Improving child abuse laws debated in Helena
GREAT FALLS - Child abuse is getting a lot of attention in the Montana Legislature this session, especially among lawmakers from Great Falls as the state County Attorney's Association is backing five new bills.
The first bill, which was introduced by Rep Margie McDonald (R-Billings), passed through committee on Friday. Her proposal would mandate the Department of Family Services to immediately notify law enforcement of suspicious child crimes.
Stevensville Senator Fred Thomas wants to increase the maximum penalty for criminals who assault children younger than three years old. The penalty could be as many as 40 years, if serious injuries are inflicted on a child.
The other three bills are sponsored by Great Falls legislators.
Representative Jesse O'Hara is fighting to close a loophole in the current law that allows registered offenders to evade conviction by failing to register their true address.
Senator Anders Blewett hopes to give juries better background, by giving them access to evidence about prior sex crime convictions involving children.
Senator Mitch Tropila wants to create a new felony for actions that lead to child homicide, like driving under the influence with a child in the car, failing to get medical attention for critically injured children, and leaving a young boy or girl in the care of a known sexual predator.
Cascade County Attorney John Parker says he's pleased to see collaboration between lawmakers across the state, and of both political parties.
He says all of the bills have been well received, and good conversation is starting on how to better protect the children of Montana.
Prevent Child Abuse Texas to hold information seminar
Recognizing, documenting and preventing child abuse is the focus of a seminar offered by Prevent Child Abuse Texas. Participants who need CEUs for child care or school will receive a certificate of attendance for six hours of credit. The general public is welcome to attend as well.
Preventing Child Abuse One Child at a Time is an all-day seminar on Feb. 16 at Lamar Avenue Church of Christ. Early registration is due by Feb. 9.
Ohio / Pennsylvania
Ohio, Pa. victims urged to seek support
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- An alleged victim of sexual abuse by a Franciscan brother at Warren JFK high school and the founder of a support group for such victims urged Pennsylvania and Ohio victims of the brother's purported abuse to come forward and get the help they need.
“We'd love for them to reach out and contact those of us who will support them,” said Robert M. Hoatson, co-founder and president of the Livingston, N.J.-based Road to Recovery Inc. support group, which will be distributing leaflets with that message from 10 to 11:30 a.m. today in front of St. Columba Cathedral in Youngstown.
Michael Munno of Cortland, who said Brother Stephen P. Baker sexually abused him at JFK, appeared with Hoatson at a Saturday morning news conference in front of Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, Pa.
Munno was one of 11 men who reached an out-of-court cash settlement with Warren JFK concerning sexual abuse they said they suffered as students there between 1986 and 1990 at the hands of Brother Baker, who was then a teacher, baseball coach and athletic trainer at JFK. Some of the abuse was reported to have occurred during massages and whirlpool baths.
Similar accusations have been made concerning Brother Baker's behavior toward students when he taught religion and served as a baseball team trainer at Bishop McCort in the late 1990s.
Hoatson said the known victims in Warren and Johnstown “are to be congratulated for coming forward” and that Munno and the other victim who spoke at a Wednesday press conference in Newton Falls were catalysts for others who have since come forward to acknowledge they were abused and sought support.
Since the JFK settlement was announced at the Newton Falls news conference, Hoatson said eight additional JFK victims and 15 new Johnstown victims have contacted two lawyers handling the abuse cases, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, who negotiated the JFK settlement, or Michael Parrish in Johnstown.
At the news conference, Munno said he wished he had complained of the abuse at JFK while it was occurring to prevent the Johnstown abuse from occurring a decade later, but that he was afraid to speak out as a JFK high school student.
Munno urged all Johnstown victims to come forward and receive the support they deserve so they can begin their healing and recovery.
Hoatson urged victims to call his organization at 862-368-2800.
Baker, who resides at St. Bernadine Monastery in Newry, Pa., was the subject of complaints he abused boys at Bishop McCort in the late 1990s, church officials acknowledged.
Garabedian said the Warren cases were resolved without criminal charges or lawsuits because of concerns with the statute of limitations.
The Warren settlements were reached after talks involving the school, Third Order Regular Franciscans and Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, which said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the purported abuse.
Now, Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in central Pennsylvania has acknowledged receiving complaints in 2011 of possible abuse by Baker at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Atty. Parrish said at least five men who played baseball at the Johnstown school when Baker was there claim he touched them inappropriately.
Parrish said his clients are shocked “that what was relayed to them as therapeutic treatment was probably just a creative ruse for a sexual assault or molestation.”
Baker hasn't been charged or sued in Pennsylvania and hasn't returned requests for comment. His religious order said he's living under supervision to ensure he has no contact with minors.
Tony DeGol, a spokesman for the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, said Baker is not a diocesan priest, so officials there are not handling his situation. Still, Bishop Bartchak forwarded the information he received in 2011 to proper authorities and expressed concern in a statement issued Thursday.
“The abuse of minors at any time and place is wrong and can never be excused,” the bishop said in the statement.
Christians urged to tackle child abuse
The faith community can no longer ignore tragic cases of sexual exploitation says charity boss
by Marcia Dixon
THE HEAD of a community organisation that works provides mentoring to young black boys and provides support to families has said churches need to play more a role in combatting the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
Melvyn Davis is Director of Boyz to Men. He told Soul Stirrings : “Churches have an important role to play. Firstly in the area of education and self awareness. Children who attend church are targeted just as much as children on the streets. Church members need to educate themselves about the problems that the children in their communities are facing and gain experience by having members trained as well as volunteering with organisations involved in tackling these issues.”
His comments come in the wake of a number of media stories about sexual exploitation and sexual violence against women which beg the question what pressure can the church bring to bear on this issue?
One story that's filled news headlines is of the 23 year old Indian woman who died recently as a result of being gang raped and assaulted on a bus in Delhi, India. Her death has caused protests across India.
Here in the UK, a report was released in November by the Office of Children's Commissioners which revealed that thousands of children were sexually abused by gangs and groups. The report identified that up to 16,500 children were in danger of being sexually exploited and that there were higher levels of victimisation within black and minority ethnic communities.
The effects of sexual victimisation are illustrated with the current inquest into the death of 13 year old Chevonea Kendall-Bryan.
She died in March 2011 after falling 60ft to her death in a tragic accident from her home in Battersea, south west London.
The inquest revealed that the schoolgirl had been the victim of bullying, which worsened after she had been forced to perform a sexual act on two boys sending the young girl into a spiral of depression.
This case is very sad one, and highlights the pressure young girls experience from their male peers for sexual favours and its effect on their psyche.
Melvyn Davis believes the availability of porn, and gang affiliation is a key factor behind the rise of sexual exploitation of children. He said: “Boys who are exposed to porn at an early age are more inclined to replicate the scenes they have witnessed.
Girls are being sexually initiated into gangs to be passed around amongst members or used to settle disputes between rival gangs. In some cases the girls are driven to seek the protection of one gang to prevent rape or violence at the hands of another.”
Due to the major role that churches play in the black community, Melvyn believes that they are in the perfect position to spearhead efforts to raise awareness and help prevent sexual abuse of children. Church members need to educate themselves about the problems children in their communities are facing and gain experience by having members trained as well as volunteering with organisations involved in tackling these issues.”
He added: “Church members should also consider becoming mentors to help support and act as role models to children whose parents are separated and seeking recognition within gangs or gang affiliated activities. Churches really should be places where children and parents can receive unconditional, social and emotional support and be signposted to other community services.”
School Officials, Outside Experts Debate How to Prevent Sexual Abuse
As cases of alleged sexual abuse by Cassia County educators work through the courts, school officials and outside experts debate how to prevent such incidents.
by LAURIE WELCH and JULIE WOOTTON
BURLEY -- A three-year string of sex abuse charges in the Cassia County School District has led to questions of what the district has and should be doing to stop the abuse.
Four cases have been filed against school district employees in the past three years. A fifth involved a student aide. One teacher was found not guilty of alleged abuse, but three of the cases have produced guilty pleas. The newest is still pending in the courts.
In the past year the district has reviewed personnel policies, tightened hiring practices and followed up on every complaint of inappropriate behavior received, said Cassia County School District Superintendent Gaylen Smyer. But he and other school officials say the matter goes beyond just what the district can address.
“We do vet our employees more thoroughly than before, there is no question about it, but we can't guarantee their behavior,” Smyer said.
A Litany of Charges
In December, Burley High School Vice Principal Tara Bagley was charged with two counts of felony child sexual abuse after allegedly having sexual contact and explicit electronic communications with two female students.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the court case.
Hers is the fifth sexual abuse case involving the school district to reach the courts since 2010. Only one of the other four accused in that time was found not guilty of their charges — Alvin Andrew, a teacher at Oakley High School, was acquitted by a jury in 2012 after a female student claimed he sexually touched her in a classroom closet.
BHS teacher Chad Burnett pleaded guilty after he was charged with having a sexual relationship with a female student. He was sentenced in 2010 to at least three years in state prison and his state teaching license was revoked.
In 2011, Burley Junior High School teacher Michael Brinkerhoff pleaded guilty to having sexual Internet conversations with a female student and was released on 12 years of supervised probation. During the conversations, he posed as a teenage boy.
And under a plea agreement in December 2012, Josue Pablo Diaz pleaded guilty to child sex charges stemming from incidents in 2003 when he was a student assigned to be a classroom aide and had sexual misconduct with several boys 5-7 years old. He's set for a February sentencing in Cassia County 5th District Court.
“We've been in the news more than we care to be. But, when these things happen it is news,” said Smyer. “I hope people understand that these were individual choices and we will hold them accountable for those choices,” said Smyer.
A state school official told Smyer that the current Cassia County case was one of 23 similar active cases across the state right now — the bulk of them in Ada County, specifically Meridian, but others occurring in smaller communities such as Murtaugh and Castleford.
Idaho districts are required by law to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the Idaho State Department of Education's Professional Standards Commission, which is charged with investigating ethics complaints against educators. The commission has the power to suspend or revoke teaching licenses, as in Burnett's case. Its investigations can take time; Cassia County reported Brinkerhoff's case, but no resolution has been listed yet according to a public records request.
Out of the cases opened last year, 33 have been closed. Five involved educators accused of sexual misconduct — four with students and one with a minor who isn't a student.
Over the past few decades, 13 complaints filed with the PSC resulted in a south-central Idaho educator losing a teaching license.
In a number of those cases, educators were sentenced in court on child sexual abuse charges.
Christina Linder, ISDE's director of certification and professional standards, told the Times-News earlier this month that if an educator pleads guilty or is found guilty of a felony crime against a child, their license is permanently revoked.
Charles Hobson, a professor at Indiana University Northwest, said cases of educator sexual misconduct are happening all over the country. He wrote a book called “Passing the Trash: A Parent's Guide to Combat Sexual Abuse/Harassment of Their Children in School.” It was published in the fall.
“This is not a problem that occurs in isolated school districts,” he said. “This is going on everywhere.”
One Tool: Background Checks
Since Brinkerhoff was convicted, the Cassia County School District has ramped up its background checks and now uses ISDE's ability to examine prior personnel records from other schools, allowed in a law change in 2010.
Mike Poe, director of the educational leadership program at Northwest Nazarene University, said background checks do a pretty good job of finding out whether job applicants have had past criminal convictions.
But screening potential employees is only effective if the employee has a spotty past. The big question is how to screen out applicants who don't have a prior criminal background.
Poe said he doesn't know if there's a way to tell ahead of time whether an educator will be an offender.
State law only gives ISDE permission to provide school districts with information about applicants convicted of a felony offense, Linder said.
That leaves out information on when an applicant has been charged with a felony, or entered a plea but not yet been sentenced. And it skips misdemeanor crimes altogether.
It's up to school districts to decide if they want stricter background check policies.
Linder said school districts can say in their employment policy, for instance, that all applicants must submit a copy of the background check ISDE performs on them.
McGrath said in past years, only certified educators went through a background check process before they started working at a school.
That changed in 2008 with a bill sponsored by then-Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls. Now, background checks are required for student teachers, independent contractors and their employees, and other people who have unsupervised contact with students in a public school setting.
Patrick, now a state senator, said there are still cases of sexual abuse against students and there's more that could be done.
In Cassia County, Burnett had no incidents of previous bad behavior on record to use as a predictor. Brinkerhoff, it was later learned, had a string of misdemeanor petit thefts that could have influenced a hiring decision had the district been aware of them.
Smyer said that in recent years, the district has begun looking at background checks and references with a more critical eye — searching for both criminal charges and other matters. Cassia County's job application also asks the applicant for a waiver to allow the district access to prior employment files.
“Sometimes it's not a criminal issue but a district may be having other problems with a teacher. We would like to be able to take those things into consideration,” Smyer said.
Past employment files from other districts can reveal things like habitual lateness, not completing assigned tasks or just not meeting expectations. Having information like that allows the district to ask the right questions, he said.
Though hiring is an important step, it's only one factor in a district where teachers routinely stay for 35 years or more.
Mike Matthews, chairman of the district's board of trustees, said he feels the district takes proper steps vetting employees before they're hired and has the proper policies in place. Some people simply don't follow the rules, he said, and who those people are can't always be predicted.
Red-flag behavior that can indicate improper employee conduct can be reported on the building level before it escalates to a criminal situation. Reports can also be given to school board members or directly to Smyer.
The superintendent said he gets two or three anonymous letters a year addressing suspicious behavior, and he follows up on each one. In some cases, district employees have been the ones to blow the whistle on recent inappropriate behavior by staff, he said.
Matthews, who also serves on the state's parole board, said board members receiving tips will turn investigations over to district officials because they may be later asked to sit in judgment.
But whether teachers feel comfortable reporting the behavior of another staff member or if incidents are overlooked because of close relationships between teachers and administrators is unknown, Smyer said.
He said the district addresses such situations as soon as officials learn of them.
“And I fear that it's going on in other places and it just hasn't been brought to the surface,” he said.
Both district leaders said they believe Cassia County is doing its part to prevent sexually abusive situations.
“If there are flaws in the system I don't know what they'd be,” said Smyer. “I think the flaws are in the individuals.”
“I'm not justifying what happened,” said Matthews. “It's cut and dried what we do. There is no question, there is not even room for a hint — it goes right to the authorities. That being said, none of those people came into the district and immediately offended. They were people who came in from another district and made that totally illogical and unreasonable choice after a period of time, without any red flags.”
Technology & Society
A complication is the ease with which offenders and students can communicate in the modern world through texting and social media.
‘Sexting' and texting didn't even exist until recent years, Matthews noted.
“I don't know how to stop it. We've got a culture problem. We've got a promiscuity problem and a social-networking problem,” he said. “Those are three issues that are really concerning.”
A year ago, the district revisited an electronic communications policy that forbids a teacher to send inappropriate information to a student. Other policies prohibiting sexual conduct with students have existed for decades. A Boise law firm helps guide the district's policymaking.
Some of the policies, including technology use, are in constant flux as wider avenues of communication come into play — creating broader paths to go astray.
For students, sexual abuse awareness programs for “unwanted touch” are in place in the elementary levels. But Smyer and Matthews noted junior and senior high school students, although unable to give consent to sexual activity, still sometimes willingly participate in these activities with adults. And that doesn't lessen the adult's responsibility, Smyer said.
“I like to think awareness helps,” said Smyer. “There was a level of awareness on some of these other (prior) cases but yet here we are. They are in the media and in the press. I can't explain it.”
And differing values over what is proper behavior complicate efforts to increase that awareness, Matthews said, noting online comments from students reflecting approval or envy about abusive situations.
A number of Cassia County's policies — fingerprinted background checks, asking new hires to allow information to be gathered from their past jobs, asking employees to report concerns — are considered best practices on the national level.
But experts like Hobson call for additional steps from school districts, whom they see as having a sizeable responsibility to protect their students.
Among his suggestions: Ask hires if they've ever resigned rather than face punishment for an action, and forbid any school employee from ever being alone with a student. He also promotes using psychological testing during the hiring process, an idea he notes upsets teachers unions.
“I would say that the outcome of a child being sexually abused is so significant that these kinds of additional efforts in the hiring process are more than warranted,” he said.
The Professional Standards Commission focuses on the reporting angle. Linder noted reporting suspected cases of abuse is required.
“We really need to empower teachers to report,” she said, noting they do have immunity if they pass along information if they see something they don't feel is right.
Poe, from NNU, said diligence is the only thing he can think of to help prevent sexual abuse cases involving educators.
“I think that… unfortunately, you're dealing with human beings,” he said.
But he said offenders “have to be dealt with in an appropriate manner” and shouldn't be working around children.
If there's an issue or suspicion about a school employee, he said, it's important that it doesn't get covered up.
He said he thinks that has improved over the last 20 years — that school districts are dealing with issues quickly. But he suggested training for students about appropriate conduct and how to deal with issues needs to be stepped up.
“Oftentimes, students don't think about it,” he said.
Smyer noted that the district often can't talk about personnel investigations due to privacy laws, but that doesn't mean officials aren't working to address abuse.
“I hope people take confidence in the fact that when something is brought to our attention we deal with it — even though we can't tell them step-by-step what's happening or divulge details they want to know, that we're required to follow certain procedures,” he said.
Suggested Hiring Policies
Charles Hobson, a professor at Indiana University Northwest, shared recommendations with the Times-News about how school districts can address the issue of sexual misconduct.
He wrote a book released in the fall called “Passing the Trash: A Parent's Guide to Combat Sexual Abuse/Harassment of Their Children in School.”
Most of Hobson's suggestions center around hiring practices.
• Use a fingerprint-based national background check system for any applicant who will come in contact with students. Hobson said that should include coaches, school bus drivers and volunteers.
• Put a question on job applications such as “Have you ever been disciplined for misconduct by a previous employer or resigned rather than faced punishment after a complaint was filed?” Hobson said the question is designed to pick up anyone who benefited from a “passing the trash” deal. If an applicant lies on the application and the truth comes out later, it's usually grounds for immediate termination.
Also, Hobson said, putting the question at the top of an application usually deters people with shady backgrounds and they'll withdraw their application.
• Ask applicants to sign a waiver of liability letter so information can be gathered from former employers.
• Use psychological testing during the hiring process. Hobson said he'd like to see it used in school systems for everyone who has contact with children.
Although some people - and teacher's unions - would be upset about the method, he said the first priority should be the welfare of children.
“I would say that the outcome of a child being sexually abused is so significant that these kinds of additional efforts in the hiring process are more than warranted,” he said.
• Create a policy that no school employee is allowed to be alone with a student.
Hobson said if educators need to meet with a student after school, for instance, it doesn't need to happen alone in a classroom.
He suggests interactions should happen in a setting such as a library or cafeteria where other people are present.
• Educate school employees, parents and students on their rights and what's appropriate conduct.
• Promote a climate in a school system where people know it's their responsibility to report suspected abuse. Hobson said coworkers sometimes have suspicions or know what's going on, but don't report anything.
“We need more aggressive enforcement of the laws currently on the books,” he said.
He said he believes people who suspect or know something and don't report it are accessories to child abuse and should face criminal charges.
'Passing the Trash'
Professor Charles Hobson first heard of the concept of “passing the trash”when he started researching for his book.
The term refers to deals negotiated between school officials and a perpetrator who is allowed to resign and is given a positive letter of reference for another school.
Hobson said those involved agree not to call law enforcement officials and that information about the incident won't go in the perpetrator's personnel file.
Cassia County School District Superintendent Gaylen Smyer said his district does not ever withhold information about negative past employee behavior from another hiring district.
“But, I can't speak for anybody else,” Smyer said. “We have to be careful what we do say but long gone are the days of ‘if you leave I'll write you a good recommendation.' That just doesn't happen, at least not in this district.”
Over the years, Smyer said, the district has coached some teachers and dismissed others. Many good teachers have left for their own various personal reasons.
“There's a belief out in the community and elsewhere that we can't get rid of teachers and that's not so,” said Smyer. “They have their rights and we go through due process. It can take some time and some work but if they're not a good fit for the job or the system there are mechanisms to move them.”
The topic of “passing the trash” has gained national attention by national nonprofit organizations and researchers who are working to address the topic of educator misconduct.
Terri Miller is president of Stop Educator Sex Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation, a nonprofit based in Las Vegas. She said one of her group's top priorities is to push for policies and legislation that prohibit that practice of passing the trash.
“What I find most appalling about this problem is that school systems customarily protect themselves and the predator with total disregard for student safety,” she said.
Miller said students are put at risk when the case isn't reported to authorities. And she said some educators go on to offend again.
She said it's “evil” to circumvent mandatory reporting laws by allowing teachers to quietly resign.
The organization's leaders are working with legislators, including at the federal level, on bills that address the topic of passing the trash.
From the Department of Homeland Security
USCIS: Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking
by Alejandro Mayorkas Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Human trafficking exists today in every country and in every state in our nation. It exists in cities, suburbs, and rural areas – hidden in plain sight. Traffickers often lure victims with false promises of a better life only to exploit them through forced labor or commercial sex.
At U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, we contribute to the Department of Homeland Security's effort to combat human trafficking by providing immigration relief for victims. USCIS helps protect victims by offering visas for them to stay legally in the United States while assisting law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the trafficker. This video shares the stories of two human trafficking victims who were able to rebuild their lives because of this form of immigration relief.
From 2000 to 2012, USCIS processed and approved more than 3,000 T visa applications for victims of human trafficking, and we have seen an increase in the number of these applications in recent years. But we still need your help reaching victims who often are too afraid to step forward and ask for help.
To learn more about immigration relief for victims and how to assist victims and law enforcement, please visit our website. For law enforcement entities or service providers seeking information about training on the forms of immigration relief offered to victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and other crimes, or to register for upcoming community training sessions, please email T-UVAWATraining@dhs.gov.
You can also learn more through the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign. The Blue Campaign unites DHS's efforts to combat human trafficking through enhanced public awareness, training, victim assistance, and law enforcement investigations.
If you suspect human trafficking, call the Homeland Security Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE or complete our online tip form.
We urge you to join our effort to combat human trafficking.
YMCA to host child sexual abuse prevention seminar
by JOHN PENNEY
Danielson, Conn. —
The Regional Community Family YMCA, a branch of YMCA Greater Hartford, will host a community meeting this month to raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse.
The community meeting will discuss facts about child sexual abuse, prevention initiatives and ways to develop community-based responses to the issue.
The forum is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson. To attend, email email@example.com
Larimer County Child Advocacy Center gives voice to children facing sexual abuse, crime
by Sarah Jane Kyle
Today we're going to talk about something very sensitive. Something that many of you probably aren't ready to talk about. But honestly, who is?
We're going to talk about the sexual abuse of those most vulnerable in our community: children.
I can't speak to you as a parent or as someone who has children directly in my care. I can't relate to this issue on that level, but I can speak to you as someone who has walked through the fires of therapy, heartbreak and lingering emotional damage with friends who were sexually abused as children. I'm not going to tell you their stories — I don't have that right. But if I can prevent one child from going through what they went through by this column, I'll consider it a success.
More than 300 children — that we know of — were sexually abused in Larimer County last year, according to staff members at local nonprofit Larimer County Child Advocacy Center, who work directly with abused children and those who witness crimes or abuse.
“If this was polio or another disease, people would be outraged at how many kids in our area are affected,” said Executive Director Jillian Carroll. “(Sexual abuse to children) really is a health epidemic, but adults don't always do a great job at protecting kids from this because they don't know what to do.”
Child Advocacy Center works with children who have been sexually abused or witnessed a crime or abuse in a number of ways, from victim advocacy to conducting forensic interviews to be used in prosecuting perpetrators. Though the name includes “Larimer County,” they receive no payment for services aside from occasional Victim's Compensation funding, which cannot be used for preventative programs but rather only for directly aiding victims. They receive no payment from government agencies or law enforcement to maintain neutrality in the case of an investigation.
Carroll's hope is that year by year, she'll work with fewer and fewer clients facing this issue by bringing sexual abuse into the light, better preparing children to know what's safe and unsafe when it comes to adult contact and teaching adults how to respond to a child who's disclosing sexual abuse.
So far this school year, they've shared with 700 children the Talk About Touching program, which starts with safety basics — wearing a bike helmet, looking both ways before crossing the street, etc. — and builds to include safety regarding adult contact. It culminates in a reading of “The Swimsuit Lesson,” a book by local police Sgt. Jon Holsten, that helps facilitate conversations regarding safe and unsafe touching between children and adults: Anywhere your swimsuit would cover is an “unsafe” area of the body to be touched.
I had the opportunity to sit in on the first Talk About Touching class of the semester with a group of first-graders at Werner Elementary School. The moderator, retired teacher Sherry Bundy, worked with the children on their level, using multiple role play situations and asking questions to make sure they understand the safety principles discussed. As the class progressed to what a child should do if offered a gift by someone they know or going somewhere they know, it was interesting to see kids grasp the concept that even if your grandma asks you to go to the park, you still have to ask your mom.
The class emphasizes interactions between children and people close to them. Carroll said up to 97 percent of cases regarding sexual abuse of children involve a perpetrator close to the children — someone who already has an in — as opposed to the “stranger danger” often referred to in child safety courses.
Another way Child Advocacy Center seeks to reduce the number of children walking through their doors is by educating adults — both parents and school and law enforcement officials — how to respond if a child comes to them saying they've been touched inappropriately or abused.
Child Advocacy Center forensic investigator Doug Birdsall, who runs a series of trainings geared toward professionals on how to handle disclosures, said adults can often say the wrong thing and prevent a child from fully disclosing their abuse — or ask leading questions that could harm a later investigation.
Courses taught through the center help adults learn what to say — and what not to say — to best help a child who's been abused.
“There are three things you need to understand about why and how a child discloses abuse,” Birdsall said. “It's incremental, meaning they'll tell a little piece of information to see what a person does with it and if that adult doesn't respond in the way the child needs to feel safe, they won't tell the rest. Their disclosure will also be delayed, meaning it tends to be a long time after the fact before they'll tell anyone about it and the physical evidence — and witnesses — are often gone. They're also very hesitant to disclose because children often, for a variety of reasons, are protective of their perpetrator or how the news will affect their family.
“It could be how that child believes affection is shown and they don't know they're supposed to tell anyone about until later because it's happened from a very young age for a very long time.”
The most important thing he wants people to know is that though society sometimes does not believe children, assuming they're mad about “having to clean their room” or a disciplinary action, statistics and his personal experience show that children do not lie about being sexually abused.
“It's almost unheard of,” Birdsall said. “When a child says something like that, it should be believed. I would like to see the things kids disclose be given more weight and value.”
Sarah Jane Kyle is the Coloradoan reporter covering volunteerism, nonprofits and philanthropy. Follow her on Twitter @sarahjanekyle or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/reportersarahjane
Brownback seeks tougher penalties for sex trafficking of children
by BRENT D. WISTROM
People who pay for sex with children would face increased penalties and fines under a human trafficking bill Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt plan to introduce to the Kansas Legislature next week.
“We need more punishment that targets those who purchase the sex from children and more for the victims to help them, the victims of these heinous crimes,” Brownback said. “With this important legislation Kansas will take great strides forward in the fight against modern day slavery.”
Schmidt said Friday that existing human trafficking penalties created in 2005 for those who victimize 14 to 17 year olds are soft.
The new proposal, which is not yet available in detail, would create a new crime for commercial sexual exploitation of a child and elevate those exploiting children in their late teens to a mid-level felony on first offense and a top-level felony on any subsequent convictions.
The existing Jessica's Law provides for a life sentence for those who exploit children under 14.
The plan also hikes fines for convicts that would be channeled to improved victim services for victims of sex and labor trafficking.
Schmidt said Kansas will emphasize that anyone under 18 being paid for sex is a victim, not a criminal. He said people “in some quarters” tend to think those victims have somehow allowed themselves to get involved in prostitution.
Schmidt applauded Wichita and Sedgwick County authorities for innovative work that has cracked down on sex trafficking and improved services to victims.
“They've been focused locally on this problem in a holistic manner for a number of years,” he said.
Lawmakers have debated tougher laws for human trafficking for years, including discussions last year that evolved into the proposal announced Friday.
Last year, then-Sedgwick County Deputy District Attorney Marc Bennett, who is now district attorney, told lawmakers that existing laws allow men who pay 16- and 17-year-old girls for sex to only face a Class C misdemeanor, which carries the same type of penalties as driving with a suspended license.
He called on lawmakers to help authorities further punish those who exploit the children.
Bennett said Friday he was happy to hear that the governor and attorney general were pursuing the issue.
“I'm certainly supportive of the idea of updating our laws with regard to prostitution and human trafficking,” he said.
Somaly Mam, Human Trafficking Victim Turned Activist: 'I Just Want To Help' Others Escape
Growing up in war-torn Cambodia and separated from her parents, a young Somaly Mam was easy prey for a human trafficker, who eventually brought her to a brothel hundreds of miles from her hometown. She spoke to HuffPost Live host Josh Zepps on Friday, describing how she managed to grow from violated child into human rights activist.
After enduring hellacious conditions in the brothel, she eventually fled, but had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Alone and abused, Mam said she "just stopped and sat down, 'where am I going?' I wanted to go back to the brothel because I have no house, no home."
However, she managed to survive and build a life for herself, fueled by her belief that she needed "to help other people to have this opportunity" to escape from sex slavery.
"I just want to help them, I want to be the family for the kids who don't have a family," Mam said, and since 1996 her organizations AFESIP and the Somaly Mam Foundation have cared for thousands of young women throughout Southeast Asia, helping them leave brothels and reenter society. Mam described how that healing can begin by being a caring listener for the victims.
"The first thing, sometimes you don't need to talk to them," Mam told HuffPost Live. "You look at them and hold their hand and you hug them, and our heart can feel it."
The problem, however, is not only overseas. In the US, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Joining Somaly Mam to talk about sex trafficking were Alison Kiehl Friedman, Deputy Director, US Dept. Of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Chris Baughman, Human Trafficking Detective in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kimberly Benson, a young woman who described being sold into prostitution in her own home town in Tennessee.
Watch the Full Interview on HuffPost Live.
German Priests Carried Out Sexual Abuse for Years
by MELISSA EDDY
BERLIN — A report about child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, based on victim accounts and released by the church this week, showed that priests carefully planned their assaults and frequently abused the same children repeatedly for years.
The report, compiled from information collected from victims and other witnesses who called a hot line run by the church from 2010 until the end of last year, includes the ages of the victims, the locations of the assaults and the repercussions they have suffered since. The accounts were provided in 8,500 calls to the hot line; they are not representative of abuse cases over all and cannot be individually verified. The church said the report contained information from 1,824 people, of whom 1,165 described themselves as victims.
Germany's bishops have vowed a thorough and impartial investigation into the abuse. Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, who is looking into abuse cases for the German Bishops' Conference, told reporters after the report was released on Thursday that it served as an example of that intention.
“I found particularly devastating the perpetrators' lies to their under-aged victims that their actions were an expression of a loving bond with God,” he said Thursday. Claudia Adams, who said she was assaulted as a child in a preschool run by the church in a village near Trier, works through her trauma by blogging about the abuse scandal. The priest who abused her “told me that I was now ‘closer to God,' ” she said in a telephone interview on Friday from her home near Trier.
The church's credibility regarding its commitment to an impartial investigation suffered a fresh blow last week when the bishops canceled an independent study into the abuse scandal amid allegations by the independent investigator, Christian Pfeiffer, that the church was censoring information.
The church insists that it remains committed to carrying out the independent study once a new investigator can be found. Even if the church should produce a report, observers note that it will be a challenge to undo the damage caused by Mr. Pfeiffer's allegations. “It's not even about the damage to their image so much as it is to their trustworthiness,” said Andreas Holzem, a professor of church history at Tübingen University.
Many of the victims said their call to the hot line was the first time they had told anyone about assaults that took place decades ago, most between 1950 and 1980, the report said. Many callers broke down in the middle of their stories and, overcome by emotion, simply hung up the phone, it said. Those who told their stories painted a picture of priests who preyed on emotionally vulnerable children, building up their trust and then assaulting them, repeatedly, over a period of several years.
The reported assaults were clustered largely in the country's heavily Roman Catholic regions along the Rhine River to the west and throughout the south, including Pope Benedict XVI's home state, Bavaria.
Germans were further outraged by reports this week that two Roman Catholic hospitals in Cologne had refused to carry out a gynecological examination on a 25-year-old suspected rape victim. An emergency doctor who had helped the woman told the newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that the hospitals cited ethical objections to advise women on unwanted pregnancies and on steps that can be taken to prevent them, like the morning-after pill. The Archdiocese of Cologne denied that the church refuses to treat rape victims. The hospitals blamed a “misunderstanding” and said the matter was under investigation.
Wife's texts to husband can be used against her in child abuse case, state court rules
by Matt Miller
In a decision that could be far-reaching, a state court has ruled that text messages a Franklin County woman sent to her husband can be used to prosecute her in a child abuse case.
Superior Court Judge Anne E. Lazarus wrote that the ruling will aid the state's post-Sandusky case push to better protect children from harm.
A midstate prosecutor, Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, hailed the ruling as strengthening the ability of police and prosecutors to bring child abusers to justice.
“It's certainly a huge help to us in prosecuting these types of cases,” Freed said.
But local defense attorney Brian Perry expressed concern.
He warned that the court's decision could lead to further undermining of the long-held legal tenet that husband-wife communication is private cannot be used in criminal cases.
“Obviously, it's good for child abuse prosecutions. And we all want our children to be safe,” Perry said of the state court ruling. “However, this is a slippery slope.”
That decision upholds a ruling by Franklin County Judge Richard J. Walsh in the case against Michele Rene Hunter of Chambersburg.
Hunter is awaiting trial on charges that she physically abused her 4-year-old stepson and conspired with her husband William to try to cover up the injuries and delay getting the child medical care.
Despite arguments by Hunter's lawyer to the contrary, Walsh and Superior Court Judges Lazarus, Jacqueline O. Shogan and Paula Francisco Ott concluded that texts the Hunters exchanged after the boy was injured are fair game for the prosecution.
Police said Hunter was arrested in March 2011 after first telling officers that the boy suffered head injuries in an accidental fall. She later admitted pushing him, investigators contend.
Hunter's texts to her husband described the boy's deteriorating medical condition over a 36-hour span before he went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital.
William Hunter is charged with conspiracy in the case.
“If spouses can't talk to each other in confidence, that's a scary day.” - defense attorney Brian Perry
In her opinion, Lazarus noted that state law generally bars prosecutors from using spousal communications as evidence in criminal cases.
“Historically, the privilege was enacted to preserve marital harmony by encouraging free marital communication, allowing spouses to confide freely and protecting the privacy of marriage,” she wrote.
Yet she said the courts must “modernize” that view and recognize that such a bar can impede efforts to protect “fragile members of society,” such as child abuse victims.
“Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law recognizes that, in order to further important public policy, privileged communication may need to give way to the prosecution of child abuse,” Lazarus said.
The child protective law has been toughened in the wake of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's multiple child abuse convictions.
Lazarus said Hunter could not expect that her text to her husband would have remained confidential since they had been the subject of a Children & Youth Services hearing on her step-son's injuries.
The judge also noted that Hunter's husband has agreed to testify against her in the criminal case.
“It seems illogical to potentially hinder the commonwealth's child abuse case by excluding...critical communications regarding that abuse made between spouses, especially where more than 90 percent of reported child abuse cases stem from abuse that occurred in the home,” Lazarus found.
Hunter's lawyer, Stephen Kulla, didn't return a phone call seeking comment on whether he will appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Freed said the Superior Court's decision provides “one more tool for prosecutors and the police.
He said he didn't know if his office had any cases that might be affected by it, “but it wouldn't surprise me for a second if we did.”
“In this day and age we're more and more likely to have this kind of (text message) evidence,” Freed said.
Perry said he's concerned that the texting decision could be expanded to eat away the privacy protections for spousal communications in other types of criminal cases.
“They're legislating, in my opinion, from the bench. They're setting policy now,” he said. “In my mind, that is the province of the Legislature.”
“A spouse should be able to speak freely and openly with his or her spouse and not be concerned that it may be used against them in a criminal proceeding,” Perry said. “If spouses can't talk to each other in confidence, that's a scary day.”
Learn to recognize & report child abuse
by Fannin County Children's Center
Free classes are available in Bonham for adults to learn how to recognize and report child abuse. The class is designed for parents, teachers, other school personnel, day care workers, coaches, Sunday School teachers and other professionals and volunteers who work with children.
“Recognizing & Reporting” is a 1.5 hour class that utilizes video, class discussion and case studies. Learning objectives include: the realities of child abuse, detailing who becomes victims, who the likely perpetrators are and the prevalence of abuse in all communities, the legal definitions, signs and symptoms of child abuse, how to communicate with a child who makes a disclosure of abuse, how to make a report and how to overcome one's fear's and barriers around reporting.
This class will be offered two times in the coming weeks: on Tuesday, January 22 from 5:30 - 7:00 pm and again on Tuesday, Feb 5 from 11:30 - 1:00 pm.
Both classes will be held at the Fannin County Children's Center at 112 West Fifth Street in Bonham. All participants who successfully complete the class will receive a certificate. Thanks to generous donations, there is no charge for the classes. Seating is limited.
To register, contact the Children's Center by phone at (903) 583-4339, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in person at 112 W. 5th in Bonham. Provide your name, which class you want to attend and a contact method (phone and/or email).
To schedule one of these trainings on site at your school, church or other youth serving organization, contact Sandy Barber at the same number.
Saudi Arabia to launch child abuse hotline
Saudi Arabia is preparing a 24-hour hotline service to receive calls about violence against children, Saudi Arabia's Okaz reported Thursday (January 17th).
Maha al-Maneef, executive manager of the Saudi cabinet's family safety organisation, said specialists will supervise the new hotline and hear complaints.
Al-Maneef said security officers in the group's offices have also been tasked with swiftly responding to complaints anywhere in the kingdom.
The step aims to reduce cases of child abuse and hold violators of family and children law accountable, al-Maneef said.
Number of child sex abuse sites quadruples
THE number of web pages identified by Australian authorities as containing child sex abuse material has quadrupled since 2006.
There was a 20 per cent rise in such pages detected in 2012 alone, they say.
Yet online child pornography remains accessible to Australian pedophiles, in part because of the nation's light-handed approach to internet censorship.
Senior federal detectives say an increasing number of child sex abuse websites are being created, mostly overseas, by highly-organised networks using rapidly-evolving technology aimed at protecting their anonymity.
Figures show that in 2006 the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) asked internet filter companies to remove from view 303 overseas-hosted child sex abuse web pages and nine originating in Australia.
The total shot up to 1042 pages in 2011 and 1286 in 2012.
The cases include a small but significant number of pages offering pedophiles tips on how to avoid detection.
But the many internet users who don't voluntarily use family-friendly filters (including pedophiles) can still access abuse websites.
While Australian authorities don't have absolute power to block overseas-hosted web pages, the federal government reached an agreement in November with some service providers who volunteered to block 1432 websites contained on an Interpol "worst of the worst" blacklist.
The deal came after Labor abandoned plans to introduce a mandatory, blanket internet filter which would have seen access to many abuse websites blocked overnight.
The plans were ditched after claims, including from the opposition, that a blanket filter would be bad for freedom and freedom of speech.
Larger ISPs, including Telstra and Optus, agreed to block the Interpol-listed sites in 2010.
It remains unclear how quickly small to medium-sized ISPs have responded to Labor's agreement, though the AFP says it is still working with companies on the issue.
It is understood some of the blacklisted websites remain accessible to some internet users in Australia.
The Australian Federal Police say the number of child abuse websites has grown since 2006, driven by demand from pedophiles who "compulsively collect child exploitation material".
More of these sites are being discovered by law enforcement agencies in Australia and overseas.
AFP Detective Superintendent Todd Hunter said: "The AFP's experience is that there appears to be an increase in websites with child exploitation material (CEM) being published.
"This is why more websites with CEM are being identified by law enforcement."
As evidence of the growth, Det Sup Hunter pointed to the number of websites on Interpol's blacklist, many of which show children aged 13 or younger, and which more than trebled from 409 in 2011 to 1432 in December 2012.
"This increase can be attributed to the ever-evolving sophistication of child exploitation networks and technologies, combined with the increase in data storage capability, anonymity, global reach and accessibility of the internet," he added.
Because many of the abuse websites visible in Australia originate overseas it falls on police in those jurisdictions to investigate and shut them down.
Mostly they are successful.
But the websites sometimes quickly reappear using different URL addresses and names.
Websites subjected to filter requests in Australia recently include one, reported to Australian Federal Police (AFP) on October 30, 2012, which acted as a "paedophile advocacy" platform and offered abusers tips to avoid detection.
According to police documents obtained under freedom of information laws, an Australian internet user stumbled on the website while reading about Britain's Jimmy Savile abuse scandal.
The internet user said the website had an "innocuous" looking internet address.
"I clicked into the main site to see who these people were and found an entire Wiki (a website developed collaboratively by users) of info designed to assist pedophiles in avoiding detection," the person wrote.
There have been around 16 pedophile "advocacy websites" - visible in Australia - investigated since 2008, including four in 2012 and six in 2009.
The AFP confirmed the website reported on October 30 originated overseas and referred the case to detectives in that country.
The AFP did not have the power to investigate the site itself.
It remains unclear if the website has been blocked, filtered or removed.
In October 2012 alone the ACMA said it received 305 complaints about online child sex abuse sites, including two "advocacy" sites.
"From the complaints investigated during October 2012, the ACMA located two separate items of overseas-hosted content found to promote, or provide instruction in, pedophile activity, in addition to 206 items of overseas-hosted content found to resolve to online child sexual abuse material," it said in a statement.
The AFP and the ACMA say they are entirely committed to fighting child sex abuse websites.
But child advocacy and protection groups have argued that far more can be done to restrict access.
Sydney-based Youth Off the Streets CEO Father Chris Riley says he'd like to see Australian authorities handed more power to completely block websites depicting child abuse.
"Absolutely they should be given powers to block overseas sites," he told AAP.
"Our most important duty as a nation is to keep our most vulnerable safe - that is our children."
Carolyn Worth from Victoria's Centre Against Sexual Assault forum said pedophiles are also increasingly using pictures gained from Facebook and other sites to create material.
"One of the things we know is that they (pedophiles) are harvesting, they're going through and taking out pictures of people who don't have adequate privacy settings," she told AAP.
"They actually create material from stuff that was posted innocently."
Volunteers Hit Hotels With Soap During Auto Show
There's a growing effort across Metro Detroit to help women caught up in the sex trafficking industry.
Members of the community and the Junior League of Birmingham are fanning out to area hotels, delivering bars of soap to local hotels imprinted with what could be a lifeline.
WWJ's Kathryn Larson talked with Kristie Henderson of Birmingham, who has been delivering the soap to local hotels imprinted with a human trafficking help hotline. Because traffic grows on sex sites like backpage.com during the big Auto Show in Detroit, activists believe human trafficking — which involves kidnapping young girls into the sex trade — also grows.
This year more than 50,000 bars of soap went out ahead of the Auto Show.
The Murray Hill Hotel on 8 Mile refused the donation of soap, while the Holiday Inn Express accepted and were willing to pass them out.
“It was interesting to me that they wouldn't want to,” said Henderson.
“It happens here every single day and that was hard for me to hear. Awareness is really important and that's why we're doing it,” Henderson continued.
WATCH Part 1: Soap Cleans Up Sex Trafficking During Auto Show
DA film screening sheds light on human sex trafficking in San Bernardino County
by Beatriz E. Valenzuela
REDLANDS -- More than 100 people attended the screening of a 45-minute documentary about child human trafficking created by the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office Thursday night at the Kirkorian Theatre.
Created by DA's office spokesman, Chris Lee, the three-year project, Teenage $ex 4 $ale, looks at the problem of prostitution, specifically child prostitution in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
"Chirs did an amazing job," said District Attorney Mike Ramos who said he waited to see the film until Thursday night so he could enjoy it with everyone else.
The documentary followed law enforcement officers, members of the California Against Sexual Exploitation of Minors or CASE taskforce and some of the women and girls themselves telling the story of human trafficking on the streets of San Bernardino County.
At one point, a woman who was not identified, revealed she had been a child prostitute. While at a CASE presentation and meeting she cried out, "Where was this when I was out there?"
Not only did the film document the problems with child sex trafficking but also showed how some are fighting back.
Pastor Paula Daniels with Forgotten Children, Inc. was able to open Rachel's House in San Bernardino in order to help the women and girls trying to get away from their abusing pimps.
"We will work to rid this type of crime in our county," said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon following the screening.
Several representatives from other agencies including Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and county schools were on hand and praised the film as necessary to open the eyes of residents and parents alike.
A three-minute trailer for the film can be found at http://www.youtube.com/sbcountyda
Sex trafficking Operation Dark Night investigation: 13 arrests made
by VICTORIA MACCHI
FORT MYERS — A two-year federal investigation into a sex trafficking and prostitution ring from Naples to North Carolina culminated Wednesday with 13 arrests and up to 11 women rescued.
John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was expected to announce the results of "Operation Dark Night" in a press conference in Savannah, Ga.
The trafficking operation enticed undocumented women from Mexico, Nicaragua, and other countries to the Southeastern U.S., court records show.
It was, as one source described to investigators, a "prostitution delivery service," where the sex workers were given daily quotas — upward of 25 clients for at least one of the trafficking victims, according to a complaint filed in federal court against a Collier County man.
The women were rotated weekly from john to john and city to city, as recently as Sunday in Naples, an investigator noted in an affidavit.
"ICE investigates a wide array of crimes, but the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution is among the most sinister," Morton said in a written statement obtained by the Naples Daily News. "Few crimes so damage their victims and undermine basic human decency. Our fight against this evil must be relentless, both here and abroad."
One of the women — who worked for an accused pimp in Collier County and was the girlfriend of the organization's ringleader in Georgia — told her boyfriend she serviced 163 clients in the week she was based out of an area home, according to the affidavit.
U.S. Marshals arrested Antonio Mendez-Lopez at that home Wednesday morning, and he is being held in a Lee County jail pending extradition to Georgia to face charges.
Councilor Ayanna Pressley partners with organizations to hold empowerment day for girls and women
At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley has partnered with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), Boston Police Department (BPD), Casa Myrna, and Girls' LEAP to hold "Raise Your Voice, A Day of Empowerment for Girls and Women."
Pressley and partnering organizations have put together a day of informative and interactive workshops designed for participants to talk openly about the many types of sexual violence, connect with resources for survivors, and become involved in long-term efforts to reduce sexual violence in Boston.
The Empowerment Day will take place on Saturday, January 19th from 9am to 1pm at Northeastern University, Egan Engineering/Science Research Center, Raytheon Amphitheater, 120 Forsyth Street.
Participants can choose to attend one of the following workshops:
|BPD Personal Safety and Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) System Teaser
BARCC Survivor Speakers
Casa Myrna Domestic Violence Overview for Providers (e.g. teachers, non-profit personnel)
Girls' LEAP Self-Defense Mother-Daughter (ages 8-18) Workshop
In 2012 alone, BARRC advocates met with 341 recently-assaulted survivors at hospitals throughout Boston. Furthermore, the 2011 Boston Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 12.6% of Boston high school students reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse (15.8% of girls and 9.2% of boys).
After several high-profile and repeated sexual assaults on women and girls in several neighborhoods of Boston this Fall, many residents and organizations called Pressley asking for support resources and how they could help stem the tide of sexual violence.
"Sexual violence is as ugly as it is complex. For some, it is a sudden attack by a stranger, for others it happens at the hands of a loved one. One rape is too many," Pressley said. "Raise Your Voice Empowerment Day is about building a long-term community conversation to end the culture and cycle of rape."
"We are thrilled to see this activism championed by Councilor Pressley so the community has the opportunity to discuss how sexual violence impacts our lives and what we can do about it," said Gina Scaramella, Executive Director, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
"Casa Myrna knows how important empowerment through knowledge is to a survivor's story," Deborah Collins-Gousby, Executive Director of Casa Myrna said. "It is days like this that provide the voice for people going through forms of sexual violence to realize they are not alone and for others to understand the span of its effect. Our hope is that the conversation around violence continues on long after the day ends and we start to build that community of conscience that Dr. King envisioned."
"Girls' LEAP is excited to co-sponsor because it raises awareness about the continuing violence against girls," said Katjana Ballantyne, Executive Director of Girls' LEAP. "Through this event we hope to empower girls and young women to value and champion their own safety and well-being."
Councilor Pressley is founder and Chair of the City Council's Committee on Women and Healthy Communities. She is a survivor of child sexual abuse and sexual assault as an adult
Teaming up to root out abuse
by Karen Bartoletti, Matt Womack, Mark Mouritsen
Despite years of effort — building bigger shelters, providing increased therapy and support, developing engaging community education projects and the myriad other ways Austin Children's Shelter and SafePlace address child, sexual and domestic violence and abuse — both agencies have been swimming against an ever-rising tide with increasingly limited resources for the past several years.
As board members of these organizations, we have watched as battered women have lost their children, teen moms have moved out of the foster care system and into abusive relationships, eventually losing custody of their children, and teen boys have ended up in the juvenile justice system because of violence toward their girlfriends — doing what they learned in their own homes. We haven't been ending abuse; we have only been pausing it.
When the leaders of these agencies recommended last year that we develop an alliance that would allow us to offer new programs to clients, combine our voices to advocate for change, and share costs, we soon realized that it was our opportunity to do much more for survivors than we'd ever done before.
We could see the similarities in the work we did, providing shelter and support to victims of abusive homes. But as we listened to the frontline professionals in both organizations, we realized that there was more to the idea. The “aha” moment came when we realized that 80 percent of the women in SafePlace's supportive housing program — which helps women establish independent lives after an initial stay in emergency shelter — had a background in the foster care system.
It stands to reason that children traumatized by prolonged exposure to abuse would need support to learn healthier patterns of behavior. It also stands to reason that young adults who “age out” of foster care may not have the support network or resources to maintain independent lives in the face of poverty, unemployment, and unresolved post-traumatic stress.
We recognize that our work, our clients, and our issues are interconnected, and therefore, as of Jan. 1, Austin Children's Shelter and SafePlace have formed Lift: An Alliance to End Abuse. The two organizations will maintain their names, facilities, and independent 501(c)(3) statuses; the alliance will engage in long-term planning and service coordination between the two. Over time, we anticipate that the alliance will offer the clients of both organizations more and better services, give us the opportunity to advocate for more responsive and intelligent systems that would help to stop the violence altogether, and use scarce resources more efficiently.
Our first project together is the UT George M. Kozmetsky Charter School, located on the SafePlace campus. Established as a K-8 school many years ago to serve the children who are at SafePlace with their mothers, the school offers a supportive atmosphere and a staff that receives ongoing training in helping kids in crisis. This year, the school added grades 9-12 and welcomed students from the shelter.
We will also be able to tailor services to each client much more effectively — as an example, a teen mother who recently arrived at SafePlace has been transferred to the Teen Parent Program at the shelter, where she will receive more support and training to build a healthy life for herself and her child.
With the Lift Alliance, we are determined to chart a new course on these issues, to recognize that child abuse and family violence aren't really two separate problems but part of a larger cycle of violence that is learned over time and repeated over generations. We can't fix the bureaucratic tangles that can often endanger the lives of victims or create new sources of funding that will stretch to fully meet the need in our community. But we can begin to develop systems and approaches that help to strengthen families, keep kids safe, and prevent problems before they occur.
Last year, 102 women and 246 children were murdered in Texas by family members. Tens of thousands of our Central Texas neighbors are trapped in abusive homes right now, traumatized and terrified of what will happen if they try to escape. Those murders, those injuries, that stress and fear and trauma — we refuse to accept that those are inevitable. We choose to serve on the boards of these organizations because we want to do everything we can to stop the violence and prevent it from recurring in future generations. With the Lift Alliance, we believe we have a powerful new tool to accomplish those goals.
Ads to W.Va. adults: Be brave, report child abuse
State has 20 advocacy centers available
by VICKI SMITH
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A new public service an-nouncement airing on West Virginia television aims to educate adults about the warning signs of child abuse and to give them the courage to report it.
The 30-second “One with Courage” spots also tell people about the state's 20 children's advocacy centers, which serve children in a combined 32 counties. The ad will air on West Virginia Media stations for eight weeks.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthdays, it says, but only one in 10 will report it.
The idea behind the campaign is to highlight the bravery required of children to disclose their abuse, then give adults the courage to find their own voices, said Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Children's Advocacy Network.
Advocacy centers treat victims of both physical and sexual abuse, as well as children who witness violent crime or are mistreated in other ways. They listen to their stories and work to hold perpetrators accountable while getting those children started on a path toward healing.
“We are calling on all adults in our community to have courage by educating themselves, talking openly about this important issue and responding appropriately when they suspect abuse,” she said.
Most children are assaulted by people they know, often by family or friends of their families.
“It's almost never a stranger,” Chittenden-Laird said.
The campaign also helps educate adults about some warning signs, including unexplained injuries, changes in eating and sleeping habits, lack of personal hygiene and inappropriate sexual behaviors.
National figures show children are dying from abuse and neglect at a higher rate in West Virginia than any other state. It's a problem that judges, social workers and others say is fueled by rampant substance abuse and likely to grow unless lawmakers get serious about finding and paying for solutions.
Children's advocates say the state needs a safety net of suitable foster care, adoptive families, in-home services and community-based prevention and treatment programs for addicted parents and their children. Without them, they say, abuse victims are all too likely to repeat what they have learned.
Nationally, child abuse and neglect reports have fallen for five straight years, a new report by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System shows, with the number of abuse-related deaths hitting a five-year low in 2011.
But West Virginia, where 16 children died last year, had the highest death rate at 4.16 children per 100,000, slightly ahead of Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Also partnering in the outreach effort are the Division of Justice and Community Services, the Sisters of St. Joseph Health and Wellness Foundation, the National Children's Alliance, Verizon Wireless and Image Outdoor Advertising.
ABUSED: Heart To Heart helps with more than 150 child abuse cases
by Chad Frey
Marlene Beeson just finished grant reporting season at the Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center. Her head is swimming with numbers — lots of them.
For example, the center preformed 159 interviews in 2012. Beeson said that's an increase over 2011 — nearly every number she has is an increase. And behind every number there are children and families.
"It takes courage for child to come in and talk about what happened to them," Beeson said. "They know it will be hard on the family."
The center helped with more than 150 cases in 2012 — 121 of those were sexual abuse cases, 41 cases contained physical abuse and in 14 of those cases children witness violence. Those numbers don't add up when you total the types of abuse — which according to Beeson tells a sad story.
"We are getting more children in that have suffered multiple types of abuse," Beeson said. "That tells me that our cases are up this year, and we are identifying more types of abuse that children are suffering."
The majority of cases coming to the center are referred by the Newton Police Department and the Department of Children and Families (Formally SRS).
Heart to Heart provides children an interview process designed to prevent children from being re-victimized through the court process. The Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center was established in 2001 by professionals who were involved in abuse investigations.
The center now provides services to children in Harvey, McPherson and Marion Counties.
Last year, 75 cases originated in Harvey County — nearly half of the cases handled.
Six cases were for children which can not be placed within a single county — children moved from home to home, county-to-county, due to family issues.
"That is so sad," Beeseon said.
She said in most of those cases, parents are divorced. The child could be living with one parent or the other — or grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family — at any given time.
In the majority of cases seen at the center, children are abused by someone identified as "other known person." In other words, not a biological family member. Last year 28 cases were allegedly the result of abuse by a father, seven the result of alleged abuse by a mother.
Most cases were from family friends, or non-blood relatives.
"It's a dilemma," Beeson said. "We can look on a map and see known offenders, but we can't protect our kids from people we know. … You need to know who are kids are with, be suspicious of others who try an get to know you to gain access to your kids. Does it sound paranoid? Yes. it does."
Beeson questions why the numbers continue to rise — if there are more children abused than ever before, of if there is another reason behind the increases.
"Maybe it was always there," Beeson said. "Maybe we are doing a better job of identifying those children and getting those kids the help they need."
She also questions how many more cases the center can take on in the face of budget cuts — and how the center will make up for lost revenue. She said the center will likely add another large fund-raiser in 2013 — though is unsure what that will be.
She also said she doesn't know who will run that fund-raiser, as her office needs to remain focused on helping the abused.
"In 2010, 2013 was identified as a tough year. We expect more cuts," Beeson said. "But our kids are worth it."
20 years later, childhood kidnapping survivor Katie Beers recounts ordeal in coffin-size box
Katie Beers, 30, who was kidnapped by a vile child molester and chained to a box in a basement dungeon in Bay Shore, N.Y., in 1992, has co-written a book about her childhood life of abuse and neglect. After her rescue, she found a new life with a foster family in East Hampton.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Being chained as a 10-year-old for more than two weeks in a coffin-size box in a suburban New York dungeon was, Katie Beers says 20 years later, "the best thing that happened to me" because it allowed her to escape a life of abuse.
On the 20th anniversary of her ordeal, Beers has co-written a book with a television reporter who covered her kidnapping. "Buried Memories: Katie Beers' Story" (Title Town Publishing) has a happy ending.
Beers is now a 30-year-old married mother of two who earned a degree in business management and works in insurance sales near her home in rural Pennsylvania.
Her kidnapping attracted nationwide attention in early 1993, when revelations surfaced while she was still missing that she had suffered years of neglect from her mother and had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by her godmother's husband since she was a toddler.
Beers was described in Dickensian terms back then — a louse-infested, filthy waif who had no friends and often was forced to lug the family's laundry down the block or fetch cigarettes and junk food for her elders.
After kidnapper John Esposito, a family acquaintance, admitted to detectives on Jan. 13, 1993, that he had kidnapped Beers and showed them the dungeon where she was hidden for 17 days under his Bay Shore, N.Y., home, the little girl was placed in foster care and raised in a comfortable East Hampton home with four siblings.
Life after abduction
Her foster parents not only imposed newfound discipline into her life, making her go to school regularly and do small chores around the house, but they also shielded Beers from intense media interest. And reporters largely complied with a parent-like plea from a prosecutor to leave her alone.
"We as a society must protect this child, or our professed love for own children is just a fraud, and our so-called compassion for each other is just a mockery," said James Catterson, at the time the Suffolk County district attorney.
So Beers had barely been seen or heard from since until this week in a media blitz to promote the book. She appeared Monday on the "Dr. Phil" show and is the focus of a People magazine feature this week.
The abduction and subsequent rescue saved her life, Beers said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"The best thing that happened to me," she said. "I would have never gotten out of the abuse situation I was in."
She went on to play volleyball at East Hampton High, participated in drama productions and went to college in Pennsylvania, where she earned a degree and met the man who would become her husband and the father of their two children.
"There's no point really in me right now being sad or wondering what if," she told the AP.
"I try not to be sad about what happened, because ultimately it made me who I am today, and I'm very satisfied and happy with my life," she said.
Beers agreed about four years ago to co-write the book with WCBS-TV reporter Carolyn Gusoff, although she had thought about writing a book for many years.
"I want to be able to help people who might not know where to turn," she explained. "To see that there is a road to recovery."
She has declined to disclose her exact hometown, married surname or college alma mater, citing privacy concerns for her family.
New details on past nightmares
In the book, Beers writes that she had been molested and raped by Sal Inghilleri — her godmother's husband — from the time she was a toddler. Inghilleri, who served 12 years in prison for molesting Beers, died in jail in 2009 following his arrest on a parole violation.
Beers also writes that Esposito raped her in the dungeon, explaining that she repressed her memory of the sexual assault for many years as a defense mechanism.
Esposito, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping, was never charged with rape. He is serving 15 years to life and has been denied parole several times; his next parole hearing is later this year.
At a 2007 parole hearing, Esposito described himself as asexual and said while he kissed the child, he never engaged in sexual relations.
He told Gusoff in a letter published in the book that he believes he deserves to be released.
"I think Katie knows I will always wish her well," Esposito writes. "I'm sorry for what I've done. I'm sorry I even thought it up. It was a mistake."
During her time in the dungeon, Beers writes, she rarely slept, fearing abuse from Esposito. She said she was afraid Esposito might molest her while she slept, but also was concerned that he would photograph her sleeping and send the image to police. She feared if police thought she was dead, they might end their search for her.
She "celebrated" her 10th birthday while a prisoner of Esposito's and was heard on an audiotape found in the dungeon after her release singing "Happy Birthday" to herself, although she says today she has no recollection of that.
Esposito, she writes, fed her primarily junk food and soda; to this day she is repulsed by chocolate after-dinner mints because they were a staple in captivity. She did have access to a small television, but says she can no longer listen to Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" because it played incessantly on MTV and VH1 while she in the dungeon.
She didn't realize it until many years later, but says now that she frequently watched Gusoff — then a reporter for Long Island's News12 cable station — filing reports on the police search for her while she was missing.
"It was like I had known her for 16 years" when they met in 2008 to begin work on the book, she said.
Gusoff notes that as abhorrent as Beers' sexual abuse and neglect was at the hands of her elders before the kidnapping, it may have steeled her into a survival mode.
Dominick Varrone, the Suffolk County detective who led the investigation, agreed, telling Gusoff in the book that "because of her upbringing, the sexual experiences, the abuse, and street smarts and toughness, she was much more advanced than the normal 9-year-old, and we believe that contributed to her survival."
Marilyn Beers, who is described in the book as a hard-working but largely absentee mother who ceded responsibility for raising Katie and her older brother to Inghilleri's wife and others, did not return a telephone message seeking comment about the book.
"I hope that more does come out of the book," Katie Beers said. "I would love to be able to help other kids or adults or to be an inspirational or motivational speaker, something like that. But if I go back to my life in rural Pennsylvania and go back to my insurance sales job I would love that, too.
"I'm very happy with where I'm at."
Ohio, India and the grim news about gang rape
by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Americans who watch the events after the Delhi gang rape with a whiff of condescension at the barbarity there need to wake up. It's happening here, too.
In India, a 23-year-old student takes a bus home from a movie and is gang-raped and assaulted so viciously that she dies two weeks later.
In Liberia, in West Africa, an aid group called More Than Me rescues a 10-year-old orphan who has been trading oral sex for clean water to survive.
In Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players are accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl who was either drunk or rendered helpless by a date-rape drug and was apparently lugged like a sack of potatoes from party to party.
And in Washington, our members of Congress show their concern for sexual violence by failing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law first passed in 1994 that has now expired.
Gender violence is one of the world's most common human rights abuses. Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. The World Health Organization has found that domestic and sexual violence affects 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries.
In some places, rape is endemic: in South Africa, a survey found that 37 percent of men reported that they had raped a woman. In others, rape is institutionalized as sex trafficking. Everywhere, rape often puts the victim on trial: in one poll, 68 percent of Indian judges said that "provocative attire" amounts to "an invitation to rape."
Americans watched the events after the Delhi gang rape with a whiff of condescension at the barbarity there, but domestic violence and sex trafficking remain a vast problem across the United States.
One obstacle is that violence against women tends to be invisible and thus not a priority. In Delhi, of 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of last year, only one ended in conviction. That creates an incentive for rapists to continue to rape, but in any case that reported number of rapes is delusional.
They don't include the systematized rape of sex trafficking. India has, by my reckoning, more women and girls trafficked into modern slavery than any country in the world. (China has more prostitutes, but they are more likely to sell sex by choice.)
On my last trip to India, I tagged along on a raid on a brothel in Kolkata, organized by the International Justice Mission. In my column at the time, I focused on a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old imprisoned in the brothel, and mentioned a 17-year-old only in passing because I didn't know her story.
My assistant at The Times, Natalie Kitroeff, recently visited India and tracked down that young woman. It turns out that she had been trafficked as well -- she was apparently drugged at a teahouse and woke up in the brothel. She said she was then forced to have sex with customers and beaten when she protested. She was never allowed outside and was never paid. What do you call what happened to those girls but slavery?
Yet prosecutors and the police often shrug -- or worse. Dr. Shershah Syed, a former president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan, once told me: "When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police. Because if she does, the police might just rape her again."
In the United States, the case in Steubenville has become controversial partly because of the brutishness that the young men have been accused of, but also because of concerns that the authorities protected the football team. Some people in both Delhi and Steubenville rushed to blame the victim, suggesting that she was at fault for taking a bus or going to a party. They need to think: What if that were me?
The United States could help change the way the world confronts these issues. On a remote crossing of the Nepal-India border, I once met an Indian police officer who said, a bit forlornly, that he was stationed there to look for terrorists and pirated movies. He wasn't finding any, but India posted him there to show that it was serious about U.S. concerns regarding terrorism and intellectual property. Meanwhile, that officer ignored the steady flow of teenage Nepali girls crossing in front of him on their way to Indian brothels, because modern slavery was not perceived as an American priority.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has done a superb job trying to put these issues on the global agenda, and I hope President Barack Obama and Sen. John Kerry will continue her efforts. But Congress has been pathetic. Not only did it fail to renew the Violence Against Women Act, but it has also stalled on the global version, the International Violence Against Women Act, which would name and shame foreign countries that tolerate gender violence.
Congress even failed to renew the landmark legislation against human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The obstacles were different in each case, but involved political polarization and paralysis. Can members of Congress not muster a stand on modern slavery?
(Hmm. I now understand better the results of a new survey from Public Policy Polling showing that Congress, with 9 percent approval, is less popular than cockroaches, traffic jams, lice or Genghis Khan.)
Skeptics fret that sexual violence is ingrained into us, making the problem hopeless. But just look at modern U.S. history, for the rising status of women has led to substantial drops in rates of reported rape and domestic violence. Few people realize it, but Justice Department statistics suggest that the incidence of rape has fallen by three-quarters over the last four decades.
Likewise, the rate at which American women are assaulted by their domestic partners has fallen by more than half in the last two decades. That reflects a revolution in attitudes. Steven Pinker, in his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature," notes that only half of Americans polled in 1987 said that it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or a stick; a decade later, 86 percent said it was always wrong.
But the progress worldwide is far too slow. Let's hope that India makes such violence a national priority. And maybe the rest of the world, especially our backward Congress, will appreciate that the problem isn't just India's but also our own.
Abuse victims: Being listened to, believed, vital
by ANDRIA COZZA
A FREE counselling service is encouraging survivors to seek help following the announcement of a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.
Western Region Centre Against Sexual Assault CEO Jane Vanderstoel said it could be more difficult for survivors to manage their symptoms because of constant reminders in the media and public discussion of abuse.
"Victims may find themselves experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, an inability to sleep, intrusive thoughts and issues with trust and intimacy," she said.
"Many have tried to forget their experiences of sexual assault as children. With the issue being raised . . . some survivors no longer wish to keep their experiences hidden."
Ms Vanderstoel said counselling was invaluable. "The value is, in the first place, being believed and understanding that the fault is not theirs.
"The service helps them understand more about the impact of sexual assault in their lives." Western Region Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) provides outreach services for people across Melton, Wyndham, Brimbank, Hobsons Bay and Maribyrnong. Ballarat CASA provides a service to Bacchus Marsh residents.
Ms Vanderstoel said further investment was needed to meet the demand of residents seeking professional counselling.
She said a multi-disciplinary centre, such as the ones announced for Gippsland and Bendigo in last year's state budget, was a long-term goal for the western region.
"We would like to see that sort of model in the west, for children and adults. The model, where police, child protection and other agencies are co-located, has shown to increase reporting."
The centre's free counselling service is open to both men and women.
Contact can be made through an intake counsellor who is available weekdays from 1-4.30pm. For assistance, phone 9687 5811.
Children's advocacy centers see growing demand to help abused children
by VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH
A growing clientele isn't necessarily a good thing at the Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County.
The nonprofit, which handles every child abuse case reported in Collin County, continues to see increased demand. That requires more staff, more services and more funding to keep up. Turning away clients is simply not an option.
“The children need our help,” said Lynne McLean, the center's chief executive.
In fiscal 2012, the center saw a 10 percent increase in clients from the previous year. In the same period, the number of children and nonoffending adults seeking therapy services rose 18 percent.
To help with growth, the center opened a satellite center in McKinney last fall.
“That has been a dream of ours for a long time, to have an additional location that would be more accessible to our clients in the northern part of the county,” said McLean, who works out of the center's main office in East Plano.
The center started offering therapy sessions in late September at its new office on U.S. Highway 75 just south of Virginia Street in McKinney. “It's been full ever since,” she said.
Increased demand is the norm at advocacy centers in Dallas and Denton counties as well.
No one can say for sure whether abuse is on the rise or more people are simply coming forward to report abuse that previously went unnoticed.
County populations are also growing.
Denton County's advocacy center had a record year in 2012, having conducted more forensic interviews than in any previous year.
“Our numbers are not going to go down, I don't think, ever again,” said Dan Leal, the Denton County center's executive director. “The more the world is broken, the more kids we're going to see.”
The Dallas Children's Advocacy Center, meanwhile, saw about a 10 percent increase in clientele last year. The center is moving into its new offices later this week. That will quadruple the space available to help abused children. The center will hold a grand opening for its new home on Samuell Boulevard on Jan. 31.
Using a team approach, advocacy centers bring together social workers, law enforcement, health care workers, prosecutors, therapists and others in one location to handle child abuse cases. These centers not only seek justice through the criminal system but also make sure the children and their families get the healing they need.
Raising funds is constant work for these centers. That's because once-reliable sources such as United Way grants or government dollars are declining or drying up altogether.
“When one area goes down, we make sure to make the other areas go up,” said Ellen Magnis, chief of external affairs for the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center.
The advocacy center in Collin County added a new fundraiser this year to help offset its rising costs. Its first “Join the Fight Luncheon” this week will feature keynote speaker Terry Bradshaw, an NFL analyst and four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback. About 450 to 475 people are expected to attend.
The money raised will help provide services for the children and their families. But it also goes toward educating the community so people can recognize the signs of abuse. Studies show that for every adult educated, 10 children are made safer.
“We want the victims who need help to come forward,” said Katy Emerson, community relations manager for the Collin County center. “No child should have to live in a nightmare every day.”
| Area Children's Advocacy Centers saw increased demand for services last year. Collin County's client numbers are higher because its center handles every child abuse case reported in the county. Other centers focus on sex abuse cases and take on only the most severe physical abuse cases. Some centers also help children who witness violent crimes.
*Figures are based on the fiscal year, which runs from July to June.
** Dallas County tracks therapy hours rather than therapy services; its numbers cannot be compared with the other counties.
SOURCES: Children's Advocacy Centers for Collin, Dallas and Denton counties
GO & DO: Collin County fundraiser
Tickets are available for Thursday's Join the Fight Luncheon featuring keynote speaker Terry Bradshaw, an NFL TV analyst, and emcee Dale Hansen, sports anchor for WFAA-TV (Channel 8). Proceeds benefit the Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County. Visit www.caccollincounty.org or call 972-633-6600.
Hoskins lawmaker introduces child sex abuse proposal
LINCOLN - A legislative bill introduced by Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins is aimed at helping Nebraska schools deal more effectively with sex abuse cases involving students.
Bloomfield's LB143 would have school districts in Nebraska create a policy that is age-appropriate and provides for a better understanding and awareness of - and response to - child sexual abuse. If approved, the Nebraska Department of Education would have until July 1, 2014 to create a model child sexual abuse policy to assist schools in developing policies for their district.
Schools in Nebraska need to help our children be more aware of sexual abuse, and educators need to have the tools needed to assist them in helping children in the state who have experienced sexual abuse.
The bill is modeled from some parts of "Erin's Law," which is a national effort to educate children and teachers on sexual abuse. It was crafted by Erin Merryn, an Illinois woman who is a survivor of sexual assault as a child and is working to have legislation passed in all 50 states.
LB143 also calls for child sexual abuse prevention education to be taught from pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade, as well as training for school administrators and educators.
A 2006 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they turn 18 years of age. Of the estimated 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America, 3 million of these are children.
Supporting Bloomfield's legislation is Mike Carnes of Wayne, editor of the weekly newspaper there and the author of a book that chronicles his experiences as a survivor of child sexual assault.
"We teach our kids about everything from saying no to drugs to how to get out of a burning building, but there is very little discussed in the way of what sexual abuse is and what kids should do if it happens to them," Carnes said. "It's a crime that goes unreported more often than not, and there are children in this state whose lives are in constant turmoil because of it."
Carnes said he believes Bloomfield's proposal takes a realistic approach to the topic.
"I understand that the education community in Nebraska is reluctant to have curriculum requirements mandated by the Legislature. LB143 provides a happy medium to deal with a topic of extreme importance in the lives of our young children," he said.
Carnes said he's optimistic LB143 will be passed into law.
"As a nation, we have been blessed with the work and dedication of Erin Merryn in her efforts to make 'Erin's Law' happen across the United States," Carnes said. "I thank Sen. Bloomfield for bringing LB143 to the floor of the Legislature to help our state's kids in the fight against child sexual abuse."
Greater Metro Schools Team Up in Effort Against Child Abuse
All conference games on Jan. 25 will be dedicated to overcoming the scourge of child abuse and will push for funds to aid programs at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
by Jim Price
The Greater Metro Conference will hold its 1st Annual Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Night on Jan. 25 to support Children's Hospital of Wisconsin's Child Abuse Prevention Programs.
Sixteen GMC teams will be competing that night in boys and girls basketball at eight GMC locations. Boys games will be at Brookfield Central, Brookfield East, Marquette University High School and West Allis Central.
Girls games are at Menomonee Falls, Wauwatosa East, Sussex Hamilton and West Allis Nathan Hale.
All eight host sites will distribute literature, and all athletes will be wearing “blue ribbons for kids” temporary tattoos to create awareness and combat the national and local epidemic of child abuse.
The Wauwatosa East High baseball team will also hold a 50/50 raffle that evening at the East girls' basketball game with funds going to Children's Hospital.
Too frequently in our society there are news reports detailing the tragedy of emotional, physical or sexual abuse of children or neglect of a child. In Milwaukee and Waukesha counties alone, well over 400 kids are abused each month.
The Greater Metro Conference's goal is to create awareness and give any person, student or adult the courage to come forward if affected by the damaging effects of child abuse.
Group Reminds WV Adults: It's Your Responsibility To Prevent Child Abuse
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A West Virginia children's advocacy group will kick off its part of a national child abuse prevention campaign this week in Charleston. The One With Courage
drive is intended in part to remind adults that kids cannot stop abuse by themselves.
Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, says abuse-prevention efforts have spent years teaching kids to speak up for themselves. While valuable, those efforts tended to ignore the basic responsibility adults have, she says, because in many cases children cannot protect themselves.
"We're teaching kids about stranger danger and teaching them to say no, but the reality is in so many situations there's a significant power differential, and they may not be able to say no."
Chittenden-Laird says one out of four girls and one out of six boys will be a victim of sexual abuse by their 18th birthday, not including those who will suffer neglect or some other kind of maltreatment. Since only a small portion of the children will disclose what happened on their own, it is vital for adults to know what to look for, she says.
"Very likely, you do know a child who is experiencing some type of abuse in their home. It's important to know what to do if you find or suspect that abuse is occurring, and know how to intervene."
She says although it takes courage to confront those situations, it's necessary to break through the silence and denial that keeps these problems hidden.
"It has been a crime of secrecy, and not talking about it has enabled it to happen."
Part of the One With Courage campaign will be advertisements and a website offering information about how to spot possible abuse and what to do. The campaign kick-off is Tuesday at 10 a.m., at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center, 1701 5th Ave., Charleston.
More information, starting Tuesday, is available at www.wvcan.org
, including audio of a public service announcement.
Former sex trafficking victim uses experience to educate kids
by CAMERON STEELE
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nineteen-year-old Jill Mourning was sleeping in her Arizona hotel room when she heard the buzz of a keycard unlocking her door. The UNC Charlotte student and part-time model woke as her manager and two other men entered the room with a tripod and video camera.
At first Mourning thought it was time to get up for her photo shoot for a cigar company. But then her manager walked over to the side of her bed and pinned down her arms, she said. Another man sat on her ankles.
“I realized something bad was about to happen,” the Charlotte woman, now 25, remembered.
The three men took turns raping her, Mourning said. They took videos of the act, pictures to sell on the Internet and blackmail her with, she said.
“And the next day, I was to shoot like nothing had happened,” the Charlotte woman, now 25, remembered. “My manager actually said to me, ‘This is business as usual. This is just business; don't take it personally.'?”
Now Mourning is part of a community of local activists, law enforcers and civic groups dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking and providing relief for Charlotte victims. In July, Mourning founded All We Want is LOVE – Liberation of Victims Everywhere, a nonprofit that aims to educate youth about human trafficking.
Mourning's group and others have sponsored several events across the city to bring attention to the crime as January marks National Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention Month. On Friday, The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina hosted a conference on human trafficking in Charlotte as part of a new, yearlong effort to combat what authorities call a growing problem in North Carolina and across the country.
Mourning was a trafficking victim from May 2007 until October of that year, during which Mourning's manager raped her “more times than I could count” in Charlotte and several other cities across the country, she said. She didn't tell anyone, she said, because she was terrified she would be judged, that people would think she deserved what had happened to her.
Her manager sold the videos he made of the rape online, she said. The trafficking finally stopped when the manager was arrested for an unrelated financial crime and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“I want to use my experience to make people aware,” Mourning said last week at a sushi restaurant where she'd recently held a fundraiser for her nonprofit. “I realized how many people didn't know this problem exists, and the people who do know it exists think it's only in poor, third-world countries in Africa.”
Authorities call trafficking a “hidden crime” that is, by its nature, hard to uncover or prosecute. Sex trafficking is different from prostitution, when an adult chooses to sell sex for money, because it involves someone coercing a victim into the sex trade.
“Charlotte is also following national trends,” said Lia Bantavani, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
She said the city's growing immigrant community, major sports events and franchises, and easy access to several major highways all attract human traffickers.
The U.S. Attorney's Office formed a special human trafficking task force last year and is investigating 10 to 12 trafficking cases across North Carolina, which ranks in the top 10 states where trafficking has been reported, according to anti-trafficking groups.
Bantavani was unable to say precisely how many trafficking cases originate in Charlotte. Both the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they rarely encounter trafficking cases but are dedicated to helping federal agencies with their investigations.
Before the Democratic National Convention, CMPD officials in June presented a report that showed the department helped FBI and Homeland Security in five undercover operations to rescue missing minors involved in the commercial sex industry. The investigations also worked to identify potential traffickers and pimps in Charlotte.
Meanwhile, anti-trafficking activists around Charlotte point to the women who seek help from their organizations as proof the crime is occurring.
Justice Ministries, one of those groups, focuses on outreach to strip clubs, which founder Mark Blackwell calls gateways to trafficking. The group started in April 2011 and in that time has helped about 10 women find safe shelter, Blackwell said.
Rise Up Ministries, one of Justice Ministries' partner organizations, helped five women leave their traffickers or pimps last year and encouraged seven others to leave the sex industry, founder Aimee Johnson said.
“We go into to 13 different strip clubs and bring goodie bags, personal hygiene items, health items and cards with our hotline number,” Johnson said. “They can call it anytime they need to get help.”
Sex trafficking occurs in massage parlors and exotic dance clubs but also through online escort services, Bantavani said. The internet has become a popular place for traffickers to advertise, because it's cheap and anonymous, she said.
“And there are fewer ways for the so-called pimps to get caught,” Bantavani said.
Manipulation and fear
Mourning said she met the man who became her trafficker through ModelMayhem.com, an online forum where aspiring models can connect with others in the industry and show off their photographs. A woman who said she worked with the man sent Mourning an online message to tell her the manager wanted to represent her.
“And I of course said yes,” Mourning said. “What 19-year-old wouldn't?”
She and her new manager met several times in Charlotte over several months in early 2007, Mourning said. He helped her book modeling jobs and became a father figure to her. He listened to her when she needed to talk about her difficult childhood and problems with her parents.
“It all felt very legitimate” to the straight-A student who had been voted East Lincoln High School's “Most Excellent Teenager” during her senior year.
By the time her manager started videotaping rape sessions with Mourning, she said she felt like he was too powerful and knew too much about her for her to get out.
“I decided I wasn't going to tell anybody; I was going to compartmentalize,” she said. “It was like, holy crap, everything I've worked so hard for could be taken away from me, because people will think that I did something to deserve this. And I was not about to let that happen.”
Anti-trafficking activists and authorities said traffickers often use fear, manipulation and blackmail tactics to take advantage of their victims, who are often made vulnerable by their age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
“They are scared into submission,” Bantavani said.
For years Mourning didn't tell anyone about the months she spent as a trafficking victim. In 2011, after her manager was in prison, she told her grandmother. Suzanne Zucker had raised Mourning for most of her childhood. Zucker, who lives outside of Columbus, Ohio, said she had never even suspected anything was wrong.
“The rage, the anger, the fear that you have … it's really overwhelming,” Zucker said.
Even after four years, a failed suicide attempt and counseling, Mourning said she can't bring herself to file charges against the man who forced her into sex trafficking – even though she said her ex-boyfriend has found some of the videos taken of her on illicit websites.
She recently talked to an FBI agent about prosecution but said she is not ready to relive the most terrible months of her life.
“To go back now, when I am in such a good place – reliving all of the evidence, watching the videos – to go back to that would be really, really tough.”
Instead, Mourning is focused on her nonprofit efforts. She's spoken in schools and churches, put together a model for student-run human trafficking awareness groups for colleges and high schools and organized fundraisers for All We Want is LOVE.
“She's very beautiful,” Zucker said of her granddaughter. “But I've often said the best part about her is her brain and her heart.”
And Mourning has found healing in raising awareness.
“You need to have kids understand trafficking so they don't become victimized,” she said.
The next fundraiser is Jan. 19 at the Blake Hotel; for more information visit the All We Want is LOVE website
Detroit auto show draws pimps and sex traffickers, survivor says
by Gus Burns
AUBURN HILLS, MI — With 800,000 people expected to descend upon Metro Detroit for the North American International Auto Show over the coming two weeks, pimps and sex traffickers are sure to follow.
That's their M.O. says Theresa L. Flores, 47, who runs Stop Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP), an organization working to put a stop to the underage sex trade.
"Anytime an event comes to a city that's bringing in a lot of people, the trafficking goes up," Flores says. "So we have traffickers, which are criminals that are bringing in girls and posting them on (Backpage.com, a classifieds website with escort services) and selling them out of the hotel rooms."
And Detroit is a "hot bed" for sex trafficking, she says, although it's difficult to quantify.
"I think it's actually epidemic" said Flores. "Probably one of the worst cities. I talk to a lot of survivors on a daily basis and everybody has been trafficked through Detroit at one point."
Flores knows the dark, perverted world too well. She lived it for two years of her life, blackmailed and threatened into prostitution as a teenager growing up in Birmingham in the early 1980s.
That was a long time ago, but the trauma still lingers. SOAP is part of her therapy.
Her organization travels the nation, stopping through cities on the front end of large events — like Detroit's auto show — to educate the public about the underworld of sex slavery.
About 200 people showed up to Oakland Christian School in Auburn Hills Saturday to listen to Flores tale of terror as a teenager. She taught them about how young girls are seduced into the trade, fed drugs to strengthen their dependence on their traffickers, controlled and manipulated, instilled with fear.
The volunteers then delivered folders to 200 motels and hotels across the area. Each packet contained photos of missing children that could have fallen into prostitution, with information about who to call for help.
Volunteers dropped off hundreds of small bars of Dial soap. On each, SOAP applied a red sticker.
"Are you being forced to do anything you do not want to do?" they said, and provided a number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
"A lot of times the motel owners or the staff will recognize somebody who's on that poster," said Flores. "So then we're able to call the Michigan state police... and they'll go in and find them or the girls will call the 800 number."
Ninety percent of the hotels visited agreed to place the bars of soap in the bathrooms of their rooms, said Flores.
Had Flores come across one of those bars of soap when she was 15, her nightmare might have ended sooner she says.
A trafficked teen
Flores, 47, lives in Ohio. Her memories, though they follow her everywhere, were made in Birmingham, where she grew up in a well-to-do Irish Catholic family with three younger brother, the granddaughter of a prominent judge, the daughter of an engineer.
Flores said she met a boy and developed a crush at 15. They'd spent a lot of time talking and one day he offered her a ride home, but unexpectedly stopped at his home on their way and invited Flores to come inside. She said she ignored the "red flags" and followed.
"I was drugged and then raped," she writes in a testimonial on her website, traffickfree.com. "I was a virgin, Catholic and from a good family. It was devastating. I didn't tell my parents because I thought they would be mad at me for disobeying and I would just deal with it on my own. But it got worse."
Two of the boy's relatives were "involved in a large underground criminal ring" and had taken nude photos of her. They planned to make Flores "earn them back," or else, they threatened, they would show the pictures to her grandfather, her father's boss, her priest.
"These men watched my every move," writes Flores. "They were everywhere, placed in my school, in a class with me, went to same church, and would come by my part time fast food job. They always knew when my dad was out of town. Driving by slowly, parking on the street near the house, they knew when I was babysitting and were able to track me down everywhere I went."
Flores said she was ordered to meet her traffickers about twice each week over a two-year period. They would prostitute her, sending her on "dates" with johns.
"These men threatened to hurt my family if I told," says Flores. "Tortured me psychologically and physically daily for almost two years. And I was only 15. I became a middle class teenage sex slave to them to earn back the photos."
Throughout the ordeal, the men placed dead animals in the family's mailbox, she says to reminder her they were in control and that bad things would happen if she told.
On one occasion Flores said she was kidnapped and taken to an "inner-city Detroit nasty, dirty motel" where two dozen men were waiting.
She was "sold the the highest bidder" and "drugged, beaten and sexually molested to point of unconsciousness."
When she awoke she was alone.
"I was basically left for dead at that motel here in Detroit," Flores said Saturday. "A waitress who worked in a little diner there asked if I needed any help... I left the motel room and I just had on pajamas and no shoes, nothing. It was like five in the morning here's this white girl walking in inner-city Detroit with her pajamas on."
Police were called and Flores' parents came to pick her up. She still didn't tell.
"I wasn't talking; I was in shock," said Flores. "So they just thought I snuck out to go have fun."
Flores escaped the abuse when her parents moved the family to the east coast toward the end of her time in high school. It would be years before she came clean and told her parents the horrors she had endured.
"We didn't really talk about it," she said. "It's kind of like when you're in the upper-class it's like hush-hush, the family's going to deal with it."
While it was happening, Flores said she did a good job concealing her pain
"I was good at hiding it," she says. "I wouldn't tell because I was afraid."
Fast forward to the present.
Although Flores says she still has occasional nightmares and crying spells, she's moving forward and living a positive life.
After college she had three children and worked as a social worker for 20 years before taking her story public and starting her nonprofit.
At the volunteer event hosted by Flores Saturday, teams of volunteers are streaming into the Oakland Christian School Gym with lists of the hotels they visits, what they saw and whether the businesses were receptive.
Erin Penny, 46, returns from visiting six different hotels. She seems energized.
"Two of them were right on the border of Detroit, right on 8 mile and those were pretty seedy," said Penny. "One of them actually sold condoms right at the reception desk.
"The other four were... more upscale hotels, and they were all very receptive; some looked kind of shocked."
Penny heard about the event from a friend on Facebook and said she wanted to learn about more about the problem and offer her support.
Two more volunteers, Anna A. Bliss, 24, of Walled Lake and her boyfriend, Sean Sullivan, 23, of Oxford Township, return from their route.
"Someone gave us money," says Bliss, as she hands over five $1 bills to Flores. "We didn't know if we should accept it; he just kind of threw it at us."
Bliss said they visited a couple rough hotels, one with a sign that said, "we do have clean rooms," and another that said there was a 10-minute refund window if customers decided they didn't like their room.
Bliss said Flores's story was enlightening.
"Her story, she lived in Birmingham and her parents didn't even know she was being trafficked as a teen," Bliss said. "She was still coming home at night and people think you just get whisked away in the night and disappear.
"But no, she was being trafficked in Birmingham of all places."
Human trafficking program at U of L
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A conference on human trafficking at the University of Louisville will feature an additional speaker, and the university says there will be no charge for admission.
Although the $15 ticket charge has been removed, the school does advise making reservations online.
Among the speakers at the Wednesday event are Theresa Flores, a child sex trafficking survivor; Colleen Clines, director of the Anchal Project, a nonprofit group that assists women in India; and Toshia Kimbler, a human trafficking survivor.
The program, titled "Modern Day Slavery: Breaking the Chains," is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST at the Red Barn on the school's Belknap Campus. It's organized by the Women 4 Women student chapter and U of L Women's Center.
Report Finds More Resources Needed To Fight Sex Trafficking
An Abell Foundation report has found that police and social agencies say the number of cases of human sex trafficking in the Baltimore area is growing faster than authorities can control.
TurnAround which is a Baltimore non-profit that helps victims of domestic violence and sex assault believes there are a great number of girls and women who are victims of human sex trafficking in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
"It's very difficult to sort of do concrete numbers because it's a crime and so people hide it and its undercover. But every time we do a speaking engagement, every time we do some community outreach, girls come forward so that is making us believe there are great numbers," says Roz Branson Executive Director of TurnAround.
Branson tells WBAL Radio that TurnAround worked with The Abell Foundation and offered help with their report.
She says the organization has helped more than 100 women who were victims of sex trafficking in the area in the last year.
The report outlines five recommendations to address the problem in the area. Branson says raising awareness and paying attention is the biggest thing that everyone can do immediately to help with human sex trafficking cases.
She says more resources are always needed to help the victims because there are not enough right now. And she adds that support for police to do investigations and get to the bottom of these cases is also important.
Runaway girls focus of fight to curb sex trafficking
She was sobbing when she dialed 911 from a downtown St. Paul hotel.
by Laura Yuen
She was sobbing when she dialed 911 from a downtown St. Paul hotel.
"Hi, this is Barb. I'm a runaway from Des Moines, Iowa, and I'm in big trouble," she told the dispatcher. "I'm afraid I'm about to get killed!"
Between frantic breaths, the young woman, who had just turned 18, reported that she was being held captive in Room 851 of the Hilton Garden Inn. She feared her captors would return to the room any minute.
The chilling audio recording only hints at the nightmare she was experiencing. Ramsey County authorities later learned that the teen runaway was forced to have sex with about 30 men over the course of a week at the hotel, according to a criminal complaint filed last January.
Fearing the worst, Barb had even scribbled the names of her two captors in a notebook.
For police and prosecutors in St. Paul, the case underscored a troubling link between teens who run away from home and the child-sex trade.
Research shows that Minnesota girls who run from their homes are not only more vulnerable to being sold for sex, but also face a higher risk of being raped or sexually abused in other ways.
In Ramsey County, police, prosecutors, advocates, and nurses are focusing on runaways as they take on the broader fight against juvenile prostitution.
Law enforcement and schools identify the most vulnerable runaways. Then the nurses step in to help the girls rebuild their lives.
Advocates hope to implement parts of Ramsey County's Runaway Intervention Program statewide as Minnesota tries to curb the buying and selling of young girls.
EVERY DAY A RACE FOR POLICE
A key player is the St. Paul Police Department, which deploys three officers whose job is to look for missing people. Most -- nearly 2,000 last year -- are children.
St. Paul officers Chris Stark and Benny Williams, longtime patrol partners, now scour city neighborhoods for missing girls and boys. The two men, both in their 50s and fathers, see themselves in a race to track down runaways before pimps and other criminals reach them.
Stark and Williams say many of the girls they encounter are running to escape rancorous households, alcoholic parents, or abuse by a family member.
The rush by police to find them, Williams said, can seem futile.
"They keep running and running, and you keep chasing. Sometimes we have started investigating runaway reports when these children are 12 years old, and it may go up until they're 17," he said. "Sometimes it just never stops."
The officers start their morning rounds by checking missing-person reports filed by parents and teen shelters from the night before. Then they hit the streets.
As Stark reaches the front stoop of a home on St. Paul's east side, a woman answers his knock. She tells the officers that her teenage daughter has since come home. When the girl appears, something on her neck catches Stark's attention.
"You're 15 years old," he said. "First thing I notice is you've got these tattoos. So who's giving you these tattoos?"
"When I ran away, I was with my friends," the girl replied. "They put me on drugs, so I don't remember getting these tattoos; I just woke up with them."
Though soft-spoken, the girl calmly recounts what sounds like a stint in hell. It began, she said, when she was staying at a boy's house in the neighborhood, where he and other gang members made her take codeine pills. She recalled getting high on what the teens called "lean" -- a mixture of Nyquil and Sprite, with the pills thrown in for good measure.
She stayed at the house on and off for about a month. After she told the gang members she wanted to leave, they doused her in gasoline, she said.
"I wasn't going to school because of the drugs. I just sit there all day, do the same thing over and over, go to sleep, wake up," she said.
At the end of December, she ran barefoot into the street and escaped. The gang never made her sell her body, but she told the officers she regularly had sex with an 18-year-old while at the house.
MPR News has agreed not to name the girl because she is a minor and could be a witness in a criminal investigation. At 15, she is one year too young to legally consent to sex under Minnesota law.
Moments later, the girl told Williams that she doesn't want to see the man she developed feelings for get in trouble, something Williams has often heard. Young girls routinely try to protect the men they believe have taken advantage of them sexually.
Later, the officers trade notes. As incredible as the story sounds, the two men say they've heard similar tales from other girls that turned out to be true.
The good news is that the 15-year-old will be part of the runaway program and will receive services that could help her recover.
HELPING RUNAWAYS HEAL
While it's the officers' job to catch the runaways, it's Laurel Edinburgh's job to help them heal. Edinburgh's office at the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in St. Paul looks like a regular doctor's office.
When the nurse practitioner helped create the beginnings of the Runaway Intervention Program 10 years ago, she largely treated Hmong girls as young as 12 who were slipping through traditional safety nets of school and law enforcement. Child-protection workers typically didn't become involved because the abuse was happening outside the home, she said.
"I thought, 'How could the most severely traumatized and abused children that I see be the ones where there were no services for them?' It just didn't make any sense to me," she said.
Edinburgh figured there was a better way to find the girls. That led her to help develop 10 questions for St. Paul police to screen runaways for physical and sexual abuse. A few officers, including Chris Stark, began to incorporate the questions into their interviews with the girls.
Stark said the first question -- Why did you leave home? -- can lead to others that aren't in the script: Are you sleeping on the floor at home? Is your mattress soiled? Are there any sheets on the bed? Any abuse going on in the house?
"If the child is experiencing that," he said, "you see it in their eyes: 'How did you know?' "
The Ramsey County Attorney's office pores over the runaway reports and searches for signs of abuse. The highest-risk girls are given the option to meet with nurses like Edinburgh for a health assessment.
Nearly a third of the girls in the program report having experienced the most extreme forms of sexual assault or exploitation, including gang rape, prostitution, and survival sex -- in other words, trading sex for food and a place to sleep. Most of the girls said they've tried to kill themselves and use drugs or alcohol.
GIRLS, STILL CHILDREN, EASILY DUPED
Edinburgh said the girls are often easily duped because they're so young and naive. She recalls one eighth-grade girl was lured into going to a hotel with a couple of strangers because they promised to take her to the Valleyfair amusement park the next day.
"They said the hotel had a swimming pool, so I even went home and got my bathing suit,' " Edinburgh recalled the girl saying.
"As an adult, as soon as I start hearing that, I'm like, 'People just don't invite you to a hotel.' But when you're 13, or 14, or 15 years old, that's not how your brain is thinking," Edinburgh said.
At the hotel, she said, the girl was raped by two men who "tried her out" for prostitution.
Girls in the program receive treatment for substance abuse, group counseling, and home visits by nurses. Over time, most of them report becoming more connected to their families and schools and show fewer signs of destructive behavior.
Edinburgh's research shows that after about a year of services, the girls report lower rates of suicide attempts and substance abuse than when they started the program.
Many youth advocates hope the federally recognized program could serve as a road map for the rest of Minnesota as the state prepares to build a system for treating child trafficking victims.
Two years ago, state lawmakers passed the so-called Safe Harbor Law, which requires authorities to handle prostituted boys and girls under 16 as kids in need of help -- not as criminals. The law was written with the Runaway Intervention Program in mind, but it won't be fully implemented until the Legislature funds a system to help sexually exploited children and teens.
Advocates plan to ask the Legislature to secure $13 million from state, federal and other sources to pay for support systems that must be in place by January 2014.
Child victims of prostitution will need not just services, but also housing, said Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of Women's Foundation of Minnesota. There are only four shelter beds in the Twin Cities metropolitan area dedicated to youth traumatized by trafficking, she said.
"The big news about this plan is we'd be the very first state in the nation to create comprehensive housing and healing services for kids who have been sex trafficked," Roper-Batker said. "The nation is watching what we're doing here in Minnesota."
SHORT SENTENCES FOR GIRL'S TRAFFICKERS
The 911 call from the 18-year-old who felt trapped in the St. Paul hotel shows how serious the problem is, police and prosecutors say.
According to the criminal complaint, the teen's captors told the girl they would beat her up if she tried to leave or call her parents.
Authorities say the girl has Asperger's syndrome, and has the developmental capacity of a 13-year-old. She ran away from her home in Iowa after meeting a man on a social media website. He paid for her bus ticket to St. Paul -- and then sold her for sex on Backpage.com.
"When people hear it, they're shocked," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "But the reality is this is happening on a day-to-day basis in our community."
Prosecutors charged the girl's traffickers, Bionca Mixon and Tyree Jones, with several prostitution-related charges. They pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution of a minor.
A judge ordered them to serve one year in jail. That was a disappointing outcome for Choi, whose office coordinates the Runaway Intervention Program. He said the connection between kids who run away and prostitution should alarm everyone.
"That whole spectrum of who runs away from home can be in the upper class or lower class," he said. "It really has no distinction. What we find is anyone who runs away from home is very susceptible to being exploited by very bad people out there."
The most innocent killer: Child abuse and its legacy to a little boy
Child guilty of killing Neo-Nazi father
by Ross Ellis
Today a 12-year old boy in Riverside, CA was found guilty of second-degree murder for shooting his father, Jeff Hall, as he slept on his living room couch on May 1, 2011.
Prosecutors and the judge said there was no doubt that the boy knew what he was doing and it was wrong.
The boy was 10 years-old when he killed his father … a neo-nazi who abused and neglected his son.
Judge Jean P. Leonard read her decision, as the sandy-haired boy sat attentively with his attorney, but showed no emotion as he wore shackles around his ankles.
Leonard said there was no doubt the boy knew that what he was doing was wrong. She quoted a psychologist's report that the boy had a long history of violence and grew up in a home with poor role models. She faulted systematic failures by various social-services agencies that should have helped protect the boy and seen the danger he posed at such a young age. “This potentially could have been predicted,” Leonard said. “There were so many warning signs.”
The boy was subject to prenatal substance abuse and showed violent tendencies as young as 18 months old. By age 3, his grandmother could not control or care for him.
The judge said she considered more than the boy's age, and realized the boy lacked the maturity and understanding of adults. She said the killing could have been spurred by the boy's exposure to his father's neo-Nazi activities, including rallies at his home and trips to the U.S.-Mexico border to shoot guns with his father and the Minutemen militia.
“It's clear this was not an average child, exposed to guns, hate and violence in his home,” Leonard said. “This was not a naïve little boy unaware to the ways of the world.”
The boy's father was a controversial figure who, as a regional leader of the National Socialist Movement, organized Nazi rallies in downtown Riverside.
The boy could not be tried as an adult since he was under the age of 14. He will be sentenced Feb. 15 at a disposition hearing based on a probation report which will weigh his violent behavior and a series of psychological reports. The judge could order the boy held in a juvenile detention facility or specialized group home until he's 23.
During the two and a half week trial, which was interrupted for two months while another psychologist was ordered to evaluate the boy — prosecutors argued that the killing was cold, calculated and premeditated.
Throughout the investigation, the boy gave various reasons for why he killed Hall, including claims of abuse and fear for his family. The boy said he was mad at his father for spanking and kicking him whenever he got angry or was drinking. He also said feared that his father would leave the family for another woman, which would force the boy to leave his stepmother.
The morning of the killing, the boy got the revolver from a shelf in his parent's room and walked downstairs to where his dad was sleeping on the couch. He said he stood a foot away, pointed the gun behind his dad's ear and fired.
Defense attorneys contended the boy did not know what he was doing was wrong until after he pulled the trigger.
The boy had a history of violent behavior at school and at home, which included stabbing his sister and other students with a pencil and trying to choke a teacher with a telephone cord.
Hours after the killing, the boy asked police if his father was dead or would be OK. The boy said he wanted to teach his father a lesson and hoped they could be a happy family after Hall got out of the hospital.
The defense said the boy was raised in a culture of violence, while his father led neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan meetings at their home.
Psychologists also differed on the boy's mental state. While they agreed he showed signs of violent behavior, they differed about whether he showed signs of mental illness.
A defense expert testified that the boy showed early signs of psychopathic and sociopathic behavior. Another expert called by the prosecution said the boy could lead a normal life if given the proper treatment and environment.
Although killing his father was wrong, this boy had a tough life from day one. I've never been one to use the “child abuse excuse” for killing anyone, but in this case, it's clear that the boy is very troubled. Should he go scott free? NO! But one hopes that the judge will be lenient in her sentencing and mandate that the child undergo intensive therapy, medical treatment and schooling for his sins and the legacy of child abuse.
Free training to teach signs of child abuse
by Lindsay Field
MARIETTA — The public is invited to participate in a free training session that could help adults learn how to better recognize the signs of or prevent child abuse.
With sponsorship from the Governor's Office for Children and Families and the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, Cobb's SafePath Children's Advocacy Center is hosting Darkness to Light Child Sexual Abuse Prevention training sessions Tuesday afternoon.
The sessions will be held at the Cobb County Safety Village, 1220 Al Bishop Drive in Marietta, between 2 and 5 p.m.
SafePath Executive Director Jinger Robins said the group has been hosting the seminars since 2008.
“We can train people, as adults, who should be the responsible ones to protect children, to recognize the signs, respond to the appropriate authorities and prevent the abuse from ever happening,” she said.
Robins said SafePath became certified facilitators of the training four years ago but were fortunate enough to gain sponsorship from the state this year after Georgia's first lady Sandra Deal took the training herself.
“She was so impressed with it and so empowered by it, that she decided to have the Governor's Office take on an initiative to do this across the whole state of Georgia,” Robins said. “They are doing these trainings now, reaching out to communities and sponsoring the trainings.”
Tuesday's session, which is funded by the state, is open to the first 50 people who sign up.
Robins said participants will watch a video with multiple testimonies from adults who are survivors of child abuse and learn about the healing they've gone through and also learn more about the recently passed House Bill 1176, which requires anyone volunteering or working with children to report suspected child abuse within 24 hours of learning of an incident.
“There is an interactive workbook … participants will be challenged with how a topic makes them feel, signs and symptoms of what they can note and be trained to recognize abuse,” she said. “There will be active discussions about how they can help prevent child abuse.”
Ann Stuart, a west Cobb resident who is now looking at becoming an authorized facilitator of the training, is the mother of children who were abused.
“I have two children who are survivors of sexual abuse, at the hands of their Taekwondo instructor 15 years ago,” she said. “If you had told me that we were going to be fine and that through SafePath and counseling, that we'd be fine, I would have never believed you, but we are.
“I have a big stake in helping children and trying to prevent this from happening. Ideally, it's good to prevent it, but if you can't, there are so many good organizations out there to help you.”
Stuart also works at Primrose Kennesaw North, is a Sunday school teacher and member of the Junior League for Cobb/Marietta, which volunteers with the Center for Family Resources and YMCA working with children often.
“The Darkness to Light training really puts a face to what you're seeing or what you may see in the community, and it reminds you that it can happen to any child, at any time, in any socio-economic situation,” she said. “I have my radar up and know what to look for.”
Another participant in the previous training sessions is the county's director of libraries, Helen Poyer.
“With the change in the law in the reporting requirements and the fact that SafePath just does an excellent job of giving out the information and they are providing the training, we thought it would be great to go through the training, so that our employees are more comfortable, know what they can and can't do, identify suspected child abuse and know how to respond and correctly,” Poyer said. “The training has helped immensely.”
Fifty of her employees participated in the last session, and 10 will attend Tuesday, which would allow roughly 25 percent of her entire staff, about 200 employees, to be privy to the training.
“We are just trying to make sure all of our front-line employees have the training … we really appreciate SafePath doing this,” she said.
Vic Reynolds, Cobb's new district attorney, said he hasn't completed the training but applauded what SafePath was doing in teaching adults about preventing child abuse.
“Any program that the goal is to end child abuse is a good program,” he said. “The thing about this program that I believe is so appealing is that it basically empowers adults. We can never have too many people who know how to recognize child abuse.”
Reynolds also said that while they haven't seen an increase in child abuse cases in Cobb and Georgia, they still see too many.
“We are fortunate here that we have a dedicated unit, both in the police department and in this office, unlike a lot of counties, who are specifically investigating and prosecuting crimes against our children,” he said.
To sign up for the class, visit SafePath online at www.safepath.org and RSVP to email@example.com or call (770) 801-3465.
Victims' groups embrace framework for Royal Commission
by Lauren Wilson and Rick Morton
VICTIMS-RIGHTS group have roundly embraced Julia Gillard's terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and praised the selection of the six commissioners who will spend the next three years examining the evidence.
Religious institutions also welcomed the announcement of the framework for the inquiry yesterday but noted that some issues, including whether the commission would compel Catholic priests to break the "inviolable seal of confession", remained to be resolved.
While some organisations, including the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, had called on the government to expand the terms of reference to include all forms of abuse suffered by children at the hands of institutions - not just sexual abuse - most advocacy groups conceded yesterday that the inquiry was broad enough.
Hetty Johnston, the founder of victims-advocacy group Bravehearts, said: "We are just ecstatic - there is everything in there that we hoped to see and nothing that we feared we might.
"We are doing something extraordinary here."
Ms Johnston said she believed child sexual abuse was a specific and systematic crime and it would have been a mistake if the government included physical abuse and neglect in the terms of reference.
Former ABC chairman David Hill, who wrote a book about institutional abuse and earlier backed calls to allow the commission to probe other forms of abuse, said he believed the terms of reference were "probably broad enough".
"I think if there is any terrible injustice, I am sure the commission will be able to deal with it in its wisdom," he said.
Broken Rites spokesman Wayne Chamley said the government made the right decision in limiting the inquiry to child sexual abuse. "I think it would have just got into very muddy waters otherwise, but I know some people will be disappointed."
Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Cathy Kezelman said she was pleased legislative changes would be introduced to allow multiple commissioners to separately hear evidence at the same time.
"It means it will be a quicker process and many survivors have waited decades to be heard and to see justice done, so I think it is sending a good message," she said.
The chief executive of the Catholic Church's newly formed Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, said the response of the church was "positive".
"This is first and foremost about the victims of these atrocities and we want to get to the truth, to embrace the royal commission so the truth can come out," he said.
Mr Sullivan said the Catholic Church would be "open to looking" at whether the commission could override confidentiality agreements signed by victims of abuse but noted that confidentiality agreements were, by their nature, "complex things".
But he added that the church "has a very clear position on the sanctity of the confession".
General secretary of the general synod of the Anglican Church of Australia Martin Drevikovsky said the institution was still considering its response to the terms of reference but remained supportive of the commission.
"By and large, we would reiterate that we regard the royal commission as something that is beneficial for Australian society as a whole and we will be doing everything we can to set the best possible example," he said.
Healing the Psyches of Sandy Hook Shooting Survivors Is a Pressing Issue
by Ed Stannard
Nearly a month after the tragic shooting deaths of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, healers are starting to care for the psyches of the survivors.
Mental health experts from afar have volunteered to join the social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists in and near Newtown because of the importance of treating the emotional trauma inflicted on parents, teachers, first responders and others on Dec. 14.
Time is of the essence, because after the first few weeks, the vivid memories of the event may become more generalized in the minds of those who witnessed it, making it more difficult to treat the psychological wounds.
“What we know is in the immediate aftermath” of a traumatic event, there is what mental health experts call a peri-traumatic period, which can last from a few days to several weeks, said Steven Marans, director of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence. After that, the patient is more in danger of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, though not all do. The center is based at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven.
Esther Howe, interim associate dean at Southern Connecticut State University's School of Health and Human Services, described it this way: “People often freeze at the beginning. It's just like you compartmentalize it. … But then we sort of relax into it and our defenses go down and then our troubles begin.”
Marans said trauma “refers specifically to the subjective experience of individuals when they are confronted with unanticipated, overwhelming danger that leaves them hopeless and out of control and terrified, and we know that in these circumstances there is an immobilization of normal patterns of fight or flight.”
There is a “disregulation” that disrupts “the normal abilities, capacities of the brain to integrate feelings, thought and action.”
It's like being confronted with “our worst nightmare,” such as our own death, the death of a loved one or severe injury. In addition to physical symptoms of terror, we are hit with “jumbled thoughts, feelings and not being able to think clearly,” Marans said.
Our ability to live our daily lives becomes disrupted, as well, he said, which helps determine “what's needed to move in the direction of recovery.”
Barbara Greten of Meriden, a certified trauma therapist and a lecturer in neurobiology at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, agreed that treatment needs to begin early, and that whether someone will develop PTSD is not predetermined.
“Two people who are having the same exact experience — one may get PTSD and the other will not,” she said. But early treatment will lessen the chances.
She said there are numerous ways to treat trauma in children, and ways everyone can help, simply by being supportive.
“Every time we offer something positive, like a hug or some kind of soothing gesture, our brains actually process that and it helps to process” the trauma, Greten said.
“Treat them with behaviors that are very emotionally soothing, because PTSD is an anxiety disorder,” Greten said. “It has to do with our ability to regulate our affect.”
Children may revert to behaviors like thumb-sucking, which is OK. “The holding and soothing, it's just very, very important. Sing to them, whatever, help them to soothe and help them to regulate their emotions,” she said.
Howe, a former school social worker at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula in South Bronx, N.Y., an all-girl school, said a long-term move would be to have psychologically savvy people in the classroom to watch for children who need intervention, those who may be suffering trauma such as parental abuse.
“What you want is sort of a sympathetic observer who would notice if this person starts manifesting” evidence of trauma, such as not displaying feelings or describing nightmares, she said. “But you don't want to impose on them.”
One of the most successful short-term therapies was developed by Marans and other mental health experts working with the New Haven Police Department and other agencies that helped identify children in need. Called Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention, it brings together the youth who underwent the trauma, such as watching a relative slain on the street, the family or other caregiver and the therapist.
After an initial screening, four to eight sessions are held, involving the youth and the caregiver alone and together with the therapist. By having the parties describe their experiences, the “symptoms that are most troubling and disruptive” are identified. The family members are helped “to put into words” the most important areas to focus on, Marans said.
“The best parents in the world don't always know that their kids are having symptoms,” and the sessions bring the individuals together “to literally compare notes,” he said. Once the caregivers are taught supportive techniques to help what the child identifies as the most troublesome symptoms, a second screening is done and further steps are determined.
The important thing is “recognizing that if we're not addressing what the ongoing, concrete needs are and issues are, then we're not doing a complete job,” said Marans. The goal is to bring back “a position of strength” and “a feeling of safety.”
With the shootings in Sandy Hook in mind, Marans said, “We've learned an enormous amount about how to help children and families and adults recover” from trauma, through work with those who have been in combat or undergone rape.
“If we want to honor the dead in this tragedy, one of the ways would be to make a commitment to applying what we know,” he said.
Drowning, improper sleeping lead child death causes
Broward leads Florida, but numbers are disputed
By Ben Wolford Child abuse and neglect killed 30 children in Palm Beach and Broward counties in 2011, and nearly all of the deaths could have been prevented, state officials reported.
A statewide committee that reviews reports of fatal abuse and neglect discovered a continued downward trend in total child deaths in Florida, at 126. The actual number is almost certainly much higher, say authors of the Florida Child Abuse Death Review Committee report, which was released this month.
Nevertheless, the persistence of drowning and sleep-related deaths among South Florida children is exasperating for people like Anna Stewart, who heads Palm Beach County's Drowning Prevention Program.
"You can't keep an eye on a child 24 hours a day," she said. "It's impossible. You have to sleep."
Stewart says alarms, fences and "water watchers" could have spared all 32 Florida children who died from drowning in 2011. Eight children in Broward and three in Palm Beach County died this way, usually by falling into swimming pools.
Improper sleeping was the second-leading cause of deaths in the committee's report. Parents sometimes rolled over on their babies and suffocated them in the night. Other times they died on their stomachs, with their faces smushed against pillows.
Jennifer Combs, who researches infant sleeping deaths in Broward County for Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, says her education efforts have clashed against parents and cultures. Some parents resent advice about how to rear their own kids, she said.
"People just don't want to talk about babies dying," she said.
Seven in 10 deaths reported by the Death Review Committee were related to neglect rather than caused by abuse.
With 18 deaths, Broward County had the most in Florida, as it has since 2008. But local teams have discretion over how they count the deaths, and Broward officials say they hold nothing back in their data. Even the committee chairman, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Terry Thomas, acknowledges the report falls short.
For example, 276 children died in Miami-Dade County in 2011. Only six of those, according to the Death Review Committee, were because of abuse or neglect.
"We supposedly had zero drowning deaths in Miami-Dade, which is insane," Thomas said.
He and others say the committee should be able to investigate the death of every child in the state, rather than reviewing only at those verified by the Department of Children and Families.
Regardless of the accuracy of the final tally, compiling the list is a somber chore. Combs, who sits on the panel that reviews Broward deaths, said a team of child-safety stakeholders meets about 10 times a year to sift through case files.
One byproduct of their work is a spreadsheet of names, often-single-digit ages and death causes: "Unsafe sleep," "drowning," "blunt trauma," "run over."
"We're not trying to point fingers," Thomas said. "We're trying to create prevention strategies."
Miss America will tackle child sex abuse issue
by HANNAH DREIER
LAS VEGAS -- A woman who grew up in Alabama and moved to New York City is the new Miss America, winning the title after tap dancing to a James Brown tune, deftly dealing with a question about guns, and raising the issue of child sexual abuse in her contestant platform.
In addition to dancing to "Get Up Off of That Thing," 23-year-old Mallory Hagan strutted down the runway during the Las Vegas pageant Saturday night in an asymmetrical white gown and donned a revealing black string bikini.
She won a $50,000 college scholarship and a year as an instant celebrity and role model to many girls as she defeated Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers, who took second, and Miss Oklahoma Alicia Clifton, who finished third.
She told The Associated Press in an interview after her win that it was her mother who encouraged her to tackle the issue of child sex abuse in her platform - the issue she will promote during her reign.
She said that sexual abuse had "rippled through" her family, touching her mother, aunt, grandmother and cousins. Her mother had trouble at first convincing others of the trauma she had faced.
"That kind of sent her into a whirlwind of anxiety and depression. So as a teen I lost my mom kind of for a couple years," she said. "She was dealing with her own issues, and that's something that now as an adult I understand, but then I certainly did not."
During an interview backstage, Hagan's mother Mandy Moore wiped tears away as she spoke.
"It's very overwhelming," she said. "It's all hitting me so fast."
Hagan said she will work to make child abuse education mandatory in all 50 states.
"It's something I can hopefully change for the next generation," she said.
The pageant, which started as little more than an Atlantic City bathing suit revue, broke viewership records in its heyday and bills itself as one of the world's largest scholarships programs for women.
But like other pageants, the show has struggled to stay relevant as national attitudes regarding women's rights have changed.
Hagan's boyfriend Charmel Maynard said he thinks that pageants are dismissed by some, but he hopes Hagan's willingness to take on the sexual abuse issue will lend legitimacy to her new role.
"I don't think it's taken seriously, but I think she's going to be a great ambassador and it could change," he said..
From the FBI
Human Trafficking Awareness --
Targeting Traffickers, Helping Victims
Last month, a Kentucky cardiologist and his ex-wife pled guilty to recruiting a Bolivian woman to work as their domestic servant and holding her unlawfully for nearly 15 years. The couple took her passport, threatened her with deportation, and falsely promised that her wages were being put in a bank account.
Trafficking in persons is a widespread form of modern-day slavery, and as we observe National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we'd like to update you on what the FBI—with its partners—is doing to go after the traffickers and help the victims.
Human trafficking is a top investigative priority of the Bureau's civil rights program. During fiscal year 2012, we opened 306 human trafficking investigations around the nation involving forced labor or forced household service as well as sex trafficking of international victims (young and old) and adult U.S. citizen victims.
Along the same lines, the sex trafficking of U.S. children is also a priority within our crimes against children program. During fiscal year 2012, we opened 363 investigations into the commercial sexploitation of domestic minors. Fortunately, we were also able to locate more than 500 young victims of sex traffickers.
We participate in 88 human trafficking task forces and working groups around the country. Our efforts include not only investigating cases where we find them, but also proactively using intelligence to drive and support these cases, looking at known areas of human trafficking activities, and developing liaison relationships within communities to promote awareness of these crimes.
Help for victims. The Bureau also has a robust assistance program in place for victims of human trafficking—as well as other federal crimes investigated by the FBI. Our Office for Victim Assistance (OVA) oversees the work of victim specialists located throughout our 56 field offices.
These specialists—experienced in crisis intervention, social services, and victim assistance—work closely with agents to ensure that potential victims of trafficking are rescued, transferred to safe locations, and provided with referrals for medical, mental health, housing, legal, and other necessary services. And this past year, representatives from OVA and our civil rights program developed a protocol for human trafficking investigations that was implemented in all FBI field offices. The protocol highlights a victim-centered approach and the need for collaboration between the investigating agent, the local victim specialist, non-governmental agencies, and other law enforcement partners.
OVA oversees our child/adolescent forensic interviewers who work with Crimes Against Children task forces and provide training for agents and task force officers working human trafficking cases. These interviewers also collaborated with partner agencies to develop an interview protocol for minor victims of sexploitation for use by professionals working against human trafficking.
Our training and awareness efforts were significant. During fiscal year 2012, we conducted training around the country focused on defining, detecting, and investigating human trafficking cases. The audiences included law enforcement—both U.S. and international—along with government employees, religious and civic organizations, ethnic advocacy groups, schools, social service agencies, medical personnel, legal aid agencies, domestic violence services, etc.—in short, anyone in a position to make a difference in the life of a trafficking victim.
Multi-agency investigations, intelligence, victim assistance, training—we're putting our tools and capabilities to work to help combat the scourge of human trafficking.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Combating Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose. Every year, millions of men, women, and children worldwide—including in the United States—are victims of human trafficking. Victims are often lured with false promises of well-paying jobs or are manipulated by people they trust, but instead are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for investigating human trafficking, arresting traffickers and protecting victims. DHS initiates hundreds of investigations and makes numerous arrests every year, using a victim-centered approach. DHS also processes immigration relief through Continued Presence (CP), T visas, and U visas to victims of human trafficking and other designated crimes.
In 2010, DHS launched the Blue Campaign, unifying the DHS components to more effectively combat human trafficking through enhanced public awareness, training, victim assistance, and law enforcement investigations. By expanding our collaboration within the department, as well as among domestic and international governments, law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, DHS is helping to protect victims from being trafficked both within the United States and around the world.
Recognize the Indicators of Human Trafficking
Everyone has a role to play in combating human trafficking. The DHS Blue Campaign created a variety of resources to inform people on how they can get involved in combating human trafficking.
Report Suspected Human Trafficking
Report suspected human trafficking activity to law enforcement (available 24/7, in over 300 languages and dialects at):
- Call 1-866-347-2423 (toll free)
- Call 1-802-872-6199 (non toll free international)
- Report online at www.ice.gov/tips
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-3737-888 to get help or connect with a service provider in your area. The NHTRC is not a law enforcement or immigration authority and is operated by a nongovernmental organization.
For more information, please contact the Blue Campaign at BlueCampaign@hq.dhs.gov
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
January 7, 2013
Partnerships and Our Pledge to Combat Human Trafficking
October 4, 2012
Combating Human Trafficking, One Step at a Time
July 25, 2012
Human Trafficking Awareness Training Law Enforcement Resources The Office for State and Local Law Enforcement