(Video on site)
"Don't Be A Scumbag" Campaign to Combat Child Abuse
by Cassidy Hodges
One law enforcement agency is taking crime shaming to a whole new level, it's all part of an effort to curb child abuse in Benton County.
"They are monsters who prey on children and we need to stop it," says Benton County Sheriff Kelly Cradduck.
727. that's how many child abuse cases came through Benton County last year alone.
So the Benton County Sheriff's Office is taking its message to the streets. Literally.
"Child abuse is a horrible horrendous act , you shouldn't sugar coat it. It is what it is and let's do something about it," says
"Scumbag," that's the new word coined for child abusers in Benton County.
"It really is an in your face campaign its to get peoples attention. The victims of this, they are real, they feel the pain, they feel the anguish and many times it changes their lives forever," says Cradduck.
The "Don't Be A Scumbag" campaign is running across three different billboards in the county, putting the message in front of thousands of drivers daily.
"If individuals know about this kind of activity going on, many times they know and don't say a word, so these individuals that prey on children, they are what they are."
And Sheriff Kelly Cradduck hopes calling names will put a little more force behind combating the crime.
"We want to make sure that people know to show them no mercy because they certainly don't show their victims any."
The billboard space isn't costing Benton County a dime, thanks to Clear Channel Outdoor, who supplied the space for free.
For more resources on how to protect your child from internet predators visit NCMEC.org
, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website. Or call the Arkansas State Child Abuse Hotline to report abuse: 1-800-482-5964
Thumb up: Florida launches campaign urging the reporting of suspected child abuse
by Editorial Board
SEE THE SIGNS: The Florida Department of Children and Families in partnership with the Lauren's Kids Foundation launched a statewide campaign this week urging all citizens — not just teachers, social workers and medical professionals — to report suspected child abuse.
The "Don't Miss the Signs" campaign will include radio and TV public service announcements, posters and educational materials.
In addition, the public is encouraged to sign an online petition ("I commit my eyes, my voice to protect our children") at the website DontMissTheSigns.org
David Wilkins, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, said, "Florida has set a national standard for child protection through the strength of our laws. But our laws are only effective if our citizens are willing to do their part and report abuse if they suspect a child is at risk."
Suspected abuse can be reported anytime toll-free at 1-800-962-2873.
How Effective is Michigan's Child Abuse Hotline?
The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) calls it one number, one call. They say it's about the ease of reporting abuse and neglect to one place and receiving a standard response.
"We had a significant range [of investigations] in the counties. It's leveled off at about 61%. Historically it would range anywhere between 30% or 83%," said Steve Yager, DHS Director of Children Services.
That means, on average, 61% of cases reported to the hotline end up being investigated.
"I think when you make good decisions on the front end that's always going to impact families in a positive way on the back end," Yager said.
However, the Michigan League for Public Policy says it's not enough to be simply reactive
"We have a situation where after the abuse or neglect occurs, then we refer the family to services, but the damage has been done," said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count Project Director.
According to the new kids count report, the number of child abuse and neglect cases continues to rise across the state. DHS argues numbers don't show the complete picture.
Three simple actions to protect children
Family Nurturing Center, an agency dedicated to ending the cycle of child abuse, is joining with the Child Victims' Trust Fund to encourage community members to keep children safe.
The Child Victims' Trust Fund is administered through the State Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board. Funds for the organization come solely from the tax refund check-off program, the “I Care About Kids” license plate program, and private donations. The fund supports abuse prevention and education programs across the state, as well as providing the portion of child sexual abuse exams not covered by Medicaid or private insurance.
The Child Victims' Trust Fund provides partial support for the adult education program Stewards of Children offered through Family Nurturing Center. Stewards of Children is a revolutionary prevention program designed to teach adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. It was developed to meet the needs of youth-serving organizations, public agencies, schools, law enforcement agencies and parents.
Education provided directly to adults is essential in order to increase adults' knowledge so that they will be better able to discuss child sexual abuse with children, detect those children who have become victims, and improve their reaction to children's disclosures of abuse. Adult-focused child sexual abuse preventive programs have been shown to increase parental knowledge about child sexual abuse, as well as increase the likelihood that parents will discuss child sexual abuse with their children.
Three ways that Kentucky residents can help are:
• Check Off Box on State Tax Returns. Just look for this box on your Kentucky State Income Tax Form. Contributions to this fund finance local programs designed to prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. This fund is administered through the Kentucky Attorney General's Office and relies solely on the tax deductible contributions made by interested citizens.
• Purchase the “I Care About Kids” license plate. Select the colorful “I Care About Kids” license plate at your local county clerk's office the next time you renew. Proceeds from the “I Care About Kids” license plate go the Child Victims' Trust Fund for helping Kentucky's most vulnerable children – those who are victims of sexual abuse. Proceeds from each purchase assist in funding child sexual abuse prevention programs, and the part of child sexual abuse medical exams not covered by private insurance or Medicaid.
• Make a Private Donation to the Child Victims Trust Fund. Contributions may also be made directly to the Child Victims' Trust Fund, ? Kentucky Attorney General, Victims Advocacy Division, 1024 Capital Center Drive, Suite 200, Frankfort, KY 40601.
For more information, call 502-696-5312.
Justice Is Fleeting in the Era of Digitized Rape
by Kelly Bourdet
The internet's main asset, its essence and reason for being, is the ability for anyone to share pretty much anything with a theoretically infinite audience. Any image that exists in one place, that is shared through a website or through P2P networks, can gain traction, becoming sought out and viewed over and over until no one can even quantify the human impressions, much less the positive or negative impact created from and by viewing that image. The darkest, most discouraging things exist on the Internet–things like child pornography and "revenge" porn–and these things also develop a life of their own, skipping from screen to screen, from hard drive to hard drive, permanent in the sense that the possibility of the image existing always exists.
There are no longer any negatives to seize and destroy, and anyone may have seen or may possess any image. The harm done to those unwillingly depicted in pornography, specifically child pornography, is so egregious and disturbing to society's sense of justice that we struggle to offer them something for their pain and suffering.
At first, more and more stringent sentencing laws regarding possession and production of child pornography was society's attempt at condemning these criminals and their actions. As a culture, we've so stigmatized sex offenders with high mandatory minimums and lifetime registries that most are unlikely to lead normal lives. This is at once a precautionary measure, but also as an acknowledgment of the victims' suffering. We want to punish in accordance to the harm we feel has been done.
But this does little practical good for those personally affected by child pornography. Many studies have shown the correlation between childhood sexual abuse and difficulties in adulthood, such as addiction, abusive relationships, and an increased risk of suicide. But the consequences of child pornography are more diffuse and difficult to escape. How can society, or the legal system, ever counteract the suffering of victims of child pornography, whose images, once online, are virtually impossible to completely eradicate?
Courts have a limited tool set when it comes to punishment. Some courts have been attempting to monetize those consequences, in the form of financial restitution for individuals featured in child pornography, with the money coming not solely from the producers of the images, but from anyone who is found in possession of the images. In Emily Bazelon's The New York Times Magazine cover story, "The Price of a Stolen Childhood", she relays the stories of two young women, both subjected to childhood sexual abuse who later learned that their abuse has been photographed and shared with other men on the internet.
Due to a provision in the Crime Victims' Rights Act, victims of sex crimes have a right to know certain information regarding suspects in cases involving them. One of the women profiled in the Times 's story, Nicole, began receiving scores of letters from court systems alerting her that some suspect was on trial for possession of child pornography and at least one of her photos had been found. Nicole had become a sort of celebrity (for lack of a better term) in the online child pornography world; her images were highly coveted and shared more widely than most. Because of this, she began receiving letters by the dozen alerting her to more and more individuals who had been arrested and owned pornography featuring her.
Amy, the other woman profiled, had a similar story. After being forced into pornography by her uncle as a child, as a young adult she encountered symptoms similar to those many sex abuse survivors endure: trouble focusing, trouble in college, dissociation, and depression. But unlike a child sex abuse survivor who was not forced into pornography, Amy's abuse could not be truly put behind her. There was always another man arrested for possessing images of her abuse, always more letters arriving. It was this inescapable:
|Marsh [Amy's lawyer] suggested that Amy see a forensic psychologist, Joyanna Silberg, who evaluated Amy and said she would need therapy throughout her life and could expect to work sporadically because of the likelihood of periodic setbacks. Silberg attributed these costs -- Amy's damages -- to her awareness of the ongoing downloading and viewing.
Marsh estimated that the cumulative lifetime impact of her abuse would total around $3.4 million. Amy's lawyer put together a lawsuit suing for restitution, not from the producer of the pornography, but from anyone possessing the images. When a former VP at Pfizer was arrested and found to possess four images of Amy, her lawyer successfully obtained $130,000 in restitution. Though unprecedented at the time, restitution of this kind has held up in appeals court, and both Nicole and Amy have received multiple settlements from men guilty of possessing their images. It seems possible that this type of financial liability could become commonplace for anyone found with child pornography.
Amy's awareness of the ongoing viewing of those images online diminished her mental health and quality of life.
It more formally relates the viewership of child pornography with the crime of abuse, but it also distinguishes between different types of damages. Amy's lawsuit wasn't based on damages from her abuse per se . She was entitled to restitution because her awareness of the ongoing viewing and the permanence of those images online diminished her mental health and quality of life. This is philosophically distinct from the idea that owners of child pornography are complicit in its creation because they create a demand. It is a way to describe a new phenomenon, one where the medium itself is injurious.
Another troubling occurrence sensationalized by Hunter Moore, his Village Voice cover story, and his seedy internet empire, the now defunct IsAnybodyUp, is the phenomenon of revenge pornography. IsAnybodyUp and the sites that mimic it provide a platform for asshole exes to post sexual photographs, along with names, addresses, social media profiles, etc., in order to shame their ex-partners online. Though the underlying injury differs significantly, these women (and a few men) weren't sexually abused to obtain the pictures, and in fact the most common photos on these sites are self-portraits, the images were not usually created for public consumption. Seeking financial restitution for the damages incurred from this type of online pornography is also a new kind of legal battle. Just last week a class-action lawsuit was filed against Texxxan.com, a revenge porn site, and GoDaddy for hosting the site.
Given the current liability laws going after these entities is at best a stretch. GoDaddy is almost certainly protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. But it seems the case is at least symbolic, and perhaps the beginning of a new wave of legislation on internet publishing and established liability, paving the way for future restitution. Again in this case, the power of the internet to immortalize pornographic images harms the women and men who have been exposed without their consent, and we feel a moral opposition to the people who've posted them and the revenge porn enterprise in general, but what is that worth? The women in this lawsuit have not been abused, but they have not consented to appearing in pornography open for public consumption either. Again, it is the permanence of the images that is inherent in our understanding of the damage that has been done to them.
Our sense of fairness leads us to codify ways to punish the guilty and assist the victimized. America is nothing if not a litigious society obsessed with the righteousness of squarely placed blame. But the internet and the ways we communicate resist more simple formulas; the damages of any image ripple outwards, secretly multiplied in ways we can't yet quantify. These innocent women – most especially those who were abused as children – certainly deserve something to compensate them for their horror; we're just trying to figure out what it is and from whom.
Perpetuating Rape Culture: Polanski and the Privileges of 'Fame'
The British Film Institute
is currently running a retrospective
on the films of Roman Polanksi. He arguably deserves to be recognised as one of the great directors for films such as Rosemary's Baby , Tess and The Pianist , for which he won the Oscar for Best Director and received a standing ovation. As is well known, Polanski could not collect his Oscar because of the small matter of his criminal conviction for unlawful sex with a minor; a charge stemming from 1977.
Polanski gave a 13 year old girl a qualude in champagne and then orally, vaginally and anally raped her. Polanski is a convicted child rapist who fled the US because he did not want to go to prison.
Yet, somehow, Polanski's conviction for unlawful sex with a minor is frequently elided from press attention of his films or, if it is mentioned, it is minimized because Polanski is an 'artiste.' Whoopi Goldberg famously suggested it wasn't "rape-rape", as if there is a hierarchy of good rape versus bad rape wherein good rapists can't really be rapists if they make good films.
Now, the British Film Institute has joined in with the minimisation of Polanski's crime by running a retrospective of his work without ever mentioning the fact that he is also a convicted child rapist. When questioned on their decision on their Facebook page, they responded with this:
|Showing these films has been planned for over 18 months, mindful of Polanski's 1977 US conviction. The BFI takes its responsibility to audiences very seriously and we fully appreciate that recent events have heightened awareness, however, our focus is not on the director, but the films, none of which are autobiographical or reflective of Polanski's conviction. We recognise the important contribution Polanski's films make to world cinema and film culture and we want to ensure that new audiences get the opportunity to see them on the big screen. By presenting his films in this way the BFI is not condoning or making any judgment on Polanski's personal past history.
Yep, by showing Polanski's films, the BFI are "not condoning or making any judgment on Polanski's personal past history" and the only reason anyone could possibly be raising this as an issue is because "recent events have heightened awareness." By this, I assume they mean the numerous investigations into child sexual violence and rape in light of the Jimmy Savile allegations. The BFI seem to be implying that there would be no controversy over a retrospective on Polanski's art had it not been for the Jimmy Savile affair.
Ryan Gilbey, the film critic for the New Statesman , best exemplifies the minimisation of the child rape perpetrated by Polanski by suggesting it was "ambiguous" and somehow no longer relevant since Polanski makes " great films." He went so far as to suggest it was "historic" as if raping a child is forgivable if one did it a long time ago, even if the perpetrator fled the jurisdiction. This separation of male violence from the men who commit the crimes is a key feature of rape culture. It silences victims whilst simultaneously creating a hierarchy of abusers with Roman Polanski being a "good" abuser because The Piano won him some Oscars.
The 'he's an artiste' defense arises every time these issues are raised and it remains utter garbage. Being an "artiste" has never been an acceptable excuse for an adult male to abuse a child and it never should be. It doesn't matter if the 'artiste' in question is Roman Polanski or Anthony Kiedis, who writes about "having sex" with a 14 year old in his biography Scar Tissue as if this were normal behavior for an adult. Both men have had traumatised childhoods, Polanski is a Holocaust survivor whilst Kiedis is quite open about the physical and sexual abuse he experienced as a child, but these traumas cannot be used as excuses for their behaviour as adults.
The moment we condone the abuse these men commit because of their status as 'artistes' is the moment we stop holding them accountable for their crimes. It does not matter how brilliant their films are or how much we love their music. We cannot separate the art these men produce from the violence they inflict on vulnerable women and children.
There is no "ambiguity" to what Polanski did: he raped a child.
Those who seek to minimise Polanski's act of rape are just as guilty as those who ignored Jimmy Savile's sexual abuse of children.
Those who seek to minimise Polanski's act of rape are guilty of perpetrating and perpetuating rape culture.
This Saturday (2 February), the East London Feminists and the London Feminist Network have organized a protest against the Polanski Retrospective outside the BFI Southbank.
This is the official statement from the East London Feminists:
|In light of the recent investigation into Jimmy Savile I think it is disgusting that the BFI has decided to hold a retrospective of a child abuser. I think it speaks volumes about the culture in which we live that the BFI, a supposed British institution, sees no problem in celebrating the work of a paedophile who has been on the run from the US government for 35 years. I couldn't stand by and let this go unmarked. It speaks of how little importance our culture puts on sexual crimes against women and the complete lack of respect it has for women that people can so easily separate the crime from the rapist.
The Protest starts at 1:30 in advance of a 2:40 showing of Tess . During the filming of Tess, the then 43 year old director began a "sexual relationship" with the 15 year old star Natassja Kinski which, in and of itself, is equally problematic.
Whilst I can not attend, I will be there in spirit with my sisters holding a convicted child rapist responsible for his crimes despite most of Hollywood deciding that being an 'artiste' is more important than holding an adult male accountable for giving a 13 year old child a qualude in champagne and then raping her.
Calling Child Abuse Hotline Made Easier
-- Calling 1-855-OH-CHILD is the new way to report child abuse or neglect to Ohio's 88 county children services departments.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) supervises all of Ohio's county child welfare services and employees of ODJFS built an automated directory to handle the child abuse calls.
"What we wanted to do is give one statewide number, one people could easily remember," said Ben Johnson, ODJFS Spokesman.
Whether you are calling within your county, from one county to another, or even out of state, when you call the abuse hotline it will transfer your call to the appropriate county agency.
If the county you call doesn't have a 24-hour hotline, the automated directory transfers you to a designated law enforcement agency. Callers can remain anonymous.
"We will ask for basic information about the family they are calling about, names, addresses, birth dates, then what their concerns are about the children in that family," said Amy Wood, hotline supervisor for Franklin County Children Services (FCCS).
Wood said FCCS' 24-hour hotline has received a record number of calls over the last two years: 28,000 in 2011 and 30,000 in 2012. The idea behind the new phone number is to protect kids, even if it sets new records.
"If there are any concerns, calling is the best thing to do and let us decide whether or not that child is safe," said Wood.
Johnson said there is no charge for using the number and the cost to build the system was minimal.
Glimmer of hope found within new grim statistics
The grim statistics about Yuma County's children continue.
Local child abuse authority Diane Umphress, executive director of Amberly's Place, each year tracks the record of crimes of abuse against children, and each year it seems to get worse.
She reports that in 2012 there was a dramatic increase in abuse of children, both physical and sexual.
The majority of reported cases involved child sexual abuse, which soared a third higher than the previous year, reaching 421 reported cases. Within those tragic statistics is an even more horrific fact about the victims.
“One of the things we are noticing is a dramatic increase in child sexual abuse in children birth to 4 years old,” Umphress said. An apparent reason is that the abusers believe these young children are less likely to tell about the crime, or if they do that they will be less likely to be believed. It is a diabolical way to hide the abuser's perversity.
Yuma County is not alone in this trend, although there is no comfort in that fact. Umphress says the same thing is happening across the nation.
It is hard for most of us to contemplate the idea of abusing children due to its evil nature. But we cannot turn our backs to this reality.
Contrary to what many want to believe, the abusers are typically not strangers. In fact, they are often parents or stepparents or another family member. The fact that the abuser is often a person the child loves and trusts makes the crime even worse than it already is.
If there is one glimmer of hope in the new statistics, it is that one reason the numbers may be going up here is that more people are reporting their suspicions of abuse.
In past commentary on this situation we have supported Umphress and others in urging that suspected abuse be reported to the authorities, not just because it is the law in some cases, but so that the child can be protected and so that the abuser can be prevented from committing even more crimes against children.
That is especially true for the youngest victims who are less likely to be able to speak up for themselves.
We are glad to see people are apparently taking heed of this request.
Rooting out the root of all evil
by Dina Accardi
— Some say that the root of all evil is the love of money; some say it is drugs, and some say it is idleness.
But to Burlington resident and mother, Adrianne Simeone, the root of all evil is child sexual abuse.
And statistics seem to support her stance. Children that are sexually abused are at a higher risk to suffer from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts, sometimes battles they face throughout their lifetime.
At a societal level, the aftermath of child sexual abuse contributes to the billions of dollars poured into the court, prison, and social services systems.
Simeone is stepping forward and forming a Burlington coalition to stop child sexual abuse. Simeone serves as a board member of the state-run agency Mass Citizens for Children (MCC), which runs the “Enough Abuse” campaign.
Thus far, Simeone's contributions include her website and Facebook page www.themamabeareffect.org & www.facebookcom/mamabeareffect, sites that give parents information and knowledge on ways to protect their children. She has also donated money to the Burlington Public Library so the library has the funds to increase its offering of sexual prevention books. In an interview, Simeone gave some insight on these programs.
What prompted you to get involved with the Mass Citizens for Children (MCC) organization?
I became involved after reading a disturbing case of child sexual abuse and doing some research online to discover how prevalent this form of abuse is and that it's really because people do not want to talk about it or accept that people are sexually abusing children. It is different from physical abuse that's brought on more often by stress and low income, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Child sexual abuse affects every socio-economic demographic and most abusers are not the creepy guy that we hear about on the news.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused. Sadly, 90 percent of cases are never reported. As a result, the majority of sexual offenders are walking the streets free and unknown to society.
Even worse is the fact that children, because they are so innocent and vulnerable, often do not tell anyone about the sexual abuse and it can go unknown for a long time. It was very disturbing to learn this information and I decided that I wanted to be part of this to help.
I kind of had an “ah-ha” moment where I said to myself, “If I am really upset about this, I can't just cry one night and get over it the next day. I need to do something.”
What is the Enough Abuse campaign?
Basically, this is an outreach campaign for Massachusetts' communities. Key members of a community (such as public health officials, the school superintendent, police force, religious leaders, and pediatricians) come together to form a local coalition. These members of the community receive training from MCC and in turn offer a minimum or four free training sessions per year to the community to educate people on the facts of child sexual abuse and how to prevent it. The program is about the community coming together and realizing this is a serious issue that affects children in their homes, schools, and youth programs — and that it will take a united community to tackle this issue. As an MCC representative, it is my responsibility to form a local coalition for the town of Burlington. The Woburn YMCA has expressed interest in offering the Enough Abuse training and there is also interest in Stoneham, so it's possible that this local coalition will also include these two communities, in addition to Burlington.
Can you explain The Mama Bear Effect?
It is important for communities to get involved, but the first line of defense in protecting children are the children's parents. So that's how I started The Mama Bear Effect. I believe that all good people have a natural “Mama Bear” instinct, which is a desire to protect innocent children from harm. I am utilizing social media to reach out to parents and trying to instill a sense that we are strong parents and that knowing about sexual abuse isn't scary but empowering us to fight back instead. Talking about it shouldn't be uncomfortable; it should unite us to better protect all children.
A law firm in Boston has taken me on pro bono to form the Mama Bear Effect non-profit organization and once that is established I plan to start reaching out to communities through public events and public service announcements.
The more that we know; the less power we give to people who sexually abuse children.
A Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence
by Lisa Fasanella Naples -- Chair, Collier County Domestic Violence Task Force Director of programs, Shelter for Abused Women & Children
In 2008, the Shelter for Abused Women & Children formed a Primary Prevention Community Action Team to address and eliminate domestic violence in Collier County.
Over time, this group evolved into the Collier County Domestic Violence Task Force, charged with creating a safe and strong community that nurtures healthy families and, in doing so, forming the best community in America to live, work and play.
Through discussions and assessments, the task force has compiled data and determined what agencies in our community were doing in response to domestic violence, highlighting what was and was not working in Collier County. Moreover, the team has been tracking domestic-violence incidents and determining where, geographically, they are increasing and/or decreasing.
What we discovered is that during an average 12-month period, 594 domestic-violence cases were prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office; the Children's Advocacy Center documented domestic violence in 95 percent of the families within their supervised visitation program; and the shelter created 28,114 safety plans and sheltered 514 adults and children while serving 3,423 unduplicated participants.
Despite these facts, our local court-ordered Batterer's Intervention Program (BIP) has decreased alarmingly. During one year, only 58 of the 1,710 perpetrators arrested for domestic violence related crimes were ordered to complete BIP.
Our research also revealed what the people of Collier County want: communities that are safe and free from domestic violence; services that meet the needs of men, women and children experiencing violence; justice responses that are effective; and a system that holds batterers accountable while supporting the resiliency of survivors.
On Tuesday, after years of collaborations with law enforcement, the justice system, social-service agencies, the health-care community, the school district and other partners, the task force unveiled "A Coordinated Community Response" to address these needs and end domestic violence.
Since the inception of our coordinated community response, we have expanded our collaborations; modified the Intimate Violence Enhanced Service Team (InVEST) program with local law-enforcement agencies (an initiative designed to reduce the number of domestic-violence homicides); implemented domestic-violence prevention programming in most Collier County schools; and created a position to track batterers, monitor their compliance with court orders and report noncompliance.
We are also creating a domestic violence college course, complete with internships at agencies represented in the task force, which is set to begin this fall at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Members of the task force know that society can no longer just accept the world as it is and expect that the problems and dangers of domestic violence will "go away."
Since this epidemic continues to change, the task force will continue to work on increasing public awareness and education; acquiring commitments to uphold the communitywide plan; implementing specific initiatives; acting in concert to change the social norms that allow this global problem to exist; and holding each of us accountable for preventing and eliminating violence.
What's come from this process so far is each partner agency's commitment to creating a peaceful community for residents and visitors alike.
Together, we are developing Collier County into a community where no one excuses abusive behavior and where batterers are held accountable. Today, we ask for your commitment to be part of the solution in ending the violence.
For more information on the Collier County Domestic Violence Task Force and the Coordinated Community Response, please call 239-775-3862, ext. 206.
The Collier County Domestic Violence Task Force is comprised of: the Aesthetic Surgery Center, Children's Advocacy Center, Collier County Emergency Medical Services, Collier County Family Law Attorneys, Collier County Men of Character Coalition, Collier County Public Schools and School Board, Collier County Sheriff's Office, David Lawrence Center, Department of Children and Families, FGCU School of Criminal Justice, Haitian Leadership, Legal Aid Service of Collier County, Marco Island Police Department, Mother Perry Foundation, NCH Healthcare System, Naples Police Department, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), state Attorney General, State Attorney's Office, the Youth Advisory Council and the shelter.
If you or someone you love is living in fear and violence, please call the shelter's 24-hour crisis line: 239-775-1101, TTY 239-775-4265, or visit www.naplesshelter.org. In emergencies, always call 911.
(Note from MJ
.....a similar situation is affecting computers in the U.S. but an official looking FBI message appears, states you're being investigated for viewing child porn, and tells you to “click” for further instructions. If you click, you've opened the door for the virus the hacker wanted you to get in the first place
Sick software nasty uses child abuse pics to extort infected victims Pay €100 'fine' to rid PCs of horror images
by John Leyden
Depraved miscreants are spreading vile ransomware that displays images of child abuse on infected PCs and demands payment to remove them.
Typically, this sort of malware pretends to be an official piece of police software and pops up a text message accusing victims of breaking the law - usually for downloading copyrighted material or dodgy pornography - and locks down the computer until the user coughs up some cash.
But this new Trojan stoops to an all-time low by displaying actual pictures of child sex abuse and accuses the victim of previously viewing it. The ransomware sports logos of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and the German Society for the Prosecution of Copyright Infringement (GVU) to lend an air of authenticity to proceedings.
Owners of infected machines are ordered to pay an on-the-spot fine of €100 to get a code that unlocks the computer.
Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt) put out a warning about the disturbing new tactic in ransomware extortion on Tuesday; an advisory in German can be found here. Victims are advised to not be intimidated by the extortionists' threats.
Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony relieved of public duties
by Susan Abram and Barbara Jones
Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has stood at the center of the Los Angeles Archdiocese clergy sex abuse scandal after mounting evidence showed he shielded pedophile priests from law enforcement, has been relieved of all public duties, Archbishop Jose Gomez announced late Thursday.
Gomez's unexpected announcement came as the archdiocese, under court order, released some 12,000 documents from the internal personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse.
"Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties," Gomez said in a written statement.
He also said auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who served as Mahony's vicar of clergy and his point person on sex abuse cases, has stepped down as regional bishop of Santa Barbara.
"I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility," Gomez said.
Gomez's announcement was his first public response since files released last week revealed how Mahony and Curry maneuvered behind the scenes to shield 14 molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark about sexual abuse in their parishes.
A judge on Thursday ordered the archdiocese to release the confidential personnel files of scores of pedophile priests, clearing the way for thousands of pages of unredacted documents to be made public, according to attorneys for the victims.
The archdiocese released 124 personnel files made available to the public at clergyfiles.la-archdiocese.org/listing.html
"Of this number, 82 files have information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse and 42 files have no information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse but, in those instances, the 'proffers' are being provided," the archdiocese said in a written statement.
Proffers are summaries of personnel files, prepared for litigation that describe some of the documents in that file, according to the archdiocese.
Initially, Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias directed the nation's second-largest archdiocese to hand over confidential files of 89 clergy accused of abuse by Feb. 22.
A record $660 million settlement reached in 2007 set the stage for the release of the personnel files, which contain letters among top church officials, accused priests and archdiocese attorneys, complaints from parents, medical and psychological records and - in some cases - correspondence with the Vatican.
While the archdiocese had promised to release the files, it fought for years to withhold the names of church leaders.
Retired Judge Dickran Tevrizian ruled last year that the archdiocese could black out the names of high-ranking clergy who had reassigned abusive priests, along with the names of clergy accused of abuse only once.
But The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times joined with victims in challenging Tevrizian's decision. Elias overturned it and said the public was entitled to the information.
The archdiocese proposed releasing the documents with the names redacted but with a cover sheet attached to each file listing the names of church leaders who handled the case. But it abandoned that plan, saying it will include the names of any bishops, vicars for clergy and supervisory parish priests in the documents.
"We have chosen to remove redactions of those key individuals on every document," J. Michael Hennigan, attorney for the archdiocese, said in an email to The Associated Press. "There will be no ambiguity."
Mahony served as archbishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese from 1985 until his mandatory retirement at age 75 in 2011. He has had no administrative duties since then, but now he will no longer participate in speaking engagements and other public appearances, said archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg.
He will, however, be allowed to perform some priestly duties.
"He can still perform in the liturgy and Sacraments," Tamberg said. "He's still considered a priest in good standing."
Joelle Casteix, western regional director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called Mahony's relief from some duties "too little too late," because the archdiocese had full knowledge of the scope and scale of Mahony's role in covering up sexual abuse.
"This is not enough, because the documents they are releasing is nothing compared to the entirety of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Mahony and Curry need to be reprimanded by Rome. It is our hope that law enforcement comb through every document to see if charges can be filed."
Attorney Anthony DeMarco, who represented half of the 500 victims as part of the lawsuit, agreed with Casteix.
"There's nothing new that Archbishop Gomez knows today that he didn't know since he took office," DeMarco said. "The only reason those two have been removed today is because of the public disclosure of their wrongs. It's through the courage of the survivors - the abused - that this level of accountability is finally starting to happen."
Attorney Raymond P. Boucher, another lead attorney for the victims, said he found the contents of the files very disturbing.
"It's numbing to see the human devastation and destruction that took place, often needlessly," Boucher said. "The files will provide more evidence of a church concerned about protecting its own image and failing to take any steps to protect children from irreparable harm."
He also said many more files have yet to be seen.
Gomez called the documents "brutal and painful reading."
"The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil," Gomez said. "There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed."
Files may reveal what the Catholic Church in Los Angeles knew about sex abuse
by Ben Brumfield
A California judge has forced the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release some 12,000 pages of church documents revealing how it handled allegations of priest sexual abuse.
There were many -- 192 priests and bishops were named in litigation, the archdiocese said.
"The cases span decades," Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in a statement Thursday . Some go back to the 1930s.
"But that does not make them less serious. I find these files to be brutal and painful reading," he said.
Gomez also chastised his predecessor, now retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, for shortcomings after victims came forward during his tenure.
"Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties," Gomez said in a statement.
It's a mere slap on the wrist long after the fact, said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests.
"A meaningless gesture. He should have been demoted or disciplined by the church hierarchy, in Rome and in the US," he said.
But Mahony was not as much as denounced when he was in power, Clohessy said.
Mahony "expressed his sorrow" over the alleged abuse, which victims reported during his tenure as archbishop from 1984 - 2011, the archdiocese said Friday.
But Clohessy feels he and other church officials knew too much and did too little, and that there have not been enough consequences to deter future abuse or cover-ups.
"If you successfully conceal your wrongdoing, you can keep your job," he said.
The archdiocese already published the names of accused clergy in a 2004 report, but the release of Thursday's documents will allow the public to trace how the church handled the allegations . It may bring to light some cases where accusations were kept under wraps and the accused were kept out of the sight of the law or accusers.
The documents had served as evidence in 508 civil cases by sex abuse victims that were settled in one stroke in 2007.
Victims received a total of $660 million in the landmark judgment.
Most of the documents were inner-church correspondences about accused clergy. The archdiocese fought to purge the names of the accused from the papers until Thursday, when Judge Emilie Elias ruled that they be made public by February 22.
The church published them shortly after the ruling. There are 124 personnel files in total, 82 which reveal sex abuse allegations against minors.
The release "concludes a sad and shameful chapter in the history of our Local Church," the archdiocese said.
It warned that although the names of the abused have been deleted, some may recognize their cases.
"We understand this experience may be a difficult one," it said.
Training tackles child sexual abuse
by Nick Coltrain
A day-long seminar is aiming to bring light to the sexual abuse of a children, a topic often shrouded in shadow, organizer Erin Barger said.
Simply acknowledging it happens can go a long way toward preventing it from ocurring again or to other children, she said.
“The rates of child sexual abuse in this country are really high and it's an issue that we are not powerless to address,” she said. “But because this topic is so uncomfortable and difficult to address, communities often remain silent about it and I think that is the biggest mistake that we can make.”
The Tuesday seminar will feature speakers that include lawyers, Prevent Child Abuse Athens Executive Director Mary Hood, law enforcement officials and the heads of youth organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Athens.
The $30 event is open to everyone. Barger said it can be useful to parents, teachers, youth organizers and “everyone who thinks this is important.”
“It's often a dark secret,” she said, adding that “only light upon the topic” can help with healing and preventing it.
One of the topics to be covered will be myths of sexual abuse, such as it being easy to spot perpetrators by the way they act or look. In reality, most of the time the family of the victim knows the abuser, she said.
The event is being organized by LEAD Athens, a leadership class organized by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.
Feb. 21 workshop aims to prevent child sexual abuse
|How to prevent Child Abuse
What: A day long seminar on how to prevent child sexual abuse.
When: Tuesday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: St. James United Methodist Church; 1261 S. Lumpkin St., Athens
Cost: $30 for individual registrants
Cost for groups: each registrant after the first is $20. Cost includes training materials, breakfast & lunch from Sweet Peppers
Registration: Deadline is Friday. To register, go to www.no-fear-here.com
The Champaign County Family and Children First Council and Champaign County Department of Job and Family Services are teaming up to offer sexual abuse prevention training to Champaign county residents. Residents can learn how to help prevent child sexual abuse and the impact of an estimated 40 million victims in the U.S. by registering today for an upcoming “Stewards of Children” workshop.
The “Stewards of Children” workshop was created by Darkness To Light (D2L), a national non-profit, 501c3, dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse through public education and awareness. Research shows that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 40 million Americans are victims of child sexual abuse. D2L programs raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults on the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of the sexual abuse of children. The next local workshop is set for Thursday, Feb. 21 from 1-4 p.m. at the Champaign County Community Center in the Auditorium, located at 1512 S. U.S. Hwy. 68, Urbana. The workshop is being hosted by local trainer, Stacey Logwood.
Please register by calling 937-652-2645 or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 7. There is no cost for this training, as materials have been purchased through an Ohio Children's Trust Fund grant aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect. The overall goal for Stewards of Children in Champaign County is to train adults who have contact with children to be more effective in preventing, recognizing, and reporting sexual abuse. The training is open to parents, grandparents, day care providers, youth sports organizations/coaches/camp counselors, youth service organizations, teachers/school personnel and faith center volunteers or staff. The three-hour workshop is designed to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
Child rape statute of limitations may be extended
Senate panel hears from victims who say bill doesn't go far enough
by Jim Camden
OLYMPIA – Washington may extend the statute of limitations on cases of child rape, making it possible to convict some predators after their victims grow up.
But victims of sexual abuse and their families told a Senate panel that doesn't go far enough. There should be no statute of limitations on child sexual assault, just as there is no such limit on murder.
A woman who told the Senate Law and Justice Committee she was sexually abused starting around age 12 said many young victims need time to process what has happened to them. They may not be able to do that until they are adults.
“Everybody deserves a chance to be heard,” the woman who identified herself only as Shelly said.
Current state law says a case of first- or second-degree rape involving a victim 14 or older can be prosecuted for 10 years, but only if it is reported within a year after it occurs; if the victim is less than 14, the crime can be prosecuted until the victim reaches 28, if it is reported in that first year.
Rape cases involving victims under 14 who report the assault within three years can be prosecuted for seven years, or until the victim turns 21, if that's longer.
Senate Bill 5100 would allow rape cases involving victims under 18 to be prosecuted until the victim turns 30, remove the one-year reporting requirement and expand the statute of limitations for other sex crimes involving minors like child molestation and indecent liberties.
Gail Harsh, a former Spokane resident who now lives in Sammamish, said her daughter was abused by a relative at a young age, and later by an assistant teacher. When she developed a series of health problems, she underwent therapy at 15 that revealed the abuse. Police investigated but refused to prosecute because the statute of limitations had passed. She never recovered from her health problems and died three days after the case was closed.
“Child rape is soul murder, and there should be no statute of limitations,” Harsh said.
The longer time frame will cause a sexual predator to “look over his shoulder for a number of years,” former Spokane state Rep. John Ahern said.
During his time in the Legislature, Ahern tried repeatedly to raise the statute of limitations for child rape. His bills passed in the House but hit roadblocks in the Senate and never made it out of committee. SB 5100 has bipartisan cosponsors as well as support on the Law and Justice Committee.
Education is key, says Tayside sex abuse victim
A Tayside survivor of child sexual abuse is calling for a greater education of adults so they know how to react when a child speaks up.
Growing up in Wales, Dawn Walton underwent a catalogue of abuse, ranging from physical beatings by her stepmother to sexual abuse by her stepfather.
Dawn, who now works as a cognitive hypnotherapist and lives outside Birkhill, overcame her abusive childhood and has now gone on to write a book.
Nothing Needs to be the Way it's Always Been is about her experiences and to let people know that no matter how bad your childhood has been or what sort of abuse you suffered, you do not have to be miserable for life.
“It started with tickling,” she said.
“Often if he (my stepfather) wanted to legitimise what he was doing he would tickle me.”
Dawn was around 10 when her stepfather began coming to “say goodnight”.
“I knew this was wrong but I didn't know what to do about it,” she said.
This was not Dawn's first experience of abuse. Her stepmother had been hitting her from around the age of six. Trips to visit her grandmother were marred by the drive in her grandfather's van.
“I never wanted to sit next to him in the van but for some reason my brother made me,” she said.
After years of abuse Dawn eventually confided in her mother's friend but she did not receive the reaction she wanted.
“She responded by asking me if I realised how serious what I was saying was,” she said.
When the friend finally told Dawn's mother she “went mad”.
Dawn said: “I sat there in tears as she asked me what I expected her to do.”
She eventually escaped her troubled childhood when she left for university.
She is now calling for a greater education of adults.
“With the increase in profile of sexual abuse brought about by the Jimmy Savile scandal, people are becoming increasingly concerned about how we identify and protect our children,” she said.
“There are concerns about how we create an environment where children feel safe to speak up.”
Dawn said the way her mother and her friend reacted changed the way she felt about herself. She said the most important thing to do if a child confides in you is to believe them.
“Above all else, accept that what they are telling you is true.”
Adults must not judge a child who confides in them and should help them understand it is not their fault, Dawn said.
Author Barry Lopez reveals his childhood sexual abuse
by Tony Castro
Acclaimed author Barry Lopez writes in this month's Harper's magazine about being sexually abused for four years by a North Hollywood doctor who pretended to court his divorced mother while he was growing up in Southern California.
The abuser, Harry Shier who has since died, turned out not be a doctor, but to be using a fraudulent degree. Lopez says the abuse began when he was seven-years-old.
“During those four years I think I went through every scenario I could imagine as a child about how to protect myself, but I never found any path to follow where I knew somebody would intervene and protect me,” says Lopez, author of 13 books and winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction for Arctic Dreams in 1986.
“Many of the children who end up in situations like this come from families where there is only one parent, and you are trying to figure out who you are when you're also dealing with this traumatic experience, and you're not old enough to frame the question that lets you go to an adult and say, ‘I think something's really wrong here.'”
Shier supervised a sanatorium where he oversaw the alcoholism treatment for a relative of Barry Lopez's mother.
Lopez, now 68, writes that Shier claimed that there was something wrong with the youngster and that the rape was treatment for that problem.
“I was 7-years-old, and the world of medicine and the world of treatment and the world of how we take care of each other was a tabula rasa for me,” he said in an interview with NPR's Terry Gross.
“I knew that when I saw these degrees from prestigious institutions—all of which were fraudulent—on his wall that I was in the hands of somebody that I knew the adult world respected, and as a young person trying to learn the world, I was trying to understand things that were new to me, and that just fell into that category.”
Barry Lopez on why he wrote about his childhood abuse
In one of his many essays, Barry Lopez writes that his mother, an Alabama-born woman, taught junior high in the Los Angeles public schools. She divorced his father, and Lopez later took on the Spanish surname of his stepfather, an immigrant from northern Spain whose father had been Spain's First Secretary to the Court of St. James's.
Lopez says that he decided to write about his childhood abuse for the first time because he “had become impatient with the cast of newspaper articles that suggested that in the legal pursuit of pedophiles what young men and women were most interested in was winning a financial judgment or in punishing, seeking vengeance.”
“And it struck me that that was the last thing, really, you'd be interested in as somebody who had been serially molested. What had been taken from you was a sense of self-worth and dignity, and the only way you can get those things back is in open, unjudged relationships with other people, and then you … have a chance to develop again a sense of self-worth.”
Lopez, who has been described as “the nation's premier nature writer” by the San Francisco Chronicle ,” was also a National Book Award finalist for his Of Wolves and Men in 1978. He received the John Burroughs and Christopher medals for O Wolves and Men .
Now living in Oregon, Lopez was born in Port Chester, New York and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and New York City.
Probe of abuse not over, DA says: Adults who were aware could face consequences
by Kathy Mellott
JOHNSTOWN — When Franciscan friar Stephen Baker took his life Saturday, the possibility of any criminal prosecution against him ended.
But adults who were aware of Baker's abuse and failed to report it could face consequences, Cambria County's top law enforcement officer said Wednesday.
District Attorney Kelly Callihan said she is seeking advice from the state Attorney General's office on reporting laws and the statute of limitations in place more than a decade ago when Baker was a teacher at Bishop McCort Catholic High School.
“If the abuse alleged is as widespread as it appears to be, then I believe the criminal investigation should continue,” Callihan said.
Baker, 62, was living at St. Bernardine Monastery outside Hollidaysburg when he died of a self-inflicted knife wound to the chest. Several dozen men accuse him of molesting them when they were students at Bishop McCort in the early 1990s and early 2000s.
Callihan was not specific about how any possible investigation would proceed, but she urged anyone abused by Baker who has not come forward to do so.
Baker worked at Bishop McCort as a religion instructor and in the athletic department for about a decade. In the early 2000s, he was transferred for a couple of years to St. Bernardine. He then went to St. Joseph Friary in Hollidaysburg through 2009-2010.
At some point about two years ago, it is believed he again took up residency at the monastery. But he is not listed under any of the Franciscan monasteries from 2010 until now, according to BishopAccountability.org.
Former Bishop McCort students started coming forward two weeks ago following the announcement of a civil agreement with Baker involving 11 men who were students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio.
The civil agreement involved allegations against Baker during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Baker worked at JFK before transferring to Bishop McCort.
Allegations from former Bishop McCort students portray a sense of common knowledge that Baker acted inappropriately with male students, especially some of the athletes.
Before Baker's suicide Saturday, it was estimated that more than 50 men had contacted one of four attorneys regarding claims of molestation. Their allegations gave rise to speculation that the number of alleged victims could reach 200.
At the time of his death, the friar was said to be removed from any contact with children and living at the monastery, where he served as the cook.
Baker wrote a brief apology for his actions in a single-page note found by investigators after his death, according to the Associated Press.
Two sources close to the story, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the note was not an apology to the boys Baker allegedly molested, but rather to church officials.
Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross did not return telephone calls seeking information about the note.
The Philadelphia district attorney's office successfully prosecuted the most senior U.S. Catholic clergyman last year for endangering the welfare of a child by transferring child-molesting priests among unsuspecting parishes.
Monsignor William Lynn was sentenced in August to three to six years in prison for covering up child abuse by priests in Philadelphia, according to published reports at the time.
Lynn worked for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a role similar to personnel director for 800 priests. A jury convicted him of one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
He was acquitted of a second child endangerment count and conspiracy.
Lynn served in the oversight capacity during the 1990s through 2003, about the time Baker allegedly was molesting boys at Bishop McCort, which then was an Altoona-Johnstown diocesan high school.
In 2008, Bishop McCort moved out from the diocese umbrella and now operates as an independent school.
Greensburg attorney Susan Williams, representing three of Baker's alleged victims, last week filed a notice of a pending civil lawsuit. The notice named as defendants Bishop McCort Catholic High School, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, the Third Order Regular Franciscans and the Youngstown (Ohio) Diocese.
Attempts by SNAP – the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – to research Baker's background show he worked for another diocese prior to transferring to JFK.
From 1983-1985 he was at St. Mary's Prep School in Orchard Lake, Mich., SNAP's Judy Jones said in an email Wednesday.
She is unaware of any molestation claims against Baker by St. Mary's students.
SNAP held a rally outside the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Detroit, urging the bishop there to reach out to anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse by Baker.
In 1977, Baker worked at the James Barry-Robinson School and Home for Boys, SNAP said.
Out of shadows of abuse, emerges hope
A man once victimized by a pedophile is organizing a poker tournament to help others who have walked a similar path
by Troy Landreville
Andy Bhatti needed to escape.
He searched for a way to dull the pain associated with being sexually abused by a Big Brothers volunteer from Langley.
Bhatti said the abuse started when he was nine years old. It continued until he was 14.
"I went crazy. It screwed up my life. I lost everything," the now 34-year-old Bhatti said. "Legally, I only have a Grade 6 education."
While the abuse was happening, Bhatti channeled his anger towards those around him.
He rebelled against his mom. He refused to study or listen to teachers. He wouldn't associate with other boys, or his friends' dads.
Bhatti turned violent, getting into fights and stealing.
Marijuana use that started at 11 wasn't enough to numb the pain. When pot didn't do the trick, Bhatti turned to hallucinogens like acid and magic mushrooms.
Then he snorted cocaine, but being an "upper," it didn't suppress the hurt he felt inside.
When Bhatti was 14, a friend turned him onto heroin.
"She said, 'It's the best painkiller in the world. It blocks everything out of your life,'" Bhatti recalled.
He was a heroin addict until he was 27.
Through the years, Bhatti got in trouble with the law for a laundry list of offences: robbery, aggravated assault, and trafficking.
Bhatti said he went from the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre, to a youth detention centre, to adult jail, to a full-blown heroin addict on Main and Hastings in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
But by facing his demons, Bhatti emerged from the darkness. He says he's been clean from drugs since 2006 and made a decision to turn his life around "100 per cent."
Bhatti got a job, immersed himself with those in recovery, and went to meetings every day.
Today, Bhatti says that he's six-and-a-half years clean, does siding for a living, has full custody of his child, and is an advocate for victims of child sexual abuse.
Not long after Bhatti stopped using, investigators tracked him down after his attacker was charged with abusing two other children in Vernon.
Bhatti found the courage to speak about the abuse he endured from a man who twisted his life around as a young boy, and well into adulthood.
"I was like, it's better to talk now, so maybe it won't happen to somebody else," Bhatti said.
At the time, Bhatti was already nearly eight months clean of drugs. Friends in recovery convinced Bhatti that the biggest issue he had was the suffering he was exposed to as a child.
"You need to speak up, you need to tell the truth, and you need to find support," they told him.
Bhatti said the easiest way to face his past is to accept the fact that the abuse wasn't his fault.
"I didn't grow up saying I want to be a heroin addict and get molested," he said. "I tell other guys in groups, 'dude, all you have to do is accept that you can't change the past, it's not your fault. you were an innocent little child, and you were manipulated by someone who was in breach of trust.'"
A nine-year-old's brain isn't fully developed yet, Bhatti said, and could perceive sexual abuse as "normal."
Bhatti had caused so much trouble at school and at home, he was afraid no one would take him seriously if he came forward with accusations.
"Once you know it's not normal, you don't know what to do," he said. "Now you're too scared to tell somebody because you don't know if they're going to believe you or not, because you've just created all this chaos. If you tell somebody, 'I've been molested by this guy,' well, he's a productive member of society and you're a 10year-old kid that's ripping off stores, and beating people up, and lighting fields on fire. So statistically, they're not going to believe me."
Bhatti said in the 1980s and '90s, sexual assault on boys wasn't publicized.
This started to change when public figures such as Toronto Blue Jays' pitcher R.A. Dickey and former NHL players Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy came forward, stark and transparent about the sexual abuse they suffered in their formative years.
To help all those who are on a similar journey, Bhatti is putting together a poker tournament that will raise funds for the BC Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
BCSMSSA is a Canadian registered charity that provide victim services, and individual and group therapy for boys and men who have been victims of sexual violence at any point in their lives.
The first annual Men of Hope
Charity Poker Challenge takes place Saturday, April 6 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Aldergrove.
The guest list includes Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower, former NHLers John Craighead and Steve Passmore, and actor Nathaniel Arcand.
The event offers a silent auction and prizes available for participants.
Registration is $50 which includes the buy-in fee for the tournament, a complimentary beverage, and chances to win prizes.
Registration opened Jan. 1 and there are only 100 tickets available.
There will be table sponsorships available for $250 in exchange for the business logo being on display at each table, and on the Men of Hope website, banners and signage on display at the event, and recognition on social media.
The exclusive main event sponsor is $1,000.
Tickets are available at Pastime Sports & Games, 20378 Fraser Hwy.
Bhatti is receiving support from Lee Ferrill from Ontario-based Men of Hope.
He connected with Ferrill through his seach for sexual abuse support groups on the internet.
Bhatti travelled to Belleville, Ont. to take part in an MOH charity golf tournament for victims of sexual abuse.
He was inspired by his experience at Ferrill's tournament, which raises awareness for both male and female survivors.
Ferrill is himself a survivor.
The abuse began when he was two years old in Toronto, from a teenaged female babysitter. As the years passed, he had three perpetrators, including a man who was a close family friend, and a male neighbour who lived down the street.
The abuse ended when he was 13.
"It created a great deal of anxiety and fear, an inability to form intimate relationships, anger, guilt and shame, confusion, depression, and by the time I was not even an adolescent I was already using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism," Ferrill said.
He was 11 years old when he suffered alcohol poisoning for the first time.
Ferrill was a drug addict and an alcoholic by the time he was 21 years old, and he finally told someone for the first time about the hell that he went through.
"I actually verbalized it and that's when the healing journey began," Ferrill said.
The 29-year-old is now a therapist and group facilitator for support groups in Belleville.
"I've been clean and sober, and I have been for years, and I continue on healing journey," Ferrill said.
Events like this upcoming poker tournament is a big part of Ferrill's healing.
"It's a lifelong journey that never ends," Ferrill said. "Now I'm in my pay it forward stage, but I still have to do my maintenance."
When celebrities come forward with their stories, Ferrill said it's a huge "shamebuster for other survivors who are suffering in silence."
"It really inspires other people to first of all know they are not alone, and also tell them they have the courage to come forward and ask for help, and break the silence."
Ohio Judge Won't Move Football Players' Rape Trial
The upcoming trial of two high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl will be held in the eastern Ohio county where prosecutors say the attack happened, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Prosecutors opposed the relocation request by defense lawyers, who said potential witnesses had been threatened and could face intimidation or harassment outside the local courthouse.
Judge Thomas Lipps kept the case in Jefferson County, home to most of the people involved, but acknowledged concerns about witness intimidation and ensuring a fair trial. Lipps said moving it wouldn't stop protesters who could relocate or critics who could continue commenting online and through social media.
Lipps, a judge brought in from Hamilton County to handle the nonjury trial in juvenile court, also noted that he has avoided media reports about the case.
Lipps said the trial should be open to the public and media. He pushed back the trial date by a month to March 13.
Adam Nemann, an attorney for defendant Trent Mays, had argued the case should be moved to a county with a bigger courthouse where crowds of protesters potentially trying to intimidate witnesses favorable to the accused could be better controlled.
"My big concern is that witnesses aren't going to come in walking past hundreds of people wearing masks," Nemann said.
Brian Deckert, a special prosecutor from the Ohio attorney general's office, responded that witnesses could be compelled to testify by subpoena and would have to testify truthfully because of perjury laws.
Lipps' decision for an open trial overruled objections by the girl and her family, who wanted to protect her identity and keep evidence that might be ruled inadmissible from becoming public. Lipps said "a transparent and open hearing" would boost public confidence in the juvenile justice system.
A lawyer for defendant Ma'Lik Richmond initially wanted the trial closed, then changed his mind. Closing the trial would have hinged largely on Richmond's concerns — related to possible witness intimidation — since his right to a fair trial was the main issue before the judge.
Attorneys for both defendants said Wednesday that they respect the judge's rulings. Richmond's attorney, Walter Madison, said he will work to assure potential witnesses that they should participate in the legal process.
The Associated Press generally doesn't identify juvenile suspects, but Mays' and Richmond's names have been widely reported by local and national media outlets.
Three other students who witnessed the attack but weren't charged are expected to testify at trial. The girl attends a different high school nearby in West Virginia.
Madison had sought an order that the girl be referred to as the accuser, not the victim, because he said "victim" implies something happened to her that's been proven. The judge ordered Wednesday that she be referred to as "the alleged victim" during trial, and Madison said he's pleased by that decision.
Prosecutors say the girl was attacked twice after an alcohol-fueled party last August, once in a car and once in the basement of a house. The AP generally doesn't identity people who say they are the victims of sexual assault.
The case has attracted attention because of the alleged involvement of football players in a community of about 18,000 where the football team is a source of huge pride. Bloggers and online activists also created an international stir by alleging a cover-up and questioning why more students weren't charged.
Three students who watched the attack testified previously, including two who took a video and photograph, then deleted the images.
The Ohio attorney general's office told attorneys for those students that their behavior may not have been responsible, but it didn't rise to the level of criminal conduct and they wouldn't be prosecuted.
The students who recorded the attack also were told they would have been charged if the images had been found.
Support Group Offered For Sexual Abuse Survivors
A support group for adults who were victims of sexual abuse as children was formed in January, 2012 and the group of survivors have been meeting every week at a local downtown church in Chattanooga.
Organizers said, "Our goal is to reach as many adult survivors as possible and we know that there are many adults that have been abused when only a child."
For more information, contact Robert J. Brooks at 423 894-110.
When Girls Do It
Today, throughout much of the world, there is much concern over the perpetration of sexual abuse by male offenders and enormous amounts of resources dedicated to catching and convicting them, as well as large collective efforts to aid the survivors of such abuse. What is largely not as well known and ignored is the perpetration of sexual abuse by female offenders and that is going to be the topic of this thread.
There appears to be a stereotype that only males are capable of sexual abuse and that any females that engage in it were forced to do it by a male partner. This assumption is dangerously flawed and usually leaves the victims of female abusers in a much more difficult position in terms of overall psychological impact, the chances of successfully pressing charges against an abuser and ending the abuse. Studies have shown that 86% of victims of female sexual abuse are not believed when they come forward with their allegations. the stigma attached to the notion that only males are capable of committing sexual abuse can lead to the victims of it suffering twice as a result of it, first the actual abuse and then when they are not believed when they tell someone of it.
The numbers of female sexual abusers is likely much higher than many individuals may believe. Studies have indicated that approximately 25% of all victims of childhood sexual abuse have been abused by women. The Lucy Faithful Foundation in the United Kingdom estimated that 20% of all sexual abusers are women, conservatively. Of this number, approximately two thirds of all the cases of abuse were committed by the childs mother. The statistics for abuse by those women usually trusted to supervise children in the absence of parents are also likely much higher than most would have previously believed. This information is taken from the Canadian Childrens Rights Council website:
: It is interesting to note in the study by Kaufman et al. (1995) that 8% of the female perpetrators were teachers and 23% were babysitters, compared to male perpetrators who were 0% and 8% respectively. Finkelhor et al. (1988) also report significantly higher rates of sexual abuse of children by females in day-care settings. Of course, Finkelhor's findings should not surprise us given that women represent the majority of day-care employees.
As for the women that have had a male accomplice in their abuse the stereotype that were forced and manipulated into doing it is largely incorrect. Instead, studies have found that many female abusers will actively seek out partners that share their interest in the abuse of children.
In terms of types of abuse, the stereotype that only males are capable of sexual abuse because they have a penis is also incorrect. While males are more likely to attempt to engage in sexual intercourse with their victims, females will usually engage in penetration with and sodomy with different types of assorted objects that they have access to. Individual victims of this have reported abuse by the use of, sticks, bottles, kitchen utensils, roses with the thorns still attached to the stem and anything else that they have access to. Women will also usually attempt to force children to engage in the viewing of pornography, mutual masturbation and forcing the victim to perform oral sex on them.
For the genders of the victims women were more likely to target male then females for their abuse. This information is also taken from the Canadian Childrens Rights Council website:
: In the Ontario Incidence Study, 10% of sexual abuse investigations involved female perpetrators (Trocme, 1994). However, in six studies reviewed by Russell and Finkelhor, female perpetrators accounted for 25% or more of abusers . Ramsay-Klawsnik (1990) found that adult females were abusers of males 37% of the time and female adolescents 19% of the time. Both of these rates are higher than the same study reported for adult and teen male abusers.
In the cases of sexually motivated homicide, females observe the same pattern of targeting the opposite sex as males do, with 75% of all cases of sexually motivated homicide being against males.
In terms of the difficulties that victims of female sexual abusers face in getting others to believe that they were abused by a woman, they also have to deal with lower conviction rates and lighter sentences than if their abuser were a man.
The purpose of this thread is to highlight the practices of sexual abuse by female abusers and also to share information on this subject in order to eliminate the myth that only men carry out sexual abuse and to encourage understanding of their victims and to always take it very seriously whenever anyone claims to have been abused, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator. Also, I hope that this will aid in the campaign to treat both victims and their perpetrators equally in the eyes of society and the legal system.
If you are interested in learning more about the subject of sexual abuse committed by females here are several helpful links that share information on this subject:
Finally here you can view a documentary about the breaking up of a female paedophile ring in the United Kingdom.
Uterine Fibroids Linked to Childhood Abuse in Black Women
by Steven Fox
Black women who report sexual or other physical abuse before age 11 years may be at an increased risk of developing uterine fibroids as an adult, according to results from a prospective cohort study of nearly 10,000 women.
The study was published online January 7 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology .
Overall, about 30% of women of reproductive age are diagnosed with uterine leiomyomata (UL), also known as uterine fibroids, and for US women that diagnosis ranks as the leading cause for hysterectomy.
Black women are especially at risk, with uterine fibroids showing up at 2 to 3 times the rate seen in white women.
The authors of this study, led by Lauren A. Wise, ScD, senior epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University and associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts, note that previous researchers have found links between UL and psychosocial stress, including child abuse.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
To find out more about that association, these investigators evaluated 2005 to 2011 data from the Black Women's Health Study, an ongoing prospective cohort study of black women.
In 2005, participants reported their experiences of physical and sexual abuse within each life stage: childhood (up to age 11 years), adolescence (aged 12 - 18 years), and adulthood (aged 19 years or older). The investigators then followed up with questionnaires every other year, from 2005 through 2011, to find out which participants had been diagnosed with new uterine fibroids.
They also constructed 2 multivariable models. The first controlled for age, time, and early life factors that included place of birth, maternal age, birth order, number of siblings, exposure to passive smoke, parental education, whether parents or guardians owned or rented their home, and age at menarche.
The second model controlled for still other factors: parity, age at first birth, years since last birth, use of oral contraceptives, body mass index, history of smoking, current use of alcohol, marital status, occupation, income, place of residence, presence of type 2 diabetes, and degree of physical activity.
Finally, the researchers used stratification methods to assess whether any associations were affected by other covariates such as coping, education, and income.
"In this prospective cohort study of black women, child sexual abuse was positively associated with UL incidence," the authors write. "The association remained unchanged after control for early life covariates as well as several health-related behaviors associated with psychosocial stress, including smoking, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption."
The findings were based on 1506 incident cases of UL that were found during ultrasound procedures or surgery. The cases covered 47,382 person-years of follow-up.
More specifically, the researchers report that the incidence of uterine fibroids increased 16% in women who reported having been physically abused during childhood. That risk more than doubled, to 34%, among women who were sexually abused during childhood.
"Relative to no abuse across the life span, [rate ratios] in the fully adjusted model were 1.16 (95% [confidence interval (CI)], 1.02-1.33) for physical abuse only, 1.34 (95% CI, 1.09 -1.66) for sexual abuse only, and 1.17 (95% CI, 0.99 - 1.39) for both physical and sexual abuse in childhood," the researchers report.
In addition, they found that the more often children were sexually abused, the higher their risk for UL. "[Rate ratios] for 1-3 and 4 or more incidents of child sexual abuse were 1.29 (95% CI, 1.04 - 1.61) and 1.41 (95% CI, 1.07 - 1.85), respectively," the authors write. "[T]he [rate ratios] for low, intermediate, and high frequencies of child physical abuse were 1.19, 1.04, and 1.23, respectively."
The investigators say the link between uterine fibroids and sexual abuse was strongest in women who had sustained the most severe sexual abuse (rate ratio, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.19 - 2.07).
The Damage of Stress
In a prepared statement, Dr. Wise notes that psychosocial stress might influence the biosynthesis or metabolism of sex steroid hormones, which are considered to be involved in fibroid development and growth. In addition, child sexual abuse is linked to sexually transmitted infections, which could also increase UL risk.
Conversely, previous research has shown that children who have the benefit of at least some emotional support during the time they are abused may be better able to withstand some of the negative health effects of violence, and these investigators came up with similar findings. Similar results were seen among women with higher coping skills.
The researchers also found little evidence that abuse that occurred during adolescence and adulthood upped the risk of developing uterine fibroids.
This study was supported by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Cancer Institute. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
Blue Jays ace R.A. Dickey fights child sex trafficking in India
R.A. Dickey spoke from Mumbai on Tuesday about his work with an organization that rescues girls from India's sex trade.
by Brendan Kennedy
After witnessing first hand the plight of women and girls forced into India's sex trade in the slums of Mumbai, R.A. Dickey says he saw horror and despair, but also hope.
“The hope really lies in that paradigm where you walk among them,” he said. “You walk among them and build relationships.”
The Blue Jays' 38-year-old knuckleballer spoke Tuesday from Mumbai, where he has spent the last week working with Bombay Teen Challenge, a Christian charity that fights child sex trafficking in India.
“These are lives that just don't have a voice,” Dickey said over the phone in a conference call with reporters. “… What we're trying to do here is give them a voice and a hope.”
Dickey's partnership with Bombay Teen Challenge began last year, when as a member of the New York Mets he climbed Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for the organization, which operates with a distinctly missionary bent and has been working in Mumbai's red-light district since 1990.
Dickey raised more than $100,000, according to the charity, which used the money to open a medical clinic in a building that had once been a brothel, a transformation Dickey called “incredibly poetic.”
“It's like a beacon of light in a swamp.”
A born-again Christian who was acquired by the Jays last month, Dickey chronicled his own story of redemption in last year's autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up: My quest for truth, authenticity and the perfect knuckleball .
In the book, Dickey not only recounted his tumultuous career in baseball — which was given new life in 2010 when he became a rare master of the mysterious knuckleball — but also his traumatic childhood, which was marred by sexual abuse.
He said he was drawn to Bombay Teen Challenge because of how the organization's mission related to his own narrative. He added that he feels compelled to work to eradicate all forms of sexual exploitation.
“This speaks to my story,” he said. “It's authentic for me because of my past experience.”
The 2012 NL Cy Young winner, who figures to be the Jays' Opening Day starter, made the trip to Mumbai with his two daughters: 11-year-old Gabriel and 9-year-old Lila.
“I want to give my children a heart for humanity,” Dickey said. “The only way to do that is to get them outside of the bubble they live in and expose them to what real life is for a lot of people.”
Dickey said his children are aware of his own experiences with sexual abuse.
“So they have a vernacular to be able to understand what sexual exploitation is and the healing that needs to happen from it.”
Dickey said the most hopeful days of the trip were when he could see the results of the charity's work — the young women and girls they have rescued from the sex trade now living safe and happy lives.
“It's more than an orphanage,” he said. “. . . It's something that's meant to grow people out of what they've come from. It's to give them independence and a choice and a voice.”
Dickey spoke of the charity's work in providing education, vocational training and also building confidence and self-esteem, as equally important as food and shelter.
“Hopefully the Bombay Teen Challenge is not the last stop, he said. “That's the hope. It's a stop along the way so they can have a life they can really embrace.”
At one point Dickey was asked how to measure success against such a massive problem.
While estimates of the extent of human trafficking and sex slavery across the world can vary widely, India's federal police said last year that around 1.2 million children are believed to be enslaved in the sex trade.
“If the organization rescues one human life from that hell, then it has done it's job in some way,” Dickey said.
Is a sexual predator grooming your child at church?
by ANDY HOBBS
It happened right under the mother's nose: a youth minister at church was molesting her 3-year-old daughter.
The youth minister, age 23 at the time, worked well with children and seemed destined for a career in that capacity.
The mother shrugged off rumors about the minister's past conviction as a sex offender. After all, the church was supposed to be a safe and forgiving place of acceptance, and the youth minister was popular in the church family. He gained the mother's trust as he helped around the house, played with the girl and mentored her older son.
"He was so good with the kids," said the mother, a local resident whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy.
A red flag surfaced when she came home one day and noticed the daughter was less excited about her mother's return and more interested in the minister leaving. She spotted more odd behavior, including the minister's eagerness to spend time with her daughter. She asked serious questions that led to the revelation of abuse.
In the years since the abuse, she learned that when it comes to the safety of children, "nobody's toes are too big to step on."
The mother described her family's traumatic experience at a Jan. 23 symposium sponsored by King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) in Federal Way.
Roughly 86 percent of sexual abuse goes unreported, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Most juvenile victims know their perpetrators — typically a relative, a family friend or an acquaintance.
At the KCSARC symposium, a couple shared how sexual abuse shook up their church community when they discovered a nephew was molesting their 4-year-old twin daughters.
By all accounts, the nephew was considered an upstanding teenager and church member. He played with the couple's children and mowed their lawn. He was a few merit badges shy of earning Eagle Scout status.
While bathing the girls, the mother noticed signs of abuse, and immediately confronted the men in her family. Despite the mother's job as a Child Protective Services investigator, she had trouble pinpointing the source of abuse until one of the girls came forward. The parents pursued charges.
The KCSARC symposium brought together leaders, counselors and congregants from area churches with a goal of spreading awareness on sexual assault and preventing child abuse.
The topic hits home for the faith community. Churches are often the first place sex offenders will go, not necessarily to cause harm, but to rebuild their lives after a conviction.
Rev. Marvin Eckfeldt has served on the KCSARC board and was a minister of First Christian Church in Kent for 33 years. Eckfeldt supports strict policies and rules for sex offenders who participate in church life. For example, perpetrators must undergo background checks and supervision while on church property, and are not allowed to interact with children.
Background checks are limited, but they are better than nothing, Eckfeldt said. These precautions, coupled with awareness and education, can further protect children while the offenders get their lives on track.
Common threads ran through the stories of these families whose children suffered sexual abuse.
These traumatic incidents shattered the parents' trust when it came to leaving their children in the company of others. Both the parents and children were groomed by the perpetrators to let down their guard.
Grooming is a process in which a perpetrator gradually gains the victim's trust, often through harmless interactions that lower inhibitions. The "groomer" often exhibits the following behaviors, according to KCSARC:
• Groomers access victims through lies, secrecy and trust.
• Groomers are often overly helpful, too touchy-feely and extra attentive to children or other vulnerable individuals.
• Groomers can be one-sided in relationships, such as always giving but never taking. They may violate boundaries of personal space and privacy.
• Groomers can seem too charming or too good to be true. They can get aggressive when questioned or confronted about behaviors, and may attempt to form collegial relationship with those who raise questions about their behavior.
• The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) has a 24-hour resource line at (888) 998-6423. Also visit www.kcsarc.org.
• Since 1990, Washington has required public registration and notification of convicted sex offenders. Along with supervision as required by law, sex offenders need a supportive environment that steers them away from bad behavior. Churches are often behind-the-scenes heroes in this process. Click here to learn more.
Penn State Hiring Faculty to Advance Prevention of Child Maltreatment
by Susan McHale and Megan Manlove, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State will be hiring a dozen new faculty members over the next three years as part of its recently launched Network for Child Protection and Well-Being, with the goal of advancing knowledge, practice, education and outreach to combat child abuse.
As part of its aspiration to be at the forefront of national efforts toward prevention and therapy for child maltreatment, the University has begun a “cluster” hire that will include clinical and research tenure-track faculty members who are focused on the complex and pervasive problem of child maltreatment.
“As a university dedicated to the discovery of knowledge that can address difficult social and human problems, we will hire up to 12 new faculty over the next three years to improve the chances of eradicating these wrongs against children. This academic initiative will build on Penn State's longstanding tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration and excellence in the area of children, youth and families,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. “The child maltreatment field is extremely small and within that discipline, the research into child sexual abuse is even smaller. Penn State can make a significant contribution by helping to educate the next generation of researchers and clinicians about working together to address this challenging problem.”
Erickson said the goal of the new hires is to not only bring new expertise to the University, but to also spur existing faculty to think about their own research and its implications for child maltreatment. Penn State already counts among its ranks at least 400 faculty members whose research, teaching and service focus on the well-being and development of children and youth. The newly hired faculty are expected to connect with existing University researchers to draw on their expertise in areas such as prevention, research methods and statistics, neuroscience, and family dynamics to advance knowledge in child maltreatment. The work of the whole will serve as a catalyst for faculty to incorporate study of child maltreatment into their ongoing research programs.
“Researchers across Penn State can be a part of national and international efforts aimed at combating child maltreatment,” said Susan McHale, director of the Children, Youth and Families Consortium (CYFC), a unit within the University's Social Science Research Institute (SSRI).
In fact, the CYFC with the 400-plus faculty members will serve as the umbrella organization, linking faculty and their collaborative activities within various units and disciplines as part of the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being. Network faculty will be focused on generating new knowledge about child abuse in all of its forms, including creating evidence-based prevention and therapy approaches.
The proposal for forming the University-wide Network was developed by the Presidential Task Force on Child Maltreatment. Charged by President Erickson in December 2011, the Task Force was comprised of 35 faculty members from colleges and schools across the University.
McHale, who coordinates the Network, said that Penn State has a longstanding tradition of excellence of research, teaching, clinical practice and outreach focused on children, youth and families. The Network is designed to build on the strengths of four Centers of Excellence in Children, Youth and Families at Penn State: The Child Study Center in the College of the Liberal Arts; The Center for the Protection of Children in the College of Medicine; The Prevention Research Center in the College of Health and Human Development; and the Center for Children and the Law at the Dickinson School of Law. Faculty members who join Penn State as part of the Network cluster hire will be affiliated with one or more of these centers.
“Penn State has a solid foundation of research and practice in child behavior, health and development. But to advance Penn State's capacity we need more researchers and clinicians whose primary focus is on child maltreatment, ” said Benjamin Levi, director of the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children, a part of Penn State Hershey's Children's Hospital.
“We are in an excellent position to build upon Penn State's existing faculty expertise for how to intervene with parents at risk for mistreating their children; identifying protective factors that reduce the risk of child abuse; and developing and implementing sustainable, evidence-based strategies for detection, diagnosis, prevention and therapy for children who have suffered maltreatment,” Levi said. A professor of pediatrics and humanities at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine. Levi became director of the Center for the Protection of Children in August.
Network coordinator McHale said possible growth opportunities within the Network include fellowships in child abuse; educational opportunities for Penn State students, including new courses and programs of study, as well as internships; and the ability through clinical work and outreach to put new knowledge to work in community settings.
“We will work hard to make all of our efforts useful to community members and institutions,” McHale said. “Our research and practices must be informed by community needs and by community partners if we are ever going to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children.”
More information on the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being can be found at http://www.ssri.psu.edu/thenetwork online.
New Campaign Launched To Eliminate Unreported Child Abuse
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) — Florida legislators and child welfare officials have collaborated on a public awareness campaign in hopes to reduce unreported cases of child abuse.
The campaign, “Don't Miss the Signs,” was made to remind Floridians that it is their responsibility to report any suspected child abuse.
In October, a law was established for all residents to be on the lookout for signs, apart from medical professionals and teachers who were already obligated to report child abuse.
In the upcoming months, the message will be seen on posters and television ads, urging residents to raise their voices to stop child abuse.
DCF developed the new “Don't Miss the Signs” campaign in partnership with Lauren's Kids foundation, which seeks to end childhood sexual abuse.
The agency is encouraging residents to sign an online petition on the website.
Senator Calls for Investigation into School "Sex Abuse" Cases
by Jason Kandel
A former California state senator has called for an independent investigation into what she says is "alleged rampant sex abuse" of Latino students in the LAUSD.
Former California Democratic State Senator Martha Escutia, an attorney and child sex abuse survivors advocate, has called for the investigation in the wake of what she said was a "pattern of alleged sexual abuse" perpetrated against students by teachers and other employees at LAUSD schools.
“There's a pattern of all these sexual abuse scandals popping up everywhere in poor, minority neighborhoods," she said at a press conference outside the Wilmington school where a teacher was arrested last week. "The question I'm wondering is what's next?"
Escutia has not yet concluded that the pattern she sees is the result of a specific District "practice," she said. "I don't know if there's lack of administrative oversight.
“I just want an independent investigation from someone, an independent investigation as to what is happening at LAUSD, who knows what, what do they know, when did they know it, who are the victims and what has been done to keep the kids safe.”
Escutia also urged the District to release all documents related to the handling of abuse reports.
LAUSD attorney David Holmquist said the district has always worked to provide a safe environment for students, and it has conducted extensive reviews of its policies over the past year.
The district updated its system of notifying state teacher-credentialing authorities when allegations arise and placed more specialists in the field to advise schools on misconduct issues.
It changed its policy for notifying parents about abuse allegations and was working with Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, on legislation to allow faster dismissal of teachers accused of abuse.
"Anytime an incident like this occurs, it impacts our entire community,'' Holmquist said. "Every child we serve is important, and we would never willfully place students in harm's way. We are consistently working to strengthen student safety, including implementing numerous policy changes and supporting meaningful statewide legislative reforms like Senator Padilla's teacher dismissal bill.
"We would encourage Senator Escutia and Mr. (John) Manly to work with us to support statewide legislative reforms that will provide a safer learning environment for our students,'' he said.
The news comes as a Wilmington teacher was arrested last week in connection with alleged abuse of children at a school.
Two teachers were arrested in connection with alleged abuses against students at Miramonte Elementary School in Florence and a teacher was arrested at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima last year.
Escutia and John Manly represent more than 30 children allegedly abused by teachers at Miramonte.
Escutia said she's concerned that reports of abuse by Latino children and parents are often ignored, and that the undocumented parents of victims are afraid to report abuse out of fear they will be deported.
Students of Hispanic heritage account for 73.4 per cent of LAUSD enrollment, according to the District's figures.
She noted that recent documents disclosed by the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Catholic Church also evidenced a disproportionate number of sexual crimes committed against Latino children by known predator priests who were moved by the Church into poor Latino communities.
She said that an investigation should focus on whether known abusers were intentionally assigned or moved by LAUSD officials to the poorest and mostly Latino schools.
Multi-agency team working to better deal with child sex abuse cases
by Sherry Matthews
Police Capt. Jay Tilley and Sheriff Jimmy Thornton have their heads together discussing impending sexual abuse cases and law enforcement's role in handling them, while Sampson's DSS director Sarah Bradshaw mulls paperwork regarding another case.
All have come together at one table, along with representatives from mental health, the Guardian ad Litem program, the medical field and the District Attorney's office to discuss child sexual abuse and serious physical injury cases that all have dealt with — or will soon have to. Their ultimate aim — to prevent cases from slipping through the cracks and to better serve all those involved, particularly victims, eliminating some of the trauma along the way.
The group is officially known as the Multi-Disciplinary Team, or MDT, and members have been putting their collective heads together now for some six months, all in an effort to streamline the process which, in turn, better serves the needs of all those involved, said volunteer MDT coordinator Shannon Blanchard.
Blanchard, along with some MDT members gathered earlier this month to discuss cases, offering their best advice and providing information that, from law enforcement to medical personnel to the DAs office and Social Services, give all those involved a clearer idea of what components of the case need closer scrutiny and the history that, in many ways, paints a clearer picture for all those gathered.
By definition, multidisciplinary teams are groups of professionals from diverse disciplines who come together to provide comprehensive assessment and consultation in abuse cases. While their primary purpose is typically to help team members resolve difficult cases, teams may fulfill a variety of additional functions. They can promote coordination between agencies; provide a “checks and balances” mechanism to ensure that the interests and rights of all concerned parties are addressed; and identify service gaps and breakdowns in coordination or communication between agencies or individuals. They also enhance the professional skills and knowledge of individual team members by providing a forum for learning more about the strategies, resources, and approaches used by various disciplines.
“We review cases once a month,” Blanchard noted prior to the start of the closed-door meeting, designed that way for the privacy of all those involved in the highly sensitive cases being discussed.
“We deal with cases involving those who are 15 years old or younger. If someone is severely handicapped or mentally handicapped, then we also deal with those cases up to age 18,” Blanchard pointed out, noting that the focus is on doing everything possible to give those around the table a clear understanding of the case.
Six different disciplines are represented at the MDT table — law enforcement, prosecution, social services, mental health, the Health Department, the medical community and Guardian ad Litem representatives who act as the voice for children in court.
“This program offers a wide array of benefits,” said Sampson County sheriff's detective Chris Godwin, who along with Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, sits at the table representing county law enforcement. Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilly is also an MDT member.
“This team allows us to better serve children. It gets us all on the same page and we don't have to duplicate services that, eventually, end up causes more trauma to a child. I think it's working and working well,” Godwin stressed.
The team trouble shoots cases and representatives from each discipline lends its own brand of advice, a laying-it-all-out-on-the-table approach that provides great insight into individuals and individual cases.
“You have a lot of outside the box thinking this way, and the benefactors are those involved most personally with the cases,” Blanchard pointed out. “Six heads are far better than one, and we are finding that the information that comes our of these meetings has been very, very helpful.”
So helpful, in fact, that many MDT members believe it is speeding up the prosecution of cases, yet another benefit to victims.
With an assistant district attorney at the table, Blanchard said, all the others involved are given a better understanding of what is needed from each agency in order for the case to be prosecuted. “You cannot imagine how helpful that can be. If law enforcement know exactly what they need to provide, and Social Services, too, it moves things through the system so much faster.”
Team member Rusty Brown said he believes the prosecution of cases is not only faster, but also higher, because of the efforts of the team.
“With all of us at the table, we provide a check and balance that is extremely helpful. It helps keep us all on our toes. There's less chance of anyone dropping the ball on a case this way. We talk about cases, make recommendations and then the next month, someone might ask about the status of that case. It's a way of ensuring that everything is taken care of.”
The group meets once a month, and so far some 15 cases have already been reviewed — 13 of them sexual abuse cases, the other two dealing with physical abuse.
This month, there were 10 cases on the agenda for review, four of them new ones.
“This is a great thing,” said Bradshaw. “It allows us to follow cases all the way through, and our collaborative work has the potential to prevent some serious issues from occurring.”
The sharing of ideas, all MDT members said, is beneficial to those at the table, but also to those members are trying to help.
“You can see people's faces, the light bulbs going off, when ideas surface and suggestions fit together,” Godwin said. “It's a hard-working group of people trying to make the process better. I think it is.”
The ultimate goal, Blanchard stressed, is for a Child Advocacy Center to be opened in Sampson, a long-term hope that all the team members say is necessary.
The center, Blanchard said, is a child friendly place where abuse victims can go to have all interviews and medical exams, eliminating the need for them to visit multiple agencies and deal with multiple people, only compounding the trauma.
“With a Child Advocacy Center, a child has one place to go and they are interviewed by a non-affiliated person trained to interview them delicately and make them feel safe.”
Oftentimes now, Blanchard said, children have to be interviewed multiple times and in multiple places, sometimes having to travel outside the county for evaluations.
“There's a significant need for this kind of center in Sampson. We realize it takes resources, but we've got to get this on our radar and begin planning for it.”
The first steps, MDT members say, have been taken with the formation of the Multi-Disciplinary Team. While the next steps may not be as easy, all those who are currently members are committed to working through the process.
“It will take time, but it's a need that should be filled,” Godwin said.
Vigil to raise awareness of teen dating violence
by SARAH de CRESCENZO
LAKE FOREST – El Toro High School graduate Jacque Villagomez was 19 when police reported she was beaten to death by her boyfriend.
Villagomez is one of the victims of dating violence who will be honored Friday at a candlelight vigil outside Laura's House Resale Store, a secondhand shop that raises money for Ladera Ranch-based domestic violence shelter Laura's House.
The vigil, scheduled to be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday in conjunction with Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, is meant to demonstrate the impact that teen dating abuse has on victims – and the wider community. It's the third annual such event held in Lake Forest.
While domestic violence is often seen as an adult problem, dating violence during the teen years can perpetrate a continuing cycle of abuse, experts say.
"Eight-five percent of parents don't think teen dating violence is an issue," said Marissa Presley, a prevention and education specialist with nonprofit Laura's House. "Nobody's talking about it."
Recent studies have found that one in four teens in Orange County report being in a physically abusive relationship, Presley said.
But abuse can begin even earlier, she said.
Some organizations now use the term "adolescent dating abuse" to clarify that violence, whether physical or psychological, can begin even before the teen years, Presley said.
She visits schools throughout Orange County to teach students how to recognize and avoid abusive relationships.
"My youngest victim of dating abuse is 12 years old," she said. "I want to raise awareness on this issue and educate the community, especially the young ones. Once I get to high school, I'm not too late but the abuse has already begun."
In one-hour presentations, Presley explains how victims get stuck in a cycle of abuse and how to identify the three stages: tension building, where the victim has to "walk on eggshells" around the abuser; the explosion, when the abuse occurs; and the honeymoon phase, when the abuser promises never to hurt his or her victim again.
In Orange County, a quarter of high school students report being beaten by their girlfriend or boyfriend, Presley said.
"If one-fourth (of high school students) had their arm chopped off completely we would take notice, we would act, but because it's a silent killer we don't act or ignore it," she said. "It doesn't mean the person will die physically, but spiritually."
Teen dating violence is likely under-reported, she said.
Boys, especially, feel like they have no one to talk to about such abuse, Presley said.
"I'm a 14-year-old boy; my girlfriend punches me in the arm and calls me worthless every day; who am I going to tell?" she said. "I don't want to tell my mom because she'll say 'don't date her,' but I love her."
TYPES OF DATING ABUSE
Physical abuse is not the only way that children and teens are abused in relationships.
The kind of abuse visible via bruises or broken bones is typically preceded by other types of abuse, which are often more difficult to recognize.
Psychological abuse, such as humiliating or ridiculing the victim, is another way teens can be hurt in abusive relationships, Presley said.
Other ways abuse can manifest itself can be financially, in which one partner continually demands money from the victim, or digital harassment via the Internet.
Online abuse can include harassment, cyber bullying, stalking or stealing someone's identity and using it to "create drama," Presley said.
To ensure their children aren't involved with digital abuse, parents should check the text messages and photos they have on their cell phones, she said.
"A lot of parents don't want to deal with this," but many teens send or receive inappropriate photos, Presley said. "They're finding nude photographs of their own child or other children and that's digital abuse."
Presley said that during her presentations, students have revealed that they didn't know what they were doing to their partner was abusive.
"I actually have a lot of girls and some boys who wait for me after their presentation and they tell me their story," she said.
Presley said she can see the same question on some teens' faces during her presentation as they reflect on their own relationships: "Is that abuse?"
Another aspect of the presentations focus on planning how to exit relationships safely.
Presley shows older students photos of men and women who have been killed by their partner to emphasize the need for safety planning.
"It's really about opening their eyes," she said.
Laura's House has teamed up with Verizon to offer an e-postcard at laurahouse.org/lhteen that can be sent anonymously to possible victims.
Senders can send a message and a link to a quiz that will determine whether the recipient is in an abusive relationship.
One statistic about domestic violence – that nearly 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser – prompts some people to ask why they don't leave, Presley said.
But even leaving an abusive relationship can be a dangerous move, because the first 72 hours of a break-up is when most abuse victims are killed.
"When we say that to a victim, we assume the violence will end, when in reality it will get worse for the victim," she said.
Blaming the victim of abuse for the abuse or for not leaving occurs frequently, Presley said.
Pop star Chris Brown's public assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna is just one example, she said.
"We say things like: 'If a man hit me, I would walk out the door,'" she said. "But the beatings like Rihanna endured by Chris Brown are not isolated incidents. When perpetrators feel like they are losing control over their victim, they'll do whatever it takes to regain control."
Based on typical patterns of abuse, it's unlikely Brown's assault on Rihanna was the first, Presley said.
Rihanna's continued involvement with Brown is typical in an abusive relationship, she added.
Most victims return at least seven times to their abuser before leaving, she said.
To help teens who think they might be in an abusive relationship, Laura's House created a support group run by a marriage and family therapist.
The group is part of a teen dating violence prevention and treatment program at Laura's House called HEART – Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships for Teens.
Friday's vigil at Laura's House Resale Store at Suite F at 23635 El Toro Road is part of the HEART program.
Laura's House encourages families with teens and pre-teens to attend and learn more about how to prevent dating violence.
Survivors of teen dating abuse will speak about their experiences.
The music video for "Didn't Mean It," a song written and performed by teen recording artist Jasmine Villegas after she experienced teen dating abuse, will be presented at the event.
There will be an installation of artwork called "Take a Walk in My Shoes" in which clients of Laura's House used shoes to express their feelings about surviving domestic violence.
Survivors of teen dating abuse will light a communal candle and attendees will have an opportunity to sign cards pledging to never commit dating abuse.
Members of several HEART clubs that have been established at local high school students will sell purple ribbons and host bake sales to raise funds for the Laura's House HEART program.
Laura's House will provide information and resources to teens and their families about dating abuse.
What to watch out for on a first date
- Does he exhibit controlling behavior, like deciding what you're going to eat or making fun of what you order?
- Is there quick involvement, like saying "I love you" early on in the relationship?
- How does your date treat the service personnel?
- Is he cruel to animals or other people, or strike or break objects?
- What does your date think about women in general? Is there any sexism or machismo?
- Is there a history of abuse in the family?
- Does he show jealousy? Many people think that jealousy means love, but often it's a means of control.
Source: Laura's House
Child protective agency hiring new 'master investigators'
by Terri Langfor
AUSTIN — Texas Child Protective Services
is hiring “master investigators,” a sort of SWAT team designed to close out the state's toughest child abuse investigations which tend to stay open longer, further endangering children.
The first 15, who will be paid between $31,000 and $50,000 per year, will be hired this year. The $1 million used to pay their salaries, equipment, travel and other costs in setting up the new program is coming from unused Texas Health and Human Service Commission funds.
“We hope to have the first ones on the job by mid-February,” said Patrick Crimmins, CPS spokesman in Austin.
The state hopes to have a total of 32 master investigators by 2015.
“In these new positions, these very experienced investigators will have minimal supervision and will travel probably three out of four weeks in a month. They will not be based in a region, but will by the nature of the position go wherever they are needed,” Crimmins said.
Last year, CPS was grappling with rising child abuse investigation caseloads, driven in large part by “delinquent” cases older than 60 days. Child abuse complaints were stalled for so long that, in at least two cases documented by Hearst newspapers, children died.
So far this year, Harris County continues to have the largest number of older child abuse cases. On average, nearly 40 percent of a CPS worker's caseload in Harris County are child abuse cases that are at least 60 days old.
By comparison, Bexar County has an average about half of that: 22 percent.
“Bexar has done a good job in holding the number,” said Mary Walker, spokeswoman for Texas CPS in San Antonio.
While Bexar County is more current on cases, other numbers are troublesome. In the 2011 fiscal year, 20 children died from maltreatment, a record in Bexar County, while the number of confirmed cases of abuse and neglect — 5,915 — was the highest in the state. Last fiscal year, Bexar County again had the most confirmed cases of abuse and neglect — 6,205 — and 19 children died.
Child abuse complaints can remain open for a variety of reasons. Incomplete information about the family and where the child is living could make locating them or other witnesses difficult. Uncooperative parents or a family who has moved also can keep a case open.
The idea for the master investigator team arose last year.
“Last year was a rough year from the standpoint of backlogs, or delinquent investigations,” Crimmins explained. Chief among those in need was Travis County, which at the time had the worst investigation backlog in the state. However, as CPS shifted workers to help out Travis, Midland and other areas, caseloads in Harris County continued to rise.
By designating a separate team of master investigators, CPS officials hope to avoid the problems of last year.
Kentucky child abuse files show weaknesses, panel says
by Jessie Halladay
Though frustrated by redacted files that make their work more difficult, members of a panel charged with reviewing Kentucky's most severe child abuse cases say the files do show trends and areas of weakness.
“That's exactly what we need to be looking at. What is the trend data?” said panel member Joel Griffith with Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, an advocacy group. “What's killing these kids?”
Griffith said even the redacted data indicates that many child fatality and near-fatality cases involve substance abuse or mental illness issues that may not have been addressed prior to the child being injured.
Monday marked the second meeting of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel. The group, made up of medical, social work, legal and advocacy professionals, is charged with reviewing all cases in which children die or are seriously injured and then investigated by child protective service workers.
Upon their review, the panel has been asked to make recommendations for system-wide improvements that might lead to better intervention that reduce deaths and injuries.
After the panel's first meeting in November, members were provided with case files from 55 incidents. The files have been redacted to remove names of some of the people involved, confidential psychiatric records, family court documents and several other pieces of information that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services says is confidential and should be removed to protect the privacy of families involved.
The documents follow a protocol set by the Cabinet to provide information while protecting privacy. The Cabinet has been in an on-going legal battle with The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald Leader over what records should be publicly available. A judge has ruled that records of child abuse deaths and near deaths should be made public, but has allowed for some redactions. The cabinet has continued to appeal rulings that allow for public inspection, and the issue is pending in court.
Several members of the committee on Monday expressed frustration with the redacted files, saying they are difficult to follow and the redactions don't appear to be consistent.
Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, said many of the redactions don't seem necessary since information in the files makes it clear in many cases who those involved are, especially to those people familiar with the case.
“They don't need to be redacting at all because it's pretty useless,” Denton said.
Other panel members expressed a desire to review information not provided by the cabinet at all, such as psychological assessments, some family court documents and police reports.
Griffith said the panel is proposing legislation to make its work permanent and hopes it can be filed next week. The bill would seek to structure the panel in a way that would not require everything they do to be public. Currently, all meetings of the panel are subject to Kentucky's open meetings laws.
Gov. Steve Beshear established the panel by executive order in July. Legislation would be required to make the panel permanent, though the governor could issue another order if legislation isn't passed.
During Monday's meeting, members discussed ways in which to effectively review cases. Among the ideas was to create a secured web-based process in which full cases could be accessed and committee members could electronically provide their questions and feedback.
Attorney Jon Fleischaker, who represents the newspapers in their quest to open the records, said any process that would keep information from the public would be objectionable. Fleischaker said he believes the panel is subject to releasing all information and conducting all business publicly.
“It in no way satisfies the public's right to know what happens in the state's fatalities and near fatalities simply to have another secret layer put on top of it,” Fleischaker said.
While the panel tries to work out the details of how to get more information, they set a process to begin reviewing individual cases in an effort to understand the issues and start identifying trends.
At a meeting set for March 11, the panel plans to review four cases — two fatalities in which the cabinet had previous involvement with the family and two fatalities in which the cabinet had no contact prior to the death.
Authorities say Ohio girl, 11, committed suicide
LONDON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities in central Ohio are investigating the apparent suicide of an 11-year-old girl whose parents say she was bullied.
Police called to a home found the girl dead of apparent self-strangulation Sunday in London, about 25 miles west of Columbus.
London police Chief David Wiseman says the girl hanged herself overnight in her bedroom. He says the girl had been bullied before, and police are investigating all angles of her death, including whether she had recently been harassed.
Her parents told reporters the girl wore thick glasses, had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and was teased by other youngsters outside of school. Her mother told WBNS-TV the girl frequently came home crying.
The school district says it doesn't tolerate bullying. It tells The Madison-Press in London it is cooperating with investigators. http://www.mariettatimes.com/page/content.detail/id/285469/Authorities-say-Ohio-girl--11--committed-suicide-.html?isap=1&nav=5018
Sexual Abuse Laws In California Make It Difficult For Victims To Sue Abusers
by Christina Villacorte
A state senator on Friday sought to get rid of the statute of limitations preventing some victims of child molestation from suing their abusers.
Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said current law requires that victims sue by their 26th birthday, or within three years of the date they discovered their psychological trauma was linked to sexual abuse during their youth.
He said Senate Bill 131, if approved, would help victims whose repressed memories of the abuse did not surface until after their deadline to file a lawsuit expired.
"Existing law requires action for damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse commence by age 26, but we have a lot of medical and scientific literature demonstrating that this is not appropriate," Beall said.
"In many cases, the discovery of psychological injuries stemming from sex abuse as a child emerge later in life -- well beyond age 26," he added.
"Therefore, there's a real need for a statute to care for survivors and give them a chance for justice after age 26."
Astrid Heger, a professor of clinical pediatrics at USC, and executive director of L.A. County-USC Medical Center's Violence Intervention Program, supported eliminating the statute of limitations.
"I think that children should be allowed to sue or seek redress in the courts for abuse of any kind against them when they reach adulthood because, obviously, they can't take advantage of the legal system as children," Heger said.
Beall said California's statute of limitations is "one of the most restrictive" in the country, noting some states set the age limit at 35 or 42. In Florida, he said, the state Legislature in 2010 approved reforms that removed the age limit altogether.
If SB 131 is signed into law, it would eliminate the statute of limitations for actions that occur after Jan. 1, 2014. The bill contains a retroactivity clause for certain cases prior to that date.
"If victims can't get damages because of the statute of limitations, then they, or taxpayers, have to bear the medical cost of their counseling and support," Beall said.
"We're trying to remedy this because we think their medical and psychological rehabilitation should be covered by the people who committed the abuse."
Mississippi Child advocate wants lawmakers to support 'Erin's Law'
by Jimmie E. Gates
A leading national advocate in the fight to stop child sexual abuse will be at the Mississippi Capitol today and Tuesday, urging lawmakers to help.
Erin Merryn, 27, of Schaumburg, Ill., was sexually abused as a child by a relative and a neighbor. Now, she's the force behind “Erin's Law” legislation, which would make education about child sexual abuse part of the school curriculum.
Merryn said she was raped by a neighbor at age 6; molestation by a teenage cousin started at age 11.
“I never had to run out of a burning building and I knew how to say no to drugs when I was approached in high school, but when two men were molesting and raping me I didn't know what to do so I stayed silent,” Merryn said last week. “I don't want another child to face years of rape and abuse like I did. I want them to be able to have a voice and know to tell and not keep it a secret.”
Four states have passed Erin's Law, and such legislation is pending in other states, including Mississippi.
State Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, filed House Bill 200, and Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, filed Senate Bill 2133.
Miles said sexual abuse figures are staggering — one in four girls and one in six boys.
“This happens all the time and is often pushed under the rug,” Miles said. “We believe bringing this law to Mississippi will not only educate the children what to do if this were to happen to them but let them know it is OK to speak out about it.”
Miles believes such steps also could deter sexual predators.
“We hope this will make Mississippi one of the safest states in the nation for all children,” he said.
Ohio ramps up the fight against human trafficking
Ohio can be proud of the prog- ress it is making against human trafficking, a scourge on society that runs the gamut from the enslavement of young women brought to the United States to work in massage parlors to neighborhood pimps who prey on girls already vulnerable because they were victims of childhood neglect, sexual abuse or family abandonment.
Entering 2012, two national organizations that rate states on their response to human trafficking put Ohio among the “dirty dozen” of states that had taken virtually no legislative notice of the problem. That changed with the passage of H.B. 262, which was sponsored by Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat, and signed in June by Gov. John Kasich. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has been implementing provisions of the bill, including conducting training sessions, seminars and webinars for law enforcement personnel, social workers and educators.
The law is designed to assist victims in getting needed services to escape the trafficking dynamic, provide increased support to law enforcement and toughen penalties on traffickers.
Taking crime seriously
The penalty for human trafficking is now closer to that of federal law, making it a first-degree felony with a mandatory prison term of at least 10 years. Intimidating a victim to discourage her from testifying in court is a second- degree felony.
The law provides a mechanism for victims of human trafficking to apply to the court to have their prior records for solicitation or prostitution expunged, giving them an opportunity to start a new life.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation will compile data on human trafficking that local law enforcement is required to report, and the attorney general's office will release an annual report.
Earlier this month, Ohio hired Elizabeth Ranade Janis as the state's first human-trafficking coordinator. The graduate of Ohio State University and Georgetown University will work out of the Department of Public Safety and spearhead efforts against forced prostitution and labor.
The effort against human trafficking has gotten bipartisan support in Ohio.
Fedor, the Toledo Democrat who sponsored the legislation, says trafficking is “the human-rights issue of our lifetime.” Kasich, a Republican, says of traffickers, “we need to clean this state out. If we catch 'em, they're going to jail.”
When people are dragged into the sex industry and kept there through threats and intimidation, prostitution is clearly not a victimless crime. Ohio is right to begin to take the issue of human trafficking more seriously.