: these abuses are preventable. With any problem that derives from so many sources – socioeconomic, environmental, cultural, historical – the solutions will be similarly varied, complex, and long term. Three things are urgently needed: better data, greater commitment to prevention programs, and improved intervention and treatment approaches.
For More Information
Giving a voice to kids: How a United Way agency protects the innocent
by Citizen Contributor
The tragedy at Sandy Hill Elementary School has brought added light to a very important topic: protecting children from the harm of others. Undoubtedly, the young survivors are experiencing new emotions that were once foreign, and their recovery will demand a great deal of patience and love from the adults around them.
For children in Collier County that face tragedy at home including babies born addicted to illegal drugs or preschoolers who are being physically abused and neglected, a United Way agency is working to protect them by being a voice during the legal process.
Voices for Kids is a local Guardian ad Litem program that recruits and trains volunteers to advocate for the abused, neglected and abandoned children in court, the child welfare system and the community. There are about 140 volunteer guardians in Collier County, but unfortunately this only covers 60 percent of the children who need a voice.
Working seven days a week to identify and train new guardians is Donna Kordek, who became the Voices for Kids' Collier County volunteer coordinator in 2011.
"With United Way's support, I can host more orientations and training sessions next year," says Kordek. "We are in desperate need of full-time residents that have a little computer knowledge, but it's not essential that they have experience in the law."
Kordek has done a good job rebuilding the guardian population in Collier and is making the process of becoming a volunteer even easier. After a quick one-hour orientation that helps people understand the level of commitment and whether it's right for them, new recruits go through a three-day training process where they visit the dependency courts, watch other guardians in action, and receive instruction from a team of trainers. Kordek says she added one more step that was missing: every guardian is partnered with a mentor guardian so they have the ongoing support they need.
Kordek, who is also a volunteer guardian, says the number of babies being born addicted to prescription drugs is on the rise. She says her team is also seeing an increase in cases involving children affected by parental alcohol abuse.
"In cases where drugs are present at birth, a guardian can recommend to the judge that early steps be taken to monitor the child so it receives more physical attention from medical staff before being placed with a relative or in foster care," says Kordek.
Voices for Kids works closely with another United Way partner agency, Youth Haven, a Collier County-based shelter for boys and girls ages 6 to 14 that provides temporary care for an average of 50 to 60 days. Upon leaving Youth Haven, many of the children are placed by the state child welfare system with a relative or in foster care. Voices for Kids guardians stay with the kids through this transition.
A guardian can have a profound impact on the life of a child that is in a scary situation. Beyond being their voice in front of a judge, guardians often identify challenges in other areas affecting the child and can recommend tutoring for school or provide new beds for children that are placed with relatives or foster families.
Voices for Kids will host several one-hour orientations for interested residents on Jan. 16, Feb. 6 and Feb. 20, 2013. For more information, call Kordek at (239) 776-4734.
When you contribute to the United Way of Collier County, you support 100,000 residents including children facing tough family issues through programs like Voices for Kids and Youth Haven. United Way partner agencies provide over 300 programs each year. When immediate needs are identified, the agencies can rely on leadership from United Way and its ability to mobilize the community into action.
The United Way of Collier County is a great example of how the community comes together through volunteer leadership in an effort to share the responsibility to care for one another. The United Way's 2012 campaign goal of $2.5 million is needed to ensure that 32 local charities will continue to provide direct services to those in need. This is the twelfth in a series of articles highlighting the efforts of the United Way of Collier County and the agencies it helps support in our community. For more information, to give or get involved with the United Way, call (239) 261-7112.
FBI searches for Palisade music teacher accused of child sex assault
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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) – The FBI is searching across the country for a man accused of sexually abusing a child in Palisade.
James David Tiner, 59, is a former music teacher who allegedly took advantage of his 8-year-old student when she came to his Palisade home for lessons.
The incidents happened between Sept. 2009 and June 2010, according to the victim's mother, who originally reported the abuse to police.
Investigators say Tiner had at least four sexual encounters with the girl, and when his home was searched, officers discovered videos and photographs of the victim in the nude.
The FBI reports that Tiner also had pictures of other unknown, underage girls. After the investigation was complete, he was charged with sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a child—pattern of abuse, and sexual assault on a child by on in a position of trust.
The FBI says Tiner was last seen in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 15, 2012, where he has ties.
Tiner—who also goes by Dave or “Music Dave”— is a white man with brown hair and blue eyes, standing 5-feet 11-inches and weighing 155 pounds.
He may be driving a red Isuzu Rodeo with Colorado registration 577YGP or an unknown Arkansas plate. Since he is known as an outdoorsman, investigators think he may be staying in campgrounds or national parks, accompanied by a dog name “Kili.” He also has a history of drug abuse.
In April 2012, the Mesa County Court issued a state arrest warrant for Tiner, and in June, the U.S. District Court for Colorado sent out a federal arrest warrant after Tiner was charged with unlawful flight to avoid persecution.
If you know any information about Tiner or his location, call the Grand Junction FBI office at (970) 242-8360.
United Family Services rebrands as Safe Alliance
103-year-old nonprofit restructures services after year of strategic planning
United Family Services, one of the region's oldest social service agencies, has changed its name to Safe Alliance after undergoing a year-long strategic planning process.
Officials unveiled the nonprofit's new name and enhanced mission earlier this month during an open house aimed at spreading awareness about its services.
Safe Alliance will continue to support victims of domestic and sexual violence through a range of shelter, counseling, legal and advocacy services, according to a news release from the agency. The nonprofit serves tens of thousands of people each year in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Union and south Iredell counties.
Phil Kline, president and CEO of Safe Alliance, said the name change is meant to reflect the need for people to live in a safe and supportive environment, and to show how the nonprofit works with clients, other organizations and the community to achieve its vision of sustaining healthy relationships and eliminating domestic/sexual violence and child abuse.
“True to our 103-year legacy, United Family Services is once again responding to meet the needs of the community,” Kline said. “We have restructured our services and chosen a new name and logo that best aligns with our new structure.”
Safe Alliance's new mission will focus on providing hope and healing to people in crisis, specifically survivors of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse, while expanding outreach efforts that teach adults and children to build safe, healthy relationships, said Kline.
“Now that we are in our second century of service to the community, the Safe Alliance board agreed unanimously that refreshing our brand better reflects our mission and is exactly the right thing to do,” said John Tighe, chairman of nonprofit's board of directors. “Our new name is another example of positive change that we believe more effectively communicates the critical work we do in providing sanctuary, services, programs and counseling for those in crisis.”
The nonprofit's new logo, a lotus flower, also holds symbolic meaning. The petals of the lotus flower are the national awareness colors for domestic violence (purple), sexual assault (teal), child abuse (blue) and mental health (green), according to the news release.
“We believe it is a powerful symbol of the work we do,” said Tighe. “The lotus flower begins life in mud at the bottom of a pond. It grows upward through the water's waves and currents and blooms into a beautiful flower when it surfaces. This speaks directly to the inspirational journey our clients travel with Safe Alliance.”
Merl Hamilton, Concord's assistant city manager and former Concord chief of police, said the number of people who need the type of assistance offered by Safe Alliance is greater than most would want to believe.
From a law enforcement perspective, Hamilton said, he applauds the work of the agency in our community.
“The new name … is a wonderful idea, as it says everything these victims need to hear,” he said. “They can be safe, they can be empowered to overcome tragedy, and there is a network of experts standing with them.” Staff reports
Rights group sues over Lancaster's restrictions on sex offenders
by Christina Villacorte
Constitutional rights advocates sued the city of Lancaster on Tuesday to block a recently enacted ordinance banning registered sex offenders from going to - or even being near - the city's parks, movie theaters and other public and private locations.
"The ordinance basically violates the state and federal constitutions, and fails to protect public safety," said Janice Bellucci, president of a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws.
"The purpose of the ordinance is to protect kids, but most children who are sexually assaulted are not assaulted by (registered) sex offenders but members of their family, teachers, coaches and members of the clergy," she said. "Also, most sexual assaults of children do not occur in public places but in very private places like homes and schools."
Lancaster city officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The ordinance, which took effect in October after being unanimously approved by the Lancaster City Council, imposes restrictions on registered sex offenders that go above and beyond those imposed by state law.
It prohibits registered sex offenders from coming within 300 feet of certain public and private locations in Lancaster, including the city's library, museum and parks, as well as privately owned movie theaters and arcades.
Bellucci said the ordinance would effectively kick registered sex offenders out of downtown Lancaster. She contended the restrictions violate the First, Fifth and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which protect the right to peaceably assemble and the right to due process.
"People who are on the registry have already paid their debt to society and have already been deemed safe by law enforcement; otherwise, they wouldn't have been released from prison," Bellucci said. "What Lancaster is doing is continuing their punishment."
Other provisions in the ordinance allow only one registered sex offender to reside in a home, hotel, motel or inn. It also prohibits them from decorating their homes and answering the door to children on Halloween.
The city of Lake Forest in Orange County repealed its own additional restrictions on registered sex offenders Tuesday night, after Bellucci's organization also threatened it with a federal lawsuit.
Report: NV Child Abuse Deaths Above National Average
by Lauren Rozyla
LAS VEGAS -- Nevada is higher than the national average for child abuse deaths. Nineteen kids died from maltreatment in 2011 whereas 15 children died the previous year.
Nevada now ranks ninth highest in the country. Advocates say changes must be made that include more resources and training for Child Protective Services.
Last month, 7-year-old Roderick "RJ" Arrington Jr. went to school after being beaten with a belt. Someone from the school district called Child Protective Services but the agency never confirmed if anyone came to investigate.
According to investigators, when RJ went home he was shaken by his stepfather which resulted in the boy's death.
"We need to keep reminding ourselves that these are live people and not numbers. It's not a spreadsheet," child advocate Donna Coleman said.
A new report, Child Maltreatment 2011, was released from the Department of Health and Human Services. It shows Nevada caseworkers are swamped with 93 cases per worker. That's far higher than the national average where caseworkers are responsible for about 70 cases.
"Really what that's resulting in is not enough time for the caseworkers to do the investigations they need to do," said Denise Tanata Ashby with Children's Advocacy Alliance.
Nineteen Nevada children died because of abuse in 2011. The report details a decrease in neglect but an increase in physical abuse cases. In many cases, such as RJ's, there is no prior record of abuse on file with CPS.
"If the agency isn't aware that there is a problem going on in the home, then they can't take any preventative action," Ashby said.
A human services report dated October of this year says protective services has not met performance for "timeliness of investigations." The agency faces penalties of nearly $900,000 for that and other performance problems. Advocates say more training for CPS workers is needed as well as system reform. CPS is being encouraged to look at other states for best practices.
8 News NOW is following RJ's case and has learned the county is doing a total review of the case. 8 News NOW has requested the transcripts of the hotline intake phone call. At this time, the county is not releasing any information on that case.
Whistleblower Protection For Reports Of Child Sexual Abuse
by Thomas L. Watson
In reaction to the Jerry Sandusky revelations in Pennsylvania, the Louisiana Legislature enacted a new whistleblower statute intended to protect employees from reprisal for reporting any fellow employee's sexual abuse of a minor. A companion law now imposes criminal liability for an adult who fails to report the sexual abuse of a child to the authorities.
This new whistleblower statute, which went into effect on August 1, 2012, provides that "no employee shall be discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or discriminated against in any manner in the terms and conditions of his employment because of any lawful act engaged in by the employee or on behalf of the employee in furtherance of any action taken to report the sexual abuse of a minor child by any fellow employee to law enforcement, whether such fellow employee is a co-worker, supervisor or subordinate." It further provides a cause of action against public and private employers "for damages associated with any action taken by the employee which is in furtherance of the protection of a minor child." The statute entitles employees who prevail on such claims to treble damages, court costs, and attorney fees. It does, however, specify that plaintiffs may not recover under the statute "if the court finds that the plaintiff instituted or proceeded with an action that was frivolous, vexatious, or harassing."
While this statute ostensibly protects employees from retaliation for reporting the sexual abuse of a child, it should not change an employer's obligation not to retaliate against whistleblowers. The general whistleblower statute, LSA-R.S. 23:967, which was enacted in 1997, already protects employees from reprisal for reporting "a workplace act or practice that is in violation of state law." The new statute arguably provides greater protection to the employees in one respect—it does not require employees to first report the abuse to their employer to be protected from retaliation; whereas, the existing whistleblower statute states that "an employer shall not take reprisal against an employee who in good faith, and after advising the employer of the violation of the law" reports the violation to the authorities. (Thus, without a requirement that an employee notify his employer, an employer might not necessarily know that a report has been made.) Aside from this difference, the new whistleblower protection statute imposes no additional obligations on employers but seems merely to provide an alternate cause of action—and additional damages—for employees claiming retaliation.
Significantly, for an employee with the option to sue under either statute, LSA-R.S. 23:968 is the more attractive choice. Like LSA-R.S. 30:2027, the whistleblower protection law for environmental violations, this new whistleblower statute imposes treble damages for retaliation against employees who report the sexual abuse of a child. This damage provisions renders a violation of this statute a costly mistake. Fortunately, the same actions that employers take to avoid liability under the existing whistleblower statute should protect them from claims under the new one. To avoid liability, an employer should refrain from retaliating against employees for reporting the sexual abuse of a minor to law enforcement, regardless of whether the employee first notifies the employer of the violation of the law.
“Connecting the Dots” Program Begins In January
Support group for families of sexually abused children will meet at the Spirit of Rockland Special Victims Center
by Robin Traum
A six-week confidential support group for parents, partners and adult siblings of sexually abused children begins next month. “Connecting the Dots” is provided by the Center for Safety & Change in partnership with the Rockland County District Attorney's office. The free program begins January 8, 2013 at the Spirit of Rockland Special Victims Center
, which is located on the grounds of Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern.
The numbers are staggering. Although not specifically available for Rockland County, Center for Safety & Change Director of Special Victims Services Kiera Pollock said statistics show that across the country one in four girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. She said families needed to know the signs, risks and post traumatic stress reactions associated with the abuse. “Connecting the Dots” is specifically created for relatives of children who have been sexually abused.
“We kind of conceived this program based on what parents told us would be helpful for them,” said Pollock. “Overall the group is for parents, to give parents a safe space to process this.”
She explained the group would give them a supportive environment where they could talk about their experience and it will be educational and informative. People are encouraged to attend to meet other families; learn about ways to help children and those around them heal from the abuse and its effects, and to increase knowledge about sex offenders and community safety. Lauren Steinfeld, LCSW, and another social worker from the Center will facilitate along with speakers from law enforcement and Rockland County Child Protective Services.
The support group will meet weekly on Tuesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., beginning January 8 and ending on February 12. Pollock said this is the first time “Connecting the Dots” is being offered and that the Rockland County Department of Mental Health is also assisting.
Those interested in either registering for the program or receiving more information can contact Lauren Steinfeld at 845-634-3344. Children will not be permitted to attend the sessions. Childcare is available while the support group meets but must be requested in advance.
Center for Safety & Change is a non-profit; grass roots organization serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and all violent crimes. It is located at 9 Johnsons Lane in New City. The 24-hour hotline is 845-634-3344.
L.A.'s child abuse data overload
The Board of Supervisors wants a better reporting process. It's time to make that happen.
In October 2010, the Board of Supervisors had a long and at times rancorous discussion about child deaths in Los Angeles County and realized that they really couldn't quantify problems or measure progress because there are so many county agencies that compile data in so many different ways. The Department of Children and Family Services, the coroner's office, the Interagency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Children's Special Investigations Unit, the sheriff, the district attorney and the Commission for Children and Families all keep statistics on child deaths, each using its own criteria, each for its own purpose, each on its own timeline. Agencies privately scoffed at rivals' methodologies, reliability and agendas. The supervisors agreed that they needed a "single entity" to compile and maintain consistent and reliable numbers on child abuse, neglect and death.
A year later, in October 2011, there was still no single entity, and the board adopted another motion, this one requiring agencies to report back every three months on how to compile the information.
Now it is December 2012, and the board has on its Tuesday agenda a motion calling for a single entity to track the data.
No wonder county government has so little credibility on child welfare issues. A modern government, especially one charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect, must have consistent, reliable and transparent data. And to make actual use of the flurry of numbers and reports that come from many sources, it must have consistent and reliable leadership. The supervisors cannot expect to simply make a motion and then drop the issue because they don't want to deal with interagency rivalries or because they have moved on to other crises.
The supervisors have caught a break — there have been no high-profile reports recently of child deaths, so no emotional recriminations that often get in the way of thoughtful, reason-based progress. If they can't get this done now, it's hard to imagine when they will.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich are right to bring forward their new motion calling for the county to get off the dime on the single entity and the proposed standardized protocols for reporting key child safety indicators. But they did that two years ago. Enough delay. The board should adopt this motion and be prepared to act on the report, now due Feb. 1 — or be able to explain why they failed one more time.
Alleged Sheehan Victim Courageously Comes Forward; Asks Town for Thorough Investigation
An alleged sexual abuse victim of William E. Sheehan came forward at Tuesday's Board of Selectmen meeting to thank the town for vowing to find the truth in the investigation against the former Foxborough youth leader and teacher.
by Jeremie Smith
Those attending Tuesday's Foxborough Board of Selectmen meeting witnessed a true act of courage when one of William E. Sheehan's alleged victims came forward to speak against the former Foxborough youth leader and thank the town for vowing to “turn over every stone and file cabinet” in search of the truth.
Dave Lutkus had no intention of releasing his identity to the public but after learning media outlets could not publish anonymous Letters to the Editor, he traveled to Foxborough to deliver his message in person to selectmen Tuesday.
"I ask people to please respect the privacy of my family and friends as they are hearing this for the first time," Lutkus said during the citizen's input portion of Tuesday's selectmen meeting.
Lutkus, speaking publicly about Sheehan for the first time, read to selectmen a letter he wrote, which began as a public thank you to the board and Rev. Bill Dudley, pastor of Union Church of South Foxborough for vowing to bring to light the issues involving the alleged child molester.
"I am a survivor of [Sheehan's] acts," Lutkus began. ... "This is the first time that I've actually had hope that something would be done in regards to this case."
Lutkus said he has spoken to the District Attorney's Office, the Massachusetts State Police and their referred legal counselor about allegations that Sheehan sexually abused young boys for nearly 20 years while residing in Foxborough as a school teacher, scout leader and director at Cocasset River Park.
"I told each of them my story over the phone," Lutkus said. "I was told Sheehan is ill and he wouldn't be charged. I asked to please be updated … I haven't heard from anyone … I was told there was no need to file a statement report."
Lutkus was unsatisfied with these conversations and began to doubt whether the truth about Sheehan would ever come to light.
"My summary of every conversation was 'thanks for letting us know; you were number X; sorry you had to go through this,'" Lutkus recalled.
But the message from Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis to Sheehan's alleged victims during the Dec. 4 BOS meeting restored Lutkus' hope for answers.
"Thank you Mr. [Mark] Sullivan and Mr. [James] DeVellis for your actions," Lutkus said. "I finally feel as though someone has heard us and I appreciate and applaud your efforts. Pastor Bill, I may or may not contact you. In any case, thank you as well."
Lutkus extended his heartfelt thanks to the remainder of the board and asked the town to get to the bottom of this issue so "the facts come to light" and something so horrific never happens to Foxborough's youth ever again.
"I would like to thank the board on what they have done in this matter," Lutkus said. "As one of the victims, I am here to ask this issue is thoroughly investigated. My feeling is 35 years ago this issue was buried. I would like to see the facts come to light so it won't happen in this town ever again."
DeVellis assured Lutkus the town will do everything in its power to find the answers and reveal the truth behind these allegations.
"It was very brave for you to come here tonight and the first thing I'd like to say is I apologize and hope things come out in the open and you get the answers and you get the direction from whatever comes out of this," DeVellis said to Lutkus Tuesday. "I don't think anyone on this board was of the age at that time but certainly I think it is our responsibility now to reach back and try and figure out what the hell happened so it doesn't happen again and make it so you feel comfortable and don't walk away thinking you're not going to get any of those answers.
"We are on top of this as much as we can and we are pushing this as much as we can."
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, selectmen met in executive session with Foxborough Police Chief Edward O'Leary, Town Counsel Richard Gelerman and Town Manager Kevin Paicos to discuss the investigation against Sheehan .
"We can't share the details but the sense of the board is nobody here is circling the wagons and trying to protect anybody or anything from the past," DeVellis told Lutkus Tuesday. "We are being proactive as is the police chief as is our local counsel as is the town manager."
Sullivan commended Lutkus coming forward, choosing two words to describe the man's actions.
"Extreme courage," Sullivan said to Lutkus. "I applaud you for coming forward."
'The Twinkle in His Eye Made Me Sick'
Lutkus chose not to go into detail about his encounters with Sheehan but did provide some insight in to what it was like knowing Sheehan 35 years ago.
"I read a story [about Sheehan] that had a line, 'we all knew he was a perv ... we just stayed away from him,'" Lutkus recalled.
"The fact is we all didn't [know Sheehan was a perv]," Lutkus said. "We all were not as fortunate. That statement to me was offensive."
For Lutkus, he remembers seeing "the big kids" getting one-on-one time with Sheehan the teacher, Scout Master or boss at the Cocasset River Park.
"I desperately wanted to be a big kid so I could be one of them," Lutkus said. "And I did. I became a scout, got a job at the park and received a citizenship award in junior high."
Lutkus said he never understood why he received that award but "always felt like Sheehan [had] influenced it."
"The twinkle in his eye after receiving that plaque made me sick," Lutkus said.
'It Doesn't Change the Fact that it Happened'
Since seeing allegations against Sheehan surface in the media in September, Lutkus said he's beginning to learn that he's spent a long time burying what happened between him and Sheehan and is "not happy it has risen again."
"I refuse to go into the details, I will only say that for weeks now I have been dealt with guilty memories of not knowing how to tell an adult; the feeling that I've done something wrong and assuming but not knowing if there are more victims because I didn't tell," Lutkus said. "I can be told it's not my fault and that I was young but it doesn't change the fact that it happened and it is in my past."
Allegations Against Sheehan
Allegations against Sheehan became public in September when Foxborough police obtained a warrant from Wrentham District Court for the former Foxborough teacher and youth leader's arrest on 11 felony charges related to sexual assault on children under the age of 15 from 1978-1981.
Sheehan, now 74, taught in the Foxborough Public Schools district from the late 1960s to 1981, served 19 years as a local Boy Scouts Scoutmaster and 20 years in numerous roles at Cocasset River Park, including a swimming instructor and waterfront director. During that time he resided at 81 Willow St.
Sheehan left Foxborough in 1981 to take a teaching position in Southwest Florida, where he is being accused of molesting at least one child at Camp Miles, a Boy Scout camp in Punta Gorda, Fla. during three consecutive summers in the 1980s, according to a Nov. 5 article in The News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla.
Sheehan was never arrested for the allegations in Massachusetts or Florida and now it may be too late, according to The News-Press as the 74-year-old is currently suffering from late-stage Alzheimer's and resides in a Fort Myers, Fla. nursing home.
In Foxborough, three alleged victims initially came forward – separately – to police in August accusing Sheehan of multiple sexual crimes committed against each of them. After Foxborough police obtained a warrant for Sheehan's arrest on Sept. 12, officers traveled to Fort Myers, Fla. to arrest the former Foxborough resident. However, upon arrival to Sheehan's residence in Florida, police were not able to arrest him, citing poor health.
Foxborough police and the Norfolk County District Attorney's office maintain the investigation against Sheehan remains open but police fear, due to Sheehan's health, that he may never be prosecuted.
Since allegations against Sheehan surfaced in August, 23 men have courageously come forward claiming the former resident sexually abused them in Foxborough.
Group collecting 'comfort kits' for child sex abuse victims
by Ashley Monfort
HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -
A local organization is collecting stuffed animals and 'comfort kits' for children recovering from sexual abuse.
The group is called "It's Not Your Fault." Founder Polly Franks started the drive after her two youngest daughters became victims of a convicted sexual predator.
The comfort kits will be given to children in hospital rooms. They are asking for stuffed animals, crayons, markers and pads of paper. The items must be brand new.
"The most important thing at that moment is the child's healing even more important than justice, believe it or not. You've got to make sure the child gets through this okay," says Franks.
Franks says the kits helps children tell their story of abuse in a non-verbal way, ultimately helping with the recovery process.
You can send donations to:
|It's Not Your Fault
P.O. Box 11407
Richmond, VA 23230
Child Abuse Prevention Council announces new full-time service member
NORTHERN IOWA – Chickasaw Child Abuse Prevention Council (CCAPC) is pleased to announce the addition of a full-time AmeriCorps Service Member! Robin McClelland, Service Member, will be serving not only the CCAPC, but all North Central Iowa Child Abuse Prevention Councils. McClelland will play an active role in preventing child abuse in Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago and Worth Counties.
AmeriCorps is a national network of programs engaging over 70,000 Americans in service to their communities. McClelland is in service to Prevent Child Abuse Iowa and is hosted by United Way North Central Iowa. Her duties include managing tasks for the councils, researching evidence based programming, and educating the public about the critical need for child abuse prevention. McClelland encourages community members to take note of the following statistics:
|• Chickasaw County ranks 18th for children with illegal drugs in their system.
•Chickasaw also ranks 40th in all Iowa counties for physical injury of children.
• In 2011, there were 572 children abused in the nine county, north central Iowa region.
North central Iowans can take action to prevent child abuse in our community.
The CCAPC meets the third Thursday of every month at 9 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church. Due to a holiday schedule change, the next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 6. Community members and service providers are encouraged to attend!
If you are interested in joining a child abuse prevention council in your county, please contact Robin McClelland at 641-420-3882 or email email@example.com
For additional information about Robin McClelland's service work visit: AmeriCorps.gov
Manalapan babysitter gets 30 years for sexually abusing 5-year-old, broadcasting assaults
by Ashley Peskoe
TRENTON – A 33-year-old Manalapan woman was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl she babysat and streaming the assaults online.
Jennifer Mahoney admitted to sexually abusing the child and showing it on Skype, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a news release. She also took another video on her iPhone and emailed it to at least one person, they said.
“The victim in this case was a 5-year-old girl who had been entrusted to the defendant's care,” Fishman said. “Not only did Mahoney totally betray that trust by subjecting her to multiple sexual assaults, but that little girl's nightmare will be available for others to watch over and over.”
Mahoney performed oral sex on the child more than once, The Star-Ledger reported in January.
Law enforcement officers found Mahoney's videos when they were investigating a Texas man and seized his computer. Three videos of Mahoney sexually abusing the young girl were found, the release said. Officers and FBI special agents also searched Mahoney's house.
Mahoney was molesting the child on two of the videos during a video chat, the release said. She appeared to be laughing and talking to someone over the web, authorities said. In the third video, which Mahoney took with a cell phone, showed her sexually abusing the young girl in a bathtub, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
“No prison sentence can repair the damage Jennifer Mahoney has done, but today's sentence is appropriate punishment for such heinous crimes, committed against a defenseless victim,” Breuer said.
Mahoney previously pleaded guilty to one count of the sexual exploitation of a child and admitted to watching other child sexual abuse videos that were streamed to her on Skype, the release said.
In addition to 30 years in prison, Mahoney's sentence includes a lifetime-supervised release and restricted contact with minors, as well as computer-use monitoring. She also must register as a sex offender.
Support child protection act
Statistics show that over 6 million children are abused every year and about 2,000 die from child abuse and neglect. In our modern society, numerous cases have emerged on child abuse. National as well as the local media have been carrying reports concerning child battering, imprisonment burns, starvation, emotional and sexual abuse. Billboards, shopping carts, milk cartons and newspaper all carry the message that children must report whenever they are being hurt. These messages carry a hotline number to assist in rescuing victimized children. However, society is gradually wakening to the fact that even when child abuse incidences are reported, this hardly safeguards children from continued abuse. The idea that child abusers are awarded sole custody even in cases where there are reliable evidence of abuse is unbelievable, in fact some of the worst cases are those where authorities were notified of the abuse and determined that the child was at risk and yet left the child in the care of the abuser.
Furthermore, unreported cases in family violence have been a factor, in many of the deaths of children. Families that have escaped the public's attention have left many children suffering from distress, starvation, untidiness, sexual exploitation and risky situations. These cases go unreported for fear of the victimizer. Unreported cases give unsupervised access to the child batterer. The Protect Our Kids Act of 2011 also known as the HR 3653 and S. 1984 is a legislation that was created by Senator John Kerry and Senator Susan Collins to monitor, report and punish the perpetrators who commit these illegalities. The legislation is targeted towards the care and safety of our children's welfare. Before the establishment of the bill, child abuse cases had gone to very high ranges, and this required action to be taken.
Needless to say, child maltreatment poses a serious threat to the development of the country by creating an abused society that is getting worse. Research has shown that many victims of child abuse will also abuse their own children. For that reason, child abuse has risen to such an unbelievable level. Whether we like it or not, child abuse affects each and every one of us. With that said, The Protect Our Kids Act of 2011 which is a bipartisan act will govern and monitor child abuse and neglect cases. The Act will allow the creation of a commission, called The National Commission on Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths, which will ensure reduced child abuse, ensure deaths of child abuse are not underreported, and it will set a national standard to report deaths from child abuse.
While the community perception on extensive maltreatment in the family courts has perverse a crisis of integrity in the judicial system in its entirety; the Protect our Kids Act will mandate that child rescue be of high priority for law enforcement and assign money for advanced computer software that can hunt down internet predators. The act will also fund child exploitation investigations. It is time to act, so please join us to support The Protect Our Kid's Act of 2011. Let's draw our attention to our children who suffer from abuse, neglect, and useless child deaths. Let us also focus on child victimizations and re-victimization of children in the court system which has previously allowed child abusers to have unrestricted access to vulnerable children.
Edmond is currently working toward his master's degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California.
Bill Aims to Increase Child Sex Assault Convictions
by Maurice Chammah
Prosecutors have long argued that they face major hurdles when trying defendants accused of sexually assaulting a child. The problem, they say, is that often the only proof that a crime happened is the testimony of children, who may have trouble keeping their story straight.
“There is an awareness that as a child, they are more vulnerable, less able to explain what happened to them and to give consistent stories, even if it really happened,” said state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, a former prosecutor and judge.
Last week, Huffman filed Senate Bill 12, which would allow evidence of prior offenses, including accusations by other children against the same defendant, to be admitted into evidence. She said federal laws already allow that kind of testimony, and that Texas would join many other states with similar provisions. But critics of the proposal argue that in Texas it is already too easy for prosecutors to win child sex assault cases, and they worry it would lead to more wrongful convictions.
Huffman's bill comes amid a broader push by lawmakers to focus on child sexual assault during the coming legislative session. Last week, Attorney General Greg Abbott unveiled a public service announcement featuring Texas college football coaches Mack Brown of the University of Texas at Austin, Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M University and Tony Levine of the University of Houston that urged adults to learn the signs of child sexual assault. "Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic," Abbott said at a press conference. "Many people assume kids will speak up if they've been abused."
Huffman said her proposal would help turn reports of assault into convictions, because it would allow juries to see that a defendant may have assaulted other children.
Prosecutor Alana Minton, chief of the crimes against children unit at the Tarrant County district attorney's office, said allowing evidence of other accusations would be "very useful in the right circumstances." In most cases, she said, there is no physical evidence, because a long time can pass between a sexual assault and the child's report of the abuse. “I've tried very few cases where there is an immediate outcry,” she said.
Huffman said that the bill would protect defendants by requiring judges to first hold hearings without the jury present to learn about additional allegations. The judge would then decide whether to allow the testimony.
But some criminal defense lawyers are furious about the proposal. They said it is already too easy for innocent people to get convicted in Texas. “I think legislators should be a little more concerned, rather than trying to lock up more people,” said Mary Sue Molnar, director of the advocacy group Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, adding that the bill would result in more wrongful convictions.
Molnar also said she worried that indigent defendants would be unable to afford experts to dispute the additional allegations. “How can someone who is indigent defend himself against that sort of thing?” she said.
Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel of the Innocence Project of Texas, called the proposal silly.
"It is already very easy to convict people of child sexual assault," he said. “It should be getting harder.”
Blackburn said Huffman's bill was misleading because “on the surface” it may seem like it would allow repeat offenders to get caught, but in reality prior convictions are already allowed into evidence.
In 2007 — the same year lawmakers passed Jessica's Law to increase sentences for child sex assault convictions — Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg proposed a similar bill, but that measure failed. A report by the House Research Organization said, “The bill would allow admission of evidence regarding a defendant's character, which could distract the jury from the real issue of whether the defendant actually committed the crime in question.”
Bills similar to Huffman's were also filed in 2005 and 2011. Each passed one chamber of the Legislature but not the other. The bill sparked heated debate on the Senate floor in 2011. “I worry about overzealous prosecution, sloppy prosecution,” Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said at the time.
Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a prepared statement that Huffman's bill would “strengthen Texas' Jessica's Law and help protect our children from these dangerous criminals and put them behind bars once and for all.”
SUNY mandates reporting of child sex abuse
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The State University of New York is now mandating the reporting of child sexual abuse on university property or at university-sponsored events.
SUNY's board of trustees Monday adopted the policy, which board Chairman H. Carl McCall says goes beyond reporting requirements mandated by state law.
The policy directs all of SUNY's 64 campuses to require employees, students and volunteers to report any reasonable suspicion of child sex abuse to university police.
The resolution is a response to the Penn State scandal in which former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, some on campus.
A bill to mandate reporting of child sex abuse on all college campuses in New York didn't become law last year but may be introduced in the next legislative session.
Storytelling program 'combats child abuse'
by Tom Nightingale
A Federal Government department has found a pilot program based around storytelling has been remarkably effective at helping children to protect themselves from abuse.
The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect program, which began at an all-Indigenous school in New South Wales, was aimed at children aged between five and eight.
It used stories about local wildlife to explain a deeper message to children on how to deal with child abuse and neglect.
Green Hill primary school principal Sandra Ross began to implement the program after having difficulty with children deliberately lighting fires.
"I tried everything. I put in special programs, I had the fire brigade come along to no avail," she told The World Today.
"But then when I was planning something else I came across a legend about an eagle [that] comes and looks for people who light fires and immediately the fire-lighting stopped."
Together with local Dhangatti elders, teachers at the school then adapted the program for a wider purpose.
"The message there is that you always need to have communication, and so several children needed to come and talk about things, which once was something that they never would have done," Ms Ross said.
Angela Walsh from the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect says the program sought to teach children from a young age what was safe and unsafe in order to prevent implications that could run into adult life.
"To actually be able to have kids [realise], when they get butterflies in their stomach, when their hands are trembling, when they feel all these emotions rushing through their body that they're actually feeling unsafe, and that when they're feeling unsafe they need to do something about that and need to talk to someone and they can get help," she said.
"I think we've had more incidental comments about bullying, for example, so a lot of the kids will come up to teacher in the playground and say 'that boy's behaving like the dingo, and I feel unsafe'.
"I think that's an area that would be great to measure."
The Tamworth program has just been evaluated by the Department of Community Services.
It found questionnaire results showed children did have more awareness of protective behaviours including identifying emotions, identifying people who could protect the children and learning to speak out about problems.
Associate Professor Jenny Hudson, from Macquarie University's Department of Psychology, says there was evidence that programs like the Tamworth program increased children's knowledge about risk and protective behaviours.
"This pilot program shows that children's knowledge did increase, which is a good thing," she said.
"There was no particular control group, which raises some problems, we know that all the children in the program actually did increase their knowledge.
"Whether or not they would have increased that knowledge otherwise, we cannot tell from this particular study."
The program has since been expanded to other schools in Sydney and on the mid-north New South Wales coast.
Children Can Usually Recover From Emotional Trauma
by DOUGLAS QUENQUA
Perhaps the most remarkable part of her story is that today she sleeps just fine.
On April 20, 1999, Crystal Woodman, 16, was studying for a test in the library at Columbine High School when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked in and began shooting. For seven and a half minutes she hid beneath a table listening to screams, gunfire and the two teenagers' laughter.
“I thought, ‘I'm not going to live through this,' ” said the young woman, now Crystal Woodman Miller, in a telephone interview this weekend from her home in Morrison, Colo., 15 miles from Columbine. “I'm 16 and I'm facing the reality of my death.”
When the two gunmen left the library to get more ammunition, she managed to escape without physical injury.
But the emotional aftermath was debilitating.
“I experienced nightmares all night, every night for two years,” said Mrs. Miller, now 30. “I was living in a paradox: I wanted to be around people, but I didn't want people around me.”
Like many trauma victims, she found herself searching for exits and formulating an escape plan every time she entered a room. A friend followed her around with a box of Girl Scout cookies to make sure she ate something.
For young people exposed to gun trauma — like the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — the road to recovery can be long and torturous, marked by anxiety, nightmares, school trouble and even substance abuse. Witnessing lethal violence ruptures a child's sense of security, psychiatrists say, leaving behind an array of emotional and social challenges that are not easily resolved.
But the good news is that most of these children will probably heal.
“Most kids, even of this age, are resilient,” said Dr. Glenn Saxe, chairman of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. “The data shows that the majority of people after a trauma, including a school assault, will end up doing O.K.”
In a 2007 Duke University study that psychiatrists say is nationally representative, only 13 percent of people who had experienced a traumatic event before age 16 developed symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, and less than 1 percent developed “full-blown” PTSD. Over all, more than two-thirds of the 1,420 children surveyed reported experiencing some kind of trauma.
“Like recovering from surgery, you could end up with a scar, and depending on the surgery it could be a big one,” said Dr. Don Bechtold, medical director of the Jefferson Center for Mental Health in Wheat Ridge, Colo. “People get better — the extent of what ‘better' means is relative.”
Today, Mrs. Miller describes herself as a happy, well-adjusted wife and mother, free of the nightmares and depression that haunted her in the months after the shooting. “I'll never be the same,” she said, “but I eventually realized I can choose to be bitter, angry and hateful or I can choose to forgive and to live my life despite what has happened.”
The factors that determine how well a child may recover after a trauma run a gamut from personal to environmental. To what extent was the child exposed to the event? Did he actually see a shooting, or hear one? In the Duke study, children were more likely to develop long-term problems if they experienced multiple traumas.
Psychiatrists say a supportive family helps. And natural resilience — people's likelihood to process their feelings verbally or have a positive attitude toward their future — plays a role, too.
And while the tender age of the Newtown schoolchildren has yielded speculation that they could be more deeply or irreversibly scarred, research does not bear out the theory, Dr. Saxe says.
“There is no compelling data I know that says there is a greater risk depending on whether the child is younger or older,” he said. “It really depends on the individual. You have to look at the whole host of risk factors.”
That is not to say a kindergartner will process trauma in the same way as a teenager. “A 5-year-old isn't likely to talk about it, and certainly not in an adult way,” said Dr. Bechtold, who was part of the initial mental health response team for the Columbine shootings. Preschoolers are “more likely to be fearful, to ask a lot of questions and ask whether they're safe; they may become clingy or have separation problems.”
Young children exposed to trauma often regress, returning to whiny baby talk or self-soothing habits they had outgrown, like carrying a favorite blanket.
One reason people tend to overestimate the psychological damage a child may sustain after a school shooting is that they underestimate the prevalence of childhood trauma. In a 1997 study of 12-to-17-year-olds conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina, 8 percent reported experiencing a sexual assault, 17 percent reported physical assault and 39 percent said they had been witness to violence.
“In a way, trauma is part of the ticket of being human,” Dr. Saxe said. “Most of us can look back and note at least one experience where there was a pretty big threat” to our safety. “Most people use that, manage and cope and go on.”
But the effects of PTSD linger over some families for years.
Marjorie Long, a sophomore at Columbine in 1999, was trapped for hours in a classroom with a dying teacher. Her mother, Peggy Lindholm, responding to an interview request made to Ms. Long, said that news of mass shootings still had the power to shut her daughter down. “She's really taking this one hard,” she said.
Because Ms. Long couldn't bear to be in a classroom, she eventually dropped out of high school. She battled illness, nightmares and addiction. “She was physically sick for a year,” said Ms. Lindholm, whose own divorce soon followed.
Today, Ms. Long, 30, is married, sober and working toward a graduate degree. But she still has trouble with loud noises.
“Fourth of July really bothers her,” Ms. Lindholm said, “and that used to be one of her favorites.” And she still runs the risk of reliving her experience every time something triggers it. “Now she'll shut down for the next month.”
For others, leaving it behind is easier. Mrs. Miller, the student who hid under the table in the library, says she can't put her finger on the day she started feeling better. But like the pain from a bitter breakup, her anxiety and nightmares gradually eased — probably, she says, as a result of time, regular therapy and travel. (She has spent much of the past 13 years speaking and volunteering in countries affected by adversity, like Kosovo and Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami.)
On Saturday, having closely followed the news in Newtown, Mrs. Miller said she was deeply saddened, but not depressed or unable to function.
“The shootings in Aurora, this, it doesn't send me back to reliving it,” she said. “What I feel is an overwhelming sense of grief and sadness for the community and the survivors. But I'm not traumatized.”
Researchers Find Link Between Childhood Physical Abuse and Asthma in African Americans
by Alexis Taylor
NATIONWIDE – Researchers have made a connection between childhood abuse suffered by African-American women and asthma which develops later in their lives.
As part of the Black Women's Health Study at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, conducted from 1995 to 2011, a total of 28,456 women gave information on physical and sexual abuse suffered before age 11, as well as between the ages of 12 and 18.
The study found that an African-American woman who suffered abuse as a child saw her chances of developing asthma later in life increase 20 percent.
The link between physical abuse and asthma was stronger than that seen between sexual abuse and asthma, researchers said. Physical abuse includes actions intended to injure a child, while sexual abuse includes actions intended for the gratification of the abuser.
“This is the first prospective study to show an association between childhood abuse and adult-onset asthma,” Patricia Coogan, the lead author of the report, said in a statement. “The results suggest that chronic stress contributes to asthma onset, even years later.”
Coogan said childhood abuse causes stress that leads to “physiological consequences.” The stress of living in an abusive situation takes a toll on the body, specifically “on the immune system and on airway development.”
“Given the high prevalence of asthma and of childhood abuse in the United States, the association is of significant public health importance,” said Coogan, a senior epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.
The prevalence of asthma among Americans increased from 7.3 percent, or approximately 20.3 million people, in 2001 to 8.2 percent, or 24.6 million people, in 2009.
Of those living with asthma, prevalence of the disease was greatest in children from low-income families and African-American children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the disease is characterized by the inflammation and narrowing of the airways leading to the lungs. These incidents lead to “wheezing, a whistling sound when you breathe, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.” The episodes usually take place at night or in the early hours of the morning.
According to the CDC, some 3,388 Americans die asthma-related deaths each year. Approximately 17 million asthma-related visits to doctor's offices, hospitals, and emergency rooms take place each year, with most admitted patients having to receive care for an average of four days.
The United States Department of Health and Human Service's National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System found that approximately 695,000 children under age 18 suffered some type of abuse or neglect in 2010
Among children who had crimes against them reported to Child Protective Services, 22 percent were African-American.
How An Alleged Rape Involving Ohio High School Football Players Unfolded On Twitter, Instagram, And YouTube
by Tom Ley (Photo and Tweets on site)
Yesterday's New York Times has a thorough and thoroughly unsettling story about two members of Ohio's Steubenville High School football team who stand accused of raping a drunk and unresponsive 16-year-old girl during a night of partying in August. Maybe most unsettling of all: The girl may never have learned of the night's events had they not been so diligently tweeted, YouTubed, and Instagrammed.
The boys—Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16 years old—were arrested Aug. 22, 11 days after the alleged incidents. They are currently awaiting trial, which is scheduled for Feb. 13. The girl is not a Steubenville High School student; according to the Times , she attended "a smaller, religion-based school."
Here's how the Times reconstructs the night in question, based on testimony from a preliminary hearing:
At the parties, the girl had so much to drink that she was unable to recall much from that night, and nothing past midnight, the police said. The girl began drinking early on, according to an account that the police pieced together from witnesses, including two of the three Steubenville High athletes who testified in court in October. By 10 or 10:30 that night, it was clear that the dark-haired teenager was drunk because she was stumbling and slurring her words, witnesses testified.
Some people at the party taunted her, chanted and cheered as a Steubenville High baseball player dared bystanders to urinate on her, one witness testified.
After the second party, the girl "needed help" walking, per the Times . She vomited outside and remained in the street, topless, according to one witness. Another recalled Mays and Richmond holding her hair back.
Afterward, they headed to the home of one football player who has now become a witness for the prosecution. That player told the police that he was in the back seat of his Volkswagen Jetta with Mays and the girl when Mays proceeded to flash the girl's breasts and penetrate her with his fingers, while the player videotaped it on his phone. The player, who shared the video with at least one person, testified that he videotaped Mays and the girl "because he was being stupid, not making the right choices." He said he later deleted the recording.
The girl "was just sitting there, not really doing anything," the player testified. "She was kind of talking, but I couldn't make out the words that she was saying."
At that third party, the girl could not walk on her own and vomited several times before toppling onto her side, several witnesses testified. Mays then tried to coerce the girl into giving him oral sex, but the girl was unresponsive, according to the player who videotaped Mays and the girl.
The player said he did not try to stop it because "at the time, no one really saw it as being forceful."
At one point, the girl was on the ground, naked, unmoving and silent, according to two witnesses who testified. Mays, they said, had exposed himself while he was right next to her.
Richmond was behind her, with his hands between her legs, penetrating her with his fingers, a witness said.
"I tried to tell Trent to stop it," another athlete, who was Mays's best friend, testified. "You know, I told him, ‘Just wait — wait till she wakes up if you're going to do any of this stuff. Don't do anything you're going to regret.' "
He said Mays answered: "It's all right. Don't worry."
That boy took a photograph of what Mays and Richmond were doing to the girl. He explained in court how he wanted her to know what had happened to her, but he deleted it from his phone, he testified, after showing it to several people.
Some photographs taken that night did escape into social media. The one below was captured by the crime blog Prinnified.com; it shows two boys holding the incapacitated girl by her wrists and ankles:
Prinnified also published a YouTube video, since deleted, in which a former Steubenville High School baseball player named Michael Nodianos apparently talks about the accuser and refers to her as a "dead girl." The site also published a screenshot of tweets that party attendees (including Nodianos) had sent out about the girl:
That last one was retweeted by at least four people, one of them Mays. Nodianos also tweeted, "Song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana."
The girl learned what had happened later, through the detritus of the night's activities still floating around social media and through subsequent newspaper coverage.
That there was much local coverage at all seems like a small miracle, based on what one source familiar with the Steubenville media told us. The source knew of one instance in which a higher-up ordered a local reporter not to touch the story, apparently out of deference to Steubenville's beloved football program.
Mays, a quarterback, and Richmond, a wide receiver, weren't allowed to play this year. But the school's head football coach, Reno Saccoccia—who testified as a character witness on behalf of Mays and Richmond—decided not to discipline any of the other players who testified to witnessing the assault until there were only two games left in the season. When pressed on this by the Times , the coach became combative:
Saccoccia, pronounced SOCK-otch, told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.
Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, Saccoccia said he did not "do the Internet," so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.
"You made me mad now," he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.
Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: "You're going to get yours. And if you don't get yours, somebody close to you will."
Rape Crisis is 40 – and the need is greater than ever
Sexual violence is taken much more seriously than it was when the first Rape Crisis centres started to spring up. But, four decades on, is there more that can be done?
by Kira Cochrane
Lee Eggleston was 14, and still at school, when she first heard about the Rape Crisis movement in the late 1970s. She had joined a CND group in Thurrock, Essex, from which a group of women soon branched off, including her and Sheila Coates, a young mother of two. "At one meeting," says Coates, "all the women were talking about sexual violence, and it was quite a shock. We'd all known each other for some time, but no one was aware that everyone in the room had had something happen, be it flashing or rape. No one had told anybody."
Soon afterwards, they went on a group outing to a late-night showing at the local cinema, wearing their CND badges. After the lights went down, the harassment began. "The guys behind us started touching our hair, stroking our backs," says Coates.
"One straddled me and said he wanted to fuck me with a cruise missile," says Eggleston.
"In the end, this group of young guys was asked to leave," says Coates, "and we thought, great, when we leave, they'll be outside … We were trying to work out how we were all going to get home, because these guys were so angry." Thankfully, nothing happened, but when the women met up again they started talking about how they would have been treated if it had. In all likelihood, they would have been asked why they were out in the middle of the night, what they had done to aggravate the men, what they were wearing. Eggleston says this group experience was crucial because it made them understand sexual violence as something more than simply an attack on the individual, which could be solved with an individual response. "The thread of our lives is that this is a collective experience," she says.
A Rape Crisis centre had been set up in London in 1976, and the Thurrock group contacted it, visited it and then decided to set up their own. They spent three years training and organising, before opening on 3 March 1984, in a small room, in a shared building. All the staff were volunteers. They had a phoneline for women in the area who had experienced sexual violence, and although they advertised it, for the first six weeks there were very few calls, says Coates. "We thought: 'Oh well, no one wants to use us.' And then – boosh! – we were inundated."
They were surprised how many calls were from women who had experienced sexual abuse as children; these soon accounted for at least a third. And they hadn't realised how many would want to speak face to face. They counselled these women on the stairs, in the garden, in their cars. Women were contacting them from outside the local area, and in 1986, the name of the service widened to become South Essex Rape and Incest Crisis Centre (Sericc).
That's still its name today, and I meet Coates and Eggleston at the unassuming building that houses it; beautifully designed inside, with some dedicated, sound-proofed counselling rooms. The pair continue to run Sericc, and also Rape Crisis England and Wales, the umbrella organisation that links more than 50 affiliated member centres – Coates is head of policy and strategy, while Eggleston is the chair.
It's 40 years since Rape Crisis began in the US, moving quickly to the UK, and the need for it is as pressing as ever. In its first year, Sericc took 50 or 60 calls. Last year, it took around 10,000, as well as undertaking 2,194 counselling sessions and 1,361 advocacy hours. The latter are necessary, Coates explains, because "when women contact us, a lot of them have complex needs, which can be around rent arrears, eviction, debt, child protection issues, children in care, learning difficulties, drug and alcohol problems, complex, long-term mental health issues. All that has to be stabilised before you can engage in counselling." They are currently working on a project that addresses the problems facing women with learning disabilities, who are "not getting any justice at all", she says. "They report, but it doesn't go to court because it's assumed they're not going to make a good witness."
In 2011-12, the national Rape Crisis helpline – largely unfunded, and staffed by volunteers – took more than 53,000 calls. This year, between April and September alone, individual Rape Crisis centres and the national helpline combined have taken 63,000 calls. That was before the Jimmy Savile story broke. The ITV documentary about his crimes, Exposure, was shown on 3 October, and afterwards calls to Rape Crisis spiked by 80%.
That wasn't a shock. They see a rush of calls whenever sexual violence is mentioned in the media. But what makes the last few months especially significant, says Eggleston, is that "you can turn on the TV and sexual violence is the top three stories [on the news]. I don't think that's ever happened in our 40-year history." The effect on those who have been abused is obvious in the police figures reported last week: a fourfold increase in reports to the Metropolitan police's child abuse investigation teams; a 100% increase in reports to Operation Sapphire, the Met's specialist rape investigation team, compared with this period last year.
Often adult women don't report to the police – or speak to anyone about their experience – "until there's a trigger in their life", says Eggleston. "It could be the birth of a grandchild, or their own child, it could be that their child reaches the age they were when it happened, or they might have knowledge of the offender being around children. Sometimes it's exactly what has happened with Savile, where there's the death of the offender and women feel free to speak."
Rape Crisis centres have always provided women-only space; not necessarily "dedicated space", says Eggleston, "but at certain times of day". Women tell them this is important, that it is easier for them to call in the knowledge that another woman will answer. But three-quarters of the centres in England and Wales work with men and boys too – both survivors of sexual violence and those supporting women survivors – and all are happy to refer people of any gender to specialist services that can help.
Over the years, Sericc has had to shift the age of those they work with downwards from 13 to four, "and we're saying we can't work with anyone younger," says Coates. "We have had referrals of a mother with a three-month-old baby, and a year-old baby, and we can work with the mother, but we don't know how to work with the child. You can't." At the other end of the age range, they have worked with women in their 80s and 90s, up to 94. Older women are "reporting rape by care workers, health professionals", says Coates. "It's often quite recent sexual assault."
When the centres started opening in the 70s, they took calls from women who had been raped during the second world war, who had never spoken about it before. Kate Cook, co-author of Rape Crisis: Responding to Sexual Violence, who has volunteered on the phoneline extensively over the years, says some of the most difficult calls "are the ones where someone is saying the least. They're so upset, hurting so much, that it's very hard for them to speak."
Helen Jones, Cook's co-author, volunteered at a centre in Merseyside during the mid-90s and says one of the most affecting calls she ever took was just a few minutes long, one Sunday afternoon. "This voice said: 'Hello, dear, I don't know whether I've phoned the right number or not.' So I said: 'Well, this is Rape Crisis and it's for people who have been sexually abused at any point in their lives.' She said: 'Yes, dear, that'll be right. Well, you know, when I was little, when I was 12, my father did something he shouldn't and he raped me.' She was quite forthright about it. She said: 'He raped me and I've never told anybody and I'm 80 years old now and I just wanted to tell somebody before I died.' And so I said to her: 'Well, I'm ever so glad that you phoned me and that I'm the person who you shared that with.' And so she said: 'Yes, so am I. Thank you, dear. Goodbye.'"
Rape Crisis gives women the chance to speak about what happened to them, without judgment, without pressure to report to the police, and with a guarantee that they will be believed. The movement started with women speaking about their experiences in consciousness-raising groups in the early 70s, including one attended by Noreen Connell, who was then a member of New York Radical Feminists. "Women remembered being raped or fondled when they were children … and their parents had made light of it," she says; the women didn't see themselves as victims, so much as angry citizens. "They felt they had been treated worse than the rapist, and grilled for the delight of police officers, and this seemed to be a common experience."
Rape became the subject of the first ever feminist speakout. At St Clement's, a small church in Manhattan, in January 1971, 40 women stood before an audience of 300 and talked about their experiences. Some of the stories are collected in Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women, which Connell co-edited. They include a woman who was gang raped by three men, then chided by the police for being too coherent, too calm, when she reported. Her demeanour meant they didn't readily believe her. There was a woman raped by her husband; a woman whose teenage brother assaulted her, and whose mother simply responded that the same thing had happened to her, as a child, but worse, and she had learned to lock her bedroom door if her brother was home; a woman raped by an intruder, who was asked by the police precisely how long the man's penis was, and told by the doctor she couldn't possibly have been raped as her vagina wasn't ripped. The last policeman this woman saw during the rape investigation asked her for a date.
The writer Susan Brownmiller helped organise the speakout, and says she found it astonishing. She went on to speak at the New York Radical Feminist Conference on Rape in April 1971, and then to write the groundbreaking book Against Our Will. When it was published in the mid-70s, "it was reviewed in the Sunday Times," she says, "and the reviewer said: 'This is a book by an American journalist about an American crime.'" This outlook was echoed by other British critics.
One of the first Rape Crisis centres opened in Washington DC in July 1972. Liz O'Sullivan was involved in setting it up, and says they were surprised by the stories of incest, domestic violence and marital rape. "When you look at movements," she says, "they permeate the whole society, so they change the dialogue." The conversations that arose through Rape Crisis allowed for the broadening of definitions of sexual assault and rape, to recognise the gamut of offences, and how they affected different groups. In 1980, for instance, as recorded in Maria Bevacqua's book Rape on the Public Agenda, the Washington DC Rape Crisis centre hosted the first National Conference on Third World Women and Violence; the centre also worked with men who were incarcerated locally, who had formed a group called Prisoners Against Rape.
In the 40 years since the movement started, rape in marriage has been recognised in law in the UK, and oral and anal penetration have been included in the definition of rape – the latter as a result of strong, successful lobbying from gay rights groups. But the chances of victims being believed, getting proper support and securing justice remain low. According to the Home Office , more than 300,000 women in England and Wales are sexually assaulted and 60,000 raped each year, yet a report by Baroness Stern in 2010 estimated only 11% of rapes came to the attention of the police. Of those rapes that are reported, a very small proportion – usually quoted at around 6% – end in a conviction on that charge. This is largely due to cases failing to get as far as court. Of those that do reach court, 62.5% end in a conviction of rape, serious sexual assault or a violent crime, and 40% in a conviction of rape. But the process is so lengthy, and so bruising, that many of those who report drop out, and others have their case dropped by the authorities.
Jan McLeod started volunteering at Rape Crisis Glasgow in the late 70s, when she was still a student, and is now on Rape Crisis Scotland's board of directors. She says that, back then, the police often aggressively questioned women who reported rape and would justify this by saying: "We have to be tough, because they'll get asked worse in court." There was some truth in this. She remembers circulating a petition regarding "the situation of a young woman who had been raped, it must have been by more than one man, inside a motor vehicle. The jury made her re-enact it, because the defence was saying it would be impossible for one person to rape another in this confined space. So they actually, in the trial, made her get into the back of the same car, and lie in the position."
In 1982, Roger Graef's BBC documentary A Complaint of Rape caused a furore regarding the treatment of rape complainants; the fly-on-the-wall programme showed a woman reporting a rape by two men, to which police responded with aggression and incredulity. This is "the biggest lot of bollocks I've ever heard", said one. The woman was accused of being a willing party, of not being upset enough, was asked if she had ever "been on the game" and how many sexual partners she'd had.
In its wake, it was no surprise to Eggleston and Coates in 1984 that most women didn't want to report. When they supported those who complained, "the police could be quite antagonistic," says Coates. But that began to change. These days, they often work closely with the police, and have had good experiences. But "I think it's still a bit luck of the draw," says Coates. "There are some officers who are fantastic, others who are not."
That was demonstrated in recent cases involving the Metropolitan police's Sapphire unit, supposedly the gold standard of rape investigation. In September, detective constable Ryan Coleman-Farrow pleaded guilty to 13 counts of misconduct after failing to investigate 10 rape cases and three sexual assaults. They included a 96-year-old woman allegedly raped by her son. Last week, in a separate case, the Met paid out £15,000 to a woman who reported rape in 2005, when she was 15, after it was claimed a Sapphire officer had failed to investigate properly.
Still, if women didn't feel confident reporting to the police, says Eggleston, the numbers would be even lower at that stage. What can be more problematic is the journey to court, which can easily take two years, "and we're saying unless that changes, the attrition rate will never change". Sericc supported a 13-year-old girl last year, who reported her case to the police in September. It wasn't until Christmas Day itself that they finally interviewed her.
Four years ago, Rape Crisis England and Wales faced a crisis of its own; 30 affiliated centres had closed since 1984, down from 68 to 38 in all. Of those left, 69% did not have sustainable funding. To the surprise of Eggleston and Coates, that picture changed when the coalition government came to power. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats promised up to 15 new Rape Crisis centres before the last general election, and by the end of January 2013 they will have delivered. That figure does not include the three new centres that have opened in London; and three-year funding has also been set up to make all the existing centres sustainable.
In those terms, the picture is improved. But the national organisation, Rape Crisis England and Wales, is seriously underfunded, as is the national helpline, which runs on a voluntary basis. There is no money for the very basics you would expect, such as the ability to expand the hours the phonelines stay open, reduce the waiting lists for counselling sessions, and reduce the postcode lottery for services (Wales, for example, has only one affiliated centre). There is certainly no funding for the campaigns they would love to run, which could target public attitudes. In 2005, an Amnesty International poll found 26% of people thought a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing revealing clothing; 22% held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners. In 2010, a survey by Haven, a service for people who have been raped, found a third of women polled thought a victim bore some responsibility if they had gone to their attacker's house for a drink.
When they try to raise money, the donations are generally minimal. They suspect this might be partly because people assume the organisation is fully funded already, but the issue seems to go deeper. The organisers of some of the country's major telethons have told them donations plummet when they run segments on violence against women.
They need more people to volunteer, and not just for the helplines, but accountants, solicitors, journalists and other professionals who could support management teams. They are trying to train women so they understand the history of the movement, so the torch can be passed to staff who continue its ethos. I wonder if the work ever upsets them. Eggleston says every woman who comes in is a survivor. "They've got to the door, and that fills us with hope." Sometimes, says McLeod, "you can see the change in a woman who comes to speak to you, just instantaneously, where she thinks, it's not just me, there are other people in the world who know what I'm talking about."
Back in the early 70s, when rape – and certainly child sexual abuse – was barely ever spoken about, the birth of the Rape Crisis movement felt as if "the world had cracked open", says Connell. "Now institutions such as the Catholic church are being revealed, there's the BBC scandal, and in the United States there was Penn State, a college where they tolerated a pederast [football coach], and an assistant coach actually saw him raping a child." Savile has been accused of 31 rapes, seven men have been questioned as part of the ongoing investigation Operation Yewtree, and there is a stream of allegations regarding the late MP Cyril Smith. Could this be a watershed moment?
"I hope so," says Coates. She has tried, in the past, to raise the subject of adults who were sexually assaulted as children, "and no one's ever wanted to listen. Now they are. But whether that is sustained or not, I don't know. It will be interesting to look back in a year, 18 months, and ask: has anything actually changed?"
The Rape Crisis national helpline is open daily 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm. Call 0808 802 9999.
Shelter Opens for Sex Trafficking Victims
by Megan Lynch
St. Louis, Mo. (KMOX) – Experts believe there's a thriving underground trade in the St. Louis area – children being forced to sell themselves for sex.
“If you know where to go and you check it out online there's just page, after page, after page of…let's put it this way…potential victims,” says Pat Bradley, President of International Crisis Aid.
Today the group opens it's first shelter for victims of sex trafficking in the region, the location kept secret for security reasons.
“In here we have 11 bedrooms set up. Each girl gets her own bedroom.” Bradley gives a tour of one wing of the donated building. More than 200 volunteers spent the last six weeks painting, refurbishing, redecorating, and reupholstering.
There are two sides. One wing of the building is for girls under 18, and the other for young women 18 to 24.
At the center of each side is a great room, with couches and chairs, and a massive Christmas tree ringed with gift baskets to welcome any new residents. ”This living area here would be where we would have group counseling and social time,” Bradley explains.
In each small bedroom there's fresh, new, feminine bedding and a big basket of personal care items. ”Our theme is butterflies. The reason we want the butterfly theme is the whole thought of renewal.”
Experts say victims of sex trafficking are often lured with the promise of a better life, then kept captive with threats, violence and drugs.
They're often shuttled from town to town to evade authorities.
“Tonight some girl who's 17 or 18 years old is going to be looking at her closet trying to figure out, ‘what can I put on to wear to attract men, because I have to make x amount of dollars.'”
Bradley says the hope is to reunite many with their families, but that's not possible for all. ”Studies indicate 30 percent of the girls were put into that lifestyle by their families, so those girls will have to have a different kind of a program.” He expects the residents will stay an average of a year.
Click here for more information on International Crisis Aid
County adopts resolution addressing sex trafficking
When one thinks of criminal activity in Redwood County, the issue of sex trafficking is not likely going to rise to the top of anyone's list, yet in reality the dangers of this crime involving people from rural areas of the state are on the rise.
by Troy Krause
When one thinks of criminal activity in Redwood County, the issue of sex trafficking is not likely going to rise to the top of anyone's list.
Yet, in reality, the dangers of this crime involving people from rural areas of the state are on the rise.
Accepting that truth was demonstrated this past Tuesday when the Redwood County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution that urges the state legislature to amend what is known as the Safe Harbor Act in Minnesota.
That resolution would redefine all children under the age of 18 who have been involved in sex-trafficking as victims, not as juvenile offenders.
While Redwood County has not recently charged any sex trafficking crimes, Steven Collins, Redwood County attorney said the action to adopt this resolution is a step in the right direction, because it is sending a different message to those who truly are victims.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, as many as 30,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States.
In Minnesota, ac-cording to data compiled by The Advocates of Human Rights and the Office of Justice Programs of the De-partment of Public Safety there were 124 girls sold over the Internet during the month of August 2010 alone, with the average age of a girl's entry into prostitution or sex trafficking being 12-14.
No, said Collins, the issue of sex trafficking in the U.S. is not limited to those stories of groups who bring girls over from third-world countries anymore.
Over the past decade the number of sex trafficking incidents being traced back to Internet sites.
Yes, said Collins, there are issues of children from our area who run away from home, and there are times when those young people who end up in larger communities end up involved in things they never would have imagined.
At times, Collins added, children meet predators over the Internet, and those children end up in sexual encounters with those who are adults. We all recognize this as a crime, but Collins said this in a way can be defined as a sex trafficking crime.
“The Internet is a fantastic tool,”Collins said, adding, however, issues like these demonstrate the dark side of its capabilities.
The reality is there are people who are using the Internet to exploit children, and what the county has demonstrated through this resolution it is not going to consider those children who have been exploited as del-inquents but as the victims they are.
What makes Red-wood County unique when it comes to sex trafficking issues, said Collins, is its diversity, as the interconnectedness of cultures, be they Hmong or Native American, make children more susceptible to this crime.
Many of the studies used to create the resolution adopted by the county come from or-ganizations such as the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center, which show just how real this issue is in rural America.
Collins said the message children who are in sex trafficking situations or have been exploited in this way can know through this resolution they can contact human services, law enforcement or even his office without the fear of being charged with a crime.
“We know there are victims in Redwood County,” said Collins, adding he emphasized to parents the importance of keeping an eye on the kinds of things their children are doing and who they are calling on their cell phones.
Sex trafficking is a crime that occurs throughout the state and impacts children of diverse backgrounds.
Redwood County has in adopting this resolution demonstrated it is going to be a true place of safe harbor to those who are the victims of this heinous crime.
Local Man Sentenced To Seven Life Terms For Sexual Abuse Of Children
WACO -- A Waco man pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexually abusing children and was sentenced to seven life terms Monday.
State District Judge Ralph Strother sentenced Jack Edward Stone to seven concurrent life terms Monday after Stone pleaded guilty to four counts of indecency with a child by contact, two counts of failure to register as a sex offender, and one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Stone was indicted in September for indecency with a child by contact and for failing to register as a sex offender.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said the charges stemmed from the abuse of three different children on at least two separate dates in June.
Arrest affidavits showed that the charges stemmed from the sexual abuse of two brothers, both younger than 8, at a home in south Waco.
Stone was previously arrested in connection with similar incidents in Bellmead, according to Bellmead Police Detective Michael Miller.
The Bellmead incident involved a 4-year-old gir
Stone, according to his criminal record, already has served a 10-year prison sentence after his conviction in 1988 of abusing a 3-year-old.
He won't be eligible for parole for 30 years.
“Our community is now safe from this sexual predator due to the courage of the three child victims as well as the tireless efforts of Detective Anne Cyr from the Waco Police Department and Detective Haywood Sawyer from the Bellmead Police Department," said McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna.
Child abuse and intervention
When a child dies, it's tragic. When a child is slain, it's horrific.
It doesn't matter whether such senseless violence happens on the unfathomable scale we saw last week in Connecticut, or whether a single child dies far away from television cameras and national attention, as 7-year-old Las Vegas resident Roderick "RJ" Arrington did last month. There is shock. There is anger. There is grasping for understanding. And there are demands for accountability and action to try to stop it from ever happening again.
RJ's death struck a chord in Southern Nevada because the system in place to protect him failed.
On Nov. 28, according to Las Vegas police, RJ went to school the day after being beaten by his stepfather, 34-year-old Markiece Palmer, for lying about reading a Bible verse. The administration at Roundy Elementary School suspected abuse and called the Department of Family Services hotline. However, the social workers, who handle about 3,000 calls of suspected abuse each month, didn't respond to the call.
So RJ was sent home. Hours later, police said, he was whipped and beaten into a coma by Palmer. He was hospitalized the next morning with severe brain swelling and died Nov. 30.
"I want answers. I don't want to let this die," George Roach, RJ's paternal grandfather, told the Review-Journal last week from his Bloomington, Ill., home. "If a teacher had responded the right way, he would have never gotten killed."
But what exactly represents "the right way" is subject to debate. Yes, teachers and school employees are mandatory reporters, meaning they are required by law to report suspicions of abuse to authorities. And that's precisely what happened. Las Vegas police concluded school officials met their legal obligations in calling the child abuse hotline.
In an April 20 memo, Superintendent Dwight Jones encouraged principals to call district police if child welfare officials aren't responsive to abuse suspicions. "School police officers are more accessible to take these reports," Mr. Jones wrote. The school district and Family Services officials are reviewing their protocols to determine whether more could have been done to save RJ.
Educators are not investigators. And they're not judges. The child welfare system already possesses sweeping powers to revoke custody of children and place them in foster care, and educators face increasing responsibilities and pressures in delivering social services to children. Giving teachers and principals the power to keep children from their families is not a viable option.
It goes without saying that if school officials believed RJ's life was in danger, they would have done whatever they could to protect him. But no one could have predicted RJ would be mortally wounded hours after leaving school that day.
Ultimately, we rely on people in positions of trust to make informed judgments. Tragically, sometimes they're wrong, even when they're right. Tragically, sometimes there are no answers that make sense of it all.
Connecticut school shooting: Obama says nation not doing enough to protect kids
Digital First Media staff and wire reports
NEWTOWN, Conn. - Nearly three days after a devastating elementary school shooting that killed 20 first-graders, residents in this close-knit New England town visited makeshift memorials and attended Sunday church services as the nation's attention turned to a swirling debate over gun control and mental health.
President Obama came to visit, a rarity in Connecticut that boosted spirits ever so slightly on what otherwise was a solemn, gray and rainy day in picturesque Newtown. Funeral announcements trickled out, at least one local flower shop ran out of flowers, and the school district announced the surviving children would return to school in a temporary building on Wednesday.
Crowds gathered to welcome him and to try to gain entrance to Newtown High School's auditorium where a multi-faith vigil was held. Obama said that the heroic teachers and children of Sandy Hook Elementary School responded as we all hope we would, but, apparently alluding to the gun and mental health care debates, said that the nation is not doing enough to protect its children.
"Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children, year after year, is somehow the price of our freedom?" Obama asked as many in the audience cried. "We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this."
The speech was given hours before the beginning of the first day of school since the massacre, and the mayor of nearby Danbury, Conn. announced a police officer would be posted at every elementary school on Monday morning, and other towns did the same. School security plans were re-examined as anxious parents thought twice all over again.
"I actually am very worried," said parent Megan Ifill, who lives in nearby New Haven and has two school-aged children. "There are so many troubled people out there."
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., further stoked the gun debate that has been raging since the shooting by promising to introduce an assault-weapons ban on the first day of the new Congress. Since the previous ban expired in 2004, a dozen unsuccessful attempts have been made to reinstate it.
Gun rights advocates like Scott Wilson, head of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, said they hoped the debate over gun control could wait: "Right now, we wish to express our heartfelt sympathies to the families, victims and people of Newtown, Conn."
Amid the renewed debate, makeshift memorials for the 27 dead - eight boys, 12 girls and seven women - sprouted up all over, and out-of-state visitors with no connection to the town or the dead came to pay their respects. The mourning was disrupted momentarily by more chaos when St. Rose of Lima's church was evacuated in the middle of mass after someone called the church, telling a priest "I'm coming to kill, I'm coming to kill."
Authorities announced Sunday that the alleged shooter's mother, Nancy Lanza, died of four gunshots to her head while she slept Friday morning. Police sources said suspect Adam Lanza took his mother's car and guns that may have belonged to her to the school. There, he fired through the school's glass door to get inside and was met by the school's principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and school psychologist, Mary Scherlach, whom he promptly shot to death. The Hartford Courant reported he then turned left, bypassed one classroom full of students and entered another, shooting and killing all 14 children and two teachers inside.
"There were 14 coats hanging there and 14 bodies. He killed them all," an unnamed law enforcement officer told the Courant.
Next, the gunman moved on to teacher Victoria Soto's classroom, where she and six children became victims of a chilling episode of randomness. Seven of Soto's pupils made it into a closet unharmed, the Courant reported. Police began to arrive, and Adam Lanza shot himself in the head.
State Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver said all of the dead were struck more than once, and most were killed by bullets from the assault rifle Lanza was carrying. Hundreds of unused bullets were also found at the school. Carver's staff worked overnight on Friday to autopsy all of the children.
"More than one person stepped out for a while to sit in the locker room and cry but we all stuck it out 'till the end," he said.
The staggering list of the names of the dead was being poured over Sunday as Internet memorials popped up for many of the victims. They included Hochsprung, school psychologist Sherloch, and four teachers who were called heroes. Many families of the dead, especially those with dead children, quickly issued statements asking the media for privacy, and still others talked with reporters about their grief for their lost children, including the father of Emilie Parker, who gave a tearful message to cameras on Saturday: "I'm so blessed to be her dad," he said.
The shooting Friday began just after 9:30 a.m. in the school about 60 miles northeast of New York City, setting off a nightmarish scene in which hundreds of students and teachers hid under desks and in closets, some too scared to unlock doors even for the police. Children were told to close their eyes as they were led out of the school past bodies.
"I told them that I loved them and that they would be OK," said one of the teachers who locked the door to her classroom when the shooting began. Some teachers said they told cowering students that there were bad guys in the building, and they needed to wait for the good guys.
The toll at Sandy Hook, 26 students and adults, made it the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, where 32 were killed.
A number of reports have changed since the shooting began. In early and widespread confusion, Adam Lanza's brother, Ryan, was initially named as the shooter by unnamed police sources. There were also multiple reports that Nancy Lanza worked in some capacity at the school, but doubt was cast on those reports Saturday afternoon and officials told the Associated Press they haven't established a connection between his mother and the school. Connecticut's governor said he believed Adam Lanza attended the school at one point, but police have not confirmed. They may be investigating whether Lanza had an altercation with staffers at the school on Thursday, NBC News reported, but police have not confirmed.
Police Lt. J. Paul Vance warned that incorrect information about the shootings was being distributed, including purposefully fraudulent photos that he promised police would pursue as criminal activity.
"All information relative to this case is coming from these microphones, and any information coming from other sources cannot be confirmed and is found in many cases to be inaccurate," Vance said.
Authorities have offered few official details on exactly how the attack unfolded, saying they planned to reveal a motive later. But police radio traffic indicated the shooting lasted only a few minutes before police arrived. A custodian ran through the halls warning of a gunman on the loose, and someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack - and perhaps saving many lives - by letting them hear the hysteria going on in the school office, a teacher said. Later, multiple guns were found, among them a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car. Vance said at a Saturday morning news conference that investigators were tracking the history of the weapons and there were multiple media reports that the guns were registered to Nancy Lanza. There were reports that Lanza might have tried to buy a rifle several days before the shooting, but did not succeed.
A law enforcement official said Adam Lanza was known to have some kind of personality disorder and was possibly on the autism spectrum, but he did not have a criminal record. His older brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza of Hoboken, N.J., was questioned but was not believed to have any involvement in the rampage. Investigators still were searching his computers and phone records.
The elder brother told law enforcement he had not been in touch with the alleged shooter since about 2010. Peter Lanza, the father of Adam and Ryan, was informed about the shooting Friday afternoon by a reporter who was waiting outside his home in nearby Stamford. He and Nancy Lanza filed for divorce in 2008. On Saturday night, he released a statement saying he and his family were grieving for the victims.
"Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We, too, are asking why," he wrote.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who was the one to tell some of the parents that their children were dead, broached the simmering gun issue on Sunday morning.
"We're unfortunately a violent society," he said on "Meet the Press." "We don't treat the mentally ill well. We don't reach out to families that are in trouble particularly well. We allowed the assault weapons ban to lapse. There are lots of issues that need to be taken on as a society. Having said that, [Connecticut has] laws that are more aggressive than most states."
On Sunday at church services in Newtown, the Rev. Robert Weiss announced that practice for St. Rose of Lima's church Christmas pageant would continue even though one of the children who was scheduled to play an angel was killed Friday.
At another service at the Newtown United Methodist Church, the Rev. Mel Kawakami said he was angry.
"We've seen this before. We must forgive like before," he said. "But I'm not sure if I'm there yet. The tears are still fresh. The pain is still raw."
Slideshow pictures of the victims
President Obama at Prayer Vigil for Connecticut Shooting Victims: "Newtown, You Are Not Alone"
Ezra Mechaber 12/16
Today, President Obama traveled to Newtown, CT to meet with the families of those who were lost in Friday's tragic shooting, and to thank first responders for their work.
This evening the President spoke at an interfaith vigil for families of the victims, and all families from Sandy Hook Elementary School. He offered the love and prayers of a nation grieving alongside Newtown:
Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we've pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it.
Newtown -- you are not alone.
As these difficult days have unfolded, you've also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school's staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate. Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy -- they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances -- with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.
We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they're coming”; “show me your smile.”
And we know that good guys came. The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm's way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.
And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate. So it's okay. I'll lead the way out.”
As a community, you've inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you've looked out for each other, and you've cared for one another, and you've loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, and God's grace, that love will see you through.
President Obama also spoke about the need to engage Americans in efforts to prevent tragedies like the one in Newtown, reiterating that America's first job is caring for our children:
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we're doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we're all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change.
Since I've been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we've hugged survivors. The fourth time we've consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.
Read President Obama's full remarks from the vigil.
Watch President Obama's Friday statement from the Briefing Room.
Trying to Make Sense of Tragedy: Why the Sandy Hook Shooting Is So Painful for All of Us
by Bonnie Rochman
One six-year-old boy who managed to escape from a room where a gunman was shooting at his classmates is apparently afraid of the doorbell. He fears it might be the “bad man” coming to get him, so his parents have put up a sign asking visitors not to ring the bell. Another child, who hid in a school bathroom, is now scared to use the bathroom on his own.
As the mournful facts behind the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School continue to unfold, pictures of most of the bright-eyed, dimpled victims and the adults who died protecting them have made their way online. Young survivors are trying to make sense of the tragedy, posing heart-breaking questions: why did they have to die? Why can't I see them? Does it hurt when you die?
Young kids — all the children in the school were under age 10, and those killed were reported to be 6 and 7 years old — inhabit a very different psychological space from adults and teens. “Little kids see the world in black and white,” says Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist at Duke University's Center for Child and Family Health. “Their world is very literal. There are rules and you can't break rules, but this broke all kinds of rules.”
One of the most sacrosanct maxims is that school is supposed to be a safe place, where learning and exploration are encouraged, says Rahil Briggs, a child psychologist at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx. When kids are attacked when they expect to feel protected, “it's a breakdown in our social fabric.”
(MORE: Am I Safe? Talking to Your Kids About the Sandy Hook School Shooting)
The youngest kids affected — particularly kindergarteners — are just starting to construct logical narratives about things that happen to them. Something as incomprehensible as a school shooting puts them at a disadvantage. “As much as we grapple to try to understand something this overwhelming, they struggle more,” says Briggs. “They are incredibly dependent on their families, their parents, their teachers and their caregivers, who will all have to string together a story to help these children make a little bit of sense about this in a way that is developmentally appropriate.”
The biggest challenge is to restore a sense of safety to children who watched their friends die. One of the young survivors at Sandy Hook lived through the shooting by pretending to be dead and fooling the gunman, according to her pastor. “She ran out of the school building covered from head to toe with blood and the first thing she said to her mom was, Mommy, I'm OK but all my friends are dead,” Pastor Jim Solomon told ABC News.
Death can be a hard concept for very young kids to grasp. For older kids with a more nuanced understanding, what happened at Sandy Hook is unsettling evidence that not everyone dies after living a long and full life. Parents can help by explaining death in a matter-of-fact way, noting that people who die are not in pain; they're not hungry or thirsty because their bodies no longer work. While they're no longer around to see or play with, they should be remembered and talked about.
Parents can also encourage this remembrance by supporting children's natural instinct to help others; kids may want to draw a picture for the parents of a friend who died or write a thank you note to their teacher or visit the police officers who helped usher them to safety. “They will never get over this, but you find ways to get through this,” says Gurwitch. “That is the goal: to get through this.”
It's also important for parents to appreciate that getting through a traumatic experience happens in different ways for different kids. It can be normal for misbehavior to peak in the coming days and weeks; it's a way for children to express their fear and anxiety. Experts advise maintaining family rules — if it wasn't okay to hit your brother a week ago, it's not okay to do it now — while being extra-compassionate. “Parents should be more patient because children are stressed,” says Gurwitch.
And it's not just the children who are feeling the strain. When alleged gunman Adam Lanza, 20, took aim at two classrooms full of first-graders, it upended the belief that something like this wouldn't happen to children so young. Elementary school is where we gently cocoon our baby-talking 5-year-olds, some of whom still cry for mommy during their first few weeks, as they take their first steps toward becoming big kids. As parents, we think that elementary school is safe.
Alas, they're not. In 2000, a 6-year-old boy shot and killed a 6-year-old girl at their school in Michigan. In 2010, a special-education teacher was killed at a Tacoma, Wash., elementary school; earlier this year, an 8-year-old in Bremerton, Wash., was critically wounded by a classmate. And last year, a Houston kindergartener injured himself and two other children when he brought a gun to school.
“When something like this happens, it's a violation of our expectations of how things should be and how we should treat each other,” says Emanuel Maidenberg, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA who specializes in anxiety. “It's even more disturbing because it violates our basic fundamental values that children are to be protected and cherished.”
Children, for all their I-can-do-it-myself mentality, are incredibly dependent on the adults in their lives to take care of them. When tragedy strikes and we are unable to protect them, it's a crisis for everyone. “Children are relatively helpless and they rely on us to help make their world safe,” says Briggs. “It's especially heartbreaking when we can't.”
In the days after the Oklahoma City bombing, which leveled a daycare and splashed heartbreaking images of bloodied toddlers across newspapers' front pages, many parents of surviving children reported that their kids would no longer stay in their own beds at night. The children had a harder time falling asleep and a harder time staying asleep; when they awoke in the dark, they climbed under their parents' blankets for comfort. At a different time, those parents might have marched their kids right back to their own beds — but they didn't. “Many, many parents wanted them in their beds so they could hold them and touch them and know that they have the blessing of being able to hold their child at night,” says Gurwitch.
It's easy to imagine that Sandy Hook parents — and even those far away who didn't directly experience tragedy — are now feeling the same.
Am I Safe? Talking to Your Kids About the Sandy Hook School Shooting
by Bonnie Rochman
Across America, parents are taking a big breath before attempting one of the more difficult conversations they will have with their children: explaining how tragedies such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School can happen.
It's hard to distill the Connecticut tragedy for little kids when it doesn't even make sense to adults. But at dinnertime, bedtime, during carpool and everywhere in between, children will be turning to mom and dad for reassurance that they are safe.
“Tell them the truth, in their language,” says Emanuel Maidenberg, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA who specializes in anxiety. “Let them know that this is something that doesn't happen very often and they are safe.”
Experts vary on how proactive parents should be: some recommend against bringing up the subject unless curious or frightened children ask, although most advise parents to initiate a conversation. Either way, the key is to reassure kids and answer their questions without providing information overload. Be honest, keeping in mind your child's age, adjusting your explanations to your children's ability to understand. And continue with your family's regular routine, advises Maidenberg. “Most young kids don't have the skills to put their feelings into words so encourage them to talk about what they feel and name their emotions,” says Maidenberg.
It's normal for kids who hear about what happened to feel stressed and anxious, says Kenneth Dodge, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University, especially since the shootings occurred at school. But despite the intense coverage that school shootings receive, schools are, in fact, some of the safest places for young children. The most recent statistics from 2010 show that 17 children were killed in U.S. schools — less than 2% of child homicides that year, according to David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. The figures are reassuring, to some extent, but the drama of a mass calamity is impossible to ignore.
“You can say to your kids, Just because this happened at one school doesn't mean it's going to happen at your school. I'm really comfortable and confident about your school,” says Dodge. “It's natural to feel anxious, but most kids will get over it on their own.”
Parents can help by curbing any tendency to overshare; save the in-depth discussions for grown-up company. “You don't want to tell kids too much,” says Rahil Briggs, a child psychologist at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx. Any amount of exposure to scary news about the school shooting can potentially lead to clingy behavior, irritability or loss of appetite. Children also express feelings through play so it wouldn't be unusual for them to use art or Legos to capture their thoughts. Briggs was a graduate student at New York University on 9/11; in the weeks after the attacks, she visited various schools where she watched children as they sketched images of buildings falling or airplanes on fire. “They would draw picture after picture,” she says.
That's a healthy way of coping with disaster. Most children will ask some questions about what happened in Connecticut, draw some pictures, inquire about what it means to be dead — and move on. For those who seem fixated on the details and worried about their safety even after several weeks go by, it's a good idea to seek advice from a pediatrician or psychologist.
It's also a good idea to empower kids who feel helpless by brainstorming ways to be useful. Have your kids write letters to the students at Sandy Hook (912 Dickinson Dr., Sandy Hook, CT 06482), suggests Dodge. Make signs of support. It will help up shore up morale in Newtown, Conn., and make your kids feel useful, which in turn relieves some of the stress and fear they are feeling.
Kids, of course, aren't the only ones who need help coping. As a parent of a kindergartener, I dropped by her school after news of the Sandy Hook shooting to give her a kiss and a hug for reasons she did not yet know. While at her school, her teacher — who teared up but quickly regained her composure — handed me a note from the school district's superintendent reiterating exactly what various experts had emphasized. He encouraged parents to turn off the television news and give “honest, simple, brief” answers to any questions that kids ask. “If children keep asking the same question over and over again it is because they are trying to understand, trying to make sense out of the disruption and confusion in their world,” the superintendent wrote.
As parents, we can only try to help that process along, even if we don't have the answers.
Service dog added to 'child-abuse response team' in Vernal
by Geoff Liesik
VERNAL — To the casual eye, it looks like an ordinary house.
Children's artwork hangs on the wall. Colorful toys wait to be played with. There's even a dog curled up on the floor.
But Wink, a 2-year-old black Lab/golden retriever mix, isn't your typical canine. And the place where she spends most of her days isn't your typical house.
"We do everything we can to make kids more comfortable," said Tonya Murray, who is the director of the Uintah/Daggett Children's Justice Center and also serves as Wink's handler.
The state's 15 children's justice centers provide a home-like environment where police and social services investigators can interview children in cases of suspected abuse or neglect. The center in Vernal is the first in Utah to add a full-time service dog, Murray said.
"Wink is our newest child-abuse response team member," she said. "She's been with us since the middle of November, and she's helped us with about 10 kids so far."
Uintah County sheriff's detective Stephanie Cox began interviewing children at the center about four years ago. Since Wink's arrival, she has used the dog in several cases and has noticed a difference.
"I was interviewing probably about a 12- or 13-year-old girl, and she petted the dog the whole time and seemed really calm," Cox said. "It took her mind off the questions I was asking her and probably made it a little bit easier for her."
The children Cox works with aren't the only ones who benefit from Wink's presence at the Children's Justice Center, she said.
"When the dog is in the waiting room with the (child's) family, the family is able to pet the dog, and I think it reassures them a little bit," the detective said.
Wink was donated to the center by California-based Canine Companions for Independence. She was chosen for her calm demeanor, according to Murray, who noted that Wink usually curls up at a child's feet or lays her head in their lap, depending on the need she senses.
The dog's behavior impressed 8th District Juvenile Court Judge Larry Steele so much when he first met her that he recently allowed Wink to accompany a child into his courtroom for a hearing.
"I am perfectly OK with that dog being in the courtroom," Steele said. "The child was focused on the dog, on petting it, and it helped calm her down."
Before going to court, the child had been introduced to Wink at the Children's Justice Center, which maintains dog-free areas where it can serve children who have allergies. The center's staff also doesn't bring Wink into a room until they've confirmed that a child doesn't have a fear of dogs, Murray said.
"She's been really great with all the different kids," she said.
In addition to donating the dog, Canine Companions for Independence also covers the center's liability insurance for using Wink and provides training for Murray so she can keep the dog's skills sharp and identify indicators of stress.
"She's going to be with us for eight to 10 years, so we want to make sure we keep her happy," Murray said.
All other costs associated with adding Wink to the Children's Justice Center team have been covered by private funds.
"She's definitely a valued member of our community," Murray said. "I have a lot of people out here who help us make it happen by giving us donations."
New abuse laws have schools worried about student sex
by Christopher O'Donnell
Two high-school 17-year-old sweethearts whose relationship turns sexual would hardly meet most people's idea of child abuse.
But what if the boy is 17 and the girl just 14? What if the girl is developmentally delayed?
Those are the dilemmas facing teachers, guidance counselors and other school staff after lawmakers this year enacted stricter child abuse reporting laws in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal that rocked Penn State University.
Prior to the new law, which took effect Oct. 1, school staff were required to report to a state hotline only abuse by a caregiver such as a parent or guardian. Now, they must also report if they suspect a child is being sexually abused by another child.
Lawmakers also boosted the punishment for failure to report, from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The severe penalty has some school districts, including Manatee, advising school staff to play it safe and report any instance of under-age sex to the Florida Department of Children and Families hotline, even in the case of overly amorous high-school couples.
Sarasota County Schools have not gone as far but about 2,200 teachers there will be taking a one-hour online training course that includes tips on how to spot unequal or coercive relationships between students.
Manatee officials say the no-risk approach is needed because the new law is ambiguous and requires too much judgment from school employees.
For example, a school counselor or teacher who learns a child is having sex with another student would have to decide if the relationship rises to juvenile sexual abuse, said Manatee County School Board Attorney John Bowen.
Florida law defines juvenile sexual abuse as a relationship that is not consensual, equal or happens as a result of coercion. The law provides seven definitions for the term "consensual."
"How are you going to determine that in each individual case?" Bowen said. "If you don't determine it right, you've committed a felony."
Seminole County Public Schools are also advising staff to report any instances of under-18 sex they learn about.
"The function of school people is not to investigate," said Seminole School Board Attorney Ned Julian. "My advice is you report it, you explain the circumstances and let the people at the hotline decide."
Spike in hotline calls
The fallout could be that the Department of Children and Families is inundated with cases. Officials there were already expecting an extra 40,000 calls per year as a result of the new law.
Hotline staff fielded about 312,000 calls during the 2011-12 financial year that ended June 30.
In the first month after the law took effect, the number of cases reported rose by 4,000, an increase of roughly 15 percent from the normal call volume, said DCF spokeswoman Erin Gillespie.
DCF has added 40 call-takers and seven supervisors to cope, Gillespie said.
Even in cases not reported to DCF, students who engage in sexual acts could be breaking the law, said Lisa Davis, executive director of Insight Counseling Services, which works with sexually abusive youth in Manatee and Sarasota.
Since July 2007, any teenager over the age of 14 who engages in sexual activities is at risk of being required to register as a juvenile sexual offender, she said.
"Now that they're going to be reporting the abuse, we need to do a better job of educating our kids that sex is a criminal matter under the age of 16," Davis said.
'A real fine line'
The law on reporting child abuse applies to all Florida residents but teachers, school nurses and guidance counselors are among the occupations classified by state law as mandatory reporters who must give their names to DCF call-takers.
Even with the change in the law, DCF only investigates abuse by caregivers. Other reports are passed onto local law enforcement agencies.
Gillespie said some cases reported under Manatee's new policy may not meet DCF's criteria for abuse.
"Simply a teen who is having sexual relations on their own accord would not necessarily be investigated," Gillespie said. "I can't say if that is good policy — the schools set their own policies."
Robyn Marinelli, Sarasota supervisor of student services, said it is unlikely the district will go as far as Manatee and report relationships that appear to be consensual.
"It's a real fine line when you cross into that area," she said. "If it's consensual, that would probably be a family matter."
Almost half of Florida high-schoolers say they are sexually active, according to the 2011 Florida Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Often times those students want to confide in an adult other than their parent and turn to people at school.
"I could see it becoming tricky," said Pat Bernhart, Manatee County supervisor of student services who oversees the district's social workers and psychologists. "Kids want to tell you things; they may not view that as some kind of abuse because they entered into a relationship willingly."
Guidance counselors already warn students that they may not be able to keep information confidential if they learn, for example, about a case of child abuse.
But there is now a concern the new reporting requirement will deter more students from confiding in grown-ups at school.
And when they do, the new law gives school staff less chance to use their judgment, Bernhart said.
"We want to do some talking and thinking about the scenarios," she said.
Preconditions for child sexual abuse
One of the most widely discussed theories of child sexual abuse is David Finkelhor's Four Preconditions Model of Child Sexual Abuse.
David Finkelhor is an American Professor of Sociology and Director of Crimes Against Children Research Centre. He claims that sexual abuse results from a perpetrator sequentially overcoming each of four obstacles to the sexually abusive act.
For an act of sexual abuse to occur, the four preconditions must be met:
1. The motivation to sexually abuse a child: This motivation may be a result of a need to feel powerful over someone as compensation for past childhood abuse. Watching child pornography has been implicated.
At risk are people unable to get their sexual needs met in a normal and appropriate way, perhaps through lack of social skills to form intimate relationships with an adult or not being allowed any time to form these relationships as happens with many young house-helps in Kenya.
2. Overcoming internal inhibitors: Internal inhibitions relate to the individuals' personal awareness of the inappropriateness of the sexual contact and their willingness and/or ability to control their impulses towards children.
There is evidence that sexual abusers rationalise their conduct and attempt to provide justification for their sexual activity with children. If that fails, alcohol or drugs work well to overcome this inhibition.
3. Overcoming external inhibitors: An environment that keeps a child safe robs the perpetrator of the opportunity to abuse. This could range from close supervision by parents, caregivers or guardians and protected physical facilities at home or school.
4. Overcoming child resistance: This is about trust. When the child develops trust in a person, it sets the stage for sexual abuse.
Providing primary school children with information on sexual abuse would enable them to be aware of what the person is trying to do, which may give a child courage to resist despite threats.
Parents being close to the child and being able to discuss issues with children will reduce the chance of a child being abused
One may say that if precondition number one, the urge to have sexual relations with a child, was not there, the problem would be sorted.
As researchers grapple with how to deal with child sexual abusers, stiff sentences go a long way to stop potential abusers from fulfilling the urges.
In the absence of life imprisonment, paedophiles jailed and released without any treatment or counselling will repeat-offend as the urge will still be there.
IN A NUTSHELL...
- Boys may not report abuse for fear of being thought homosexual
- They may treat abuse by older women or girls as a form of initiation to things adult
- Boys suffer psychologically in the same way as girls as a result of the sexual abuse yet, services for boys are not talked about
- Like girls, boys are assaulted mostly by people they know
- Male adults are less likely about to talk about sexual abuse in their child
- childhood than women will do
WHERE TO GET HELP
- Institutions that offer advocacy and legal support
- African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANCPPCN)
- Child Rights Advisory and Legal Center (Cradle) Children Legal Action Network (Clan) Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children Rights (KAACR)
- Children's Desks at different police stations.
- The Children's Department through District Children's Officers under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social and Development.
- Get psych-social support at ...
- Koinonia Community has five such institutions namely Kivuli Center, Anita Home, Tone La Maji, Ndugu Mdogo Kibera, Kivuli Ndogo.
- Other institutions that are proactive in the above include Undugu Society and Shangilia Mtoto Wa Afrika, among others.
- and medical attention at ...
- Nairobi Women's Hospital's Gender Violence and Recovery Centre.
- Government referral hospitals.
Manhood and Molestation
Manhood is always an issue when male victims of sexual assault and incest keep quiet. Ladyspeech Sankofa breaks the silence
On July 21, I had the honor of speaking at SlutWalk Denver (an annual march started last year to protest implying that a woman's appearance invites rape). When the rally was over, a young Black man who looked about in his early 20s approached me to say he was really struck by what I had to say. As we conversed, he was moved to share his story of being molested by an older woman as a child.
He said that as an adult, he often lashes out at women for seemingly no reason. He told me how he's lived with intense, overwhelming anger since his molestation. He expressed the desire to be a better man and master his anger. He communicated that he was hurt and in pain. And he stated his confusion over even naming it “molestation,” because his body was stimulated and got physically excited every single time.
This young man now has two young boys that he parents alone. He wants to show them a positive example of manhood, he said, not the angry Black male model he was fed growing up. He looked at me with eyes filled with sorrow, trepidation, defeat, deep hurt. And absolute trust. Because he said he'd never spoken about his abuse to anyone before, and expressed how much of a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
I thanked him for trusting me with his story, and reassured him that the abuse wasn't his fault. He's not the only man to have survived this experience, I reminded him. I encouraged him to continue healing and warned him that it would be hard. Going back to confront your demons is in no way easy. I sent him on his way with the number to RAAP (the Rape Assistance and Awareness Program, a Denver-based organization that assists survivors of sexual assault), as well as other resources. And I commended him on his courage.
Speaking with this young man called me back to the first time a Black man—my lover—opened his spirit and revealed his sexual trauma to me. I'll never forget how fragile he was in the moment; how much it mattered to him that I believe his story; how much he needed to speak the truth to stop it from eating at his insides; how much he needed my acceptance after baring his inner self.
It's sad knowing that men who are survivors of sexual assault, molestations, incest or rape have hardly any safe spaces to speak out about it without their manhood being called into question. The flip side of rape culture is the marginalization of the men who have been assaulted—their voicelessness, anger, confusion and mental illness—as well as a host of other issues they're left with.
As a woman who is also a survivor of several sexual assaults, hearing these men speak their experience reminds me of the importance of my role in support of men who confront this issue. I'm reminded that hurt people often times hurt other people. The realization even pushes me to see my violators as human and acknowledge the deep pain that must've thrived in their psyches long before I showed up on their radar. It moved to me write this piece, to speak out as a woman on this issue and stand in solidarity with my brothers who are also survivors.
To all the men who've shared stories with me, I thank and honor you. To the men who live in silence with this secret, I say from experience that freedom and happiness live in your healing. If you're a man who's experienced sexual assault, rape or molestation, know that you are not alone, and that there are both women and men who support your healing, honor your manhood and know that it's not your fault. Please seek out safe spaces and speak out. Your sanity, your life, your story and the safety of your future female partners are all worth your truth being set free.
Ladyspeech Sankofa is host of The Panties , an urban, pro-sex, pro-love radio show broadcast weekly on TradioV.com. Follow her on Twitter @LadySpeech.