Fla. Child Abuse Deaths Decrease
by Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. --
(AP) - A total of 130 children were fatally abused in Florida in 2011, a decrease from the previous year.
A new state report released Friday shows that the number of verified child abuse or neglect deaths has continued to drop the last few years.
Most of the children who died were under the age of five.
A state committee that reviewed nearly all of the verified deaths concluded that the most of the children died from neglect, with 32 children dying from drowning and 30 children dying as a result of unsafe sleeping practices that can lead to suffocation.
The state review concluded that most of the children who died from abuse had been previously abused.
Is sex abuse really on the decline?
Recent media attention has been given to the issue of child abuse. A recent Associated Press report suggested that a decrease in child sex abuse may be due to the increased level of publicity surrounding the arrests of high profile people such as Jerry Sandusky at Penn State.
Reading about such cases is certainly uncomfortable and troubling for most of us. We don't like to think of a defenseless child being victimized in any way, let alone sexually. We are reviled by the descriptions of the sordid acts that are perpetrated against these innocent children. So, when we read that child abuse is declining, we celebrate and breathe easier. The newspaper article also noted that "better law enforcement and policies to protect children" can also be given credit for reduced child abuse.
We at the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County agree that our response to cases of abuse has improved, and this may reflect the decreased numbers as noted in the press. Many states, including New York, have legislated that all cases of child abuse be investigated using a multidisciplinary team approach. The disciplines of police, Child Protective Services, the district attorney, medical personnel, advocacy, therapy and a child advocacy center, if one exists, all communicate with each other to arrive at the best way of pursuing the truth of the case, dealing with any offender(s) and treating the child throughout the process and afterward. Cayuga County's Child Advocacy Center is a "child-friendly" place where these professionals meet with the victims.
It doesn't have that cold and sterile atmosphere typical of some police stations (no wanted posters, no criminals present). Whenever possible, children are brought to the CAC for the necessary interview by police and CPS. Advocates are there to support the child and any non-offending family members that might need further assistance. Victims are offered free therapy. Cases are coordinated in an effort to reduce stress on the child and non-offending family and to reduce the risk of "case pollution" that comes from multiple interviews. The result is that children are less anxious and more likely to cooperate with the investigations. And the family receives support that empowers them to better navigate the system. Using the multidisciplinary team is a proven approach that has improved overall outcomes for all.
But don't exhale quite yet. Data from convicted sex offenders suggest that they average between 114 and 300 victims, and are only convicted of one or two of their crimes. Predators usually start young (around the age of 14), and are very good at "grooming" victims (and families) to perpetrate their crime and keep it secret. Resistance to reporting is reinforced by shame and guilt on the part of the child and/or family.
Statistics indicate that only one in 10 children ever report abuse. Of those who disclose, nearly 75 percent later "recant" due to fear and uncertainty of what will happen. Remember that 85 percent of child abuse is perpetrated by a family member or close family associate. Reporting abuse can mean that the family system is disrupted and the child often feels responsible for this.
So you may argue that sex offences have not declined, but that sex offenders have become better at avoiding being caught. We must not let our guard down. We need to make it impossible for sexual predators to operate in our county by maintaining a healthy skepticism when it comes to our kids' playmates and caregivers. For information about how sexual predators groom potential victims and what we can do to keep kids safe, contact the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County at 253-9795 or visit www.cacofcayugacounty.org
Norm Ashbarry is the law enforcement coordinator for the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County. Norm is a retired New York state trooper with more than 30 years of experience investigating criminal activity. Norm has a B.A. degree in psychology from SUNY Fredonia.
Nearly 600 Children Sexually Abused in the CSRA
The first week of classes for 2013 will begin soon for Augusta State. Administrators want to give back to the community, and that's why the Rotaract Club is starting a project for Child Enrichment. This project will be a clothing closet for abused and severely neglected children. Members say, Children often have only the clothing they were wearing when removed from abusive homes, specifically in rape cases.
Rotaract Advisor Pamela Lightsey says, The services that child and enrichment programs provide are crucial. And you know it may not save a life, but it will help them get through therapy and help them get to a new family, make them a productive part of society as they grow older.”
More than 630 children were victims of sexual abuse last year in Columbia, Burke and Richmond County. Pamela Lightsey says most of the victims had their underwear taken away as evidence to their case each time. That's another reason why she says the ‘clothing closet ‘is a self esteem booster and extremely important.
Lightsey explains, “I think to raise awareness to have a child that you're either related to, or you know of that is in need—getting that support and letting them know that they can overcome what has happened to them, because they are truly the victim .”
Children who have been sexually abused or tortured receive professional therapeutic services through the Child Enrichment's Advocacy center. Last year more than 300 children received these services—Lightsey says the goal is to help even more.
You can drop those items off at the ASU Jag-card office.
The drive runs through Friday, January 11 th .
For more information, click here http://www.childenrichment.org/
Crowd demands justice for Steubenville rape victim
Case draws national attention
by MARYLYNNE PITZ
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — For more than three hours Saturday, chants, signs, and speeches filled the cold air outside the Jefferson County Courthouse as a crowd of 800 to 1,000 people demanded a more thorough investigation into the alleged rape of a 16-year-old West Virginian by football players from this Ohio Valley community.
Two members of the Steubenville High School football team, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond, both 16, have been charged with assaulting the young woman in August and face trial in February.
The case has attracted national attention because of recent Internet postings, including a 12-minute video of a former Steubenville student recounting the alleged sexual assault in graphic detail.
Initially, online conversations focused on a series of alcohol-fueled parties attended on Aug. 11 by football players in which the girl, who was inebriated and largely unresponsive, was carried from place to place, photographed, and assaulted, according to witnesses.
Later postings featured criticism of the teenagers' behavior and the investigation that followed.
“I will not stand idly by and let a young girl's life be ruined because she believes everyone is apathetic,” said Sable Foster, a 23-year-old Kent State University senior who spoke to the crowd through a bullhorn. Later, she said the initial investigation by Steubenville police lacked thoroughness.
“We need the actual culprits. It takes more than two people to … transport a body from party to party. There are some liquor stores that will sell to Big Red [Steubenville High School] football players. We don't want to see it tried in juvenile court. That's an adult crime.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is leading the prosecution because the local prosecutor and judge recused themselves.
Saturday's demonstration was organized by the online activist group known as Anonymous, which has taken a role in keeping national attention on the case.
Members of the group have hacked into email accounts and Web sites of people connected to the alleged crime and have posted images and documents online, including the 12-minute video of the former student recounting the rape.
Anonymous supporters wear the Guy Fawkes mask made popular in the film V for Vendetta, and many such masks were present at Saturday's demonstration.
Milissa Snider of Wintersville, Ohio, carried a placard that read, “Your ‘Rape Crew' is Over,” a reference to what some of the football team members are said to have called themselves.
More than a dozen women stood in front of a microphone on the courthouse steps.
Many spoke briefly, and some wept openly while recounting their experiences as rape survivors.
One woman, who gave her name as Robin, said she was molested 58 years ago.
“How proud I am of this woman for standing up. It is not your fault,” she said.
James Lancaster, a father of five who lives in Steubenville, applauded the women. Like some demonstrators, he wore a mask but removed it before speaking.
“These are our daughters, our sisters, our wives. We need to teach our children right from wrong,” said Mr. Lancaster, who is a mental health coordinator for the mentally handicapped.
Over and over, the protesters demanded the resignations of Reno Saccoccia, the Steubenville High School football coach who was criticized after the incident for not disciplining other players who were at the party, and of Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.
The sheriff is accused of not taking enough responsibility in the investigation.
Sherrif Abdalla watched the crowd before addressing it. He was dressed in uniform and wore a teal ribbon, a symbol of support for rape victims.
Nancy Snodgrass, 49, of nearby Follansbee, W.Va., said she would have walked three miles to attend the demonstration but hitched a ride with a friend.
“These women are so brave to step forward. We need to stand up for these women.”
Ms. Snodgrass criticized Sheriff Abdalla.
“He's playing Pontius Pilate. He should be doing something about this,” she added.
Sheriff Abdalla called the women's stories heartbreaking.
He told the protesters that he advises third and fourth graders to be wary of strangers and warns them to watch out for relatives too because “we've arrested fathers and grandfathers and stepfathers and boyfriends.”
After a demonstrator asked him when he first saw the 12-minute video, Sheriff Abdalla replied, “The first time I saw it was three days ago.”
“Liar, liar, pants on fire,” the crowd shouted.
Sheriff Abdalla responded to reporters' queries as he left the courthouse steps.
He said the boy who narrates the 12-minute video “wasn't there when the alleged rape happened. He made that video based on what people told him,” Sheriff Abdalla said. “Three individuals witnessed the sexual contact.”
Earlier in the day, Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison spoke at a news conference to unveil a Web site called SteubenvilleFacts.org, sponsored by the city and its police department “to disseminate the most accurate information” about the case.
The Web site was set up by Mark Weaver, who was Ohio's deputy attorney general from 1995 through 1999. The former prosecutor, who lives in Columbus, runs a business called Communications Counsel.
Mr. Weaver said he was hired last week. His appearance followed by two weeks the New York Times' publication of an in-depth story about the case.
During Saturday's briefing, Ms. Davison did her best to put distance between the city's seven-member council and local authorities.
The Jefferson County prosecutor and sheriff, she said, are elected by county residents.
“The city has no authority over the schools or the prosecutor,” Ms. Davison said. “The city does not run the school or the football program.”
Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty said police obtained the 12-minute video, narrated by a male teenager, in August.
He said some residents have received harassing phone calls and one man had to turn off his phone.
Brian Yontz, a 21-year-old security guard who grew up in Steubenville, and his aunt Michele Thomas were among the first to arrive for the rally and brought with them a pile of colorful signs.
“No football player should think that they can do whatever they want and get away with it,” Mr. Yontz said.
Mr. Yontz, who played left tackle on the football team and graduated from Steubenville High School in 2009, said he left the team in his sophomore year after missing several practices because his grandfather, who later died, was gravely ill.
Coach Soccaccio, Mr. Yontz said, “thinks football is above everything else and it's not.”
A month we should not need
by Julia Spitz
It doesn't seem as if 2013 should start out this way, at least not in America.
There should be absolutely no need to designate January as “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”
There should be no cause for U.S. Rep. Karen Bass from California to be pushing for further examination of the impacts of sex trafficking on children in our foster care system.
There should be no reason for a rally planned for Friday, Jan. 11, in front of Worcester City Hall at 8 a.m., to commemorate National Trafficking Awareness Day.
There should be no reason for President Obama's statement that “this month, we rededicate ourselves to stopping one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time. Around the world, millions of men, women, and children are bought, sold, beaten, and abused, locked in compelled service and hidden in darkness. They toil in factories and fields; in brothels and sweatshops; at sea, abroad, and at home. They are the victims of human trafficking — a crime that amounts to modern-day slavery.''
And yet, there are thousands of reasons why 2013 is starting out this way, and thousands of reasons why Attorney General Martha Coakley in November joined a national coalition seeking funding for programs to fight human trafficking.
The reasons can be found in a September article in USA Today quoting a 24-year-old woman from Boston, who told of being held captive and forced into prostitution.
The reasons can be found even closer to home, where human trafficking charges were among those filed against a Framingham man last July, in cases involving two women, and also among the charges against owners of a massage parlor in Wellesley after an October raid.
The problem isn't new. The problem is it's still a problem.
"Despite greater awareness, there is a substantial need for greater training and efforts to educate the general public about human trafficking,'' said Julie Dahlstrom, managing attorney for the Immigration Legal Assistance Program of Worcester-based Lutheran Social Services of New England. "Many people still believe that trafficking only involves children or people in far-off places, but trafficking can involve anyone, including U.S. citizens or non-citizens, adults or children, and men or women.
"It takes a variety of forms. It may look initially like factory work or domestic labor, in the case of labor trafficking. And, the line between labor trafficking and exploitation is not always easily apparent. Similarly, there is not always a clear distinction between prostitution and trafficking.''
"Because of the nature of the crime, there is no sound methodology to measure the problem; however, experts estimate that 27 million people are trafficked internationally and domestically,'' Coakley's office states on its website.
"Americans have difficulty understanding that trafficking is happening in our factories, in our suburbs, and in our neighborhoods,'' said Dahlstrom. "It is important for the media and general public to start to focus on what is happening within our borders. We must realize that there are hundreds of women, young and old, who, without greater family, community and social support, are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. We must realize that within our factories and in our homes, there are exploited workers who feel coerced to work in deplorable conditions. ... We must recognize the harm that this does to our own communities and the need to provide real, effective services to this population.
"Legislation was instrumental in shining a light on (human trafficking) in Massachusetts and providing prosecutors with greater tools to prosecute human trafficking crimes. However, no funding was attached to the legislation to provide comprehensive services to survivors of human trafficking,'' said Dahlstrom.
"We used to provide specific and specialized services for trafficked/prostituted women,'' said Mary Gianakis, director of Framingham-based Voices Against Violence, "but unfortunately, the funding went away. We still see those women, but do not have the resources to actively promote services to that population.''
"It often is a long road to exit out of exploitations. Survivors, whether citizens or non-citizens, often have nothing: no family or community support, no job, no money, and no place to live. It can be an enormous task to recreate this and simply is not possible without funding dedicated to victim services,'' said Dahlstrom. "There are amazing programs in Massachusetts, some of them led by survivors who can connect with women and effectively offer individuals a way out of exploitation.
"We have the tools; now, we only need the resources to make them work,'' Dahlstrom said.
Among the basic resources available are the toll-free National Human Trafficking Resource Center line, 888-373-7888, and the Polaris Project website, polarisproject.org.
Among the basic hopes is for a time when a year won't need to start with a month devoted to preventing crimes akin to slavery in our own backyards.
And among the basic steps toward that goal is what Gianakis sees as the key to stemming domestic violence: "Education, education, education.
"We have got to continue ... working to change the social norms that support and promote violence, and pushing for public policies that support and protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable.''
Efforts to stop sex trafficking continue despite lack of statistics
by Heidi R. Kinchen
Judging by the “End Human Trafficking” billboards and the work of a Baton Rouge-based anti-trafficking group building a shelter in Livingston Parish, sex trafficking is a significant problem in south Louisiana.
Local experts insist victims' services are desperately needed; nevertheless, reliable statistics on the full extent of the problem remain elusive.
“A lot of people think trafficking doesn't happen in Louisiana or in Baton Rouge, but it does,” said Lee Domingue, co-founder with his wife, Laura, of the awareness organization Trafficking Hope, which is building the shelter in rural Livingston Parish. “And it happens in north Baton Rouge, in south Baton Rouge and in areas you wouldn't think, but it happens under the surface.”
Louisiana law defines sex trafficking as the inducement of a commercial sex act from an adult by force, fraud or coercion, or from a minor irrespective of force, fraud or coercion. Transporting the victim is not required for a violation of the law; facilitating the sex act or benefiting, financially or otherwise, from it is enough to trigger a violation.
The term “trafficking” and its description as “modern-day slavery” can be misleading for both victims and the public, said Judy Benitez, executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault.
“It puts the image in our heads of girls being physically restrained or handcuffed or put in a cage, but that is usually not the case,” she said. “Usually it's more akin to a domestic violence situation where … they could leave, but there are a variety of factors making them unwilling to do so.”
Those factors include threats of harm, intimidation, bullying, blackmail and coerced or forced drug use to the point of addiction and dependence, Benitez said.
Homeless and runaway youth are particularly vulnerable: One 15-year-old girl who had run away from a group home was rescued at a Baton Rouge hotel in February 2011 after she called a family member to report that a man she had met on the streets had forced her to provide sexual services for men who responded to an ad posted on the Internet, Baton Rouge police had reported at the time.
Sex trafficking is happening in the suburbs and rural areas as well, said Blair Edwards, juvenile court judge for the 21st Judicial District, which covers Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes.
Edwards said she has seen at least two cases of suspected sex trafficking of minors in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes.
“There are many others out there that we believe we're dealing with, but we haven't been able to really verify that this is the case,” she said.
Although the girls do not admit to having been trafficked, Edwards said, the signs are unmistakable.
“It just stood out to me when we had a 15-year-old girl, for example, test positive for cocaine and had been a runaway for several weeks,” Edwards said.
“If a child has been missing, or has run away for a month or two, you know somebody is taking care of that child and you start to ask questions about who that person is and why,” she said.
“Then if you find the child has gone to Tennessee or Florida or Alabama, has crossed state lines, those are things that really raise eyebrows.”
Documenting the cases
Nationwide, task forces funded through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 opened 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
In fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges in 71 cases of sex trafficking against 113 defendants and secured 85 convictions.
In the Baton Rouge and New Orleans metro areas, more than 100 minors were identified as victims of sex trafficking between 2006 and 2008, according to a 2008 report by Shared Hope International, a Vancouver, Wash.-based nonprofit that works toward the eradication of sex trafficking.
Since 2009, the Rescue and Restore Coalition of Louisiana has identified another 140 victims, mostly from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans metro areas, said Gena Bohl, public awareness coordinator for Trafficking Hope.
Trafficking Hope spokeswoman Molly Venzke declined The Advocate's request to be put in contact with a trafficking victim willing to speak about the experience.
“We cannot offer that, especially because we haven't been able to put someone through the process of 18 months of restoration,” she said, adding that it would be exploitative to do an interview with the newspaper at this point.
Katherine Green, chairwoman of the Louisiana Human Trafficking Task Force for the Middle District, said identifying and documenting victims has been a problem across the country.
“When the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was enacted, the focus was on international victims or those abroad, not on victims here in the U.S.,” Green said. “It wasn't until the 2003 and 2005 reauthorizations of the act that emphasis was added to broaden the focus to include domestic human trafficking.”
The lack of data held up a 2011 reauthorization of the federal act because, as U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted in committee, without more precise numbers, the government cannot determine whether funding to fight trafficking has been effectively spent.
Grassley said in comments attached to the bill that in the five years since a 2006 Government Accountability Office noted the U.S. government had no effective mechanism for estimating the number of victims, “there has been no improvement in the government's ability to quantify the data.”
Green said the U.S. Department of Justice is urging non-governmental organizations and others who come into contact with potential trafficking victims to start collecting data.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, (888) 373-7888, also has been collecting data, logging 19,427 calls nationwide in 2011, including 578 crisis calls reporting a threat of imminent danger or harm to a trafficking victim at the time of the call, according to an annual call center report.
In the first nine months of 2012, the hotline logged 176 calls from Louisiana, including 43 from Baton Rouge, 31 from New Orleans and 14 from Lafayette. Thirty-nine of the calls were from unknown or unspecified locations.
Fifteen of the calls specifically referenced potential cases of sex trafficking, seven of which were said to involve pimp-controlled activities, while another five involved sex trafficking controlled by family members.
Experts said the documented numbers of trafficking victims are only the tip of the iceberg because of an unwillingness by many victims to seek help and because of public misconceptions about the problem.
“Sex trafficking victims are easily manipulated by their traffickers and have mixed emotions, often believing they love the person,” Green said. “They don't see themselves as victims at all because it's a different normality they've had to survive.”
In one case, a victim would not willingly testify against her trafficker because she insisted he had treated her well, Green said.
“The prosecutor asked her, ‘How did he treat you well? What did he ever do for you?' and she answered, ‘He bought me a hamburger at McDonald's once,'” Green said. “Their sense of normal is just that warped because of everything they've been through.”
Many sex trafficking victims have been abused from a very young age, many sexually abused at home, said Benitez, with the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault.
“They have been taught their body is not their own, that they're not able to make decisions for themselves and only people in power can make those decisions,” Benitez said. “They don't feel they can say no.”
The reluctance of victims to testify can be frustrating for law enforcement officers who want to get traffickers off the streets and guide victims to the services they need, said Bobby Gaston, special programs manager with the Louisiana Sheriffs Association.
“Trafficking cases are extremely difficult to prove because a lot of it has to do with intent,” Gaston said. “Many of the cases we thought were trafficking turned out to be prostitution because we couldn't prove they were being forced. A lot of times we suspected they were, but they were so deathly afraid of their ‘johns' (the purchasers) or traffickers (the pimps) that they wouldn't give us good (information).”
Although cases of adult sex trafficking by law require evidence of force, fraud or coercion, he said, no such element of intent is required in cases involving minors, who are presumed incapable of giving consent.
Supply and demand
Sex trafficking would not exist if there were not a market for sexually exploited individuals, the experts said.
“Everything for sale has to have a market of people willing to buy, and that has never been a problem in this realm,” Benitez said. “But nobody wants to talk about that.”
People may be tempted to blame the victim in commercial sex cases, rather than hold the trafficker responsible, Benitez said.
“Some (prostitutes) go into this willingly and if given the option would not make any different choices, but far more are trapped and either unable to leave or unaware of what else to do to keep body and soul together to support their kid or their habit,” she said.
In Livingston Parish, Hope House, the cabin retreat on a secluded 32-acre tract, will open its gates this spring to 14 women who will be paired in seven cabins lining a field that overlooks what will become a large pond. The grounds include an administration and intake building, cafeteria, learning center and other gathering spaces.
Services provided will include emotional and vocational counseling and education during the women's 12- to 18-month stay, Domingue said. Medical services will be provided by off-site professionals.
The facility is being built through donations of money, labor and supplies from individuals and businesses, which have provided tile flooring, plumbing and mattresses, among other things, he said.
Women will be referred to the shelter by law enforcement and other non-governmental organizations that work with victims of commercial sexual exploitation, Domingue said.
Trafficking Hope receives federal funding through Healing Place Serve, a nonprofit organization that grew out of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge but is a separate entity.
Healing Place Serve received a $239,750 grant for the 2012-13 fiscal year, one of 11 Rescue & Restore grants across the country totaling $3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help identify and assist trafficking victims in the U.S.
Trafficking Hope was awarded $45,658 of that funding for public awareness and education, including billboards, said Bohl, the group's public awareness coordinator.
Venzke, the group's spokeswoman, said the grant makes up a small portion of its funding, which consists primarily of donations. None of the grant funds were used to support Hope House, she said.
Meanwhile, Domingue said, law enforcement and service organizations are gearing up to respond to the influx of commercial sex activity they believe will inevitably accompany the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.
Trafficking Hope has reached out to area hotels and truck stops to provide information on how to spot and report potential sex trafficking activities.
Domingue said he supports the idea of “john schools,” where men who purchase sexual favors would learn more about the damaging effects on the women involved.
Education and awareness among all community groups is key, Green said.
“So many things are scary in this world, and this is just one more thing to be wary of,” she said. “But if there is a good thing about this crime, it's that with education and awareness anyone can identify it and report it to the hotline or a local law enforcement officer.”
East Texas group offers shelter to sex trafficking victims
by Christina Lane
An East Texas nonprofit organization is seeking the public's support to establish long-term safe homes for victims of sex trafficking.
“We need to do something. We need to provide healing and restoration,” said Norma Mullican, executive director of the nonprofit organization Refuge of Light. “Our whole mission is to raise awareness about the problem and to prevent kids from being lured into that life.”
Mullican established the organization after she and her daughter co-authored a children's book and were seeking a ministry that could benefit from its funds. She heard about an organization in Tyler that helped victims of sex trafficking, which she described as a “modern-day form of slavery,” in Cambodia.
“We couldn't believe it,” Mullican said. “We started sending money to them to help with a safe home in Cambodia. Then we started doing research on it and realized it was happening in the United States — in our cities and in our communities. Here, the children are not so much forced into it. Rather, they are lured into it. So many homes are broken with an unstable home life and kids are not really answering to anyone. A lot of these kids have been sexually abused in their home by parent, a step-parent, a boyfriend, someone and they're trying to run away from that situation and they run right into the hands of traffickers in town.”
So Mullican established an organization on her own to directly help victims in the United States, specifically around East Texas.
Mullican said she has since started working in shelters with youth and has identified young girls who have been trafficked. Many times, the children come into the system through Child Protective Services or through the juvenile justice system.
“Once we talk to them and we know their history, we can identify if they have been trafficked,” she said. “We are identifying children in the East Texas area.”
Mullican wants to be “diligent” in helping the community to identify victims and in providing a safe place for victims.
“It's a huge undertaking but if we come together as a community, it's not a problem that so's overwhelming that we can't handle it,” she said.
The goal is to open the Refuge of Light Safe Home by 2015. During the next 12 months the organization is seeking to raise $1.2 million to fund the safe house. She hopes construction can start in 2013.
However, right now there is not much state funding available so the organization, which is faith-based, has issued a challenge to East Texas churches.
“We put a challenge out that if 500 churches could donate $2,500 that would be enough money to build the safe home and pay for our organization for one year,” Mullican said.
“We do have churches coming on and stepping up and doing that. We also need churches to step up and do monthly amount so we can provide for the children.”
Mullican intends for the safe home to offer services such as helping victims obtain a high school diploma or GED, and helping them apply to colleges.
“We want them restored and healed enough so they can go back into society and lead productive lives,” she said.
For information about Refuge of Light or to donate to the organization, visit refugeoflight.org
Stronger human trafficking laws sought in Ky.
by Associated Press
FRANKFORT, KY. — Some lawmakers will push to strengthen Kentucky's human trafficking law during the legislative session that begins on Tuesday.
Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, told the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/Ut91lB) that she plans to sponsor a bill similar to one she introduced last year that would increase training for law enforcement and use money from those convicted of such crimes to pay for victim services.
The state has prosecuted 16 cases since human trafficking became a crime in 2007, but advocates say the law is weak and doesn't do enough to punish perpetrators or protect victims.
“We know that victims need additional protections and we also know that we need a system in place to fund those services,” said Marissa Castellanos, human trafficking program manager with Catholic Charities in Louisville. “The current statute that we have is pretty basic and ultimately just defines what human trafficking is.”
Rep. John Tilley, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he agrees that changes are needed.
“It still doesn't have all of the components necessary to combat the problem,” said Tilley, D-Hopkinsville. “It needs more teeth.”
Overly's bill passed the House last year, but stalled in the Senate.
Castellanos says the cases that have been prosecuted in Kentucky are “a drop in the bucket” compared to what's actually happening. Catholic Charities has identified 91 instances since 2008 of what it considers human trafficking. She said more than half involve sex trafficking and victims under 18.
“We know that it's widely under reported and under prosecuted,” Castellanos said. “So much of trafficking-related activities have moved indoors and online.”
In a review of the 16 cases prosecuted in Kentucky, the Herald-Leader found that most cases involved teen girls being sold for sex by a person they knew.
Although some cases are prosecuted in federal court, a majority stay in state court.
“What we are finding is that about 60 percent of all human trafficking cases are declined for federal prosecution,” said Taryn Mastrean, a spokeswoman for Shared Hope International. “That's why it's so important that states have strong laws so law enforcement has more tools to go after this crime.”
'XXX-Ploitation' seminar this week on human trafficking
by Linda Trischitta
January was declared National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by President Barack Obama.
The crime, that includes forced labor in homes, fields and factories, salons and the sex trades for children and adults, has up to 27 million victims world-wide, according to a recent speech by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On Jan. 11, the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition will host a free afternoon seminar, ' XXX-Ploitation. Human Trafficking 101' about the crime that it says includes illegal trade in minors and laborers in Florida.
The details: Broward County main library, 1st floor auditorium, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Certificates and continuing education units will be issued to attendees.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 954-594-3439.
Bikers Against Child Abuse Benefit for Jan 20
by Costa Communications Group
On Sunday, January 20, 2013, Orlando Harley-Davidson will host a pair of events benefiting the Tri-County Chapter of BIKERS AGAINST CHILD ABUSE (B.A.C.A.).
POLICE ESCORTED MOTORCYCLE RIDE
Starting at 11:45 a.m., the motorcycle convoy will travel on I-4 from Downtown Disney West Side to the Orlando Harley-Davidson Historic Factory Dealership off of I-4, located at 3770 37th St, Orlando, Florida 32805. (Note: I-4 will be closed to the public during this time.)
Ride registration will be from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Downtown Disney West Side Parking Lot N (adjacent to Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba), and requires a $10 donation (cash or check) per rider, and a $5 donation per passenger. Donations will benefit Tri-County B.A.C.A.'s efforts to prevent child abuse.
A note from the Tri-County Chapter of B.A.C.A.: “We would like to invite riders of all skill level to this ‘patch friendly' event. Whether you are new riding or have adopted a ‘Live To Ride, Ride To Live' lifestyle, we would love to see the entire spectrum of motorcyclists and bikers helping to create awareness of the struggle to put an end to child abuse. Imagine the message this will send throughout Central Florida. No child should live in fear!!”
From noon to 3 p.m., hundreds of riders and members of the public will be treated to entertainment and food, including live music by Diablo Canyon and a host of rider-related activities.
Attendance is free and open to the public. Ride participants will receive free food and beverage upon arrival. Food and beverage will be available for purchase for non-ride participants.
For more information, visit www.OrlandoHarley.com.
About Orlando Harley-Davidson
One of the largest dealerships in the country, Orlando Harley-Davidson operates seven locations within the Orlando metro area: Orlando Harley-Davidson Historic Factory, East Orlando Harley-Davidson, Orlando Harley-Davidson South and apparel stores at Downtown Disney West Side, Premium Outlets – International Drive, International Drive and the Orlando International Airport. Working with the local dealers, owners Steve and Anne Deli have opened and operate 16 Harley-Davidson retail stores across the country. For more information, visit www.orlandoharley.com.
About Tri-County Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse
Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.) is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to help create a safer environment for abused children. The Tri County Chapter of B.A.C.A. lends support to Central Florida children by involving them with an established, united organization that is prepared to lend its physical presence and emotional support in order to shield children from further abuse. B.A.C.A. works in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. For more information, visit florida.bacaworld.org.
Teach young men to treat women with respect
by Katie Hanna and Monika Johnson Hostler
Editor's note: Katie Hanna is the statewide director of Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Monika Johnson Hostler is the president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
(CNN) -- Just within the past week, a disturbing video released by the hacktivist group Knight Sec exposed details surrounding the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl in Steubenville, Ohio; more protests erupted over the horrific gang rape of a young woman in India; and the final sessions of the 112th Congress did not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Whether it's here in the United States, or in other parts of the world, violence against women persists and justice often falls through the cracks.
The Steubenville rape case has come back into the spotlight due in large part to online activists who felt that it wasn't being taken seriously. While the case against two teenage football players is being investigated, with a trial set for February, we as a society must do all we can to end sexual violence against women.
The video footage and messages that surfaced on social media, which appear to depict the sexual abuse of a girl, highlight horrible attitudes and unacceptable behaviors toward women. One thing is clear: Those "bystanders" who were present on the night of the alleged rape bear a responsibility. Why didn't any one of them assist her or respond to what was happening? And while three members of the football team have come forward to testify in the case, more should have. The "code of silence" that is often found among athletes, fraternities and other similar groups must be addressed.
We call upon our athletic teams and coaches to speak up because they can play an important role in prevention. Coaches can educate young men about the need to treat women with respect, encourage healthy relationships with the opposite sex, and promote non-misogynist behavior. We must ensure that young men see sexual violence against women as despicable and do all they can to stop it.
According to a recent national survey, 1 in 5 women in the U.S. reported having been raped. Most rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Victimization can start early in life. We still live in a culture where young women are not given a voice and victims of sexual violence are sometimes not believed.
The Ohio incident has sparked outrage since it first was reported. Advocates and community members were glad that the case was turned over to special prosecutors in the Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to avoid potential conflicts of interest. When Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Rachel Dissell took up the story in September, it inspired people who had been sexually assaulted to come forward about their own experiences. These people know that they were no longer alone.
Fewer than half of Ohio's 88 counties have rape crisis services available for individuals who have been sexually assaulted, and many existing programs lack the adequate resources to provide needed prevention and community outreach to address the myths about sexual violence and promote a culture that supports rape survivors. In Steubenville, there is no prevention funding to address sexual violence. As for survivors, how can they seek justice and healing if they have little support and resources available?
We call upon House Speaker John Boehner -- who's from Ohio -- to help us end sexual violence.
The Violence Against Women Act includes provisions for engaging men and boys as allies to ending sexual violence, providing bystander intervention and prevention in high schools and on college campuses. Contact your Congress member and encourage him or her to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Survivors and communities across Ohio and the nation deserve your support.
Darkness to Light leader looks ahead after high-profile sex abuse cases
by Jennifer Berry Hawes
Jolie Logan celebrates her first year at the helm of Darkness to Light this month following a 2012 rife with high-profile child sexual abuses cases, from Penn State's Jerry Sandusky to Charleston's own youth coach and foster parent Louis “Skip” ReVille.
How to get help
If you are concerned about a child and don't know what to do, see the list of resources below to find help. But if a child is in immediate danger, call your local police or 911.
Darkness to Light
Go to www.d2l.org or call 866-FOR-LIGHT (866-367-5444).
Darkness to Light provides local information and resources about sexual abuse. Calls are confidential and will be answered by a trained information and referral service representative.
Stop It Now!
Go to www.stopitnow.org or call 888-PREVENT (888-773-8368).
Stop It Now! provides a national helpline for adults living in the United States who are concerned for the safety of a child and don't know what to do.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Go to www.childhelp.org or call 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).
This hotline is staffed at all times with professional crisis counselors.
Just weeks after Logan was named president and CEO of the child sexual abuse prevention group, a yearlong onslaught of headlines began to reveal everything from horrific locker room shower assaults at Penn State to porn and masturbation sessions with summer campers at The Citadel.
And it didn't stop with Sandusky and ReVille.
Longtime BBC children's television host Jimmy Savile, who died at 84, may have abused as many as 300 people over 40 years, authorities have said. The Boy Scouts of America released records that detailed sex-abuse allegations against volunteers. Even the voice of “Sesame Street's” Elmo faced allegations of engaging in sexual relations with underage teens.
Suffice it to say, as Darkness to Light's new president, Logan faced a year of great challenge and great reward, given the group's mission to generate public awareness that can help eradicate abuse.
After 10 years in the private sector, Logan joined the Charleston-based national nonprofit in 2008 as chief operating officer. Within three years, she was appointed president and chief executive officer.
Darkness to Light's mission to prevent child sexual abuse remains deeply personal and professional. Already, Logan has consulted with the National Association of Attorneys General, legislators and many youth and community groups.
Logan, a single mother of two children ages 9 and 12, reflects on the lessons of the past year as she plans for 2013.
Q. You began working at Darkness to Light in 2008. Has the climate for victims changed since then?
A. More people across the nation are now talking about the prevention of child sexual abuse (CSA) than ever before.
That is a huge, positive step because communities can only begin prevention efforts if they are able to engage in discussion and openly talk about this very difficult subject.
Unfortunately, perpetrators will always look for ways to get close to and alone with children, so the climate for potential victims is still pervasive. That's why it is so important to keep the issue at the forefront and continuously teach prevention strategies.
Q. From Jerry Sandusky to Skip ReVille, 2012 was a huge one for high-profile child sexual abuse cases. How does that affect your job?
A. There's no question that 2012 was a true benchmark for raising public engagement to all-time highs.
We have been able to reach wider audiences by encouraging media outlets to also focus on prevention — what we should do now to protect our children — rather than just sordid details of the criminal acts.
We have also seen an increase in youth-serving organizations, schools, colleges, businesses, etc., asking us to help them implement prevention training for their staff, students and others, which is an important tool. These trained employees and participants then take their knowledge home to their children, their neighborhoods and their team sports groups.
Q. How do these high-profile cases affect victims? Do they make them more or less likely to come forward?
A. It is our hope that victims may find support, encouragement and understanding through the voices of victims in other cases.
The most important thing we can do as a community is to listen when someone is trying to find the words to talk about abuse. We should believe them. We should let them know it was not their fault.
Q. In these cases, the perpetrators often were men in positions of authority over their victims. Is this an accurate portrait of abusers?
A. Only in the sense that many perpetrators share the same desire to exert power over innocent victims. The truth is, perpetrators come from all segments of society, not just authority figures. In 95 percent of abuse cases, victims know their perpetrators: a neighbor, family friend, older children or family members.
Q. Some people don't think that sexual abuse affects them. How prevalent is it?
A. Child sexual abuse affects all of society. In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
When untreated, CSA is linked to a host of social issues including teen pregnancy, psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.
CSA ranks second to murder as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S., where costs exceed $35 billion annually (according to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect report to Congress in 2010).
It's important to note that the consequences of CSA can be minimized or even prevented through effective treatment.
Q. Only one in 10 abused children will tell someone, according to estimates. What are the biggest hurdles to coming forward?
A. Perpetrators often groom their victims into silence, to make them feel ashamed, as though the abuse is the child's fault.
Children also often do not have the coping mechanisms to understand how to ask for help. Again, it's so important to listen to our children, to talk to them about improper touching, or allowing them in situations where they are alone with adults one-on-one.
Q. Are there signs we can watch for that might warn us that a child is a victim of child sexual abuse?
A. A change in behavior is a key warning sign. A child may seem anxious at being left alone with a certain adult, may use improper language or show improper touching of other children.
A formerly outgoing child may show signs of being withdrawn or untalkative. Most importantly, we should listen to what our children are telling us.
Parents can take prevention a step further by seeking out organizations that have undergone 100 percent staff training to prevent CSA. It's known as “Partner in Prevention” and is part of Darkness to Light's certification program for organizations.
Q. Are there indicators someone might be an abuser or things that parents and others should be leery of?
A. Perpetrators will look for ways to immerse themselves in situations or organizations involving children and will find opportunities to have private time with a child. But that certainly does not mean that every teacher or youth camp counselor is suspect.
Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children prevention training workshops teach many strategies to guard against child sexual abuse. At the top of the list is to guard against situations that would allow adult-and-child, one-on-one, private encounters.
It is a sad statement on our society today, but even a ride home from baseball practice by a coach or individual parent should be avoided.
Q. Why don't more people contact authorities with their suspicions?
A. What we have found is that people genuinely DO want to do the right and proper thing to act on suspicions.
However, CSA has been a hushed issue in our society for so long, many times families especially want to handle things internally and hope the issue goes away. The Penn State/Sandusky case was a classic example of an institution acting like a protective family and dealing with accusations on their own.
We are now working with numerous organizations, schools, colleges, universities and other groups to develop specific policy on reporting child sexual abuse.
Organizations everywhere are now coming to terms with the idea that they must show leadership on sexual abuse prevention — or risk a Penn State-like response.
Q. A National Institute of Justice study found that child sexual abuse costs the U.S. roughly $35 billion a year. What goes into that?
A. The estimate is actually a very conservative number given the lifelong impacts that afflict so many of this nation's 42 million adult child sexual abuse survivors. It includes everything from teen pregnancy to drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, court costs, etc.
Q. What brought you to Darkness to Light?
A. I am drawn to D2L's powerful mission: to engage public discussion on one of society's most difficult subjects and to teach one adult, one organization, one community at a time. To be part of something that is truly making a difference both nationwide and overseas, each and every day.
D2L has sparked a movement that is changing beliefs and actions in this country. This is an incredible time to be a part of such an organization.
Q. What is your greatest success to date?
A. In sheer numbers, D2L has affiliates in all 50 states, 16 foreign countries and has trained more than 385,000 adults on how to keep kids safe. And a great success came in 2012 when The Citadel became the first college in America to mandate CSA prevention training for all staff and students in order to graduate.
Our partnership with YMCAs across the country have opened more doors than we ever could have done on our own.
Q. What is your greatest challenge moving forward?
A. Keeping the movement of prevention healthy and engaging while not coming across as alarmists. It is always important to keep our message fresh, unique and relevant.
Supporting the tremendous growth of our program all over the country with only a small team of full-time employees in Charleston.
We need to see a significant culture change — in the way that seat belts and drunken driving laws changed culture. Both of those efforts were put in place to prevent deaths on the roads and have made a big difference.
Similarly, if we can make it unacceptable for adults in youth-serving organizations to have private one-on-one time with children, we'll make great strides in preventing child sexual abuse. This isn't a perfect solution, as it only addresses abuse within organizations and not within families, but it's a start and it would be significant.
Q. Tell us about some of your plans for 2013.
A. A new and expanded version of our Stewards of Children education program will be released this summer.
We also are working to grow prevention initiatives on the West Coast.
And more milestones are on the horizon for 2013. We hope to top 400,000 trainings this year, and we now have more than 100 organizations nationwide that have achieved our Partner in Prevention designation.
Find out more and take the online prevention training at www.d2l.org.
Task force provides a roadmap to help protect children from sexual abuse
by Marcia Vanderlip
Early last month, a T-shirt depicting a comic red bird carrying a pinwheel was unveiled at a family-friendly gathering at the Perlow–Stevens Gallery. The shirt, illustrated by Columbia artist Mike Sleadd, is part of a fundraising effort meant to draw public attention to the prevention of child sexual abuse in Missouri.
The back of the shirt read: "Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me." — Fred Rogers.
Among the speakers at the event was Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri KidsFirst, a private, not-for-profit resource center focused on preventing child abuse through training, intervention and the prosecution of offenders. She thanked a couple of her public-policy heroes — Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia — for supporting funding and legislation to protect children from abuse.
A few days after the event, van Schenkhof elaborated on recent efforts to prevent child abuse. Joining her at the KidsFirst office in Jefferson City were Joy Oesterly, who is the executive director, and Prevention Coordinator Marissa Gunther.
In the past year — its 10th year in existence — Missouri KidsFirst became more involved in public policy, leading a state task force on the prevention of child abuse. On Tuesday, that task force reported its recommendations to Gov. Jay Nixon, the Missouri General Assembly and the Missouri State School Board.
"This is an epidemic, and it happens to children of all ages," van Schenkhof said of child sexual abuse. "For boys the risk peaks at age 4. For girls, it peaks at age 14, when they are sexually maturing. But it can happen throughout childhood." Now it is up to parents, teachers, lawmakers and the overall community to work together to keep children safe from sexual predators and to help abused children to heal, she said.
"There is an 'ick factor' associated with child sexual abuse," van Schenkhof said. "It turns people's stomachs. They don't want to think about it. People think it's gross, and they don't want to go there. But when we stigmatize it like that," she said, "children feel that stigma when it happens to them. They feel gross, they feel shameful, they feel dirty. They should not feel those emotions. They are not the least bit to blame. We have got to start in small, subtle ways communicating to victims that there is no shame in this. This is entirely on the person who has done this."
In fact, she said, when it does happen to a child, support from family members is "a critical part of the healing process. The children who are believed and told it is not their fault have a much better chance of healing than those children who have parents who do not know how to address it" — or have parents who blame the children. "This is backed up in research and by the stories" being shared, she said.
One such story is told by Tiffani Stone of Bell City. Last year she testified before the aforementioned task force on the prevention of child abuse. Stone, 24, is a survivor of child sexual abuse, as well as parental neglect.
"I spent my first 10 years in and out of foster homes," she said in a recent phone interview. "The abuse happened when I was with my biological mom. I was abused by a couple of people."
In one case, when she was 7, her 17-year-old male babysitter sexually abused her. "I told my mom about it, and she told me it was my fault — that I was enticing him. I didn't even know what enticing meant." She later learned the abuser eventually ended up in prison, but not before abusing other children.
It left a mark, she said, even after years of counseling. "I don't trust men, and I have trouble with intimacy." Still, "you are never too old to see a counselor, especially if you are a victim of sexual abuse" she said, adding that she was fortunate to have had a supportive foster mother who adopted her when she was 13.
Stone is now a social worker who works "exclusively with children," she said. Her adoptive mother developed the Green Bear program in Southeastern Missouri through the Beacon Health Center, a child advocacy group.
"She goes into the schools with Green Bear and talks to kids about how to stay safe and what to do when something inappropriate happens. Green Bear tells the children it is OK to tell somebody. It is important for kids to go through these kinds of programs" and/or have their parents talk to them about it, Stone said.
If a parent doesn't listen or help, Stone advises children to "keep on telling other adults until someone finally listens and provides help." If the abuser is a family member, "tell teachers, counselors, a police officer, a preacher, a firefighter," she said.
Gunther pointed out "it is kind of accepted in our culture that child sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers, but that is not the case. The overwhelming majority of abuse occurs by people who are in positions of trust. The perpetrators depend on that trust to groom children and get access to them," she said.
"We work with children's hospitals," van Schenkhof added. "A lot of what they see is abuse by the boyfriends of the moms, these kind of transitory relationships.
"We need to create an awareness for parents that this is the case. They need to be careful about who they leave their kids with. Even when they leave them with someone they trust, parents should continue to have age-appropriate conversations about child sexual abuse."
For example, she said, parents should get detailed information from their child about what happened while the babysitter was with him or her: "Ask the child, 'When you spent time with the babysitter, what did you do?' If there is vagueness, that is a red flag."
Education can start very young, Oesterly said. "Talk to children about their body parts. 'You are a little boy. This is your penis,' or 'you are a little girl, this is a vagina.' Let them know these are their private parts," she recommended.
"You have to give them the language so they can talk about their body," van Schenkhof added. "Teach them anatomically correct terms. Teach them that their body is their own, and they get to make decisions about it, make choices about who touches them and how they are touched. … Children feel empowered when they have the language, and they feel comfort and trust with their parents if they can talk about these things" without getting "in trouble." They should not "have to keep secrets," van Schenkhof said.
These and other guidelines are integrated in the task force's report. It also includes recommendations for counselors, educators, police officers and prosecutors. It comprises "a reasonable blueprint for what it is going to take to prevent childhood sexual abuse in the future," van Schenkhof said.
"This report will take many years to implement. There are no easy solutions. But we do believe if all levels of society — starting with parents and schools and community organizations, and going to our state leadership and General Assembly — are all doing our part to prevent it, we can make a difference."
Arkansas takes new approach to child abuse cases
LITTLE ROCK -- On an average night more than 4,100 Arkansas children will stay in a foster home. They were placed by employees of the Department of Human Services (DHS), which works with about 1,150 foster homes.
Arkansas is the first state in the country to begin a new approach toward working with children who have been abused or neglected. DHS applied for and received a waiver from federal regulations, which means department caseworkers will have more flexibility in responding to the needs of children.
The goal is to avoid having to remove a child from his or her family, as long as it is safe for the child to remain at home. Caseworkers will be able to try new solutions, with the intent of improving family life and keeping children from having to experience the emotional trauma of being removed from their home.
The new approach by caseworkers is titled "Differential Response." It recognizes that most child welfare reports are unsubstantiated, while also recognizing the importance of early response and strengthening of families. The division estimates that more than 30 percent of the more than 30,000 cases it investigated would be suitable for Differential Response.
Differential Response is not what the division will use for allegations of sexual abuse, criminal abuse and neglect or serious injuries. It is what the division will use in instances of inadequate food, clothing or shelter and inadequate supervision.
Also, it will be used in cases in which parents or guardians fail to provide the child with medical care, if the lack of care threatens the child's long-term health.
Differential Response will be used in cases of educational neglect, when parents or guardians fail to enroll the child in school.
Arkansas is one of 10 states that recently applied for the federal waiver. The other states plan to target specific demographic populations or smaller geographic areas, while Arkansas will join Missouri and Minnesota in implementing it on a statewide level.
The Division of Children and Family Services is the unit within DHS responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect. Last year the division investigated 33,849 reports of child maltreatment. Almost 8,000 cases resulted in a child being placed in foster care.
The granting of a waiver by federal authorities is significant because for many years Arkansas was under federal court order to improve its child welfare system. As a result, the Children and Family Services Division sets performance standards that it closely monitors, such as keeping track of how quickly allegations of abuse are investigated and acted on.
The legislature has approved DHS requests for more caseworkers, and last fall federal authorities signed off on a satisfactory review of the child services division.
The division employs about 1,000 people and is asking the legislature for authority to add about 200 positions, in the event that funding becomes available.
In the current fiscal year, the Division of Children and Family Services has a budget of $131 million. About 38 percent is state revenue and a little more than 50 percent is federal revenue. The remainder comes from a variety of programs and agencies.
In 1985 the legislature created the division to focus on protective services for children and to operate a system of foster homes. The division also offers a full range of adoption services.
The Battered-Child Syndrome: 50 Years Later
by Larry Wolff - Director, NYU Center for European and Mediterranean Studies
The year 2012 has provided the occasion for looking back 50 years to some of the historical and cultural landmarks of 1962, from Vatican II and the Cuban Missile Crisis to the environmental warning of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and the cinematic thrills of the first James Bond film, Dr. No . Among the subdued and academic but still revolutionary events of 1962 was the publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association of the article "The Battered-Child Syndrome," which completely transformed the way we think about children in our society.
"The Battered-Child Syndrome is a term used by us," wrote the authors, "to characterize a clinical condition in young children who have received serious physical abuse, generally from a parent or foster parent." It was only after this medical "discovery" in 1962 that child abuse was recognized as a regular and recurring aspect of family life, not a sensational exception but a common syndrome.
Historians suppose that child abuse, both physical abuse (battering) and sexual abuse, were at least as common in past centuries as they are today, but instances were rarely documented, because neither medical nor legal frameworks existed for identifying or discussing them. In fact, child abuse is not abuse unless defined as such, so there is always an element of anachronism in applying the term to the maltreatment of children before 1962, while even today the standard for what constitutes abuse varies widely from culture to culture. I have just written a book about a case that occurred in Venice in the 18th century, when a 60-year-old man was accused of having sex with an 8-year-old girl; he was charged merely with "causing a scandal," as there was no other plausible criminal charge on the books, and made to pay a fine to the girl's family. In a notable case in 19th-century New York, the battering of a child could only be prosecuted with reference to the advocacy of the ASPCA and its mandate against cruelty to animals. The publication of the "The Battered-Child Syndrome," however, offered clinical evidence that child abuse was happening all around us all the time, and began to make us all aware of the huge dimensions of this hitherto-submerged syndrome of shocking but quotidian and recurrent human tragedies.
The first author of "The Battered Child Syndrome," C. Henry Kempe, was a pediatrician from a German Jewish family that emigrated from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. He was working at the University of Colorado Medical School in 1962 and trying to understand a seemingly-inexplicable pattern of injuries in young children, such as mysterious fractures and convulsions, without any known history of trauma. The second author, Frederic Silverman, was a radiologist, for the discovery of child abuse was a matter of X-ray technology. Working in the new postwar field of pediatric radiology, Silverman published an article in 1953 on "The Roentgen Manifestations of Unrecognized Skeletal Trauma in Infants," and in 1962 "The Battered-Child Syndrome" was chillingly illustrated with the X-ray images of children's multiple fractures: "The bones tell a story the child is too young or too frightened too tell."
"Beating of children," the article noted, "is not confined to people with a psychopathic personality or of borderline socioeconomic status. It also occurs among people with good education and stable financial and social background." In fact, the authors feared that other doctors would "have great reluctance in believing that parents were guilty of abuse." The pursuant identification of child sexual abuse, also studied by Kempe, seemed no more easily believable than battering abuse.
I was a child in 1962, and I think every child I knew, or at least every boy child, was sometimes spanked by his parents. And all children knew very well that there were some kids who were beaten much more severely than others. Talk of parents beating with belts was very common, and while it was considered bad luck to have such a parent, certainly it never occurred to us as children that there was any possible recourse. Twenty-five years later, when I took a child of my own to a hospital emergency room for an accidental cigarette burn from a stranger waving a cigarette in a public place (remember cigarettes in public places?) I myself was questioned rigorously to ascertain that I, the parent, was not responsible for the wound, now well-established as a common mark of abuse: "You don't smoke?" "Are you sure you don't smoke?" "You don't ever smoke?" The passage of a quarter century from my own childhood to my own parenthood was precisely the period in which "The Battered-Child Syndrome" had become an integral part of pediatric thinking, with doctors now trained to consider as a matter of routine that even parents with good education and stable background could be abusers.
In New York state today, there is a long list of professionals required to report on suspected child abuse, from doctors and nurses, to teachers and day care workers, to police officers and district attorneys. Furthermore, as people came to understand the ways that parental physical discipline could become, or be construed as, battering abuse, there was a shifting in world opinion about the routine spankings of my childhood. In 1979, Sweden actually made the corporal punishment of children illegal, and 33 other countries have followed, though not the United States. In 1987, in New York City, the case of Lisa Steinberg, age 6, was discovered and prosecuted only after she had been battered to death. The recent Penn State sexual abuse case illustrates how difficult it was for people to accept and confront instances of abuse that occurred relatively openly on a university campus but were overlooked or covered up for more than a decade.
The publication of "The Battered-Child Syndrome" in 1962, transforming the way we see our society, has inevitably made us all more suspicious of the world around us. Every medical student, every police officer, every teacher, is fully aware of the dark side of family life, and the possibility that children are victims and parents are perpetrators. The discovery of child abuse in 1962 has made it possible to look for and identify abuse systematically -- in the emergency room, in the classroom, in the apartment next door -- though, tragically, it has not enabled us to prevent it from recurring with persistent and terrible regularity.
Colorado expands new programs for assessing reports of child abuse
by Jordan Steffen
State officials will begin expanding a program they say gives child-protection workers more flexibility and ensures that child-abuse or -neglect reports are properly handled.
The State Board of Health and Human Services on Friday adopted a set of rules outlining the "differential response" program, which was launched as a pilot program in Arapahoe, Fremont, Garfield, Jefferson and Larimer counties almost two years ago.
The rules, which the nine-member board adopted unanimously, outline how child-protection agencies statewide will implement the program.
Under the new rules, a team of child-protection workers, rather than a single caseworker and supervisor, will decide whether to open a child-abuse or -neglect investigation. The program also allows counties to offer services to families without opening an intrusive investigation.
"I'm really excited," said Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services. "This is a strategy that has been long in the making for Colorado."
Twenty counties have expressed interest in incorporating the program into their practices, said Julie Krow, director of the state's department of children, youth and families.
The state will select nine of those counties and begin implementing a year-long training program for the county department's entire staff.
Krow said she expects all 64 counties will eventually request to receive training for the program.
Following training, the state will determine if the county department is ready to become a differential-response county.
Counties' commitment to following the rules is crucial to the success of the program, which will make the way child-protection workers handle reports of abuse or neglect more consistent, Bicha said.
"To make sure kids are safe, we can't just have 64 different ways of implementing these new tools," Bicha said. "We want to have a consistent approach that will be used for every county."
The rules follow legislation that was passed last year to begin implementing differential response in other counties.
North Hills woman arrested hours after photos of child-pornography suspects are released
by Christina Villacorte
Mere hours after asking the public for leads in a child pornography investigation, federal authorities on Thursday arrested a North Hills woman suspected of molesting a girl over a decade ago.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials nabbed Letha Mae Montemayor, 52, outside an apartment complex about 7:30 p.m. after receiving five separate tips from the public.
"This arrest would not have happened without the public's help, and it demonstrates how much individual citizens can do to help law enforcement attack crime," ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.
"The best way to protect innocent children from sex offenders is for law enforcement, educators, parents and concerned citizens to join forces and fight back," he added.
Montemayor is believed to be the woman who appears along with a still unidentified man in child pornography dubbed the "Jen Series," which federal officials discovered in Chicago in 2007.
It has since been recovered in the collections of about 275 other child pornography suspects across the country.
The break in the case came after U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte, Jr., and other federal authorities released photos of both suspects to the media at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
They received their first tip about 2 p.m.
Claude Arnold, ICE special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in Los Angeles, said once authorities learned the woman's name, they pulled her photos from public databases and noted similarities to the images that appeared in the Jen Series.
Arnold said federal authorities and officers of the Los Angeles Police Department then placed Montemayor under surveillance and arrested her at 7:30 p.m. without incident on a federal charge of producing child pornography.
Montemayor was identified both through her facial appearance and tattoos - a black butterfly on her right hip, a curled up cat on her right shoulder, writing on her left wrist, and an unknown design above her left breast.
"This significant development brings us one step closer to vindicating the victim and helping to regain some dignity for all victims of child exploitation crimes," Birotte said.
Arnold declined to provide Montemayor's address, nor any details about whether she has a criminal record, or lives or works with children.
He did say there were no children in her apartment at the time of her arrest.
Montemayor is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, undergoing questioning. Arnold said she may appear in federal court Friday or Monday.
The man who appears in the Jen Series remains at large, and the investigation is continuing. The identity of the victim also remains unknown.
"We're still seeking the public's help," Arnold said. "Anyone who can give us information, including the victim herself, should come forward and help us to also identify and apprehend John Doe so we can prevent other children from being victimized."
The Jen Series consists of about 40 photos probably taken 2001 at an apartment in the San Fernando Valley, likely in Encino - based on a calendar from a local business, a Yellow Pages phonebook and cable box that appear in the photos.
The images show a girl, then between 11 and 14 years old, being abused by a woman now believed to be Montemayor, as well as a Caucasian man in his 40's or 50's.
A digitally-applied black dot covers most of the man's face, but he appeared to have brown or gray straight hair, and graying facial hair, in the photos. He also had a distinctive pair of moles about an inch apart, one on top of the other, on the center of his chest.
The "wanted poster" can be seen on www.ice.gov. Anyone with information that can assist in the investigation is urged to call 1-866-DHS-2ICE.
Montemayor is the 246th suspect swept up by ICE Homeland Security Investigation's Operation Sunflower.
The international operation rescued 123 victims of child sexual exploitation, including 44 who were directly rescued from their abusers.
The children included five toddlers under age 3, 41 who are grade school age, and 53 teenagers. There were also 24 adults who had been victimized in their youth.
Operation Sunflower has concluded, but similar efforts are continuing under Operation Predator.
High school sports star caught on camera LAUGHING as football team players 'raped and urinated on girl, 16, during house party'
(Video on site)
A newly revealed video shows a group of high school students callously giggling about a 16-year-old girl's rape ordeal, which was possibly happening at the same time the clip was shot.
The disturbing video is the latest piece of damaging evidence in a horrific rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, in which two former high school football players have been charged.
Throughout the video, which is just over 12 minutes long, there are numerous references to a 'dead girl' who is described as being raped and urinated on.
The case has left Steubenville divided, with some getting behind the young accuser and others rushing to the side of the players, blasting the girl and claiming that she made up the allegations to hurt the football program.
Nate Hubbard, 27, was one of them, telling The New York Times last month: 'The rape was just an excuse, I think. What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?
'She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.'
Deadspin.com reported that the 'star' of the video is Michael Nodianos, a former Steubenville student and baseball player who cannot contain his laughter as he describes the 16-year-old victim, seemingly in another room of the house, being raped.
'She is so raped right now,' he says at one point in the video.
'There won't be any foreplay for a dead girl,' he says. 'It ain't wet now to be honest. Trust me, I'm a doctor.'
The video was obtained by hacker group KnightSec and posted on Deadspin on Wednesday.
Wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes t-shirt, Nodianos jokes that the girl is 'deader than a doornail' and 'they p***** on her.'
He then goes on a tirade of the figures that she's 'deader than,' including Caylee Anthony, 'O.J. Simpson's wife,' John F. Kennedy and Trayvon Martin.
The city's police chief begged for witnesses to come forward, but received little response.
At least two other people who don't appear on camera interrupt Nodianos to let inform him that the situation is anything but a laughing matter.
'It is rape. They raped her,' one of them says.
Later, he chastises Nodianos, saying: 'Like, this is not like funny... what if that was your daughter?'
Nodianos responds: 'But it isn't. If that was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I would just let her be dead.
'And is it really rape if you don't know if she wanted to or not? She might have wanted it. That might have been her final wish.'
The names Trent and Ma'lik, are also mentioned in the video - the names of the suspects in the case - Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond.
While Nodianos may have thought he was hilarious, he's not likely laughing now, as the video is yet another piece of technological evidence seen as highly damaging to the defendants' case.
Last month, social media's crucial role in bringing the woman's ordeal to the public consciousness was revealed.
Two football players have been accused of raping and kidnapping a 16-year-old girl, who was allegedly drugged, dragged to several different parties, assaulted and urinated on.
The kidnapping charge was later thrown out.
Much evidence from the investigation is focused on Twitter and Facebook accounts of those accused in August attack, who allegedly provided a gruesome play-by-play of the crime.
Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16-year-old students at Steubenville High School, each face one charge of rape and one charge of kidnapping.
Mays is also accused of taking photos and a graphic video of the victim, which was posted onto YouTube.
The Times reported that the trouble began with a tweet from Mays, who said on the micro-blogging site: “Huge party!!! Banger!!!!'
Shocking photos of the victim passed out and being carried around by her wrists and ankles were allegedly also being circulated online.
Detectives are now trawling through the online comments to search for further evidence of what happened and whether anyone else should be facing charges.
Nodianos is the person behind a series of shocking tweets on the night of the incident, including 'Some people deserve to be peed on' and 'Song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana.'
Besides appalling the small town, online conversations about the incident have left police frustrated that while people are being vocal about the attack, few have come forward to give investigators more information.
In addition, the Times reported that over the course of the case, a juvenile court judge and the Steubenville County prosecutor removed themselves from the case due to a conflict of interest.
The judge, Samuel W. Kerr, told the paper: 'It's a very, very small community here. Everybody knows everybody.'
Detectives are investigating reports that the girl was drugged unconscious before being taken from party to party, then raped and urinated on.
Returned home, the victim's parents found her disorientated and rushed her to a hospital.
Mays and Richmond, who were detained in the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center before being released on house arrest, were charged with rape and kidnapping on August 24.
Richmond's father, Nathaniel Richmond, has protested both boys' innocence.
He described his son as 'a good child, an outstanding student and a credit to Steubenville High School.'
Mays is a quarterback on Steubenville's Big Red team and Richmond is a wide receiver. The team plays games at a 10,000 seat stadium and their games are broadcast on local television.
Many ask 'Why?' after rape case rattles small Ohio city
by Michael Pearson
(Video on site)
A local police chief is asking a question that troubles many following an alleged rape in this small Ohio city.
"Why didn't somebody stop it?" said Steubenville police Chief William McCafferty. "You simply don't do that ... It's not done."
But what the police chief and many in this town felt was unthinkable has been done, authorities said. And they say they have videos, pictures and chilling tweets about the alleged rape that has shaken this city.
The images and social media messages are at the heart of criminal charges against two high school football players accused of sexually assaulting an underage teenage girl during a series of end-of-summer parties in August.
Both boys are charged with rape. One is also accused of "illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material."
Their trial before an Ohio juvenile court judge is scheduled for February 13.
CNN is not identifying the girl, who is a juvenile, in accordance with its policy not to release the names of alleged rape victims.
The alleged attackers also are juveniles, but they have been identified by a judge in court, by defense attorneys and in newspapers and other media reports as Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16.
Surviving rape: iReporters speak out
The case has attracted the attention of bloggers and even Anonymous, a loosely organized cooperative of activist hackers.
Anonymous has released information about the town and the football team and is threatening to release more unless everyone comes clean about what happened that August night.
"The town of Steubenville has been good at keeping this quiet and their star football team protected," an Anonymous member wearing the group's trademark Guy Fawkes mask says in a video posted to the group's LocalLeaks website.
The organization, he says, will not allow "a group of young men who turn to rape as a game or sport get the pass because of athletic ability or small-town luck."
The girl was assaulted the night of Saturday, August 11, and early the next morning, according to authorities.
Involved, according to authorities, were members of the Steubenville High School football team, popular among many in the small, down-on-its-luck town along the banks of the Ohio River. A website dedicated to the team counts down the seconds to their return next season.
Police got involved on August 14, when the girl's mother came forward to report the alleged assault, according to McCafferty, the police chief. The family provided a zip drive showing a Twitter page, possibly with a photo, the chief told CNN.
A kidnapping charge was dropped by the juvenile court judge at a probable cause hearing last October, said McCafferty and Mays's attorney, Adam Nemann.
"My client asserts his innocence, and he looks forward to his day in court," said Nemann.
At an October hearing, attorney Walter Madison, who is representing Richmond, raised questions about the alleged victim's actions that night, according to CNN affiliate WTOV.
Opinion: End culture of rape in 2013
On August 27, the same day authorities charged the two defendants, Jefferson County authorities asked for help from the attorney general's office in investigating and prosecuting the case. Interviews and witness statements led to the arrests, McCafferty said.
"What we want is to be able to show the citizens of Jefferson County that everything that can be done in this case is being done, and if that means eliciting the help of these people from the attorney general's office, then that's what we want to do in this case," county prosecutor Jane Hanlin told WTOV at the time.
By that time, images and messages from that night had made their way around social media.
Crime blogger Alexandria Goddard, a former Steubenville resident, discovered and preserved many of the messages, at least some of which are now in the hands of authorities. She first spotted the story in the small town's newspaper and started looking into the situation on a hunch that the highly regarded football team's members were getting special treatment at the expense of the victim.
"When I first came across the article, I just felt like -- because it was involving football players, and there is a culture there that football is very important, that there was probably a little more to this story than what the local media was reporting," she told CNN Thursday. "So I started doing my own research."
One image circulated online and posted on a website maintained by Anonymous showed the girl, dressed in a T-shirt and blue shorts, her body limp, being held hand and foot by two males who appear to be teenagers.
Text messages posted to social networking sites that night seemed to brag about the incident, calling the girl "sloppy," making references to rape and suggesting even that she had been urinated on, according to Goddard. CNN has not been able to establish whether this is true.
In one 12-minute video, posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, one teenager makes joke after joke about the girl's condition, saying she must have died because she didn't move during one assault.
Anonymous and others in the video identified the teen by a name that doesn't match the two who were charged, but CNN cannot independently confirm his identity.
"Is it really rape because you don't know if she wanted to or not," the teenager says on the video. "She might have wanted to. That might have been her final wish."
Other male voices can be heard off-camera, laughing and talking about the alleged assault. McCafferty said he cannot say who shot that video.
"The subject in that video was interviewed. He wasn't charged," the chief told CNN. "The attorney general's office has all this. It appears to me after I watched the video he was intoxicated."
The New York Times reported that a cell phone photo from that night shows the girl naked on the floor.
Roughly 11 cell phones and a couple of iPads were seized during the investigation, said McCafferty, adding he was not involved in retrieving evidence from the electronic devices.
McCafferty said "there was evidence on some of the phones."
A special unit with the attorney general's office is doing the work, the chief said.
McCafferty said there was a report of a video showing the alleged attack, but authorities don't have it or know whether it exists.
The attorney for the girl's family told CNN that the girl is in counseling and is "doing as well as one can expect."
"She's trying to go about her life right now, which is difficult because of all the media attention," said family attorney Robert Fitzsimmons. "It's as if she's just flown into this barnstorm. She'll make it through."
The case is now in the hands of special prosecutors under Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
DeWine said that the case is being aggressively prosecuted and remains under active investigation.
"We want to make sure that there is no stone left unturned," he said. "We want to make sure that everyone in the community really feels that justice has been done and that all the information does in fact come out."
The parents of one teenager named on Goddard's blog sued her for defamation and sought to have those who anonymously commented on the blog about the case publicly identified. The family has since dropped the lawsuit, according to court documents.
Meanwhile, Anonymous says it is collecting detailed information about the personal affairs of football boosters and others in the town of 18,000 who the group claims may have helped cover up the attack. It's also planning a protest "to help those who have been victimized by the football team or other regimes."
The group has already hacked the website of the local football fansite and says it will release the information if people don't come forward to help the investigation.
"My heart goes out to the victim," DeWine said. "The victim continues to be victimized every time something shows up on the Internet. There's nothing I can do about that, but it is very, very sad."
The whole issue has placed a stigma on Steubenville, which some feel is not justified.
"The buzz that keeps coming about is that Steubenville is a bad place, things are being covered up, more people should be arrested and I feel that's all unjustly so," said Jerry Barilla, a longtime store owner. "Because I think that to condemn an entire city for something that happened is not right. To condemn an entire school and all the kids that go there for something that took place among a few students is still not right."
Backers hope to revive Violence Against Women Act
Child pornography web reaches into Minnesota
by ALLIE SHAH
Owners of Minnesota fishing resort identified a suspect as a customer, helping agents get an arrest in the international case.
An international investigation that reached a Minnesota fishing resort has rescued more than 100 children from sexual exploitation, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Thursday.
Some 245 people were arrested in the recent multi-nation sting called "Operation Sunflower," named after the Kansas highway signs that led agents to one of the first victims.
The operation wrapped up in December and targeted people who owned, traded and produced images of child pornography -- often over the Internet.
A photo in a computer folder labeled "Minnesota Trip" led a local ICE agent to a fishing resort near Richville, then, in turn, to the arrest and conviction last month of an Illinois woman on child pornography charges.
During Thursday's news conference in Washington, D.C., ICE director John Morton described the results of Operation Sunflower as "significant, but grim" and "a sad reminder to us all that online child exploitation is a very real part of our lives and absolutely demands our full attention as a nation."
Federal agents found 110 victims in 19 states and the remaining 13 in six other countries. Morton declined to provide details about the other countries, other than to say that some were in Mexico.
Morton also announced warrants for two unidentified adults charged in Los Angeles with molesting a girl who appeared in online photos to be about 13 when she was abused. The man and woman, identified as "John Doe" and "Jane Doe," may have been in the San Fernando Valley area, north of Los Angeles, when they abused the girl. Online photos of the abuse are believed to be about 11 years old, Morton said.
The victims ranged in age from younger than 1 to 17 years old. Morton said 44 of the victims lived with their accused abusers.
He asked the public for help in identifying suspects in the cases, directing anyone with information to call the tips line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or go to www.ice.gov/tips.
Tracking a predator
In an exclusive interview, the special agent from Minnesota's ICE office who helped find the Illinois predator and her victim recounted his role in the investigation.
The agent, who did not want to be identified because he does undercover work, said he received a tip last April from ICE's Oregon office about 36 digital images, some of which depicted child exploitation, the agent said.
Among those 36 images were pictures labeled "Minnesota Trip." One image showed the suspected abuser and the victim, each holding a fish, at what appeared to be a cabin. The agent contacted Explore Minnesota and asked for help in locating the cabin.
One of the tourism agency's employees said that it looked like a resort in Richville, Minn. The agent called the owners of the "mom-and-pop resort" and they confirmed it was their business. They also said the people in the photo were regular visitors and gave the agent the Illinois woman's name and e-mail address.
Agents in that state searched her home and arrested her. She pleaded guilty last spring to producing and distributing child pornography and was sentenced on Nov. 15 to 25 years in prison. She became one of a record number of child predators --1,655 -- who were arrested on criminal charges last year.
Operation Sunflower was named after the first case conducted by ICE's new Victim Identification Program. The Sunflower case began in November 2011 when Danish police shared information they found posted on a chat board indicating that a 16-year-old boy was planning to rape an 11-year-old girl.
The suspect was posting images of the girl and asking for advice on a pedophile chat board.
One of the photos showed a yellow road sign with a sunflower image common on Kansas highways.
ICE agents drove for days until they found the sign -- in a small town. Morton said that, using a combination of computer forensics and old-fashioned police work, "we ultimately prevented that girl from being raped."
He said Thursday that his satisfaction over the "Sunflower" arrests was tempered by the ongoing enormity of the problem.
"The grim reality is that online child exploitation ... is going on throughout the world right now on a grand scale," he said.
"It is a wrong among wrongs and one we must combat with the full force of the law. We are literally defending the defenseless."
Child pornography in the San Fernando Valley: Authorities ask public's help in tracking down suspects
by Christina Villacorte
At a news conference in downtown Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. distributed images of the man and the woman who appear in the "Jen Series" of photos recovered among the collections of about 275 child pornography suspects nationwide.
"Special agents... are now armed with these federal arrest warrants, but they need the public's help in identifying the perpetrators that are responsible for molesting the victim, and for the continuing victimization of this young girl, whose image is now being traded by those vile human beings who collect child pornography," Birotte said.
The "Jen Series" consists of about 40 photos believed taken around 2001 at an apartment in the San Fernando Valley, possibly Encino.
The images show an unidentified girl, then between 11 and 14 years old, being abused by a Caucasian man in his 40s or 50s, and a Caucasian woman, about 35-45 years old.
A digitally-applied black dot covers most of the man's face, but he appears to have brown or gray straight hair, and graying facial hair. He had a distinctive pair of moles about an inch apart, one on top of the other, on the center of his chest.
Unlike her fellow suspect, the woman's face is clearly visible. She has sandy blond straight hair, a left eyebrow piercing and several tattoos, including a black butterfly on her right hip, a curled up cat on her right shoulder, writing on her left wrist, and an unknown design above her left breast.
The "wanted poster" can be seen on www.ice.gov, and at http://www.dvidshub.net/image/809157/operation-sunflower.
Claude Arnold, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in Los Angeles, said years of examining the photos have yielded only clues about the date and location of the abuse - none about the identity of the child molesters.
"We've exhausted every investigative method we can, we have followed up on every lead, and at this point, we can't identify them," he said.
"We know that child sexual predators often have multiple victims and their activities may continue for many years," he added. "We're here today, sharing these photos with you, because we want to do everything we can to identify these two suspects and prevent the possible sexual exploitation of additional
Among the indicators of when and where the abuse happened are a wall calendar displaying May 2001 handed out by a Encino-based Jewish religious supply store, Mitzvahland, to its customers; literature from English First International Schools, which has a campus at Cal State Northridge; a cable box from Time Warner Roadrunner Service, which served Encino; and a Yellow Pages phonebook for the west San Fernando Valley.
Nick Brock, a supervisor with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, noted the fate of the unidentified girl in the photos is unknown. If she is still alive, she would now be in her early 20s.
"So many of these children have yet to be identified," he said. "Anyone could know these victims, not knowing that they are being harmed, because child pornography victims often do not disclose their abuse - they are relying on law enforcement to identify and rescue them."
"They are relying on all of us."
Anyone with information to assist in the investigation is urged to call 1-866-DHS-2ICE, or 1-800-THE-LOST, or visit www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips.asp
A Partnership for Giving launches PREP (Police Response Enhancement Program) in Scotch Plains
A Partnership for Change (APFC), a private, non-profit organization dedicated to ending intimate partner violence has been awarded a grant from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, Victim Assistance Grant Program to implement its PREP (Police Response Enhancement Program) initiative.
PREP is a series of three workshops designed to help police officers and others in law enforcement to identify and respond to the needs of victims of intimate partner or family violence. PREP is not a technical legal training; it is a program that addresses the issue from a victim's perspective and provides first responders with practical information to enhance their intervention efforts.
PREP runs from February 2013 through December 2013. Classes are free (materials included) and held at the John H. Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains. Registration is required and may be done by email to APFC at PREP@APartnershipforChange.org .
The first class is on Monday, Feb. 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; additional dates, times and class topics are available on APFC's website at: APartnershipforChange.org.
Each PREP workshop is four hours; participants may attend one or more class. Topics include:
|1. Domestic Violence "101" and Understanding the Victim/Survivor of Abuse
2. Domestic Violence "101" and the Effects of Domestic Violence on Children
3. Teen Dating Abuse
There is no doubt that domestic violence is a statewide concern: According to the New Jersey Unified Crime Report (UCR), there were 74,244 domestic violence offenses reported by the police in 2010, and children were involved or present during 31% of these offenses. At the local level, APFC has surveyed 3,136 Union County teens in its PowerBack teen dating abuse program since 2009; 23% tell us that they have witnessed domestic violence at home (720 families affected from the schools we serve alone) and 77% say that dating abuse is happening at their school.
APFC launched PREP as a pilot program in 2010 with excellent results: 269 law enforcement professionals participated in the program with 98% of them reporting that they enhanced their abilities to effectively approach and respond to victims (adults, teens and children). Furthermore, DVRT (Domestic Violence Response Team) callouts in Union County increased by 10% during the period when PREP was being conducted over the same time period for the prior year.
APFC specifically designed PREP knowing that first responders play a critical role in helping victims of domestic violence become survivors. The fact is, they are likely to be the only source of support and information for victims who are often isolated from friends, family, co-workers and other “helping” systems, and the manner in which an officer responds to a call can have a tremendous impact on someone who is being abused.
Allison Bressler, co-director of APFC, states, “Over the years, victims have shared stories with me about the decisive moment in their lives that led them to make the first hotline call or to reach out to someone for help; these stories all shared common elements of the person who made a difference in their lives: they were non-judgmental, compassionate and informed. In PREP, we provide participants with practical tools and effective ways to help victims break the silence and connect them to critical support services, which can lead to a reduction in recidivism rates.”
LePage wants to add teeth to child abuse reporting law
by Matthew Stone
AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has his eye on Maine's law that obligates professionals who are in regular contact with children to alert state child welfare officials when they suspect child abuse or neglect.
The state Department of Health and Human Services has submitted a bill titled “An Act to Strengthen Mandatory Reporting Laws” for consideration by lawmakers in the coming months.
Therese Cahill-Low, who directs the department's Office of Child and Family Services, said Maine's mandatory reporting law has a number of shortcomings that lead to child abuse and neglect cases going unreported. According to DHHS, the state received more than 17,000 reports of suspected abuse or neglect in 2010 and referred more than 8,000 of them for further investigation.
“We have recognized that we have some holes in our current mandated reporter law,” Cahill-Low said. “The purpose of the bill would be to address those and try to bring focus to an area that saves lives.”
The bill is not yet available in written form, and DHHS officials say they can't release specifics about the proposal as they are still being completed.
Maine's mandatory reporting law requires that 32 types of professionals — from school employees to medical personnel to law enforcement — report child abuse or neglect to the Department of Health and Human Services if they have reason to suspect it has happened.
The state's Child Death and Serious Injury Review Panel — a group of law enforcement, medical personnel, educators, child welfare officials and others who review child deaths and serious injuries — has recommended measures in the past to shore up the state's mandatory reporting laws, Cahill-Low said.
Maine's mandatory reporting law became a subject of discussion last summer after the release of a Maine State Police report that suggested a number of people were aware the Rev. Bob Carlson sexually abused multiple children but didn't come forward to report it. Carlson, who served as president of Penobscot Community Health Care and as a chaplain for a number of Bangor-area police and fire departments and Husson University, committed suicide in November 2011 just days after the state police began investigating him for alleged sexual abuse of children.
Maine's mandatory reporting law falls short when it comes to enforcement and training, Cahill-Low said.
“There's not a lot of teeth in the current statute,” she said. “If someone that we know didn't report, and the child ended up dying or having a serious injury, there's really nothing in the law that allows us to enforce the law.”
Maine's mandatory reporter law first passed in 1965 as a measure to require doctors who saw signs that young patients have been abused to make a report to what was then the state Department of Health and Welfare.
The provision laid out a penalty of $100, up to six months in prison, or both for failing to report suspected abuse. It also guaranteed someone who made a report of abuse immunity from civil or criminal liability.
According to a review of legislative records, the state Legislature raised the financial penalty to $500 in 1975. But two years later, the Legislature scaled back the penalty, downgrading the failure to report suspected abuse or neglect to a civil offense punishable only by a $500 fine and no longer by up to six months in jail.
The penalty language disappeared from the law entirely when it was amended again in 1980.
In addition to the lack of an enforcement mechanism, a number of people who are considered mandated reporters under the law aren't aware of their status, much less the responsibilities associated with it, Cahill-Low said.
“When you tell somebody by law that they're supposed to be doing this, it's nice to know that and what they're supposed to be doing,” she said.
The law includes no training requirement, and the Department of Health and Human Services has only a small corps of trainers to visit schools and other organizations that request training. The training mandated reporters receive — if they receive it at all — varies widely, according to Cahill-Low.
A number of organizations that employ mandated reporters, including school systems and hospitals, provide their employees with training, though there's no consistent training regimen. The Department of Health and Human Services also provides online training for mandated reporters.
“Some of that demystifies it and takes away some of the fear [of reporting] that's out there,” Cahill-Low said. “We try to do that, and we have an online training. We're just wondering if it's enough at this point.”
Victor Veith, executive director of the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children in Winona, Minn., told the Bangor Daily News last summer that the lack of training for mandated reporters is what prevents many cases of suspected child abuse from being reported.
Veith, a nationally recognized expert who trains investigators, prosecutors, doctors and others to recognize and address signs of child abuse, said state laws generally are consistent in defining who is required to report suspected child abuse, but they largely fail to address training for them.
“If we really want the reporting laws to be successful, we're going to have to address training,” Veith said in August. “Everything else is just a Band-Aid. [Training] is clearly the solution that the research makes clear will truly make a difference.”
Former Pa. priest charged with child sexual abuse in Maryland, which has no statute of limitations
Newly-sworn-in Pa. lawmaker, child abuse victim, wants to end statue of limitations on child sex abuse cases
by Pam Cunningham
READING, Pa. -
A former Berks County priest is being charged for child sexual abuse. Police in Maryland said they have brought charges against Bruno Tucci for an incident that happened more than 30 years ago at an Ocean City motel.
Unlike Pennsylvania, Maryland has no statute of limitations in sexual abuse crimes.
That's something new Pa. lawmaker Mark Rozzi wants to change.
Newly-sworn-in Pennsylvania Representative for Berks County Mark Rozzi said he was also a child sexual abuse victim at the hands of another priest in 1983 in Muhlenberg Township when he was 13 years old.
"I was actually raped in the shower while the other boy waited outside the door and he was next," said Rozzi.
He said he came forward in 2009 after another victim and friend committed suicide, years after the statute of limitations ran out.
"I will never forget that. I didn't do anything there and when I look at it now I will never walk away," said Rozzi, "I will take on every special interest there is to get this done for the children of this state."
Ocean City, Maryland police said at this point Bruno Tucci is facing charges related to one incident of child sexual abuse at a Ocean City motel. But they said if anyone else in Pa. believes they are also a victim and it happened in Maryland, they'll investigate it.
Tucci is the man Maryland police said sexually assaulted a boy in August 1981.
"Back during the Jerry Sandusky trial we were notified by an individual that they believe they were a victim of a crime in Ocean City," said Ocean City Police Officer Michael Levy.
According to the Diocese of Allentown, in 2007 Tucci was defrocked. But from 1971 through 2002 he was Father Bruno Tucci. He worked in Reading throughout the 70s and 80s in places like Saint Margaret's, Holy Name High School, St. Peter's Church, and Central Catholic High School.
Maryland Police did not say if Tucci's alleged victim is from Pennsylvania, but said if there are victims here they can come forward because there is no statute of limitations.
"We are going to investigate it thoroughly," said Levy.
State Representative Rozzi said on January 23rd he'll be introducing a bill in Harrisburg to remove the statute of limitations in all child sexual abuse cases.
Task Force Finds Ways to Fight Child Abuse
by Charly Arnolt
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The rate of child sex abuse in Missouri is one of the worst in the nation, so now the state is taking action by appointing a task force to tackle the problem once and for all.
Research shows 25 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys are sexually abused as children.
On Thursday, the Task Force on the Sexual Abuse of Children issued a 12-point plan calling for sweeping changes.
The 14-person task force is composed of Missouri lawmakers, advocates and law enforcement.
One of their recommendations involves modifying the mandated reporter laws. Currently, how it works is the person who hears about the abuse must tell a supervisor, who then is responsible to call a state hotline. Task force members say many times these supervisors fail to follow through, so the state wants to eliminate the middle man.
Another problem is how resources, such as advocacy and treatment centers, are allocated throughout the state. Some counties are lacking, which means that children may not get the help they need depending on where they live.
“There is a wide range of quality, if you will, from county to county, both in how cases are investigated, how children are talked to, how, even if, cases go to trial,” said Barbara Brown-Johnson, Executive Director of Springfield's Child Advocacy Center.
The task force suggests a big increase in state funding to fight the problem, specifically going towards public awareness campaigns, mental health services and treatment centers.
Shore legislators eye sex abuse custody loophole
by Jennifer Shutt
ANNAPOLIS — Although Thomas and Nicole McGuire were convicted of sexually abusing two teenagers, one of whom was related to them, there is still a chance after they are released from prison they could get custody of their son.
But two Lower Shore politicians seek to prevent the Delmar couple — who were sentenced in November — and any parent convicted of sex abuse of a minor from getting custody of their children or having unsupervised visits with them.
Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio filed the bill ahead of the start of the Maryland General Assembly next Wednesday after hearing a story from one of her constituents.
“She had a daughter of her own and she got married to a man, and they had a son together. She later found out that her husband was abusing her daughter, which would be his stepdaughter,” Haddaway-Riccio said. “She filed for divorce and got away from him as quickly as possible.”
The man later filed for custody of their son and, while he did not receive it, he was granted unsupervised visitation.
“So what's happened now is her son has been abused,” Haddaway-Riccio said.
After doing some research, Haddaway-Riccio, R-37B-Talbot, learned that in Maryland, a parent can be barred from getting custody if they are convicted of first- or second-degree murder of their child's other parent, another child of theirs or any family member living in the household. However, a parent convicted of sexually abusing a child can still get custody of or unsupervised visits with their children.
“If a parent is convicted of a sex crime against a child, they probably don't need to have custody,” Haddaway-Riccio said.
While the bill in its current form could protect children whose parent or parents are convicted of sex abuse of a minor, it isn't foolproof. In Maryland, sex abuse of a minor is a specific charge, much like first-degree robbery or second-degree assault, and not a blanket crime for all sexual abuse against children.
Because it is almost always part of a package of charges and to protect victims from having to testify, prosecutors often plead out these cases. That means in some cases, an individual who is charged with sex abuse of a minor and pleads guilty to another charge, could later get custody of their children.
The bill — which still has to have hearings in the House and Senate, be voted out of committee and be debated in both chambers — could have amendments added along the way to include other crimes against children.
For now, Sen. Richard Colburn, R-37-Dorchester, who is sponsoring the identical Senate version of the bill, said it's a good first step to protecting Maryland's children.
“We need to do everything we can to protect abused children in Maryland,” Colburn said. “Protection against abusers by prohibiting custody and visitation is a step in the right direction.”
Support group forms to help sex offenders' families
District Attorney's Office joins with Center for Safety & Change
by Laura Incalcaterra
Experts say the sexual abuse of children also traumatizes their family members, typically leaving the non-offending parent or guardian feeling guilty, powerless and without direction.
“The impact of the case goes far beyond just that of the victim,” said Patricia Gunning, chief of the Rockland County District Attorney's Special Victims Unit. “Just imagine finding out that your husband is having sex with your daughter. Your world implodes.”
The District Attorney's Office has joined with the Center for Safety & Change to offer a new educational support group to assist the secondary victims of child sex abuse.
Connecting the Dots will meet at the Spirit of Rockland Special Victims Center on the grounds of Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern. Sessions will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, from Jan. 8 through Feb. 12.
The program is free, confidential and overseen by professionals. Child care can be provided with notice.
Gunning said the vast majority of cases of child sex abuse involve a family member. The offender's subsequent absence from the family can mean a loss of income to the family. It can also mean a loss of support if that offender was the one who waited with children until the school bus arrived or helped do the grocery shopping.
Meanwhile, tremendous guilt falls upon the non-offending parent and the family as they wrestle with confusion: Non-offending parents and children, sometimes including the abused child, may miss the offender because they still love the person.
There is also great conflict, Gunning said, as some relatives sometimes try to encourage the non-offending parent not to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of the case.
“The whole family is affected when a child is victimized,” said Carolyn Fish, director of the Center for Safety & Change. “Our role is to help the family heal so they can help the child heal.”
The center, formerly the Rockland Family Shelter, helps victims of domestic violence, offers sexual trauma programs and conducts educational outreach, among other services.
SOU, RCC workers mandated to report child abuse
by Teresa Ristow
An Oregon law that went into effect Tuesday requires all higher education employees — from professors and administrators to maintenance staff and student workers — to report any incidents of child abuse they learn about, even if the incidents are not related to their job.
The law, which affects about 1,300 Rogue Valley employees at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College, requires workers to report suspected or known abuse, regardless of whether the abuse is related to their job or is discovered while they are in an official capacity.
"I absolutely agree with this move," said Marlene Mish, director of the Children's Advocacy Center in Medford. "I personally believe all adults should be mandated reporters. All adults should have responsibility over children."
Mish said she hopes universities will properly train staff to be mandated reporters.
"There will have to be a lot of training that goes on, teaching people what to look for," said SOU Director of Human Resources Jay Stephens.
Stephens said SOU is communicating with other universities as the school develops a reporting policy for employees, and that the school likely will hold trainings for the roughly 700 employees on staff who will now be mandated reporters.
Introduced as House Bill 4016 in February 2012, the legislation followed the Penn State University scandal in 2011, in which former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of sexually assaulting at least eight young boys on university property.
An investigation into the assaults determined that university employees, including the school president and head football coach, had known about the allegations and chosen not to report them.
While several high-school level employees subject to mandatory reporting laws were reprimanded for their role in covering up the scandal, university employees were not subject to mandatory reporting.
The school's president resigned, and the head football coach and athletic director were fired. The U.S. Department of Education continues to investigate whether the school followed federal law when reporting the incident.
Oregon's new law requires that all higher education employees, including athletic coaches and trainers, be mandated reporters.
The law also makes employees of public or private organizations that provide services to youth to be mandated reporters.
Some people are nervous about becoming mandated reporters, Mish said, out of fear that they will be identified as the reporter or that they might misreport it or somehow make the situation worse.
"A lot of people don't want to be mandated reporters because they're afraid. They fear getting involved," said Mish. "But we must get involved."
Last month, RCC conducted training at each of its three campuses, teaching employees about their responsibilities under the new law, according to spokesperson Margaret Bradford.
The school is offering online training about detection of child abuse.
Roughly 600 employees at RCC are now mandated reporters.
Baucus introduces bill to examine causes, prevention of child abuse deaths
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.”
Child abuse investigations lacking in TN, experts find
by Tony Gonzalez
Investigations into severe child abuse were left incomplete and failed to address the complicated needs of families, according to a new report by experts tasked with examining the "worst incidents of child abuse in Tennessee."
The Second Look Commission's 2012 Annual Report recommends more training for child abuse investigators, including Department of Children's Services caseworkers, mental health providers and law enforcement.
The 23-page report details eight areas where Tennessee can improve its protections of children. Lawmakers, judges, doctors, lawyers, police and child advocates make up the commission, which lawmakers created in 2010 to examine cases in which children suffered severe abuse on multiple occasions, even after being reported to DCS.
"It's been the philosophy that training and policy are likely the places that we and everybody else will have the most impact," commission Director Craig Hargrow said of the latest findings.
In the past year, the 17-person commission reviewed six cases, which was down from about 20 the year before, so that members could delve deeper into each, said Hargrow, a former DCS attorney and former Montgomery County juvenile court magistrate.
The commission's findings and recommendations, in brief:
- More training is needed to assess the needs of children and more coordination between DCS and other officials connected to child protection;
- Investigations should address the deep, complex issues that lead to abuse, instead of targeting individual incidents;
- Tennessee needs more consistency among county Child Protective Investigative Teams, which look into abuse and make prosecution decisions;
- Domestic violence investigations need to be improved, and offender penalties increased;
- The state should improve responses for children exposed to methamphetamine;
- In too many cases, abuse is reported to DCS multiple times before an investigation begins;
- DCS should review policies regarding how foster families and custodians are approved to care for kids.
The commission also reported that some of its 2011 findings - that DCS caseworkers lack supervision, are inadequately paid, and leave the department at high rates - could be addressed by the latest DCS budget proposal.
That suggested budget asks for DCS frontline staff pay raises and creation of additional case manager positions.
Meanwhile, the commission's analysis of abuse data was hampered this year by faulty numbers provided by DCS.
For months, the commission worked with numbers that showed a dramatic increase in severe re-abuse cases, but DCS conceded in October that its numbers were not correct.
DCS reported then that 2010 numbers were undercounted and 2011 overcounted and DCS Commissioner Kate O'Day blamed the agency's new computer system, known as TFACTS, for the problem.
Department officials have said they will not try to correct the numbers.
"On the immediate recommendations and findings, I don't think it has a huge impact," Hargrow said. "My concern is, if the Second Look Commission is continued over time, then it's hard to look at trends."
Protecting child abuse victims
by Francisco Diaz
LAREDO, TX. - Voz de Niños, an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of abused infants in Webb County, will host a special conference to bring awareness in the community.
The event will be held on Feb. 1 with the idea of ??providing education and professional development to all involved with the foster care system and child care.
"The invitation is for attorneys, employees of child protective services, school counselors, social workers, foster parents, judges and professional counselors," said Edgar Ricalde, director of Voz de Niños.
He recalled that this organization is dedicated to protecting the rights and care of children who have been abused, to represent them on their way through the court process.
This nonprofit organization was established in 2007 in Webb County and is the only institution of its kind operating in Laredo that is dedicated to only intervene in civil matters involving child victims.
"We want to educate the community about the needs of these special children," he said. Voz de Niños currently has 36 volunteers who care for the rights of abused infants who undertake to visit the child at least once a month for a period of one year.
The conference will be held at the La Posada and among the topics highlighted will be pediatric development, the effects of knowledge on poor children, strategies for working with children placed in foster homes, how to prepare to go to court and mental needs of abused children.
They will also be taught to testify in court, discuss the issue of drugs, how to involve the parents in the child support system and how to care for the health of these infants among others.
Those interested in attending can call (956) 727-8691 for more information.
Queens lawmaker Margaret Markey says Poly Prep sex abuse scandal should lead to elimination of statute of limitations for victims
"As this case demonstrates, adding a few extra years to current law is not enough," Markey said of the Poly Prep scandal.
by Michael O'keeffe
New York state assemblywoman Margaret Markey has introduced legislation since 2006 that would permit victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek criminal charges and file civil lawsuits until their 28th birthday.
But the Queens Democrat said the Poly Prep Country Day School lawsuit and other sex abuse scandals have pushed her to call for a complete end to the criminal and civil statute of limitations when she introduces the Child Victims Act later this month.
"As this case demonstrates, adding a few extra years to current law is not enough," Markey said of the Poly Prep scandal.
As the Daily News first reported last week, the attorney who represented the 12 men who last week settled the explosive lawsuit which accused Poly Prep administrators of covering up decades of sexual abuse by longtime football coach Phil Foglietta said he welcomes the change in the legislation.
"I think the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims is one of the most absurd and asinine statutes on the books in New York state," Orangeburg lawyer Kevin Mulhearn said. "It does not reflect the reality that for many survivors of sexual abuse, it takes decades to realize the extent of the damage they have suffered."
Current state law requires survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a case by the time they are 23 years old. Previous versions of Markey's Child Victims Act would have extended the deadline by five years.
The Poly Prep lawsuit, as well as sex-abuse scandals at Penn State, Syracuse and at other institutions, showed that most victims aren't prepared to address the damage they have suffered until they are in their 40s or 50s, said Mike Armstrong, a spokesman for Markey.
"The world has changed," Armstrong said. "It's time to confront the issue in New York state."
Armstrong said advances in DNA science now make it possible for law-enforcement agencies to prosecute sexual predators who would have escaped justice in the past.
The latest version of the Child Victims Act will retain a controversial one-year window that would allow sex-abuse victims who had been previously barred from bringing civil litigation because of the statute of limitations to file lawsuits.
"There is no limit on what is so often a lifetime of suffering and anguish for victims of child sex abuse," Markey said. "Likewise, there must be no limit on the ability of society to prosecute abusers and to hold accountable the institutions and organizations who protect and hide them."
The Catholic Church and other institutions have vociferously opposed Markey's bill. Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, said he could not comment on Markey's latest bill because he has not yet seen it. The church, he said, does support legislation introduced by State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) that extends the statute of limitations.
Poust said Catholic leaders do not oppose extending the statute of limitations, but they do oppose the window that would allow lawsuits to be filed by victims. Poust said the window is discriminatory against private and religious institutions because victims abused by public school teachers and other public employees have to file a notice of claims months after they are assaulted, he said.
The News reported last week that the explosive suit filed against Poly Prep in 2009 — which claimed officials knew their coach was a sexual predator, but ignored complaints because they didn't want to jeopardize the institution's athletic reputation and fund-raising efforts — had been settled. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.
Mulhearn and several of his clients appeared at a news conference in Albany last February to urge lawmakers to pass Markey's bill.
Poly Prep attorneys argued that the suit, filed in Brooklyn federal court, should have been dismissed because it was filed long after the statute of limitations had expired. But U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block, in what may be a watershed moment for sexual abuse survivors, ruled in August that portions of suit could proceed because administrators may have lied about when they said they did not become aware of the abuse allegations until 1991.
"The law now allows institutions to hide behind the statue of limitations and profit from their own misconduct and cover-ups," Mulhearn said.
Man arrested after exposing himself to schoolchildren inside Connecticut church
by Ilana Gold
A Connecticut man was facing several charges after police said he barged into a church naked and exposed himself to parishioners and a third-grade class Wednesday afternoon.
The incident happened around 2 p.m. at St. James Catholic Church in Killingly, Conn.
The Rev. John O'Neill told NBC Connecticut that the man got in through a front door that was supposed to be locked.
Police arrested Gary Pohronezny, 41, of Brooklyn, Conn., at the church. O'Neill said Pohronezny was known to police.
Parent Tracy Caffrey said her young daughter was inside and saw everything.
“It's very scary. Your heart stops a beat for a minute or two,” Caffrey said. “She said it was scary. She said it was sudden.”
Read more news from NBC Connecticut
The stranger allegedly exposed himself to a third-grade class from the St. James School a few feet away. The kids were in the middle of Mass practice, and parishioners were also on hand.
“They were definitely distraught,” Caffrey said.
The teacher inside the church did everything she could to protect her students, O'Neill said. “She told the man to leave and told the kids go to the school immediately.”
While the scare at the church was tough for families to deal with, they were grateful no one was hurt.
“Very thankful, especially after everything that's happened lately,” Caffrey said.
They were also thankful the unwanted visitor was put behind bars.
Watch US News crime videos on NBCNews.com
After police made the arrest they went back to the St. James School and talked to the children, saying their goal was to calm fears and make sure the kids felt safe.
Pohronezny was charged with 20 counts, including disorderly conduct, risk of injury to minors and interfering with police. A court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 10.
A Connecticut State Police spokesman told NBC News on Thursday morning that Pohronezny was undergoing a psychological evaluation.
Training session on identification, reporting of child abuse Jan. 17
FREDONIA - A New York State mandated training session for professionals on identifying and reporting child abuse, maltreatment and neglect will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, at the LoGuidice Educational Center, D building., 9520 Fredonia-Stockton Rd., Fredonia.
The training is required for all persons applying for a provisional or permanent certificate of license valid for administrative or supervisory service, classroom teaching service or school service. Therefore, in addition to teachers and school administrators, the mandate affects school physicians, nurses, therapists and others in the fields of health care and education.
Participants should bring their license or certificate number with them if possible. A State Education Department certificate of completion will be provided for each course participant. A $30 fee will be charged for this workshop. To register, call 1-800-344-9611 or 672-4371 ext. 2145. Participants are asked to be at the training 15 minutes prior to start time.
The session is provided by the School and Societal Perspectives Program of the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES.
Be the voice to protect abused children's lives
by Vivian Rapposelli
In the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut, I cannot help but think about the courageous adults who did what they could to protect their children. Acts of heroism come in many forms and each adult acted instinctively to protect the lives of children.
While the unspeakable occurred in Connecticut, I believe that any time a child is placed in an environment of fear, pain, abuse or neglect, we as a society have an obligation to do more to protect our children.
While certainly not comparable in scale to the tragedy in Newtown, a great act of heroism by a Delaware resident acting instinctively and bravely took place in our state last month. A horrific case of alleged child abuse in Delaware was reported by the media throughout the region. The child in this case was saved because of the actions of one person, a neighbor, who realized this child was in danger.
Because this neighbor recognized the signs of potential abuse and called the police, an investigation was opened that led to the parents' arrest. However, the neighbor in last month's case took things one step further.
She not only called police, but took on the responsibility of keeping the child safe until the police arrived instead of turning him over to relatives who came looking for him. This woman is nothing short of a hero.
It is important that we all recognize the signs of child abuse. The safety and well-being of our children must be a priority to us all. If there is a suspicion of abuse or neglect, I urge everyone to make a call to the report line.
While reporting of child abuse or neglect in any form is vital, it is only part of the equation. Over the past several years, multi-agency campaigns to educate Delawareans on mandatory reporting laws and their responsibility to report child abuse have taken place.
The Children's Department, along with the Department of Justice, the Office of the Child Advocate, partners in the community and the Family Court, have all joined together to help everyone learn the signs of abuse and the steps that they can take to stop it.
If just one person recognizes the signs of abuse in one child and takes additional steps to ensure that child is safe, that is one more life saved from continued trauma.
During this season of giving and hope, one of the most precious gifts you can give a child who is suffering abuse, costs nothing. One phone call can offer a suffering child the gift of safety. To an abused or neglected child safety might be the one gift that he or she had believed was too much to ask for; but each one of us has the responsibility to do our best to give them the safety every child so richly deserves.
One of the most beautiful expressions of the value of life is found in the Talmud, “He who saves one life is as if he saves an entire world.” One person can truly make a world of difference.
To learn more about preventing, recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect, please visit www.iseethe signs.org. If you suspect or witness child abuse or neglect, please be that one voice who speaks up for a child and call the Report Line at (800) 292-9582.
See the signs, make the call and be the one to help a child.
Vivian Rapposelli is the Secretary of Delaware's Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families.
Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County receives $42,000 grant
National Children's Alliance, under agreement with the United States Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, recently awarded The Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County $42,000 to address mental health needs of children who have experienced the trauma of abuse.
Overall, the federal grants totaled more than $9.8 million and were distributed in the form of 91 awards to children's advocacy centers, multi-disciplinary teams and state chapter organizations across the country.
The Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County will use the grant money to employ two part-time mental health counselors who will participate in the Duke University Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavior Therapy, year-long Learning Collaborative in Huntsville, Ala. In the future, the CAP will use the money to hire two full-time mental health counselors in order to develop a "wellness clinic" for children who have suffered from sexual and physical abuse or neglect.
"What this means for Chautauqua County is, children will be able to receive services in one child-friendly location," executive director of The Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County Jana McDermott said. "We offer trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, a brief and specific model of treatment, proven effective for children and families. We are proud to be able to deliver such a vital service."
The National Children's Alliance is a national funding source that supports grant recipients in the following areas: Children's Advocacy Center Response to the U.S. District of Columbia; Children's Advocacy Center Response to Commercially Sexually Exploited Children; Program Improvement; Urban initiatives; State Chapter Development; and State Chapter Support of Children's Advocacy Centers.
CAP brings together a team of community agencies and professionals to create a child-first approach to physical and sexual abuse. Coordinating investigative and intervention services, including trauma-focused counseling, in a child-friendly setting, ensures that children are not re-victimized by the very systems designed to protect them. CAP also provides education and awareness to county residents in order to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, through the nationally renowned Stewards of Children campaign.
National Children's Alliance is the national association and accrediting body for the over 750 children's advocacy centers serving each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient, and put the needs of child victims of abuse first, National Children's Alliance provides support and advocacy to its accredited membership, as well as numerous developing centers, multidisciplinary teams and child abuse professionals around the country, and the world.
As the national authority on multidisciplinary approaches to supporting child victims of abuse, the purpose of National Children's Alliance is to empower local communities to provide comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to victims of child abuse. Founded in 1998, National Children's Alliance provides accreditation opportunities, financial assistance, training, technical assistance, research and education to communities, child abuse professionals and children's advocacy centers throughout the United States in support of child abuse intervention, advocacy and prevention.
For more information about CAP, visit capjustice.org or like them on Facebook. For more information on National Children's Alliance and the various benefits it offers it's over 750 members across the country, including financial assistance, visit www.nationalchildrensalliance.org. CAP is a United Way Agency.
National Trafficking Awareness Day Is Jan. 11
The second annual National Trafficking Awareness Day will occur at the Choo Choo Imperial Ballroom on Jan. 11 at 9 a.m.
This event, known as "Wear White Day" is the day when people from all over the Chattanooga area come together to wear white to spread awareness about the problem of human trafficking in Southeast Tennessee. The featured speaker is Theresa Flores, a former trafficking victim who speaks on the subject Second Life On Sheet/Wear White.
Exhibits open at 9 am. and Ms. Flores will be speaking at 10 am.
Ms. Flores is a trafficking survivor and nationally known anti-trafficking advocate, speaker and author. She wrote “The Slave Across The Street” detailing her experience. Ms. Flores has also been featured on Night Line, America's Most Wanted, The Today Show & MSNBC: Sex Slaves-The Teen Trade.
The Greater Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking empowers individuals and organizations to collaborate and to create a community free of human trafficking and slavery of all forms. Through GCCAHT, area social service providers, mental health providers, medical providers, community and faith based organizations, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together to combat sex-trafficking in the Greater Chattanooga area.
More information may be found on the web at http://secondlifechattanooga.org/the-coalition/ or by emailing email@example.com.
Sex Offender Arrested For 24th Time In Chicago Suburbs
A convicted sex offender was arrested for the 24th time since 1995 when he was seen loitering in a McDonald's play area, watching an 11-year-old girl.
Cook County Sheriff's Police arrested Joseph O'Brien, 36, on Dec. 22 after the manager called the police. The manager said O'Brien had been asked to leave the play area on several other occasions.
The Cook County Sheriff's Department writes:
|Investigators learned that O'Brien is a registered sex offender, classified under "sexual predator," and that he had been staying at a motel near the restaurant and not at his registered address in Maine Township.
O'Brien is no stranger to law enforcement; he has been arrested 24 times since 1995. In 2001 he was convicted in Cook County of aggravated criminal sexual abuse/bodily harm; in October of 2006 and again in July of 2010 he was charged with failing to register as a sex offender.
O'Brien has been charged with failing to update his address to police and with criminal trespassing. He remains in custody.
Women's Resource Center
Women's Resource Center, of Northern Michigan (WRCNM) provides free counseling and support services to victims of crime including victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse, child abuse, child sexual assault and adults molested when they were children.
Services also provided to victims of elder abuse, hate crimes, economic abuse/fraud, robbery, DUI/ DWI crashes, and survivors of a homicide victim.
Support services include crisis counseling, individual counseling, support groups, trauma therapy (EMDR), play therapy for children, safety planning, advocacy on behalf of survivors and resources/referrals. The WRCNM can assist in filing victim compensation claims with the Michigan Department of Community Health.
If you or someone you care about has been a victim of crime, contact the WRCNM administrative office at (231)347-0067.
N.J. should strengthen prevention programs targeting child abuse
by Rush L. Russell
We commend The Times for its coverage of the recent Advocates for Children of New Jersey report that found that our youngest children — those younger than age 3 — were far more likely to die from child abuse and spend longer times in foster care than older children (“Report: Foster care more likely to be deadly for babies, toddlers,” Dec. 19). The report serves as yet another important wake-up call about the high stress level for parents with young children, the accompanying risk of child abuse and a number of long-standing weaknesses in the foster care system.
Child maltreatment — most notably physical abuse and neglect — happens to younger children in all settings for many of the same reasons that it happens in the foster care system: Younger children's communication skills are limited, and toddler behavior can be trying even for the most successful parents. And many parents lack essential knowledge about healthy child development to be a positive parent.
New Jersey statistics show that the highest rate of maltreatment for any age group and the highest rate of fatalities from abuse happen to children younger than age 4. So, certainly, ongoing reforms are still needed in the foster care system to reduce the risk of child abuse for our youngest children.
But, more important, we have the opportunity to prevent these tragedies from occurring before a foster placement becomes necessary and before a child is harmed. Strengthening proven prevention programs, such as voluntary home visitation, would save lives, improve a child's long-term health outcomes and save taxpayers money by preventing the downstream costs related to law enforcement, health care, incarceration and unemployment. We should also consider requiring foster parents to participate in home visitation programs in order to help parents better manage the stress in this new situation.
Anytime there is a case of child abuse, we need to back up from the crime and ask, “What could have been done to prevent this from ever happening?” In addition to helpful recommendations by ACNJ about child welfare reform, there are many valuable opportunities to change the way we do business to better protect our children and prevent child abuse.
Rush L. Russell is executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey - preventchildabusenj.org
Garden State Topic: Child Sexual Abuse Must Step Out of the Shadows, Into the Light
NJ can do much to help victims get justice, punish perpetrators, prevent future assaults
by Deborah Jacobs Opinion
A recent Sports Illustrated cover story focusing on young athletes subjected to child sexual abuse reminds us once again that the pernicious scourge of child sexual abuse continues to haunt the playing fields, playgrounds, and backrooms of our nation.
Among the social ills facing our nation, child sexual abuse stands alone in its epidemic proportions, and the devastation it sets upon its young victims cannot be overstated. Despite high-profile and well-publicized instances within institutions like the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and Penn State, among others, child sexual abuse remains among the least discussed and most impactful problems our nation faces, while it tarnishes the lives of large swaths of each new generation.
Whether you measure the harm of the individual victims, or the costs to society as a whole, there is ample reason to prioritize child sexual abuse in our national dialogue and adopt policies and practices that help protect children.
The most compelling way to understand the power and enormity of child sexual abuse is through the experience of individual victims. Because child sexual abuse primarily leaves emotional scars instead of physical, its full impact on victims remains under-appreciated. Child sexual abuse occurs at a tragically high rate and can rob young people of self-determination, self-esteem, and potential, sometimes setting in motion a lifelong chain of events and decisions. Many victims don't readily speak of the trauma they suffer as a result of child sexual abuse. This reluctance has a variety of roots: manipulation by the abuser, fear of not being believed, misplaced shame, fear of stigma, and just plain discomfort with a painful topic.
Nevertheless, despite the absence of reports from those victims who do not disclose what happened to them, the data on frequency of child sexual abuse remains staggering. Adult retrospective studies show that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, meaning that more than 42 million adult survivors live in the United States today.
Although research on the relationship between child sexual abuse and other social problems is still emerging, existing studies suggest that it is a major risk factor for such pressing community challenges as sexual and domestic violence, poverty, sex work, incarceration, mental illness, health problems, and homelessness. Sexually abused girls, for instance, are four times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than girls who are not sexually abused. Further, children and adolescents who have been sexually victimized are at increased risk for unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection, and revictimization. Cumulative costs related to child sexual abuse are estimated at $23 billion annually in the United States.
By far, the most vexing aspect in the struggle to prevent child sexual abuse is the fact that it is most likely perpetrated by the very adults responsible for protecting the victims. Indeed, in as many as 93 percent of child sexual cases, the perpetrator is a relative, family friend, coach. or teacher -- someone known and often trusted by the victim. This reality makes both preventing child sexual abuse and identifying and prosecuting offenders especially difficult, setting child sexual abuse apart from other crimes.
Despite this complexity, plenty can be done to significantly prevent instances of child sexual abuse and pave the way for better outcomes for victims.
Our top priority should be a focus on prevention, and a good place to start is organizations that serve young people. Newspaper headlines provide countless examples of sexual abuse of children participating in organizations like the American Boychoir, Boy Scouts, and Second Mile. Too few of the institutions in which we trust adults to care for our children have effective policies, practices, and accountability systems in place to prevent child sexual abuse. Even where people are aware of the threat of child sexual abuse, most lack the knowledge and tools to address it in our respective spheres of life; guidelines and established practices can make the difference.
New Jersey needs a state standard for child sexual abuse prevention practices for youth-serving organizations, including after-school programs, sports programs, and schools. Moreover, the state and federal government should require all youth-serving organizations that receive state or federal government funding to adopt such policies and practices and have systems of accountability to ensure they're followed.
A second critical step is to expand victims' access to justice through the courts. It often takes years for a victim of sexual abuse or assault to come forward; victims need time to recognize the extent of the harm done to them and have the courage and security to pursue justice. Both criminal and civil statutes of limitations must reflect the nature of the crime and recovery, giving victims ample time to seek justice.
Although New Jersey rightly has no statute of limitations for criminal charges of sexual assault, its civil statute of limitations provides recourse for very few. Victims wanting the opportunity to pursue civil lawsuits against abusers and the institutions that protect them in New Jersey have only two years from age 18 or discovery of the abuse to file a lawsuit. These laws protect institutions like the Catholic Church and the American Boychoir while individual victims struggle against tremendous obstacles to recovery, including costly therapy.
Sen. Joe Vitale has sought to correct this injustice by introducing legislation that would expand the legal avenues for child sexual abuse victims. The most meaningful thing that New Jersey legislators and Gov. Chris Christie could do to demonstrate their concern for child sexual abuse victims is to pass Sen. Vitale's legislation to expand the civil statute of limitations, demonstrating that the needs of victims takes priority over protecting abusers or institutions that protect or enable them.
Finally, we must ensure that our law-enforcement professionals have ample training and resources to investigate reports of sexual violation thoroughly, promptly, and in a manner that respects the sensitivity of the crime. Every police agency should have a critical mass of trained male and female personnel to address child sexual abuse and assaults, making sex offenses among the highest law-enforcement priorities to reflect the large-scale devastation such crimes create.
In addition to adequate personnel, prosecutors should have prompt and high-quality forensic support. In New Jersey's poorer counties like Essex, for example, prosecutors often have to wait several months for state lab analysis of DNA evidence that would help police identify suspects in existing unsolved cases, bring perpetrators to justice, and prevent potential future assaults.
Despite the enormity and complexity of the problem of child sexual abuse, we've only just begun to take steps to prevent it and provide recourse for victims. For the most part, our political leaders have focused energy and resources on punishing perpetrators through the criminal justice system rather than prioritizing the needs of victims and would-be victims.
If our leaders have a true commitment to child safety and the best interests of crime victims, they will enact these recommendations and look for more ways to prevent incidences of child sexual abuse and provide paths to justice for victims.
Prevent Child Abuse, Neglect
by The Intelligencer
West Virginians have joined the nation in demanding something be done about the safety of our children, in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 of them, along with six adults, at a school in Connecticut.
Yet there has been no similar public outcry here in the Mountain State, where 16 children were murdered by abusers in 2011.
When a mass murder occurs, we tend to take notice and insist on action to prevent future massacres. But when the killing is done one by one, sometimes by the very parents who are supposed to cherish and protect children, the outcry is muted, if present at all.
That needs to change. We West Virginians should make it our top New Year's resolution to crack down on child abuse in our state.
Other states seem to have been able to do that. Child abuse and neglect reports have decreased nationwide during the past five years. The number of murders - and that is the term we should be using - from child abuse was at a five-year low in 2011.
Here in the Mountain State, 16 children died from abuse in 2011. That was the highest rate in the country, at 4.16 per 100,000 children.
Law enforcement agencies and the courts have made rescuing victims of child abuse a top priority. The number of child abuse and neglect cases that proceed to circuit courts has more than doubled during the past decade, to 3,354 in 2011. In some courts, child abuse and neglect cases approach half those with which judges deal, according to a published report.
It should come as no surprise that the drug abuse epidemic in our state plays a major role in the number of abused and neglected children. One circuit judge has said nearly 90 percent of the abuse and neglect cases in his court are linked to drug abuse.
Obviously, West Virginia needs to do more to curb use of illegal drugs and abuse of prescription medicines. The drug epidemic here has reached crisis proportions.
But there is no excuse - none at all - for abusing or neglecting children. Adults who do it should be punished severely. Their little victims should be gotten out of abusive or neglectful homes and placed with caring adults.
West Virginia faces tough decisions involving state spending, education and a variety of other issues this year. State officials will have their hands full dealing with all the priorities on their plates.
But safeguarding our children should be at the very top of the list.
Trafficking victims fall through cracks of programs built on guesses, distortions
by Willoughby Mariano
An Atlanta police officer took the teen to the station because she looked so young. She was trembling when he found her. She wasn't wearing much.
The girl told investigators she was from Arkansas and her journey to the streets of Atlanta began when she climbed into the car of a relative's boyfriend. Mariece Sims and another man drove her to a Texas hotel room and raped her, she said.
They left for Mississippi, where Sims told her to make money by having sex with men at a truck stop, court records said. In Atlanta, he told her to do it again. He hit the girl when she did not make enough or tried to escape.
In the nine years since this girl walked the streets, the public has been told over and over again that hundreds of girls in metro Atlanta meet her same fate every night. It's why this area is notorious as one of the nation's worst human trafficking hubs.
That reputation ignited a decade of efforts against what is described as modern-day slavery. Now it is cause célèbre. Nonprofits, religious groups and celebrities have joined the crusade, and politicians are pouring millions of tax dollars into the fight.
But an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that the initiatives are based on facts and figures that, while preached as gospel and enshrined in legislation, are guesses or distortions. Even the widespread belief that Atlanta is one of the nation's child exploitation capitals stands on shaky ground. In this information vacuum, government officials have created programs that promise to find and help victims, but too often don't.
The AJC found:
• Agencies have failed to keep accurate information that could tell them whether taxpayer-funded initiatives have been effective. Participants in a $1 million program did not record basic information such as why a victim was in the system.
• State-backed attempts to track trafficking trends were not designed to be scientific, and national estimates are widely discredited.
• There is little proof that initiatives bring a significant percentage of traffickers to justice. Special sweeps by local and federal task forces have turned up few exploiters. Clients of a state program to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children cooperated in only four convictions in its first two years.
• The program's clients struggle under its care. One-third of girls it took in during its first two years returned to prostitution, some coaxed back by their pimps. More than half of those placed in safe homes in fiscal year 2011 ran away.
Despite the flaws, trafficking opponents have made some significant strides, and each rescued child is a victory.
“Atlanta and Georgia really are in the forefront of the U.S.,” said Kaffie McCullough, deputy director of youthSpark, a Fulton County juvenile justice nonprofit that fights child sex trafficking.
The legal system now takes the crime seriously. The Legislature passed tough laws, and Georgia established a statewide system to help girls who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation, noted former Fulton juvenile court judge Nina Hickson, who is credited with starting Atlanta's movement.
“I'm not totally saying these have all been successes. There have been disappointments. But a lot of good work is being done by a lot of good people,” said Hickson.
They face long odds, Hickson and others said. Programs close within years because funding dries up. Inexperienced decision makers ignore the advice of front-line workers. Victims dodge police by calling their pimps their “boyfriends” and are beaten when they try to leave.
Yet independent experts and federal authorities say that problems here and in other communities run deeper. Poor accountability and bad data hobble the effort.
David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, cautions against using any of the estimates to make policy.
“The data are very poor, and are not really to be relied upon for any conclusion,” he said.
‘Facts' really estimates
Atlanta's anti-trafficking movement coalesced around the image of a 10-year-old girl, her ankles in shackles. It was November 2000, and the runaway was in juvenile court accused of prostitution. She was being kept in detention because there was nowhere else for her to go.
A series of stories in the AJC described how she and other girls sat in jail while their adult pimps went free. The problem was dire, and child advocates asked the Justice Department for money.
Nationally “an estimated 300,000 victimized children” were “living on the streets,” the Juvenile Justice Fund, now known as youthSpark, said in an application for federal funds.
Over the years, trafficking activists have repeated this and other grim statistics to decision-makers and before ballrooms full of potential donors and volunteers.
In 2005, the FBI added Atlanta to its list of 14 field offices with the highest incidence of child prostitution or trafficking. An FBI official testifying in Washington, D.C. cited law enforcement intelligence as well as information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
A study commissioned by a local anti-trafficking campaign came up with another bleak figure. Research firm The Schapiro Group reported that 251 underage girls were being trafficked in Georgia in August 2007. Researchers cautioned, though, that the actual count could be closer to 400.
The Governor's Office for Children and Families agreed to take over funding for the research. From 2009 through this spring, it paid The Schapiro Group nearly $245,000 to produce a regular count, which varied between 200 and 500. The results appeared on the agency's website.
Now these alarming numbers appear in pamphlets, recent state legislation, and even on an anti-trafficking-themed tote bag passed out at a recent forum.
“240 Girls Were Trafficked in Georgia Yesterday,” the bag warns.
But a detailed look at the numbers shows that the most widely-used facts and figures are crude estimates, unsubstantiated, or inaccurate.
An FBI spokesman declined to explain why Atlanta is a top trafficking city.
Atlanta's size and location may well mean the metro area plays a big role in the trade, experts said. But while the FBI official said information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children helped the FBI develop its list, a center spokeswoman said it does not issue rankings.
In the absence of hard numbers, news articles and advocacy groups have claimed the title of the nation's human trafficking capital for Wichita, Kan., Toledo, Ohio, and Baton Rouge, La.
Some widely-used “facts” about the scope of trafficking misinterpret actual estimates.
For instance, the claim that 300,000 minors are victims of commercial, sexual exploitation in the U.S. misquotes a 2001 estimate by University of Pennsylvania researchers.
Their report said that on the high side, these children are at risk – not actual victims. This includes runaways, children living in public housing and female gang members. Critics warn the estimate may double-count kids who are part of multiple risk groups.
The study's authors emphasized they did not conduct a head count, and a better estimate would require more research.
Other estimates of U.S. child victims range from fewer than 2,000 to more than 2 million. The gap is so wide the numbers mean next to nothing.
“Somewhere between there is the truth, but we don't know where,” said Mary A. Finn, a professor at Georgia State University and lead author of a report evaluating a major Atlanta anti-trafficking effort.
Figures on the trade's profitability and victims' average age have similar problems, yet officials continue to use them.
“They gain a life of their own,” said Ronald Weitzer, a George Washington University professor and expert on sex trafficking. “They're repeated, recited and reproduced by the media and commentators and pretty soon become conventional wisdom, although the claims are way beyond what is warranted.”
As for the Governor's Office for Children and Families findings on child exploitation, scholars say they are fundamentally flawed. Basic rules of research require that findings be verifiable and replicable.
These results aren't. The Schapiro Group released some, but not all, of its methodology to the AJC, saying it was proprietary.
The firm estimated the number of victims by surfing ads on the website Craigslist, driving through high-prostitution neighborhoods, calling escort services and sitting in hotel lobbies counting what its observers think are underage call girls.
It multiplies that count by 0.38. Firm President Beth Schapiro said that's because her company's research showed that, conservatively, observers accurately guess a female in a sexually suggestive photo is underage about 38 percent of the time.
These reports are a waste of taxpayer money, Weitzer said. The methodology is a guessing game.
“If I showed that report to anyone here in my department, they would laugh,” he said.
Numbers have power
Yet these numbers have incredible power. The Schapiro Group's count transformed child sex trafficking into a statewide crusade.
In 2001, Georgia legislators changed state law to make the pimping of a child a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Most headway took place on the local level.
Angela's House, one of the nation's residential treatment homes for trafficked girls, opened in 2002. The six-bed safe house launched with $1 million in private and state funds.
Two years later, the Juvenile Justice Fund won a $1 million grant to raise awareness and to overhaul responses by service agencies and law enforcement.
In 2005, Atlanta's then-mayor Shirley Franklin issued a thick research report outlining the problem. She followed up with the launch of the “Dear John” campaign to target johns and boost enforcement.
But the release of the Schapiro Group's 2007 data changed everything, said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, a supporter of tougher laws against child prostitution.
“That's when I could go to the floor of the Senate and say, ‘Did you know that 400 children are being prostituted on the streets of Atlanta?'” Unterman said.
In 2008, the Legislature created a commission to study the commercial sex trafficking of children. Legislation passed in 2009 added child prostitution to the forms of abuse teachers and others must report to authorities. That same year, the Governor's Office for Children and Families opened the Georgia Care Connection Office to coordinate victim treatment and other services.
It was “the nation's first statewide response to address the needs of child sex trafficking victims,” a 2010 news release said.
Legislators toughened laws once more in 2011 and placed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in charge of child sex trafficking investigations.
On Dec. 6, Unterman and about a dozen lawmakers from other states took the cause to the White House. President Obama's policy advisers wanted to know what they could do to help.
Reality is messy
The well-publicized advances belied a messy reality. Mobilizing money and resources proved far easier than creating programs that find and help the exploited.
Six nationwide anti-human trafficking sweeps dubbed “Operation Cross Country” recovered nine child victims in and around Metro Atlanta in six years, according to news accounts and FBI press releases.
Angela's House closed when it came under new management. Funding and referrals dried up, and the new provider felt the beds weren't needed because other safe houses had opened.
At a Dec. 21 legislative committee meeting on human trafficking, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter complained that after years of efforts, policymakers know far less about the problem than they should. While The Schapiro Group's figures indicate the crime is widespread, Porter said, his office rarely sees cases.
“We really haven't embarked on a process of finding out what we're dealing with,” Porter said.
It's unclear how many victims were helped by the $1 million awarded in 2004 to the Juvenile Justice Fund.
The program began because “serious overlaps and gaps” were causing children to fall through the cracks, advocates told the U.S. Department of Justice in a grant application.
One goal was to fill information gaps that keep victims from getting needed care and protection, the grant proposal said. Participating agencies would meet regularly and install a case tracking database for victims of child sex trafficking and other abuse.
Many fissures, however, remained, according to a $450,000 federally-funded evaluation by Georgia State University researchers. Key agencies such as the Division of Family and Children Services failed to enter basic data into the system.
Of 50 victims recorded in the child abuse database, only one entry said whether the pimp was arrested. Of the 54 clients of Angela's House, 29 were not in the database.
The agencies said they had other priorities. Human trafficking was rare compared to child beatings, sex abuse and neglect cases, said Finn, the evaluation report's lead author.
“We found it was not even in the front fore lobe of their consciousness. They had to struggle to remember the last time a kid they saw brought this up,” Finn said.
Whether the program improved victim care remained a mystery. There wasn't enough information, the report said.
Deborah Richardson, now executive vice president of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, was executive director of the Juvenile Justice Fund. She said gathering information was not its central goal.
“That was never the intent of the project,” she said. “It really was about system change.”
The change wasn't enough for victims.
Their parents and guardians reported that police and courts were helpful. So was the counseling. But it did not stop the children from dropping out of school or running away.
The teens wondered whether their futures were any brighter.
“In general, there was no clear sense of whether or not youth felt that they had ‘gotten better' or that they were somehow at the end of a process,” the evaluation report said.
Help often lacking
Years later, it's still not clear victims are getting better or that the government response has improved.
The Georgia Care Connection Office's goal is to help underage girls who are commercially sexually exploited, but its own data show a majority of its referrals were not victims at all.
The office reported that it received 400 referrals during its first three years of operation. About 190 were victims. That is fewer than six per month.
About 40 children were only “at risk” of becoming prostitutes. Yet they still joined the caseload of the seven-person office. The rest were referred to other agencies or did not complete screening.
The help it did give to victims often fell short, according to a 2011 evaluation the office commissioned.
During the office's first two years, about 35 percent of its 136 clients, all female, returned to prostitution while they were receiving state help.
Thirty-eight were arrested, some more than once. Twelve became pregnant.
Pimps were rarely brought to justice. Written statements from eight victims led to charges. Only four exploiters were convicted, the report found.
Katie Jo Ballard, executive director of the Governor's Office for Children and Families, cancelled an interview to discuss the program's performance. She stopped responding to repeated requests by email, telephone and in person to comment.
The evaluation report did contain success stories. One client ran away from a safe house, returned to her exploiter, became pregnant and got arrested. But with help of the office, it said, she returned to treatment, continued her education and reunited with her parents.
“Without the focused approach of GCCO, the hard-earned progress noted in this report would not exist,” the report said.
Experts who help women leave prostitution recognize that small victories are rare.
At the GCCO, even the most dedicated clients stumbled as they tried to leave their old lives, said Katrina Owens, a trafficking survivor who worked for two years as a peer support worker.
The program directed survivors to mental health services, but exploiters remained free. They called the girls relentlessly or knocked on their doors, Owens said.
Some teens could not get needed help because their parents could not afford it. Others lacked transportation to attend programs that they could afford.
Girls balked at applying to college because their criminal histories could make them ineligible for federal financial aid. They failed to find work, and the cost of books was so high they were tempted to pay for them through stripping or prostitution, Owens said.
She left the program after two years. Though civic groups lined up to ask her to speak at luncheons and fund-raisers as statewide interest in sex trafficking climbed, she was becoming a token survivor, not someone with growing expertise.
“I feel the … movement here has become somewhat of a fad,” Owens said. “That's the truth. Once the dust settles, I'm curious to know who will still be standing up for the cause.”
Simi Valley man charged with molesting girl; detectives fear more victims
by Eric Hartley
A 43-year-old Simi Valley man has been charged with molesting a 12-year-old girl, and investigators said they believe there could be more victims.
Donald Alan Tuthill, who was arrested Friday, was still in jail today on $1 million bail, sheriff's records show.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Department said he inappropriately touched the girl while she was spending the night at Tuthill's house. It happened Dec. 7, according to court records.
Detective Greg Tougas said he did not want to say publicly how Tuthill knew the girl, who is not a family member.
Court records show Tuthill pleaded not guilty to three counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under age 14, a felony that carries up to eight years in prison.
Detectives said their investigation led to concern Tuthill might have abused other kids.
"Investigators believe that Tuthill has volunteered with community groups that may have provided an avenue to access children," sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Miller wrote in a press release.
Tougas said he did not want to specify the groups to which Tuthill was connected.
Detectives asked anyone with information to call the East County Sexual Assault Unit at 805-494-8201. People also can call in anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
Children face cruelties of the adult world
by Simon Schama
Innocence has been squandered by mindless violence and economic idiocy
T his was the year of the war against children. I live not that far from Newtown, Connecticut, so the small-town scenery of our freshest butchery, executed by someone who was himself not much beyond childhood years, is my back yard: picket fences, intensively tended lawns, a plethora of churches and those schools with their locker-lined polished corridors and the smell of cafeteria pizza. Since Columbine we have wearily come to expect that when carnage erupts, it will do so in the habitat of American domesticity – a shopping mall, a movie theatre, a college and, over and over again, a school. If you live outside the US and do not belong to a nation where there are more guns than people, you may just shrug this off as a peculiarly American blight.
But 2012 was also the year when the war against children went global. At the end of May, photographs of more than 30 Syrian children under the age of 10 in Sunni villages near Homs, either shot, stabbed or both, apparently by shabiha militia, held up the world's business as usual for, oh, a few days of righteous venting. Just this month in Chenpeng, China, 22 primary schoolchildren were attacked by a knife-wielding assailant slicing off fingers and ears. Bear in mind how close the attacker has to be to the kids to manage that. On Christmas Eve, a father in Hebei province expressed his indignation at what he felt was the lenient sentencing of those responsible for his daughter's killing by ploughing into a crowd of lunching high school pupils with his car, fracturing skulls and crushing limbs.
After the family home, school is meant to be the second great shelter and nurturer of children. If there is trouble or hardship at home, the safety, kindness and wisdom of schools takes on an even greater meaning for their charges. It is the home of their young minds. Perhaps because they want to maximise the drama of their evil, schools – and, in the case of the unrepentant Norwegian monster Anders Breivik, a holiday camp – are magnets for the morally impaired. It is not just that they house large numbers of defenceless victims. In some of the worst crimes, it is actually the ideal of education itself that is the target. The great heroine of 2012 – perhaps of our decade – Malala Yousafzai, now 15, but a campaigner for girls' education since she was 11 – was shot point-blank on her school bus in Pakistan by the Taliban as an act of annihilationist hatred against the mere possibility of an educated woman. When we “transition out” from Afghanistan it behoves us to acknowledge that in all likelihood we will be handing that country to an army whose primary enemy are educated girls.
There is more than one way to murder childhood, of course, and the merciless, habitual sexual violations practised by Jerry Sandusky, the assistant football coach of Penn State University, and by the repellent predator Jimmy Savile, on those in their trust were in their own way also lethal. All of these atrocities are assaults on the innocence, not just of those who were their direct victims but even on survivors, witnesses, the intimidated and the terrified, all of whom will share the trauma for many years, just as the silently complicit will bear the burden of guilt. It is this inhuman indifference to the essential innocence of childhood, the fundamental incompatibility of the book and the gun, that makes the president of the National Rifle Association's proposal for armed guards in every school in the US – a solution that failed to prevent the massacre at Columbine – so grotesque.
Gun people are fond of invoking the founding fathers. But it was precisely their generation, that of the Enlightenment, which took the ideal of education – literally a “leading forth” or “bringing out” of the innate talents of the child as the defining project of the enterprise of moral happiness. They knew their Locke and their Rousseau, and unless they subscribed to a more grimly Calvinist view of the demons to be whacked out of the child, preferred instead to think of the young as children of nature; to be kept as far as possible from the blandishments and cruelties of the adult world until they were ready to tackle them armed with their own tutored wisdom. How incredulous and horrified they would be to learn that two-and-a-half centuries later, children in untold, unprecedented numbers were being enslaved, prostituted and conscripted into empires of horror and wretchedness while the prosperous world feebly wrings its hands.
And there is something else about the ways in which we have failed our children in the year past and the years to come that would dismay them: the brutal damage that has been wrought on their prospects by our economic disarray. The young have borne a disproportionate share of the pain. In countries such as Spain and Greece, conscientious students who might have done everything their teachers and parents would have asked, graduate into the legions of the unemployed. In the US, the headlong plunge over the fiscal cliff will, by brutally cutting back child tax credits for single working mothers, send another 8m children deeper into destitution. This in a country where revenues as a percentage of gross domestic product are lower than at any time since the 1960s, yet where a quarter of its child population are already defined as living at or below the poverty line.
This has not been entirely a bleak year for the kids. The outcome of the American presidential election means the Department of Education will not be abolished and, more importantly, science will not be demonised in schools. The theologically driven fictions of creationism will not be claiming equal time with the facts of evolution, and global warming evidence will not be treated as a conspiracy of godless socialism.
In Britain, schoolchildren still seem far from getting the rudiments of a coherent, chronological historical understanding of how our nation evolved. But nonetheless, they had much to wave their little union flags at all the same: at a dignified elderly woman standing for hours in bitter British weather on a boat to acknowledge the roared affection of the country; at the triumphs of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray and the rest who gave them a sense that they could grow up to be golden. And not to be slighted, amid the knees-ups and Madness on the roof of Buckingham Palace, the cheery volunteers and the Boylean pageant, that they belonged to a country that was, for all its many trials and tribulations, injustices and inequalities, public deceits and private conceits, something more than a collection of individuals, a place with a future as well as a past, a place where they might still grow up with at least a shot at happiness.
Iowa children face greatest risk of abuse in their earliest years
by Sharyn Jackson
She had been through hell and back, and she was only 12.
In an entry in her poetry journal, dated 6/10/02, Autumn Wilson displayed a keen understanding of her history, and a matter-of-fact outlook on her future.
In “Life,” she wrote, “Life is every day, whether you like it or not.”
Up until that point, Autumn's life had been chaos. She remembers a messy house, a revolving door of boyfriends who were abusive to her mother, stretches of weeks when her mother would disappear on a bender of meth and alcohol. Her father, a drug addict, was absent. At 5, she was separated from her family and sent to live in foster care.
A child's earliest years represent a critical time not only for brain development and future learning but also for physical and emotional vulnerability. About half of all child abuse in Iowa and nationwide occurs from birth through age 5.
Abuse or other trauma suffered in childhood can damage physical and mental health for a lifetime, a growing body of research shows.
At 7, Autumn remembers taking her baby sister to the Iowa State Fair, pushing her stroller across University Avenue, already acting like a young mother. Nine years later, at 16, she would become one.
Autumn's teen years and early 20s were as tumultuous as her childhood, only this time she was the one with the revolving door of abusive boyfriends, the one who did drugs, the one who had her kids removed by the state. Again, she went through hell. Again, she came back.
Today, Wilson is 24, a happy newlywed and a mother of four, living on Des Moines' east side. She won her kids back from state-mandated separation — the result of them witnessing physical abuse against her.
Now, she works as a parent partner for the Iowa Department of Human Services, counseling other parents about how to reclaim their lives and their families.
She still writes down her thoughts, on her iPhone now, instead of in journals. “My mom taught me life lessons,” Wilson wrote recently, “and how history repeats itself.”
Adverse experiences can have lifelong effects
Wilson based her conclusion on her life experience. But research increasingly backs up her observation that family trauma often repeats itself in succeeding generations.
A study that began in the mid-1990s at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and continues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in several states, including Iowa, has found overwhelming evidence that early childhood trauma has long-lasting effects into adulthood.
The adverse childhood experience, or ACE, study found that a number of factors can put a child at risk for lifelong health and social problems. Adverse childhood experiences include emotional, physical or sexual abuse; emotional or physical neglect; a mother who is treated violently; mental illness or substance abuse in the household; an incarcerated household member; or parental separation.
The more adverse childhood experiences a child endures, the higher the risk. According to the study, people with four or more adverse childhood experiences are 31/2 times more likely to suffer from depression than someone with no such experiences. They are five times more likely to be an alcoholic. And they are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Adverse childhood experiences and other forms of prolonged, stressful events during early childhood can disrupt formation of the brain's architecture, according to researchers at the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child at Harvard.
Developing brain circuits are particularly impressionable in the earliest years, and studies have found that stress hormones can change the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
“At that critical stage, if children don't have that sense of security in the world, it's very difficult to remediate and provide that back,” said Charles Bruner, director of the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center.
About 6,000 Iowa children ages 5 and younger were victims of child abuse in 2011, according to Department of Human Services data. Many more have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience that could affect their ability as children to pay attention in school, their likelihood as young women to become pregnant when in their teens, and their chances as adults to suffer disease and early death.
An estimated one-third of all abused and neglected children will go on to victimize their own children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Body systems, stress systems, immune function get set up in early childhood,” said Greg J. Duncan, a professor at the University of California Irvine and a member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Abuse and neglect “can have lifelong consequences. It's pretty scary what the long-term effects might be.”
Her memories: Isolation, mom's substance abuse
“The biggest thing I remember as a child was closed doors,” Autumn Wilson wrote recently in her iPhone notebook. “What's behind closed doors?”
The answer was drugs. Her mother would lock her bedroom door when she was getting high, and Autumn felt like she couldn't get to her when she needed her.
When she was 5, she remembers being left with her two little sisters for three weeks at the home of strangers, where the children were locked in a bedroom and let out only to eat. She also remembers getting into the car, and her mother driving drunk. She remembers being so thirsty, begging her mother for a drink, and being handed a beer.
“And then we get pulled over.”
She remembers being unable to cry, as the cops found a meth pipe on her mother, and a loaded gun on the man with her.
I just laughed,” Wilson said. “My sisters were crying, and I kept looking at my mom and pretending I was crying, but all I remember is laughing,” a nervous tick Wilson retains to this day.
The cops removed Autumn and her sisters from her mother that day, and it wasn't until she landed in foster care that Autumn cried, all night long.
Most abuse in Iowa involves neglecting child
The concentration of abuse among children 5 and younger compared with older children is seen in data across the country.
“They're a more vulnerable population,” explained Julie Allison, the Iowa Department of Human Services bureau chief for child welfare.
“It's not that parents target kids that age,” said Roger Munns, Iowa DHS spokesman, “but it's that the same action that would not be abuse” for an older child is considered abuse for a younger one.
Four of five abuse cases in Iowa fall under the category of “denial of critical care,” or neglect. In many cases involving young children, the issue is lack of supervision.
It may not be considered neglect to leave a teenager home alone, but it may be neglect to leave an infant unattended, whether it's because a parent can't afford child care, is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or suffers depression that impairs the ability to care for the child.
In that sense, the statistical preponderance of abuse among young children “has some logic,” said Stephen Scott, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, “but it's really unfortunate.”
Pattern repeats: Like mother, like daughter
An interview with Sarah Hoggatt, Wilson's mother, reveals a sadly similar life story.
Hoggatt's father, an antiques dealer who was constantly on the road, was gone for most of her childhood. When Sarah was 6, her parents divorced. In the little interaction she did have with her father, she remembers seeing him taking pills and drinking.
“He wasn't there for us kids,” Hoggatt said. “I felt like I was never good enough for him as a daughter.”
Hoggatt believes his absence, and his behavior when he was present, influenced her path down a road of drinking, drugs and abusive relationships.
By the time Hoggatt had three children (of an eventual six), she was addicted to meth and alcohol.
Today, Hoggatt has been sober for 10 years and is close to finishing a degree in human services from Des Moines Area Community College. But before getting to this point in her life, she had her kids taken away from her, got them back and then had to watch them repeat her mistakes.
“My kids suffered a lot because I wasn't there for them,” Hoggatt said. “I really loved them, but I just didn't take care of them. It was just a nightmare when they were taken. But it probably saved their lives.”
Iowa is conducting own trauma study
The Iowa Department of Human Services spends about $60 million, almost 30 percent of its child welfare budget, on social workers who conduct the state's fight against child abuse. More than 600 state social workers field about 50,000 annual complaints, assess the allegations and do case management. Spending as a percentage of the child welfare budget has climbed steadily since 2008.
The state also contracts with non-government agencies employing hundreds more workers who provide counseling to families.
About 3 percent of child welfare funding goes to prevention initiatives. Even with $7 million for prevention coming into Iowa via the Affordable Care Act, the federal health reform law, “it's still only cents on the dollar” of what DHS spends on programs such as foster home placement and adoption subsidies, said Scott, of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.
Scott's organization funnels most of its resources into home visits. The screenings attempt to determine the families most at risk for abuse and identify the services families might need, sometimes before a child is even born. Other initiatives include respite child care for families and parent support networks.
“We obviously would argue for much more being spent on the prevention end,” Scott said.
DHS has many priorities, out of necessity, including swift, thoughtful response to abuse complaints, according to DHS spokesman Munns.
But Iowa is also undertaking its own adverse childhood experiences study to determine how abuse, neglect, household dysfunction and other trauma affect Iowa's children, and what steps can be taken to protect them from long-term effects.
At a cost of approximately $160,000, the study is a collaboration of the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation and United Way.
“It really gives us a paradigm shift in how we serve families,” said Sonni Vierling, a coordinator with the Department of Public Health. “It shifts from ‘What's wrong with you?' to ‘What happened to you?' It's not that they're this dysfunctional family because they wanted to be. It's because things happened to them, and it's how they respond.”
Vierling believes understanding a family's history is key to preventing trauma in succeeding generations.
The study will survey close to 7,000 Iowans by phone about their childhood experiences. The raw data will be gathered by this summer and analyzed by September.
“What the study does is it puts it up in front of our faces, and asks us, ‘Are you OK with this?' ” said Suzanne Mineck, president of the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation. “And if you're not, then let's figure out how to intervene earlier, provide better support, and get ahead.”
The results of the study will be used to train mental health professionals, human services workers, schools, communities and courts in “trauma-informed” work — basically to consider past trauma when dealing with a client.
Orchard Place, a Des Moines-based organization that serves children with mental health and behavioral challenges, has been implementing the Trauma Informed Care Project since 2010. Gladys Noll Alvarez oversees the project, which trains therapists to screen patients of all ages for childhood trauma.
“If we as a system are not prepared to acknowledge how trauma exists, we might misreact, we might overreact, we might retraumatize or retrigger or make it worse,” she said. “I've seen therapists have an ‘aha' moment as they're doing trauma screenings. We're saying, ‘Let me help, let me understand so we can figure out what to fix or how to cope better.' ”
She quits boyfriend, drugs, but loses kids
In the years after that night when police pulled over the family's car, Autumn bounced from foster care back into her mother's care at the House of Mercy rehab center, to her father's home and her grandparents' farm in Stuart, where she finally found some stability.
As a student at West Central Valley High School's alternative program, she would bring her infant, Emma, to school with her. She graduated in 2007, remarkably, on time.
Her favorite teacher, Alpha Mendelson, helped shepherd Autumn through this period.
“As an educator, when you see someone who has very low self-confidence that doesn't think they can do anything, that's very frustrating when you see the potential for that student,” Mendelson said. “She knew she wanted to be something and be someone. And she did it.”
During these more stable years, Autumn realized how alike she and her mother really were.
“I noticed that I had a lot of boyfriends,” Wilson said. “Just tons and tons and tons. Trying to get acceptance.” At 15, she met the father of her first child, a drug addict. At 17, she was living with an older man, a drug user who promised to stay clean as long as he was with her. She stayed with him for seven years, and he became the father of her three other children.
“Even throughout our relationship, it was guy after guy,” she said. “I just cheated and cheated, trying to find that void that I had in me.”
Wilson's boyfriend would abuse her physically and emotionally — choking her in front of their children, and ridiculing her for weight gain after three pregnancies.
Though she had considered herself “anti-drug” until that point, her boyfriend pushed her in the other direction. “He was making fun of my weight a lot, and I went like, ‘Let's just do meth.' ”
So Wilson began to use the drug that had so crippled her mother and her own childhood. When she was using, her mother — then sober — would watch her kids. “And they would come back, and we would stop.”
While they were coming down from their high, Wilson's boyfriend would lock the kids out of their bedroom, just as Wilson's mother had done to her.
“That really bothered me that my kids couldn't come in my room,” Wilson said. “I should always have an open door. I was a child who was always locked out of every room.”
For Hoggatt, seeing her daughter use meth was painful. “I just didn't want her to go through so many years of wasting life like I did,” she said.
The abuse was worse when Wilson and her boyfriend were high, and after about three months, she quit using. Soon after, she left her boyfriend. But it was too late. Child services found out about the drug abuse and the domestic violence, and in October 2010, social workers removed Wilson's three children from her care.
In an ironic twist, Wilson's daughter went to live with Hoggatt.
Working now to be there for her kids
Wilson focused on getting her children back with the same determination her mother had to overcome her addiction. She went to parenting classes and therapy, and learned how to cope with her past and to believe in her self-worth enough to stop clinging to abusive men. Within four months, her kids came home.
Wilson finds it complicated to work as a parent partner for the organization that took her children away.
“I think them removing my children hurt my children more than it did good, because my kids were attached to me,” she said. “When your kids are removed, they're not the same kids when they come back.”
Still, said Wilson, “I'm grateful. I became such a stronger person.”
Wilson's children are Emma, 6, Preston, 5, Cameron, 3, and Mason, 1. She knows that her kids' experiences of witnessing her abuse, being separated from her and encountering locked bedroom doors could do to them what it did to her as a child. Emma becomes easily frustrated, and Cameron is defiant, she said. All she can do now is prove to them that she is there for them.
Wilson and her mother talk every day. Though she blamed her mother for a long time, today she sees things differently.
“I spent so much time against her, that I ended up so much like her. And I hated that I was following in the same footsteps. I didn't realize until now that I learned from her, and now she's my mom. She has my hand and guides me. Maybe she didn't before, but maybe I didn't need her before the way I need her now. I hope I could be more like her.”
Hoggatt said she doesn't know whether her kids will ever understand just how bad she feels about everything she put them through. “I can't ever replace those years,” she said, “but I'm here to make new years with them.”
Wilson's poem, “Life,” ends with a glimmer of light in the darkness. “Some days you want the world to end or it feels like the world is ending. The world is like this. Today is today, and tomorrow is the rest of your life.”
Pasadena investigator works to find justice for sexually abused children
by KRISTI NIX
She wasn't wearing shoes and seemed hungry, a woman at a Pasadena apartment complex told police. It was a chilly January day when officers arrived to investigate reports a 14-year-old girl had been found wandering alone in the parking lot.
It was later discovered the girl had been abandoned to live with her mother's 46-year-old boyfriend after her mom left to go shopping and never returned. Without money for food, the man had sexually abused the girl in return for a place to stay. He eventually forced her to work as a prostitute at local truck-stops.
Like many young victims, the girl was taken to the Children's Assessment Center (CAC), a Houston non-profit that offers assistance to physically and sexually abused children. At the CAC, victims receive support services from doctors, case workers, legal advocates and law enforcement personnel such as Pasadena Police Sgt. Kelly Payne, a veteran investigator who specializes in cases involving sexually abused children.
As supervisor of three Pasadena Police detectives assigned to the CAC, Sgt. Payne has lead hundred of investigations into child sex abuse cases involving victims of all ages, from infants to teenagers.
“Your heart goes out to these young victims of sexual abuse. It's something that will change their lives forever,” Payne said.
Investigating child sex crimes is a job that requires a cool head and a strong stomach.
Payne said his job is not about offering sympathy, but working to find justice for victims.
“You have to keep a positive attitude,” Payne said. “You have to focus on the fact you're trying to help these kids,” he said.
Sgt. Payne and his team focus on investigations involving Pasadena-based cases, interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence and working to take as many sexual predators off the streets as possible.
They handle an average of 300 cases each year, including investigations into child sex porn and online crimes against children.
Victims, however, are not interviewed by police detectives. Instead, children at the CAC meet with forensic interviewers that have been specifically trained to handle these types of cases.
“Our offices at the CAC give us the benefit of a central location to meet with witnesses and interview suspects, he said. “The CAC also provides in-house polygraph services, which we often need during our investigations. It's extremely helpful.”
A 30-year veteran of the Pasadena Police Department, Sgt. Payne started out his law enforcement career as a patrol officer. He later graduated to the community services division and became one of the department's original D.A.R.E. officers.
In the late 1980s he went to work as an investigator in the juvenile division. In 1998, Sgt. Payne and his team was assigned to the Children's Assessment Center where they were able to work alongside investigators from the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sherriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies.
“The CAC has been an invaluable partner over the years to the Pasadena Police Department,” he said. “They've offered us a tremendous amount of support. I can't say enough how much we've appreciate their help.”
The Children's Assessment Center is located at 2500 Bolsover St. For more information about their services or to become a volunteer, visit www.cachouston.org or call 713-986-3300.
Casper team tackles child sex abuse cases
by MEGAN CASSIDY
Daniel Taylor had two girlfriends, the 6-year-old girl told officials. There was his “big girlfriend” and “me, his princess.” She loved Daniel, she said.
She wanted him to stop doing the things he did to her.
During her Children's Advocacy Project interview, the girl was asked to put her feelings on paper. She scribbled a disjointed, purplish-pink design. She felt confused, she said.
By mid-December, Casper's Children's Advocacy Project reported that they had interviewed 237 children so far this year. This is a 114 percent increase from the 111 interviews conducted in 2007 — the numbers have steadily increased since then.
Their caseload spans nearly half the state, in the counties of Fremont, Hot Springs, Washakie, Big Horn, Sheridan and Johnson, Converse, Niobrara, Platte, Laramie, Carbon and Natrona. CAP Director Heather Ross said about 90 percent of the interviews are cases of sexual abuse of a minor.
Experts from the Natrona County District Attorney's Office, Casper Police Department and CAP agree that more of these cases in the public eye don't necessarily equal more child predators. Authorities have used CAP more often in recent years, so the increase in the number of cases the agency has handled is not necessarily representative of an increase in child abuse.
Casper Police Detective Wes Gudahl, who worked the Taylor investigation, said in the past five years he's noticed a vast improvement in the way these cases are managed.
Gudahl said CAP has been instrumental in helping unify the team assisting the child.
“We communicate more effectively with each other,” he said. “We're all putting together what we need to make the case work, so I know what I need to get it done and (the assistant district attorney) knows what he needs to make that happen.”
Each year since 2008, the Casper Police Department has received between about 140 to 155 reports of sexual offenses with minors. From 2010 to 2012, about 20 percent of those investigations resulted in charges filed against the alleged perpetrator.
Gudahl said there are several instances where the original report turns out to be fabricated for one reason or another. In other, more painful cases, there is simply not enough evidence to charge the suspect.
“We're truth seekers,” Gudahl said. “We're going to put our full investigative skills into it ... we want to make sure we don't let a predator go.”
District Attorney Michael Blonigen said the state has charged more of these crimes in recent years because of better cooperation between the involved entities and better reporting.
He said the public is starting to look past the great myth of “stranger danger,” and realize that an overwhelming majority of child sex crimes are committed by someone very close to the minor.
“Slowly we are beginning to break down some of the barriers,” he said. “What we've been doing in the last 10 years is looking to see how we can make our cases better, more persuasive. CAP is a big part of that.”
The Children's Advocacy Project opened its Casper doors in 2002. The center looks like a quaint home on North Ash Street and each room is designed to make the minor feel at ease. There are separate interview rooms and waiting rooms for small children and adolescents.
During each interview, a state attorney and detective watch through a monitoring device in another room. This helps avoid insignificant discrepancies and the additional trauma that the child could endure if he or she was forced to give multiple interviews.
“It's a nationally set protocol,” Ross said. “It should feel very comfortable ... there's a process and a plan.”
Statewide and national statistics suggest a significant decrease in the number of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse. In Wyoming, there has been an 83 percent drop in reports of child sexual abuse from 1992 to 2010.
“The more the public is aware that these cases are being worked, the less they're hiding it within their own families,” said Ross. “They know justice will be had.”
On April 17, 2012, Daniel Taylor was handed a 40- to 50-year sentence for his crimes, despite his relatively young age of 24.
A few months ago, Gudahl ran into Taylor's victim in a store. They talked about makeup. Her mother said she's doing OK, much better.
The jerky purple scribbles are now framed and matted, ready to be hung in Wes Gudahl's office. The portrait is aptly labeled “confusion.”
“It's just to keep reminding myself of why I do the job and why I'm here,” he said. “I'm here to protect the people who can't help themselves.”
Oakland University women's basketball coach Beckie Francis aims to protect children from sexual abuse
(Video on site)
by PAUL KAMPE
ROCHESTER — When Oakland University women's basketball coach Beckie Francis stepped down after leading the Golden Grizzlies to a conference championship and the program's first NCAA tournament berth after the 2001-02 season, her departure left confusion.
After the trials and tribulation of recruiting, scouting, practicing and winning on the court, Francis couldn't enjoy the fruit of her labor because her physical condition was worsening.
Francis, 47, did not publicly address her hiatus until recently, when she revealed health issues had forced her to resign, the internal combustion of decades of repression of the sexual abuse by her father. She took three years off from coaching to cope with the stress, returning to the Oakland sideline for the 2005-06 season. Only in November of this year did she reveal the torment that had followed her from her Germantown, N.Y., upbringing.
“I held all that abuse, anger and betrayal in my stomach,” Francis said. “That caused a lot of the problems.”
“I cried for three straight years. That's how I knew I needed to coach.”
She says now that she was too focused on winning and not taking care of herself.
“I was so nervous and so anxious about what people would think if I lost (a game),” Francis said. “What would people think if they ever really knew? Now, I'm just so healthy and I don't care what people think.”
Francis, who today is very outspoken about her faith, found religion during her time away from the game. Upon her return to the sidelines, she again led the Golden Grizzlies to the NCAA tournament.
“How good is God?” she said. “To me, that was the biggest gift.”
Now, Francis is focusing her efforts to ensure children in Michigan are as safe as possible from child predators. She said she was terrified before she recently testified in front of the Michigan House Education Committee in favor of Senate Bills 1112-1114, also known as “Erin's Law,” named after Erin Merryn, a fellow survivor of child sexual abuse.
“I've been super calm about it leading up to that,” Francis said. “I felt like a freshman. I was a rookie to the process. I didn't know any of the protocol.
“That humanized it. I'm not a lobbyist.”
The law, which now passed both House and Senate, will allow school boards to adopt a policy they see fit to educate students in kindergarten through fifth grade about sexual abuse with age-appropriate material. Gov. Rick Snyder is reportedly expected to sign the legislation into law.
“It's not sex education,” Francis said. “It's about teaching kids how to get away. We know how to get out of a burning building, but not to escape a perpetrator.
“I wish someone would've told me what to do when I was little.
“Four- and five-year-olds don't know what's right and what's wrong. And the perpetrator has the power to say ‘don't tell.' ”
Erin's Law also has passed in a handful of other states, including Indiana and Illinois, and is pending in many others. Supporters cite a fact that one in four girls and one in seven boys are abused by age 18, and more than 90 percent of the time, the abuse comes at the hands of a family member.
Merryn, 27, spoke before the state Senate last summer. After reading the two biographies Merryn authored, Francis made the decision to get involved. Francis invited Merryn to speak at Oakland University's Awareness Night in October, where Merryn told the audience of her past abuse by the relative of a friend and by her own cousin. She also talked about suffering from an eating disorder and attempting suicide.
“She totally inspired me,” Francis said. “Her story is amazing.”
Francis' own past abuse steered her career goals, leading her to do everything possible to get out of her hometown.
Francis confided in an assistant coach during her first coaching stint at Stony Brook (N.Y.), which led to her discussing the abuse with her mother for the first time.
“And then, I never did anything,” she said. “I don't even think I started therapy then. There's a process. I just came out of my denial and then I wanted to put that away for a while.”
It was her team, along with husband and Oakland University president Gary Russi, to whom Francis first disclosed her past victimization.
She shared her secret with her future husband during their courtship, and she said “He was so wonderful.” The couple married in 1999 and now lives in Rochester. She also shared her experience with members of her church, Troy's Kensington Community Church, at multiple Easter services two years ago. She credits her faith for giving her strength to speak publicly.
“I'm comfortable in my own skin,” Francis said. “Every time I did it, I got stronger. Every service, people lined up to talk to me.
“It was freeing.”
The difficulty prohibiting Francis from speaking out about the abuse she suffered came in part from the stigma surrounding survivors of child sexual abuse as “damaged goods,” she said. There's also a fear of speaking out against an abuser as well as an false accusations sometimes linked to the accuser, Francis said.
“That's so ridiculous,” she said. “When it comes out, I believe it immediately.”
Before Erin's Law was sent on its way to Snyder's desk, Francis said she was committed to visit Lansing as many times as necessary to see the legislation through its journey in the state legislature. Thanks to her trips to the state Capitol and those of fellow supporters, another measure to protect children could find its way into schools around the country.
In addition to contacting state lawmakers and educators, a Change.org petition has been created to support Erin's Law at the Federal level.
Van Hollen pledges to make child trafficking No. 1 priority
by MARY SPICUZZA
The average age of a child first forced into the sex slave trade in the U.S. is 13, according to the state Department of Justice. And some children are just infants or toddlers when they are first exploited by sex traffickers.
“When I think of (this happening to) an infant or toddler, it is not just disgusting, it's the worst form of torture I can imagine,” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said. “It makes me angry.”
In the coming year, Van Hollen hopes to crack down on sex trafficking of children by hiring special agents and analysts to investigate these crimes and work with lawmakers to draft human trafficking-related legislation, and by holding more training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim and witness coordinators.
Van Hollen asked for more than $900,000 as part of his two-year budget request for the state Department of Justice, which was submitted to Gov. Scott Walker in September. That money would be used to hire five full-time employees, including three special agents and two criminal analysts, who would specifically work to fight child sex trafficking.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor's office is reviewing Van Hollen's budget request.
Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for Van Hollen, said the DOJ has no statistics to illustrate the scope of the problem in
Wisconsin but said “it would be naive to conclude that there wasn't trafficking happening in Wisconsin.” She said the crime takes place throughout the state.
Wisconsin already has an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which has been administered through the state Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation since it was created in 1999. So far, 181 local law enforcement agencies have become part of the task force.
But the task force needs to augment its current work to prevent, investigate and prosecute child sex trafficking, according to the DOJ's budget request.
“Right now we have people working on it, but it's taking them away from child pornography cases,” Van Hollen said in an interview.
He said the additional staff members would help the DOJ be more aggressive in going after child traffickers, adding the analysts would assist in investigating and prosecuting cases by tracking things like Internet usage, hotel rentals, texts and cellphone usage.
Van Hollen said he also hopes to raise awareness of the problem.
He said some people mistakenly believe these children are “bad kids,” or they are being trafficked “of their own choice,” pointing out that they are too young to consent.
“This is not something they're doing willingly,” he said. “These children are being exploited.”
Van Hollen, who will become president of the National Association of Attorneys General next summer, will in the fall host a summit where he plans to highlight child trafficking and other topics.
“What I appreciate from the attorney general was that he said human trafficking was going to be a priority and he has followed it up,” said JoAnn Gruber-Hagen, the chairwoman of SlaveFree Madison, a coalition that works to raise awareness of trafficking and efforts to combat it.
A local group, the Dane County Coordinated Community Response to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, is also working to bring together law enforcement, prosecutors, schools, and service providers to combat trafficking of children, she said.
“It's a very hidden crime,” Gruber-Hagen said. “It isn't easy to investigate.”
It is estimated that as many as 27 million women, children and men around the world are victims of human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State's 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Claudine O'Leary, a Milwaukee-based consultant who works with about a dozen agencies to combat trafficking said “there's quite a long way to go” in changing perceptions of young people being trafficked and raising awareness of the problem.
She said an additional $912,000 for the DOJ will likely help law enforcement efforts, but she would like to see more money spent in other areas that could help young people being exploited by traffickers.
“I'd like to see an equal amount of money put toward their resource needs, like housing, jobs, supportive services, group support and individual support,” O'Leary said.
We must halt the increase in sexual violence
A horrific rise in rape and sexual assault necessitates urgent research and action
by ELLEN O'MALLEY-DUNLOP
Over the past two weeks people took to India's streets to protest against a horrendous gang rape by six men of a 23-year-old student who sadly died on Saturday of the injuries she suffered in the attack.
The demonstrations are reminiscent of the Reclaim the Night protests that swept the major cities of Europe in the 1970s. In 1979, the Rape Crisis Movement began in Ireland after the Dublin Reclaim the Night Protest March took place when a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped in Seán MacDermott Street. There were 78 calls to the Rape Crisis Centre helpline in 1979. In 2011, there were more than 11,000 calls to the national 24-hour helpline 1800-778888 and over 25,000 calls to the combined rape crisis helplines.
In 2012, the volunteer department of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre reported further increases in the levels of violence, when accompanying victims of rape and sexual assault to the sexual assault treatment unit in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.
However, until we can validate these stories of increased physical violence accompanying the rapes and sexual assaults with empirical evidence, there is little hope of meaningful change.
In 2002, the most comprehensive piece of research about the attitudes and beliefs in Ireland towards sexual violence was launched. The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (Savi) report was delivered by Prof Hannah McGee et al from the Royal College of Surgeons, in collaboration with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. The title is a play on the term “savvy”.
Among its many findings was the validation of the stories told in rape crisis centres, therapy rooms, confessionals and doctors' surgeries across the country. Of the 3,000-plus adults surveyed, 47 per cent had never spoken about their experiences before.
Among the many shocking revelations from this report, we learned that four in 10 girls and one in four boys were victims of some form of sexual violence, from rape to assault, in their childhoods. Women were as vulnerable as girl children in the course of their lifetime and men became less vulnerable to sexual violence as they got older. But both men and women would still be victims of sexual violence as adults. We also learned only one in 10 reports the crime.
Someone once said that in Ireland we're good at delivering reports but we suffer from implementation deficit. However, this was not the case with most of the recommendations of the Savi report.
The number of sexual assault treatment units in the country was extended from four to six. A master's programme was developed in forensic nursing, which meant nurses were capable of delivering the necessary examinations. Now both specialist doctors and nurses can deliver the necessary forensic examinations, extending the number of experts available in the six units.
We also have a dedicated office within the Department of Justice and Equality – this is the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and is responsible for delivering national strategy. There is also a national steering committee specifically on violence against women. The Garda has a special unit in Harcourt Street. These are all positive developments that would not have been possible without supportive research. Savi had the effect of letting the genie out of the bottle on the extent of sexual violence in Ireland. The nation was shocked, appalled and stunned by the subsequent revelations and fallout from the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports. These further validated the stories of survivors and the figures in the Savi report.
It is time now for a second Savi report. We need similar rigorous research to make proper comparisons with what we learned back in 2002 before Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne and what we require today to address the growing levels of sexual violence. When this research is delivered, we will be better informed to develop appropriate policies.
We urgently need to find ways of stemming the growth in sexual violence the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and other rape crisis centre volunteers are witnessing on a daily basis.
One would hope we are a long way from what happened in New Delhi but the stories from the sexual assault treatment units paint a very different picture. According to the official reports from New Delhi there were 572 rapes reported in 2011. Last year, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre-trained volunteers accompanied 272 victims to the Rotunda. New Delhi's population is approximately 14 million; Dublin's is approximately 1.2 million.
‘The Cantinera' exposes human trafficking niche
by CRYSTAL SIMMONS
A documentary filmed on location in the FM 1960 and Houston area is shedding light on a niche of human trafficking that has so far been difficult to regulate under existing laws.
The film focuses on cantineras, Latin women whose job is to sell liquor through whatever means necessary. More often than not, a woman will drink up to 40 beers a night and prostitute herself to meet an employer's quotas, said filmmaker Ruth Villatoro.
“With the cantinas, a guy will pay $10 to $15 and he'll get the companionship of a girl. As long as he continues paying, she'll continue drinking with him,” she said. “Most of the time, that leads to sex.”
Villatoro began filming “The Cantinera” five years ago after stumbling across an article in the Houston Press.
“When I started the story, I didn't know what I was getting into. I found the story in the Houston Press about a guy who fell in love with a cantinera,” she said. “To me, the story was about the girl. I wanted to know who she was and why she was drinking so much.
“When I really got into the story, I realized they're not doing it because they want to do it,” she said. “I thought I was just going to do a story about a girl who drinks for a living; but when I found out about their lifestyle, I realized this was human trafficking.”
Women who come to the country illegally and don't speak English are tricked into working in cantinas, she said. They are already breaking the law, so they can't ask for help, she said.
“A recruiter is an expert at identifying vulnerability,” she said. “They sell a story to a family, saying we have a restaurant in the United States. Your daughter will work as a waitress. They end up sending their daughter, not knowing what's going to happen. The minute the daughter is separated from her family is when the threats start.”
The majority of Villatoro's film follows Liliana, a second generation cantinera and a U.S. citizen, who was taken out of school at 12, and forced to drink and prostitute herself. Liliana drank 30-40 beers five nights a week for 23 years, she said.
“You think she would be dead on the side of the road after living that way so long,” Villatoro said. “She was not in a good place. I was so fortunate she opened up. She did not have the fear of deportation like the other girls.”
In the end, Liliana had the power to change her life, but most cantineras aren't so lucky, she said.
Villatoro's other subjects include two human-trafficking activists: Dottie Laster, a legal representative for human-trafficking victims and Cat French, director of the Houston office of Exodus Cry, an international anti-trafficking ministry.
Together, the trio visited more than 160 sexually oriented businesses in the greater Houston areas and identified 600 to 700 unverified ones.
One of the worst places she found human trafficking was a strip center across from Starbucks on the corner of Jones Road and FM 1960.
“We went on a search for girls who work in cantinas and there was probably a handful or maybe 10 different places along FM 1960,” she said. “Today in just five years, it has doubled.”
While cantineras can work freelance or be employed by a cantina, most cantina owners know how to protect their business from being shut down. Owners usually have legitimate liquor licenses but are not considered a “sexually oriented business,” which are subject to additional regulations, she said. A few tricks include registering businesses under different names and guises.
“If there's a police raid, the cantinas can protect themselves by having the prostitution take place in another building,” she said. “What happens is the girls are the ones who take the brunt of the arrests.”
While unincorporated Harris County has made progress with new sexually oriented business regulations, Villatoro believes businesses and citizens will play an active role in ending human trafficking.
“The most important thing is that the community is aware of the problem now,” she said. “Business owners need to learn the signs and watch the businesses around them. That can make a huge difference. It can make a change.”