Letter to Editor
Victim of child sexual violence plans to argue her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court
guarantee the rights for all victims of violent crime
“Crime victims are not a named party in the criminal case filed against their offender,” says, Denise Rotheimer, mother of then 11-year-old rape victim. “As the victim, my daughter never had a legitimate claim of entitlement to participate in the criminal justice process, receive information on the charges, attend court proceedings or present a victim impact statement.”
Rotheimer's argument echoes the legislative intent and findings of the Illinois general assembly more than 20 years ago. According to the Violent Crime Victims Assistance Act, “The General Assembly finds that when crime strikes, the victim or witness is frequently forgotten or further victimized by the criminal justice system.”
In July 2011, Rotheimer and her daughter, Jasmine Jimenez, now a 22-year-old law student at Cambridge University in England, filed their complaint in federal court to guarantee the rights of future crime victims.
“It took a tremendous amount courage to break my silence and describe all the details I gave to the police, one year after it happened. I remember telling the prosecutor that I was willing to go on the stand and tell the judge everything because I wanted him to go to prison for what he did. But I never got that chance. The prosecutor gave him a plea deal so I was never given a chance to attend the sentencing hearing or make a victim-impact statement. I don't think it's right for the law to discriminate against victims. We should have the same rights as the accused.”
Jasmine appealed the district court's order to dismiss her complaint on the grounds that her state rights as a crime victim are protected under the U.S. Constitution. On December 21, 2012 the appellate court affirmed the district court's decision.
“The only choice I have now is to argue my case before the U.S. Supreme Court. I refuse to allow other victims of violent crime to enter the criminal justice system knowing they are at risk of becoming further victimized because of the law.”
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Abused children need shelter too
by Tom Tryon
If I could unilaterally make things happen and dole out tasks, simply by writing about them, I would:
- Have Carol Whitmore, a Manatee County commissioner, show her community and Sarasota County how to channel personal passion, political persistence and public interaction toward preventing child abuse.
For those who have missed it, Whitmore has led a multifaceted campaign to radically change the way Manatee government handles stray and abused animals.
Not long ago, the county ran a run-down pound that essentially isolated animals until they were euthanized. Efforts to get dogs and cats adopted were minimal, facilities were substandard and, for political leaders and the public, out of sight meant out of mind.
But Whitmore used her office and deep community connections as a longtime resident to help reshape Manatee County's approach -- striving to implement a "no-kill" policy at the animal shelter, creating a downtown Bradenton facility so county workers and others can take dogs on walks during breaks, engaging the private sector to improve conditions at the shelter and using social media to draw attention to the plight of abused creatures and pet-adoption events.
Recently Whitmore used social media to publicize the case of a dog that was hit in the head with an ax wielded by its owner. As a result, the dog received high-quality care, was nursed back to health and eventually adopted -- with Whitmore tracking the entire episode on Facebook.
She has been, in a word, relentless -- personally and politically -- to the point where implementation of the no-kill policy was recently billed by county government as one of its leading achievements during the past year.
Suppose that every time a child is abused or, worse, killed in Manatee or Sarasota, a high-profile leader responded like Whitmore has done with animals -- generating public and private expressions of empathy and indignation, mobilizing the community to provide treatment and aid, and building awareness about the problem.
Yes, abused or endangered children are protected by privacy rights, and there are practical concerns about publicizing their struggles.
I know that public and private agencies -- their leaders and front-line workers -- spend countless hours trying to comfort abused children, get them treatment and find them homes. (In terms of building awareness, I'm impressed by the Heart Gallery, a local nonprofit organization that has lovely photographs taken of children waiting for adoption and has those pictures displayed in public places.)
But as I saw the frequent Facebook posts and read the press releases about Manatee's efforts to protect animals, I thought about 11-year-old Melissa Stoddard -- a Sarasota County girl who was found dead last month.
Melissa, the Sheriff's Office alleged, was hog-tied in front of her siblings, tied with rope to boards, had her mouth shut with duct tape and sometimes fed meals outdoors in a fenced spot the other children called "the corral."
In other words, she was treated worse than a dog.
Her death -- from hypoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain -- and the arrest of her parents were well-publicized in the Herald-Tribune.
But, unless I missed it, no one launched a social media campaign to prevent such deadly abuse from happening again -- or to find the other children good homes. There has been no groundswell of outrage.
Perhaps that is because preventing abuse is so difficult -- especially when some social and political acceptance of corporal punishment remains.
Or maybe it's because no one in a high-profile position has mobilized private and public awareness of child abuse with the same vigor and political power that Whitmore has demonstrated as an advocate for animals.
I also would:
- Encourage local philanthropic foundations to help local governments -- including law-enforcement agencies -- and social-service providers hire caseworkers assigned to help reduce or prevent homelessness.
Tom Barwin, Sarasota's new city manager, recently told me he will consider whether to team social workers with police officers called to deal with homeless people. That strategy is recommended by Robert Marbut, an expert on homelessness, to give officers support in coping with people who might need mental-health or substance-abuse treatment.
Additional social workers might be useful at county jails, where many homeless people wind up; similarly, even the largest private institutions, such as the Salvation Army, often need extra caseworkers to ensure that clients successfully navigate the social-service system.
- Lower the 50-mph speed limit north of the DeSoto Bridge in Manatee and post large signs warning motorists about the approaching stop light and three-way intersection at Haben Boulevard. Yet another fatal crash occurred at the intersection recently when a truck ran the red light and struck a vehicle making a legal left turn.
The intersection has been the site of too many crashes, many deadly. There is no foolproof measure to stop crashes, but let's start with lowering speeds and marking the intersection's approach.
Tom Tryon is opinion editor.
The truth about sex trafficking
The crime of human trafficking is one of the most egregious human-rights violations we see today. And it is happening right in our own communities.
Its victims are individuals lured into this country with false promises of legitimate work, only to be forced into the sex industry on arrival. They are domestic runaways being taken in by traffickers and forced to trade sex for a place to sleep. They are also girls being baited into "the life" by a presumed boyfriend who later reveals himself as a pimp. Much like a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking victims are trapped by fear, isolation and brutality at the hands of their traffickers.
An estimated 1 million children worldwide are sexually exploited annually, with the average age of girls forced into the sex trade between the ages of 12 and 14. Within the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly 300,000 children are trafficked for sex every year. The cases involve tremendous violence, such as a recent case where the victim was beaten, forced naked into a cold shower, covered with ice and then made to stand in front of an air conditioner for 30 minutes .
What can be done to prevent other children and teens from being victimized? A first step is addressing the truth about trafficking. Put simply, human trafficking is the selling of human beings for profit through forced labor, sexual exploitation or involuntary domestic servitude. Experts estimate 27 million people are trafficked worldwide annually, reaping $32 billion in illegal profits which makes it the second-largest and fastest-growing black market in the world.
Human trafficking is a crime that can be difficult to identify and track. The Internet has only exacerbated this problem by taking the sex trade off our streets and into hotel rooms . Our computers provide access to a variety of sites that promote prostitution, which make millions of dollars by offering anonymity to traffickers, further facilitating the victimization of children.
That is why I, along with a coalition of legislators, law enforcement, and advocates, including lead sponsors Sen. Mark Montigny and House Judiciary Chairman Eugene O'Flaherty, filed the bill "An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People," which was signed into law in November 2011 and went into effect in February 2012. This law makes trafficking a felony, increasing fines for those who buy trafficked labor, and addressing the needs of victims. Law enforcement has made multiple arrests in the past year, often targeting organizations that bring women from out of state, housing them in deplorable conditions, and profiting by selling them over and over again. In addition to enforcement action, our office has been working and meeting regularly with other state agencies and nonprofits across the state to prevent this crime when possible and address its aftermath where it has already occurred.
Today, all but one state has some form of anti-trafficking law. Momentum against trafficking is increasing, but more must be done. Our work to reduce the demand for commercial sex is built on a simple, solid foundation: Societal change requires information. Just as domestic violence all too recently was a topic broached only behind closed doors, bringing the tragedy of human trafficking to the public eye is the first step of many. Those who buy into the notion that selling sex is just another career choice should know that most prostitutes are, at the very best, selling themselves for the lack of other means to support themselves. Many aren't willing participants. And, the stark reality is that many aren't even old enough to consent to sex. If apprehended, johns increasingly face serious criminal prosecution. These basic facts, if widely understood, should reduce the demand for commercial sex and thus lessen the number of human trafficking victims.
If you wish to join our effort, consider offering your time and financial support to charities that provide services to victims. Men can speak out against johns who purchase individuals for sex. Parents, parent-teacher organizations and schools can help educate children about how to protect themselves online. Doctors, nurses, and hospitality and travel industry workers can seek training to identify victims and help them access services.
The fight to end the exploitation of human trafficking victims continues. Join us.
Martha Coakley is attorney general of Massachusetts. Human Trafficking Awareness Day was observed Friday.
Nevada Join the fight against sex trafficking
by CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
The crime of sex trafficking is one of the most egregious human rights violations, and it is happening in Nevada.
Its victims are lured into this country with false promises of legitimate work, only to be forced into the sex industry on arrival. They are domestic runaways taken in by traffickers and forced to trade sex for a place to sleep. They are girls baited into "the life" by a presumed boyfriend who later reveals himself as a pimp. Much like a victim of domestic violence, sex trafficking victims are trapped by fear, isolation and brutality at the hands of their traffickers and those who purchase them for sex.
In a recent Las Vegas case, a victim was beaten and then burned over and over again with a hot iron by her pimp. In a separate Las Vegas case, a victim was viciously pulled by her hair and dragged out of a good Samaritan's car by a pimp while trying to escape. The pimp stood in front of the car with a boulder in his hands to prevent the good Samaritan from leaving.
Sex trafficking affects every city in our state. Pimps from Sacramento, Calif., recently led a concerted effort to move operations to Reno.
Sex trafficking is a category of human trafficking, which is the selling of human beings for profit through forced labor, sexual exploitation or involuntary domestic servitude. Experts estimate 27 million people are trafficked worldwide annually, reaping $32 billion in illegal profits, which makes it the second-largest and fastest-growing black market in the world. Within the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly 300,000 children are trafficked for sex every year.
Sex trafficking is a crime that can be difficult to identify and track. The Internet and websites such as Backpage.com have only exacerbated this problem by taking the sex trade off our streets and into hotel rooms - out of the sight of law enforcement and social services. Our computers provide access to a variety of sites that promote prostitution, which make millions of dollars by offering anonymity to traffickers, further facilitating the victimization of children.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, passed in 2000, was the first federal law to emphasize the need to protect victims and offer legal protection for victims of trafficking. States have responded by passing comprehensive human trafficking statutes and updating existing statutes.
Nevada is also taking action. Recently, I held a summit in Las Vegas that brought together legislators, law enforcement, judges, treatment providers, faith-based leaders, attorneys, victims and advocates to address the issue of sex trafficking in Nevada. During the 2013 legislative session, I am introducing Assembly Bill 67 to protect our victims and combat sex trafficking,
While momentum against trafficking is increasing, more must be done. Just as domestic violence all too recently was a topic broached only behind closed doors, bringing the tragedy of sex trafficking into the public eye is the first step in its prevention. Those who receive messages from popular music, movies and television that selling sex is just another career choice should know that most prostitutes are, at the very best, selling themselves for the lack of other means to support themselves.
Many aren't willing participants. And the stark reality is that many aren't even old enough to consent to sex. Nationally, the average age of girls forced into the sex trade is between 12 and 14. The youngest known victim in Nevada was 12 years old. Once apprehended, johns increasingly face serious criminal prosecution. These basic facts, if widely understood, should reduce the number of sex trafficking victims.
Join the fight. Consider offering your time and financial support to organizations that provide services to victims. Men can speak out against johns who purchase minors for sex. Parents, parent-teacher organizations and schools can help educate children about how to protect themselves online. Doctors, nurses and hospitality and travel industry workers can seek training to identify victims and help them access services.
Each one of us can do something to combat sex trafficking.
Catherine Cortez Masto is the Nevada attorney general.
Sex trafficking: ‘It happens here; trust us, it happens'
In the Northland, often, it's a matter of survival: the desperate need for a warm, dry place to sleep or a bite to eat. Sometimes it's the only way to avoid a beating
In the Northland, often, it's a matter of survival: the desperate need for a warm, dry place to sleep or a bite to eat. Sometimes it's the only way to avoid a beating.
So, young women — little girls, really, some as young as 13 or 14 — sell themselves; more typically, they allow themselves to be sold.
“It happens here; trust us, it happens,” Shunu Shrestha of PAVSA, or the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, told the News Tribune Opinion page last week. How frequently is hard to say. The girls too often see themselves the way society for too long has seen them: as criminals and prostitutes rather than as the crime victims they truly are.
So they don't talk.
No one talks.
And it keeps happening.
Right here. In our community.
To our beautiful children. Our little girls.
The shell of silence that for so long has allowed sex trafficking to flourish cracked last week in a first-of-its-kind way in Duluth. In the rotunda on the first floor of Duluth City Hall, hundreds stood up. They publicly acknowledged the issue, recognizing acknowledgement as a critical first step in extracting the ugliness of exploitation from our community.
Supported by the 4-year-old Duluth Trafficking Task Force and many others, Mayor Don Ness declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Duluth, echoing similar proclamations and resolutions at the county and federal levels. A full month of activities to raise awareness of trafficking and sex crimes was announced.
“Sex trafficking is a problem right here in the city of Duluth and across the world,” Ness said. “It will never be addressed adequately unless and until we have the courage to talk about it openly and (to) give voice to it being a problem.”
“It is a human-rights issue, not just a women's issue,” added Duluth Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Margie Nelson. “By having this month and by the proclamation and by calling it up as a community we can work together … to stop (it).”
“There's this horrible perfect storm right now with runaway girls and predators on the streets,” St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin explained. “That's a horrible combination, especially when the runaway girl thinks this is a boyfriend (or) this is the only person in the world who cares for her. Then he ends up taking her out of the city and introducing her to friends, and then she's trapped.”
Just last month, two men were charged, accused of forcing two teenage girls from Duluth to engage in prostitution in St. Paul. The men used a knife and a gun to threaten the girls after they arrived in our state's capital by bus, according to authorities. The girls reportedly were taken to a motel and repeatedly forced into sex.
Last year 39 girls and young women reported to PAVSA they were victims of the sex trade. It was actually a milestone. That so many young women are starting to see themselves as victims rather than as criminals was another crack in the shell protecting trafficking. And here's one more: A new Minnesota law prevents anyone under age 16 from being charged as a delinquent when caught engaged in prostitution.
“These are children in need of protection,” Rubin said, and then he acknowledged the large group crowded into the rotunda. “I really wish they could stand here and see what I'm seeing and feel what I'm feeling from this crowd.
“This is not something that is going to be kept quiet any longer,” he said. “Awareness is the key.”
Awareness starts this month.
Child sex trafficking in UK rising, says charity
The proportion of sexually exploited children in Britain who have been trafficked within the country is rising, the children's charity Barnardo's warns.
The charity has also noted an increase in the number of younger children they help in some areas and a big increase in the number of children reporting sexual exploitation in Wales.
Of 546 sexually exploited children who Barnardo's worked with in September, the number known to be trafficked rose by 84 per cent, from 76 to 140 year on year.
That equates to one in four in the UK, up from one in six in 2011, and rising to one in two in Wales.
The number of sexually exploited children known to Barnardo's rose by 22 per cent to 1,452 in the UK last year and 37 per cent during the past three years.
Barnardo's Chief Executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "We are shocked at the rise in the number of children reporting they have been moved around the country by abusers.
"Domestic trafficking of children for sex is a sophisticated type of exploitation, a sinister form of organised violation through networks of criminals.
"Nobody currently knows the full extent of these crimes because of their hidden nature, but what we do know is that every time we open a new service for victims it quickly becomes fully subscribed.
"If we are to save children from suffering for years at the hands of their abusers, more must be done by the authorities to identify victims of child sexual exploitation who are being internally trafficked and to stop this activity earlier on."
The charity surveyed 23 of its specialist services, an annual report it compiles each year.
Barnardo's service data also revealed that numbers of sexually exploited children helped by the charity rose by 377 per cent in Wales, from 22 to 83, where the charity has become more active.
Three services, in the north east, south east and Northern Ireland, noted an increase in the number of younger children they helped, with children as young as seven meeting strangers on the internet.
Barnardo's called for the government and the devolved administrations to protect victims and other children from being trafficked for sex, and for the Department for Education and the Home Office to do more to tackle child sexual exploitation in England.
It's time to concentrate our anger on a culture that turns men into rapists
Last week's sexual violence figures prove that young men need to be taught how to engage with women
Never has there been such attention focused on rape and sexual violence. Over the past year, mainstream and social media have been riveted by one case after another. Yet even as these stories have followed one another, what has often been missing is the context that would link these apparently disparate instances.
Over and over again, some commentators have tried to comfort us by distancing or minimising the relevance of each case. This one was in the past. This one involved Asian rather than white British men. This one happened in another country. This victim was just particularly unlucky or particularly vulnerable or didn't even experience rape.
So it has sometimes been hard to see how these apparently disconnected instances might be connected – or might have much relevance to any of us or to our sisters or mothers or brothers.
The figures that were released last week on sexual offences in the UK must have put paid to that comforting sense of distance. These new statistics come right from the mainstream: they were prepared by the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Office for National Statistics. And the reality they disclose is shocking. They suggest that one in five women in the UK experiences a sexual offence in her adult life and that there are 473,000 victims of sexual offences every year, including 60,000 to 95,000 rapes. Yet all of these rapes lead to just 1,070 convictions.
Such statistics bring all the disparate stories home. This is not another country or another time. This is not just one famous guy who got away with it or just one survivor who may have got her story wrong. This is around 70,000 people being raped and nearly 500,000 experiencing sexual offences every year, right here, right now. Yet according to this report, only 15% of sexual offences were even reported to the police, let alone pursued through the criminal justice process.
These figures surely undermine the idea that it is just some kind of jumpy feminist paranoia to be anxious about the sexual culture that surrounds us. One message comes over very clearly. Survivors of sexual violence told researchers that they were "embarrassed" to report sexual offences and didn't think the police would "do much to help". This is down to a genuine underlying problem in our culture. For too long, the response to sexual violence has been a propensity to blame the victim, to suggest that she is overreacting or that she brought the crime upon herself. We may have been shocked by some of the statements coming from public figures in India about the victim of that horrendous gang rape and murder, but a tendency to shift the blame away from the perpetrator remains way too prevalent in the UK, too.
If we are to change that, we have to begin to take survivors of abuse seriously. One of the lines that will always stick in my head from this past year are the words "just the women". Apparently when the editor of Newsnight was deciding that his programme couldn't run with its story about Savile, he complained that these were the only sources.
Obviously, a journalist must find credible sources to stand up a story and nobody should be smeared with abuse allegations without evidence. But there is a resonance here to the dismissive tone of these words, a resonance that means something to everyone who has been abused or worked with survivors of abuse. Those abused by Jimmy Savile, those abused in Rochdale, those 85% of the 500,000 victims of sexual offences who never go to the police. Just the women. Just the children. Just the victims.
Against that dismissive statement is another resonant line that has stuck in my head from the past year: "We believe you." This line was used by parenting website mumsnet for the rape-awareness campaign it launched in March 2012, which aimed to encourage understanding of the prevalence of sexual violence and why so few women report these crimes. As they stated: "We hope to show that there is no 'typical' rape survivor and reassure those who have experienced rape that it's never your fault." A wonderful statement of solidarity, this line is one I often whisper to myself in my day-to-day work with refugees who have fled sexual violence and are struggling to convince the authorities of the reality of their experiences.
Alongside examining our dismissive attitudes towards survivors of abuse, and ensuring that in the future they are taken seriously, we must now also take another step. We must be prepared to shift some of our attention away from the victim and towards the perpetrator. For too long, women – and male survivors of abuse, too – rather than the perpetrators have been forced to bear the shame for these crimes. We need to break the cycle of impunity enjoyed by abusers and to do that we need to show men that it is not OK to abuse or to excuse, joke about or shrug their shoulders and ignore abusers.
There is also a real need to examine the wider culture in which we are bringing up our boys. The assumption that women are there to be objectified rather than seen as fully human, to give others pleasure rather than share in pleasure, is too often embedded in the culture around young people. Too often, boys are encouraged to believe that they must cut themselves off from nurturing, empathetic and intimate behaviour to become fully masculine. As long as we tolerate these assumptions in the name of normal masculinity and femininity, then we will find it tough to challenge the culture of sexual violence.
Despite everything, there are reasons to hope that this time could prove to be a turning point. I am not minimising the scale of the problem in wanting to look towards some points of light. One of those little lights might be the fact that views on sexual violence that might once have been seen as radical are now becoming more mainstream. Another is the fact there are new places now, such as the internet-based projects Everyday Sexism and Women Under Siege, where survivors of sexual violence and those who support them are able to share information and understanding.
There are initiatives to raise awareness and take steps for change that are coming from governments, such as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's drive to tackle sexual violence in conflict; and from the grassroots, such as the protests that have been seen throughout India, or the actions planned for One Billion Rising, a worldwide day of action, on 14 February. None of these initiatives on their own can mark the change we want to see, none of us can do anything in isolation. But if we work together, step by little step, we may yet see genuine change.
Ohio laws get stricter on human trafficking
More reforms expected in 2013
Often forced into prostitution, Ohio's sex and human trafficking victims are better served by current state laws, but there still is work to be done, stakeholders said Friday at the fourth Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Each year in Ohio, more than 1,000 children are trafficked in the sex trade and more than 3,000 youth are at risk of becoming victims, according to Gov. John Kasich's office.
Officials first became aware of Ohio's lax laws on sex trafficking in 2005 when a federal investigation into a child prostitution ring in Harrisburg, Pa., revealed that 79 victims were from Toledo, including a 10-year-old girl.
Since then, Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, has worked to tighten Ohio's rules by introducing the Safe Harbor Bill, which Kasich signed in June. The legislation stiffened penalties for individuals convicted of human trafficking — now a mandatory 10 years in prison — and opened up resources for victims.
Legislators and state officials are working to remove the supply and demand for prostitution in the state, Kasich told social workers, teachers and others gathered for awareness day events.
“We're on this, and we're going to stay on this,” Kasich said.
In August, four Chillicothe residents were indicted under the new law for reportedly luring a 24-year-old woman to Columbus and forcing her to perform sexual acts for their profit. They await trials in Franklin County.
“You might not see as much (sex trafficking) in the rural communities, but those are where they are recruiting,” said Melinda Sykes Haggerty, director of children's initiatives with the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
The law requires police officers to complete training in identifying human trafficking, authorizes victims to sue their pimps for damages and funnels money collected from fines and property seizures into a fund for those who were abused, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's Human Trafficking 2012 Annual Report.
The legislation designated individuals being trafficked as victims instead of sexual offenders, and that opened up diversion programs and funds. Legislation also allowed victims to have previous prostitution convictions removed from their record, said Christine Raino, Shared Hope International policy counsel.
“That gets them back on their feet and keeps them from returning to their trafficker,” Raino said.
The changes prompted the Polaris Project, a nonprofit group that fights human trafficking, to bump Ohio to its top tier, ranking the state one of its most improved in 2012.
Even with these improvements, Ohio still received a “C” from Shared Hope International, which assesses states' response to child sex trafficking.
Raino said Ohio law should be changed to distinguish between child and adult victims of sex trafficking and impose a stiffer penalty for the sex trade of minors.
Under federal law, children younger than 18 do not need to prove force, coercion or fraud for a trafficker to be prosecuted. Ohio should change its policies to mimic federal law, Raino said.
Another recommendation was to shield juveniles from testifying about their sex lives at their traffickers trials, Raino said.
Proposed changes include lengthening the statute of limitations on these cases from six years to 20 years to match other sex abuse cases, imposing stricter penalties for johns and making it easier for social workers to remove children from homes if their parents trafficked them, Sykes Haggerty said.
Information about where and how human trafficking occurred was virtually nonexistent before the 2012 Domestic Sex Trafficking in Ohio Report was released in August. The survey of 328 victims of sexual trafficking in five of Ohio's largest cities revealed a third of the individuals entered the sex trade before they were 18 years old; of that number, 12 percent were sold before age 12.
Early indicators of victimization included having relatives in the sex trade, being neglected or abused, dropping out of school or experiencing depression, according to the report.
Data, especially for rural areas, should improve with the law's requirement for officers to report human trafficking incidents to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. An annual report on the data will be compiled, starting this June.
Moves to Regulate Seclusion, Restraint in Some Schools
by Molly Bloom
Morgan Linnabary was eight years old when he was sent to a special school for children with behavior problems.
At the new school, when he mouthed off to teachers or got upset, he was sent from his classroom to the isolation room: a plywood box inside a separate room down the hall.
It happened dozens of times, Morgan said.
“It's like ‘No, no just give me some time to calm down.' And [they'd be] like, ‘No you're going to isolation,'” he said. “They would not listen to your pleas of ‘I can calm down if you give me some time.'”
Officials at Morgan's old school in Defiance County, Ohio didn't return calls seeking comment.
But that's not how seclusion rooms are supposed to be used. Experts say children are only supposed to be shut in the rooms if they're a danger to themselves or others.
The use of seclusion rooms, enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent, has come under scrutiny in the past year after a joint investigation by the Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found school staff instead sometimes use the rooms to punish children.
An investigation by The Columbus Dispatch
and StateImpact Ohio
looking at the use of seclusion rooms in ohio schools.
Columbus Dispatch: Secrecy to shroud school seclusion, restraint use under new state rules
The Ohio state Board of Education is set to vote for the first time on Tuesday on a new state policy on the use of seclusion and restraint in Ohio schools. The state does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio schools.
If the state board approves the new policy, it would take effect starting next school year.
What's in the Policy
The new proposed state policy does not ban the use of seclusion and restraint in schools.
It explicitly says seclusion can only be used in emergencies. It requires school staff to get training in teaching positive behaviors.
But it has some loopholes.
The new policy would only apply to traditional public schools – not charter schools.
And it could prevent the public from knowing whether schools are using seclusion and restraint properly.
When a student is put in a seclusion room or is restrained by staff, schools would have to record it in that student's file. But those records would be confidential.
And the policy does not require schools to track how often they seclude or restrain students, or the reasons why.
School Staff Waiting
Lee Smith, a principal at Louisville Elementary School in northeast Ohio, is one of the school administrators waiting to see the final result of state policy discussions.
Smith doesn't use the term seclusion room.
His school has what he calls sensory rooms. The rooms have padded walls, curtained windows, beanbag chairs on the floor and slings that children can use as hammocks.
The rooms do have doors and are used primarily for children with special needs.
Smith said the rooms are used as refuges for students who need a private place to calm down or soothe themselves. But Smith doesn't track how often the rooms are used, or how.
Still, Smith said his teachers know that simple misbehavior is not a reason to restrain or seclude a child.
“Period, end of discussion. We're not even going down that path. If they're shuffling their little feet down the hallway and they're turning around screaming at you or whatever—I don't care. Our staff understands that mentality,” he said.
And Smith said his teachers try not to get to the point of having to lay hands on a student. He said they get to know their kids, what sets them off and what calms them down.
“If I escalate up, then they're going to escalate up. If I escalate up, he's going to go higher,” he said.
“And that's not a good thing.”
Some educators and parents say reports of children forced into seclusion rooms for not following directions or other non-violent actions were a surprise to them.
But they're not necessarily opposed to regulating the rooms' use.
Amy Jones' son Matthew, who has an autism-spectrum disorder, was sent or taken to a seclusion room multiple times while in elementary grades when he kicked or hit others or tried to run out of the building in his Warren County school.
Matthew didn't like being in the seclusion room.
But the alternative was calling his mother to pick him up, taking him out of school for the day. And over time, and with intensive lessons about how to better express his emotions, Matthew stopped lashing out and running away, his mother said.
“I think it's a good idea to regulate seclusion,” she said. “But there have to be parameters and guidelines.”
Louisville, Ohio teacher Andrea Unklesbay, who teaches kindergarteners and first graders with multiple disabilities, also said having standard rules and guidelines for the use of seclusion and restraint in schools might be helpful–as long as they didn't ban the practices outright.
“Maybe it would be good for the whole state be on the same page about that,” she said.
DSS evaluates procedure after error in Rock Hill child abuse case
by Jonathan McFadden
State social services officials are reviewing how caseworkers perform background checks when placing children after Rock Hill police said the agency did not request one for a convicted felon who later was charged with abusing his 8-year-old nephew.
“This case revealed our need to improve how we do background checks in these situations,” said Marilyn Matheus, spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services. “We have recently been working with the Rock Hill Police Department on specific procedures to follow and training for our staff related to criminal history background checks.”
DSS did not take formal custody of the boy when he was taken from his father's home in May after the father was charged with abusing him.
Instead, a caseworker agreed on a safety plan with the boy's mother and father that temporarily placed him in the care of his uncle, Matheus told The Herald last week.
The uncle spent time in prison in 1995 for assault and battery with intent to kill after he pleaded guilty to throwing a concrete brick at a 21-year-old Rock Hill man, hitting him in the head and causing serious brain damage and two strokes.
The uncle was sentenced to 18 years in prison, but was released in 2006. In October, he, too, was charged with abusing the boy.
The Herald is not naming any family members involved in the case to protect the boy's identity.
DSS only had an “intervention” role in the case, Matheus said, instead of actually taking custody of the child. DSS' kinship placement policy lets the family recommend relatives who can take care of their children when they're taken from a home, officials say.
“The child never left his family,” Matheus said. “The family knows more about family members” than DSS.
Before those relatives take custody of the child, DSS is supposed to conduct federal, state and local criminal background checks on them and check to see if they're listed on a sex offender registry, said Kathleen McLean-Titus, DSS' human services coordinator.
In all cases, caseworkers should refer to a potential custodian's federal, state and local criminal background, Matheus said.
DSS initially told The Herald that a caseworker performed “preliminary checks” on the boy's uncle, which looked at his criminal history with the Rock Hill Police Department and York County Sheriff's Office. Records at both agencies didn't show the man's criminal activities from the 1990s, she said.
But Lt. Brad Redfearn with the Rock Hill Police Department said this week that “there was no criminal history requested through our agency for that person through DSS.”
York County Clerk of Court David Hamilton, whose office performs criminal background checks for the sheriff's office, said he would not immediately release information about whether DSS submitted such a request with the county.
It's “more than likely,” Matheus said, that disciplinary action was taken against the caseworker who didn't do the complete checks, but she declined to discuss what that action might have been, calling it a personnel matter.
“DSS has evidence that Rock Hill Police did share some type of information on (the uncle) with DSS,” Matheus said. “It is unclear what type of inquiry was made and when it was made.”
Police did give DSS two years' worth of incident reports on the uncle, Redfearn said.
“A worker made an error when requesting information from the public records index before the placement, so the conviction did not show up,” Matheus said.
The public records index, which catalogues criminal charges and convictions, is made available to the public through the state Judicial Department.
“We are not satisfied that our staff thoroughly evaluated the criminal background” of the uncle, Matheus said. “We deeply regret this oversight.”
The Herald found the uncle's felony conviction by checking records with the State Law Enforcement Division and the state Judicial Department. Both resources display the uncle's assault and battery charge and later conviction.
DSS is still reviewing information “about inquiries our staff made,” Matheus said.
When DSS requests criminal history checks with the police department, Redfearn said, police turn to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a computerized storehouse offered to law enforcement through the FBI. Such checks return a person's entire criminal record throughout the course of his lifetime.
Police agencies enter information into NCIC's database, and that data remains there indefinitely.
State DSS officials began investigating the county office's handling of the case after receiving questions from The Herald. That investigation, Matheus said, included scrutinizing the steps officials took when they first responded to the child's home in May.
When abused children are taken out of a home, social services agents should place them with relatives when possible to avoid foster care placement, according to guidelines at the Children's Law Office at the University of South Carolina School Of Law.
Certain factors, such as child protective services history and state and federal criminal background checks, cannot be waived, DSS guidelines state.
If a potential custodian has any kind of crime against a person on his record, Matheus said, DSS policy prohibits workers from leaving the child with that person unless the charge has been expunged, or if the criminal allegations don't indicate an inability to take care of children.
Discipline or child abuse? Often, violence begins at home
A Q-and-A with David Maradei
by Sonja Koehler
Have you ever been somewhere, say the grocery store or a neighborhood park, and seen a parent roughly scold, shake or spank their child? If so, do you remember the child's reaction? What was your own reaction?
Many people are not sure what to think. How should a parent control their child? Where are the boundaries between discipline and abuse?
According to child abuse expert David Maradei, the answers to questions like these are critical to breaking the cycle of violence in our community. Maradei is director of the Monterey County Child Abuse Prevention Council, as well as a member of the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace (CASP) and its For Our Future campaign.
QUESTION: Why is it so important for us to know about child abuse?
ANSWER: People seem to forget that the future of this county depends on healthy children making good choices for their future. Abuse interferes with children being able to grow emotionally and physically into healthy adults.
The research shows that the younger you are, the more you are impacted by abuse or other domestic violence.
Even a fetus in the womb experiences trauma. They are born as fussier babies, or have sleeping or eating disorders.
Q: What does child abuse look like?
A: Child abuse, which is a type of domestic violence, includes physical, sexual, and emotional maltreatment. One of our largest areas of concern is neglect — emotional neglect, food neglect, health neglect. Experiencing abuse or witnessing violence creates a climate of fear for a child. They start to live in fear, to fear their parent — or whoever the abusive person is.
National studies show that 91 percent of all cases of child abuse are by someone who knows the child and is close to their home. Eighty-three percent are by the biological parent. The problem of abuse really comes from inside the home.
Q: How does spanking fit in?
A: There is a lot of controversy about spanking, or corporal punishment. But spanking is just another name for hitting. And I have not come across any parent that would say it is OK to hit a child.
Often parents try to justify spanking by saying the child knows it is a way to discipline them, that they did something wrong. But those adults forget that children's brains are still developing, they don't have the intellectual capacity to understand the concept of punishment. That child just reacts to spanking with fear.
Parents also say, “I was spanked by my parents, and I am OK.” So their assumption is that they can hit their children, and they will turn out OK, too. They are in a cycle of abuse.
The problem is it is a gamble. Some children do turn out OK, others react in a very different way. They become troubled, obstinate, aggressive, difficult to deal with.
At least 23 countries have banned spanking. It is a form of child abuse.
Q: What do you tell someone who spanks for discipline?
A: I always say that spanking is just a nice, socially accepted way of hitting a child.
I know that this does not mean a person is a bad parent. That parent just does not have the tools to connect with their child and how to educate, or discipline them.
They need to understand ages and stages, they need to know how to discipline with love. They need to know about strength-based parenting and the effects of positive reinforcement.
Q: What are the effects of abuse on children?
A: Children's brains are not like adult brains. They are still in development, especially in young children and babies. The parts of the brains are still growing, and behavioral patterns help shape how they grow. When a child grows up in a climate of fear, it moves development to the survival part of the brain, instead of the thinking part of the brain.
The survival part of the brain is reactive, impulsive. The thinking part of the brain helps a person make good choices, it builds empathy and resiliency. The thinking part of the brain controls the survival part, and if it does not develop, the survival part is not controlled.
So the reactive behavior dominates — fear, anger, frustration, cruelty, aggression, etc. A child that is abused or witnesses abuse protects itself by disassociating. That child can be angry, frustrated, frightened, withdrawn.
That child might feel that they deserve the abuse, that they only way to get the good love from a parent is to accept the bad love. Not all children react that way, some are more resilient. Resiliency happens when children are emotionally healthy and are parented with nurture and good love.
Q: Can you give an example of the long-term negative effects of child abuse?
A: I teach classes at Soledad State Prison, with felons who are going to be released back in the community. We talk about child abuse and its impact — truancy, lack of education, etc.
Every one one of these men I talk with has one thing in common. They came from dysfunctional families. What they have in common is what we call adverse childhood experiences. Their response to the environment they grew up in is that they have all taken part in criminal behaviors.
The impact does not just relate to criminal behavior, though, it also shows as emotional problems as people grow up — reactive disorders, or problems keeping a job or friends or marriage.
A Kaiser Permanente study showed that many mental and physical health issues can be linked to people who have had bad childhood experiences.
What happens is that as these young children grow up, they use substance abuse, food, sex, violence as a coping mechanism for the unhealthy emotional experience of being abused as a child.
Q: Where can parents learn more?
A: From their health professionals. Or from the Child Abuse Prevention Council. We have a short DVD available that you can watch with your whole family, called First Impressions. It is available for free at local libraries, or through the council.
• Sonja Koehler is a strategic consultant for social change who serves with the Community Alliance for Safety & Peace, a group of organizations working to stop gang violence in Salinas.
Revision of Laws Relating to Child Abuse and Neglect Reports
by KFBB News Team
A bill regarding the confidentiality of child abuse and neglect reports brought out emotional proponents to the Capitol on Friday in support of Senate Bill No. 65.
Those in support of the bill say child abuse statistics have reached an all time high and there is a lack of follow-up with reported cases, leaving many worried about the safety of Montana's children.
Sponsored by Senator Art Wittich the bill states that upon receiving a report of a child that is or has been abused or neglected, those reporting the abuse would be able to follow-up on their report making sure that their report is being investigated.
Proponent April Hall says this bill touches close to home, she lost her niece over child abuse, a case that was never followed-up and was poorly handled.
If the department determines that an investigation is required a social worker, county attorney or a peace officer will conduct an investigation promptly.
Senator Wittich also says that many times parents are involved in child abuse or neglect cases and if that is the case the bill will allow family members other than parents to access that information.
Local biker group BACA strives to prevent child abuse
by Cheryl Garcia
For many of the thousands of children victimized by abuse every year in Texas, there is no one they can turn to for help. This is the terrible problem that the non-profit Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) organization is trying to erase. It is hard to imagine the anxiety children feel, when their abusers are often family members or other individuals they are forced to see and interact with in their daily lives – the very adults they should be able to turn to for guidance – but instead they have learned to fear. Almost 20 years ago the national BACA organization was founded to provide the type of emotional and physical support that abused children need when other groups have failed them.
BACA members use a biker's tough image to make child abuse victims feel more secure, and they live by their motto: 'No child deserves to live in fear.' Children often think of bikers as powerful and forceful – so it is a natural transition for them to think of bikers as protective, if the bikers are on their side.
BACA members go by their "ride names" for security reasons, and they will do everything from attending a child's court hearings to staying with a victim if he or she is afraid.
"We want to allow these children to not be afraid of the world, to know that they have friends who will back them up. The message we want to convey is, 'If you try to hurt that child, you're going to have go through us.' That can be powerful help for a scared child," said Popeye, the founder and head of Texas' Seven Coves Chapter, which is based in Conroe.
The members often accompany children to court and will stand outside their home all night if needed to ensure the child's safety.
"This is a huge priority for us. Our members will make the time to take care of these children," he said.
The Seven Coves Chapter has about 15 members. It was founded in 2011 and serves the Montgomery, San Jacinto and Walker County areas. There are several other chapters in Texas, including a large Harris County Chapter. The Seven Coves Chapter has one mandatory fundraiser, the "100-Mile-Ride," which raises money through entry fees for the cause. It also holds an event in the fall at Pappas On The Lake (on Lake Conroe). Both events are open to the public.
"We recently provided an escort and security for a child who was a crime victim in Alabama, and had to leave her Texas home to attend court in that state. We were able to provide help through the support of BACA groups in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to support this child. We have often been told by the families and the kids themselves how much we made a difference, and this is why we do it," explained Popeye.
The BACA organization was founded in 1995 by a Native American psychologist (ride name, Chief) who worked with a young boy who had been subjected to extreme abuse and was afraid to leave his house or interact with others. The only thing that seemed to interest the child was Chief's motorcycle. So Chief and 20 other bikers rode to the boy's home and were able to draw him out of his house for the first time in weeks. Chief decided this type of organization was a great benefit to abused children. Since then, chapters have been formed all over the U.S.
BACA works in cooperation with local and state authorities to offer children an advocate they can count on, to intervene when necessary to provide a deterrent against further abuse, to accompany them to often-terrifying court proceedings, and to help the children and their families combat the situations that lead to abuse. The initial contact often begins with a ride of several BACA members to the child's location, where the BACA liaison talks with the child and gives him or her a riding vest or other gifts, along with phone numbers he or she can call if they need help. All BACA members must complete both a national and state criminal background check and at no time are any members allowed alone with a child. Violence is prohibited by members.
"Members commit to being available to these children during all hours, to stand behind them," said Popeye. "One of the biggest commitments is to go to court with these kids. Court can be especially intimidating for them because often their abuser is right in front of them."
He himself became interested in the organization by attending a meeting - then he discovered the importance of the club when he actually participated in an initial child contact.
"I got to see the impact - that's when I was hooked. That was five years ago and I feel stronger about it every day."
The Seven Coves BACA group meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m. at McKenzie's BBQ on North Frazier Street in Conroe. All meetings are open to the public.
Man charged with child abuse given custody of 3-year-old
by Bob Fowler
CLINTON — A todder who lived in a foster home for three years was given in October to her birth father, who is charged with aggravated child abuse of the girl's half-brother.
Foster mom Susan Hager has for weeks waged a campaign to bring the case to light.
In letters and emails, Hager lambastes the state Department of Children's Services for slack oversight, communication breakdowns and outright errors.
The rebukes come as DCS is under intense scrutiny for numerous deaths last year of children that had been involved with DCS.
DCS officials say the decision to place the young girl with her father was made within the Anderson County court system and that DCS followed proper procedures in foster care and child custody.
A judge in an Anderson County Circuit Court ruling has opined there was no evidence the father abused the boy, upholding a decision reportedly also reached in juvenile court, where rulings are confidential.
Brennan Lenihan, an attorney involved in the case, which has included an extended legal tug-of-war over the girl's custody, says Hager's version of the events "is not remotely close to the full picture."
Hager is declining to speak about the case, saying to do so could jeopardize her future standing as a foster parent.
State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, a long-standing DCS critic, contacted the News Sentinel and provided copies of a three-page letter Hager wrote DCS Commissioner Kathryn O'Day, as well as other correspondence.
The letter to O'Day was also copied to numerous officials, from Gov. Bill Haslam to federal and state lawmakers.
State Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, has sent a "letter of inquiry" about the situation to a DCS official.
Jones recently expressed outrage over the Anderson County case.
"We're not supposed to give children back to people who abuse and neglect children," she said. "DCS and the courts should never, never make that sort of placement."
In her letter to O'Day, Hager worries that the 3-year-old girl may be in danger in dad Matthew Armstrong's custody.
Armstrong, 28, and his former girlfriend, Melissa Lopez, 35, both of Oak Ridge, are under indictment for aggravated child abuse and neglect of the girl's half-brother.
Both defendants are out on $100,000 bonds. No trial dates have been set.
When he was 11 months old in November 2008, the baby boy reportedly sustained severe burns to much of his body, including injuries that left him blind in his left eye, according to Hager's letter to DCS.
A doctor, Mary Palmer Campbell, testified in court hearings that the boy suffered "one of the worst cases of abuse … that she had seen in her medical career," Hager wrote to O'Day.
"Without compromising confidentiality, I felt the alleged acts of the accused against the unidentified victim were the most severe among the hundreds of cases I investigated as a guardian ad litem," Knoxville attorney Amy Brown said in an emailed statement.
No public Criminal Court records provide details of the alleged abuse or how it occurred.
Susan Hager and her husband Sam were first serving as foster parents for the infant boy before they adopted him in May 2011.
The boy's parents — Lopez and Timothy McKinney — had earlier surrendered their parental rights.
The Hagers became the baby girl's foster parents when she was 16 days old in September 2009.
They then filed an Anderson County Chancery Court petition to adopt her.
That petition was filed the day Armstrong and Lopez were to have a juvenile court hearing on the merits of the case and which party was entitled to custody, said Lenihan, who served as Lopez's court-appointed attorney in the legal battles.
In an appeal of one juvenile court ruling, court records show, Anderson County Chancellor Bill Lantrip in June 2010 ruled in a Circuit Court order there was no evidence that Armstrong abused the boy.
The chancellor also found that Lopez failed to promptly seek medical care for the boy, and sent the case back to juvenile court for more proceedings.
The Hagers' petition to adopt the girl put a halt to the juvenile court action awarding custody to Armstrong because Chancery Court takes precedence.
The Chancery Court hearing on the Hagers' petition to adopt was scheduled for Oct. 24, but their attorney dismissed the petition late the day before.
With the adoption petition gone, the case went back to juvenile court, where a ruling already had been made that Armstrong should have custody.
Lawyers involved in the matter quickly signed off on an order to that effect, and DCS came to the Hagers' home that afternoon and removed the girl, according to Hager's letter.
Susan Hager in her letter to O'Day criticized the abrupt move: "While we were aware that there was an appeals hearing regarding Matthew Bret Armstrong's right to future custody ... we had no notice that DCS and/or any party to this case was seeking the immediate removal of (the girl) from our home without any notice, transition or preparation …"
DCS agreed to the girl's immediate removal "without any investigation of his home, his means of support, and/or his ability to care for another three-year-old child in his home," according to Hager's letter.
A "slow transition to her father's custody" would have been more appropriate, Hager wrote.
Since the girl was removed from the Hagers' home, Susan Hager told O'Day that Armstrong has refused to allow any contact with her.
"This three-year-old child has now been removed from the only parents and family she has known, and returned to a father that is currently under indictment for the severe child abuse of her half-brother, and prohibited from any contact or visitation with anyone she has ever known in her life," Hager wrote.
Armstrong's attorney, David Vander Sluis, didn't return calls seeking comment.
California school shooter targeted bullies, sheriff says
TAFT, Calif. – The 16-year-old boy had allegedly wounded the teenager he claimed had bullied him, fired two more rounds at students fleeing their first-period science class, then faced teacher Ryan Heber.
"I don't want to shoot you," he told the popular teacher, who was trying to coax the teen into giving up the shotgun he still held.
Recounting the suspect's words, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the confrontation was enough of a distraction to give 28 students time to escape their classroom Thursday at a California high school.
The violence came just minutes after administrators had announced new lockdown safety procedures prompted by the Newtown, Conn., school slayings.
"Just 10 minutes before it happened our teachers were giving us protocol because of what happened in Connecticut," said student Oscar Nuno, who was across campus from the science building at Taft Union High School when an announcer on the PA system said the school was under lock down "and it was not a drill."
The teen victim, who classmates said played football last year for the Taft Wildcats, was in critical but stable condition at a Kern County hospital Thursday night. He was expected to undergo surgery on Friday.
The suspect surrendered his shotgun to Heber and campus supervisor Kim Lee Fields. His pockets were stuffed with more ammunition, said Youngblood.
"This teacher and this counselor stood there face-to-face not knowing if he was going to shoot them," Youngblood said. "They probably expected the worst and hoped for the best, but they gave the students a chance to escape."
Heber's forehead had been grazed by a stray pellet, but Youngblood said the teacher who had graduated from the Taft school two decades ago was unaware he had been hit.
"He's the nicest teacher I know," Nuno said. "He loves his students and he always wants to help."
The shooting shocked residents of this remote town of 9,400 that sits amid tumbleweeds and oil fields about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
"We know each other here," said former mayor Dave Noerr. "We drive pickups and work hard and hunt and fish. This is a grassroots town. This is the last place you'd think something like this would happen."
The 16-year-old's name is on the lips of everyone in town, but authorities aren't releasing it because he's a juvenile. He had felt bullied by the victim for more than a year, said Youngblood, who added that the claim was still being investigated.
Trish Montes described her neighbor as "a short guy" and "small" who was teased about his stature by many.
Montes said her son had worked at the school and tutored the boy last year.
"All I ever heard about him was good things from my son," Montes said. "He wasn't Mr. Popularity, but he was a smart kid. It's a shame. My kid said he was like a genius."
On Wednesday night the teen went home and plotted revenge, Youngblood said. He found a gun that authorities believe belonged to the suspect's older brother, and went to bed that night plotting revenge against two students.
"He planned the event," Youngblood said. "Certainly he believed that the two people he targeted had bullied him, in his mind. Whether that occurred or not we don't know yet."
The suspect arrived after 9 a.m., and video surveillance cameras captured him looking nervous as he entered through a side door, Youngblood said. He made his way to the second floor of the school's science building, where Heber's class with 28 students inside was under way.
The suspect walked in a door close to the front of the classroom and shot his classmate. When the shots were fired, Heber tried to get the more than two dozen students out a back door and engaged the shooter in conversation to distract him, Youngblood said.
"The heroics of these two people goes without saying. ... They could have just as easily ... tried to get out of the classroom and left students, and they didn't," the sheriff said. "They knew not to let him leave the classroom with that shotgun."
The teacher's father, David Heber, told the Bakersfield Californian that he had heard rumors of a school shooting but wasn't initially worried that his son's classroom would have been involved.
"His students like him a whole bunch," said Heber, 70. "He's not the kind of teacher a student would try to hurt. He's definitely someone who could talk a kid down in an emergency."
Youngblood said that the suspect would be charged with attempted murder. The District Attorney will decide whether he's charged as an adult, Youngblood said.
The Officials said a female student was hospitalized with possible hearing damage because the shotgun was fired close to her ear, and another girl suffered minor injuries during the scramble to flee.
Wilhelmina Reum, whose daughter Alexis Singleton is a fourth-grader at a nearby elementary school, got word of the attack while she was about 35 miles away in Bakersfield and immediately sped back to Taft.
"I just kept thinking this can't be happening in my little town," she told The Associated Press.
Officials said there's usually an armed officer on campus, but the person wasn't there because he was snowed in.
The school will be closed Friday as investigators continue to search the building. Authorities are "searching every backpack, every book," Youngblood said, to make sure the suspect acted alone.
The attack there came less than a month after a gunman massacred 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., then killed himself.
That shooting prompted President Barack Obama to promise new efforts to curb gun violence. Vice President Joe Biden, who was placed in charge of the initiative, said he would deliver new policy proposals to the president by next week.
Porter Ranch's Mohammad Akbar Baraki, 37, arrested after his Newtown post said 'more kids must be killed'
by Eric Hartley
The online posts, one in the wake of the Colorado theater massacre and two after the Connecticut school shooting, were undoubtedly disturbing.
From Valencia: "Looking out a window and see some little kids I wouldn't mind murdering at all. ... I don't know. I would find it funny. It would be like the Aurora shooting in Colorado."
From Pomona: "So I woke up this morning and said to myself ... Dang you know (what) would be really awesome right now ... some dead kindergarteners."
From Porter Ranch just this week: "Newtown is just the beggin(in)g of the attacks ...... more kids must be killed."
Another thing the writers have in common: None of them has been charged with making criminal threats. The first two are no longer in jail.
Though such comments can trigger calls to police, federal investigations, arrests and media publicity, they rarely result in any charges. Prosecutors are limited by state law, which criminalizes only "unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific" threats.
As a result, even comments that endorse or promise horrific crimes usually aren't illegal.
Most of the time, Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas said, "if you're creepy and disturbing and we look into you, we have nothing."
In the latest case, a Porter Ranch man was arrested Wednesday after federal agents and police investigated a post on his Facebook page.
Police said Mohammad Akbar Baraki, 37, wrote in a misspelling-riddled post Tuesday: "Newtown is just the begging of the attacks ...... more kids must be killed if anyone watched the bin laden movie will be shot at site.... this is a final warring to all Americans."
Federal agents drove to an LAPD station Wednesday to show officers the posting. Police searched Baraki's house in the 12000 block of Darby Avenue and arrested him after finding two air rifles, LAPD Lt. Silvia Atwater said.
She said the rifles aren't illegal, but having them is a violation of Baraki's probation on a drug charge. Because he was on probation, police did not need a warrant to do the search.
Police said they did not expect Baraki would be charged with making threats. He remained jailed without bail late Thursday.
His Facebook page, under the name Akbar Baraki, says he's a Republican who likes Metallica, Shakira and Coldplay. He is also listed as a fan of both "The Holy Bible" and "The Holy Quran."
In a separate post, he wrote in part, "The bin laden story never ended 9 11 was a staged Osman bin laden is alive and living well in Pakistan."
Police and prosecutors take online threats seriously. But Gina Satriano, a supervising prosecutor in downtown L.A., said the law requires "an identifiable victim who has to be placed in fear."
And prosecutors can't file long-shot charges in the hopes they'll stick or at least keep the suspects in jail for a while.
"We are required by law to not file charges unless a crime exists," Satriano said.
Villegas, the deputy chief who oversees the San Fernando Valley for the LAPD, said the department gets a lot of tips about online comments.
"Many of them don't rise to the level of anything beyond someone venting their frustration of whatever their political ideology is," he said.
The lack of charges reflects the sometimes-difficult balance between public safety and free speech. The First Amendment protects offensive speech. So how to sort the relatively small number of dangerous people from those just blowing off steam?
After hearing what Baraki wrote, defense attorney David Wallin said, "What you're telling me, that's not a criminal threat." He said the suggested victims aren't specific enough.
"Who? What kid?" Wallin said. "Does that mean every kid in the United States is a potential victim?"
Wallin represents Eric Ting Yee, a 22-year-old former Yale student who was arrested in September after writing a post on ESPN's website that included this passage: "Looking out a window and see some little kids I wouldn't mind murdering at all. I don't know. I would find it funny. It would be like the Aurora shooting in Colorado."
Yee's parents' home in Valencia, where he lived, overlooks an elementary school and a junior high. Yee was arrested Sept. 17 and held on $1 million bail but released days later and charged only with a weapons violation. Sheriff's detectives said a rifle found in the home is illegal under state law.
Prosecutors did not file a threats charge, and Wallin said Yee's comments were a misguided effort at social commentary.
In a comment on a story about expensive LeBron James-endorsed sneakers, Yee wrote in jest that he would murder the children before they grew up to be yuppies who mindlessly buy the latest trendy clothes. The idea was loosely taken from the violent film "American Psycho."
Yee's father, Roger Yee, is facing the same weapons charge, and father and son are due back in court Wednesday.
On Dec. 16, just two days after 26 people were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the LAPD arrested 24-year-old Kyle Edward Bangayan of Pomona at his parents' home in L.A.'s Little Armenia neighborhood.
The arrest came after police and the FBI looked at his Facebook page. The celebrity news site TMZ obtained and quoted from a search warrant that laid out what Bangayan wrote there:
"No really America, if you post one more Facebook post about the shooting at that elementary school, I swear to whatever (expletive) god you believe in that I will do the same (expletive) thing. I have the guns, I have the incentive, and I won't commit suicide at the end, I'll just go to the next (expletive) school and the next and the next So I woke up this morning and said to myself ... Dang you know (what) would be really awesome right now ... some dead kindergarteners ... and Christmas early."
The day after his arrest, prosecutors said Bangayan would not be charged. He was released that night.
Wallin said the publicity around such cases is unfair to people who aren't guilty of any crime. He said police shouldn't be so quick to announce the arrests before charges are filed.
"The bottom line is should the guy be checked out? Sure," Wallin said. "I have kids. Nobody wants anybody hurt or killed."
But he said the criminal threats law is "overused" by police, given that "99 percent of the time, it's just words never followed up by any action, never intended to be followed up by any type of action."
NY looks at 800 rape cases for possible DNA errors
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City medical examiner is reviewing hundreds of rape cases for possible DNA evidence errors.
The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/ USKQgr) reports that a lab technician may have mishandled critical DNA evidence in over 800 rape cases.
The ME's office says so far it has found 26 cases in which the technician failed to detect the DNA evidence when some actually existed.
It says in seven of the cases, full DNA profiles were developed.
In one case, the new profile matched a convicted offender's sample, leading to an indictment a decade after the evidence was collected.
In two other cases, the new DNA evidence was linked to people already convicted or under suspicion.
The cases span from 2001 to 2011.
The technician wasn't identified. She resigned in 2011.
Indiana / Minnessota
Indiana boy, Richard Wayne Landers Jr., abducted in '94 found in Minnesota
by KEN KUSMER, Associated Press
Richard Wayne Landers Jr. was just 5 years old when he and his paternal grandparents, who were upset over custody arrangements, disappeared from Wolcottville, a town about 30 miles north of Fort Wayne.
Nineteen years later, news that he has been found living under an assumed name in Minnesota left his mother overjoyed and "jumping up and down," her husband said shortly after police announced the break in the case.
Indiana State Police said the now 24-year-old Landers was found in Long Prairie, Minn., thanks in part to his Social Security number. His grandparents were living under aliases in a nearby town and confirmed his identity, investigators said.
Police declined to say whether the grandparents will face charges, citing the ongoing investigation.
Landers' mother, Lisa Harter, was "jumping up and down for joy" when investigators told her a few days ago that her son had been found, her husband Richard Harter told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
He said his wife is "the happiest woman on earth."
Harter said he and his wife were working with an attorney and hoped to reunite with his stepson soon. Police said Landers is married and expecting his first child.
Harter declined further comment and referred questions about the case to his attorney, who didn't immediately return phone messages Thursday. Investigators declined to release the names under which Landers and his grandparents had been living.
Police said the boy's paternal grandparents, Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers, abducted him in July 1994 because they were "upset over pending court proceedings" regarding his placement.
Police spokesman Sgt. Ron Galaviz said it appears the boy's father was never in the picture. Lisa and Richard Harter had married a year earlier.
Authorities believe the grandparents took the boy from their home in Wolcottville and fled. They were charged at the time with misdemeanor interference with custody, which was bumped up to a felony in 1999. But the charge was dismissed in 2008 after the case went cold.
Investigators reopened the case in September when Richard Harter turned over the boy's Social Security card to an Indiana State Police detective.
That turned up a man with the same Social Security number and date of birth living in Long Prairie, Minn., about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis. A driver's license photo for the man appeared to resemble Landers, police said.
Indiana State Police then contacted Minnesota law enforcement agencies, which began investigating along with the FBI and the Social Security Administration.
The grandparents were found living in nearby Browerville, Minn.
"By all accounts, it didn't appear he suffered from any abuse, either physical or mental," Galaviz said.
Ohio human-trafficking efforts improve
Annual report gives state a ‘C,' officials say it's not enough
by Alan Johnson
Ohio's report card on national Human Trafficking Awareness Day shows improvement, but still only a passing grade.
The Human Traffic Annual report released yesterday by Attorney General Mike DeWine highlights positive steps taken by the state and regional task forces in 2012, including passage of a new “Safe Harbor” law for sex-trafficking victims, new details about minor trafficking victims and training 24,000 law-enforcement officers to recognize and respond to trafficking victims.
Despite those improvements, Shared Hope International, which tracks and grades states on their legal and policy response to the trafficking issue, moved Ohio up only to a “C” after two years of “ D” grades. The Polaris Project, another trafficking tracker, recognized Ohio as one of the most improved states, but only gave a “C” grade.
It's not good enough, DeWine said.
“Human trafficking is a horrendous crime that preys upon the most vulnerable among us, often targeting our children,” he said in a statement. “Though we have come far in 2012, we still have a great deal of work ahead of us.”The state has estimated that 1,000 juveniles are victims of human trafficking in Ohio and thousands more are at risk. The FBI estimates about 100,000 people are trafficked across the nation.
Gov. John Kasich; state Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo; Ken Lawson, of the Columbus Division of Police; and Linda Smith, founder of Shared Hope International, are the featured speakers at the annual awareness day observance taking place today at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium from 9 a.m. to noon. A panel discussion by human-trafficking survivors is scheduled for the afternoon.
State and local officials, after years of inaction on sex trafficking of girls and women and labor trafficking of immigrants, began making progress with passage of laws such as House Bill 262 last year. The Safe Harbor legislation sponsored by Fedor described girls and women being sold for sex as victims, not criminals. The law also requires additional training for law enforcement and increased penalties for traffickers.
A statewide study released last year also provided firsthand information about trafficking victims. They are likely to have been abused and neglected as children, raped as teenagers and sold for sex in male customers' homes and offices. The Attorney General's Human Trafficking Commission is also looking closely at the demand side for sex trafficking and plans a report on “John schools”run by courts around the state.
The full report is available on DeWine's website, www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov
Royal commission seeks child abuse answers
by Paul Osborne
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says a six-member royal commission will ensure the voices of child sexual abuse victims are heard and adults no longer turn a blind eye to such shocking crimes.
Ms Gillard on Friday announced the appointment of NSW Supreme Court judge Peter McClellan to head the inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
The commission will be expected to provide an interim report by the end of June 2014 and will wind up in December 2015.
However, child advocates say it could take much longer given the complexity of the problem.
"Today is the day that we start to create a future where people who perpetrate child sexual abuse cannot hide in institutions, where we work together to find a better way of keeping our children safe," Ms Gillard said.
The prime minister said the trauma of abuse over many decades had compounded a sense among victims that "their nation doesn't understand or doesn't care about what they've suffered".
"To those survivors of child sex abuse, today we are able to say we want your voice to be heard, even if you've felt for all of your life that no one's listened to you, that no one has taken you seriously, that no one has really cared," Ms Gillard said.
Assisting Justice McClellan will be former Queensland police commissioner Bob Atkinson, former Victorian president of the Children's Court Justice Jennifer Coate, Productivity Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald, consultant psychiatrist Professor Helen Milroy and former West Australian senator Andrew Murray.
Mr Murray was sent from Britain to Southern Rhodesia at age four and has championed the cause of children in institutions through inquiries and advocacy groups.
He was sent to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) by the Fairbridge organisation that operated child migration schemes for underprivileged British children.
Parents were persuaded to sign over legal guardianship of their children on the promise of a better life in other commonwealth countries.
The commissioners will hold a telephone hook-up on Monday, with their first face-to-face meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
The commission will look at victim redress measures, child protection systems and flaws in the reporting of abuse as well as canvass the experiences of authorities and victims.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the government planned to introduce legislation to parliament in February to allow the six commissioners to hear evidence separately.
Under existing laws, all commissioners would have to be present to hear evidence which would considerably slow down the process.
Ms Roxon said the public should not expect the commission to be a police force or prosecuting body.
The terms of reference give the commission the ability to set up a special investigative unit to help look into past cases, but the decision to do so will be up to the commissioners.
Shadow attorney-general George Brandis said the terms were "sufficiently comprehensive" and the inquiry would be an "extremely difficult and emotionally demanding task" for the commissioners.
Catholic church spokesman Francis Sullivan said the church would co-operate.
"It is essential that the commission's process contribute to the healing of the victims, and that institutions develop best-practice processes to address child sexual abuse," he said.
"The church stands ready and willing to assist."
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the inquiry should have mentioned indigenous communities, which had specific issues and cultural sensitivities.
Child victim group Bravehearts director Hetty Johnston said it likely the commission would need more time to complete its report but it would have long-term benefits.
"This generation and the next, and at least five generations of Australians will benefit from this," she said.
Website Aims to Prevent Child Abuse
DES MOINES, Iowa
(AP) - A new Iowa website offers advice on how people can prevent or report sexual or other abuse or neglect of children.
The Des Moines Register says the site was launched by a private group, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.
The site includes advice and provides links to groups with counselors. The site also has advice for community groups in preventing abuse of children involved with the groups.
The group's website address is http://www.pcaiowa.org/
7 groups get grants to fight child abuse
University of Alabama, area organizations get more than $300,000 for efforts to protect kids
by Lydia Seabol Avant
TUSCALOOSA | Six Tuscaloosa County agencies and the University of Alabama on Thursday received more than $300,000 in grants to help prevent child abuse and neglect in West Alabama.
The funds are distributed yearly by the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention.
This year, the grant total is about $100,000 more than in 2012, said Greg Smith, deputy director of the department.
All of the agencies have received funding before and are doing their part in serving their communities, Smith said.
“We've had a working relationship (with the agencies) for a long time,” Smith said.
Working to prevent child abuse and neglect is a group effort, said Dianne Ambrose, program and executive assistant for Child Abuse Prevention Services.
“We are a community team, to help enrich the lives of the children and help them meet their full potential because the children are our future,” she said.
As part of the grant, United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama will get $27,000 for its Hearts Respite program, which helps parents of children with special needs get free time to refresh and relax.
Tuscaloosa's One Place will receive $109,000 for its “No Place Like Home” program. That program helps parents in need with housing or employment while teaching them parenting skills.
The Tuscaloosa Family Resource Center will get $25,000 for its Second Step program, which teaches children life skills at local schools.
The Parenting Assistance Line will receive $23,800, for its program in answering parenting questions statewide. The assistance line has even received callers from other states or Canada.
The Baby TALK program will receive $38,500, which it will use to distribute books and parenting information to parents of infants and young children.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama will get $30,000 to aid in partnering children with adult role models and making a difference in their lives.
“Without the Children's Trust Fund, our job would be so difficult,” said Zelda Lavender, director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama.
The University of Alabama will also receive $92,400 for its work to evaluate the county's programs as part of the grant process.
“These programs are going to make a difference in the lives of children,” said Teresa Costanzo, executive director of Tuscaloosa's One Place. “Prevention is the only way we are going to stop the vicious cycle of child abuse and neglect.”
Although the funding will go a long way, the funding level has decreased significantly in recent years and agencies have been cut, Costanzo said during a ceremony on Thursday.
In 2008, the same grant funding was $600,000 and went to nine area agencies. In 2007, the grant total was $649,000.
“We've got to turn this around and be advocates and spokesmen for the Children's Trust Fund, because we need these funds in the community,” Costanzo said.
State Sen. Gerald Allen, R- Cottondale, who was present for Thursday's grant ceremony, said that funding has been tight since 2008 because of the downturn in the economy. Still, he said funding for programs for children and the elderly should remain a top priority.
“It's always on my mind, that if we can't take care of our children and our seniors, we've lost our focus on what this is all about,” Allen said. “As we try to find ways to trim the fat, we will look at ways to fund your programs in other ways.”
State Rep. John Merrill, R-Tuscaloosa, and chairman of the board for the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, said children in the community are a primary concern.
“You have our commitment from the Tuscaloosa County legislative delegation that we will maintain where we are and try to find other funding sources,” he said.
Cherokee Nation donates $10,000 for child abuse advocacy
— The Cherokee Nation is helping the William W. Barnes Children's Advocacy Center assist more victims of child abuse through a $10,000 donation.
“The Cherokee Nation is proud to help fund the William W. Barnes Children's Advocacy Center in Claremore,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us – our children. By partnering with the center, we reinforce that resolute commitment to the wellness of children and families in Rogers, Craig and Mayes counties.”
The nonprofit opened in 2001 and serves about 200 children in Rogers, Craig and Mayes counties per year. The center performs forensic interviews, medical evaluations and mental health treatment in a nurturing environment that is in one location to help child victims and their families be more at ease. The center also helps in preparation for court cases.
“The William W. Barnes Children's Advocacy Center is extremely grateful to Cherokee Nation for their contribution,” said Holly Webb, executive director of the center. “Our services are provided at no cost to children and their families. This donation ensures that services will continue without interruption.”
More than 675,000 children were abused nationwide in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Native American population had the second highest rate of victims per 1,000 children of all races and ethnicities.
If you know a family that needs assistance, call center officials at 918-283-2800.
In 'Sliver Of Sky' Barry Lopez Confronts Childhood Sexual Abuse
Barry Lopez is known for writing about the natural world. His books include Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men, where he explores the relationship between the physical landscape and human culture. But in a new essay in the January issue of Harper's Magazine , Lopez writes that he was sexually molested by a family friend when he was a boy, and says the man was never brought to justice.
The abuse began when Lopez was 7 years old. The man, named Harry Shier, oversaw the alcoholism treatment for a relative of Lopez's mother at the sanatorium Shier supervised in North Hollywood, Calif. He presented himself as a doctor. Lopez writes that Shier said there was something wrong with Lopez, and that the rape was treatment for that problem.
"I was a child," he tells Fresh Air 's Terry Gross. "I was 7 years old, and the world of medicine and the world of treatment and the world of how we take care of each other was a tabula rasa for me. I knew that when I saw these degrees from prestigious institutions — all of which were fraudulent — on his wall that I was in the hands of somebody that I knew the adult world respected, and as a young person trying to learn the world, I was trying to understand things that were new to me, and that just fell into that category.
"I think one of the things that's difficult for adults to understand about pedophiles who really prey on children is that the child is not an adult, so the perspicacity and the insight and the intuition that an adult might have in a situation like this [to] sniff the fraud out before it takes on the scope that it did for me and for others — you can do that as an adult but you can't do that as a child. And a child can be manipulated 10 ways to Sunday. All the while, the child is trying to pay attention and trying to understand a foreign world, and this was just part of that foreign world."
Shier, Lopez says, pretended to court his mother, who was recently divorced and struggling financially. And so, Lopez says, "[Shier] was extremely good at creating an atmosphere in our home where he would be highly regarded and appreciated by my mother and, you know, trying to control me was as simple as keeping a ... dog in a box. You're just a prisoner of something you can't understand."
I was 7 years old, and the world of medicine and the world of treatment and the world of how we take care of each other was a tabula rasa for me.
Lopez, who lives in Oregon, says this piece is the hardest he's ever written.
"The advantage that I had," he says, "is that I've been a writer all my life, and I had somebody at Harper's — Chris Cox — who was an exceptional editor, who could do what I could not do, which is I could not find and hold the emotional distance that I needed from this material in order to write about it in the way that I thought I had to, which is, in the end it's not about me, it's about us."
On the difficulties of self-protection for young victims of sexual abuse
"This went on for four years, and during those four years I think I went through every scenario I could imagine as a child about how to protect myself, but I never found any path to follow where I knew somebody would intervene and protect me. ... Many of the children who end up in situations like this come from families where there is only one parent, and you are trying to figure out who you are when you're also dealing with this traumatic experience, and you're not old enough to frame the question that lets you go to an adult and say, 'I think something's really wrong here.' "
On what is lost to those who are sexually abused
"Certainly innocence is gone and sexual and gender confusion is introduced, but you can actually talk about things like that. What is taken that you can't talk about is the sense of your own dignity as a human being, and what's taken from you is the ability to articulate your meaning in the world. Everyone wants to mean something in the world, and without having to state it, to have it recognized by other human beings ... and that is part of what is set fire to you when somebody treats you like a rag doll. You have no voice, you have no physical ability to resist."
On what prompted him to write the story
"I've basically been silent about this all of my adult life, and one of the things that precipitated my decision to write the story. ... I wrote this piece before the Sandusky thing [the Penn State sex abuse scandal] broke so that it wasn't the newspaper story that compelled me to do something — I had become impatient with the cast of newspaper articles that suggested that in the legal pursuit of pedophiles what young men and women were most interested in was winning a financial judgment or in punishing, seeking vengeance. And it struck me that that was the last thing, really, you'd be interested in as somebody who had been serially molested. What had been taken from you was a sense of self-worth and dignity, and the only way you can get those things back is in open, unjudged relationships with other people, and then you ... have a chance to develop again a sense of self-worth. ... So what you really want, in the simplest terms, is for somebody to believe what happened, to take you at face value and not to manipulate you in a courtroom, for example, to seek justice."
On whether he blames his mother for not intervening or understanding what was happening
"The whole mindset of being a victim and pointing at somebody else and accusing them — that's not a very productive place to go, and it's certainly a terrible place to stay. We're all of us human, and we fail — we fail miserably in moments when we wish to show how we love. So I don't know what happened for her. All I really wanted from her was clarity. I wanted to be able to say to her, 'What happened to you during these years?' and 'Are you OK?' But couldn't, you know. She was dying of cancer in a hospital in Manhattan, and I sat with her off and on almost every day. And I asked her if she wanted to talk about what happened in California, and she didn't or wouldn't answer me. She just turned away and wept, and then she died."
On how the outside world has helped him cope with the turmoil of his inner one
"I know this: That when I was so compromised as a child that there was no zone of safety for me, no place was safe and especially adults weren't safe for me, the thing that felt safe in the sense that I felt that surge towards lyricism when ... I saw something outside myself, the world beyond the self ... and I felt this surge of lyrical pleasure in the way the wind sounded, for example, in eucalyptus trees. I knew that I could carry that with me. I could carry it as a memory, and I could carry it as a structure to help me build a safe place in the world."
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Why do monstrously abusive relationships persist between people, and how did my guest, Barry Lopez, become trapped in such a relationship? That's one of the larger questions Lopez wrestles with in his personal essay about being repeatedly raped by a pedophile over a period of four years, beginning when Lopez was seven, in 1952.
Lopez is best known for his writing about the natural world. He won a 1986 National Book Award for "Arctic Dreams." In the January edition of Harper's, he writes in-depth for the first time about the abuse and the ways in which it shaped his life. The pedophile was Harry Shier, a doctor running a sanitarium near the Lopez home in California's San Fernando Valley, where Shier supervised the treatment of people with addiction problems, primarily alcoholics.
One of Shier's patients was the cousin of Lopez' mother, which is how Shier entered Lopez's life. Lopez would learn many years later that Shier's medical degree was fraudulent, that before moving to the sanitarium in California, he'd worked in Canada, where he performed botched surgeries on the groin areas of boys.
After leaving Canada, Shier did time for raping a boy in Colorado, and when he worked at the sanitarium in California, Lopez was not the only boy he abused.
Barry Lopez, welcome back to FRESH AIR. It's been a really long time. I'm glad for the chance to talk with you again.
BARRY LOPEZ: Well, me too.
GROSS: I think we agree, you and I, that there's no need to drag you, in this interview, through a traumatic retelling of the details of what happened to you. So let's not go there. But there are a few things I think we agree our listeners should hear just about the context of what happened to you so we can understand how you were changed by that and how it's affected your understanding of child predators.
So, you know, like abusers who are priests or famous - a famous football coach, or you know, people like that, the man who abused you was an authority figure. He was a doctor who ran a sanitarium, who became friends with your mother, who helped her financially. Did that make it more confusing, that you were being hurt by somebody who had great respect by the adults, from the adults that you knew?
LOPEZ: Well, that's part of the nightmare of something like this, I think, Terry. Often these figures have worked very hard to create a position in the society of which they're a part where they're perceived as loving and supportive and civic and beyond reproach, and that's the cover they need in order to get away in these gray areas where another adult might say wait a minute, what are you doing? They're just not questioned.
GROSS: Did it also make it difficult to come forward and talk to anybody about it because - were you afraid nobody would believe you because he was so respected, or maybe it would hurt your family in some way?
LOPEZ: I was, but you know, this went on for four years, and during those four years I think I went through every scenario I could imagine as a child about how to protect myself. But I never found any path to follow where I knew somebody would intervene and protect me.
And that's the case I think for most victims of predatory pedophiles. You're too young to understand how to protect yourself, and you get caught up in this incredibly complex web of allegiances. You're developing your own identity as a human being. Many of the children who end up in situations like this come from families where there is only one parent, and you are trying to figure out who you are when you're also dealing with this traumatic experience.
And you just - you're not old enough to frame the question that lets you go to an adult and say I think something's really wrong here.
GROSS: You were seven when this started. How did he get access to you?
LOPEZ: Manipulation. And I think he's an archetypal figure. He had his antenna up for a family situation like mine - myself, my younger brother and my mother, really kind of struggling to make ends meet. And he stepped in as a beneficiary.
GROSS: And your father was gone, so...
LOPEZ: My father had, yeah, he just abandoned us.
GROSS: A man in the family was probably welcome.
LOPEZ: I don't know about a man coming into the family as much as somebody who could take off - take some of the financial pressure off for my mother. He manipulated her emotionally and psychologically. I can see that now at a great distance, and me too.
He was extremely good at creating an atmosphere in our home where he would be highly regarded and appreciated by my mother, and trying to control me was as simple as keeping, you know, a dog in a box. You're just a prisoner of something you can't understand.
GROSS: And he would get you alone on the pretext of let's go get some ice cream or something like that.
LOPEZ: Yeah, where I was separated from anything that provided any zone of psychological or physical safety.
GROSS: One of the really disturbing, one of the so many disturbing things about the story is that he basically told you what he was doing to you was therapy, because - and you knew he was a doctor, and he ran a sanitarium, and your mother's cousin was being treated there. So like in what way could he convince you that, you know, sexually assaulting you was actually therapy that you needed from a professional like him?
LOPEZ: Well, I was a child. You know, I was seven years old, and the world of medicine and the world of treatment and the world of how we take care of each other was a tabula rasa for me. I knew that when I saw these degrees from prestigious institutions, all of which were fraudulent, on his wall, that I was in the hands of somebody that I knew the adult world respected.
And as a young person trying to learn the world, I was trying to understand things that were new to me, and this just fell into that category. I think one of the things that's difficult for adults to understand about pedophiles who really prey on children is that the child is not an adult. So the perspicacity and the insight and the intuition that an adult might have in a situation like this and sniff the fraud out before it takes on the scope that it did for me and for others, you can do that as an adult, but you can't do it as a child.
And a child can be manipulated 10 ways to Sunday. All the while the child is trying to pay attention and trying to understand a foreign world. And this was just part of that foreign world.
GROSS: But he - it sounds like he not only manipulated you, a seven to 11-year-old child, over those four years, but he manipulated your mother. You describe him as doing almost courting behavior with her.
GROSS: And she - you know, your father had left. So she was single. She was supporting you and your brother and of course herself. And, you know, her cousin had moved in with you as well. So it was a lot of responsibility. And you know, he was there to be helpful, he helped her a little financially. And I don't know, reading your essay, it seemed to me like he was doing all of that to get access to you, that he was really playing her, and she didn't know it.
LOPEZ: Well, something that is a centerpiece for all pedophiles and psychopaths is indifference to the fate of any other human being. They're simply not capable of understanding not only that what they're doing is wrong but not understanding why anybody would object. And they're free to do whatever they want to do because they feel no ethical or moral restraint.
So when we think of the ways in which we manipulate each other in the everyday world, that's not this kind of manipulation. This is manipulation that is in the land of murder and other felonies. We're not talking about somebody trying to gain advantage, you know, by presenting a good face to somebody you want to have a date with or something like that. This is predatory behavior, and it's lethal.
And again, you know, what I would underscore, Terry, is that when you see these cases come along that have a very high profile like the Sandusky case, we tend to deal with it in a knee-jerk and emotional way, and that's all laudable, and the outrage that's expressed about people who prey on children is. But the question I and others have to ask is: And now what?
This is like having a person loose in society with another kind of gun, who every day shoots a child and every day is given a pat on the back by the community in which he finds himself, and this goes on for five or 10 or 15 or 20 or 60 years. And then in the end there's regret. Nobody says very much about the hundreds of children that that person decimated.
I mean you don't - you don't come back from molestation the way you come back from, say, I don't know, surgery. You're damaged for the rest of your life. And for the rest of your life you must find some way to cope with what happened. It's like somebody lit your face on fire, and in the wake of that, you've got to look in the mirror and find another identity.
You - something is taken from you that leaves an empty place, and nothing, nothing will ever fill that empty place. It's gone forever.
GROSS: I think I know what you mean when you say something was taken from you. I think several things were taken from you.
LOPEZ: Well, certainly innocence is gone, and sexual and gender confusion is introduced. But those are - you can actually talk about things like that. What is taken that you can't talk about is the sense of your own dignity as a human being, and what's taken from you is the ability to articulate your meaning in the world.
Everyone wants to mean something in the world and without having to state it to have it recognized by other human beings. Another person who says I know what you mean in the world, I know what your effort is, completely outside whatever your career or family relations are, what you mean as, if you will, a spiritual entity - that is part of what is set fire to you when somebody treats you like a ragdoll.
You have no voice. You have no physical ability to resist. And later in your life, if you're able to bring this out and get that conversation out of your head and talk to somebody else, so often one way or another you're not believed. Somebody else will tell you how to tell the story who didn't go through the experience.
GROSS: My guest is writer Barry Lopez. He writes about confronting the trauma of sexual abuse in this month's Harper's. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is the writer Barry Lopez, and he has an article, an essay, a personal essay, in the January edition of Harper's called "Sliver of Sky: Confronting the Trauma of Sexual Abuse." And it's his story of being sexually abused between the ages of seven and 11 and what the repercussions of that have been in his life and what he sees when he looks out on the larger issue of sexual abuse in our culture today.
When you were living in California between the ages of seven and 11, you were abused by this man who was passing himself off as a doctor and had a prestigious position in a sanitarium. Your mother remarried and moved to New York, where your stepfather was. And of course you and your brother moved to New York with her, and finally you were away from him, you were rid of him.
And then sometime later he shows up. He's befriended your stepfather. He's back in your life again. He tries to abuse you, but this time you kind of fight him off, you take a baseball bat and swing at him. And he flees and doesn't come back into your life.
You decide to tell your stepfather. What was the turning point for you of deciding to say something to your stepfather, and why was it your stepfather as opposed to another adult, including your mother, that you could have gone to?
LOPEZ: If I'd gone to my mother, I thought it would have killed her. I did not know if she knew what was going on later in my adult life. It's very hard for me to believe she didn't know, and it's not up to me to try to explain what was going on for her psychologically and emotionally. Despite the physical pain and humiliation that I was subjected for those four years, in my child mind I thought this doctor was trying to help me and cared for my fate, which of course he didn't. I was just an object like a vase on a table.
It occurred to me when I was 17 that there must have been other boys. Not only must there have been other boys, but because of my silence, those boys were being subjected to what I went through in the very moment I had that insight. And that's what tore me up, that by my own silence I had let this man go on preying on young boys.
So I went to my stepfather because he was the authoritarian figure in my life and told him what had happened, and I asked him to help me to, to help me bring this man to trial, my willingness to testify in court, and I asked him at the same time to never, never tell my mother, and that if he came to a point where he felt it was necessary for him to tell her, then I would be the one that would do it.
I was going through this with her and my brother. He wasn't part of the situation. He was innocent at that time of all of this. And he in some ways was a headstrong man, and he ignored my pleas and went about solving this in his own way, which was ultimately to ensure that this man was never caught and never went on trial, and in a way I was told to shut up.
I was told that my life had turned out well. You know, I was the president of my prep school in New York and et cetera, and how could I be complaining. And because he had a certain authority, psychologically, for me, he was - by asking my mother to marry him and moving us 3,000 miles away, he was the one who extricated me from something I couldn't extricate myself from.
And that played heavily on my heart, and I thought, well, I'm just going to have to find my way through this on my own.
GROSS: I think one of the issues that faces anybody who's been abused is when you're ready to come forward and say something about it, then what? What happens with that? Where do you take it? And what are your concerns about what the ripple effects of where you take it will be?
In your case, you go to your stepfather, you tell him the story. He tells you he's going to go to California and talk to the detectives there and see what he can find out and so on, and he does fly out to California, which is where the abuse took place, and nothing ever happens. What did you find out about his interactions with the detectives that he spoke with?
LOPEZ: You know, Terry, it's all speculative on my part. Until he died, I tried to get my father to tell me what he did when he went out there and talked to those detectives. And he told me a dozen different stories, and I know that what he finally decided to do when he got there was something that he was ashamed of.
He made decisions about the situation that suited him and really were a betrayal of me.
GROSS: My impression from your article, so tell me if I'm wrong, was that when you told your stepfather, he believed you, and he went to the authorities in California and told them, but he decided not to pursue it, he decided not to press charges. And I'm not sure whether he was trying to protect you and trying to prevent you from putting you - from being on the witness stand or whether he was trying to protect himself and the rest of the family from going through something public and emotional and maybe having their reputations tarnished, because I think there was even less of an understanding then than there is now about what child abuse is.
LOPEZ: I think you're right. I don't think in the end - for him, because I became successful as a student and prep school - and, you know, had a - my life changed completely, leaving California in a lower-middle-class environment and moving into a brownstone on 35th Street in Manhattan and going to debutante balls. My life changed so dramatically that he was able to catalog these changes and say: Look, see, see, it's worked out just fine.
And I think he convinced himself that my pain and confusion was not very important and what was more important were things like satisfying his own sense of justice. And a complicating factor for him was that he was a person with a very high profile in Alcoholics Anonymous in New York City and basically in the region from Philadelphia to Boston.
He was widely known and widely respected. And a complicating factor for him was the fact that Harry Shier - who was the faux physician who abused me - ran that sanitarium mostly to treat alcoholics. And my father's, stepfather's primary allegiance was to a person he continued to believe was a legitimate doctor.
And because he treated alcoholics, his work, ultimately, for my stepfather was more important than whatever it was that I went through, which he could not understand or sympathize with.
GROSS: Barry Lopez will be back in the second half of the show. His article about confronting the trauma of sexual abuse is in the January edition of Harper's. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with National Book Award-winning writer Barry Lopez, who is best known for his non-fiction works about the natural world. In the current edition of Harper's, he writes in depth for the first time about being sexually abused as a child over the course of four years. The pedophile, Harry Shier, who has since died, was a fraudulent doctor respected for his work at a nearby sanitarium treating alcoholics, including a member of Lopez's extended family, which is how Shier befriended Lopez's mother, who at the time was a single parent. Lopez kept the abuse a secret, until he was in his late teens, after his mother remarried and the family relocated from California to New York. He told his stepfather what had happened, but his stepfather decided not to press charges.
Say your father had pressed charges on your behalf, and that there was a trial and that you had been able to take the witness stand and tell what happened, and that your abuser would have been prosecuted and convicted. What would that have given you? You can't know for sure, because you didn't live it, like you can only speculate, but...
GROSS: ...I'm sure it's something you've speculated a lot about in your life.
LOPEZ: Well, your intuition about that is right. I've basically been silent about this all of my adult life. And one of the things that precipitated my decision to write this story was that - this was before the Sandusky thing broke. In fact, this article - I wrote this piece before the Sandusky thing broke, so that it wasn't the newspaper story that compelled me to do something. I had become impatient with the cast of newspaper articles that suggested that in the legal pursuit of pedophiles, what young men and women were most interested in was winning a financial judgment or in punishing, seeking vengeance. And it struck me that that was the last thing, really, you'd be interested in, somebody who had been serially molested.
What had been taken from you was a sense of self worth and dignity. And the only way you can get those things back is in open, un-judged relationships with other people, and then you can - you have a chance to develop again a sense of self-worth, and sense of place in society. So what you really want in the simplest terms is for somebody to believe what happened, to take you at face value and not to manipulate you in a courtroom, for example, in order to seek justice. What you really want is to stand up and be heard and believed. And once you can accomplish that, then you can go on and rebuild a life.
GROSS: You talk about the importance of being heard. When you told your stepfather what had happened, you told him don't tell mother, but if you do feel she needs to be told, let me tell her. And he didn't follow your wishes. He told your mother. He didn't tell you. He told her, but you found out he told her.
GROSS: And it sounds from your article that she was never able to talk with you directly about it, not even when she was dying. Do you have a sense of why she was unable to talk with you about it?
LOPEZ: It would be disrespectful for me to speculate about what she went through. She was a single mother with two boys, working two jobs and working a third job in our home as a dressmaker. She was trying to do the best that she could do. Probably she did know what was going on, and probably she looked the other way. She wouldn't be the first who do that. And I'd be in a perilous position to point a finger and say: You did this, and I was harmed.
The whole mindset of being a victim and pointing at somebody else and accusing them, that's not a very productive place to go, and it's certainly a terrible place to stay. We're all of us human, and we fail. We fail miserably in moments when we wish to show how we love.
So I don't know what happened for her. All I really wanted from her was clarity. I wanted to be able to say to her: What happened to you during these years, and are you OK? But she couldn't - you know, I - she was dying of cancer in a hospital in Manhattan, and I sat with her off and on, you know, almost every day. And I asked her if she wanted to talk about what happened in California, and she didn't or wouldn't answer me. She just turned away and wept. And then she died.
But I, you know, I - you can drive a knife in your own chest by hating people and thinking in terms of who the enemy is and who's right. We're every one of us imperfect. We're every one of us, in some way, wounded animals. The most important thing is to take care of each other. And, you know, there are some things you can't forgive. You try very hard and you cannot, so you make your peace with that.
Even though this is a story about something that happened to me and was awful, this story's not really about me. The story is about our failure to take care of each other. And so my mother failed to take care of me, and then the point would be what? I don't have any need personally to go after somebody and say they did the wrong thing. What I'm most concerned is how can I keep myself together and write in a way that helps other people understand what it is that they want to do with their lives.
So she failed in a certain way, I guess. But my stepfather failed, too. You know, as you said, I asked him never to tell her, because he would not know how to manage, in that moment, her sense of despair and guilt. But he went ahead and did, as he always did, exactly what he wanted to do, no matter what he promised you. And she fell apart in a restaurant in New York, and it was so bad they took her by ambulance to Bellevue and tried to stabilize her.
And she called me - I live in Oregon, and she's in New York. She called me that night and she said: I know what happened to you. That's all she said. And that meant, I think, that she couldn't bear it if I decided - like some dimwitted, arrogant individual - to punish her for that. You're not interested, I think, in punishing somebody. You're interested in rebuilding yourself and becoming a functioning and contributing member of an adult community. And in my case - and I think everybody who's been through what I've been through - you're also keenly interested in watching. I am so watchful around my grandchildren and so prepared to question somebody who has what strikes me as a strange, unusual, inordinate interest in my grandson.
GROSS: In 2003, you decided to really investigate - yourself - what happened...
GROSS: ...to the man who abused you, and what his history of abuse was. And you found out some interesting things. You found out he did have a history. You found out he was a fake doctor, that a lot of his credentials were fake, that he had performed surgeries in the groin area of boys that he wasn't qualified to perform before he even came to the United States. This was in Canada.
GROSS: You found that he abused other boys. You found he abused your brother.
GROSS: What - was it - I know it caused you great sorrow to know that he abused other boys. Was it helpful in any way to know that you were not alone, even if you didn't know the other boys who suffered the same fate?
LOPEZ: You know, Terry, I don't know that I've ever asked myself that question. I guess what I would say is that one of the hardest things I've ever done is to write this piece. The advantage that I had is that I'd been a writer all of my adult life, and I had somebody at Harper's - Chris Cox, who was an exceptional editor - who could do what I could not do, which is I could not find and hold the emotional distance that I needed from this material in order to write about it in the way that I thought I had to, which is - in the end, it's not about me. It's about us.
But when I dug into Harry Shier's history, you know, it made me literally sick. But I guess I just developed a sense that I had to push through. I had to push through, and I think subconsciously I was thinking I have to find a way to tell this story, because it's archetypal, and in order to do that I just have to go to the wall. You know, in a parallel universe, I have always been afraid that, you know, somebody who's traveling to really remote parts of the Earth all the time, I have been terrified of being at sea in a big storm. I mean, you know, a Beaufort force 11 storm. And finally, I had to face that one day. And it was one more time when, in order to get my work done, I just had to make it through.
GROSS: My guest is writer Barry Lopez. He writes about being sexually abused as a child in the current edition of Harper's. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is writer Barry Lopez. In the current edition of Harper's, he writes in depth for the first time about being sexually abused as a child by a fraudulent doctor over a period of four years, starting in 1952.
You first started to research the story of Harry Shier, the man who abused you in 1989.
GROSS: That happens to be the year we first - I first interviewed you.
GROSS: One of the things I often think about as an interviewer is everything that I don't know.
GROSS: I always think like there's so much I don't know about the person I'm interviewing.
LOPEZ: Oh, of course.
GROSS: And even if the interview goes well, there's so much I'm just, like, never going to know.
GROSS: I went back, and I listened to that 1989 interview.
LOPEZ: Oh, really?
GROSS: Yeah. And so that's the year that you're starting to investigate who abused you. You're not talking about it publicly yet.
GROSS: You know, like no one really knows about this. But you said a couple of things that seemed so germane to me in terms of who you are as a writer and what you've investigated in your life as a writer. And I just want to play an excerpt of something. This is actually an excerpt of a reading that you did. So you had just published a collection of essays, and I had - and the essays were about traveling around North America.
GROSS: And I'd asked you to do a reading from the essay called "Gone Back into the Earth," which you had written after traveling with the musician Paul Winter, who likes to play, for instance, with wolves. He's recorded, like, with wolves.
LOPEZ: Yeah. Yeah.
GROSS: ...so he's very much, you know, how music connects to the natural world. And so here's a reading from your essay, "Gone Back into the Earth," which is about traveling with Paul Winter to the Grand Canyon.
LOPEZ: (Reading) The living of life, any life, involves great and private pain, much of which we share with no one. In such places as the Inner Gorge, the pain trails away from you. It is not so quiet there or so removed that you can hear yourself think, that you would even wish to. That comes later. You can hear your heart beat. That comes first.
GROSS: So that was Barry Lopez on FRESH AIR in 1989, reading from an essay written earlier in the '80s. And Barry Lopez, hearing that last night, after having read your essay about being abused, being sexually abused as a child, when you're speaking of the private pain we share with no one and needing to be in a place that is, you know...
GROSS: ...kind of vast and magnificent...
GROSS: ...and not filled with other people...
GROSS: ...you know, where there's a sense of, you know, that you can hear the thoughts, but you can more importantly or first hear, like, your heart beat.
GROSS: And so, you know, you said that you wanted to take the darkness that you experienced and turn it inside out.
GROSS: And did writing about the natural world help you do that?
LOPEZ: It did. But, you know, in some way, you're kind of giving me credit for something that I was too stupid to really understand when I was younger. I know this, that when I was so compromised as a child, that there was no zone of safety for me. No place was safe, and especially adults weren't safe for me.
The thing that felt safe - in the sense that I felt that surge toward lyricism when I saw something outside myself, the world beyond the self, and I was - I felt this surge of lyrical pleasure in the way the wind sounded, for example, in Eucalyptus trees. I knew that I could carry that with me, and I could carry it as a memory and I could carry it as a structure to help me build a safe place in the world.
I mean, after a prolonged period like this - four years of being abused - you're faced with a rebuilding task. And so you gravitate toward things that help you understand how you must rebuild and how to get on with it and which shelf to put which thing on. So I had this strange insight, and that is that I hadn't - the end of it wasn't that I had been brutalized. The end of it, really, was that I'd been given a gift, and I now, as I grew into adulthood, I had to find some way to take this darkness and turn it inside out.
My desire in my life - I mean, the great metaphors for me have been the metaphors of the natural world, and the natural world in Southern California was the only thing I think really that kept me sane as a child. I did not trust the adult world. It was of no help to me. But my embrace of elements of the natural world, the weather, the appearance of wild animals in the regions where I lived, that was all grace for me and kept me from falling further into that abyss.
So when I - you know, in my late teens and early 20s when I really started writing with a purpose, my effort was to understand what it means to be tolerant. What is it that human beings mean when they speak of justice? And, you know, beyond Aristotle, if you will, what is beauty all about, and why do we crave it? And why do some of us destroy it?
But you can't just talk about abstractions like that - if you're not a philosopher - as a writer. You have to find a context that allows the reader to move into the landscape that you've created and say, oh, yes. I know that. Or, oh, that's interesting.
And my effort, I think, as a writer for all of my adult life is I have no interest in being the writer or the reader's authority about anything. I hope, in nonfiction, to write in an authoritative way and to earn the trust and respect of a reader. But mostly, what I'm interested in is being the reader's companion. I want a reader to feel that there is room for them - for their intellect and for their imagination - in the prose that I try to craft on a page.
And in the end, the only thing I can do - I, Barry, can do - I am not a therapist. I'm not an activist. I'm just a writer. And the only thing I can do is what I did on these pages in Harper's, which is to say this happened to me. I know many of you have experienced this. Here's what I've been thinking. What do you think?
GROSS: My guest is writer Barry Lopez. He writes about being sexually abused as a child in the current edition of Harper's. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is writer Barry Lopez. In the current edition of Harper's, he writes about being sexually abused by a pedophile over the period of four years. When we left off, I had played an excerpt of a reading Lopez did on our show back in 1989.
In the reading that we just heard an excerpt of, and you refer to the private pain we share with no one, one specific private pain - the pain of being abused when you were young - has now been shared. You write about it in the current edition of Harper's magazine. What has - has that been transformative for you? You've written about it before, but not quite - not nearly at this length, and not at this level of reflection. It's been more referred to in a couple of previous essays than been the central focus of the actual essay. So has the writing itself and now the publication and sharing of that story been transformative?
LOPEZ: I can't say yet, because I feel like I'm right in the middle of the rapids. I think I might've been a little bit naive about publishing the piece in this sense. In the world that I live in - and to some extent, the world you live in - we're able to control the expression of our thoughts and our emotions. You know, basically we edit. And in that world, with a good editor, I felt comfortable. I did not feel like I was being run over by my own emotions. If there is going to be some transition here for me, I don't see the outline of it yet. But I do know that it has been much more difficult for me on a day-to-day basis now that this piece has been published to understand how to marshal and where to put my energies.
I have received in the mail letters from people, you know, Terry, they would break your heart. I can't do anything. I'm not a therapist. I'm not a counselor. I'm not somebody who's capable of walking into a court, probably, and becoming some kind of an expert witness. That's not in my gift. My only gift is to be able to tell a story that helps somebody manage something that is intimidating and terrifying. But that's the only thing that I can do.
And the transition for me will be, knowing myself, can I address other issues of struggle and pain that I think I share other human beings? And again, that kind of presumption that you have as a writer, that you're not writing about yourself or for yourself, but you're writing about a common dilemma that everyone is immersed in, can you enter that place and write with eloquence and clarity? I pray that I can. But this - publishing this piece has - I have felt this sense of falling backward, to be honest with you, of going back into these places I have not been for years where I'm terrified.
GROSS: Still terrified?
LOPEZ: It never leaves you. The best you can hope for is the maintenance of your own integrity. And really what you pray for is the company of people who pass no judgment.
GROSS: Barry Lopez, I really want to thank you for trusting me and for trusting our listeners with your story. And I want to thank you for writing it.
LOPEZ: Well, thanks for having this program, Terry. You give me and other people a chance to explore this question of who are we and where are we going.
GROSS: Barry Lopez's article about confronting the trauma of sexual abuse is in the January edition of Harper's. You'll find a link to an excerpt of it on our website: freshair.npr.org.
I'd like to end today's show with another brief excerpt of a reading Barry Lopez did on our show back in 1989 that has new meaning for me after reading his Harper's article. This is from his book "Arctic Dreams," which won a 1986 National Book Award.
LOPEZ: No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one's own culture, but within oneself.
If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated, at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great persistent questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of a leaning into the light.
Savile report: 'Unprecedented' child sex abuse
by JILL LAWLESS
LONDON — The late entertainer Jimmy Savile committed more than 200 sex crimes over more than half a century, with most victims children and teens assaulted the length and breadth of Britain, from TV studios to hospitals and even a hospice, a police report said Friday.
Detectives said the scale of Savile's sex abuse was "unprecedented in the U.K." They have recorded 214 offenses allegedly committed by Savile between 1995 and 2009, including 34 rapes, on victims aged 8 to 47. In all, 450 people have come forward with information about abuse by the late TV presenter.
The number of Savile's crimes is likely to rise further as more victims' reports are officially recorded, said Detective Superintendent David Gray, the chief investigating police officer.
The catalog of abuse is the fullest accounting yet of the allegations against Savile, a TV and radio personality who died in October 2011 at age 84. Savile's elaborate funeral reflected his career as a popular entertainer and tireless charity worker, but a documentary broadcast late last year pulled the mask away, claiming that he was a serial sex offender who traded on his celebrity to prey on vulnerable children.
"This whole sordid affair has demonstrated the tragic consequences of what happens when vulnerability collides with power," said Commander Peter Spindler, head of the police specialist crime unit.
A report summarizing the three-month police investigation said Savile's victims ranged from a 10-year-old boy who said he was sexually assaulted after he asked for an autograph to children who were groped when they attended tapings of the music show "Top of the Pops," and pupils at a school for troubled girls who were allegedly offered cigarettes and trips in Savile's car in return for sex.
Police said Savile used his celebrity status to "hide in plain sight," winning the trust of institutions and targeting vulnerable individuals unlikely to speak out against him.
The report said Savile committed 50 offenses at medical establishments, including a cancer hospice and several psychiatric hospitals, 14 at schools, and 33 at television or radio stations; 73 percent of his victims were under 18 and 82 percent were female, police said.
"The details provided by victims of his abuse paint the picture of a mainly opportunistic individual who used his celebrity status as a powerful tool to coerce or control them, preying on the vulnerable or star-struck for his sexual gratification," the report said.
Peter Watt of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said Savile was an "evil and manipulative man" who "cunningly built his entire career around gaining access to vulnerable children."
Officials said Savile's abuse might have been brought to light earlier had authorities pursued allegations against him more seriously.
Spindler said Savile's victims would be disappointed he had not faced justice in his lifetime but could take comfort from authorities' resolve not to let it happen again.
"The victims themselves will get some sense of satisfaction from being heard," he said.
Savile, he said, "groomed a nation" for sex abuse.
A parallel report drawn up by senior prosecutor Alison Levitt and also published Friday faulted officials for not pursuing allegations more vigorously. Levitt's report noted that several women had spoken to police about Savile between 2007 and 2008, but no charges were brought, in part because the women declined to testify in court.
Levitt said police could have tried harder to get them to speak out, noting in particular that the women weren't told that other victims had corroborated their accounts.
"Having spoken to the victims I have been driven to conclude that had the police and prosecutors taken a different approach a prosecution might have been possible," she wrote.
An 18-month old girl abducted in Bensenville IL.
BENSENVILLE, IL – A statewide Amber Alert has been issued by the Illinois State Police Department involving the abduction of an 18-month old girl from Bensenville.
The infants name is Kimberly Belgado, described as white, two feet tall, 25 lbs with brown eyes, black hair and wearing a pink and black hat, pink and brown jacket, black pants and pink shoes.
Police were looking for 27-year-old who they named as a “suspect” but have since said he is not who they are looking for, though the physical description did not change much.
Police describe the suspect as a 5-foot-4 Hispanic man who is 35 to 40 year old man with a heavy build, black hair, no facial hair, dark skin and wearing a red sweater.
According to reports, suspect was driving a black 2003 Buick 4-door with Illinois license plate L548500.
The Belgado baby girl was reportedly taken at approximately 12:40 a.m. from 940 W. Irving Park Road in the western suburbs. At about 2:30 a.m. local time the Amber Alert was issued.
According to Police Chief Frank Kosman, the girl's mother left her in the car when she went into an apartment building at the western suburban address.
Alledgedly, a man walked out the foyer and walked directly to the mother's car parked directly in front of the foyer … and drove away,” Kosman said.
Police say they have no reason to believe the man who stole the car knew a kid was inside.
Anyone with any information that would help the police in this case should immediately contact the Bensenville IL. Police Department.
Abuse survivor: Today is beginning of new life
by Karen MacDonald
Special to the Echo
My name is Karen MacDonald, and today is the beginning of the rest of my life.
I'm a Survivor.
Survivor of what you may ask?
Well my life didn't start out so great. I have experienced, as most people have, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. A journey that has been full of life's ups and downs and teachings that have made me who I am today.
2012 was a year of growth, acceptance and healing for me personally. And as I said, today is the beginning of the rest of my life. A life free of the burden of guilt one feels from being sexually abused as a child.
Whew! There I said it out loud and yes, I'm a survivor of sexual abuse.
Like many survivors or victims of abuse, that is a difficult statement to say out loud. But now I've said it, I feel a weight has lifted and I can breathe. This doesn't define who I am by any means; however it is part of my life story.
Yes, I was the victim of sexual abuse. But I prefer to use the term survivor because that is what I am.
Victim is such a negative word anyways, but unfortunately a reality. There are many victims out there trying to survive. A survivor is one who can take a negative experience like sexual abuse and gains the ability to go forth in life and make a difference in her own life and in others' lives. That is a survivor. That's my theory, anyway.
I am sharing this with you now, not for sympathy but for awareness. Child sexual abuse is at epidemic proportions right now, as people are beginning to openly discuss their issues through social media outlets and in everyday life outside of these platforms.
I'm not going to pretend I have the answers, or know it all, as no one can. But I do know one thing: sexual abuse is affecting individuals from infants to adults from all walks of life in our community and around the world.
Statistics show one in three girls and one in six boys experience an unwanted sexual act.
Those are significant numbers and means you probably know someone that has been abused.
Why now you may ask? Why come forward now?
Well, that I can answer. I want to take a stand and the time feels right and is right not only for me but for survivors and victims out there that are children. There is a growing movement that is building momentum and a united voice that is getting stronger and stronger, shouting out loud and clear that enough is enough.
If only one person reads this story and gains comfort from knowing they are not alone then it has served a purpose.
We as individuals and as a society need to have a voice and we have a right to be heard.
Our children, families, communities are relying on a justice system that obviously isn't working and it is failing us, the innocent victims of abuse.
This was clear from the recent case surrounding a young woman in our community known as “Arizona” that never got her day in court due to delays in a poor, dysfunctional justice system.
Her alleged, unidentified perpetrator is free.
I believe this young lady to be very real and true but unfortunately the law says she can't disclose who she is and there is no picture to identify with her or her story, just anonymously known as “Arizona.”
But I can identify with her story and that is what motivated me to speak out now and put my name and face to a story of sexual abuse.
Most of us are aware of the Graham James case surrounding the abuse of junior hockey players Gregg Gilhooly, Sheldon Kennedy, Theo Fleury, Todd Holt and other young boys/men James coached.
All have been high profile cases that we have heard about. So what about the many cases that we haven't heard about?
All these cases also valid are very upsetting, frustrating and disheartening for the victims involved.
There are many victims/survivors who are silent and will stay silent if we don't see change in our laws. They have seen how this high profile case turned out and the lenient sentence handed down and will not come forward because of it.
Our laws, and the sentences handed down to these perpetrators when they are caught and convicted, must change. With changes to our justice system, there may be the possibility of a deterrent for those perpetrators of ever entertaining the idea of any type of sexual assault against another human being regardless of their age and gender.
With changes in our justice system, victims, and survivors of abuse, will feel comfortable coming forward and reporting assaults knowing that something will be done, and they can move forward in their healing. They too can and will encourage others to come forward and create awareness around the issue of abuse.
Child sexual abusers, pedophiles, whatever you want to call them are not typically the creepy, greasy looking guy you would cross the street to avoid. They are more often a friend or neighbour, a respected person in the community. A person in a position of trust, and yes, unfortunately, that can also include relatives.
Parents unknowingly put their children in these situations; this isn't a criticism but a reality as how would you know?
My parents thought they had the best neighbours who were always willing to help out where needed including babysitting me or any one of my six siblings. This neighbour was, as I would define, a pedophile that abused me. I know there are many other victims out there with stories untold.
A petition is currently being circulated locally. The following is straight from the petition and is requesting the Legislative Assembly to pass legislation that will expedite all cases of crimes against children; automatically trigger an outside investigation, independent of Alberta Justice, where cases are stayed due to institutional or Crown delays, in order to determine the causes of such delays as well as solutions to ensure such delays do not happen again; grant victims over 18 the right to waive media bans on their name if they choose to speak publicly about their victimization; publish the number of Crown Stay of Proceedings and Withdrawals annually with an updated action plan from the Attorney General detailing how this problem is being addressed; and ensure the government allocates adequate resources to ensure the Crown Prosecutor's office is able to effectively manage all prosecutions against violent offenders, especially those charged with sexual and other violent crimes against children.
For more information on the petition, you can find a group on Facebook under Arizona's Voice Against Childhood Sexual Abuse.
This petition is just a tiny step forward but it is one of hope for a future that will see justice for victims of child sexual abuse. Will it help them recover? No, but it will show victims and survivors that we as adults and a society care, and we will stand by them through one of the toughest times they will experience in their life.
We need to have confidence that our justice system will make those that prey on children stand trial and are convicted of these heinous crimes. Unfortunately as we know from recent events this isn't always the case. It's bad enough that accused pedophiles receive lenient sentences in our country when their victims are handed down a life sentence.
I should know, as I have carried the burden of being abused since the age of four. And not by only one but three different abusers throughout my childhood, all of whom I knew.
We need to protect our children from sexual predators.
Don't be fooled into thinking you just need to teach your kids to keep away from strangers as most victims of child sexual assault know their abuser. If I have learned anything, it is that prevention and awareness is key.
Teach your children about their bodies and what appropriate and inappropriate touching is. And if anyone tries to touch or expose themselves to them, they feel comfortable coming to you, even if the perpetrator is a family member.
Please listen to your children and educate yourself on what signs to look for.
Pedophiles prey on any gender and age. Don't be complacent thinking “that will never happen in my family,” as the stats show otherwise.
I am very much for prevention, that's what working 11 years for Boys and Girls Club has taught me. We need to keep our children safe and protect them from sexual predators. The more knowledgeable you and your children are of the risks out there, the safer they are.
By signing the petition that is circulating, not only will you be taking a stand for a better justice system, you will be showing victims/survivors of abuse and the young Airdrie woman, that although the system let her down, we will not.
By sharing my story, it is acknowledging part of my past and childhood that was taken from me. This statement is for all victims of abuse out there and “Arizona” who is coming to terms with the fact that she was brave enough to tell her story only to be let down by a poor justice system.
I am sorry you had to go through this but for all the pain you suffer, there is a positive.
By speaking up, your case has people talking and I believe things will change because of it.
So thank you for being brave and know that there is genuine people out there that care.
And in closing, I was asked recently why we (victims of abuse) don't speak out when the abuse is happening! My answer is that abusers scare their victims into thinking bad things will happen to them or their family.
And victims tend to shelter their family from the truth. There is the fear of not being believed, fear of being sent away, fear of breaking up the family, fear of people thinking it was your fault, fear of being looked at differently and fear that family will stop loving you! That is why you need to educate, talk and be very open with you children. Be more vigilant with babysitters, neighbours, friends, relatives, siblings, teachers, clergy . . . the list goes on. If your child or children go to sitters or attend programs after school, check that all staff has Child Intervention Checks. Same goes for coaches — if your child is into sports, their coach should be screened and if not, as parents it is your responsibility to ask why not? Responsible and legitimate organizations and sports associations will have this in place, and it doesn't hurt to ask if they do or not.
If you are a victim of sexual assault/abuse, tell someone. You do not have to feel alone. Reach out and get help. Tell a family member or an adult you trust.
Believe me, the load you carry now gets lighter by sharing. Nearly every time I have shared the fact I was sexually abused, the response has been “me too.”
If you think your child has been sexually abused call RCMP or Airdrie & District Victims Assistance. Phone 403 945 7290 or go to their website www.airdrievictimassistance.com for more information.
Many resources and programs are available for parents, caregivers and professionals. Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse www.calgarycasa.com offer a "Who Do You Tell" program and other resources on Sexual Abuse and are also launching a Child Sexual Abuse website this month.
Community Links offers a Sexual Abuse Support Group for Women abused as a child. Go to their website www.nrvcl.ab.ca for more information or call 403 945 3900.
Little Warriors www.littlewarriors.ca has a great Prevention Workshop, also offered through Community Links.
No child should ever have to experience that feeling of fear and dread that you feel when your abuser is near or live a lifetime of guilt for something that wasn't ever their fault!
‘Grooming' and the sexual abuse of children
by Dr Anne-Marie McAlinden
The word ‘grooming' has become synonymous with child sexual abuse. It is often used to describe situations of extra-familial abuse, where predatory strangers befriend children who were previously unknown to them. Two of the most prominent social connotations of the term are ‘online grooming' committed via the internet and ‘institutional grooming' and abuse committed by those in positions of power and trust.
While ‘grooming' is a useful short-hand to describe the staged process of befriending children in order to prepare them for abuse and prevent disclosure, it is a term that needs to be used with caution. There is a need to acknowledge the complexities of the onset of sexual offending against children and recognise that there will not always be pre-abuse grooming in every case. The unmitigated use of such terminology, however, can serve to mask these complexities. That being said, grooming of the child, significant others, or the environment is a highly significant and multi-layered variable in child sexual abuse. Unpacking and confronting some of these nuances is vital to protective and preventive efforts.
Within intra-familial contexts, there is often no need to groom prior to the first offence, since in many cases the abuser will already be physically proximate to the child. ‘Familial grooming', however, can operate not only upon the child but also other protective adults and the environment itself. In the case of father-daughter abuse, for example, the would-be offender may groom or manipulate the mother in order to create the opportunity to be alone with the child and abuse undetected. Similarly, the immediate familial surroundings can also be groomed so that inappropriate behaviours are normalised and the victim ultimately does not recognise themselves as such.
Further complexities arise in relation to the potential cross-over between victimhood and an offending identity. This is particularly the case where abuse occurs on an organisational level. A minority of enquiries into institutional child abuse have demonstrated that victims report being abused by their peers as well as adults where abuse has become part of the organisational culture. Similarly, peer-to-peer grooming also has resonance in the context of ‘localised' or ‘street grooming'. Recent high profile cases such as those in Rochdale and Oldham demonstrate that young girls may recruit other children and young people into exploitative situations, which in its worst form becomes organised abuse or trafficking.
Such complexities which underlie the onset of sexual offending against children also have broader significance in terms of recognising and challenging inappropriate pro-offending behaviour. It is widely assumed that the adult male is the most typical offender. Sexual offences committed by young people and females, however, together comprise a substantial proportion of official statistics on sexual offending against children (approximately one-third and 5% respectively). These groups of offenders may have different motivations and may initiate abuse in different ways to adult male offenders, whether this is more experimental or relational and less overt.
As an extension of the concept of institutional grooming, sex offenders may seek to manipulate professionals who are charged with their assessment, treatment, or management into discounting their risk to children. However in order to protect children it is vital to remember that all sex offenders act and think differently, and their routes into offending don't fit any particular. Stereotyping predatory offenders in this way can be dangerous, by detracting our attention from other possible sources of harm to children. Similarly, whole communities can be groomed to view offenders as trustworthy individuals. The ongoing investigation concerning abuse by the late Jimmy Savile highlights potential societal grooming in evidence on a large scale. It is arguable that Savile used his influence to groom not just his victims but society as a whole, abusing his position of trust and authority which was amplified by his celebrity status.
Ultimately, at the tertiary level, the prevention of child sexual abuse in the form of legal and policy frameworks only comes into play once risk is known and identified. Some of these complexities concerning grooming point towards the need for additional social policies at the primary and secondary levels of prevention. Specifically, public health approaches aimed at raising awareness of child sexual abuse and promoting identification and intervention should be targeted at children, families, potential offenders, and wider society. This should involve a continuum of services centring on the creation of a ‘safeguarding' culture within families, communities, and organisations.
Dr Anne-Marie McAlinden is Reader in Law at Queen's University Belfast. Her book ‘Grooming' and the Sexual Abuse of Children: Institutional, Internet and Familial Dimensions published in December 2012.
One in 25 U.S. teens has attempted suicide: study
-- About one in 25 U.S. teens has attempted suicide, and one in eight has thought about it, according to a national study based on interviews with thousands of teens.
Researchers, whose findings appeared in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, said those numbers are similar to the prevalence of lifetime suicidal thinking and attempts reported by adults, suggesting that the teenage years are an especially vulnerable time.
"What adults say is, the highest risk time for first starting to think about suicide is in adolescence," said Matthew Nock, a psychologist who worked on the study at Harvard University.
The results are based on in-person interviews of close to 6,500 teens in the United States and questionnaires filled out by their parents. Along with asking youth about their suicidal thinking, plans and attempts, interviewers also determined which teens fit the bill for a range of mental disorders.
Just over 12 percent of the youth had thought about suicide. Four percent had made a suicide plan and four percent had attempted suicide.
Nock and his colleagues found that almost all teens who thought about or attempted suicide had a mental disorder, including depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
More than half of the youth were already in treatment when they reported suicidal behavior, which Nock said was both encouraging and disturbing.
"We know that a lot of the kids who are at risk and thinking about suicide are getting (treatment)," he told Reuters Health. However, "We don't know how to stop them - we don't have any evidence-based treatments for suicidal behavior."
The findings leave many questions unanswered.
Because most youth who think about suicide never go on to make an actual plan or attempt, doctors need to get better at figuring out which ones are most at risk of putting themselves in danger, according to Nock.
Once those youth are identified, researchers will also have to determine the best way to treat them, since it's clear a lot of current methods aren't preventing suicidal behavior, he said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, killing about 4,6000 young people annually.
Although girls are more likely to attempt suicide - a patter confirmed by Nock's study - boys have higher rates of death by suicide because they typically choose more deadly methods, such as guns. Source: http://bit.ly/11fTtDz
Be educated about child sex abuse
by Tammy Bea Gwaltney
Last week, Missouri KidsFirst, the statewide organization that represents Child Advocacy Centers, released the 2012 "Report from the Task Force on the Prevention of the Sexual Abuse of Children." The task force was created in 2011 and met throughout 2012 gathering information and testimony about this issue. The 32-page report is worthy of every citizen's time to read.
For those of us who work in the field of child sexual abuse, information in the report is familiar. It is the "sermon" we have preached for years to community groups, family members, elected officials and anyone who would listen.
So for the professionals who deal with these cases, or rather, individuals, who are victims of this crime, it is nice to see in print an official document that says what we know. It says what is being done and what needs to be done. It says this crime is real, it is happening right here in our community, and ignoring it no longer is acceptable. It is a document that says we need to step up as a state, take the lead on this issue, and end this crime. Sexual abuse is preventable.
I am proud to say, as the president and CEO of Beacon Health Center [formerly known as the Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence] that many of the recommendations in this report are programs and activities we have been doing for years. We have provided training to mandated reporters, law enforcement, child welfare workers, teachers, medical providers and church personnel, among others, about how to prevent and report abuse.
Under the great work of Leasa Stone and Pam Rampley, the agency has been providing children from preschool through 12th grade with classroom-based education, known as the Green Bear Program, about how to stay safe and what to do if someone tries to, or does, abuse them. Our counseling programs include PCIT and TF-CBT, which are trauma-based therapy models. Many other recommendations describe what Beacon Health Center has done for years. It is encouraging to see our work condoned in this statewide report.
While much has been accomplished to address the crime of child sexual abuse, many more steps must be taken.
As Southeast Missourians, and as Missourians, we all have a part to play in ending this crime. While everyone cannot, or does not, want to be a police officer who investigates these cases, or a medical examiner who documents injuries to victims of this crime, each resident can step forward and do one of many things.
* Read the KidsFirst report. (www.missourikidsfirst.org)
* Invite Green Bear into your schools to train teachers, staff, school boards, parents and teachers about how to recognize and report abuse.
* Visit the Beacon Health Center website (http://www.beaconhealthcenter.com) for information on Green Bear and other child abuse prevention work.
* Make sure your place of worship has trained its leadership about how to provide a safe environment for children.
* Talk to your children about sexual abuse prevention and what to do if someone tries to abuse them. Know what really is helpful to tell them.
* If you suspect a child is being abused, report it. The Missouri child abuse hotline allows anonymous reporting. Call 1-800-392-3738.
* If you are part of a local community college or university, start a Child Advocacy Studies [CAST] program as developed by the National Child Protection and Training Center. (www.ncptc.org).
* As a member of a community organization, civic group or club, invite someone from the child abuse field to speak to your members about how to protect children in the community.
* Civic leaders should train and educate their staff on their responsibility for protecting children. Be a leader in ensuring a safe and healthy community for the children who reside in your town.
* Volunteer at a child abuse prevention agency.
While this list is not comprehensive, it is a place to start. Everyone can be an advocate and voice for children. Everyone can protect children; not just your own, but those who belong to others.
Get involved. Step up. Don't wait for someone else to take the lead. Kids need you now.
Tammy Bea Gwaltney is the president/CEO of Beacon Health Center in Benton, Mo.
Moraga School District agrees on child safety awareness coordinator
by Jennifer Modenessi
A plan to hire a child safety awareness coordinator to educate Lamorinda students about child abuse, bullying and sexual harassment is moving forward after winning an approval this week.
Moraga School District officials voted Tuesday night to greenlight their portion of an agreement between all three Lamorinda school districts and the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County and fund Moraga's share of a full-time position.
This plan will bring an educator into classrooms to teach children about safety. The district estimates it will pay $15,175 to staff the position until June 30; that amount would increase to $20,909 beginning in July until the contract expires in June 30, 2015, according to district data.
Once hired, the coordinator would develop and teach a safety program to all first-, third-, fifth- and seventh-graders in Lamorinda's three school districts, and would also meet with parents to educate them about the program, said Moraga Superintendent Bruce Burns.
"This is the first time in memory that I can recall districts in the Lamorinda area mutually and collaboratively working together at such a high level for student safety improvements across the Lamorinda schools," Burns said.
Orinda and Lafayette administrators are scheduled to review and vote on the agreement next week. The coordinator will be an employee of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County and will report to its executive director, Burns explained.
Administrators have been working with the Concord- and Antioch-based nonprofit to develop safety guidelines and provide "mandated reporter" training to school staff in the wake of a sex abuse scandal that shook the district starting last year.
Burns said the idea to create the position surfaced through the Moraga district's student safety committee, which began meeting in June to update the school's child abuse reporting and prevention policy, among other goals.
A subcommittee of the group had been looking at various safety programs to bring into Moraga schools but found them too general, Burns said. So they settled on a collaborative approach with Lafayette and Orinda to create a program that would meet the needs of the three districts.
Additionally, administrators decided the program will be delivered by an outside person under the purview of the Child Abuse Council, adding another layer of safety.
"There's the possibility that during these presentations, a student may want to reveal something. We didn't want that person to be a parent volunteer," Burns said.
The Moraga district is set to begin mediation later this month with three former students who filed claims last year alleging that mandated reporting failures led to their sexual abuse by teachers in the 1990s.
Carol Carrillo, executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County, said her agency has expertise with issues of child abuse, sexual harassment and bullying and their prevention, and will continue to conduct mandated reporting training in the district. The goal, she explained in an interview, is to have students, parents and educators on the same page regarding safety.
"All children need to have this information," she said.
Sandusky Appeals Sex Abuse Conviction
by Lindsay Buckingham
(CNN) — Jerry Sandusky gets a shot at regaining some of his freedom Thursday, when his lawyers launch an appeal to reverse his conviction on multiple counts of child sex abuse.
The coach was sentenced in October to no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison for abusing 10 boys during a 15-year period. He originally faced the possibility of up to a 400-year prison term.
The former Penn State assistant football coach will appear at the Center County court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, where his legal team will make a “post-sentence motion.”
Judge John Cleland, who presided over Sandusky's conviction and sentencing will not rule on it until a yet-unannounced future date.
Sandusky's lawyers argue that there was insufficient evidence to convict him, and that the court didn't allow them enough time to prepare for trial, after the prosecution flooded them with documentation.
They also maintain that certain counts were too broad and general and should therefore have been dismissed. The lack of specifics further prevented Sandusky from preparing an adequate defense, they have said.
But Cleland could easily rule that evidence presented at the criminal trial was so overwhelming — the victims' testimony, for instance — that it would not have changed the end result, said Karl Rominger, one of Sandusky's lawyers.
The eight victims who testified, now young men, said that they were boys when Sandusky forced them to engage in sexual acts with him. The acts occurred, they said, in showers in Penn State's athletic facilities; hotel rooms; and the basement of Sandusky's home, among other places.
Testimony was often emotional and graphic, and jurors convicted him of 45 of the 48 sexual abuse counts.
This first attempt to overturn the conviction based on ineffective counsel, a common appeals tactic, will be tough, his lawyers have said, but if the court rejects it, they can launch new appeals based on different aspects of the law.
“If you win on one of the appeal issues, everything probably falls,” defense attorney Joe Amendola has said. “All we have to do is convince an appellate court that one of the issues we will raise is worthy of a reversal.”
Amendola and Rominger have also filed a motion to have the 68-year-old Sandusky's sentence reconsidered.
The lawyers attempted to withdraw from the case before the trial, telling Cleland the day before jury selection began that they did not feel adequately prepared and that it would be “unethical” for them to move forward. Cleland denied their request.
The sex abuse scandal led to the firing of head football coach Joe Paterno and the ouster of the university's longtime president, Graham Spanier. Paterno died in January of lung cancer. The NCAA slapped Penn State with fines and sanctions over the case.
Gazette opinion: Keep Montana kids safe from abuse, neglect
The 2013 Legislature will be asked to consider four proposals generated by an interim study on childhood trauma.
While each of the bills has merit, none addresses the central and basic problem of too few child protection workers dealing with too many cases of child abuse and neglect.
“The Child and Family Services Division Investigates an average of 8,500 reports of abuse and neglect each year but often finds itself understaffed,” the legislative interim committee's final report noted.
A separate report from the Child and Family Services Division explains why staff is shorthanded: The 2011 Legislature imposed a 4 percent permanent full time employee reduction to staff and requires a 4 percent vacancy savings in addition to that permanent reduction. For CFSD, this translated into a loss of 27 full time employees.
Several child deaths over the past two years ignited criticism of the system. Reformers testified to the interim committee as did national child safety experts and CFSD staff.
As a result, this legislation has been introduced:
- House Bill 75, which would require the Department of Public Health and Human Services to attain accreditation with a national, independent accreditation entity for the child and family services it provides. The bill calls for an appropriation of $100,000 for the biennium.
- House Bill 76, which would create “an independent office of the child and family ombudsman.” The ombudsman would be appointed by the governor with the consent of the State Senate and administratively attached to the Department of Justice. The bill calls for an appropriation of $250,000 for the biennium. Both HB75 and 76 were introduced by Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez, D-Billings.
- Senate Bill 65, would authorize DPHHS to “upon request from any reporter of alleged child abuse or neglect, verify whether the report has been received, describe the level of response and timeframe for action that the department has assigned to the report, and confirm that it is being acted upon.” This bill, introduced by Sen. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, addresses the No. 1 concern of professionals who are required by law to report suspected abuse and neglect: They do not know if their report is going to be investigated after they call.
- Senate Bill 58, calls for transfer of $10 million from the state general fund to the Endowment for Children, which was established in 1985 to fund child abuse and neglect prevention programs. Only interest earned by the endowment is available for spending on programs. This bill was introduced by Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena.
As the committee's interim study on childhood trauma confirmed, prevention is the most valuable strategy. And the most cost-effective investment is services for children from birth through age 3 when most brain development occurs.
Citizens also asked the committee to ensure that the child protection system, especially foster care, doesn't become a source of trauma for children.
The last point requires providing better compensation and training to social workers and manageable caseloads. Accreditation would establish professional standards to hold DPHHS accountable. Exempting direct-care social workers from vacancy savings would allow the department to have the full complement of caseworkers authorized by the budget for the entire biennium.
The resolution approved by the 2011 Legislature called for “identifying any appropriate steps Montana policymakers may take to reduce childhood trauma in order to improve the mental health of Montanans.” The Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee has done that. Now it's up to the 2013 Legislature to act.
Montana's law and budget must emphasize and fund prevention, set high standards for child protection staff, hold DPHHS accountable and provide sufficient resources to recruit and retain professionals.
Former Mass. schoolteacher gets 45 years for role in child porn network
by Jerry Seper
A former Massachusetts elementary school teacher was sentenced Tuesday to 45 years in prison for his role in an international criminal network, known as Dreamboard, dedicated to the sexual abuse of children and the creation and global dissemination of graphic images and videos of child sexual abuse.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the Justice Department's Criminal Division, said David Ettlinger, 35, of Newton, Mass., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks in Louisiana, where he will "spend 45 years in prison for his role in a horrific international conspiracy to sexually exploit young children."
"Ettlinger participated in a criminal online community that encouraged members to regularly produce content depicting extreme sexual abuse of children," Mr. Breuer said. "The members of Dreamboard attempted to evade law enforcement by disguising their locations, but today's sentencing is a strong reminder that the department is dedicated to working with its law enforcement partners to track down child predators who seek to take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens."
Ettlinger pleaded guilty in August to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. Evidence presented in court documents and at sentencing revealed that Ettlinger had been an active member of Dreamboard, an online child pornography bulletin board, since 2009.
Dreamboard was a private, members-only online bulletin board created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of very young children, in an environment designed to avoid law enforcement detection.
A total of 72 persons, including Ettlinger, have been charged as a result of Operation Delego. To date, 57 of the 72 have been arrested in the United States and abroad — 45 pleaded guilty and one was convicted after trial. Fifteen remain at large and are known only by their online identities.
Mr. Breuer said Ettlinger and other Dreamboard members traded graphic images and videos of adults molesting children 12 years old and under, often violently, and collectively created a massive private library of images of child sexual abuse. The international group prized and encouraged the creation of new images and videos of child sexual abuse.
He said Dreamboard members employed a variety of measures designed to conceal their criminal activity from detection by law enforcement: Members communicated using aliases or "screen names," rather than their actual names; Links to child pornography posted on Dreamboard were required to be encrypted with a password that was shared only with other members; and members accessed the board via proxy servers, which routed internet traffic through other computers to disguise a user's actual location.
Mr. Breuer said membership was tightly controlled by the administrators of the bulletin board, who required prospective members to upload child pornography portraying children 12 years of age or younger when applying for membership. Once they were given access, he said members were required continually to upload images of child sexual abuse in order to maintain membership. Members who failed to follow this rule would be expelled from the group.
Evidence obtained during the operation revealed that at least 38 children across the world were suffering sexual abuse at the hands of the members of the group. Efforts by federal, state, local and international law enforcement to locate and identify the victims of sexual abuse and exploitation by Dreamboard members are ongoing.
Task force calls for wide-ranging action to save kids from sex abuse
In report, state task force calls for wide-ranging action and change
by Kathryn Wall
A little more than a year after its creation, the state Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children has issued its final report, calling for sweeping changes.
And the task force wants wide-ranging action — from legislative leaders and the typical man and woman on the street.
Created by state statute in 2011, the task force spent the better part of 2012 interviewing experts across the state, taking testimony from experts and seeking out past victims to discern how to better protect children.
The group consists of a variety of stakeholders in the process, including Sen. Bob Dixon and Christopher Smith, a media specialist with Springfield Public Schools.
The final report, released this week, points to many efforts already in existence in Greene County — including a plan to depend on the Child Advocacy Center for expertise, allowing child victims to get accustomed to courtrooms before testifying and creating multidisciplinary teams to better investigate allegations.
But programs like those in Greene County are few and far between in other areas of the state, the task force found, and interpretations of law differ from courthouse to courthouse.
Other problems are prevalent across the state as well — they range from a lack of funding, confusion over mandated reporter laws and an overall culture of disbelief.
The task force aggressively pushes for changes in its report, calling on leadership from legislators, vigilance among those tasked with protecting children and watchfulness among all adults.
The report said:
“The wake up call has sounded — there is no Missourian who can claim that they are unaware of the epidemic of child sexual abuse. Missouri must have the courage to openly discuss child sexual abuse or we will be as guilty as the adults who chose to protect their institutions at the expense of children.”
Investigating the crimes
A significant portion of the report lays out changes needed in the legal system in order to catch offenders and provide justice for victims.
“There is considerable variation in the effectiveness of our response to child sexual abuse throughout the state,” the task force reported.
“Some communities aggressively investigate and prosecute child sexual abuse cases while some have a very limited response. Child Advocacy Centers. . . are not utilized in all jurisdictions.. . . Uniform standards for how to investigate, prosecute and forensically evaluate child sexual abuse cases would provide needed clarity to practices that differ considerably from county to county.”
The report calls for seven law changes or clarifications to improve consistency among different jurisdictions and ensure children don't fall through the cracks.
• Submit to voters a constitutional amendment that would allow prosecutors to use evidence of a person's past crimes against children to establish a pattern of abuse — the change would only apply to child sex abuse cases and would require a change to the state constitution regarding evidence.
• Modify existing mandatory reporter laws to require the reporter to submit a report directly to the state hotline, rather than reporting to a supervisor or some other in-office system.
• Clarify the term “immediately” in the mandating reporting statute to require reports of suspected abuse or neglect be made as soon as possible and before an in-house investigation.
• Clarify laws regarding child sexual crimes to allow hearsay evidence in preliminary hearings. Currently some circuits do not allow as evidence a child's testimony to trained interviewers.
• Clarify laws regarding child sexual crimes to allow as evidence a defendant's attempts to intimidate a child into not reporting a crime.
• Modify the definition of deviate sexual intercourse to include genital-to-genital contact.
• Eliminate the statute of limitations for first-degree statutory sodomy and first-degree statutory rape. Similar crimes committed against adults — rape, kidnapping, sodomy — do not have a statute of limitations, a legal phrase for the time period following a crime after which criminal charges cannot be brought.
In addition to calling for system-based changes, the report also calls on community leaders, nonprofits and everyday citizens to do more to prevent child sex abuse.
The task force made four recommendations focused on how communities and nonprofits can use educational opportunities.
It advocates for the expansion of community-based prevention education — including existing successful programs like in-home counseling services.
The group also recommends youth-service organizations and other groups that serve children have specific child sexual abuse prevention policies.
“All organizations that serve children and families must operate under the assumption that some people who sexually abuse children may want to work for them,” the report said.
Today, the task force will present its findings during a news conference at the Capitol. The final report will then be submitted to the governor's office, the General Assembly and the State Board of Education for further action.
The task force has also recommended three topics for the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect: whether the standard of a preponderance of evidence used by Children's Division is too high; whether offering alternative sentences — like those allowing a sentence to be held in abeyance unless another problem occurs — is proper in serious child sex abuse cases; and lining out the process by which Children's Division and local law enforcement should work together on investigations.
Other recommendationsfrom the task force
Mental health services The Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children recommends mental health services be made available specifically for child victims, because the trauma of sexual assault can often lead to long-term negative mental, emotional and physical effects. “Currently, there is little state investment in mental health services for these children and no system set up to ensure that, once identified, children are able to receive care,” the report said. Those children are often at risk of becoming offenders themselves — but, if caught early — those children are often rehabilitated, the report said.
Professional training Three recommendations in this section propose standardized training for mandated reporters, the creation of child sexual abuse investigation teams to provide experts for the tough cases and connections to experts in the field to learn from.
Awareness The task force recommends communities create public information campaigns to make citizens more aware of the signs and threats of child sexual abuse. The report recognized the News-Leader's Every Child series for its work bringing public attention to child welfare issues.
Sexual Abuse: Maryland Legislators Propose New Mandatory Reporting Bill
Maryland legislators are seeking mandatory reporting of suspected child sex abuse, raising the possibility of false reporting as people who work with children may tend to over-report suspected abuse.
As cases of sexual abuse are uncovered and investigated in the news, state legislators are attempting to tighten laws that address these types of cases.
According to the federal Child Welfare Information Gateway, 47 states and Washington, D.C. impose penalties on mandatory reporters who knowingly and willfully fail to report alleged child abuse. In three states, failure to report purported abuse is a felony.
In Maryland, health practitioners, educators, social service workers and police officers are required to report suspected child abuse to authorities. Furthermore, the state's family law code requires them to report suspected abuse to social service or law enforcement agencies as soon as possible and send a written report to the local state's attorney within 48 hours of establishing suspicion.
As the law currently stands, punishment for not reporting alleged abuse can come from occupational licensing boards -- not the state. Educators may face the loss or suspension of their teaching licenses but, in reality, this rarely happens.
Legislators and victim advocates have been pushing to create mandatory reporting sanctions in Maryland, but some legislators question the proposal. The possibility of false reporting will rise as people who work with children may tend to over-report suspected abuse for fear of losing their jobs. It is likely that the issues will be explored during the next legislative session.
The movement for reforms evolved out of the recent Penn State University scandal and a local investigation related to a teacher at a Catholic school in Locust Point. Court documents indicate that the school's principal and other Catholic officials were aware of the teacher's sexual abuse of students in the 1970s; however, officials did not report the abuse until the teacher was criminally investigated two decades later.
Maryland legislators previously attempted to pass a law that would add criminal reporting sanctions, but it failed. Nevertheless, advocates of the sanctions plan to reintroduce the bill next year.
Under the proposal, workers that are required to report suspected child abuse cannot "knowingly and willfully" fail to file a report if they have "actual and direct knowledge" of child abuse. A person found guilty could face misdemeanor charges. A convicted person could receive up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The bill, which includes other proposals, includes a provision that gives those who report suspected child abuse immunity from civil and criminal penalties.
Critics of the bill question the language, which requires "actual and direct knowledge" of abuse to prompt a report. For example, if a child tells a teacher about abuse, is that considered direct knowledge? Alleging sexual abuse is a heavy accusation. Wrongfully accusing someone of abuse can have detrimental consequences to his or her life.
Next year, the Maryland proposal will include terms that would require medical examiners to report suspected child abuse. The bill will also force employees of colleges or universities to report abuse claims to chancellors. This idea is prompted by the recent Penn State University case.
In the wake of the legislative proposals, other states are also considering changes to child protection laws. The consequences of mandatory reporting could be problematic for those wrongfully accused. Legislative changes can seriously affect the way criminal accusations unfold. If you have been accused of a sex crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Article provided by Law Offices of Charles L. Waechter
Abusers 'must pay for inquiry's costs'
Individuals who sexually abused children and the institutions that turned a blind eye should pay for the royal commission, not the taxpayer, and amounts should be calculated on degree of suffering caused.
Leading human rights lawyer and the president of the victims advocacy group Commission of Inquiry Now, Bryan Keon-Cohen, says the commission should ensure liable organisations were required to make "fair and appropriate financial" contributions towards the costs of the commission and compensating for the abuse.
This "calculation of dollar sums" should be based on the degree of offending, the willingness of the institution to prevent abuse, compensation already paid to victims and the financial means, property and tax status of the body.
In the group's submission to the terms of reference for the national inquiry into child sexual abuse in institutional settings, Dr Keon-Cohen says, for example, that "if the Catholic Church is found to be responsible for 75 per cent of the abuse, it pays 75 per cent of . . . costs".
This idea comes amid last-minute lobbying as speculation mounts that Julia Gillard could release the terms of reference in the coming days. There is also a renewed push to broaden the commission to include neglect, and physical and emotional abuse.
Child protection advocacy group Bravehearts last night warned the government it risked derailing and sabotaging the inquiry if it bowed to calls to go beyond sexual abuse. "(It) cannot drop the ball now and lose an opportunity to properly investigate by not being specific," executive director Hetty Johnston said.
"There is no doubt that if the spotlight is taken off child sexual assault specifically in this commission, then it will fail to have any enduring impact on protecting children in any aspect."
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, and the Care Leavers of Australia Network, representing children who grew up in orphanages, have recommended that all forms of abuse be included.
They say the commission cannot solely focus on victims of sexual assault and not allow sufferers of physical abuse and neglect to also share their stories as it suggests that their experiences are not considered as serious.
Dr Keon-Cohen says in his submission the commission should focus on the protection and welfare of children and bringing the "perpetrators of abuse" to justice.
This includes financial contributions to the commission by the organisations and individual members "found at fault" as well as any recommended victim compensation schemes.
"A determination of sums for payments . . . once recommended, should be backed by legislation to ensure compliance," he wrote. "If possible, the Australian taxpayer should not be required to fund either the cost of the commission or any compensation to be paid . . . to some or all of the thousands of victims that may come forward."
He said given the Victorian royal commission into the Black Saturday bushfires cost $100 million, this national inquiry would cost far in excess of that figure.
Child abuse education law approved by Senate
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday to legislation requiring local schools to conduct child abuse awareness education for both teachers and students.
The measure, known as Erin's Law, was cosponsored by state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon.
"This should be a priority… It's a measure we all should support; it's an investment in our young people we need to make," McCarter told colleagues.
House Bill 6193 requires schools to provide continuing professional development at in-service training programs on sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention. It also requires schools to provide age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
The measure passed the House earlier and now goes to the governor.
"This is an issue my wife, Victoria, and I deal with on an ongoing basis with young women who are in crisis," McCarter said. "Many times the root of their destructive behavior is in abuse as a child."
While urging fellow senators to pass the legislation, McCarter also said he's looking for a follow-up and promised measure in the new spring legislative session that would give schools financial and scheduling flexibility to implement the new mandate.
"This does put another unfunded mandate on our schools," he said. "In the last 12 years, we (the Legislature) have put forth 106 new mandates on schools. At the same time, we have funded them less than ever so, at the same time that we have given them less we have asked them to do more."
In February 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation creating the Erin's Law Task Force. The 19-member task force of school administrators, teachers, counselors, researchers, academic curriculum experts, child protective services, children's advocacy centers and law enforcement met for nine months. Sen. McCarter was a member of the task force, which crafted the proposal, contained in House Bill 6193.
Erin's Law was named after a young Illinois woman, Erin Merryn, who was abused as a young child. She turned her horrific experiences into a crusade to promote child sexual abuse awareness and education for children as part of their primary and secondary education experience.
Missouri has an epidemic of child sexual abuse
by Jefferson City News Tribune
Child sexual abuse in Missouri is characterized as a “silent epidemic” by members of a task force that studied the issue.
The 14-member task force on Thursday released its report, which contains 22 recommendations in seven separate categories.
State Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis and a task force member, said child sexual abuse is a “complex issue” that requires a multi-faceted response. Those facets are reflected in the recommendations concerning awareness, education, mental health, public policy and state law.
With respect to the complexity of the problem and the scope of recommendations, we intend to explore the issue in a series of opinion pieces, rather than a single editorial.
Perhaps the best way to begin that exploration is by looking at the magnitude and insidious nature of the problem.
The report references studies that “suggest 25 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys experience sexual abuse during their childhood years.”
Although the magnitude of the problem is an estimation — admitted by the word “suggest” — we understand the inability to be more specific. The Center for Sex Offender Management estimates only a third of offenses are reported to law enforcement.
An obstacle to bringing the scope of the problem to light is that predators typically seek dark places behind closed doors.
The report affirms the public perception that children most often are abused by someone they know. “A third or more of victims are abused by a family member, and only 7 percent are molested by a stranger,” the report reads, adding 75 percent of abuse occurs inside of homes.
In addition to being a clandestine crime, child sexual abuse often is chronic. The offense typically is repeated and rarely a one-time event.
Why are the victims reluctant to identify their abusers?
“Children who are being abused often face significant barriers to disclosing the abuse,” the report reads. Those barriers are identified as: shame and guilt; fear of not being believed or being removed from the home; and manipulation and threats by perpetrators.
The crime not only victimizes children, it also creates a significant social cost. Consequences of abuse include anxiety, depression, teen pregnancy, risky behaviors, and alcohol and drug abuse. In addition, sexually abused children are more likely to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
The task force did not overstate the problem by characterizing it as “complex.”
And it did not dilute its imperative that everyone has a stake in working to raise awareness, improve public policy and enact laws to protect our children.
Child Sex Trafficking Data Pooled in Texas
by Brian Heaton
A Texas nonprofit organization will soon launch the first of two comprehensive databases that it hopes will aid in the fight against child sex trafficking.
The first database will debut later this month and is designed for law enforcement, nonprofit and social work personnel to see who is working on sex trafficking and what resources are available to help victims.
A second database will assist citizens of the Lone Star State that want more information on the commercial sex trade and how to help organizations devoted to battling it. It is scheduled to go live this summer. The project is an effort of Children at Risk, a Houston-based youth advocacy group.
Bob Sanborn, CEO of Children at Risk, said the goal is to connect all the organizations working on trafficking throughout Texas and foster teamwork among them. Whether it is domestic child trafficking or international sex trafficking, the database will contain items such as tips, listings of victim services and the locations of safe houses.
“You'll see who the people are that are working on trafficking so you can communicate and no one is siloed any longer,” Sanborn said. “The hope being we start filling those gaps and collaborate a lot more.”
Not everyone is confident the databases will be effective, however.
Sgt. Byron Fassett of the Dallas Police Department's Crimes Against Children section, said he already sees a lot of coordination on the law enforcement side regarding trafficking. In addition, due to state laws, he and other cops aren't able to populate the databases with any case information.
Fassett explained that he's seen many database projects go by the wayside over the years, primarily because they haven't been created with a clear end goal for the data. He said the databases became all-inclusive repositories that often crumbled under their own weight. Fassett would know. He tried doing a case management database in this area back in the 1990s.
That database still exists, but the problem according to Fassett is it simply doesn't add enough value to what the detectives are doing.
“The mistake I made on it was that 50 percent of the information isn't used by my detectives today,” Fassett said. “It was all really great and nice to have type of stuff, but they were spending too much time … trying to collect data and fill in data and re-fill in data. The next thing you know you're not even working cases any more, you've become a data clerk. That's a fine line.”
Sanborn, however, is optimistic the new databases will become an effective public-private partnership in Texas. He said that inevitably, because law enforcement personnel are the first ones that find sex trafficking victims and remove them from the situation, the onus is on police to work with other specialized agencies to assist those victims.
“A lot of the hard work gets done in the trenches where law enforcement is,” Sanborn said. “A lot of the prosecution of the traffickers themselves gets done at the state level. This is probably the perfect opportunity … for public and private [entities] to partner to end this truly horrible crime.”
Sex trafficking is becoming a big problem in the United States and Texas seems to be a conduit for many of its victims. According to the Austin American-Statesman
, a report compiled by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott revealed that 20 percent of the 800,000 sex or labor-trafficking victims in the U.S. pass through the state.
The database project is being funded by the Embrey Family Foundation, a philanthropic institution in Dallas. The databases are being built by the University of Texas at Arlington and will be updated and maintained by Children at Risk staff members.
The agency-nonprofit-law enforcement database will be accessible by any official working on trafficking issues that asks to be part of the project. Sanborn said there will be some due diligence done to make sure a person is legitimate, but by and large, his organization knows who the players are in the child trafficking field, so it shouldn't be complicated.
In addition, Children at Risk has worked with a lot of regional coalitions whose members will automatically be added to the database as users. Those users will be able to access the information through a secure online portal.
Once the databases are online and users begin to address service gaps and become familiar with one another, Sanborn expects to make a big push to include more law enforcement personnel. He explained that one of the biggest areas of weakness is that there aren't enough law enforcement people identified by their departments as specialists in trafficking cases.
So getting officers like Fassett who supervises child exploitation cases and high-risk victims and trafficking units involved in the database project is a key goal for the future.
“We'll continue to talk to people and see what it is that we need to do to make sure this database is really quite useful,” Sanborn said.
Bags of Hope delivered to victims of Houston's dirty little secret
by Kristine Galvan
HOUSTON (FOX 26) -
It's our city, our home, and yet there is so much happening right in front of us that we never notice.
"Houston is the number one city for human trafficking in the United States," said Jackelyn Viera Iloff of Force4Compassion, a 501(c)3 organization created to spread awareness about the domestic and international problem of human trafficking.
The organization's statistics reveal 12 is the average age of girls forced into prostitution and 55 percent of girls living on the streets have engaged in prostitution.
"It's your neighbor, your cousin, your friend," Iloff said. "If they have a daughter or a son that is (a) runaway, those children are at risk for human trafficking."
Force4Compassion recently teamed up with the Harris County Sheriff's Office to distribute "Bags of Hope". The goal was to offer hope to some of those victims of sex trafficking.
"It has a change of clothes and toiletries that allows them to feel safe," Iloff said.
Bags of Hope are designed to meet the immediate needs of a rescued girl. They contain sweatpants or long shorts, t-shirts, a sports bra, modest underwear, socks, make-up remover, a comb and hair ties.
Deputies carry them around in their patrol cars in case they encounter someone in need.
"It's almost like a teddy bear, if you will, for children we encounter during traumatic circumstances," Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. "This is a (metaphorical) teddy bear if you will. (It's) a bag of hope for those victims of human trafficking. It's an incredibly undignified circumstance that some of these victims go through. Let's let them know that number one: we see them as a victim and number two: we want them to have hope."
Forces4Compassion will also hold a "Hope & Freedom Walk-A-Thon" on January 26, 2013. You can walk or volunteer at the event by registering online on their website.
Local group says victims' services are badly needed
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.”
People needed to help children suffering abuse
THE ISSUE: Guardians ad litem
OUR VIEW: Volunteers can make a lot of difference for children in need
Physical neglect and abuse are the most common forms of child endangerment to make the headlines.
But the state Department of Social Services' Child Protective Services makes a strong point for all South Carolinians: “It is important to keep in mind that all incidents in which a person fails to provide for the basic needs for a child are necessarily considered neglect.”
DSS points to indicators of abuse and neglect:
* Underweight, poor growth pattern, and failure to thrive; inappropriate dress, consistent hunger, and poor hygiene; consistent lack of supervision; unattended physical and medical problems and needs; and abandonment.
* Human bite marks, lacerations or abrasions, burns in the shape of an iron, grill or cigarette, immersion burns and any other significant unexplained marks or bruises.
* Difficulty walking or sitting; torn, stained or bloody underclothing; pain, swelling or itching in genital and/or anal area; pain during urination; bruises, bleeding or lacerations in genital and anal area; venereal disease.
* Speech disorders; lags in physical development or failure to thrive; hyperactive and/or disruptive behavior; isolation; withdrawn.
The role of citizens in recognizing and reporting abuse cannot be understated. But if you are fortunate enough not to have encountered child abuse directly or indirectly, you still can help abused children by becoming a guardian ad litem.
A guardian is a specially trained member of the community who will independently investigate a case, write a report based on that investigation, make recommendations to the family court judge and visit the child between court hearings. The guardian ad litem often is the one constant for a child. While caseworkers and others change during the lifetime of a case, the guardian ad litem stays the same.
Carol Barton is coordinator for the guardian ad litem program in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. She says more guardians are desperately needed here.
In 2012, more than 193 Orangeburg County children were involved in family court cases because of abuse or neglect. The local guardian ad litem program served every one of the children with a force of less than 45 volunteers.
In 2012, more than 35 Calhoun County children were involved in family court cases because of abuse or neglect. The program served every one of those children — with less than 15 volunteers.
“Our volunteers are committed, caring individuals who give their time to children in desperate need of an adult willing to advocate for them. But they can't do it alone,” Barton says.
Volunteers only spend an average of five hours each month and more than half of the volunteers work full-time jobs. They are busy, but they are compassionate. They free up a few hours each month to make sure an abused or neglected child has a voice.
Consider Barton's further words in deciding what role you can play: “True, our lives are busy and sometimes we feel like we don't have time to take care of our own children – much less someone else's child. But our children deserve better than a momentary twinge of guilt. You could be the difference between a life of hope and a life of hurt. This could be your calling.”
The next training class for guardians ad litem starts Tuesday, Jan 8. You can be the person who says, “I am for the child.” Sign up now at Orangeburg.scgal.org or at Calhoun.scgal.org.
Barton promises, “We'll teach you everything you need to know about advocating for a child.”
Priority should be keeping all children from harm
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.
Child abuse and trauma therapy expanding to in-home visits
by MIKE AVERILL
Family and Children's Services is expanding its Child Abuse and Trauma Services program to include in-home child trauma treatment.
The new initiative is designed for families who have barriers preventing them from consistently attending office appointments.
Lack of transportation, the inability to miss work and affording child care for siblings are some of the biggest barriers, said Christine Marsh, director of Child Abuse and Trauma Services at Family and Children's Services.
"Children with the most severe problems are often least likely to show up in clinical care settings. By providing home-based treatment, Family and Children's Services provides a greater guarantee and lessens the risk that one of these children will fall through the cracks," said Gail Lapidus, the agency's CEO.
The agency has partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for years to provide home-based case management but those case managers aren't able to do therapy.
"We recognized the need is there and hope to be able to make a big impact," Marsh said.
Last year the agency's Child Abuse and Trauma Services program served 8,172 children in its clinic.
This program will serve 30 children the first year and expand to about 80 the next year.
"By taking the mountain to Mohammed - bringing services to Family and Children's Services' clients, in this case - we can help children recover from the traumas they've suffered, improve their ability to perform academically and lead them to happier, healthier futures," Lapidus said.
"What we're doing is unconventional, but the long-term risks of not helping children who've suffered abuse, neglect or other traumas are too great to ignore."
The agency received a four-year, $1.6 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative to fund the at-home treatment program.
This is the third time the agency has received a similar grant. The first two grants, in 2003 and 2009, allowed the agency to develop and implement evidence-based treatment interventions including parent-child interaction therapy, child-parent psychotherapy and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.
"Home-based therapy is highly promising for a small subset of vulnerable clients who otherwise would receive no treatment or incomplete care because their parents can't take off work to get them here, or because of other family members' special needs, or because there is no car or gas money to get to our office," Lapidus said.
Marsh stressed that the home-based treatment is not perfect for everyone and that a therapist's office is still the best setting.
"They can come here and drop their stuff and don't have to worry about who is listening. Then they can leave it all here and have their home untouched," she said.
Crisis centers plead for support for Violence Against Women Act
by Lauren Jone
Local advocates are fighting for a federal law they say gives victims of domestic violence their own fighting chance, to heal and to start over.
Improved legislation regarding the Violence Against Women Act
died in the House of Representatives during the last session of Congress, but local experts are imploring legislators
in the new Congress to push for the change.
Kim Davis and Amy Weaver, directors for the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia and the Hospitality House for Women respectively, say that the VAWA has drastically improved the lives and conditions of the abused.
In 1994, when first authorized, the VAWA was a giant step forward for the nation, the directors said, because its passage meant the federal government acknowledged that domestic and sexual violence cause tremendous harm to our society.
The government invested real resources into helping victims and survivors and now millions of people, including children and families, are better off as a result, they said.
The Act increased options for victims and enabled many survivors to leave abusive relationships. It also improved the criminal justice system's response to violence by training police and prosecutors to respond more effectively.
In 2000, Congress reauthorized VAWA, adding services for immigrant, rural, disabled and older women. In 2005, VAWA expanded to focus services on Native American women and immigrant women.
It included new programs focused on sexual assault victims, prevention, men and boys, and the needs of teen dating violence victims and child witnesses of domestic violence.
However, in the 112th Congress, Weaver said personal opinions and political biases infiltrated what could have been done to extend the legislation to protect everyone, regardless of race, creed and sexual orientation.
Each day in America, on average, three women are murdered by their husband or boyfriend, and one in four women will be endangered by an intimate partner at some point during their lives. Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and one in six women will fall victim to sexual assault during their lifetime.
Locally, in 2012, the SAC of Northwest Georgia utilized VAWA funding to answer 557 hotline calls from victims of sexual assault within Floyd, Bartow, Polk, and Gordon counties, Davis said, adding that the SAC also performed 115 forensic rape exams.
Similarly, Weaver said the Hospitality House for Women answered 650 crisis calls from victims of domestic violence in Floyd county alone, and provided shelter or other services to 574 people — and that none of that would have been possible without the VAWA.
Davis said that without the funds the VAWA provides, the SAC would not be able to provide services to victims.
“The VAWA act has allowed the Sexual Assault Center to provide services to victims in a five-county service area and without those funds, women will no longer have a safe place to go after a rape,” Davis said. “Women deserve this right, this protection.”
Additionally, she emphasized that this issue affects men as well as women and children.
“This community needs to come together and call out the 113th Congress and let them know how important this is to us,” she said. “This isn't just a women's issue. Men — you have wives, daughters, sisters and mothers; you, too, need to be calling your legislators and begging for them to reauthorize the VAWA.”
Even though the protections of 2005 remain intact, there is so much work to do moving forward, both Weaver and Davis said.
“On behalf of the millions of victims and their families affected by domestic and sexual violence, we encourage you to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act immediately during the 113th Congressional Session,” Weaver and Davis said in a joint statement.
“We publicly implore our outgoing Representative Phil Gingrey and our incoming Representative Tom Graves to make the right decision,” the statement continues. “With their leadership and cooperation, we can truly make a difference in the lives of adult and child victims of violence across the country and in our own community.”
Retired Fairfield police officers help Rwanda child sex abuse victims
by Irma Widjojo
The idea of Rwanda For Justice came about when two police officers sat down over coffee.
The two-year-old organization is geared to help Rwandan child sexual abuse victims through counseling, outreach and education.
Rick Leonardini and Gary Rodgers were fellow Fairfield police officers when they conceived of the idea.
At the time Rodgers was working part-time with his church at the international ministry, and made regular missionary trips to Rwanda.
During one trip in 2010, Rodgers said he learned about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Rwanda, and the lack of support for the victims.
When he returned home, Rodgers told Leonardini about the issue, and both decided to take action.
"We needed to do something," Leonardini said. "We had a lot of experience that is relevant."
Leonardini, who retired as a captain, said he was a detective in the mid 1990s.
"Part of the crimes that I investigated were crimes against kids," Leonardini said. "And with those cases you just always remember them. They are really the true victims."
Both men traveled to Rwanda in March, 2011, and held a series of meetings with citizens and government officers.
"We learned that they wanted to do something, but lack the resources," Leonardini said.
The local culture also proved to be a challenge.
"There's a culture of shame... the victim is seen as the one at fault, and will usually be shunned by the community along with the family," Leonardini said.
However, with education and outreach, Rwandans are becoming more progressive, said Rodgers, who also has retired from the Fairfield force.
After receiving a sizable donation, the nonprofit in March was able to open Humura Centre to help child abuse victims in Rwanda's Huye district.
"Humura means 'Don't worry, everything will be okay,'" Rodgers said. "It's a compassionate and comforting saying."
At the center victims and their families can receive psychological treatment, counseling, and sit through interviews with a social worker, psychologist and police officers.
Since its opening, the center has served 50 children, ages 3 to 17, Rodgers said.
The staff members, who are local residents, include a psychologist and a social worker, who were trained by international psychologists to deal with such cases.
The work done by Humura Centre has also set a precedent in a few sexual abuse cases in Rwanda, Rodgers said.
Historically, the court would rely solely on medical examination.
"No trauma, no abuse," Leonardini said.
However, with the introduction of forensic interviews conducted by the Humura Centre staff, convictions were secured that previously would have been considered impossible to get, Rodgers said.
Rwanda for Justice has also trained 90 psychology students to counsel victims of sexual child abuse, Rodgers added.
Even though the nonprofit's focus is on the center, the staff also holds educational conferences and outreach events for the community to prevent more abuse, including a Sensitization Training to middle-school students.
"My long term vision is to replicate this center across Rwanda," Rodgers said. "It it's happening in Huye, it's happening everywhere."
With more demands, and goals of improvement and expansion, the organization is applying for grants and seeking donation from the public.
"If 350 people donate $10 each per month, that covers our current overhead to run the center," Leonardini said.
For more information on Rwanda for Justice and Humura Centre, or to donate, visit rwandaforjustice.org.
How can we prevent child abuse if we don't understand paedophilia?
If we want to keep children safe from sexual harm, then surely knowing what we're dealing with would be a good first step
Paedophilia is one of those things that appear straightforward at first glance but get more and more confusing the closer one looks.
It is broadly defined as adult sexual attraction to children and young people below the legal age of sexual consent. That means a paedophile is someone who is primarily or exclusively sexually attracted to children (although they may also be sexually attracted to adults as well). That much is relatively simple, at least as long as we can agree on what a ‘child' is and when a child turns into a sexually mature, self-determining adult; a transition we place, in this country, at the age of 16.
What gets a bit more complicated is distinguishing between paedophilia (the sexual attraction) and child sexual abuse (adult sexual contact with children below the legal age of consent). Paedophilia is, strictly speaking, in a separate conceptual category to child sexual abuse, although in everyday life the word ‘paedophile' is typically taken to mean a person (usually a man) who has sexually offended against a child.
There are many basic questions about paedophiles to which we do not yet know the answers. We find it hard to pin down how to describe it - is it a sexual orientation? A medical diagnosis or a psychiatric condition, perhaps a paraphilia (a disorder of sexual function) or a fetish? We struggle to figure out where it might come from - is it an individual genetic fault in the ‘wiring' of the brain? Does it come from trauma? Or is it merely a statistically inevitable part of the continuum of ordinary human sexuality, the tail of a bell curve that will always exist? Once someone has it, what can they do about it – is it in fact something that can be chosen? Or altered?
Perhaps most importantly, we do not know how many people there are out there who feel this attraction. It seems to me that if we want to keep children safe from sexual harm, then surely knowing what we're dealing with would be a good first step. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.
A major UK child charity once informed me that they would not be involved in research to find out how many paedophiles there are, because to understand would be seen as empathising, and this might lose them funds. They preferred to keep working in an area about which they did not even know basic facts, rather than challenge ignorance. The result of such an attitude is of course that children continue to be abused. Now is the time to shift our attitudes and begin to explore. The journey is uncomfortable but the goal is better child protection, so any discomfort is worth tolerating.
The first step is to try and work out how many paedophiles there are. There seem to be only eight studies in total which have ever been conducted on this question, and clearly we need bigger studies to get a more accurate picture, but these are the best we have at present. They indicate how many paedophiles there may be, by looking at the responses of ‘normal' men in the general adult male population (and one of the studies also included women in their study).
There are five lab-based studies and three questionnaire-based studies, all using volunteers. The laboratory studies took their data from direct self-report (what the research subjects themselves said about their sexual arousal to children), more general questionnaire responses (which included measurements such as ‘sexual impulsivity' and self-esteem), and ‘physical responses' which in this context means fitting a ‘strain gauge' to the man's penis and using a machine called a ‘penile plethysmograph' to measure how much his penis reacted, for example when images were shown or tapes narrating a sexual story were played.
These lab studies indicate that somewhere between 17 per cent and per cent of a ‘normal' sample of men (who do not describe themselves as ‘paedophile') seem to be capable of being sexually aroused by young children, under the age of twelve years old. In other words, roughly one in six to more than one in every two adult men may be capable of being sexually attracted to children.
The three questionnaire surveys also found surprisingly high rates. For example, the most recent study, conducted by Becker-Blease and colleagues and published in 2006, used a self-completion questionnaire study of 531 undergraduate men. This study found 7% admitted sexual attraction to ‘little children', but 18% had sexual fantasies of children, with 8% masturbating to those fantasies, and 4% admitting that they would have sex with a child ‘if no-one found out'.
Judging by this study, we would be therefore looking at around one in five of all the men we know having some degree of sexual attraction to children. Remembering that these survey rates relied on voluntary disclosures, it's not impossible that this is in fact a conservative figure. For women, the only study conducted so far (by Smiljanich and Briere, in 1996) suggested 3% of sample of 180 women admitted to ‘some attraction to little children' and 4 per cent used child pornography.
These are not figures I'd like to bet my shirt on – the earlier studies in particular are quite suspect, but what they do show is that, among men, sexual arousal to children is not rare and that there is a crying need to find out more.
Given that it is possible judging by the study that maybe one in every five men is capable of being sexually aroused to children, and that there is an unknown number of men out there who are primarily or exclusively sexually attracted to children, how do we keep children safe – or at least safer than we are currently managing to do?
I believe that attitudes like that of the major children's charity I spoke to must change. We must have the courage to look hard and to listen to those paedophiles who want to tell us their experiences so we can learn how to prevent child abuse. Some people experience such sexual desires but don't act upon them. Perhaps, for them, in a sex-saturated society, that's quite an achievement. We need to be able to acknowledge and understand their self-control.