Under new Oregon law, college workers must report child abuse
by The Associated Press
Oregon higher education employees and coaches are joining the list of people required by law to tell authorities when they believe a child has been abused.
The mandate, partially an outgrowth of the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State University, is one of 14 new laws that hit the books in Oregon when the new year begins Tuesday.
Teachers, health care workers, clergy, lawyers and people working in a variety of other professions already are required to tell police or the Department of Human Services when they suspect a child has been abused. Now, anyone who works for a community college, university or child-services provider will have the same requirement, whether they're the president, groundskeeper or a paid student worker.
Those covered by the mandate must report all potential child abuse regardless of whether it's related to their job.
University administrators have emailed staff with answers to frequent questions about the new responsibility, and some have planned training sessions for early next year, said Di Saunders, an Oregon University System spokeswoman.
"All of us benefit from ensuring that criminal activity, including possible child abuse and prohibited discrimination, are reported and appropriately addressed," University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson wrote in a memo to employees.
The measure's chief proponent, Democratic Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis, said it's important for anyone to report potential child abuse, and to remember that they only need a suspicion -- not proof -- to make a report.
"Whether you're a mandatory reporter or not, kids rely on these reports," Gelser said. "If someone is worried about a child, they should pick up the phone, make the report, and know they've done the right thing."
Child-sex Trafficking a Growing Problem Across Country
by Daniel Quigley
CHILD-SEX TRAFFICKING -- it sounds like such a foreign problem.
Young girls from Asia, Eastern Europe are shipped around the world to serve in sexual slavery.
But child-sex trafficking is also an American problem.
It happens in this country and it even happens in its 38th largest city: Mesa.
According to the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice, it happened to "Mary," who grew up in Mesa. Her name has been withheld for her protection and privacy.
The Phoenix center, part of a program with the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, is comprised of a very small staff that works with area law enforcement and social-service organizations to help victims of violence and "provides free or reduced-fee legal representation, advice and support to victims of family violence, child abuse, sexual assault, sex-trafficking and other vulnerable populations that the private market would otherwise fail," according to its website.
"You don't just see it in the East Valley, you don't just see in the West Valley; you see it everywhere because that's the nature of the beast," she added.
Mary's parents were not together, her father had moved away, so Mary lived most of her life with her mother and two younger sisters. When Mary arrived at her early tens she began rebelling, hanging out with rough friends, sneaking out, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
It's not that Mary's mom didn't care. Her plate was full. She had her two younger daughters and she worked full time. Eventually, Mary became too much, she was setting a bad example for her sisters, and went to live with her father.
Mary lived there until it also got turbulent and she proceeded to shuffle back and forth between parents for a while. Somewhere along the way, Mary just stopped going to both parents' homes and began crashing with friends.
And that's where the real trouble begins for a lot of cases like Mary's. On the streets, once provided-for needs become matters of survival.
"I think the biggest misconception is that somehow these girls want to do this or enjoy doing this. I mean they do this when they have no other options. This is it," said sex-trafficking attorney Stephanie Preciado, who works at the Diane Halle Center.
According to the Diane Halle Center, citing the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, most runaway children are approached by a pimp or drug dealer within their first 48 hours of life on the streets.
"They're not welcome home, they have nowhere to go, then they meet these pimps," Preciado said. "These pimps are very suave."
The pimps groom their victims, waiting until their desperation peaks, and then they pounce with generous ways to make money.
When Mary, then 16, found herself alone and hungry, she agreed to give prostitution a try, going to work for local pimps. It was quick cash at first but the scenario turned quickly grim.
What she was not told is that her pimps would keep all her money and force her to take on more and more johns, keeping Mary dependent and isolated. Eventually, she was shipped out of state.
But as Carrie Simmons, a spokeswoman for the Diane Halle Center, said, this how most of the pimps treat most of their underage victims of sex trafficking, and it only gets worse.
Once totally isolated, the victims suffer more abuse at the hand of the aggressors, who often beat and/or rape them.
Preciado said it's even common for pimps to get their victims pregnant to exert even more of a power grip.
"The relationship pattern follows the domestic violence relationship pattern. They are controlled by their pimps, they are beaten by their pimps," Simmons said. "They feel like they're in love with the pimp even though the pimp is treating them in an abusive manner."
What the center and Preciado are finding, along with police, is that it's tough to even compile statistics on the crime. Often, the girls are reluctant to get help because it has become their only way of survival and pimps use the stigma of it, along with taking the girls out of their elements, to keep their grips tight.
Out of around 70 cases Preciado works on, only two -- including Mary's -- are from the East Valley. But Preciado said she believes there are more.
"I think Mesa is finally starting to realize this is a real problem in your city ... We are now starting to partner with the Mesa Police Department," Preciado said.
Simmons points to U.S. Department of Justice reports that say up to 100,000 to 300,000 American girls are in sex-traffic situations.
Preciado said it's still hard for victims to step forward.
It's even more difficult for the victims to want to take legal recourse or testify against their assailants.
Victims feel both ashamed and fearful of the pimps. And for good reason, Preciado said. The first thing one will notice when approaching the door to the Diane Halle Center is a powerful combination lock on the front door. Preciado said pimps have even approached the lobby of the building to try to retrieve their victims.
Preciado would not allow the Tribune to take photos of her because she fears retribution.
She also said girls who go back to the life or are caught by the pimps can be severely physically or sexually abused or made to suffer sinister punishments like having their personal belongings burned and their families threatened.
Part of the reason the crime is coming more to the forefront is that police now treat child prostitutes as victims when they used to be treated as criminals. Vice squads of Valley police agencies refer several of the center's clients.
Luckily for Mary, she was referred after one of her own johns turned out to be an undercover police officer.
"I definitely don't think it's a new crime; I just think we're newly attuned to it. I think we're becoming more victim-focused," Preciado said. "We don't want to see what we've all thought is a foreign problem, you know, 'It's not American girls, it's third-world countries' and so I just think now we're going, 'wow, this is really happening here.'"
Charlene Tsaipi, a sex-trafficking victim advocate at the Diane Halle Center, said resources are low and there are still cultural hurdles about the self-images of girls and young women.
"A lot of young girls think it's OK to be treated like this, but it's not," Tsaipi said.
Mary has since found secure housing and the center has helped her with legal and financial assistance. She is on her way to earning her high school diploma.
For information the Diane Halle Center visit http://www.law.asu.edu/dhc/TheDianeHalleCenterforFamilyJustice.aspx or contact the center at (602) 258-1602 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Body of missing girl found in empty Las Vegas lot
The weeklong search for a Las Vegas girl ended Friday afternoon when officials confirmed that a small body found in an undeveloped housing tract belonged to the missing child.
The Clark County coroner's office said a body discovered Thursday belongs to 10-year-old Jade Morris, who police had been searching for since Christmas Day. She died of multiple stab wounds, the coroner's office said.
Jade was last seen Dec. 21 with family friend Brenda Stokes Wilson, who picked her up to go Christmas shopping.
Wilson, 50, returned the car she had borrowed for the outing to a friend two hours later. Jade never came back.
Investigators later found blood on the driver's door and steering wheel of the 2007 Saab sedan.
Later that night, Wilson was wrestled to the ground with razors in each hand after allegedly slashing the face of a female co-worker at the Bellagio casino.
A judge raised her bail to from $60,000 to $600,000 on Friday morning after she was identified as the prime suspect in the child's killing.
"As soon as we get all the evidence in that we need, we'll book her on the murder charges," Las Vegas police homicide Capt. Chris Jones said.
Wilson has been jailed since the 21st on felony battery with a weapon, burglary and mayhem charges that could get her decades in prison.
Police said she offered no help in the search for the missing girl. Murder and kidnapping charges could get her life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
On Thursday, Las Vegas police responding to a 911 call found a girl's body in unkempt brush near palm trees in a small traffic circle about 10 miles from the downtown Las Vegas outlet mall where Stokes was to have taken the girl shopping.
On Friday evening, Jones called the slaying "unfathomable."
"Even having our jobs, we still can't wrap our heads around this," he said. "A lot of people think that just because of our positions we can understand it, but we can't."
In court Friday morning, Wilson stood flanked by eight police officers as her lawyer, Tony Liker, clutching a Bible and a copy of the charging documents, asked the judge to postpone arraignment until Wednesday to give him time to meet with Wilson.
Wilson, who had been identified by police and prosecutors as Brenda Stokes, told the judge Friday that her full name was Brenda Stokes Wilson.
Jade's father, Philip Morris, was removed from court Wednesday by armed court officers after shouting questions about his daughter's whereabouts to Wilson. He did not attend Friday's hearing.
The two dated for several years, and Jade had a long and trusting relationship with Wilson, according to the girl's grandfather, Philip Tucker.
Tucker said Philip Morris lived in Billings, Mont., and worked at a Flying J truck stop for more than a year. He would stay with Wilson when he visited Las Vegas, Tucker said.
Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the slaying. But Tucker said Wilson appeared to believe that the face-slashing victim had become romantically involved with Philip Morris.
Wilson picked up Jade up for their shopping expedition around 5 p.m. Later, she got a ride with a friend to the Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip. She allegedly attacked her co-worker, Joyce Rhone, around 9:30 p.m.
Rhone, 44, was hospitalized with deep cuts on her face, including one from her ear to the edge of her mouth.
Wilson told investigators that she visited her doctor last week, seeking to be admitted to a hospital "due to feeling like she wanted to hurt someone."
Going upstream to stop child abuse and neglect
by Bart Klika
A man and a woman are sitting on the banks of a river. They spot a body floating lifelessly in the water. Instantly, the woman jumps into the river and pulls the body toward the shore. No sooner does she reach the bank before the man spots two more bodies floating by.
Fighting against her inclination to provide assistance to the first victim, the woman jumps back into the river to help pull the next two victims out of the water. Pulling these lifeless bodies from the river, the man and woman spot three more bodies floating by.
Again, the man and woman jump into the river, but with more lifeless bodies than rescuers, pull only two of the three victims from the water. While pulling these bodies to shore they notice three more bodies floating down the river. Out of breath, exhausted, and feeling defeated, the man sinks to the ground. Just then, he has an idea. “You stay here and keep pulling bodies from the river” he yells to his friend. “I am going to run upstream to figure-out how these bodies are getting into the river in the first place.”
With legislative support, progressive and creative leadership, and commitment to inter-agency collaboration, Montana can broaden its capacity to move-up-stream to prevent child abuse and neglect before it begins. Recent Montana headlines paint the dismal picture of innocent children fatally injured or killed at the hands of abusive parents. Perhaps equally sobering is the fact that in 2010, nearly 1,383 children were determined to be victims of child abuse or neglect here in Montana.
The time for action is now; inaction is unacceptable.
Visions of bruises and broken bones often come to mind when thinking about child abuse and neglect, however the emotional and psychological consequences extend well beyond the reach of the human eye. Research shows that children who experience abuse and neglect are at increased risk for mental health disorders, substance abuse, delinquency, and later physical health problems. Recent estimates of the costs associated with treating the consequences of child abuse and neglect top $124 billion annually, an approximate rate of $210,000 per child victim over his or her lifetime. The costs of child abuse and neglect are fiscally paramount and socially intolerable.
Frozen in feelings of helplessness, many turn to Child and Family Services for developing and implementing solutions to the problem of child abuse and neglect. Finite resources and overwhelming need significantly limit the ability of the agency to champion the effort to prevent child abuse and neglect. The focus must shift away from CFS as the primary agent in facilitating prevention efforts in Montana and towards the development of new partnerships to lead the charge.
There are a growing number of innovative and effective programs addressing the prevention of child abuse and neglect here in Montana. Prioritizing the funding and evaluation of these programs is an imperative for Montana. Lasting prevention of child abuse and neglect will occur when programs partner together to address the gaps and limitations in prevention service delivery in the state. Inter-agency collaborations include not only those interested in the prevention of child abuse and neglect, but collaborations between programs and agencies that address many of the antecedents of abuse and neglect (e.g. substance use, mental health problems). Creating common goals and a shared vision across agencies builds a stronger front in our pursuit of the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
The development, implementation, and evaluation of prevention programs in Montana are in need of legislative support alongside creative, culturally attuned, and community-based leadership. The 2007 Legislature passed Senate Bill 468 to create a statewide coordinator position for suicide prevention. The creation of such a position to coordinate child abuse and neglect prevention efforts in Montana is greatly needed.
Now is the time to voice your concern. Contact your legislators and ask them to support the development, implementation, evaluation, and coordination of child abuse and neglect prevention here in Montana. It is time for Montana to take greater strides toward “moving upstream” to prevent child abuse and neglect before it occurs.
Bart Klika is a doctoral candidate in social work at the University of Washington, an adjunct faculty in social work at the University of Montana, and a research associate at the Institute for Educational Research and Service. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Spotlight: Project Get Safe
The Tustin News runs profiles on local community groups. Today's answers about Project Get Safe were provided by Casey Gomez, community relations coordinator for the not-for-profit group.
Name of organization: Project Get Safe
Type: 501(C)(3) safety education
Address: 17602 17th St., Suite 102 #259, Tustin
Contact info: getsafeusa.com; 714-834-0050; facebook.com/getsafeusa and youtube.com/getsafeusa
Name of leader: Stuart Haskin, founder and executive director
Year founded: 1993
Why it was founded: Having earned black belts in multiple martial arts disciplines, Stuart Haskin began to reflect on personal safety, and more importantly, how he could use his expertise to help students protect themselves and prevent victimization.
Eventually, Haskin decided he didn't want to focus only on the physical aspect of safety education; he also wanted to help survivors of violence recover mentally and emotionally by rebuilding their confidence and arming them with tools to live safer, violence-free lives.
What is your group's mission/goal? GET SAFE envisions a world in which fear is replaced with awareness, understanding and acceptance. Our mission is to empower people to get safe, be safe and stay safe through our fun, interactive personal safety training and awareness programs.
Who do you serve? People of all ages and backgrounds, specifically "at-risk" populations, including: victims of violent crime, assault and domestic abuse, survivors of sexual assault, persons with developmental disabilities and those who care for them, children and young adults, law enforcement and first responder personnel, and corporations.
What sets your group apart from others? GET SAFE brings an energy, enthusiasm and expertise to its training and programs that break down communication barriers usually associated with topics such as safety, awareness and recovery. Rather than rely on scare tactics or boring lectures, GET SAFE presents serious topics in a humorous, highly-interactive manner that encourages participation and learning.
Does your group have any special programs/projects that it's working on? "Your Autism Awareness Toolkit: Understanding Persons with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities" by GET SAFE includes a nine-minute DVD, companion guide and community reference cards. These tools heighten your "autism awareness" by providing you with the information you need to recognize and understand certain behaviors persons with developmental disabilities may demonstrate, and strategies for de-escalating any high-stress situations, so everyone can happily and safely live, play and work together.
How can others get involved? Project GET SAFE helps fund safety training, awareness and recovery programs for those unable to afford these highly-specialized services. Through your generosity, we will continue to create safer communities for all. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities and other ways to donate, visit getsafeusa.com and click on "How to Help." For volunteer opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org
State Senator aims to toughen N.J.'s child-porn laws in wake of report
by Jason Grant
-- A state senator said today he intends to propose legislation aimed at toughening New Jersey's child-porn laws in response to a special report in The Star-Ledger
on the proliferation of child pornography and the psychological costs of viewing grim material as investigators fight the crime.
Sen. Kevin O'Toole (R-Essex) also called for upgrading federal criminal penalties. His spokesman said O'Toole intends to look into how he might push for stiffer penalties at the national level.
O'Toole said he'll propose a bill that adds child pornography crimes to the state's "No Early Release Act." If his measure passes, he said, a convicted child-porn criminal would have to serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence before becoming eligible for release.
The same bill will seek to upgrade the state's child pornography laws through making it a first-degree crime to cause or permit a child to engage in child pornography, or to photograph or film a child under those circumstances, O'Toole said. And the legislation would upgrade possession or viewing of child pornography from a third-degree crime from a fourth-degree crime, he added.
"I am utterly repulsed by the expanding lengths predators will go to get their fixes by destroying vulnerable lives," O'Toole said in a statement. "Our communities must be protected ... and that starts with the elimination of early release for those convicted of producing, sharing, storing and enabling the destruction of childhood innocence."
O'Toole cited the article that said images of child pornography and child sexual abuse are multiplying "explosively" across the internet -- with law enforcement sending 22 million such images and videos to a national clearinghouse in 2011, up from 14.2 million in 2010. He also pointed to a reported study that found 85 percent of men arrested for the possession and/or distribution of child pornography have also committed a hands-on offense against a child.
"Many factors often cause this sick and incomprehensible behavior that is so difficult to read about, let alone experience," O'Toole said. "A big part of protecting children and families is making sure offenders face and pay the ultimate price and do not repeat such heinous acts."
The story also plunged the depths of the internal psychological battles waged within some FBI agents in New Jersey who are asked to review and cataloge thousands of images of child sexual abuse that sometimes include sado-masochistic activity involving prepubescent children, including infants and toddlers.
British man accused of sex with Highland girl in Redlands
by Doug Saunders and Beatriz E. Valenzuela
Felony charges were filed Friday against a British man accused of flying to the Inland Empire allegedly to have sexual relations with a now 14-year-old Highland girl in Redlands, authorities said.
Adam James Michael Robinson, 21, alllegedly had several sexual encounters with the girl, including two on Dec. 23, the day before her 14th birthday, according to a felony complaint filed by the District Attorney's Office.
Redlands police arrested Robinson on Thursday at the Good Nite Inn at 1675 Industrial Park Ave., where he was allegedly planning to have a sexual encounter with the girl he had met in an online chat room.
Robinson was arrested on suspicion of lewd acts with a minor under the age of 14.
Robinson met the girl online and established a relationship with the her over the course of a year, authorities said.
He flew to the Inland Empire on Dec. 15, the day of their first of many alleged sexual encounters, according to Redlands police.
According to the district attorney's complaint, Robinson had at least six sexual encounters with the girl over two days - four times on Dec. 15 and twice on Dec. 23.
The girl's parents learned about the relationship and brought her to the sheriff's Highland station, where they filed a report. It was unclear how the girl's parents learned about the relationship.
Sheriff's detectives contacted Redlands police detectives when they learned Robinson was staying at the Redlands motel, the site of the alleged sexual encounters.
"Evidence was recovered from the motel room and vehicle linking Robinson to the victim," said Redlands police Detective Andy Capps.
Special agents from the Department of Homeland Security assisted with the investigation and are looking into possible child sexual tourism charges against Robinson, authorities said.
Child sex tourism is defined as the commercial sexual exploitation of children by men or women who travel from one place to another and engage in sexual acts with children.
Robinson was booked into West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Bail was set at $1 million. the Immigration and Naturalization Service placed a hold on him.
Robinson has been convicted of a serious or violent crime and also for a white-collar crime, according to the complaint, but authorities did not say where the convictions took place.
Robinson is scheduled to appear Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Anyone with information about this case and the suspect asked is asked to contact Capps at 909-798-7642 or Redlands Police Dispatch at 909-798-7681.
Florida Woman, Kimberly Losurdo, faces 2nd child abuse charge after kids tested positive for crack cocaine
by Cary Williams
and Jacqueline Ingles
HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. - A 45-year-old woman is now facing an additional charge after an 11-year-old child tested positive for crack cocaine. On Thursday, Hernando County deputies reported that a 9-year-old tested positive after being hospitalized with severe symptoms.
Detectives says Kimberly Losurdo admitted to smoking crack cocaine at a Spring Hill home where she was staying with three children.
Early Thursday morning, the 9-year-old was taken by Fire Rescue to a local hospital. Investigators say the child was experiencing convulsions, seizures and loss of consciousness.
During an interview, the child told investigators that Losurdo was seen smoking, snorting and ingesting drugs.
According to a sheriff's statement, the child found an "irregular shaped, rock like" substance in a bathroom and swallowed it on or around Christmas Day.
The child then became ill and slowly deteriorated until being hospitalized.
Detectives questioned Losurdo, who told them she had been around the child for 5 -7 days. She admitted to smoking crack at the home and said the child apparently came across a piece and thought it was candy or a pill, according to the statement.
A search of the residence turned up a crack pipe.
Two other children in the home, ages 11 and 16, were taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Families.
The 11-year-old also tested positive for cocaine. The child told investigators that a "pill/candy looking substance was seen on a dresser and "I ate it."
The child did not exhibit that same extreme reaction as the 9-year-old.
Losurdo was charged with a second count of Child Abuse.
Neighbors believe it never had to come to this horrific tragedy.
A female neighbor, who asked ABC Action News to conceal her identity, said she called DCFS on Losurdo in the past.
She said she would see the children out late at night riding their bikes and walking around in pajamas.
"When you asked them where their mother was they'd say, 'Mom is passed out,'" the neighbor said.
Another neighbor said the children did not look well taken care of and well fed. He also said Losurdo acted and dressed inappropriately when dropping her child off at the bus stop.
"[She'd be in] six inch heels and a see-through dress with a slit way up the side," said the male neighbor who also asked for his identity to be protected.
Neighbors told ABC Action News Losurdo moved into the "family-oriented" neighborhood two years ago and lived in the house on and off. In recent weeks, neighbors said DCFS workers were on the property cleaning it up and taking away truckloads of garbage.
Proposed bill to probe child abuse deaths
Task force to look into causes
Montana's senior senator has introduced legislation to help understand why there are so many reports of child deaths due to abuse and how to better prevent those deaths.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., introduced the “Protect Our Kids Act” late last week with bipartisan support from colleagues like Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, to create a national task force to study and evaluate federal, state and private child welfare systems and provide policy recommendations to prevent child maltreatment and more specifically, death from maltreatment.
“We need to do everything in our power to protect children from abuse and neglect. The death of even one child as a result of abuse is too many,” Baucus said in a statement. “This task force will give us the answers we need to take this issue head on and put an end to child abuse and neglect.”
April Hall, the grandmother of October Perez, a 2-year-old killed in June 2011 after being abused by her mother's boyfriend, said she is pleased to see legislation moving forward at a national level that will hopefully address perceived failures of state child welfare systems to protect kids.
“That is a start,” Hall said. “It's hard going to sleep at night, knowing my granddaughter died.”
Before her death, October Perez was already on the radar of child protection specialists from the Great Falls office of the Child and Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services for suspected abuse by David Wayne Hyslop, the man eventually convicted for her death in the spring of 2012.
Records show Hall and other family members made many reports to CFSD about physical abuse they believed October was having to endure. But the reports were never substantiated by medical professionals.
Hall, who has become somewhat of an activist regarding child protection laws since her granddaughter's death, said there is still much work to be done at the local, state and national level. One of Hall's complaints, and one that has been addressed in national research regarding child abuse, is that laws and enforcement of those laws varies depending on which state you're in.
“The whole country should have the same rules to follow,” she said.
Kathy Weber, spokeswoman for Baucus, said the bill has cleared the House and will soon be introduced in the Senate.
The Protect our Kids Act calls for a commission, comprised of people with experience in child welfare, legislation, law enforcement, education and more, to study a variety of things: the use and effectiveness of child protective services and welfare services; best practices to prevent child and youth fatalities due to neglect; the effectiveness of federal, state and local policies aimed at collecting and coordinating data on child fatalities; and current barriers to preventing fatalities from child abuse and how to improve child welfare outcomes.
In a report titled “A Child's Right to Counsel” in 2007 from national child abuse awareness groups First Star and the Children's Advocacy Institute, Montana was one of 10 states that earned an "F" when it comes to publicly disclosing child fatalities or near fatalities as a result of abuse and/or neglect.
Montana law states that not only is it a violation of confidentiality for any member of the child death review team to release information from its findings, it is also a misdemeanor crime.
National advocates say reporting of this data is crucial to understanding and developing policy that better strengthens child-protection laws.
"We're really protecting these kids to death," said Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance in an interview with the Tribune in August 2011. "I would like to see every state improve their performance."
Data released from the federal Department of Health and Human Services showed that reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped nationwide for the fifth consecutive year and abuse-related child fatalities are also at a five-year low in the fiscal year 2011.
The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 — down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About 80 percent of those killed were younger than age 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly 80 percent of the deaths.
Texas had the most fatalities with 246, followed by Florida with 133, while Montana reported no abuse-related deaths, according to the federal DHHS. The highest rates of child fatalities were in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Jon Ebelt, Montana DPHHS spokesman, said Montana's data is skewed. Though October Perez died at the very end of the fiscal year 2011 from abuse, Ebelt said her death couldn't be entered into the national database as being from abuse until a legal finding of death due to abuse was determined. Hyslop wasn't convicted until 2012 and Ebelt said the federal database system doesn't give states the opportunity to update the data retroactively.
Hall said she doesn't want to see this legislation pushed aside.
“They have to light a fire under it,” she said. “We can't wait.”
Effort To Strengthen Child Abuse Laws
by Kimberly Page
The life of a 3-year old little girl has changed in the last year.
In May, Kilah Davenport was almost beaten to death. Police say her step-father attacked her, broke her collar bone and fractured her little skull, damaging 90 percent of her brain.
The punishment, for this life changing beating? The max is 7 and a half years in prison. Many think that's too lenient, and now a group is traveling across North Carolina to gain support for a bill called "Kilah's Law."
The legislation would increase the punishment for anyone who causes permanent injury to a child.
"We just don't feel like the sentence fits the crime, and that's what Kilah's Law is, to increase from a Class C felony to a Class B felony. Where someone that comities a crime with dubitation injuries like this they can get 25 years up to life in prison, " said Mitiz Cartrette, Kilah's Law supporter.
The bill will be presented when the legislature reconvenes the end of January.
The Justice For All Coalition is starting its call for support Friday. At 10:30 a.m., the group will be presenting the proposed law to the public at the New Hope Methodist Church in Winston-Salem. The church is on Shattalon Drive.
Child abuse in Minnesota: Change is coming
by James Parkington and Rich Gehrman
Our series on child welfare has called attention to a report by the state's Office of the Legislative Auditor, which found that standards for child maltreatment vary widely across the state and that counties do not keep data about reports consistently.
We also explored issues with Family Assessment, the child protection option in which families are required to participate in an assessment of risk to their children but do not have to accept services. The limited data available indicates that 70% of families are now diverted to this track and very few of these actually receive any services.
We believe the most important incentive to improve data and, ultimately, results, is to begin measuring outcomes for each individual child. This is also the new strategy for the federal Children's Bureau, which is the nation's top child welfare agency.
This approach has two core components. First is to measure a child's physical and mental health, cognitive development, and behavioral skills every time they enter or re-enter the system. This will answer the question of whether over time children are doing better, or worse, as a result of their encounters with the child welfare system.
Second is to spend limited resources only on what works, including Evidence-Based Interventions (EBI). These are approaches that are supported by robust research and successful implementations. They are available for the range of child welfare needs including trauma interventions, therapy for children and families, and ‘wraparound' programs that engage members of an extended family in strategies to keep children safe.
Child welfare agencies should also stop paying for ineffective services. Miami-Dade County now requires pre- and post-tests for typical child welfare services such as chemical dependency treatment, and anger management or parenting skills training. If a contractor doesn't help enough families make sufficient progress to be reunited the funding is shifted to those who get more positive results.
Here in Minnesota Hennepin Country is engaged in a rigorous implementation of several EBI programs including Multi-Systemic Therapy—an intensive, family-centric treatment program — and Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care—an alternative to residential treatment.
As previously discussed, to make these initiatives a reality the state will have to step up its financial support (second lowest nationally) and overall leadership. It will have to both require counties to adhere to consistent standards, and also provide financial incentives for counties to implement outcome measurements and proven service models.
Rich Gehrman is Executive Director at Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota, a citizen group advocating for improvements to Minnesota's child welfare system. James Parkington is a writer and researcher with the organization.
Sex abuse rate climbs in the state
by STEPHEN RICKERL
A report by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services shows a 6 percent increase in reported instances of child sexual abuse in most parts of the state.
In Southern Illinois, nearly a dozen counties have child sex abuse rates more than twice the state average.
Reports of sex abuse have increased in 101 of Illinois' 102 counties; Cook was the only county that saw a slight decline in cases this year. The report compares allegations of sex abuse from July 1, 2012, to Nov. 30, 2012, to the same period last year.
The rise in reports concerns DCFS, said department Spokesman Dave Clarkin, because 67 downstate counties had a higher than average sex abuse rate last year, including 24 counties in central and Southern Illinois with a rate more than double the state average.
Counties in Southern Illinois with more than double the state average are: Alexander, Clay, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Richland, Saline, Wabash, Wayne and White.
“The high rate of sex abuse in downstate Illinois, particularly central and Southern Illinois, is rising even further this year,” said Clarkin “We are implementing a reorganization plan that increases the number of abuse investigators at DCFS so that we can get children and families the help they need more quickly, and we hope lawmakers will fund that plan in early January.”
The reorganization plan, which goes into effect Jan. 2, will increase the number of DCFS investigators by 138, but requires the General Assembly to restore about $38 million in funding cuts to the department.
According to the report, the demographics of the 2,208 sexual abuse victims last year: 65 percent are from outside of Cook County, 72 percent are under the age of 14, 58 percent are white, and while girls account for the majority of victims, one in five victims are boys.
Of the 1,965 sex abuse perpetrators last year, 53 percent are family members. Sixty percent of perpetrators are white, and 68 percent are younger than 40. While men account for the majority of perpetrators, about one in 13 are women.
The report shows sexual abuse is going unreported. One in four girls and one in six boys will be victims of child sexual abuse by the time they turn 18, but the state's Child Abuse Hotline received only 1,366 calls from a family member, friend or neighbor — 82 percent of reports are made by professionals required to report abuse and neglect.
Clarkin urged family members and friends to report sexual abuse.
The Child Abuse Hotline number is 800-252-2873.
Domestic Violence Seen As Factor In Several Mental Illnesses
by T Goodman
While there is much evidence that child victims of domestic violence experience psychological trauma that may lead to mental illness, a just-published study looks at the prevalence of domestic violence in the lives of adult men and women with mental illnesses....
Research had previously focused on the incidence of domestic violence in cases of persons diagnosed with depression. But Britain;s King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry study, part of a five year NIHR-funded domestic violence project dubbed PROVIDE, looked at the incidence of domestic violence in several mental health disorders. Using data pooled from 41 studies obtained from many countries, the team was able to estimate the incidence of domestic violence among persons with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and eating disorders, among other mental disorders.
The definition of domestic violence in Britain will change in March of 2013 to include persons above 16 years of age, and this definition was used by the King's Institute researchers::
"... any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse."
One of the more striking findings was that among women with PTSD, the chances of having experienced domestic violence was 7 times greater than women with no mental disorders. Sixty-one percent of female PTSD sufferers experience domestic violence.
The prevalence of domestic violence in women with depression is nearly 46 percent; 27.6 percent of women classified with anxiety disorders experience domestic violence. Women diagnosed with eating disorders, OCD, and other common mental health disorders were also more likely than women with no mental health disorders to experience domestic violence. Even women diagnosed with schizophrenia have a higher incidence of domestic violence than non mentally ill women.
Though the prevalence rates of domestic violence were lower for men with mental illnesses than for women with the same mental illnesses, they too had significantly higher incidence of domestic violence in their lives than non mentally ill men, regardless of the classification of mental illness.
"We hope this review will draw attention to the mental health needs of survivors of domestic violence and remind general practitioners and mental health teams that experience of domestic violence may lie behind the presentation of mental health problems," stated Gene Feder, co-author of the study, a professor at University of Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine, and chief investigator of PROVIDE.
Researchers also note, however, that those with mental illness are more likely to be abused than those who do not have mental illness, so the relationship between cause and effect is somewhat fluid in a mentally ill patient who is the victim of domestic violence.
2012 a landmark year in child sex abuse
But will the high-profile convictions translate into better juvenile safety?
by Barbara Goldberg
— Experts say 2012 was a year of unparalleled justice for child sex-abuse victims, but whether the string of high-profile convictions will translate into a turning point for juvenile safety remains to be seen.
The year's headlines heralded the criminal convictions of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, Monsignor William Lynn of the Catholic Church's Philadelphia Archdiocese and ultra-Orthodox Jewish therapist Nechemya Weberman, a prominent figure in New York's Satmar Hasidic sect.
Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars for raping and molesting 10 boys, some in the campus football showers. Lynn, 61, was ordered to prison for up to six years for covering up for pedophile priests. Weberman, 54, faces up to 25 years' imprisonment when he is sentenced on Jan. 9 for sexually abusing a girl during counseling sessions.
Each conviction hinged on the testimony of victims brave enough to shatter years of silence surrounding the abuse. Each verdict was reached by a jury determined to decide fairly in the shadow of a revered institution that, at best, ignored the crimes, sometimes for years.
"2012 is a landmark in the drive to reduce and deter community-based abuse," said Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes.
"The key here is modern-day courage," Hamilton said. "It took extraordinary courage for survivors to break ranks from their communities and accuse those inside the community."
Decades of secretiveness have shrouded child sex abuse within institutions that turned a blind eye, said David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
One development encouraging victims to come forward today is more women in law enforcement and criminal justice who may seem more approachable, experts say. Another is a growing acceptance of homosexuality, which could help ease the victims' humiliation, and the idea that survivors with calamitous lives may nevertheless be telling the truth, experts say.
"We're learning that victims inevitably seem troubled and flawed. It's very rare that someone can be sexually violated as a child and live a charmed, perfect life," Clohessy said.
Heightened publicity has also drawn out victims who now know they are not alone, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
"The climate is so much better for survivors than it was a decade ago when they felt isolated and like a freak," Finkelhor said.
"Almost everyone knows this happens to other people now. It's not nearly as stigmatizing," he said.
The momentum in prosecuting child sex-abuse cases depends on many factors, including whether state legislatures broaden the time frame for victims seeking justice, a move under discussion in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
By the time a child victim is able to confront an assailant, a state's statute of limitations may prevent prosecution. If victims are still eligible to file civil lawsuits, however, the surrounding publicity may draw out other victims and could lead to subsequent criminal prosecutions, advocates say.
"When a predator is exposed in any way, in any form, it encourages victims, witnesses, whistle-blowers to step forward and perhaps file criminal charges," Clohessy said.
"Obviously, kids are safest when predators are jailed," he said. "Sometimes civil suits lead to criminal prosecution. Even when they don't, they warn people about a potentially dangerous child molester."
MSP calls for abuse survivors' helpline
by Judith Tonner
Margaret Mitchell MSP is asking the Scottish government to consider establishing a nationwide helpline for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
The Central Scotland representative made the call after receiving confirmation through a Holyrood question that enquiries to support organisations have soared following the revelations about Jimmy Savile.
Coatbridge-born Mrs Mitchell is the convener of Holyrood's cross-party group on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and has now written to children and young people's minister Aileen Campbell to press the case for a national service.
She told the Advertiser: “I was aware that more people were coming forward to seek assistance, and the minister confirmed that this trend is more widespread.
“In light of the increase, I asked if the government would consider carrying out a scoping exercise on the need for a national Scottish helpline for survivors.
“Last week, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre reported a 30 per cent increase in reports of abuse in November as a result of the Savile effect, and calls to the NSPCC have increased 200 per cent since October.
“The revelations have prompted new victims come forward but have also had an impact on those survivors previously accessing support services given the widespread attention the issue has attracted.
“Clearly, childhood sexual abuse is a huge issue, and one of which the general public is now more aware.”
The Advertiser told last month how the Airdrie-based Moira Anderson Foundation,which provides counselling and support services to survivors, had been inundated with new enquiries in the wake of the revelations.
Charity founder Sandra Brown, said then: “The numbers coming to us doubled in 2010-2011, and just when we thought it couldn't get any busier, the Jimmy Savile allegations ensured our phones never stopped through October.
“The lesson we hope people will take is that it's never too late to ask for help, or to receive it.”
Responding to Mrs Mitchell's question, Ms Campbell said: “The Scottish Government is aware that Children 1st, for example, is receiving increased approaches following recent high-profile child abuse investigations.
“The Scottish Government does not tolerate any form of child abuse; I encourage anyone who is looking for support to visit the Survivor Scotland website, which details a range of support services.
“Since 2007, we have allocated £5.1 million to fund a range of support services for survivors, piloted a forum for adult survivors, are working to set up a national confidential forum and established In Care Survivors Service Scotland.”
Mrs Mitchell said later: “Although I welcome confirmation of the government's support for survivors, the minister's response did not address either the scoping exercise or the possible need to establish a helpline and have written to the minister in an effort to get those answers.”
Child abuse database to log emergency hospital visits
Children taken to A&E or out-of-hours doctors are to be logged in a national database to help medical staff identify youngsters who may be suffering abuse or neglect.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter announced the changes, saying that he hoped the new system would prevent a repeat of tragedies such as Baby P and Victoria Climbie, two children who died at the hands of abusers.
A £9m child protection information aystem will enable medical staff to see if children they treat are subject to a child protection plan. The system will indicate if a child has already identified as being at risk. Doctors and nurses will also be able to check if a child has been a frequent visitor to A&E, or has required urgent care a number of times in a specified time period. The new measures will be rolled out in 2015.
Dr Poulter said: "Doctors and nurses are often the first people to see children who are victims of abuse.
"Up until now, it has been hard for frontline healthcare professionals to know if a child is already listed as being at risk or if children have been repeatedly seen in different emergency departments or urgent care centres with suspicious injuries or complaints, which may indicate abuse.
"Providing instant access to that information means vulnerable and abused children will be identified much more quickly - which will save lives.
"Baby P and Victoria Climbie were both shocking and tragic cases - we want to do everything we can to stop them happening again. This is a huge leap forward and will give the authorities a fighting chance of identifying abused children much sooner."
A database had existed previously after it was set up by the Labour government, but was shelved in 2010. Labour claims the coalition undermined child protection by axeing the database.
The Department of Health said that it is introducing the new system because currently it is difficult to tell if children have frequently required emergency treatment for injuries such as bruising, scratches, bite marks and burns.
Under the new system, when a child arrives and is logged at an emergency department a flag will appear on the child's record if they are subject to a child protection plan or are being looked after by the local authority. Doctors and nurses will be able to use this information as part of their overall clinical assessment, along with information about where and when children have previously received treatment.
Dr Amanda Thomas, officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, welcomed the measures. She said: "This solution is a positive step and an important part of the overall solution.
"The college has been involved with (the system) from an early stage and will continue to work with the Department of Health to ensure it is introduced effectively, integrates well with the working practices of NHS staff and makes a genuine contribution to improving child protection practice."
The plans were also welcomed by Lisa Harker, head of strategy at the NSPCC. She said: "NHS doctors and nurses are often in the frontline of child protection and play a crucial role in identifying abuse victims as quickly as possible.
"So this new system for sharing information about children at risk should prove an important aid.
"Of course it's people not databases that can protect children. So, alongside this change, we would like the Department of Health to commit to improving levels of training in child protection across all healthcare settings."
Group offers training to detect child abuse
Leavenworth County Child Abuse Prevention Council (LCAPC) will conduct free training for mandated reporters of suspected child abuse/neglect in two sessions on Thursday, Jan. 10.
The sessions will take place at University of St. Mary in Mabee Auditorium, and attendees can choose between a 4-6 p.m. session and a 7-9 p.m. session.
Mandated reporters include anyone licensed in the healing arts, therapists, teachers/administrators/other school employees, KDHE child care licensees, law enforcement, EMS and firefighters, juvenile corrections personnel, court appointed case managers and mediators.
Even if not mandated by to report, LCAPC suggests the training for anyone who works or volunteers with children during their daily business.
Anyone in Leavenworth County is encouraged to attend the training to learn to recognize signs of abuse/neglect and how to get help for those children.
Register by email to LvCAPC@gmail.com
New Pennsylvania laws deal with underage drinking, child abuse, animal euthanasia
by Associated Press
New Pennsylvania laws that take effect in the coming days toughen penalties for underage drinking, mandate training for school workers on how to recognize and report child abuse, and require more humane methods of putting down animals.
Others increase worker and employee contributions to the state's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund; require contractors on public works projects to make sure through the federal E-Verify system that their employees are legal residents; and simplify voting rules for servicemen and women and others living overseas.
Under the new law on underage drinking, the maximum fine for someone under 18 caught drinking goes from $300 to $500, and the maximum is $1,000 on second offenses.
Certain school employees must be trained on how to recognize the warning signs of child abuse, on the legal reporting obligations, and on what is considered appropriate relationships with children. They must get at least three hours of training every five years.
Some provisions of the animal euthanasia law soon take effect, while others will be phased in. The new law prohibits the use of carbon monoxide gas and drowning among other methods at animal shelters and makes it easier for shelters to obtain drugs for more humane methods.
Beginning in January, workers and their employers will see a rise in their contributions to the unemployment trust fund, which will be used to make bond payments on borrowing to eliminate the state's recession-driven debt to the federal government. New restrictions on the fund also go into effect, including a cap on maximum weekly benefits that will remain in place until the fund becomes solvent, currently estimated to occur in 2017.
Revised regulations for farm vehicles go into place. And a law, which already took effect Monday, expands some games of chance. The law allows new games for fundraisers by fire companies and other nonprofits, including 50/50 drawings, and includes new rules and regulations.
Child Abuse in Russia Is Routine
The State Duma is trying to retaliate for the Magnitsky Act by approving a bill to ban U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children. As the famous quote attributed to Louis Antoine de Bourbon states, "This is worse than a crime; it is a mistake." This mistake has caused a deeper division among the ruling elite — not society, mind you — than even the Pussy Riot case did. The man responsible for this mistake is none other than President Vladimir Putin. The difference between the two cases is that Putin cannot hide behind Patriarch Kirill this time.
According to various estimates, 50 to 95 percent of children who grow up in Russian orphanages become drug addicts or alcoholics or commit suicide. Russian orphanages essentially produce children who suffer from Mowgli Syndrome — that is, they are ill-equipped to function in any capacity in society.
Neither is the situation particularly rosy regarding Russian adoptive parents. According to official government statistics, a child adopted by Russian parents is 39 times more likely to die than one adopted by parents in the West. Of course, the causes of death include not only murder and involuntary manslaughter but also car accidents, illness and other factors. Unfortunately, even those statistics understate the problem because Russian courts often fail to initiate criminal proceedings when children are the victims of mistreatment or abuse.
For example, the dead bodies of girls 15 years old and younger were discovered in Nizhny Tagil in 2008. A prostitution ring had kidnapped the girls and murdered them when they refused to become prostitutes. In the end, not a single criminal charge was ever filed in the case. Similarly, no criminal investigation was opened when four young women disappeared in Kursk in 2001. Nine years later, a person walking his dog discovered their remains. The girls had been raped and murdered by four young men. But the killers were released, in part because one of them was the son-in-law of a local Federal Security Service agent.
In Orenburg, 26 children were reported missing, yet only one criminal case was opened. In Perm, not a single case was opened in connection with any of its 27 missing children. Obviously, the official statistic that a child is 39 times more likely to die if adopted by Russian parents is an understatement. We know that the real numbers are much higher.
And that also underscores the main difference between children's rights in Russia and the West. In the U.S., child abuse is a crime. In Russia, it is routine. Up to 60 percent of children in orphanages suffer abuse from their caregivers, and it is a rare occasion when someone serves prison time for crimes against children.
If a parent kills a child, both U.S. and Russian courts consider it the behavior of an individual psychopath. But when 60 percent of Russian orphans are abused by their caregivers, Russian "society" is blamed.
The Magnitsky Act has drawn attention to crimes Russian authorities had hoped they could conceal. Russian lawmakers have resorted to blatant lies to support their position. State Duma Deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov had the temerity to say that adopted Russian children are "slaves who are not even protected by U.S. law."
State Duma Deputy Svetlana Goryacheva went even further, saying,"60,000 children have been taken to the U.S. from Russia. And if even one-tenth of these orphans were used for organ transplants or sexual pleasure, there will remain 50,000 who can be recruited for war against Russia."
But the best comment yet in this charade came from archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who said Russian children adopted by U.S. parents "do not go to heaven." What he failed to mention is that children who are not adopted and remain in Russia get to heaven much faster than they should — many before they reach 18.
The issue has divided society. It turns out that part of the Russian elite puts the motives of U.S. citizens on par with those of Osama bin Laden. And Putin is the driving force and inspiration behind this sick, warped perception.
This is a serious mistake, one that up until now had been uncharacteristic of Putin, who generally avoids making polarizing decisions. His recent dismissal of Defense Secretary Anatoly Serdyukov was similarly uncharacteristic.
It is difficult to say whether these moves are the result of Putin's reported health problems, but it can be said with certainty that the Kremlin is proving very adept at creating its own worst problems while at the same time blaming those problems on its "enemies."
30-year-old named as suspect in Lancaster sex assault on teen girl
LANCASTER -- Sheriff's detectives today identified a suspect in a sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl that occurred in Lancaster as 30-year-old Charles James.
The assault occurred on Dec. 13 about 6:15 a.m. when the girl was walking to school in the 2000 block of East Avenue J-8 in Lancaster, said Detective Brian Hudson of the sheriff's Special Victims Bureau.
She noticed she was being followed. She crossed the street and so did he. He caught up with her, and dragged her into bushes along the south side of the street where she was sexually assaulted.
He then fled and the girl was taken to a hospital for treatment.
James' last known address was in the Antelope Valley. He previously lived in Los Angeles, Inglewood and Long Beach, Hudson said.
James was described as being 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a dreadlock hair.
If anyone spots James, he should not be approached because he is regarded as dangerous. Local police should be called, or Hudson on his cellphone, (562) 619-1370.
Boy Scout files on suspected abuse published by The Times
Viewable online: about 1,200 previously unpublished files kept by the Boy Scouts of America on volunteers and employees expelled for suspected sexual abuse.
by Jessica Naziri and Nell Gram, Los Angeles Times
The Times on Tuesday released about 1,200 previously unpublished files kept by the Boy Scouts of America on volunteers and employees expelled for suspected sexual abuse.
The files, which have been redacted of victims' names and other identifying information, were opened from 1985 through 1991. They can be found in a database along with two decades of files released by order of the Oregon Supreme Court in October. The database also contains summary information on about 3,200 additional files opened from 1947 to 2005 that have not been released publicly.
Together, the material in the database represents the most complete accounting of suspected sexual abuse in the Scouts that has been made public. All of the material was obtained as a result of lawsuits against the Scouts by alleged abuse victims or by media organizations. The Boy Scouts kept the files for nearly a century for internal use only, to keep suspected abusers from rejoining.
DATABASE: Tracking decades of allegations
About as many files were opened in the six years before 1991 as in the previous two decades. At least in part, that reflects greater reporting of accusations, as awareness of child sexual abuse rose in the Scouts and society at large. About that time, the Scouts launched a concerted effort to train youths and adults on how to identify and prevent sexual abuse.
The files do not represent a complete accounting of alleged abuse in Scouting. Experts say many cases probably were not reported to the national office, and the Scouts say the organization destroyed an unknown number of files over the years.
The latest dossiers — used as evidence in a 1992 court case — are among those reviewed by The Times for a series of stories over the last year, which detailed the Scouts' repeated efforts to keep allegations from police, parents and the public and its resistance to performing criminal background checks on all volunteers. The BSA's inaction or delayed response to allegations at times allowed alleged molesters to continue sexually abusing children. Alleged abusers consistently violated a policy, instituted in 1987, prohibiting adults from being alone with Scouts.
DOCUMENTS: A paper trail of abuse
The alleged abusers — including doctors, teachers, priests and other professionals — commonly preyed on children without father figures or gained the trust of both parents.
The Boy Scouts of America says it has improved its youth protection policies over time and now is regarded by many experts as a national leader in the field. It has conducted criminal background checks on all volunteers since 2008 and since 2010 has mandated any suspicion of abuse be reported to police.
Among the accusations in the newly posted files:
• Samuel J. Becker of Canoga Park was a Scout committee chairman for four years before the Scouts became aware in 1991 that he had "quite a record in regards to child molestation and had served a prison term" and was on probation for exposing himself.
• Leader Gary L. Findlay of Carol Stream, Ill., was accused of abusing a 15-year-old in 1986, convicted of sexual abuse and expelled from the Scouts. After the arrest, another area scoutmaster wrote to scout executives, saying, "This situation could have been avoided." He had reported suspicions of abuse to a superior but said he had been ignored. The Scout leader wrote, "I am angry and frustrated by the ineptness of this scouting executive."
• Beatrice T. Oubre, a transportation volunteer from Morgan City, La., was accused of molesting a 16-year-old Scout in 1988. The Scouts asked Oubre to resign, but there is no indication she was reported to police.
FULL COVERAGE: Inside the 'perversion' files
Becker, Findlay and Oubre could not be reached for comment.
Most files opened after 1991 have not been made public, although their release is being sought in various court cases. The brief case summaries posted by The Times, covering 1947 to 2005, were obtained from a Washington attorney whose office prepared them mostly from documents sealed by a court.
Secret Boy Scout sex abuse claims posted online
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES—Thousands of previously unpublished Boy Scouts of America files that detail suspected sexual abuse by employees and volunteers have been posted online.
The Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/TiA546) published the database containing redacted victims' names on Tuesday, including material that was released earlier by an Oregon Supreme Court judge's ruling. The names of the alleged abusers—including doctors, teachers, priests—are included.
The newspaper's heavily pocked database map depicts alleged incidents of abuse that affected, or in some way connected to, Scouts in every state in the nation, as well as South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The Boy Scouts kept the files for internal use for nearly a century and have said they've improved youth protection policies. The group has conducted criminal background checks on volunteers since 2008. In 2010, the organization mandated any suspected abuse be reported to police.
In an analysis of the records, the Times found that reports increased over time, which may be the result of greater awareness of child sexual abuse. The reports are not believed to account for all abuse, because the Scouts say an unknown number of files were destroyed over the years and not all victims report crime.
The organization's inaction, and its efforts to keep allegations from police, parents and the public, allowed molesters to continue sexually abusing children, according to The Times.
The newly released files span from 1985 to 1991, and reveal that a Scouts committee chairman of four years, Samuel J. Becker of Canoga Park, had a record of child molestation, had served prison time and was on probation for exposing himself.
In another file, a Scoutmaster said he had reported suspicions of abuse about Scout Leader Gary L. Findlay of Illinois, but he was ignored by a superior. Findlay was later accused of abusing a 15-year-old in 1986, convicted of sexual abuse and expelled from the Scouts.
Most of the files opened after 1991 haven't been released. Various pending lawsuits were seeking those files.
Waco police reviewing decades of child abuse cases using new technology
by KIRSTEN CROW
Waco detectives are reviewing more than 1,000 suspended cases spanning more than two decades, looking for viable leads that could hold child abusers accountable for their crimes and help give their victims closure.
Advances in available resources and technology to investigate such cases spurred the review, said Sgt. Scott Holt, who oversees Waco Police Department's Crimes Against Children Unit.
The unit, like many other law enforcement agencies in McLennan County, regularly reviews inactive cases through a series of checks and balances.
But the large-scale effort to comb through more than 20 years of cases launched in January 2012.
There was no singular event that prompted the audit, Holt said, other than to ensure that the unit “was doing everything possible to find closure for our victims and their families.”
So far, Holt has reviewed about 400 cases and reassigned 22 of them to the unit's four investigators.
About 1,000 suspended cases — stretching from 1988 to more recent years — await review, which Holt estimates will take another one to two years to complete.
Investigators acknowledge that leads often are limited in such cases.
Advantage in training
Holt, who has been with the department for about 10 years, said current training provides the greatest advantage in reinvestigating those cases.
Detectives with the Crimes Against Children Unit — which is responsible for investigating nearly all allegations of crimes against children, including physical and sexual abuse, neglect and endangerment — now have a greater understanding of both victims and suspects, enabling them to better pursue cases, he said.
“Twenty years ago, no one specialized in those offenses, and there was not an entire unit that specialized in these (investigations),” Holt said.
The capabilities of forensic resources like DNA testing also have afforded opportunities to revisit older cases, Holt said.
All the cases that made it to the “review” stack were considered suspended, a classification that means investigators exhausted all leads and were unable to find evidence to prove or disprove an allegation, he said.
If the review unveils a viable lead, the case is reassigned,he said.
Depending on the circumstances, the suspect or the victim may be difficult to find, Holt said, as people move or change names.
In two cases, the perpetrator was identified but had died, Holt added. And some of the victims consider the allegations as history best left in the past, which detectives understand, the sergeant said.
“A lot of victims don't want to go back and relive that,” he said. “This is their case, not ours. Some just don't want to talk about it for a whole bunch of reasons.”
But others are “happy to see us back,” Holt said.
Several other local departments in McLennan County — which are smaller and do not have entire units dedicated to investigating crimes against children — reported conducting regular reviews of open cases, but not of the scale of the recent initiative launched at the Waco Police Department. Bellmead recently wrapped up its own audit of suspended sexual assault cases from 2008 to 2011, many of which were cases involving children, said Detective Haywood Sawyer, who heads investigations into reported crimes against children at the department.
When the Texas Department of Public Safety put out a call for police agencies to submit DNA in unsolved sexual assault cases, detectives didn't find any cases in which DNA hadn't already been submitted as evidence to the DPS crime lab in Waco, Sawyer said.
But investigators used it as an opportunity to review about 75 suspended cases and reinvestigate those that had viable leads, he said.
Nearly all McLennan County law enforcement agencies reported a climbing number of reports made in crimes against children cases, which officials attributed to greater awareness and education, not a higher number of committed crimes.
Although exact numbers were not available from all agencies — and some smaller agencies have so few cases that a rise may not be statistically significant enough to indicate a trend — statistics provided by the Bellmead and Waco police departments showed a distinct rise in reports in 2011. The Waco Police Department, the county's largest law enforcement agency, showed 1,883 reports of such crimes in 2009. In 2010, that number rose to 2,884, and in to 3,238 in 2011, Holt said.
Bellmead police saw a significant spike in reported crimes against children in 2011, which may have been partially fueled by high-profile sexual abuse cases involving multiple victims, Sawyer said.
In all, 122 crimes against children were reported last year in Bellmead — more than the number of similar cases reported to police in 2008, 2009 and 2010 combined, according to statistics provided by the department.
Of those reported in 2011, 58 were aggravated sexual assaults, Sawyer said.
A number of those cases, too, are attributed to alleged offenders accused of abusing several children.
For example, former La Vega Little League coach Larry Mammen, who confessed to molesting seven young boys as part of his March plea agreement, was thought to be responsible for more than 20 counts of crimes against children investigated in 2011, according to the detective.
Sawyer thinks that the rise in reports, too, may be the community responding to department's more aggressive pursuit of cases against those who harm children, he said.
Cases in which the perpetrator is in a position of power and trust often garner a higher profile, which increases awareness, detectives said.
“I think the cases that do come forward and do come through the system and there's a positive outcome — not even necessarily a long jail sentence — I think it encourages other victims, that people do believe them and despite what the offender or perpetrator has made them believe, they are worthy and they may have closure,” said Holt, adding that “these crimes are just starting to get the attention that they deserve.”
Amy Perkins, executive director of the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, said it's “a good thing” departments are receiving more reports of crimes against children, noting that she would expect the numbers to continue that rise in years to come.
As investigative methods continue to improve and evolve, law enforcement “has come a long way” in its methods of investigating and understanding crimes against children, Holt said.
Among those changes are strict protocols for ensuring that all children thought to be victims of abuse undergo a forensic interview.
Forensic interviews, conducted at the Waco Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, are conducted by professionals trained to question young witnesses of violent crimes or suspected victims of abuse in age- and developmentally appropriate ways in a safe environment.
The interviews are recorded to limit the number of times a child must tell his or her story, which may help prevent re-traumatization, experts say.
Holt said that in some of the cases under review, the statute of limitations already has expired, meaning that authorities could not pursue legal action against the perpetrator.
But they still can offer victims information about accessing available services, such as counseling at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children.
“When I became a police officer, I thought you just put the bad guy in jail,” Holt said. “But there's a lot more to it than that, and this really opens your eyes to it.”
Experts: Drugs fueling child abuse in WV
by VICKI SMITH - The Associated Press
MORGANTOWN -- Children are dying from abuse and neglect at a higher rate in West Virginia than any other state, a problem that judges, social workers and others say is fueled by rampant substance abuse and likely to grow unless lawmakers get serious about finding and paying for solutions.
Without a sufficient statewide safety net of suitable foster care, adoptive families, in-home services and community-based prevention and treatment programs for addicted parents and their children, abuse victims are all too likely to repeat what they have learned.
"We are headed for a whole generation of lost souls," worries Nicholas County Circuit Judge Gary Johnson, who says nearly 90 percent of the child-welfare cases he hears involve substance abuse. "We don't address it until we address the drug issue."
The Justice Center at the nonpartisan Council of State Governments says West Virginians are more likely to die from drug overdoses than residents of any other state, and one in 10 adults has a substance abuse problem.
Nationally, child abuse and neglect reports have fallen for five straight years, a new report by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System shows, with the number of abuse-related deaths hitting a five-year low in 2011. But West Virginia, where 16 children died last year, had the highest death rate at 4.16 children per 100,000, slightly ahead of Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Cases of abuse and neglect seldom make news but are now clogging the criminal court system. The number in circuit courts has nearly doubled in less than a decade, from 1,628 in 2002 to 3,354 last year, court officials say. In some circuits, they now consume as much as 40 percent of a judge's time.
These are just a few:
-- D.R. was 2 weeks old when someone in her Calhoun County home broke her arm. She survived 2 months, her tiny body covered in bruises, then died of head trauma. One parent violently shook her; the other failed to stop it.
-- S.G. was raped in Wood County by her mother's boyfriend, a man already facing child-sex charges in Maryland. Her mother knew about the charges and that child-welfare workers had confirmed the abuse, yet she continued the relationship and forced the child to visit her rapist in prison.
-- T.B., long neglected, was sick when he went to bed one night in Mercer County. The next morning, he was found with blue lips and a purple tongue. Though his little sister made it into foster care, the boy died of sepsis and spinal meningitis.
-- S.J. told her parents she was raped by a baby sitter in the Gilmer County home where she and her siblings had been given pornography, but they let him return anyway. Then her brother began molesting the girl and another sister. The children were removed from the home and separated after the boy was caught having sex with a chicken.
"For every child that you know about that has something horrible happen to them, there are about 150 kids right behind that child whose name you will never know, whose case you will never see and whose face never made it beyond the funeral home," retiring lawmaker Virginia Mahan said.
Mahan, a Democrat from Summers County, has devoted much of her 16 years in the House of Delegates to child-welfare matters and has co-chaired the Select Committee on Children and Juvenile Issues. But she said legislators have "barely scratched the surface" of the problems facing West Virginia's children.
Nor do they fully understand them.
"I've had lawmakers say to me, 'It isn't that bad. I got spanked when I was a kid,"' she says. "This is not that. It's not that at all.
"So much of our woes can be traced to how we treat our children," Mahan says. Although some legislators understand the importance of the problem, "I honestly think it's still not the priority it should be."
Within the court system, though, "there's been a realization this just can't continue," retiring Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh said.
"It would be impossible for any judge to adequately detail in words the horrible conditions under which some children exist," McHugh said. "It's beyond the imagination of most people. If the state doesn't step in now, these children will never make it."
Troubled kids skip school, use drugs, become violent, commit crimes and often end up in jail or prison just like their parents.
"Legislators have to realize this is a very, very serious problem," then make meaningful investments in an array of social programs, McHugh said. "What is the life of a child worth? You can put no value on it."
The state's Court Improvement Program is doing what it can to help children, strengthening the standards and training requirements for the attorneys who represent them, among other things.
Judges also are taking a hard line with parents, McHugh said.
In 2002, West Virginia courts terminated the parental rights of just 34 people, said Nikki Tennis, director of the Division of Children's Services. In 2011, judges terminated parental rights 1,065 times.
At any given time, about 4,000 children are in out-of-home care and about 1,000 are awaiting adoption, legally severed from their parents.
It's a tough call every time, said Judge Johnson, who chairs the Court Improvement Program. No matter how terrible parents are, most children want to be with them.
Years ago, Johnson terminated rights to a mistreated 12-year-old girl.
"She came up to me afterward and said, 'I'll never forgive you for this,"' he recalled. Eventually, though, the girl graduated from high school, earned a degree at West Virginia University and had a family of her own.
Her mother later moved to Pennsylvania and had another child who drowned in a bathtub.
Both the courts and the child-welfare system see family reunification as the goal in troubled homes. But often, the parents lack the resources and the support to stay clean. Nor is there anyone to hold them accountable.
"The problem is that the child-welfare system cannot be West Virginia's answer to drug abuse, and it's being asked to do so," veteran children's attorney Catherine Munster said. "It's a public health issue, not a child-welfare issue, and the storm clouds really are gathering."
West Virginia, critics contend, spends too much money on its overcrowded correctional system and not enough on the intervention and treatment programs that could help reduce crime, thin out the cell blocks and build better parents.
The state must invest in community-based treatment both for the parents and the kids, DHRR deputy commissioner Sue Hage said. Schools, medical and mental health providers, lawmakers and others have an obligation to provide the services.
"This is not a DHHR issue. It's not the courts' issue," Hage says. "It's everyone's issue and everyone's challenge."
Wilmington safe house protects sex trafficking victims
by Zach Hanner
The pattern is simple. A savvy, well-versed male spots a young girl who displays all the signs of prey. She's a runaway, in need of attention and care or simply starved for affection. The predator moves in and, before the girl knows it, she's trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse, forced to perform unspeakable acts to earn her keep.
When MaLisa Johnson first learned of this culture, she was skeptical. "I didn't think that things like sex trafficking happened here," Johnson said.
But a little research unveiled a story that Johnson found unbearable. "I was just ignorant," Johnson said. "I didn't know it happened here and I didn't know the numbers were so staggering."
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, between, 244,000 and 355,000 American youth are considered at-risk for sexual exploitation.
So Johnson, with the help of her boyfriend Stephen Umstead, founded the Centre Of Redemption, a nonprofit that seeks to provide aid and assistance for victims of sex trafficking. In addition to creating a safe house in Wilmington for survivors, the group has begun an outreach program designed to provide young women hoping to escape this lifestyle opportunity and vocational training.
"The safe house is set up to take domestic citizens that are either pregnant or have a child due to sex trafficking.," Johnson said.
While the organization began one year ago, it's taken that time to acquire and outfit the house, which is equipped to house two survivors and their children. The only caveat is that the survivor cannot be a local victim, due to the safety concerns that arise when the trafficker is in close proximity.
They have two clients, both of whom have children, and that will fully occupy the safe house.
The safe house is licensed as a home school, to provide education for both the survivors and their children. Organizations are lined up to assist with health care and vocational training.
"We have local women from the community coming in to teach life skills," Johnson said. "Our goal is to set these girls up so they can go back into society so that they can be productive members. They can learn how to sew, how to cook, how to make jewelry, learn a trade and many other things that will help prevent them from falling back into their former existence."
Johnson said that the "revolving door" nature of sex trafficking is perhaps one of its most troubling aspects. "It is estimated that a girl will come in and out of ‘the life' seven times." According to Johnson, the average life expectancy of a trafficking victim is seven years and, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average age of entry into the culture of prostitution is 12 to 14 years old.
"Traffickers are very smart," Johnson said. "They may meet a girl in the mall or on Facebook and start that ‘dating' relationship, telling them they love them that they can care for them. Then it becomes ‘I need you to do this favor for me one time. Go on this date for me,' and that's how it starts."
Sena Preziosi is a volunteer for the program and works to coordinate their community outreach, called "A Safe Place." She and the other 40 to 50 volunteers make efforts to reach local survivors and provide them essentials to make do once they've chosen to seek help.
"A lot of this activity is going on in local hotels," Preziosi said. "So we go into businesses and tell them about our program, put up stickers with our toll-free number and offer them resources to assist victims and report crimes they may see."
Currently the Centre for Redemption is seeking a community space to conduct outreach activities. "Right now, for local survivors, we are trying to collect tangible items, things like cribs, linens and items like diapers and formula, gift cards for food at local grocery stores, rides to and from their appointments. Those are the things were looking for right now."
The group also sponsors a men's outreach, Men4COR, attempting to make clear the evils of this culture to young men and adults alike. "The second biggest problem that we have is demand," Johnson said. "Sex trafficking is a supply-and-demand issue, and we can put together all the resources we like, but if we can't stop the demand the problem will continue."
Johnson also advocates for a change in language when discussing the issue.
"We use the term ‘prostitute' as a noun – as in that person who does that," Johnson said. "We should really be using it as a verb, as in ‘to prostitute' someone. If we can change that language, then the stigma falls away from the person and goes toward the act."
If you need help, wish to report a trafficking instance or would like to volunteer to aid the Centre of Redemption, call (855) 723-7529 (855-SAF-PLAZ) or log on to www.centreofredemption.com
Christmas cheer brings out the worst in some, warns Warwick charity
It may be the season of goodwill – but Warwick-based charity Safeline is gearing up for a rise in reports of rape and child sex abuse.
Meanwhile, work is underway on a medical centre for Warwickshire and Coventry victims of sex attacks, where forensic evidence can be taken.
Safeline, which operates its counselling service across the county through outreach centres, said that statistically Christmas is the worst period for sexual offences.
Chief executive Lindsey Lavender said office parties, family get-togethers, drunken nights and an increased demand for babysitters all contributed to the increase.
She said: “Christmas is usually a time for celebration. Sadly though, Safeline finds the number of people sexually abused or raped increases and we appeal to anyone who has been abused – or know someone who has – to contact our helpline. Do not keep it to yourself.”
She added that the Jimmy Savile allegations had shown that sexual abuse and rape often went unreported and that people suffered in silence.
“But this does not have to be the case and we want to make people in Warwickshire aware of Safeline and the services we offer. “We have trained counsellors providing confidential counselling every week to support survivors of such abuse so they are able to move on more positively with their lives.
“Consultations are available to young and adult survivors, males and females – as well as their families and friends.”
Safeline has supported nearly 400 survivors of rape and sexual abuse this year, provided almost 6,500 hours of counselling and answered more than 600 helpline calls.
The new sexual assault referral centre will primarily focus on a medical response to a recent event, but will also give advice on other services that will assist in a victim's recovery.
Staff will explain the options available and if at a later time they should decide to report the assault to the police the relevant forensic evidence will be available.
And with victim's permission forensic evidence may still be passed to the police even if people want to stay anonymous.
Centre manager Tony Mumford said; “Agencies across Coventry and Warwickshire including the police, NHS and Warwickshire and Coventry councils together made a firm policy and financial commitment to improve services for survivors of sexual assault and establish a sexual assault referral centre in the region. This is now coming to fruition.”
The service is expected to be operational early next year and once construction of the building is complete it will be delivered to its location at George Eliot Hospital, Nuneaton, where it will be dropped into place by crane.
• Safeline can be contacted on helpline 0800 800 5005, 01926 408315, email email@example.com and www.safeline.co.uk
• The Rape or Sexual Abuse Support Project on 01788 551151 and www.survivorguide.co.uk
• The Terence Higgins Trust on 02476 229292 and www.tht.org.uk
Anonymous takes on alleged Ohio gang rapists and their protectors
A hacker group, connected with Anonymous, announced Sunday that it has extensive information on people said to have been involved in the gang rape of a 15-year-old Ohio girl. Local parents and authorities are accused of protecting the rapists.
The brutal assault was the subject of a New York Times profile, which described how local superstar high school football players Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond are charged with the rape and kidnap of the girl in Steubenville, Ohio. But most accounts claim that the two were not the only ones involved.
" The town of Steubenville has been good at keeping this quiet and their star football team protected," reads the statement from the Anonymous-affiliated group, which refers to itself as KnightSec.
As part of "Operation Roll Red Roll," KnightSec claims to have obtained extensive information on "everyone involved including names, social security numbers, addresses, relatives, and phone numbers." The group says that adults in the football-crazed town are protecting the group of boys involved, which other students at the Big Red High School say refers to itself as the "rape crew."
In addition to the sexual attack, those involved also took photos of the unconscious girl and are said to have dragged her from party to party.
KnightSec also released "preliminary" information about the members of the "rape crew," calling it a "warning shot to the school faculty, the parents of those involved, and those involved especially ." The information already posted includes names, addresses, phone numbers, and names of parents of those alleged to have been involved in the gang rape. It's preceded by a list of the thirteen accused rapists, and threatens to expose more people if those involved to do publicly apologize "in the next few days."
"You now have the world looking directly at you ," the statement reads.
A note included with a video reading of the statement says that Harold Malone, who was included in the list, has since proven himself innocent and as such is not a target of Operation Roll Red Roll.
U.S. Senate condemns Village Voice for aiding prostitution, sex trafficking
by Eric Schulzke
In a very unusual move, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution last week calling on the Village Voice to rid itself of its "adult" web feature that, critics argue, serves as a vehicle for prostitution and human trafficking including child prostitution.
The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who argued on his website that "The site's 'adult entertainment' section generates more than 80 percent of prostitution advertising revenue on the web. Village Voice Media, which makes an estimated $26 million per year from these ads, claims it polices the ads on its site, but the statistics say otherwise. According to the National Association of Attorneys General, 23 states have cumulatively filed more than 50 charges against suspects trafficking minors on Backpage.com."
The measure passed by a voice vote, meaning that ayes and nays were not recorded.
Pressure has been building on the Village Voice for some time. In September 2011, attorneys general from 48 states and three territories signed a letter outlining the modus operandi of the website and demanding corrective action.
"We have tracked more than 50 instances, in 22 states over three years, of charges filed against those trafficking or attempting to traffic minors on Backpage.com," the attorneys general wrote, "These are only the stories that made it into the news; many more instances likely exist. These cases often involve runaways ensnared by adults seeking to make money by sexually exploiting them. In some cases, minors are pictured in advertisements."
New York Times columnist Nichols Kristof wrote a scathing column March 17, 2012, profiling a child prostitution victim of the Village Voice.
"After Alissa (her street name) testified against her pimps," Kristof wrote, "six of them went to prison for up to 25 years. Yet these days, she reserves her greatest anger not at pimps but at companies that enable them. She is particularly scathing about Backpage.com, a classified advertising website that is used to sell auto parts, furniture, boats — and girls. Alissa says pimps routinely peddled her on Backpage.
“You can't buy a child at Wal-Mart, can you?” she asked Kristof. “No, but you can go to Backpage and buy me on Backpage.”
In April 2012, several senators, again led by Sen. Kirk, sent a letter to advertisers requesting that they use their economic leverage to pressure the Village Voice. According to Sen. Kirk's website, several major corporations agreed to do so.
Forty major advertisers received the letter, but according to Kirk's website only eight of those responded and agreed to ban future advertising with the Village Voice: Toyota, AT&T, Live Nation, Crown Imports, MillerCoors, Children's Wish Foundation, Mayo Clinic and T-Mobile.
Among major corporations that received the letter but apparently have not responded are Barnes & Noble, the American Automobile Association, Anheuser-Busch, Hyatt Hotels, Foot Locker and Marriott International.
The War on Trafficking
Will California's crackdown do more harm than good?
by Rebecca Burns
We have this odd conflict in our law where it's statutory rape for an adult to engage in sex with a minor, yet a minor can be prosecuted for commercial sex.
An overwhelming majority of Californians voted for Proposition 35, the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act,” this November, swayed by gripping campaign imagery: a teenage girl tricked and kidnapped by a powerful pimp, then forced to provide sexual services to multiple men. Yet many anti-trafficking groups say that this paradigm is dangerously simplistic—and that Prop. 35 is a flawed measure that could harm those it intends to help.
Prop. 35 is the latest in a slew of controversial state-level anti-trafficking laws that boost police resources and increase criminal penalties. To discuss the ramifications of these laws, In These Times convened four experts: Kelli Dorsey, executive director of Different Avenues , which advocates for girls and women engaged in alternative economies such as prostitution; Ken Franzblau, an anti-trafficking consultant for Equality Now; Emi Koyama, an activist focusing on violence in and out of the sex trade; and Stephanie Richard from the California-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
In These Times: The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation have challenged Prop. 35, alleging that it violates online freedom of speech, so the law is tied up in court. But if it does go into effect, what might its impact be?
Stephanie: Overall, Prop. 35 has really increased public awareness of human trafficking in California. But many experts in the field are also concerned about how it will ultimately impact survivors.
Kelli: This was obviously a well-in-tended measure. But in designing Prop. 35, the people behind it—a community activist new to the issue and a millionaire funder—didn't consult with victims of trafficking, or the groups who work with them.
The measure's description of trafficking is extremely broad. People under the age of 18 participating in the sex trade could potentially be charged as traffickers for aiding each other—sharing resources, sharing clients—even though harm-reduction service providers suggest [to sex workers] that they partner up to be safer. Prop. 35 overlaps with good laws already in place to help people who have been trafficked
In the past year, nearly 30 states have passed human trafficking legislation. Why this push for new laws?
Emi: We're in the midst of a “war on trafficking.” It's similar to the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” in that we've removed these acts—drug use, terrorism, trafficking—from the con- texts in which they occur. When we talk about trafficking, we need to think about both “push” and “pull” factors — meaning, social factors like poverty and racism that push people to become vulnerable to begin with, as well as abusive or exploitative arrangements they may be pulled into because resources are inadequate. Instead, we ignore all that and focus on the “bad people” — usually portrayed in the media as urban men of color kidnapping young, white girls. We assume that if we put them in prison, everything will be solved.
Ken: But the benefit of legislation like Prop. 35 is that it does focus on the bad people: the traffickers. In most jurisdictions, currently, the people engaging in prostitution are the ones treated as criminals. The approach we need to embrace is decriminalization of people in prostitution, in conjunction with increased penalties for those who purchase sex. This is the model already used across Scandinavia.
You're talking about a strategy to curb prostitution by ending demand for it. Is this also a strategy to combat human trafficking?
Kelli: Sex trafficking and the sex trade are routinely conflated, including by promoting “ending demand” for prostitution as an anti-trafficking strategy. But the majority of people in the sex trade are not trafficked. Going after buyers of commercial sex ends up driving sex work further underground, increasing the risk of violence.
Ken: I have to disagree with that. By criminalizing only the purchase of commercial sex, you're no longer prosecuting victims. Trafficking in Sweden, as well as the number of women in prostitution, has dropped dramatically since the inception of this approach. By contrast, everywhere we see full legalization of prostitution, we see increases in trafficking.
Kelli: But you can't just direct resources to law enforcement and not have it also impact the people in the sex trade. When we fail to employ a race and class analysis of policing, we miss how these laws play out in communities of color.
This issue is partly a terminological one: How is trafficking defined, and what phenomena might not be captured in this definition?
Stephanie: There is a federal definition of human trafficking that covers both labor and sex trafficking. But there is a lot of misunderstanding about this. So we end up with laws where there are lower penalties for labor trafficking, which sends the message that one crime is worse than another. When people are looking at initiatives around trafficking, they should ask whether they help all victims: men, women and children; U.S. citizens and foreign nationals; [victims of] labor and sex trafficking.
Emi: I appreciate the idea that we need to help all survivors of trafficking. But the concept of trafficking has become so broad that it's no longer useful. It leads us to focus only on the most sensationalistic example: young people in the sex trade.
When the first comprehensive federal anti-trafficking legislation was passed in 2000, all youth under 18 involved in the sex trade were reclassified as trafficking victims. This marked the beginning of the focus on youth trading sex—but it hasn't prevented them from being arrested for prostitution. Why?
Stephanie: The fact of the matter is that if you are a minor or under the age of 18 in California, [even under Prop. 35] you can still be arrested for prostitution and criminally charged: That's happening to kids as young as 11 and 12. We have this odd conflict in our law where it's statutory rape for an adult to engage in sex with a minor, yet a minor can be prosecuted for commercial sex.
Ken: We need laws that say we won't arrest minors for prostitution-related offenses. In New York, we've had such a policy in place for five years now, but [police still] arrest anybody in prostitution. It's going to take a lot of training and education of law enforcement to change this.
Emi: Harassment against people in the sex trade is connected to police conduct toward people of color, queer and transient people and street youth, who suffer pervasive violence, surveillance and harassment. How can we expect to change that simply by educating the police? There's an assumption that “decriminalization” means that people in the sex trade won't be punished. But they're already criminalized.
How, then, might we better protect the human rights of sex workers and trafficking victims?
Emi: The mainstream sex workers' movement has long emphasized decriminalization. The assumption—which is a fairly white, middle class one—is that people who are in the sex trade are targeted because prostitution is illegal. No: People in the sex trade are targeted already, and the laws about prostitution simply make it easier.
Kelli: I'll give you an example of this. D.C. has “prostitution-free zones” based on anti-loitering laws. If two or more people are standing on the street for a certain period of time without an apparent destination, they can be arrested. But if prostitution were legal, black folks, immigrants and LGBT folks still couldn't stand on the corner without being harassed by police.
Emi: We need a movement for anti-criminalization that challenges the overreach of policing, which the mainstream anti-trafficking movement has advanced.
Ken: We also shouldn't make the perfect the enemy of the good. I think the reason why Prop. 35 got such broad support is that it takes steps in the right direction.
The Heartbreaking Truth About Santa Still Stings Adults
Emily Charlton, as a wide-eyed fourth grader, said she felt betrayed by her classmates on her elementary school playground during recess just before the holidays.
"It was a day or two before Christmas break so we were talking about what we had asked for and I remember saying at one point, 'Well I asked Santa for...' and everyone started laughing," said Charlton, now a 29-year-old waitress from San Diego. "I think they thought I was making a joke."
She stood her ground. "I remember feeling embarrassed and upset," said Charlton. "My belief, however, was unchanged."
But it got worse.
A few days later, she was at Toys "R" Us with her father and saw him pack a long, narrow box into the trunk. On Christmas morning, her younger sister opened up an electric keyboard from Santa in that same box.
Charlton ran to her mother for reassurance that what she suspected was wrong.
"I will never forget what came next," she said. "She looked at me, and without skipping a beat said, 'Don't tell your brother and sister.' I was devastated. … A huge bomb was dropped on me and as silly as it sounds, it really changed my life.
"The worst part of all was how unceremoniously it happened, it was like one minute I was a child full of wonderment, and in a flash was snapped into a world of non-believing, magic-less adults."
Parents aren't the only grinches this time of year.
In Ontario, Canada, this week a man walked along a Christmas parade route telling kids there is no Santa Claus , according to 24 Hours Vancouver. The 24-year-old, whose hair was gelled to look like horns, was arrested for intoxication and causing a disturbance.
And a news anchor in Chicago went on a rant against the jolly old man after a segment on holiday expectations and the bad economy, according to the Huffington Post.
"Stop trying to convince your kids that Santa is Santa," said Robin Robinson of Fox Chicago. "That's why they have these high expectations. They know you can't afford it, so what do they do? Just ask some man in a red suit. There is no Santa."
Robinson later apologized.
Of course the truth is inevitable, unless you are a logical middle-school child who has done a careful "cost-benefit analysis."
"I was one of those kids who stretched a belief in Santa for as long as possible, probably well past a point of willful ignorance," said Peter Dacey, a 27-year-old from Easton, Conn.
He had been the recipient of several "Christmas miracles." One was the "coolest space Lego out there," the working monorail, which he was convinced was too expensive for his parents to give him.
The other came right out of the "Miracle on 34th Street" playbook when his family was living in temporary housing, looking for a new home.
"All I wanted for Christmas was for us to find a house," said Dacey. "Strangely, that year I found a little box in the tree left for me that contained some random key. But it didn't seem so strange when I realized that it must be the key to our new home. I took it with me to the next few open houses we went to, and lo and behold, it fit in one."
In the end, it was a question of what reaped the most rewards.
"If you don't believe in Santa, no good comes of it, as either you're correct or you're not, in which case have fun forcing your parents to get you all your future Christmas gifts while Santa visits the believers," said Dacey. "On the other hand, if you do believe, the worst that can happen is that you find out you were wrong, and what's the harm there?"
To this day, Dacey said there is a part of him that "still believes," at least in the messages of love and giving.
"I suppose I stopped believing in a living, breathing jolly-old-elf over a number of middle-school years, but have never stopped believing in Santa," he said. "I hope the silver sleigh bell would still ring for me."
Emily Charlton is still miffed that Mom spilled the beans.
"It was honestly the first time I can remember feeling heartbreak," she said. "I don't think it was just about the belief in Santa, but about the belief in magic and wonder and make believe, and everything that makes your childhood so great," she said.
But one parent -- now a grandmother who dresses up each year pretending to be an elf -- defended herself for bringing a dose of reality to her household when she was raising a family.
She was outraged when her 6-year-old son was sent to the principal's office for telling his first-grade class there was no Santa Claus.
"Man, was I mad about that," said Martha Chabinsky, a 59-year-old yoga teacher from Amherst, N.H. "Punishing a kid for telling the truth."
Twitter acts against child sex abuse accounts
Twitter has shut down several accounts that were being used to spread images of child sexual abuse over the weekend.
by Christopher Williams
Child protection groups warned Twitter members not to retweet or point their followers towards such accounts if they appear in their feed, but to report them to Twitter and law enforcement authorities.
The Internet Watch Foundation, a non-profit body funded by internet firms that seeks to remove child abuse material from the web as quickly as possible, said it had receive more than 200 complaints about the accounts over the weekend.
“Nearly 500 reports to the Hotline this weekend. 200+ for Twitter content which is now down,” said Emma Lowther, the organisation's communications director.
The name of the one illegal accounts became a trending topic on Sunday as Twitter members were outraged by its content. Twitter itself has not commented on the incident.
The firm has a special email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, for reporting illegal material.
“We do not tolerate child sexual exploitation on Twitter,” its child protection policy states.
“When we are made aware of links to images of or content promoting child sexual exploitation they will be removed from the site without further notice.”
It was criticised in January for being “a little bit behind” other websites in creating ways for members to report abuse material.
“They are a little bit behind some other sites that have been around a little bit longer," said Peter Davies, the chief executive of Ceop, Britain's specialist child protection police unit.
Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell says sorry to victims of clergy abuse
(Video on site)
AN apology made by Australia's most senior Catholic to those who suffered abuse at the hands of priests has been labelled a "minimal response" by a child sexual abuse victims group.
Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell apologised to those who have "suffered at the hands" of priests and religious teachers.
While not specifically mentioning allegations of child sex abuse by members of the clergy, Cardinal Pell said he was "deeply sorry" for the hurt that had occurred, calling it "completely contrary" to Christ's teachings.
"I am deeply sorry this happened," Cardinal Pell said.
"I feel too the shock and shame across the community at these revelations of wrongdoing and crimes."
In his statement, Cardinal Pell said people had "suffered at the hands" of fellow Christians, Christian officials, priests and religious teachers.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Dr Cathy Kezelman said the Catholic Church needed to be more transparent and forthright about its role in the abuse of children over the years.
"It's an absolutely minimal response to express regret," she said today.
"It's very important that we also acknowledge the failure of religious organisations, including the Catholic Church, to respond appropriately to victims."
Efforts by the church to "cover up" its role in the abuse of children meant many victims still had not received justice years later, she said.
Christmas in particular was a time when these survivors often felt the most isolated and alone as they reflected on the abuse committed from within a trusted authority.
"It absolutely challenges and rocks one's faith," Dr Kezelman said.
"To have that ultimate betrayal by someone not only you should trust but is meant to be setting a moral compass."
But Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said Cardinal Pell's statement represented a "cultural shift" in the church as it comes to terms with the role played by some its clergy.
Not all victims would find solace in his words, but it was an important message that needed to be said, she added.
"The silence, secrecy and the shame which the church have been leaders in, are the offenders best friend and our children's worst enemy," Ms Johnston said.
"I think they're finally ready to face the demons and face the past and to hopefully put it behind them."
Catholics who had deserted the church over its handling of child abuse might also find some comfort in knowing Cardinal Pell had acknowledged the suffering, she said.
A spokesman for victims support group Broken Rites Dr Wayne Chamley said the church was beginning to "appreciate" the scale of its involvement in child abuse since the royal commission was announced.
"It's pleasing that he's opening up his heart to these people," Dr Chamley told ABC television.
"I don't think we've seen a statement in the past which was reflecting on the scale of what's gone on."
Cardinal Pell's Christmas message comes in the wake of accusations that the church has been covering up its involvement in child sexual abuse by silencing victims, hindering police and alerting offenders.
Faith in "God's goodness and love" was needed "to help those who have been hurt", Cardinal Pell said in his message.
"We need the hope that comes to us from Christ's birth with his call to conversion, to sorrow for sins and the necessity of reparation," he said.
"The light of Christ shines through this darkness."
One senior NSW police investigator's damning testimony into how the church destroyed evidence and moved accused priests around the country prompted Prime Minister Julia Gillard to announce the royal commission in November.