California Court Appointed Special Advocates
California Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is offering community members an opportunity to help in the fight against child abuse by volunteering to become an advocate for a child. No experience is needed. Training classes start in January and take place in Santa Maria and Lompoc. Info: Crystal Moreno, 739-9102, ext. 2594 or email Crystal@sbcasa.org
Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) is looking for men and women to serve as advocates and mentors for abused and neglected children in our community. Volunteer advocates visit children regularly and are thoroughly trained in courtroom procedure, social services, the juvenile justice system, and the special needs of abused and neglected children. Volunteers become sworn officers of the juvenile court and generally work three hours each week. Info: 739-9102, ext. 2#.
North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center encourages men and women to help with efforts to alleviate the trauma suffered by sexual assault and child abuse survivors. Training sessions are two days a week for 10 weeks. The center also needs volunteers for its 24-hour hotline, fundraising, education programs and community outreach. Info: 922-2994 in Santa Maria; 736-8535 in Lompoc.
Testimony from children can make or break sexual abuse case
Prosecutors are relying on statements of the alleged victims and witnesses, all younger than age 10.
by Joel Aschbrenner
If David Glenn Smith, the Des Moines man accused of sexually abusing children at his wife's in-home day care over the span of four years, is tried in court, the nature of the case will pose unusual challenges for prosecutors.
There is no physical evidence in the case, police say. Prosecutors are relying solely on the testimony of the alleged victims and witnesses, who are all younger than age 10.
As investigators experienced in a recent Polk County case that was retried after an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, putting a child on the witness stand has inherent risks.
In an interview, Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said he could speak only in general about child abuse cases, and not specifically about Smith's case.
“They're not the easiest cases in the world, but they're ones that need to be brought,” he said.
Some child abuse cases are resolved before a trial, but if that doesn't happen, the alleged victim usually must testify. Preparing children to recount the abuse they endured and to face their alleged abusers in court is especially difficult, Sarcone said.
“You wouldn't believe the damage that is done to some of them, and it takes a long time to recover from those things,” he said.
In certain circumstances, when appearing in the courtroom would inhibit a child's ability to testify, children are allowed to provide their testimony by video. Even then, some children clam up, Sarcone said.
He cited the 2009 trial of Matthew Elliott, who was accused of killing a 7-month-old girl in 2007 in the West Des Moines home where he was staying. Prosecutors called on the 7-year-old uncle of the victim to testify.
The boy had originally told investigators he saw Elliott carrying the baby's lifeless body, but in his videotaped interview before the court he balked, saying he did not remember what he told police.
Elliott was convicted anyway, but the Iowa Supreme Court in 2011 awarded him a new trial, out of concern that detectives' testimony about what the 7-year-old originally reported amounted to hearsay without the boy's testimony.
Elliott was convicted again and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
In the case against Smith, investigators interviewed more than 10 children who attended the day care. Some said they were touched by Smith. Others said they saw Smith touch other children.
According to Polk County court documents, Smith allegedly placed a 9-year-old girl on his lap, put his hands under her clothes and touched her inappropriately.
Smith is charged with second-degree sexual abuse, a felony with a potential 25-year prison sentence.
While Smith allegedly touched several other children, prosecutors decided to file one charge based on the abuse allegation they felt made the strongest case, said Des Moines Police Detective Terry Mitchell.
Some of the children interviewed were as young as 4, and prosecutors felt the 9-year-old could most accurately recount the alleged abuse, he said.
Additional charges are possible, Mitchell said.
Cases often lack physical evidence
A lack of physical evidence is common in child abuse cases, said Dr. Ken McCann, a child abuse medical examiner at the Regional Child Protection Center at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines.
The child protection center is a neutral agency that conducts interviews and medical exams of children involved in physical and sexual abuse cases. There are five such centers around the state.
McCann said he conducts about 1,000 medical exams on children each year. About 95 percent of those children show no physical signs of abuse.
That doesn't mean there was no abuse. Much of the evidence can heal within a week or 10 days, and abuse frequently is reported much later, he said.
Additionally, many types of abuse — like what Smith is accused of — leave no physical evidence, McCann said.
Mitchell said he is confident in the case against Smith.
The children's stories corroborate one another, and it's clear that Smith had the opportunity to commit the abuse, the detective said.
Children who attended the day care at different periods and have never met reported similar types of abuse, which Mitchell said showed the multiple abuse allegations were not a result of children repeating what they heard from others at the day care.
Smith worked nights at the Polk County Juvenile Detention Center, where, county officials say, he had no direct contact with children.
Smith helped his wife, Lisa Rae Smith, run the day care in the afternoon. He watched the school-age children in one part of the two-story east-side home, while she watched the younger ones elsewhere.
There's no evidence that Lisa Smith knew of the abuse. Some of the children told interviewers that Smith would stop the alleged abuse when he heard her coming, Mitchell said.
Interviewers must use careful tactics
Keith Rigg, a Des Moines defense attorney not associated with Smith's case, said prosecutors face a risk with relying solely on the testimony of children.
There have been numerous notable cases in which investigators and parents have used leading questions to bring a child to believe he or she was abused by a teacher or baby sitter, when in fact they were not, he said.
“The main pitfall that you have — and historically where these cases have gone very, very wrong — is that you can feed information to a kid, and they will take that information as their own,” he said.
One infamous case started in California in 1983, when a McMartin Preschool teacher was accused of sexually abusing a 2-year-old boy.
Police notified parents, and in time children were urged in interviews to divulge secrets about their school. They responded with allegations of rape, being photographed, secret passageways under the school, satanic rituals and even the sacrifice of a human baby.
After six years of criminal trials, all charges were dropped.
Interview practices have evolved in the decades since.
Locally, most interviews of child abuse victims are conducted by the Regional Child Protection Center.
Interviewing a child abuse victim is a meticulous, research-based process, said Tammera Bibbins, a forensic interviewer at the clinic.
She starts by showing the child the camera in the room and flips on the lights behind a one-way mirror so the child can see where investigators will watch.
Then they talk for a while to make sure the child can tell a coherent story.
The interviewer never uses the suspect's name before the child does, or asks leading questions such as, “Did someone touch you at day care?” Bibbins said.
She tells the child to be honest, and that it's OK to say “I don't know.” Children must not feel they have to say what the adult wants to hear, she said.
“In the real world, the adult is the one with all the answers,” she said. “Sometimes kids go along with what they think adults want to hear. We try to turn that around and make them the ones with all the answers.”
Reporting abuse: A call can save a child's life
A woman did what many shy away from. Because of her, a frail teen handcuffed to a pole in his family's basement was rescued.
by LAURA BAUER and JUDY L. THOMAS
• National: 800-4-A-CHILD
• Missouri: 800-392-3738
• Kansas: 800-922-5330
What to look for
• Frequent bruises or other injuries
• Abrupt change in character or behavior
• Signs of neglect
Crystal Anderson's friends told her not to call. Don't get involved. None of your business, they said.
The situation next door, though, nagged at her. Something didn't seem right with the 17-year-old neighbor boy.
When she first met him in August after she moved into the cluster of townhomes in Kansas City, North, he was outside all day, sometimes until way past dark. But in recent months she'd barely seen him.
Then one day in late January she saw him chained to his family's basement door. The teen's stepbrother told her the family sometimes had to restrain the teen so he wouldn't hurt anybody.
Just to make sure the neighbor boy was OK, Anderson on Monday called Missouri's child abuse and neglect hotline. She told of how the timid young man no longer walked the neighborhood for hours a day and said she had recently seen him chained. Police were there within an hour, she said. An ambulance followed.
Authorities and child advocates say Anderson was the boy's savior. She did what too many people, including other neighbors in her Northland complex, have shied away from doing, not just in this alleged abuse case, but in many others.
She picked up the phone.
“That was a lifesaving call,” said Debby Howland, coordinator of the Kansas City Child Abuse Roundtable Coalition. “Too many people don't want to get involved. But thankfully someone did. It's as simple as a phone call.”
In Kansas City, this is the third time in eight months that a child has been found locked away by parents or guardians. Police found one little girl in a barricaded closet soaked in urine and feces, another in a filthy bedroom locked from the outside. And now there's the frail teen found shivering in dirty clothes, handcuffed to a pole in his family's basement with only a few thin blankets.
Though hotline calls prompted each rescue, questions linger. Why didn't anyone call sooner? Why do too many people think keeping quiet, staying out of someone else's business and life, is the best course?
Even a day's delay can make a difference.
Since police found the teen last week, neighbors have revealed seeing many oddities over the past several months. One told The Star that her husband once found the teen sleeping in a patch of grass near a tree in front of his home at midnight. It was cold, so her husband gave the teen a blanket. The teen was still there the next morning.
Another neighbor said that one frigid day last year she saw the teen pounding on his family's door, crying and begging to be let inside. The boy yelled: “I won't mess up anymore!”
That neighbor said she almost called police, but after about 15 minutes someone let him inside.
“There were too many weird signs that someone should have said something,” said Jeanetta Issa, president and CEO of the Child Abuse Prevention Association in Independence. “We need to tell people, make them realize, that they can't ignore the signs.”
On Monday, Anderson watched emergency crews take the boy away on a stretcher. She could see his face was pale, his cheeks sunken. He had scruffy facial hair, unusual for a teen who Anderson always thought had a childlike kindness and vulnerability. She knew him as a sweet kid who would color with her much younger children using sidewalk chalk.
She looked at him, surrounded by emergency medical workers and police, and felt relief.
“I didn't know the extent of what was going on,” said Anderson, 24. “I'm glad I made the call now. Who knows how long they would have kept him in the basement?”
Too often the call is never made. Or it's made late and a child is left to endure more pain and abuse.
Some don't pick up the phone because they think that if they get involved, they'll only make matters worse, experts say. Or they see it as a privacy issue.
Others may not trust the system or are frightened themselves, so they don't report suspected abuse, said Caren Caty, a California psychologist and senior fellow with the American Humane Association, a national advocacy group for the protection of children.
“It's a very scary and confusing thing to many people,” Caty said. “A person's level of empathy and responsibility would greatly determine how they intervene.”
Over the years, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has seen many cases where people have had suspicions — or even knowledge — of abuse or neglect and stayed silent.
“I think it is hard for people, especially when it deals with parents,” Baker said. “Judging people's parenting makes them reticent to complain to authorities.”
What she tries to stress is that a call to the hotline basically just begins a process and allows investigators to do their job. You don't need hard facts or to investigate on your own to report something. Observations and suspicions can be key in saving a child, she and others said.
“A call to the hotline is simply a call to the hotline,” Baker said. “It doesn't mean that someone is put in handcuffs at the end of the day and goes to jail.”
Added Caty: “We shouldn't be the arbitrators of what's in the best interest of a child. It's just best to report it and let the professionals take it from there.”
On June 22, someone made a hotline call to the Missouri Department of Social Services about a young girl kept locked in a closet at Theron B. Watkins Homes in Kansas City. A police officer and state case worker walked through the quiet of the two-story townhome and found a closet with a crib pushed against it and the doorknobs tied together.
The 10-year-old girl weighed just 32 pounds, and her malnourished body was scarred and bruised. Her mother, Jacole Prince, is charged with three felonies and is jailed, awaiting trial.
Authorities say that the girl known as LP stopped going to school five years earlier and that her mother kept her hidden inside the apartment, refusing to let her play outside with her sisters. The closet was her bedroom, where she often slept and ate and was forced to go to the bathroom.
After LP, the Kansas City Child Abuse Roundtable Coalition knew what the theme for this year's campaign for National Child Abuse Prevention Month had to be. “Don't Ignore the Signs” will focus on how to recognize signs of abuse and report it, and how to prevent abuse.
Two more similar cases of alleged abuse — another little girl found in July and then the teenager last week — show the need for education, advocates say. And to remind people that hotline calls led to these three children eventually being rescued.
“We need to get the phone number out there,” said Howland, coordinator of the coalition. “You can call anonymously. People need to know that a call can save a child's life.”
When authorities went to check on the Northland teen last week, his stepmother answered the door. She told police she would go downstairs to wake him.
Police, though, asked her to stay upstairs while they checked on the teen.
As the officers walked down the stairs, they heard a voice:
“I didn't do anything! I didn't do anything! I didn't do anything!”
Officers found him curled around the pole and handcuffed to it. He later told police that he had been locked in the basement for extended periods after his father removed him from his high school, where he was a sophomore, reportedly to home-school him.
Those close to the teen worried years ago about his welfare. They were concerned because he often didn't want to go home, would come up with reasons to stay after school and dreaded holidays when he would have to be home for long periods. He also often appeared ravenous, they said, as though he didn't have enough to eat at home.
On at least one occasion, those indirect signs going back several years prompted someone to call the state hotline, people once close to the boy have said. It isn't known what, if any, action resulted.
Rebecca Woelfel, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services, said state law prohibits the release of information specific to a case or individual.
“So I cannot confirm nor deny involvement in a case,” she said in an email.
The teen's family had “minor contacts” with the Clay County juvenile office about two years ago over behavior issues and conflicts with his father and stepmother, said Alan Gremli, Clay County juvenile court officer.
The stepmother complained about the teen stealing from Hy-Vee. The juvenile office discovered he had lifted a package of Starburst candy from the store.
The family was referred for some services and intervention.
“They told police (last week) that they had to chain him up because they couldn't get the help that they needed,” Gremli said Friday. “In the last few weeks, had they contacted us again, we would have tried again, but we didn't know about this. … Two years is a long time to not hear from them if it was that bad.”
This past summer, neighbors would see the teen outside first thing in the morning. And he'd still be there, walking around, as late as 11 at night.
“I didn't realize he'd been out all day until I talked to the neighbors and they said the family would lock him out,” Anderson said. “One neighbor said that even when it was raining, she'd hear (the teen) pounding on the door. He'd be outside the whole time.”
By the end of September, neighbors hardly saw him. Anderson asked the teen's stepbrother about his absence.
“He said he was pretty much under house arrest,” Anderson said. “He said, ‘He's pretty much grounded for life because he attacked my mom quite frequently.'”
Now Anderson and other neighbors are left to imagine what he had endured since then.
Inside North Kansas City Schools, educators also think of the young man, who had attended classes there since elementary school. Some teachers are collecting signed cards to deliver to him.
“One of the things we really stress and strive for is positive relations between students and adults within our buildings,” said Paul Fregeau, the district's assistant superintendent of student services. “This young man definitely had positive relations with numerous adults in our district who are very moved and upset with the reported conditions he was dealing with.”
The teen appeared in court late last week and said he didn't want to go home. He wanted to stay with his new foster parents, even joking that he'd already gained weight. He said he liked that the family had made him pizza.
It isn't known how long he'll be in foster care. Authorities are still investigating and no charges have been filed.
Another family court hearing for the teen is scheduled for March 7, when his future will be discussed. The teen's biological mother has talked to the juvenile office and has said she would like custody of her son.
Shelly Vasey understands the fear involved when speaking up.
Eight years ago, twin 13-year-old sisters who lived across the street from her in Wichita confided in her. They told her their brother had raped them.
They begged her not to say anything, not to call police. At least not until they had told their mother.
For two days, Vasey stayed silent, thinking the girls were safe at home because an aunt was visiting. For two days, she cried.
Then she and her husband notified police.
“There was a huge pressure lifted off me,” she said Thursday. “I stopped crying and started praying. You can't imagine the pressure that was off of me.”
The story of what the sisters had endured only grew more tragic. They had been raped for years by two brothers and even their father.
And in those two days Vasey waited to report what the sisters had told her, one of them was assaulted again.
“I can still cry when I think I didn't go ahead and call,” Vasey said. “Just two days. I still struggle with that.”
The girls' story and how Vasey stepped in have been extensively documented in newspaper articles and talk shows. Just last week they taped a national talk show dealing with sexual abuse and how one call can make a difference.
Vasey doesn't hesitate to tell people how important reporting abuse and neglect is, and every minute counts.
“You will never be able to forgive yourself for not speaking up,” she said. “I'm so afraid that someone else will struggle someday with the ‘Why didn't I report that the day I suspected it?'
“I don't want anyone to go through that. Don't ever second-guess yourself. Don't think twice. Just report it. There's nothing in the world that can be worse than letting time go by.”
Anderson sees that.
In the days since she picked up the phone about her neighbor, strangers have come up and thanked her. Authorities say she's a hero.
A cousin of the teen sent Anderson a Facebook message thanking her for making the call. The cousin said that Anderson rescued him from years of abuse.
Anderson hates that she didn't call earlier and hopes others don't wait when they see something suspicious or have a nagging feeling that something is wrong.
“I would tell people, people might tell you to mind your own business,” Anderson said. “But in cases like this, it's good to be cautious and do right.
“Even if nothing's going on, at least you would know everything's OK.”
Afghanistan: Don't Prosecute Sexually Assaulted Children Urgently Reform Response to Sexual Abuse of Boys
“When a man has sex with a 13-year-old child, the child is a victim of rape, not a criminal offender. The Afghan government should never have victimized this boy a second time, but instead should have released him immediately with urgent protection and assistance.”
(Kabul) – The Afghan government should take urgent steps to ensure that rape and sexual abuse of children leads to prosecution of the abusers – not of victims, Human Rights Watch said today. In Afghanistan's western Herat province, in an October 2012 case that only recently came to light, a court convicted a 13-year-old boy on moral crimes charges, and sentenced him to one year in juvenile detention after he was accused of having sex with two adult men in a public park.
Afghan law prohibits “pederasty,” commonly understood to mean sex between a man and a boy, and makes it a crime punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison. “Moral crimes” charges, which under Afghan law include not only pederasty but also all sexual relations between people who are not married to each other, have frequently been used to punish the victim of a criminal offense.
“When a man has sex with a 13-year-old child, the child is a victim of rape, not a criminal offender,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Afghan government should never have victimized this boy a second time, but instead should have released him immediately with urgent protection and assistance.”
A prosecutor involved in the case told Human Rights Watch that the boy was prosecuted because he said he had consented to engaging in sexual relations with several adult men. The decision in the case is under appeal. The authorities also arrested the men and charged them with moral crimes, but the outcome of their case is unknown.
There is no age of consent for sex under Afghan law. Children under age 19 convicted of crimes are entitled to reduced sentences under the 2005 Juvenile Code. United Nations bodies responsible for protecting the rights of children have said that countries should have an age of consent sufficiently high to protect children.
In spite of Afghanistan's strict prohibitions on sex outside of marriage, the United Nations and other organizations have documented numerous instances of sexual abuse of boys through a practice known as “ bacha bazi .” The phrase, which translates as “boy play,” refers to boys who work as dancers, performing at parties attended by men, and typically living under the protection of a military commander or other patron. Afghan culture typically prohibits women or girls from dancing for a male audience. While their role as entertainers can be innocent, in many instances these boys are also the victims of sexual assault and abuse.
“The Afghan government needs to take urgent steps to protect children from sexual assault, including boys who are abused through the practice of bacha bazi ,” Adams said. “Treating boys who have been raped as criminals undermines all government efforts to protect children from abuse.”
In 2009, Afghanistan enacted the Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women, which for the first time introduced the term “rape” as a criminal offense under Afghan law. The law imposed sentences similar to the 5-to-15-year sentences for pederasty and sex between people who are not married to each other. Although some alleged rapists have been prosecuted under this law, in 2012, Human Rights Watch documented repeated incidents in which prosecutors pursued criminal charges against alleged rape victims for engaging in extramarital sex. Prosecutors told Human Rights Watch that they had pursued criminal charges in such cases because they did not believe victims who said they had been raped, or they believed the victims were of “bad character.”
Since the law's passage, specialized units responsible for prosecuting crimes against women and children have been established in several Afghan provinces with support from international donors. The UN in 2012 documented numerous cases of sexual assault of boys and girls, including sexual assault of boys by armed men and in detention centers.
A major limitation of the 2009 law is that it refers only to the rape of women or girls. There is no comparable specific prohibition on rape of men and boys. A wide-ranging revision of Afghanistan's penal code has been planned for several years, but there has been little progress in drafting a new law.
“Afghan lawmakers should move forward promptly in revising the Penal Code to provide better protection for both victims and criminal suspects,”Adams said. “The revision should ensure that rape is seen as a serious crime, whether committed against men and boys or women and girls, and that victims are not treated as criminals.”
Cutting child abuse in Colorado by half will require home visits, network of help
by Jennifer Brown and Karen Augé
Colorado's plan to reform the child- welfare system and significantly reduce child abuse and neglect includes sending social workers and nurses into the homes of at-risk families and providing a network of help — ranging from teaching parents about safety hazards to helping them find jobs.
One of the programs, SafeCare, is for families who have been reported to child protective services and have children 5 years old or younger, the age group that accounts for 75 percent of abuse and neglect cases.
The Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, which is partnering with the state to set up SafeCare, has a goal of reducing child abuse and neglect in Colorado by half within seven years.
Colorado also plans to expand a program for young, first-time mothers who have never been accused of abuse. The Nurse-Family Partnership sends nurses into young moms' homes to counsel them on everything from budgeting to coping with diaper rash.
And the state is beginning a "community response" program with sites across the state that will help at-risk families find child care, jobs, counseling and other help.
Reducing child abuse by 50 percent is ambitious, but Kempe Center director Des Runyansaid it is achievable. The rate of domestic violence in this country has dropped by 64 percent since 1994, according to a Department of Justice report.
"This state has not done what some other states have done thinking about prevention comprehensively," he said. "We need to get to people before they fall in the river."
SafeCare, led by Georgia State University, has been successful in other states. A University of Oklahoma study found a 26 percent reduction in repeat child-abuse complaints for families who participated in SafeCare compared with those who did not. A Kempe Center team will help run the program, which will train social workers to work with up to 10 families at a time for 20 weeks each.
In the short term, Runyan expects reports of abuse and neglect in Colorado to spike because of heightened community concern, raised by a Denver Post-9News investigation of the child-welfare system and planned public-service announcements promoting a new child-abuse hotline.
The Kempe Center plans to track child-abuse rates in Colorado through an anonymous survey beginning this spring. The telephone survey will ask parents how they discipline their children — from yelling and timeouts to kicking, choking and hitting with an object.
Similar studies in North Carolina revealed 25 percent of parents spank 9-month-olds
and 6 percent spank 3-month-olds. Anonymous surveys typically show child abuse is 10 to 20 times higher than what is reported to child- protection services, Runyan said.
Colorado's child-welfare system received about 11,000 substantiated abuse and neglect reports in 2011.
Young mothers and mothers with minimal education are at higher risk of abusing and neglecting their children, Runyan said. And while men are more often accused of fatal abuse, mothers are more likely to shake babies and inflict harsher punishment, he said.
Young, low-income and single moms are exactly the demographic the Nurse-Family Partnership works with.
The NFP, developed by David Olds, who is now director of the Prevention and Research Center for Families and Child Health at the University of Colorado, is used in 50 of the state's 64 counties.
Colorado's prevention initiative wouldn't expand the program, said Lisa Merlino, executive director of Invest in Kids, which helps implement the NFP in Colorado. Instead, it would allow the program to develop a new element, one that could spread to the other states and countries where the NFP is in use.
Over several decades and in multiple studies, the NFP has been found to significantly reduce instances of child abuse.
But it's not perfect.
Occasionally, a nurse suspects child abuse or neglect and has to report a client, or someone in the client's household, to social workers.
Under the state's expanded prevention plan, nurses in that situation would work with county social workers, and the effectiveness of that collaboration would be tracked, Merlino said.
"We'll be increasing the local child- welfare collaboration with NFP nurses in cases where the nurse believes that maltreatment is imminent or has occurred," said Merlino.
The NFP probably will benefit from additional money this year, though. During recent state budget cuts, the program's funding stagnated. Merlino said she believes modest annual funding increases will be restored this year. In addition, the program will benefit from provisions of the federal health-care law that provided money for home-visitation programs nationwide.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and state human-services director Reggie Bicha announced the latest child-welfare reforms last week — a statewide hotline, training for "mandatory reporters" of child abuse and uniform procedures for screeners of abuse calls. The plan calls for $20 million in requests for state funds from the legislature. The state also expects to receive $8 million in federal funds in each of the next five years — money freed up by a federal waiver that gives Colorado more flexibility in how it spends child-welfare funds.
State officials have not determined yet how much of the money will go toward abuse-prevention programs.
The Kempe Center hopes to set up SafeCare in three county child-welfare departments the first year and add three counties each year. Two social workers at the Kempe Center already are trained in SafeCare and work with Denver County.
The state human-services department intends to open 18 community- response sites within six years. When a county child-welfare department "screens out" a child-abuse call because there is not substantial cause for concern, a caseworker can refer the family to a community-response site that will link them to help finding financial and counseling services, said Julie Krow, director of the state Office of Children, Youth and Families.
Advocates seek more help for exploited children
Heartland Girls' Ranch a healthy refuge for recovery
BENSON, Minn. – She holds her neck and shoulders tense, and barely speaks. But on a walk to the pasture to halter her horse, the girl begins to relax.
“Come on, honey,” she tells her horse softly, coaxing him toward the barn. “Come on.”
A tan Appaloosa whose coat has grown thick for winter, Arnold is stubborn and a bit alone in the world, untrusting. So is the girl.
“We do the same things,” she said. “If I'm scared, I usually isolate, and that's what he does. He stays away from horses. He goes in the barn.”
Like her horse, the 16-year-old girl has stepped away from others. But in her case, the solitude of the Heartland Girls' Ranch is a healthy refuge from sexual exploitation.
Founded more than 20 years ago as a place for abused or neglected girls, the ranch accepts girls referred by county child protection workers for a variety of reasons, but largely because they have been abused or neglected. In recent years, Minnesota counties have increasingly sent girls who are victims of sex trafficking, some of whom were sold on websites likebackpage.com.
To combat the growing problem of sex trafficking, Minnesota is changing how it views underage victims. In 2011, the state passed a Safe Harbor law that said children age 16 and younger engaged in prostitution are victims, not delinquents. Today at the state Capitol, lawmakers, county attorneys, police and advocates for children plan to introduce what they hope will be phase two of the plan. They're asking lawmakers to help sexually exploited children and teens by providing more support for them, and safe housing that is not juvenile detention.
Four of the girls living at the ranch are recovering from those experiences, executive director CeCe Terlouw said.
“It strips them of self; it strips them of any dignity,” she said of the abuse. “You know, these young brains which are forming are now skewed and (have) a mistrust and understanding of adults and who they are as a person and what their body is for. It's just really a warping of soul and body.”
MPR News obtained permission to interview two girls living at the ranch who were forced into prostitution or sexually exploited by an adult. MPR News is not identifying them to safeguard their privacy as underage victims.
Girls ages 12 to 18 spend an average of eight or nine months living at the ranch and attending classes in their own wing of Benson High School. Those who are ready can take classes with other students. They gain work experience fulfilling orders in the ranch's custom embroidery business. Some find jobs in town, helping at the local library or hair salon.
Counties pay $169 a day for each girl they send to the ranch, which provides a safe, therapeutic environment. Terlouw said its remote location two hours west of the Twin Cities metropolitan area is an asset.
“I don't think we've ever had a pimp come to Benson, Minn., to track down a girl,” she said.
For the girls, some of the most important healing comes through working with the horses on the ranch.
Bridget Kinnell, the horse program manager at the ranch, matches each girl with a horse based on riding ability, and her intuition.
“If I have a girl that I know has a strong personality, (who) might have some issues with bullying, or aggressiveness, I'm going to match her with horse that is high up in the herd, that is also a strong personality,” Kinnell said. “If she uses those normal ways that she would interact with people, this horse is going to not respond. If they're a girl that's maybe more quiet or fearful, I'm going to match them with a horse that is more kind of like them.”
Girls who have difficulty trusting people will find that horses have a startling honesty. Horses respond to a rider's body language, sometimes sparking a girl's insight more quickly than a therapist could.
For example, Kinnell gave a girl who had run away a horse that no one could catch. She said the girl made the connection.
“We can ask them how it feels to be on the other side,” Kinnell said. “Now they're the person having to deal with that behavior. And it gives them some empathy for the people in their lives and kind of how their behavior has affected others.”
On one frozen evening, the last girl in the barn with Kinnell rode lap after lap with a horse who wanted to go his own way.
“Don't let him destroy your plan,” Kinnell told the girl, 15. “He takes a lot of mental focus. You got to stay thinking one step ahead of him.”
The horse resisted the girl's effort to teach him a new pattern. But she understood, as she doesn't like to be controlled either. She began rebelling at age 11, and her grandmother, who raised her, couldn't rein her in.
“My grandma's old, and she can't really enforce the rules around me so I just do stuff without her permission,” the 15-year-old said. “And it's not like she can't do much anyways, and then the law got involved for me not going to school. I had to get locked up for truancy ... it just goes on and on.”
To escape from difficult situations, girls like those on the ranch sometimes bolt without a plan, Terlouw said.
That makes them vulnerable to people who want to exploit them. The goal of the ranch, she said, is to make sure girls leave with new skills and self-confidence.
“They need to have a vision of what their future can hold,” Terlouw said. “I see with the trafficked girls, you know, they have felt their body was the thing they had, that they can make money. They need to be able to understand and see there can be a future for them, and there is a way they can meet their needs without that as something to fall back on.”
State lawmakers are also pondering the future of young victims of sexual trafficking.
Although the Heartland Girls Ranch isn't a dedicated space for girls victimized by sexual trafficking, it could expand to serve more of them. After the Safe Harbor law goes into effect in August of next year, the state will need more places for them to go that aren't juvenile detention, said Jeff Bauer, director of public policy for the Family Partnership, a Minneapolis service organization that provides counseling and education services.
“There are currently two beds existing in the entire state of Minnesota specifically for trafficked – sex trafficked children, and those are both at Breaking Free here in St. Paul,” said Bauer, who helped draft a series of recommendations to the Legislature. More safe housing is a big one.
“I think they recently got some funding to add two more beds, but you know, we're talking about between 35 and 40 beds, minimum, per night that we need across the state,” he said. “So the gap is wide.”
Breaking Free, a non-profit run by survivors of prostitution is one of the groups that worked with law enforcement, prosecutors and state commissioners to develop the “No Wrong Door” proposal, which was scheduled to be introduced at the Legislature on Friday.
But the $13.5 million proposal to fund a statewide response to sex trafficked children is not in Gov. Mark Dayton's budget.
As Minnesota comes to grips with its child trafficking problem, the solutions aren't easy. Advocates for sexually exploited young people say they are a difficult population to work with, even when placed in a safe environment.
The 16-year-old at the Heartland Girls Ranch admits she still thinks about running.
“There's sometimes when I just want to walk out the door and not look back,” said the girl, who wants to be a social worker. “But this is a good opportunity for me to get my life together and start over.”
Starting over at age 16 however, means catching up in school after being away for a couple of years.
After the trauma she's been through in her young life, she has a chance to be a teenager. She's at peace, riding Arnold.
“I feel free,” she said.
Nigeria: The Road to a Country Without Child Abuse
by Suzan Edeh
Child abuse is a social phenomenon that has attracted so much attention all over the world. It is referred to the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment of a child.
With the condition of children in the country, particularly those that are exposed to all forms of degradation and molestation, more drastic measures ought to be put in place to address issues connected to the violation of the rights of children. What is even more sympathetic is a case whereby a child is beaten, cut with a knife or razor, burnt and poured with acid because there is a belief that the child is possessed with a spirit of witchcraft.
Sadly enough, most of the victims accused of witchcraft are innocent and have nobody to fight for their cause. Investigations revealed that many African countries in the world are guilty of this nefarious act as tradition, culture and religion are the strongest reasons people still cling to it, a combination of high levels of poverty, environmental degradation and corruption mean that many children do not enjoy their basic rights
In 1988, the Nigerian chapter of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect,ANPP-CAN, organized three conferences with the ministry of Justice, Health and Social Welfare in conjunction with UNICEF to produce a new draft law on protecting children in Nigeria. This draft stimulated the government to develop the current Child Rights Act 2003.
Since the creation of the law, it appears to have different levels of acceptance and implementation among Nigerian states. Even though the Act is legally binding, there is no provision of national force that truly protects children against abuse. Child protection activities are still the efforts of NGOs and implementation has been made very challenging.
A report by ANPP-CAN revealed that out of the 36 states in the country, only 26 have implemented the Child Rights Act. It states that in many states, members of child rights implementation committee lack the mobilization and capacity to effectively advocate and facilitate the contents of this law. While the advocacy for the passage of the Child Rights Act in the various states that are yet to pass the law is ongoing, government should lay emphasis on the need to accelerate implementation of this law not just at the national and state levels but also at the local government level which forms the grassroots of the government system in Nigeria.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has declared that if all states in the country would implement the Child Rights Act, violence often inflicted on children which include rape, kidnapping, battery and exploitation twill be reduced to the barest minimum if not totally eradicated.
At a media parley workshop on Child Justice Administration, organised by the UNICEF D-Field Office Bauchi in collaboration with journalists from the electronic and print media in the 10 states that make up the D-Field Office of UNICEF as well as representatives of the Child Protection Network, (CPN) which took place in Kano State, participants emphasized on the need for states that are yet to pass the Child Rights Act to take a cue from states that have domesticated the law. Participants were also of the view that the media should embark on aggressive advocacy to persuade states lagging behind to pass the law while those who have passed it should put in place relevant structures such as family courts for smooth implementation.
Communications Officer of the UNICEF Bauchi Office, Samuel Kaalu who spoke on the UNICEF's role in promoting child protection, urged media practitioners to champion the crusade for the implementation of the Child Rights Law in Nigeria.
According to him, "the media should see themselves as stakeholders as far as child protection issues are concerned and that is why UNICEF is partnering with the media because people believe strongly in them as their major source of information. Through advocating through frequent reportage on child protection issues such as the implementation of the Child Rights Law by states that have not done so, stakeholders, lawmakers and state governments in the country would become enlightened and see the need why such a law should be implemented in all states of the federation".
While stressing on the need for state government to hasten implementation on the Child Rights Law, an officer of the Child Protection Network (CPN) in Gombe State, Mrs.Lucy Usen, revealed that the fight against child abuse and molestation is on the increase in states of northern Nigeria. She noted that CPN is a non-governmental organization that has the mandate of protection of the rights of Children.
According to Usen, 200 registered cases of child abuse had been registered by concerned stakeholders and they include, illegal engagement of underaged children in carnal acts by older men, child abandonment, hawking, stigmatization for witchcraft, illegal detention and other forms of depravation. She said that a recent study report onf Bauchi, Gombe, Yola, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, Borno, Yobe, Jigawa and Kano States revealed a disturbing child rights violation, but lamented that more cases of rape were not reported due to fears of stigmatization or ignorance.
She said, "CPN has recorded over 50 cases of child rape across the states, but more cases have not been reported. Bauchi State recorded 11 cases with a particular case of one police officer raping nine under-aged girls and a lecturer of one the tertiary institutions raping a teenager. In Plateau State where an adult and minor male rapist gang raped a 14-year old girl, about 8 more cases are at various levels of litigation. In Kano State, CPN recorded 22 cases of children rape while Nasarawa established 4 cases of child rape".
While commending states that have passed the Child Rights Law, she urged participants, particularly the media, to enlighten their various states on the existence of CPN.
Without a tracking system, church sex-abuse suspects could be a danger to children
by Barbara Jones
Half of them are dead, a handful are in prison, a few have continued in the ministry.
And the rest of the former priests -- those accused in Los Angeles Archdiocese files of sexually abusing altar boys, parishioners' kids and schoolchildren -- could be just about anywhere.
Because of efforts by Cardinal Roger Mahony and his top aides to shield scores of suspect priests from prosecution, many have been free to leave the church and start new lives without anyone else knowing about their past.
Although the priests are aging -- the youngest is nearing 60, and most are in their 70s and 80s -- victims and their advocates worry about the inability of the system to track these alleged abusers and to notify the public.
"The frightening prospect is that the gentle man next door, who is so friendly and engaging with children, might well turn out to be somebody who has a sickness and disease that makes him a danger to children," said attorney Raymond Boucher, who helped secure a $660 million settlement in 2007 against the archdiocese in the sex-abuse scandal.
"They are predators in every sense of the word. They know just how to seek out those children who are likely to be sucked in by their charisma and magnetism. Their warm and engaging personalities is part of who they are."
Esther Hatfield Miller knows what it's like to be "groomed" by a charismatic priest. As a cheerleader at Reseda High, she was one of the many teenage girls who say they were lured into relationships with Michael Nocita, a now-defrocked priest who at the time was assigned to St. Bridget of Sweden church in Van Nuys.
"This is one of the things that is concerning to me -- pedophiles don't look like 'stranger danger,"' said Miller, now 54, who said she's spent years in therapy trying to deal with the trauma of Nocita's abuse.
"They have this nuance abut them that doesn't raise awareness that this guy is dangerous. Their coercion is very subtle."
In fact, the priests' ability to connect with parishioners -- adults and kids alike -- was mentioned in several of the extensive files, which have been reviewed by a team of Los Angeles News Group reporters and editors.
The documents released under court order on Jan. 31 also detail horrific allegations of molestation, and how church leaders transferred abusive priests from parish to parish in order to shield them from police.
Because the statute of limitations had expired by the time the molestation was reported, the priests were never prosecuted for crimes that might have landed them on a sex-offender registry and under the eye of authorities.
"The priests got a 'get out of jail free' card from the church," Boucher said. "It was something that was done with knowledge and intent."
As part of his legal battle to win unrestricted access to archdiocese files, Boucher compiled an extensive database in 2011 showing the locations of priests suspected of sex abuse.
By showing that disgraced priests were living near schools, across from parks or close to libraries, Boucher hoped to persuade a judge to include the names of the accused when the documents were released.
The first judge refused, saying the names should be blacked out. That decision was overturned by another judge who said the public deserved to know how church leaders had handled molesting priests.
While websites like bishopaccountability.org have tracked the legal cases against the priests, Boucher's database is believed to be the only one that shows the whereabouts of those accused of misconduct.
"It was a pretty monumental task," Boucher said. "We used last-known addresses, Internet researchers, our own investigators. Then we verified the location. And if we found out it wasn't accurate, it was figuring out where they went."
Using Boucher's information, the "Report to the People of God" released by the archdiocese in 2004 and its own research, the Los Angeles News Group was able to break down the files released last week. They show:
-- Of the 122 priests whose files were released by the archdiocese, 62 are reported to have died. They include Father Ted Llanos, 50, who killed himself in 1997 while facing a lawsuit accusing him of molesting altar boys over a 20-year period.
-- Twenty-three have been traced to neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange and San Bernardino counties. Five others are in Central and Northern California.
-- Seventeen couldn't be located at all, although two may have fled to Mexico, one is believed to be in Spain and another in Colombia.
-- Eleven were convicted of sex crimes or took a plea deal for a reduced sentence. Four of them are currently behind bars.
-- Two continue in their ministry -- Father Joseph Alzugaray is assigned to St. Apollinaris Catholic Church in Napa; and Father Edward Casey is listed as a "resident" at St. Pius X Church in Broomall, Pa.
Two other priests -- Sean Cronin and David Granadino -- are listed in the archdiocese directory as being on administrative leave.
-- Ex-priest George Miller, on parole for sex abuse, lives next door to Carl Sutphin, who was defrocked after being accused of molesting 18 boys, at a trailer park in Oxnard.
-- Some accused molesters got jobs in positions of trust and authority after leaving the church.
Donald Farmer, who served at churches in Glendale and Thousand Oaks, left the priesthood and became a family therapist in Fresno. He was accused in 2003 of molesting four children after befriending their parents. He denied the allegations and the charges were eventually dropped.
Joseph Pina -- an ex-priest accused of having relationships with young girls -- worked for more than a decade as a community liaison for Los Angeles Unified School District. The district terminated him when the files were released and officials became aware of his background.
Nocita, the defrocked priest accused of relationships with numerous teenage girls, worked as a color commentator for a local news station during Pope John Paul II's visit in 1987 and was later hired as executive director of the youth center in La Ca ada Flintridge.
He recently left his job in human resources at an abalone farming company and is reportedly living in Redondo Beach, but there was no phone listing for him.
A listing also was unavailable for Miller. Sutphin did not return calls for comment.
Victims advocate David Clohessy said the Catholic Church needs to do more to ensure that the community remains safe from priests accused of wrongdoing -- even if the abuse occurred decades earlier.
He said the church should cut off financial support to priests who have retired or been put on leave under the shadow of an abuse allegation. And if an active priest is suspected of abuse, Clohessy wants officials to put him in a secured treatment facility or turn his file over to authorities.
"These predators live almost completely unsupervised among unsuspecting friends, neighbors and co- workers, said Clohessy, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It's an invitation to disaster."
Archdiocese attorney J. Michael Hennigan said the church has no way to track its former priests, adding that "they are like any other citizen" once they leave the church.
He also said the archdiocese is cooperating with law enforcement agencies that are reviewing the old files and has offered "enthusiastic assistance" in prosecuting clergy suspected of abuse.
Who are the L.A. priests prosecuted for sex abuse?
by Barbara Jones
As the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church unfolded in the early 2000s, victims of clergy molestation in Los Angeles pinned their hopes on a state law that had retroactively lifted the statute of limitations on prosecuting sex crimes.
In a 2003 ruling, however, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law, a decision that affected most of the clergy abuse cases then being investigated by police or pursued by prosecutors.
Of the priests whose records were released last month, fewer than a dozen could be prosecuted for abuse that was recent enough to fall within the statute of limitations.
-- Father Michael Baker admitted to then-Archbishop Roger Mahony in 1986 that he was a pedophile, and he was sent to therapy, then transferred to nine different parishes. He was accused in church files of molesting 23 children.
Baker was charged with molestation in 2002, but the case was dismissed because of the Supreme Court ruling. More victims came forward, and he pleaded guilty in 2007 to a dozen counts of molesting two boys at parishes in Los Angeles and Pico Rivera.
He was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison but was released after four years because of credit for work and time served.
The plea deal required him to register with law enforcement as a sex offender, but kept his name off the Megan's Law website. He remains on parole and is living in Orange County, state officials say.
-- According to the website bishopaccount ability.org, retired priest John Feeney was living in Los Angeles in 2002 when he was arrested on charges of molesting two boys in his home diocese in Wisconsin.
He was convicted there in 2004 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released in November 2011.
According to the Wisconsin sex-offender website, he is living at the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Mo. The facility is run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which also operated the treatment facility in Jemez Springs, N.M., where abusive priests were secretly sent for therapy by Los Angeles Archdiocese officials.
According to published reports, Feeney was removed from ministry in 1986 and defrocked in 2005.
-- Gerald Fessard was allowed to continue in the ministry although he'd pleaded no contest in 1987 to one count each of battery and child molestation after fondling five teenage boys at Our Lady Queen of Angels High School Seminary.
The plea deal got him a sentence of three years' probation, and his record was later expunged.
Published reports say he manages a mobile home park in Gardena.
-- The Report to the People of God, released in 2004 by the archdiocese, said Father Richard Henry was accused of abusing 13 children over a 10-year period.
Henry pleaded no contest in 1993 to molesting four children at Holy Redeemer Church in Montrose and served three years of an eight-year prison sentence.
The website libertyfight.com, one of several tracking the church's sex-abuse scandal, said Henry died Jan. 10 in Oregon.
-- Stephen Hernandez was arrested in 2004 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old boy while serving as a counselor at a juvenile hall. Faced with a 10-year prison sentence, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and received probation.
Victims attorney Raymond Boucher, who has tracked abusive priests, said Hernandez is living in Rowland Heights.
-- Lawrence Lovell spends his days working in the kitchen at a prison in Arizona, where he was convicted of child molestation.
Lovell had been convicted of child molestation in Los Angeles in 1986 and removed from the ministry that year.
At the time of his arrest on the Arizona charges, he was married, with stepchildren, and working for the University of New Mexico Mental Health Center.
-- George Miller is among the few former priests whose names appear on the state's Megan's Law website, which lists information on convicted pedophiles.
Miller pleaded guilty in 2008 to molesting a 9-year-old altar boy nearly 20 years earlier at Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima. As part of his plea, Miller acknowledged molesting the boy's older brother and two other boys.
He lives in Oxnard, next door to Carl Sutphin, a former priest who had molestation charges against him dropped because of the statute-of-limitations ruling.
-- Church officials sent Father Carlos Rodriguez for treatment in 1987, after he molested one of two teenage boys he took on a trip to the Grand Canyon.
While no charges resulted from that incident, he was convicted in 2004 of molesting two brothers, and served three years of an eight-year prison sentence. He is listed on the Megan's Law website, which says he is living in Huntington Park.
-- Donald Roemer pleaded guilty in 1981 to sexually abusing a 7-year-old Thousand Oaks boy, one of the earliest clergy cases to draw public attention. Rather than prison, he was sent to the state mental hospital at Atascadero.
According to the Megan's Law website, he is living in Anaheim.
-- John Salazar was on parole in 1991 for molesting two boys in Los Angeles when he was convicted in Texas of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man. Based on his criminal record, he was sentenced to life in prison, although his conviction was overturned in 2011 because prosecutors failed to tell the defense about a possible civil suit against Salazar.
According to Salazar's attorney, he pleaded guilty in October to a sex charge that carried an eight-year sentence -- time served -- and was released. Salazar remains in Texas and was required to register as a sex offender.
-- Michael Wempe had been charged in 2003 with 42 counts of child molestation, but those were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.
In 2009, he was convicted on one count of molestation and sentenced to three years in prison.
Listed on the Megan's Law registry, Wempe is living in Seal Beach.
Carson victim of Catholic priest's abuse still re-living horror of 35 years ago
by Nick Green
Rita Milla felt a pang in her stomach last month as she began reading a thick church file related to her landmark sexual abuse case against the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
The Carson resident received the file on Jan. 29, almost 35 years to the day years of horrific sexual abuse by seven priests began when she was just 16. A judge had ordered the file and those of other abuse victims in Southern California released as part of a legal settlement against the archdiocese.
"The 28th of January 1978 was when I was first raped," said Milla, now 51, as she sat last week Thursday in the Wilshire Boulevard office of civil rights attorney Gloria Allred.
It was the first in-depth interview Milla has granted since the documents were made public.
"Every year on that day it kind of freaks me out," she said. "I started feeling like when I was 18 when this stuff was going on - the same feelings, the guilt and the hating myself." I became very depressed and for three or four days I just wanted to hide out. I just wanted to throw up.
"Things I had totally forgotten about, they were in there. So it brought back everything. A very horrible time."
One of the priests, who was sent to the Philippines to stay with his brother's family, impregnated Milla when she was 19. He was sent to the Philippines to stay with his brother's family, supposedly to study nursing. as cover - not even her parents yet knew the truth - She gave birth to his child in a life-threatening pregnancy and delivery.
At the time, the scope of the sexual abuse by parishioners suffered at the hands of supposedly celibate priests was largely unknown.
Her sensational accusations against the priests and eventually the hierarchy of the Catholic Church were made against the backdrop of an incredulous and sometimes hostile public.
But the allegations by a devout, yet vulnerable teenage Catholic girl made national headlines. callously coerced into submitting sexually to respected authority figureswere the first in the nation to receive widespread attention, she said officials with the Center for Constitutional Rights told her.
The group has called for an investigation into cover ups around the world by high-ranking Vatican officials for what it believes are crimes against humanity.
"There were people who couldn't and wouldn't believe it," Allred said. "The secret was hurting so many people and destroying so many people. That makes it so significant that Rita had the courage to speak out and to break the silence and tell the secret.
"That helped to encourage and empower other victims, other survivors, to know that if Rita had the courage, and if she could take some legal action, that maybe they could too," Allred added. "So Rita inspired a tidal wave of other cases and the breaking open of this secret that the church was so determined to keep."
But it was more than that.
An initial lawsuit Allred filed on Milla's behalf was tossed after a judge ruled the statute of limitations had expired.
She did win a settlement related to a $6 million defamation action against a Catholic bishop who publicly claimed Milla was promiscuous in an apparent effort to discredit her. That provided a trust fund for her daughter, Jacqueline.
The priest who started the cycle of rapes in seedy motels and revered church rectories - Father Santiago Tamayo - publicly apologized at a 1991 news conference.
But Milla herself got no financial compensation for her ordeal from the church.
In 2002 Allred lobbied for and won a one-year window under state law that suspended the statute of limitations. That allowed abuse victims to file suit for long ago crimes.
It's a tactic other states have employed in their search for justice and others are still pursuing.
Milla eventually received $500,000 in 2007 as part of a record $660 million settlement against the church.
It was a legal battle that took almost a quarter century, Allred said, taking up 23 years of her 38-year law career.
Church officials had initially told Milla they would help her and her child.
"Instead of helping, they covered it up," Allred said. "And then they helped the priests, not you, because it was all about the image of the church, it was all about keeping the secret."
But the newly released records have corroborated the extent of the cover-up perpetuated by the archdiocese, Allred said.
There are letters of concern from church officials in Rome, asking what the publicity regarding Milla's accusations was all about. They suggested the background of priests should be checked more carefully in the future.
There and written exchanges between the accused priests and the archdiocese, which falsely claimed not to know their whereabouts.
In the letters senior Los Angeles church officials urged Tamayo to stay out of the country lest he expose himself - and the archdiocese - to a lawsuit.
They urged him to continue in the trusted role of priest in a new parish, potentially giving him access to new unsuspecting victims.
At another point they urged him to get a job outside the priesthood - and offered a recommendation.
And they continued to secretly pay him until he left the priesthood and married. Tamayo died in 1996.
The stalling, Allred said, was designed to ensure the statute of limitations ran out.
"They were trying to obstruct justice," Allred said. "There was a cover-up and (the files) substantiated it.
"They should have dealt with this from the beginning in an honest fashion. But they just deepened the wounds they had inflicted upon so many outsiders. There's just no excuse. And it went on for decades, we're not talking about a couple of years."
It was Allred, not the church, that eventually found Jackie's father and forced him via court order to take a paternity test.
Father Valentine Tugade never contacted Rita Milla or asked to see his daughter. He never apologized.
Jackie, who has three sons from a first marriage, recently remarried and now lives in San Diego. She declined to be interviewed for this story, in large part said her mother, because she remains angry at the church.
So does Rita Milla.
"I'm forcing myself to face it," she said of the old memories brought back by the release of the files.
"I'm forcing myself to see all theugliness in it," she added. "Throughout the years I learned how to bury it and ...always knew there was something I wasn't coming to terms with, so I hope it will somehow help me."
Milla, who is married with a son and still works as a medical assistant, attended a recent news conference by SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Milla credits such groups with helping keep the issue in the forefront so other victims can find a degree of justice.
She said she talked to fellow abuse victims at the SNAP event about what they found in the recently released files. The conversations provided a degree of closure.
"It wasn't personal anymore, it was done to others (too)," Milla said. "It was their modus operandi."
Today, like other members of her immediate family, Milla no longer believes in a God.
A God whose earthly representatives would take advantage of those who believed in him - and them - is not something Milla can put her shattered faith in.
Instead, she sought more practical considerations for herself and other victims from a church that exploited believers and attempted to evade accountability for so long.
"They totally underestimated Rita and her will, her courage in getting to the truth and inspiring others," Allred said. "Rita has made history. She is dedicated to seeking justice not only for herself and her child, but for so many others.
"She just wanted the truth to come out. And most of it has."
Lawyers meet in Dallas on child sex-trafficking
by ERIC SHEFFIELD
One in five cases of child trafficking in the U.S. occurs in Texas, according to a report highlighted Friday at an American Bar Association conference.
“Right now, in Texas, you can have a young girl up in your hotel room sooner than you can get a pizza,” said Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of the Dallas-based nonprofit Children at Risk. “What we are going to do to take care of this disgusting issue?”
The child advocate spoke to more than 80 lawyers and others meeting Friday at the Renaissance Hotel in Dallas for a panel discussion titled “Lawyering for Child Victims of Human Trafficking.”
A 2011 report by the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force named Houston the world's largest hub of sex and labor trafficking. And Dallas isn't far behind, officials say.
The report says 20 percent of the estimated 200,000 child-trafficking cases in the U.S. that year originated in Texas.
Texas legislation is largely unclear about whether a 13-year-old child who is arrested for prostitution should be seen as a victim or as the perpetrator of a crime. Often, they are seen as both.
Many Texas lawyers say that the red tape of pushing such children through both juvenile courts and Child Protective Services slows the process of finding the true criminals.
“The children need to be brought into the system,” not prosecuted, said Ann Johnson, a Houston lawyer who specializes in child sex-trafficking cases, “so we can find the pimps in a more timely fashion.”
Experts say Texas is closer than ever to drafting safe-harbor legislation for victims of child trafficking, thanks largely to a landmark case in which Johnson served as public defender for a sex trafficking victim. In that case, known as In the Matter of B.W . , the Texas Supreme Court declared that children are the victims, not the perpetrators, of child prostitution.
Meanwhile, until safe-harbor laws are passed, statewide programs are being formed to help children navigate the system.
Among them is Girls Court in Houston, formed by Judge Angela Ellis, who presided over In the Matter of B.W. Her organization is dedicated to helping trafficking victims under 18 make their way through the juvenile dockets and CPS process.
“A lot of these kids don't have families or were trafficked by their families,” Ellis said. “Girls Court might be their only outlet for help anywhere.”
HOW TO HELP: REPORT TRAFFICKING
Anyone with information relating to human trafficking, whether they involve children or not, is urged to call 1-888-373-7888. Callers may remain anonymous.
Authorities nab 85 in effort to combat Super Bowl sex trafficking
by Naomi Martin
In an effort to combat the rampant sex trafficking that authorities say has historically accompanied the Super Bowl , a multi-agency task force arrested 85 people during the week leading up to Sunday's game in New Orleans. Those arrests represented just "the tip of the iceberg" of a growing problem, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said at a news conference Thursday.
Operation Innocence Lost, carried out by the New Orleans Police Department, State Police, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, among others, netted arrests on charges of human trafficking, prostitution, pandering, narcotics and weapons charges, authorities said. Fifty-three people were arrested in the New Orleans area, while 32 were nabbed in the Baton Rouge area.
"Any time you have a large influx of tourists in town and they're spending a lot of money, there's a criminal element that moves in to take advantage of that," said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman. Authorities booked at least two men on charges of sex trafficking and rescued five women who were allegedly brought to prostitute in New Orleans against their will. Two were trafficked from Oklahoma; two were brought from Georgia, Cain said.
Details on the fifth victim's story were scarce because she was 17 years old, so she is considered a minor by federal authorities. Her case has launched a federal investigation, Cain said.
In addition to that minor, four other children were rescued in the operation, police said, however they were not themselves being sexually exploited.
Two of the children, ages 10 and 11, were found by New Orleans police officers and state troopers during a sting operation. The children were waiting in a car outside a New Orleans location where their mother was prostituting, Edmonson said.
"The looks in those kids' eyes was so sad," Edmonson said at the news conference. "They thought this was normal."
The children are now in custody of the state Department of Children and Family Services, said Ben Francois, New Orleans regional administrator for DCFS.
The other two children were rescued from a similar situation in Baton Rouge, Cain said.
The FBI will continue to provide services for the victims, said Special Agent In Charge Mike Anderson.
As part of ongoing efforts, investigators with the state attorney general's office arrested a 28-year-old man on Tuesday accused of seeking an underage prostitute. According to an arrest report, Courtney Allen Comardelle called undercover agents on a cell phone and offered to pay $200 in exchange for sexual acts with an 18-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl.
He was booked into the Orleans Parish jail on charges of soliciting prostitution and soliciting prostitution of a minor, records show. He was being held Thursday in lieu of $5,000 bond.
The Louisiana Human Trafficking Task operates year-round. Anyone who suspects trafficking can call 1.866.DHS.2ICE.
Portman plan would aid sex traffic victims
Child victims of sex trafficking would be eligible for grants for counseling, advocacy, legal, medical, and other services under an amendment proposed Thursday by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) to the Violence Against Women reauthorization act.
It now affords services to child victims of “domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.” The amendment would add victims of child sex trafficking to that list. Senator Portman and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) introduced the measure.
Mr. Portman said the need for the amendment was brought to his attention by people in northwest Ohio, including Celia Williamson, a University of Toledo social worker.
Expert Urges National Dialogue to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
Source Newsroom: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)
STRATFORD, NJ – Pediatricians know that when they discuss seat belt, bicycle and water safety during annual wellness visits they are helping to reduce a child's risk of harm. Those same visits should include messages about personal space and privacy, says Dr. Martin A. Finkel, an internationally known expert in the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse, and he is urging pediatricians to begin a dialogue that will help children avoid the physical and mental health consequences of sexual abuse.
“Our failure to incorporate these messages is not because we are unaware of the issue of child sexual abuse, but perhaps because we find the topic unpalatable or don't have the language to address it,” said Finkel, medical director and co-founder of the Child Abuse Research and Education Services (CARES) Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine. “It's well overdue that pediatricians add this issue to their prevention repertoire.”
In a letter distributed to members of the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP/NJ), Dr. Finkel highlights the urgent need for this approach. He notes that one in four girls and one in seven boys become victims of child sexual abuse, that 40 percent of the victims are younger than six, and that a perpetrator is most likely to be a family member or someone with easy access to the child.
In his letter to fellow pediatricians, Dr. Finkel offers a list of nine suggestions that includes specific language they can use to deliver and reinforce these messages with children.
Among his suggestions:
• Begin talking to parents about delivering personal space and privacy information by the time a child is three years of age.
• Encourage parents to teach their children the correct names for their private parts so the children have the language to communicate abuse.
• Introduce the concept of “OK and Not OK” touching as opposed to “good touch – bad touch” which can be confusing to children.
• Provide parents with guidance about language they should use and appropriate times for reinforcing messages of personal space and privacy.
• Emphasize to children that it is never OK to have a secret.
“Many children never disclose – or significantly delay reporting abuse – out of embarrassment, fear of consequences, or because they think they won't be believed,” Dr. Finkel said. “Is there proof that one single message can be the ‘magic bullet' that prevents child sexual victimization? No, but we need to begin building a dialogue that helps children protect themselves, because children who are armed with information about personal safety are much more likely to develop protective behaviors and to disclose abuse.”
More than 60 percent of pediatricians who responded to a recent pilot survey conducted by AAP/NJ selected “lack of specific language/approach” when asked to identify the factors that made them hesitant to provide guidance regarding personal space and privacy. The survey was done in collaboration with the New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and with Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey.
“We know that we can't just tell kids one time to wear their seatbelts and expect that we have successfully addressed car safety,” he said. “In the same way, we need to deliver messages about personal space and privacy – beginning in early childhood – and repeat them over and over again. Kids who learn these messages won't be invulnerable to inappropriate touching, but they may be more likely to recognize it as inappropriate and may disclose sooner rather than later.”
Media interested in interviewing Dr. Finkel should contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at 856-566-6171 or email@example.com
The CARES Institute provides an array of medical and mental health services developed to meet the diagnostic and therapeutic needs of children through an individualized plan for the specific circumstances of each child and family. The CARES Institute is a nationally recognized model of excellence in healing children and families who have experienced abuse, neglect and violence.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is New Jersey's only health sciences university with more than 6,000 students on five campuses attending three medical schools, the State's only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and New Jersey's only school of public health. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of health care services with multiple locations throughout the state.
Bruised Innocence: Stubborn child abuse stats frustrate officers, but resources, compassion making a difference
by DANA LARSEN
If you want to frustrate a police officer, just utter the words, "child abuse."
Of all the key areas in the new Storm Lake Police annual report showing promising downward trends, this one does not. No amount of patrolling, prosecuting or pleading seems to make a dent.
At the beginning of the study period, a decade ago, Storm Lake had 38 child abuse cases in 2003. With some ups and downs in between, the city still has nearly the same caseload - 37 cases each in 2011 and 2012. The total has increased in four of the years since 2006, and decreased in only one.
But these are not statistics - they are black eyes, bruises, broken bones and broken hearts. They are children.
"It's very frustrating for the police officers who deal with these incidents," Public Safety Director Mark Prosser reflects. "Early on in my career I handled a lot of these cases, and I know that when my own daughter was born, they affected me differently."
Is the amount of abuse really as high as ever, or is the awareness increasing? It's impossible to say, according to the local experts involved in the cases.
"Since mandatory reporting laws, we as a society have gotten better at identifying and reporting when we suspect children may be victimized. We work very closely with DHS (the Department of Human Services), and today schools and emergency rooms are very attuned to recognizing and reporting injuries that may signal abusive situations, as opposed to say an accidental fall," Prosser said.
Still, too many cases go unreported, as people who may see the signs are hesitant to get involved and make the call to police. "We can always improve," Prosser says.
Traditional law enforcement is limited in its ability to prevent this particular crime, since few people set out with a goal of harming children.
"We see it again and again. People may have good intentions, perhaps just meaning to discipline a child, and then temper and emotion take over, and it simply goes too far," the public safety leader explains.
Societal pressure on parents may explain part of the stubbornly-consistent crime statistic, he feels.
"There are so many single parents raising children, and in these cases, one person often has all the stress on their shoulders. We also see so many very young parents in our community... high school or early college-age, in many cases single, people suddenly responsible for raising a child - or children. It can lead to a powerkeg of a situation."
What can a stressed-out parent do? Call for help, Prosser urges.
"There are a lot of supportive programs around that they can turn to, especially for new parents. They can call any of the several counseling agencies here, DHS, any of the several churches that offer programs - I bet that it you even called the OB department at the medical center and said, 'Can you help me or get me to someone who can?,' they would be able to. We have some great resources."
As for police, the strategy remains one of all-out response.
"We are very aggressive on these cases. Anyone with any inkling that a child is being hurt, we will look into and use all the tools at our disposal," Prosser said.
One of the best of those tools is proving to be the Childrens Advocacy Center at Mercy Medical Center.
The program began in 1989, and has now served over 5,000 child victims of abuse.
Storm Lake Police can call on their multi-disciplinary team to do interviews and examinations with children in an expert but non-frightening, child-friendly format.
The police resource officer in the schools, is also a key resource. Being around students every day, such an officer can spot problems and be another place for a young person in trouble to turn. Parenting education programs like "Love and Logic" in the community also help.
"One form of prevention that can be done is helping parents to understand what is and is not appropriate discipline," Prosser said.
In a diverse community, people may arrive from parts of the world where striking a child with a stick, cord or belt is socially acceptable behavior, he noted, but in most of those cases immigrants have spent some time in the United States before arriving in Storm Lake, and shouldhave some concept that they need to adhere to the laws and expectations of the U.S. society.
The department tries to reach out to those who are new American residents to provide an overview of the laws, including barriers against domestic violence and child abuse .
When it comes to child abuse , every case in unique. "Some are instances where discipline of a child has gone too far, some are just outright assaultive behavior, and then we see cases when a person who is in a position to oversee a child is just plain a bully. We see people with anger and stress in their lives taking it out on young children."
A Storm Lake Police Officer and an assistant country attorney have just traveled to San Diego to take part in a conference on child maltreatment issues, and the department will be working to incorporate the newest information and investigation techniques. A grant from the Children's Advocacy Program helped the locals to attend.
Officers walk a thin line in investigating a child abuse report - they need to be effective in gathering information, but still be compassionate toward the child and the family members caring for the boy or girl, Prosser says. "You want to take care not to re-victimize the child, but sometimes you do have to collect certain types of evidence."
One thing police are not doing is telling parents they shouldn't discipline their children.
"Many times I'm speaking to parents at some form of gathering and they are saying that there are problems because parents aren't allowed to discipline kids any more, and that's simply not the case," Prosser says. "As a parent you have every right to a say-so on the behavior of young and adolescent children and right up to age 18. You have every right to set a curfew, you have every right to know what they may have in their backpack or dresser drawers. None of these rights have every been taken away."
Police do not tell parents they can't spank a child, but would never tell them it is okay to strike them with any object, Prosser says.
The criminal system comes in at the point where discipline becomes injury. Bruises, welts, and worse - expect to be charged.
Despite the frustrations and the unchanging pattern of cases, officers will never stop working to prevent child abuse with all of their energy and resources, according to Prosser and his sraff.
"It would be a great day when we put out an annual report and don't have any of these child cases to report on."
El Paso County leads state with child abuse reports
by Annie Snead
Coloradans will have a statewide hotline for people to report child abuse and neglect.
El Paso County leads the state with more than 12,000 reports a year.
We spoke to those with the department of human services and Commissioner Sallie Clark about what they think about the new tool.
"We have had an alarming number of child fatalities and child abuse reports here in El Paso County," said Clark.
Commissioner Clark has been working to prevent child abuse through the "Not One More Child" initiative.
She says this new hotline will make it easier to report incidents and keep kids safe.
Right now all 64 Colorado Counties have their own number.
"By having this one hotline that allows you to know no matter whether you're in Costilla, or Larimer, El Paso County, you can call one number and be able to report child abuse and neglect," she said.
Child welfare manager at the Colorado Springs department of human services Karen Logan says they average anywhere from 80 to 100 calls a day to their office.
"A state number would be helpful so people can call one central number and then that information could get disseminated to the right county," said Logan.
She says the more avenues provided to the community for calls of concern, the better.
The hotline is part of Governor John Hickenlooper's child welfare plan called "Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy 2.0."
Logan says they do their best to offer as many services to the family as possible in an effort to keep them together and a small amount of calls result in an open case.
"Child abuse is something that happens in your community, don't look away reach out help people, help families," said Logan.
Counselor's Penalty for Child Sexual Abuse Is Halved, to 50 Years
by SHARON OTTERMAN
The state's corrections department has reduced by more than half the prison sentence of Nechemya Weberman, the unlicensed Hasidic counselor from Brooklyn who was convicted in December of child sexual abuse charges.
Mr. Weberman was sentenced last month by a judge to 103 years in prison, but the state cut his penalty to 50 years, making him eligible for release for good behavior when he is 97, in 2055. His maximum sentence would end in 2062.
Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, said Friday that the sentencing reduction was a result of a state penal law that mandates a maximum sentence of 50 years for the combination of felonies of which Mr. Weberman was convicted. The law does not bind judges, who can legally impose longer sentences if they choose.
The sentence reduction was previously reported by The Daily News.
William Gibney, head of the criminal practice special litigation unit at the Legal Aid Society, said it would be unlikely that the sentencing judge in this case, Justice John G. Ingram of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, would have been unaware that his prolonged sentence would later be reduced.
“If a judge wants to put on the record that he or she thinks that a longer sentence is appropriate, then they will often just impose that sentence,” Mr. Gibney said. The longer sentence can send a message about the judge's view of the severity of the crime, or guide a parole board in its future decisions, he said.
Mr. Weberman, 54, was convicted of repeatedly molesting a girl during therapy sessions over three years, beginning when she was 12. Before sentencing him on 59 counts of abuse, Justice Ingram told the court, “The message should go out to all victims of sexual abuse that your cries will be heard and justice will be done.”
David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the New York courts, said Justice Ingram sentenced the defendant as he saw fit. “The end result will remain the same, life in prison,” he said.
MPD: Officer charged with child sex abuse no longer on force
by Brandt Williams
MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis police officials say the officer charged Friday with multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct with young girls is no longer on the force.
Bradley Schnickel, 32, was charged in Anoka County District Court with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, one count of attempted criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, and three counts of engaging in electronic communications relating to or describing sexual conduct with a child.
According to the complaint, Schnickel used social media sites to make contact with the girls. The charges allege that Schnickel used a false name and told the girls he was 22 — 10 years younger than his actual age. The complaint alleges Schnickel had sexual contact with at least two girls ages 13 and 14 years old and was involved in inappropriate communications with two other young girls online.
In July of 2012, Schnickel allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old girl after giving her vodka and Mountain Dew. Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said this is a particularly serious charge, because the girl was mentally and physically impaired by the alcohol. If convicted, the maximum penalty for the crime is 15 years in prison.
The complaint alleges Schnickel also tried to get a 13-year-old girl to perform a sex act on him, but she refused. Schnickel also allegedly sent pictures of his genitals to other young girls via social media sites and urged the girls to have sex with him. Two girls say they sent nude or partially nude photos back to him.
One girl alleges that Schnickel met with her earlier this week and told her to, "deny, deny, deny everything." Another girl also alleges that Schnickel told her to deny that she'd had any contact with him.
Palumbo said it is possible Schnickel had contact with more than the four girls referred to in the complaint. He says investigators have only gotten through one-third of the 9,000 pages of printouts of Schnickel's electronic communications.
"We may find more or we may not," he said.
Palumbo said the complaint can be amended at a later date if more victims are identified. Anoka County District Court Judge Sharon Hall set bail for Schnickel at $500,000 with no conditions of release, or $250,000 with the condition of no contact with any juvenile females, including his own children. He is also required to turn over all firearms. Schnickel's next court appearance is scheduled for March 6.
Palumbo said Schnickel has retained private counsel. However, MPR News has not been able to reach Schnickel's attorney for comment.
A Minneapolis police spokesman said Schnickel's last assignment on the force was as a patrol officer in the 4th Precinct. However, he didn't say if Schnickel was fired or resigned.
Schnickel was on the force for five years, and according to his personnel record was recommended for an award of commendation in 2011. His supervisor at the time wrote that Schnickel chased down a man carrying a gun and took him into custody. Schnickel's record also includes a list of three complaints filed in 2008, 2009 and 2001. Details of the complaints are not listed. But the record shows that no disciplinary action was taken.
Here is a copy of the complaint. Click on the tools to enlarge.
Note: The complaint contains graphic language that may be offensive to some.
Schnickel complaint by Minnesota Public Radio
Child abuse task force pushes for consistency
Suggestions also include better collection of data, joint training, fairer system
by Tony Gonzalez
A dozen highly detailed recommendations for ways to better protect Tennessee's children were delivered in a report to lawmakers last week, but whether they'll trigger improvements isn't as clear as in years past.
The findings of the Joint Task Force on Children's Justice/Child Sexual Abuse suggest many changes that need the backing of the recently reorganized Tennessee General Assembly, where some reassigned lawmakers are still coming up to speed on child and family issues.
The 100-page report seeks more statewide consistency in child protection and suggests ways that the key players in child welfare — including law enforcement, health providers and the Department of Children's Services — can work together better.
“I hope there will be a serious look at (the report) and some recognition of the involvement,” said Bonnie Beneke, task force chairwoman and executive director of Tennessee Children's Advocacy Centers. “These are people from all across the state, from all different professions. … They've taken it very seriously and want others to take it seriously and to work with us as we move forward.”
About 40 people, including doctors, attorneys and DCS employees, make up the task force, created by lawmakers in 1985. The group often spurs changes — in laws, DCS policies and methods for investigating abuse and caring for children.
But whom the report speaks to this year remains somewhat unclear because of the legislative reordering, say Beneke and Carla Aaron, DCS executive director for child safety and a task force member.
Aaron said DCS doesn't have formal discussions about the report scheduled with lawmakers, but she's “poised to talk about it.”
DCS has already taken action on some ideas, Aaron said. As detailed in the first half of the report, last year's task force recommendations led to new child protection training across the state. And DCS has a major effort under way, called In Home Tennessee, to match the needs of at-risk families with local services.
“I'm pleased that a lot of the action steps involve (DCS) partnering with a lot of the stakeholders,” Aaron said.
In the report, the task force lays out ideas for joint training for the varied groups involved in child welfare, methods for collecting better data, ways to make the legal system fairer, and approaches to raising awareness of child sexual abuse.
The report found that child protective investigative teams, which exist in each county to make decisions about criminal abuse charges, do their work inconsistently. The task force wants to revisit findings from 2010 and 2012 about those teams. And officials said they've scheduled training for the teams.
Improving the quality of Child Protective Services work within DCS — the front-line work that investigates abuse and leads to decisions about taking children into custody — also figures prominently in the recommendations.
The report asks for better lessons for new hires, mentoring by experienced employees, and more instruction for working with children and parents with mental illnesses.
Beneke and Aaron say some new training initiatives may already be helping, and Gov. Bill Haslam's recommendation of increased pay for front-line workers could help improve DCS casework.
Another recurring theme is fairness in the legal system.
The task force wants some paperwork simplified for families dealing with custody issues without attorneys. And the experts want clarity about the appeals process that adults use when they believe a judge improperly “indicated” them for child abuse — a type of family court finding that stops short of a criminal conviction but still impacts an adult's eligibility for working with kids, maintaining custody and fostering.
The report also delivers Tennessee child abuse data for a one-year period that ended in September 2011. In that year, Tennessee had 93,799 abuse and neglect referrals and 7,852 confirmed victims — both increases over the prior year, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
United States agrees to cooperate with Russia on child abuse cases
MOSCOW, - RAPSI. The United States has agreed to cooperate with the Investigative Committee on child abuse cases concerning adopted Russian children, the committee's official spokesman Vladimir Markin told RIA Novosti on Friday.
The agreement is a high-profile issue on the backdrop of the debate surrounding the so-called Dima Yakovlev law, which was introduced in late December 2012.
Markin said the committee delivered a letter from their chairman to a delegation of the US Department of Justice during their meeting on February 6. The document was forwarded to US Attorney General Eric Holder the same day.
"Following the meeting, the United States expressed its readiness to cooperate on child abuse cases committed against adopted Russian children," Markin told journalists. He said committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin urged the US attorney general to cooperate in the investigation of such criminal cases.
The committee is investigating child abuse cases concerning the following adopted Russian children: Sergei Nakonechny (Luke Alexander Evans), Nikita Khoryakov (Zakari Louis Higier), Dima Yakovlev (Harrison Chase Dmitry), Ksenia Antonova (Ksenia Mae Blanford), Yelena, Sergei, Leonid and Kristina Zhivodrov (OBrien Yelena Maibusch, OBrien Sergey Maibusch, OBrien Leonid Maibusch, and OBrien Kristina Maibusch), Daniil Krichun (Daniel Alexander Sweeney), Ilya Kargyntsev (Dykstra Isaac Jonathan), Anna Pochetnaya (Logan Anna Higginbotham), Ivan Skorobogatov (Craver Nathaniel Michael), and Maxim Babayev (Kaleb Maxim Traylor).
The Dima Yakovlev law banning US adoptions came into force in January 2013 and was adopted in response to the US Magnitsky Act. Dima Yakovlev, then 21 months old, died in July 2008 after his adoptive father Michael Harrison left him in a locked car in a parking lot for nine hours. Harrison was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.
Q+A: Maureen Martinez, Abuse Victims Advocate
East Whiteland resident Maureen Martinez is fighting for legislation to abolish the statute of limitations on sex abuse charges in Pennsylvania.
by Pete Kennedy
East Whiteland resident Maureen Martinez is the president of Justice 4 PA Kids, an organization dedicated to eliminating the Pennsylvania statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. A bill to do just that never made it to a floor vote in 2012 in Harrisburg, but she's hoping 2013 will prove more fruitful.
She was a member of St. Patrick Church in Malvern Borough until 2011, when she learned that a priest there was among 21 facing allegations of sexual abuse.
She answered via email our questions about the legislative process, her goals for Justice 4 PA Kids, and what people should know about childhood sexual abuse.
Malvern Patch: If you could snap your fingers and enact one law tomorrow, what would it be?
Maureen Martinez: Abolishing the statute of limitations for any victim of child sex abuse in our Commonwealth. There are no statute of limitations for murder so why should child sex abuse be treated any differently? Also equally important is a civil two year window implemented to help identify current predators. In California, the window was opened for just one year and 1,000 new suits were filed which identified some 300 more perpetrators. Identifying more perpetrators helps protect children from being harmed in the future. Statute of limitation reform is for the benefit of every child no matter who they were abused by- an uncle, a coach, a priest.
Which PA legislators have been most helpful to you, and how have they helped?
MM: Rep. Louise Bishop, (D-Philadelphia) Rep. Michael McGeehan (D- Philadelphia) Rep. Duane Milne, (R-Chester County). McGeehan and Bishop are the sponsors of two separate State House Representatives bills. Their staff has provided us with a wealth of information as to how a bill moves through various committees and all the steps in this process. Rep. Milne has been helpful in being genuinely interested in this issue. Rep. Bishop has introduced House Bill 237 which would remove the statute of limitations on criminal charges and civil lawsuits. Rep. McGeehan has introduced House Bill 238, which would open a two year window in child sexual abuse cases to provide victims with the opportunity to civilly bring suit against a person or entity. Additionally, his legislation would seek to make child sexual abuse an exception to the sovereign immunity defense to allow victims to sue public entities.
What has been the greatest obstacle in getting your legislation moved through the assembly?
MM: Last legislative cycle the bills remained in the Judiciary Committee forever. They finally did move out of this committee and into the Rules Committee and then basically time ran out and The House of Representatives legislative cycle ended. We are hopeful this legislative cycle, the bills will move more swiftly through the Judiciary Committee.
The bills you championed didn't make it to Gov. Corbett's desk in the 2012 legislative session. Do you plan to modify your strategy and/or your goals in 2013?
MM: We do not plan on modifying our strategy. We will continue to write, call and email members of the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the bills and get the bills moving on the path towards the governor's desk for his signature.
What are some facts or statistics people might not be aware of that underscore the severity/prevalence child sexual abuse?
MM: According to the CDC's most recent data, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. Just think about this for a moment: this is greater than Autism which is 1 in 10 children and greater than Leukemia which is 1 in 29,000 children. Autism and Leukemia have no known prevention. Childhood sexual abuse is preventable through education and better laws. The economic impact of child sexual abuse is quite alarming. The nationally acclaimed non-profit group, Darkness to Light has data to support the cost of child sexual abuse broken down per state. In Pennsylvania we spend $139,150,622 annually on costs related to child sexual abuse. The consequences of CSA (mental health problems, relationship and social problems, substance abuse issues, becoming a parent as a teen, compromised physical health and other factors manifested in the aftermath of CSA) many times result in the loss of earning potential over a lifetime, burdening the healthcare system, employers and tax payers.
What are examples of questions that you think parents—or anyone caring for children—should be asking themselves? [Editor's note: Some graphic language below.]
MM: The biggest question a caregiver should ask themselves is has the child's behavior changed in a way that concerns you? There are many signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse such as:
Regression to more of an Infantile Behavior (Bed Wetting, Thumb Sucking, Excessive Crying)
Torn or stained underclothing
Vaginal or rectal bleeding, pain, itching, swollen genitals, vaginal discharge or an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease)
Unusual interest in and/or knowledge of sexual matters
Expressing affection in ways that are inappropriate for a child of that age
Inappropriately exposing their Body / Genitals at home and/or in public
Sexual Acting Out / Inappropriate Sexual Play (with Self, Other Children, Adults, Pets, Toys)
Fear of a certain person or an intense dislike of being left somewhere or with someone
Trying to avoid a familiar adult
Fear of people of the same sex and/or age of the one who is abusing or has abused them
Afraid of places similar to where the abuse occurs or occurred
Overly Compliant Behavior
False Maturity / Mature Appearance and/or Behavior, inappropriate for their age (Acting or Dressing Older) / Heightened Sense of Responsibility / Devotion to Duty
Unusual / Strange / Inappropriate interaction between a child & a specific person
Unhealthy / Odd attachment to a specific person
Change in behavior only around a specific person
Difficulty walking or sitting
Wearing many layers of clothing
Afraid to be left alone
Unable to go to the bathroom or refuses to go; more than likely only around a certain person
Pretending to be sick or actually becoming ill / Recurring Health/Medical Issues
Loss of or lack of interest in friends, school, sports, other activities,
Hesitant to Change Clothes for Gym Class
Treat child sexual abuse as a safety issue when talking to your kids. How many times a day do we tell our kids to look both ways to cross the street? Or remind them to put on their seat belt? Maybe every day! Well, then that's how often you should be talking to them about private part safety. So, buckle up, look both ways, never touch privates, never let anyone touch your privates, if so, tell me right away. The goal is you want your child to feel like if it DID happen to them they will come and tell you right away.
You left the Catholic Church after the abuse scandal broke—is there any action the church could take to bring you back?
MM: This is a tough question for me. I had 12 years of Catholic education. Went to a high school similar to Villa Maria where I grew up in Buffalo, NY. I was a lecture, involved in CYO and received all my Catholic sacraments. I experienced many wonderful experiences in my Catholic faith. I grew up with a priest who said Mass in my parents yard and never ever heard of clergy abuse. However, when I heard of the priest who baptized my children being removed for possible sexual abuse of children I started doing a lot of research and what I found out bothered me a lot.
The fact that the Catholic Church covered up the priests who were sexually abusing children and allowing those perpretrators to be shuffled to another parish to have a new pool to abuse children is hypocritical and inexcusable. I also don't like the fact that 10% of the money I put in the basket every week goes directly to the Archdiocese and there is no way of knowing or earmarking what that money goes towards- it could be to help feed and clothe the needy (which is what I would want) OR it could also be to pay for attorney's fees for a priest on trial for sexual abuse (something I would not want my money going towards). People have said to me- “well, then don't give.” But I want to give, I believe in Jesus' message of helping those in need. I believe ones life should be about constantly giving -- be it your money, your time, your talents for the better of mankind.
In my opinion, the Catholic Church can redeem itself by showing total and complete accountability and transparency.
What are your hopes and plans for Justice4PAKids in coming years?
MM: To stay true to our mission statement about changing legislation and providing awareness through education. We offer seminars to anyone who would like to listen. We have a bevy of qualified speakers ranging from pediatricians to counselors to attorneys to survivors who are willing the come out to Moms clubs, schools, boy or girl scout troops, churches, camps, etc. We have done 4 seminars since our inception in April 2011 and the more people that can listen to the message, the better. Thirty years ago, when first lady Betty Ford underwent radical breast cancer surgery, no one talked publicly about breast cancer. Now, the pink breast cancer awareness symbol is on a pack of hot dogs buns a Giant and the Komen for the Cure organization has raised more than $1 billion for breast cancer education and research.
Helping the Abused
by MIRANDA KLINGENBERG
For the past month, local victims' advocates along with their peers nationwide have marked National Stalking Awareness Month. Over 6.5 million victims were affected in 2010.
Stalking is a crime is every U.S. state, and yet many underestimate its seriousness, and often struggle even to define it, they say.
A weapon is used to harm or threaten victims in one in five cases. Stalking is also a major risk factor for homicides of women in abusive relationships. Victims experience anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression. Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute and unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but instead a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking can take many forms such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, animal abuse, unwanted cards, gifts, or visits. One in four victims reported their stalker used technology like GPS, hidden cameras, or computers to track their daily activities. Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile and many follow their victims from different jurisdictions which makes it harder for authorities to investigate and prosecute.
"If more people learn to recognize stalking," said Jenny Ahlers, Buena Vista and Sac County Coordinator, CAASA, "we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies."
CAASA stands for Center Against Abuse and Sexual Assault. It is a private non-profit agency providing care for victims of domestic and sexual violence in various counties in Northwest Iowa. Their mission is to "eliminate personal, institutional and societal violence against individuals by empowering victim/survivors and providing supportive programs and services." The services offered include a 24 hour crisis line, crisis counseling, advocacy for adults and children, support groups, shelter, medical and legal advocacy, school outreach, violence prevention programs, community education, information programs, professional education. All services are free of charge and absolutely confidential.
Ahlers says "CAASA is a very important organization because it provides victims and survivors support, counseling, information, and advocacy in a variety of ways. CAASA is the the only domestic violence/sexual assault agency in our area."
CAASA's advocates focus highly on the well-being and safety of victims while also providing support and guidance. Victim advocates provide emotional support, coordinate victims with valuable resources, and assist in making difficult decisions by helping victims with each step of the process. These advocates also help victims by informing them of their rights, coordinating the victims with health, legal, and social services, offering comfort and support in various settings, conducting safety planning, offering crisis intervention. Victim advocates also make themselves available for the victim to share their feelings and receive help in making a plan to get support from their network of family and friends.
When victims of sexual assault and domestic violence face concerns in safety, CAASA advocates assist in planning for safety. When initially responding to a sexual assault or domestic violence call, advocates provide information, assistance, and comfort to victims during emergency procedures as well as helping those close to the victim who are affected by the sexual assault or domestic violence. Advocates are also capable of assisting in criminal justice cases. When needed, victim advocates can help by keeping the victim up to date on any court proceedings or meetings, explaining each step of the process, accompany the victim to proceedings, assist in preparation and support during prosecution and proceedings, or serve as a link of communication for victims within the court system.
Safe Touch is a sexual abuse prevention program that CAASA also provides in schools. The program provides age appropriate information to spread awareness to children about the concept of safe touch and inappropriate touch. Safe Touch focuses on how children and teens can protect themselves from any forms of abuse or unwanted touch. The program emphasizes focus on the problems associated with abusive situations among family members, acquaintances, strangers, and peers to help empower children and adolescents to seek help if threatened or victimized.
CAASA sees around 800 clients per year consistently and 9% utilize the shelter while the remaining 91% utilize outreach office services. In the last six months there has been a slight increase in clients.
So what are some of the difficulties the organization is faced with? CAASA is spread over an area of eight counties and encounters difficulties with lack of staff. Each adult domestic violence/sexual assault advocate covers 2 counties and make themselves available at all times. The crisis line and shelters both require 24/7 staff members as well. Another major struggle the organization faces is a cut in funding. CAASA is facing a 30% cut starting July 1, which is occurring statewide. Currently there are 24 domestic violence/sexual assault shelters in Iowa. As of July 1, it is anticipated that there may be between six and eight left in the state.
Ahlers says, "although shelters will be closing, we will still keep people safe by collaborating with local hotels and motels." According to the statistics, only 9% of victims use shelter services. CAASA plans to reach out to communities, churches, and civic groups to help provide emergency housing funds to help keep victims safe within their homes or in establishing a new residence if needed.
"With the upcoming changes comes a great opportunity for increased awareness and prevention while continuing to provide all the services we currently offer," said Ahlers.
For any questions, comments, or donations you might have, Jenny Ahlers can be contacted at 732-8120.
Heartland Girls' Ranch helps heal underage victims of sex trafficking
by Sasha Aslanian
BENSON, Minn. — She holds her neck and shoulders tense, and barely speaks. But on a walk to the pasture to halter her horse, the girl begins to relax.
"Come on honey," she tells her horse softly, coaxing him toward the barn. "Come on."
A tan Appaloosa whose coat has grown thick for winter, Arnold is stubborn and a bit alone in the world, untrusting. So is the girl.
"We do the same things," she said. "If I'm scared, I usually isolate, and that's what he does. He stays away from horses. He goes in the barn."
Like her horse, the sixteen-year-old girl has stepped away from others. But in her case, the solitude of the Heartland Girls' Ranch is a healthy refuge from sexual exploitation.
Founded more than 20 years ago as a place for abused or neglected girls, the ranch accepts girls referred by county child protection workers for a variety of reasons, but largely because they have been abused or neglected. In recent years, Minnesota counties have increasingly sent girls who are victims of sex trafficking, some of whom were sold on websites like backpage.com.
To combat the growing problem of sex trafficking, Minnesota is changing how it views underage victims. In 2011, the state passed a Safe Harbor law that said children age 16 years and younger engaged in prostitution are victims, not delinquents. Today at the state Capitol, lawmakers, county attorneys, police and advocates for children plan to introduce what they hope will be phase two of the plan. They're asking lawmakers to help sexually exploited children and teens, by providing more support for them, and safe housing that is not juvenile detention.
Four of the girls living at the ranch are recovering from those experiences, executive director CeCe Terlouw said.
"It strips them of self, it strips them of any dignity," she said of the abuse. "You know, these young brains which are forming are now skewed and [have] a mistrust and understanding of adults and who they are as a person and what their body is for. It's just really a warping of soul and body."
MPR News obtained permission to interview two girls living at the ranch who were forced into prostitution or sexually exploited by an adult. MPR News is not identifying them to safeguard their privacy as underage victims.
Girls ages 12 to 18 spend an average of eight or nine months living at the ranch and attend classes in their own wing of the Benson High School. Those who are ready can take classes with other students. They gain work experience fulfilling orders in the ranch's custom embroidery business. Some find jobs in town, helping at the local library or hair salon.
Counties pay $169 a day for each girl they send to the ranch, which provides a safe, therapeutic environment. Terlouw said its remote location two hours west of the Twin Cities metropolitan area is an asset.
"I don't think we've ever had a pimp come to Benson, Minn., to track down a girl," she said.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
For the girls, some of the most important healing comes through working with the horses on the ranch.
Bridget Kinnell, the horse program manager at the ranch, matches each girl with a horse based on riding ability, and her intuition.
"If I have a girl that I know has a strong personality, [who] might have some issues with bullying, or aggressiveness, I'm going to match her with horse that is high up in the herd, that is also a strong personality," Kinnell said. "If she uses those normal ways that she would interact with people, this horse is going to not respond. If they're a girl that's maybe more quiet or fearful I'm going to match them with a horse that is more kind of like them."
Girls who have difficulty trusting people will find that horses have a startling honesty. Horses respond to a rider's body language, sometimes sparking a girl's insight more quickly than a therapist could.
For example, Kinnel gave a girl who had run away a horse that no one could catch. She said the girl made the connection.
"We can ask them how it feels to be on the other side," Kinnell said. "Now they're the person having to deal with that behavior. And it gives them some empathy for the people in their lives and kind of how their behavior has affected others."
On one frozen evening, the last girl in the barn with Kinnell rode lap after lap with a horse who wanted to go his own way.
"Don't let him destroy your plan," Kinnell told the girl, 15. "He takes a lot of mental focus. You got to stay thinking one step ahead of him."
The horse resisted the girl's effort to teach him a new pattern. But she understood, as she doesn't like to be controlled either. She began rebelling at age 11, and her grandmother, who raised her, couldn't rein her in.
"My grandma's old and she can't really enforce the rules around me so I just do stuff without her permission," the 15-year-old said. "And it's not like she can't do much anyways, and then the law got involved for me not going to school. I had to get locked up for truancy... it just goes on and on."
To escape from difficult situations, girls like those on the ranch sometimes bolt without a plan, Terlouw said.
That makes them vulnerable to people who want to exploit them. The goal of the ranch, she said, is to make sure girls leave with new skills and self-confidence.
"They need to have a vision of what their future can hold," Terlouw said. "I see with the trafficked girls, you know, they have felt their body was the thing they had, that they can make money. They need to be able to understand and see there can be a future for them, and there is a way they can meet their needs without that as something to fall back on."
MORE SPACE NEEDED FOR SERVICES
State lawmakers are also pondering the future of young victims of sexual trafficking.
Although the Heartland Girls Ranch isn't a dedicated space for girls victimized by sexual trafficking, it could expand to serve more of them. After the Safe Harbor law goes into effect in August of next year, the state will need more places for them to go that aren't juvenile detention, said Jeff Bauer, director of public policy for the Family Partnership, a Minneapolis service organization that provides counseling and education services.
"There are currently two beds existing in the entire state of Minnesota specifically for trafficked--sex trafficked children, and those are both at Breaking Free here in St. Paul," said Bauer, who helped draft a series of recommendations to the legislature. More safe housing is a big one.
"I think they recently got some funding to add two more beds, but you know, we're talking about between 35 and 40 beds, minimum, per night that we need across the state," he said. "So the gap is wide."
Breaking Free, a non-profit run by survivors of prostitution is one of the groups that worked with law enforcement, prosecutors and state commissioners to develop the "No Wrong Door" proposal scheduled to be introduced at the legislature today.
But the $13.5 million proposal to fund a statewide response to sex trafficked children is not in Gov. Mark Dayton's budget.
As Minnesota comes to grips with its child trafficking problem, the solutions are not easy. Advocates for sexually exploited young people say they are a difficult population to work with, even when placed in a safe environment.
The 16-year-old at the Heartland Girls Ranch admits she still thinks about running.
"There's sometimes when I just want to walk out the door and not look back," said the girl, who wants to be a social worker. "But this is a good opportunity for me to get my life together and start over."
Starting over at age 16 however, means catching up in school after being away for a couple of years.
After the trauma she has been through in her young life, she has a chance to be a teenager. She's at peace, riding Arnold.
"I feel free," she said.
Why did adults let it go on?
In emotional appearance, alleged abuse victims of William Sheehan ask for full investigation by town
by Frank Mortimer
His face twisted in pain, his slim frame at moments held up by three fellow sufferers at his side, Kevin Corliss on Tuesday night told what he went through as a child when a community failed to stop -- and in fact honored -- a sexual predator in its midst.
"Hundreds of assaults on young children under their nose in the town administration. No one knew seems preposterous," said Corliss, who works for Foxboro Public Schools and credits current superintendent Debra Spinelli with helping him bring the crimes he and others allegedly suffered to light last summer.
He and many in the audience wept as he spoke.
While authorities must in fairness use the term alleged about the reports on William E. Sheehan's sexual attacks on Foxboro children from the 1960s until 1981, board chairman James DeVellis, who joined member Mark Sullivan in a private talk with victims last Sunday, said the evidence that the crimes were real is overwhelming.
DeVellis and the board are considering the request made by four men that night to hire an independent investigator to uncover the role of other adults allowing Sheehan to molest children, then see him off to a new teaching job in Florida in 1981, where he was eventually barred from teaching and scouting for similar reported abuses.
Corliss, born in 1956, said he first met Sheehan as a second grade kid at the local swimming hole, the same year that Sheehan, a Boy Scout leader, started teaching at what then was the Lewis Elementary School.
"That day was the first of my many assaults. These took place in his classroom," Corliss said in a packed selectmen's meeting. "He then befriended me at the new Cocasset River Park, where he was the swimming director. At the park he would take you off into the woods and rape you. If you were able to get away he would chase you down. He always seemed to come out of nowhere and attack you. There was no way to get away. After a while it was quicker and less painful to let it happen ... That was the start of the worst three years of my life. He did things to me that left me tormented and confused to this day."
Corliss was joined by two other alleged victims of Sheehan and Rev. Bill Dudley in urging the board to hire an independent investigator to uncover how responsible adults for some two decades allowed a teacher, scout leader and coach to molest child after child.
Corliss said the attacks by Sheehan, who is now in a Florida nursing home suffering from what his relatives say is Alzheimer's disease, have had a "lifelong impact on all victims' lives. Multiply my story by at least 28 and that is what the board should understand."
Dudley, who himself reported escaping from a sexual assault by Sheehan when he was a child, read a statement urging specific actions by the board and asking questions:
"We have questions regarding any ensuing actions by his managers regarding discovery. Where are his records? Has anyone looked for them? Who is in charge of these records?" Dudley asked.
"What safety plan is in place today to provide protection from abuse for future generations and to provide peace of mind to parents?"
At a minimum, Dudley said, an independent investigator should be allowed to carry out the following:
|1. All survivors should be re-interviewed, as now it is more of an answer-finding mission than that done initially, which was a criminal investigation. This may produce other related information.
2. The person with the "missing school personnel file" must return it.
3. All communication at or around 2001 between local police and the DA's office must be produced.
4. All persons on the "list" given by survivors to the police, where applicable, as well as any new names that come to light, must be interviewed as to any recollections, other's involvement, etc which might help put the puzzle together.
5. Recreational Department: All relevant files including Sheehan evaluation, concerns and reasons for his leaving should be investigated.
"We need to make it know that the Town of Foxboro is a place where kids are vigilantly protected, where pedophiles cannot succeed and will be exposed and prosecuted."
LePage seeks stronger measures to keep guns away from domestic abusers
by Christopher Cousins
AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage continued his laser focus on the prevention of domestic violence Thursday with the creation of a task force that's assigned a broad goal and tight timeline.
The task force, whose report to LePage is due by July 31, will review existing laws and practices in Maine to ensure that court-issued protection from abuse orders are effective in safeguarding victims of domestic abuse and violence. The task force will include law enforcement and legal community authorities, representatives from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, firearms owners and sportsmen. Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police, will serve as the chairman.
While LePage said during a press conference Thursday in the State House that it is not his goal to take firearms away from law-abiding citizens, the thrust of his task force is toward gun control.
“The constitutions of Maine and the United States are clear that people have the right to keep and bear arms,” said LePage. “My order will review ways to ensure that existing laws and court orders are enforced effectively to keep weapons away from domestic abusers.”
In the past two years, LePage has been working on the problem in incremental steps. He has supported legislation to amend Maine's bail code to ensure judges determine bail for domestic violence offenses and expanded financial resources for victims and their families by requiring abusers to make payments to the state's victim's compensation fund.
Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday that LePage deserves considerable credit for bringing attention to the issue. High-profile murder cases in Maine, most notably the deaths of the Lake family at the hands of Steven Lake in Dexter in 2011, have also helped bring attention to the issue in their own horrible way, said Colpitts.
“The number of calls and contacts we're receiving from victims and survivors at our centers has gone up dramatically in the past two years,” she said. “People have just put down their ideological swirls and put the domestic violence issue first.”
The coalition worked with more than 13,000 Mainers in 2012 who were affected by domestic violence, including 12,227 adults and 888 children. The coalition's crisis hotline logged more than 32,000 calls and its centers statewide saw nearly 100,000 in-person contacts.
Colpitts said she believes more regulation on guns could curb those numbers.
“Maine has a long tradition of responsible firearm possession,” she said. “Unfortunately, it also has a long trend of domestic violence homicides. What I think people are coming to understand is that there are people who are high risks to own firearms.”
Legislators are also focused on the issue. Lawmakers have proposed several bills this session that have to do with gun control and safety, according to the office of the Revisor of Statutes — and the majority of bills coming forward this legislative session have not yet been printed.
A bill requiring public secondary schools to offer voluntary courses in gun safety and handling is proposed by Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, and Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, has proposed requiring background checks for people who buy guns at gun shows. There are also several bills aimed at concealed handgun permits, including one that would establish a central concealed handgun permit database and another that would designate the Maine State Police as the only department in Maine authorized to issue permits. Currently, many of Maine's larger police departments issue the permits, though the state police do it for smaller municipalities.
LePage also used Thursday's event to sign a proclamation recognizing February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357 , TRS 800-787-3224 . This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.
Merkley, Oregon prosecutors to highlight need for law protecting women from domestic abuse
by Charles Pope
WASHINGTON - With momentum building in the Senate to expand protections for women from domestic abuse, Sen. Jeff Merkley
will join three Oregon prosecutors today to focus attention on how law would benefit women in the state.
The news conference with Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis and Clackamas County DA John Foote is part of a broader effort to build support for renewing the Violence Against Women Act as it moves to a final vote this week, perhaps as early as today.
Passage is nearly certain in the Senate but Merkley and other supporters want a lopsided vote and vocal local support to push the legislation past a more resistant House. That is why supporters are driving home what they say are the law's benefits.
"It is unacceptable that Congress has let this law lapse," Merkley said Wednesday. "Survivors of domestic violence are counting on us to act, and this should not be a partisan political issue."
At issue is the Violence Against Women Act, a law that was first passed in 1994 and renewed in 2000 and again in 2005. It expired in 2011 and now Congress is trying once again to renew - and expand - a measure that historically has had bipartisan support.
The law provides grants to state and local governments for legal assistance, transitional housing, law enforcement training, stalker databases and domestic-violence hotlines. It also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department.
Oregon received $9.4 million in 2012, the last year money was available. The money was used to provide transitional housing in Eugene, a "crisis center" in McMinnville and to help underwrite the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic And Sexual Violence in Portland, among other uses. Other funding went directly to counties to help women who suffered abuse as well as the Oregon Department of Justice.
In all, 18 grants were awarded in 2012.
The programs authorized under the act are still in place. But without re-authorization of the law, they cannot be expanded or improved and money to fund them would be in jeopardy. The Senate bill would consolidate 13 existing programs into four and set aside about $659 million over five years for the programs, down 17 percent from the last renewal in 2005.
The Senate bill, while making minor concessions to meet GOP concerns, is essentially the same as the measure that passed that chamber last April on a 68-31 vote, with 15 Republicans voting yes. It focuses on ensuring that college students, immigrants, Native Americans and gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people have access to anti-abuse programs.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that since the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, was enacted in 1994 the annual incidence of domestic violence has fallen by more than 50 percent. "We have something here that's been a success. These are thousands of lives made immeasurably better," said Leahy, sponsor of the legislation with Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho.
Merkley and the prosecutors will argue the need is there.
According to a survey of a single day in Oregon, 1,692 women and children were served on Sept. 15, 2012. The one-day survey is a part of a national effort to detail the extend of domestic abuse against women and the services available to assist them.
According to the census, 738 domestic violence victims in Oregon found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs on that single day.
Nine hundred fifty-four "adults and children received non-residential assistance and services, including individual counseling, legal advocacy, and children's support groups," the annual report said.
There were 650 calls to domestic violence hotlines and 423 "unmet requests for services."
"Many programs reported a critical shortage of funds and staff to assist victims in need of services such as transportation, childcare, language translation, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and legal representation," the report said.
In 2010 there were 1,993 women and children seeking services because of domestic abuse on Sept. 15. And while the number was higher than in 2012, at 298 there were fewer unmet requests for services.
The coordinated effort this year is influenced by history. The Democratic-led Senate and GOP-led House tried last year to pass the new version of the 1994 law that expired in 2011. But the two chambers were unable to reach a compromise. With Republican losses among female voters in the November election, however, Senate advocates are hoping it will be easier to find common ground with House Republicans.
Advocates like Merkley are optimistic the outcome will be different this year. In a test vote on Monday, the Senate voted 85-8 to debate the bill. The bill under consideration would expand the law to include Native Americans, gays and lesbians.
Politics is also at work. Women preferred Democrats over Republicans in November in large part because Democrats blamed Republicans for blocking renewal of the law and opposing the best interest of women, a large voting bloc. GOP leaders see passage of VAMA as a way to partially reverse the trend and repair the damage.
Medical examination traumatizes child victims of sexual abuse
NEW DELHI: "Oh! It was just a small rape - it's no big deal," is what a lady doctor told 12-year-old Krishna (name changed) after a medical examination in which she was put through the infamous "two-finger test". The Supreme Court has ordered that this test must not be carried out to establish rape but it's still in vogue.
The trauma of the medical examination is reflected in Krishna 's testimony. She says, "The doctor asked me to lie down on a table. When she examined me it hurt and I was scared. I did not like what the doctor was doing to me." A resident of Uttar Pradesh , Krishna was raped in June 2012 and had alleged that she was threatened by the police to change her statement and kept in jail for 12 days.
This is one of the many accounts of child victims of sexual abuse
and the maltreatment that follows after rape during medical examination at police stations and in child care institutions. It also highlights the tedious process of the criminal justice system. Krishna's trauma has been captured as part of testimonies from all over India in "Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse
in India", a report released by the international voluntary organization, Human Rights Watch.
The report opens with an account of the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a bus in the capital on December 16 and emphasizes the need for the government to put in place stronger laws and implementation mechanism
In a section marked as "Traumatic medical examinations ", the experience of Delhi's additional deputy commissioner, Suman Nalwa, who heads a special unit for women and children, underlines the difficulties. Nalwa says she failed to persuade a mother to lodge a case against the accused (victim's father) for molesting their 11-year-old daughter because of the bad experience during medical examination at the hospital. Nalwa had promised the victim that her name would be secret and the trial would be in camera but the treatment meted out by the hospital during medical examination was so pathetic that the victim said, "You know, you promised me so many things and this is only the first step." Witness Nalwa's helplessness despite being in a position of authority - "She (victim) just walked out and never came back".
The report points out that under the Indian criminal law, the prosecution can secure conviction for rape on the basis of just the testimony of the victim and hence corroboration by forensic evidence is not mandatory. "It is a routine practice,for victims to be examined by a doctor. The findings are commonly known as medico-legal reports and can play an important part in whether or not the police and prosecutors believe a rape survivor's account."
The report states that the "two-finger test" continues to be a standard practice in many Indian hospitals though forensic experts say it has no scientific value. Even the working group on women's agency and empowerment involved in the making of the 12th Five Year Plan has called for abolition of the test as it heightens the trauma of the victim.
Explaining the objective of the report, Human Rights Watch
said: "The report used detailed case studies rather than a quantitative analysis to examine government mechanisms to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. Many children are effectively mistreated a second time by traumatic medical examinations and by police and other authorities who do not want to hear or believe their accounts."
The international organization has demand that protection mechanisms must be properly implemented and the justice system reformed to ensure that abuse is reported and fully prosecuted. It recommends that the government must adopt a protocol for the medical treatment and examination of victims of child sexual abuse, in accordance with guidelines developed by the World Health Organization.
Saudi Arabia's Child-Rape Case: Female Activists Fight to Prevent Abuse
A monstrous case of abuse in Saudi Arabia shakes the kingdom and strengthens the cause of Saudi women activists.
by Christopher Dickey
The torture and murder of 5-year-old Lama Al Ghamdi could hardly have been more horrific—and news of it, repeated in countless Twitter feeds, has enflamed opinion around the world. But the fact that this story of one little girl's death and one father's monstrosity went public is also a sign of just how hard women in Saudi Arabia are working to fight the cruel misogyny embedded in the kingdom's version of Islamic law. And among those women is a daughter of the king.
The basic facts are these, according to Saudi activists and Saudi press reports: When Lama Al Ghamdi was hospitalized on Christmas Day 2011, she had a crushed skull. Her left arm and some of her ribs were broken and one of her fingernails torn off. The child's mother, who is divorced from the father and did not have custody, says that hospital staff told her the girl's rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed. It took 10 long, agonizing months before, finally, the little girl died.
Fayhan Al Ghamdi, a self-styled Islamic preacher who appears occasionally on local TV shows pontificating about morality, was arrested last year and charged with murder. He told authorities that he had suspected his 5-year old daughter was not a virgin. He had even taken her to a doctor to check. But apparently that had not satisfied him. He admitted he'd used a cane and electrical cables on the child. That would have been quite a confession. But, then, Islamic scholar that he believed himself to be, he may have felt he wouldn't have to pay too steep a price for the crime.
Saudi law claims to follow a clear path ( sharia ) laid out in the Quran, but in practice it's based on a maze of sayings and traditions ( hadith ) with as many baffling contradictions as the codes used by lawyers anywhere. According to one reading, a father cannot be held fully accountable for the death of his children; their loss is a punishment for him. So the question arose in the proceedings whether Al Ghamdi could simply pay the mother “blood money” for the loss of her daughter and walk free.
Contrary to the first bulletin on the case put out by Saudi activists Aziza Al Yousef and Manal Al Sharif (who are famous for challenging the ridiculous Saudi ban on women driving), the court never actually made this now-infamous ruling. Al Yousef, backtracking, subsequently explained to the BBC that “there is no official verdict yet” and the blood-money question is “just talking.” But the activists, for obvious and laudable reasons, want this option to be taken off the books in this case and for all time.
The mother has said she will not accept payment. She has asked that the stepmother be investigated as well, and she has told her advocates that she wants to see her ex-husband executed, which in Saudi Arabia means beheading.
Before the middle of the last decade, domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia were treated mainly as family affairs. Nobody wanted to talk about them, and if police did bother to investigate suspected crimes, which was rare, they found proof very hard to come by.
But it's important to remember Saudi Arabia is not the only country where domestic abuse is a hidden crime. Indeed, the United States has the worst record in the industrialized world. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost five children a day die from neglect or abuse, but according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, those numbers almost certainly are understated.
Before the middle of the last decade, domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia were treated mainly as family affairs.
In Saudi Arabia concerted action to get abuse cases reported and abusers prosecuted began with the creation of the National Family Safety Program in 2005 under the patronage of King Abdullah's late sister, Princess Seeta, and with the active involvement of his daughter, Princess Adelah. She serves as the vice chair and is as passionate as she is privileged when it comes to fighting for women's rights.
“We are finding it hard; we find lots of resistance,” she told me in a 2009 interview, while she was battling (as she continues to do) for improved education for girls. “These things aren't given to you. If you look at history, you need to pull them out of society.”
The Family Safety Program has become a social force to be reckoned with in the kingdom, to the extent that the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia felt the need to write a letter making it clear that domestic violence is a crime and should not be considered a family matter. But this was not a fatwa , or religious edict, and even if it were, Saudi judges interpreting the sharia would not feel compelled to follow it.
Over the long run, the aim of women activists is to end a system where females of any age are treated in public and before the law as if they must be dependent children behind their veils, not seen and not heard, with few rights and little recourse.
The aim of the Family Safety Program, directed by pediatrician Maha Al Muneef, has been to get the issue of abuse out in the open, get it reported, get laws changed, and get immediate protection for those in danger. It has set up a hotline; raises awareness in communities; and helps train doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, and cops to recognize the signs of abuse. There are now more than 40 hospital-based “child-protection centers” around the country. The result has been a dramatic statistical increase in the number of cases because, at long last, those cases are being reported. “Women are more aware of their rights and they are breaking the silence,” Al Muneef told the English-language Arab News in January. In the case of little Lama, her injuries were reported by the child-protection center in King Saud Hospital in Riyadh. “I think it was discovered because of increased awareness and knowledge among the professionals, who can differentiate between accidental injuries and abusive injuries,” Muneef told me.
Without this infrastructure, it is possible, even likely, that the horrifying case of Lama Al Ghamdi would never have been revealed. But once it was, it became the subject of coverage and debate throughout the kingdom. “Issues of child abuse or women abuse became a topic that is openly discussed in the kingdom, it is not a taboo anymore,” says historian Hatoon Al Fassi. And the fight goes on.
Arlington man sentenced to life for sexually abusing children
by Mitch Mitchell
FORT WORTH -- As eight young women and girls looked on, a 42-year-old Arlington man was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the continuous sexual abuse of children.
Jurors took 12 minutes to assess his sentence. Earlier Thursday, they took less than four hours to convict him.
The eight accusers testified this week that Gregg Wesley MacIntosh, 42, molested them while they were ages 5 to 12.
The eight girls and young women and their mothers filled two rows of benches in the back of state District Judge Robb Catalano's courtroom. Three girls testified in the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. Five others testified in the sentencing phase. After the sentence was read, they gathered to embrace each other.
"After more than a decade of sexually abusing young girls, the jury gave Gregg MacIntosh the punishment he deserves," Alana Minton, who prosecuted the case, said in a statement. "Nothing other than life without parole was going to stop him."
The eight who testified were relatives of MacIntosh or friends of relatives or children of women he dated. The Star-Telegram is not identifying the girls because of their ages and the nature of the charges.
One girl testified that MacIntosh gave her money after he rubbed her on top of her clothes near her genitals. One time, MacIntosh gave her $60 that she used to buy toys, she testified.
"It made me feel uncomfortable," she said. "I told my school counselor."
In another case, a young relative reported that MacIntosh had molested her. That complaint triggered a probation revocation hearing that could have sent him back to prison on a 2001 charge of indecency with a child/fondling, testified B. Taylor, a Tarrant County probation officer.
But she recanted her statement, and the petition expired and the probation revocation hearing was dismissed, Taylor told the jury.
"He was deceitful," Taylor said. "I was worried about him re-offending."
One girl testified that her mother did not believe her when she said MacIntosh was molesting her. She ultimately took back her statement, she told the jury.
Minton noted in her closing argument that often when complaints were made about MacIntosh, he was able to get the girls to recant.
"We failed. We failed those kids," Minton said as she choked back tears. "He got away with it. He used the weapon of fear and manipulation and that's the weapon that kept them quiet. The more trust, the more fear, the more control he had over a child, the greater the abuse."
One girl said the abuse started when she was 5 and continued until she was 11 or 12, months before she reported the abuse to authorities.
Two girls who testified this week said MacIntosh lavished them with gifts, such as a Kindle Fire, bicycles and a horse, to gain their parents' trust and to make the girls like him.
The abuse occurred when they slept at his house. The girls testified that MacIntosh wanted them all to call him "Daddy."
"He gave them gifts, he gave them money, he did whatever he had to do to keep them quiet," prosecutor Leticia Martinez said during her closing statements.
"He knows he can get away with it because he knows how easy it is to attack children. It's time for it to be over. It's time for him to go to prison and never, ever have access to children again."
MacIntosh was convicted and sentenced under a law that took effect in 2007 with other legislation called Jessica's Laws. This particular law gives prosecutors the ability to pursue a sentence of life without parole for child predators who commit more than one offense of aggravated sexual assault against a child under 14, according to the Texas attorney general's website.
The law sets a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life for predators who commit aggravated sexual assault against a victim who is younger than 6 or in certain circumstances, if the victim is younger than 14, according to the attorney general.
"Facts such as these are exactly why the Legislature passed the continuous sexual abuse law," Minton said. "It's designed to keep predators like Gregg MacIntosh who preyed upon a number of children over a long period of time off the streets and away from our kids."
Woburn YMCA offers free sex abuse prevention program
by Christina Jedra
WOBURN — They gathered in a room where kids go to practice rock climbing. But as the morning unfolded, the handful of adults at the North Suburban YMCA confronted one of the most horrific things any parent could imagine: the sexual abuse of children.
Their program is called Stewards of Children because the idea behind it is that adults are responsible for preventing and identifying abuse.
The mission at the North Suburban branch of the YMCA in Woburn is to use the program to train at least 5 percent of the adults in the five towns served by the branch — about 6,000 people — so they can recognize the signs of child abuse and get victims out of harmful situations. The plan is to reach that number by 2017.
“The evidence shows that there is a tipping point when you get to that 5 percent in your community,” said Natalie Norton, senior vice president of operations for the Greater Boston YMCA. “The instances of child sexual abuse go down dramatically.”
The training sessions in Woburn, which started last month and continue through February, are free for people from Arlington, Burlington, Lexington, Winchester, and Woburn. The next session is on Wednesday at the North Suburban YMCA, and there is another on Feb. 27 at the Boys & Girls Club of Woburn.
The training, which was created by the nonprofit Darkness to Light, is also available for free online and at the Old Colony YMCA in Stoughton and the Melrose Family YMCA. The sessions are also held at police stations and other locations throughout the Boston area. In some cases there is a charge that ranges from $10 to $25.
Jodi Crowley, the Stewards of Children facilitator and member relations director of the North Suburban YMCA, said the training will have an effect.
“I want to make sure my little boy is protected in my community,” said the Woburn resident, who has a 7-year-old child. “We wanted to make sure that all five towns that we work with know how to better protect their children.”
Crowley estimated that the program will cost the YMCA about $20,000 this year for facilitator and participator training in the five towns, and it will require fund-raising.
“It's not an inexpensive program, but we strongly feel it's worth the investment,” she said.
The training program, which lasts about three hours, is an evidence-based lesson with three sessions in which a video is viewed, followed by a workbook exercise and a discussion period. The film presents firsthand accounts from victims including Mark Serrano, who was sexually abused by his priest, and Marilyn Van Derbur, a former Miss America and victim of incest by her father.
Throughout the video, experts in areas such as social services, child advocacy, and psychology comment on related topics, including the psychological effects of abuse, the financial cost of recovery, why many victims never tell anyone, and physical and behavioral signs to look for in children who may have been abused.
Deirdre Higgins, a Stewards of Children facilitator and a former educator, said there is an undeniable need for more awareness.
Darkness to Light estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they reach adulthood.
“I have seen so many sexual abuse cases where people don't know what to do,” said Higgins, a parent from Arlington who is a volunteer and member of the fund-raising board at the North Suburban YMCA.
“People don't know how to talk about it or don't want to talk about it,” said Higgins. “This program had good details on what to do. It's not just ‘Sexual abuse is bad and you should do this,' but really, ‘Here's the steps on what to do.' ”
Darkness to Light is revamping the Stewards of Children program and will make new materials available this summer, according to Crowley.
Susan Komisar Hausman, a program consultant at the Old Colony YMCA in Stoughton, said the new presentation will be shorter, more concise, and will include more of the information trained individuals ask for in their post-session evaluations.
“In terms of delivering information about how to respond to a child who does disclose [their experience with abuse], people want more,” said Hausman. “Some people have suggested we do mock situations in the training.”
As a child sexual abuse survivor herself who has trained more than 500 Stewards of Children attendees, Hausman said she believes in the program's mission and has seen the difference the course makes.
“They have a different lens when they leave,” she said.
Norton said that the current training received a great response in Melrose, where the community has made an effort to educate residents about sexual abuse after a YMCA employee was arrested for sexually assaulting two girls in 2009 and later pleaded guilty.
“There were instances of people coming back, saying, ‘I had the opportunity to intervene,' ” Norton said.
Diana Brennan, branch executive director at the Melrose YMCA, said that the former employee's crime was a stimulus to take action. The Melrose branch still holds training sessions with Darkness to Light materials in what they call Shine a Light.
“We really owed it to the community to take a proactive stance, to do everything we could to prevent it from happening in the future,” Brennan said.
Brennan said that the prevalence of child sexual abuse is shocking.
He noted that participants in every class in the Melrose program have offered personal stories.
“We've always had somebody privately disclose their connection or battle with sexual abuse,” she said. “It's a real reminder that this is more prevalent than society really wants to talk or think about, so we will continue.”
A man who took part in the training in Woburn last month said that, as a 12-year-old boy, he was a victim of sexual abuse by his priest.
“I never came forward. I never told my family,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous. “I believe that this trauma really affects peoples' lives.”
After a battle with addiction for more than two decades, he said, he overcame fear to attend the session last month and was considering becoming a facilitator for future abuse prevention programs.
Norton stressed the importance of educating more adults about child sexual abuse, because children often do not suspect danger when it is near.
“Kids are really educated on being aware and ‘Don't talk to strangers' and all those kinds of things, and that's great,” said Norton.
However, she cited a Darkness to Light statistic: 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser.
“It's their uncle. It's their aunt. It's their baby sitter. It's their mother or their father,” she said. “It's somewhat challenging to educate kids about that.”
Report Child Abuse-It's the law
(Video on site)
Reporting child abuse is up to you.
That's the message of a major new media campaign from the Department of Children and Families.
Florida now has the strongest child abuse reporting laws in the country.
Laura Hussey "Before the law changed in October, only certain people were required by law to report if they suspected child abuse doctors, teachers, child care workers. Now the law says anyone who suspects abuse has to make that call."
Don't miss the signs.
The message is going out on everything from television commercials to bookmarks.
Michele Harden/FWB "It's their right to be protected by us"
Michele Harden doesn't need a law book to tell her that, she's lived it.
Michele "When I was young, my son was molested. We went through years and years of therapy to work it out"
There were 729 confirmed abuse cases in Okaloosa and Walton Counties last year.
Jen Floro from the Children's Advocacy Center says they're even more worried about the cases that aren't reported.
Jen Floro "The biggest hesitation that we hear is I don't want to turn somebody in where it turns out to be a false allegation"
Floro says if investigators don't find abuse, there are no repercussions for the person who called.
On the other hand, the new law makes not reporting something you know a 3rd degree felony.
That was a surprise to Marcus Pearce and his friends, even though they believe in protecting kids.
Marcus "I understand getting in trouble and all, but not a felony, you can't vote, can't own a weapon or anything"
In the month after the new law passed, abuse reports went up by 16 %.
The awareness campaign spells out the signs of possible abuse.
Michele "I have called on people. I don't care if they're my best friends. If it's a child involved, it doesn't matter"
Laura Hussey "People are being asked to sign an online petition at dontmissthesigns.org. It says I commit my eyes and my voice to help protect our children.
To report suspected child abuse, call the state hotline at 1-800-962-2873.
Mom whose baby was born with cocaine in system wasn't neglectful, N.J. Supreme Court rules
by Susan K. Livio
TRENTON — In a far-reaching decision that clarifies what child abuse means and how families are investigated, the state Supreme Court ruled today that parents who engage in risky behavior cannot be found neglectful if there is no evidence they harmed their child.
Legal advocates hailed the 5-0 decision as a breakthrough for low-income parents they represent, saying they say are too often perceived guilty before having a chance to clear their names. Once he or she is deemed guilty of non-criminal child abuse or neglect, a parent's name is placed a child abuse registry for good.
"This is a long-awaited decision," said Mary McManus-Smith of Legal Services, which joined the case on behalf of the thousands of indigent parents they have represented in family court. "There are significant long-term consequences if you are on the registry. You can't be a teacher and child care provider. If you wanted to adopt ... they have to check to see if you are on the registry."
The ruling should set a uniform understanding of "what abuse is and isn't," she added.
The decision stems from a Cape May County case of a pregnant woman accused of ingesting cocaine two days before she went into labor in September 2007. Both she and her child tested positive for the drug while in the care of Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point. The hospital called the Division of Youth and Family Services, which concluded she had neglected her unborn baby by using drugs.
In June 2011, an appellate court sided with a family court judge who found the mother had "created the very risk of harm" by using cocaine two days before she gave birth.
But the state Supreme Court today disagreed, saying the child was born healthy with no ill effects from the cocaine — and that the state's child abuse law does not apply to the unborn.
"It is, of course, against the law for anyone to use cocaine, and we do not condone its use in any way," Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote for the court. "But this is not a criminal case. This appeal is also not about the morality of (the mother's) behavior while pregnant. It is the meaning of the specific language in the abuse and neglect statute."
Rabner said child abuse cases must weigh a parent's right to "raise a child without undue interference by the state" against the state's "responsibility to protect the welfare of children." Child welfare investigators in this case would have had to present evidence the mother's actions caused her newborn "actual harm" or put the child in "imminent danger," according to the 44-page ruling.
At DYFS's urging, the mother agreed that her interactions with the baby and her other child would be supervised by her parents for six months, and that she would undergo random drug tests. The state never removed the children from the mother. In an effort to clear her name, the mother, identified as A.L., appealed the family court ruling that she had neglected the baby.
Mary Coogan of the Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a child welfare advocacy group, praised the ruling, saying: "People should not be concerned that children will be at risk with this decision."
"The decision said the Division was correct in intervening and offering services to the family," Coogan said. The court also pointed out DYFS "could have accomplished the same thing" without having to bring the abuse and neglect charge, she added.
In a statement, Division of Law Director Christopher S. Porrino said he was "disappointed" by the decision but added that "it is important to note that the Court did recognize that the illegal ingestion of drugs during pregnancy can meet the legal definition of abuse where proof of actual harm or imminent danger is established,"
Assistant Public Defender Janice Anderson, representing the mother, said she expected the ruling to help other parents who, once accused, are "swimming against the tide" to prove their innocence.
The decision means "we cannot make the connection" that an episode of drug use "equals a bad parent and child is in danger," added Deputy Public Defender Robyn Veasey. The office will ask the court to remove the mother's name from the child abuse registry, she said.
Child sex abuse survivor still waiting for justice
by Bill White
Imagine you're 12 years old and broken.
The courts took you away from your drug addict mother and physically abusive father at age 10, placing you in a facility for abused kids that turned out to be a nest of sexual abusers. One staff member has taken a special interest in you, grooming you with special trips, gifts and personal attention that continue through foster care and a juvenile detention center. You've even gotten to know his family.
So when he offers you an opportunity to disappear with him at age 12, you take it, beginning almost six years of moving from place to place — and almost six years of sexual, physical and mental abuse that you're too badly damaged to escape. You never attend school through this whole period. As far as anyone else knows, you're a runaway, most likely dead.
By the time you find the strength to break away from the nightmare at age 17, the physical and mental scars are incalculable. You return to your father, and tell him nothing about what really happened. At age 22, you slash your wrists, the first of several attempts to kill yourself. Therapists offer drugs to stop the pain, and you begin abusing them.
By the time you finally tell the authorities what happened to you — emailing Gov. Rendell himself for help — they can't file charges, because the case falls outside the state's statutes of limitations as they existed at the time of the offenses. Imagine your frustration, even rage, fueled by continued drug abuse. Your marriage, which produces two children, fails, and you know you bear much of the blame. You end up with lots of time to think about it, because you're confined to federal prison for several years over an attempt to drag your estranged wife back home across state lines.
Your abuser? He's still working with young people, a situation that torments you. That first faith-based school, which had all kinds of signals that something bad was happening? It's protected by the statute of limitations, too.
I decided to meet last week with this survivor, now 37, because his story is a textbook example of why Pennsylvania needs to change its statute of limitations laws regarding child sex abuse. He was one of several abuse survivors who attended the recent Capitol press conference where advocates and legislators announced the reintroduction of bills that would make it easier to bring abusers to justice.
For legal reasons, I need to leave the names out and keep certain details vague, so let's just call him Tom. I have no way of verifying the details of Tom's story, even though I spent a couple of hours talking to him and found him credible. I also spoke with his lawyer, who said he interviewed the man at length twice, weeks apart, and the story never wavered. The lawyer finds him credible, too.
Since Tom was released from prison, there have been positive developments. He says his continuing therapy, his growing religious faith and responsibility for his children — he was given custody about six months after he got out of prison — have put his life on a healthier path. He still is battling post traumatic stress disorder, but he has a good job, and his personal life seems to be in a much better place.
He sent a brief written account of his nightmare to members of the state House Judiciary Committee in December 2011, when two bills aimed at reforming Pennsylvania's statute of limitations laws were buried there for months because the committee's leaders from both parties didn't want it brought up for open discussion and a vote. Watered-down versions of the bills finally were voted out of the committee last year, but they never made it to the House floor.
This brings us back to that recent press conference, where the introduction of new versions of those two bills was announced. They are HB 237, which would remove the statute of limitations for criminal charges and civil lawsuits, and HB 238, which would open a two-year window for victims to bring civil action in cases barred by the current law. The latter is particularly vital for Tom and other victims of past abuse, including many of those whose horrors were described in grand jury reports about child sex abuse in the Catholic Church's Philadelphia Archdiocese.
I asked advocates Maureen Martinez of Justice4PAkids and Tammy Lerner of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse about the prospects for the bills. Martinez sounded upbeat; Lerner discouraged by what happened last legislative session. Both agree the legislation is vital.
At the end of a long interview, I asked Tom what passage of those bills would mean to him. He spoke almost as if that young boy were a different person.
"It would give me, Tommy, a voice," he said. "It would enable me to help that little innocent child who was victimized. I'm a man now, speaking for him. I just want justice."
He said it felt good to stand up there in the Capitol last month to lend his presence to this important effort. It's the same reason he wanted to talk to me and get his story out.
"Instead of doing drugs," he said, "instead of trying to kill myself, I'm doing something positive."
Now it's the Legislature's turn. Again.
The trouble with statistics on child abuse and neglect in Michigan
by Dustin Dwyer
Today, I reported for State of Opportunity on some alarming new statistics on child abuse and neglect in Michigan.
You can click here to get the full story.
There is some debate about how to interpret a few of the statistics in the story.
One of the things I discovered while reporting the story is that it's actually hard to get good numbers on abuse and neglect in Michigan.
The state Department of Human Services provides a monthly fact sheet that includes the number of cases that were investigated, and how many were confirmed. But the numbers only cover two months worth of reports, and there's no detail on the nature of the cases, or where they occurred.
The Michigan League for Public Policy worked with the DHS to publish some more detailed measures of abuse and neglect in the latest Kids Count report.
From my perspective, even this report leaves as many questions as answers.
That said, the statistics we do have are cause enough for concern.
Here are four to keep in mind:
- There were 33,438 confirmed cases of abuse and neglect in Michigan in 2011. That's one out of every 100 kids, in that year alone.
- As many as 171,259 kids lived in homes where there had been a child protective services investigation in 2011. That's 1 out of every 13 kids in the state.
- Michigan had the 9th highest rate in the country for child abuse and neglect in 2010 . The numbers got worse in 2011.
- Nearly 5,000 infants were confirmed victims of abuse and neglect in 2011, making ages 0-1 the most at-risk year for children in Michigan, according to the MLPP.
That last statistic is particularly troublesome, and for me it creates a whole new set of questions.
I suspect that the reason infants show up more in the statistics is because of drug testing in hospitals. Hospitals do drug tests on the mother and baby at the time of birth. My guess is that many of the abuse and neglect cases for infants are about drug addiction, but since we don't have detailed statistics, it is just a guess.
It's important to remember that behind every statistic is a child, and numbers can never tell the full story of the suffering these children have been put through.
But the numbers do help us see just how big the problem has become in Michigan. And if we had more detailed numbers, we might have better solutions to help prevent the abuse in the first place.
Heart of the City: Little Warriors, big dreams
by Rayanne Forbes
It's a topic that frequently goes undiscussed but is an unfortunate prevalent issue in society … child sexual abuse. Statistics show that one in three girls and one in six boys will experience an unwanted sexual act in their lives.
After noticing a lack of awareness and a need for change, Glori Meldrum founded Little Warriors in 2005.
She was inspired to help all children who had been sexually abused because of her past experience as a survivor of child sexual abuse herself.
Little Warriors trains about 600 people a month and teaches adults how to help prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
In addition to prevention education, they provide information about the prevalence and frequency of child sexual abuse and information about healing and support resources.
Group training is also available for organizations, schools or just groups of friends who want to get educated. It is even possible to book an out-of-province session.
The name was inspired by a painting and the imagery of a warrior is linked to child sexual abuse because it is said that victims need the strength and spirit of their inner warrior to face their experiences and heal.
Like a warrior, these children also need the help, compassion, support and love of many people (like a tribe), to overcome the many obstacles they will face.
Since becoming a global leader for awareness, Meldrum has set her eyes on an ambitious new project. Little Warriors hopes to build the first of its kind treatment centre for children, the Be Brave Ranch.
Throughout the country there are dozens of centres dedicated to the rehabilitation of child rapists, but not a single long-term treatment facility devoted to the treatment of the victims they've left behind.
By creating the Be Brave Ranch, Little Warriors hopes to take a step towards correcting this inequality. Their mission is to provide a safe and secure place of treatment and healing, aimed at the mind, body, heart and spirit of child victims and their families.
Meldrum goes on to say, “I want to give these kids a chance to get better. In order to purchase the facility and create all programming, we need to raise an estimated $3.4 million and we are currently only sitting at about one million dollars.”
To date, all contributions have come from private and corporate donations and community foundations.
Unfortunately, they recently received a letter from the government of Alberta, stating that the $650,000 in funding they applied for the Be Brave Ranch was not available.
Demonstrating their warrior attitude, the team plans to persevere with numerous upcoming fundraisers in place. The next event is the Love Ball on Friday, Feb. 8 at the Courtyard by Marriott (West Edmonton).
The evening includes a five-course meal, followed by live and silent auctions. Individual tickets are $200 or $2,000 for a table of 10.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details and bookings.
If you would like to attend any of their training sessions, course rates and more information are available on their website at www.littlewarriors.ca
Donations are always accepted online or via credit card over the phone by calling 780-447-1343.
India faulted for failing to curb child sex abuse
NEW DELHI (AP) — India's government has failed to curb the rampant sexual abuse of children, especially in schools and state-run child care facilities, a rights group said Thursday.
Human Rights Watch cited in its report the recent fatal gang-rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus in December, an attack the shook the conscience of the nation and forced people to introspect on the way women are treated in India.
The outcry forced the government to rush through new laws to protect women. A government panel appointed after the attack to examine the country's treatment of women also shone a light on the high incidence of child sexual abuse and the failure of the government to ensure the implementation of child protection laws.
Child rights activists say the government needs to implement the panel's recommendations on preventing child sexual abuse as well.
The new report from Human Rights Watch said such abuse is disturbingly common, government responses are falling short in protecting children and in treating victims. The report urges the government to ensure rigorous implementation of child protection laws and strict monitoring of child care facilities. It calls for an end to traumatic medical examinations and insensitive treatment by police and other authorities, which subject victims to further distress.
There are no clear statistics on the number of child abuse cases in India, primarily because of the low reporting of such crimes. India's ministry of women and child said in 2007 that around 70 percent of abused children never reported the matter to anyone.
Despite the low reporting levels, the ministry then said 53.2 percent, or one out of two, children in India, reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. This statistic is even worse for state-run or -funded homes, activists said.
"The vulnerability of children to sexual abuse is very high, and it becomes worse because there is nobody monitoring these children's homes," said Anuja Gupta of the Recovering and Healing from Incest, or RAHI, Foundation in New Delhi.
She said in many child care facilities, the abuse was committed by the people in charge of taking care of the child.
"When the caretaker himself is the abuser, the situation is especially traumatic because then the child has nowhere to go," Gupta said.
Human Rights Watch said the inspections of state-run child facilities were inadequate, with many facilities not registered with the government as mandated by the law.
"Shockingly the very institutions that should protect vulnerable children can place them at risk of horrific child sexual abuse," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director, Human Rights Watch.
While the government in 2012 passed a comprehensive law to protect children from sexual offenses, its efforts to implement the law remained poor or nonexistent, activists say.
While child abuse is a problem elsewhere, in India it is further aggravated by poorly trained police officers who refuse to register complaints or encourage the victims to seek a settlement. Convictions are rare and cases can languish in the country's sluggish criminal and judicial process for years, if not decades.
Girls forced into prostitution face a harsh reality on Reno streets
by Tracie Douglas
By the age of 14, Leah Albright-Byrd said she had spent most of her life with an abusive and violent father, and a mother who went from relationship to relationship. The last straw for her was a screaming match with her father in the car. She claims he stopped the car, pulled her out, and choked her until she almost blacked out.
“That was it, I wasn't going to stay around for any more of that,” Albright-Byrd said.
So she called her best friend, who was also 14 and living in a tough family situation, and the two of them ran away. They spent the next several weeks living with different friends and sleeping on floors in strangers' homes.
“The guys are watching for girls who are vulnerable, and when you don't have any money, a home or anyone watching out for you, you like the attention they start giving you,” she said.
It wasn't long before Albright-Byrd was put into the Game—as illegal prostitution is known among its practitioners. For the next four years, she worked the streets, living with the same pimp for most of that time. She believed her pimp when he told her that “once a ho, always a ho,” and she became embroiled in a life of sex, drugs and physical abuse.
“Pimps use a lot of psychology to keep you with them,” Albright-Byrd said. “At first they tell you they love you and that they will take care of you. Then they will beat you, and they won't give you any of the money you earned, but you look for those moments when they are nice to you, and you do everything you can to please them, so they will be good to you.”
During those four years, Albright-Byrd worked in Sacramento and Reno, as well as other cities in California. She cruised the casinos and walked the streets, looking to make eye contact with interested men.
“Downtown Reno was pretty disgusting,” she said. “There were a lot of drugs being sold on the streets and plenty of johns willing to pick you up.”
At 18, Albright-Byrd finally had enough. She started taking classes at a community college in Sacramento. Her pimp followed her and started taking classes as well, which was hard on her. One day, a classmate found her crying and asked what was wrong. Albright-Byrd decided to trust her and eventually told her story. The friend invited her to church, and she began a journey that she described as “an encounter with a divine power higher than herself.”
Albright-Byrd eventually received a dual degree in theology and psychiatry. She spent time as a drug and alcohol counselor and is now the executive director of a non-profit that reaches out to young prostitutes to help get them off the streets and educates the community about the crime and its victims. But some of her own psychological scars will never heal. When Albright-Byrd was 15, she and her cousin brought 14-year-old Bridget Gray into the Game.
“Bridget had lived in about 10 foster homes, and she wanted to belong to something, so it was easy to talk her into joining the life,” Albright-Byrd said.
Several years after getting out, Albright-Byrd was still in touch with Gray, who had also gotten out of the game. The last time she spoke with Gray was January 2006, when Gray was in Las Vegas.
“I don't know how she ended up in Las Vegas, but when I talked with her, she said she was making some money and that she would be home soon,” Albright-Byrd said. “I told her to call me when she got back, but she never did.”
On March 3, 2006, Gray's naked body was found dumped in the hallway of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. James David Flansburg had strangled her during a sex act. Flansburg is serving time in the Nevada State Prison on charges of second degree murder, doing 10 years to life with the possibility of parole. He is currently not up for parole. Albright-Byrd thought a lot about her friend because she had sold her the dream of a better life through prostitution, and in 2011, Albright-Byrd started her nonprofit, Bridget's Dream. Reno's mean streets
It may be that legal prostitution in Nevada has skewed Nevadans' ideas of what illegal prostitution is, what it looks like, and especially where it happens. Right this minute, it's happening downtown, and while there are many traditional streetwalkers, the face of prostitution also includes girls as young as 12. According to FBI's Uniform Crime Report, in the United States in 2011, there were 763 children under the age of 18 arrested for prostitution and commercialized vice.
Sgt. Ron Chalmers, supervisor of the Street Enforcement Team (SET) for the Reno Police Department, said that the business of prostitution has dramatically changed with the use of the internet and cell phones. Chalmers and his team are charged with stopping prostitution—among the crimes that used to be known as “vice”—as well as handling all street-level issues with drugs, underage drinking and helping other jurisdictions when drugs come through our area. It's a job that keeps Chalmers and his associates busy.
Across the country, gangs have found that selling sex is much more lucrative than selling drugs. After all, a gram of meth or an ounce of marijuana can only be sold once, while a girl can be sold for sex over and over again. Usually, a pimp will drive a few girls in from another state or city, ads will be run on adult internet sites like My Red Book or Backpage, the john will call for a date, and then he'll meet the prostitute in a local hotel room.
“We constantly search these sites to see who's advertising in Reno, and if we think the girl is underage, we'll call her and set up a sting,” Chalmers said.
Reno is on the map for many large events, like Hot August Nights, the balloon and air races, and others. Special events bring in lots of tourists, as well as lots of prostitutes, and the SET team prioritizes finding prostitutes before and during these events.
“We want visitors to have a good experience when they come to Reno,” Chalmers said. “We don't want them to see underage prostitutes or drug deals on every street corner, so we do a lot of work before these big events.”
While it's impossible to know the exact number of girls working in Reno, there are underage girls working every single night. In its first year of existence, Awaken Reno—a non-profit group that works with girls trying to get out of the Game—had contact with 40 girls under the age of 18. Although some of the girls are locals, Chalmers said that most of the underage girls are brought in from other places. Thus, there's no exact method to determine how long the girls stay in the area, or if they come and go on a regular basis. It is clear, however, that many aspects of the Reno business and tourism economy benefit from the illegal activity.
Prostitutes—particularly underage ones—are treated as victims and not as criminals. Law enforcement didn't always handle it that way.
“Chances are that these girls left abusive home lives, only to be abused by their pimp,” Chalmers said. “The pimps keep them close, keeping all of their identification and not giving them any money. The pimp does tell his girls that he loves them, he tells them that only he cares about them, and he tells them they have nothing else they can do because once they become a whore, they will always be a whore . So when we get to them, we want them to know they have been abused, they are a victim of this pimp and not a criminal, and that we really want to help them.”
When a girl and her pimp are arrested, Chalmers said it is imperative to separate the girl from her pimp, to try to reach out to the girl and to provide services that will help her get out of the Game. Chalmers said that this isn't an easy accomplishment.
“It's like Stockholm Syndrome in that the girl believes her pimp loves her, and she wants to get back to him as quickly as possible because he needs her,” he said. “So we keep the girl in jail for several days in order to break the pattern she's been living.”
In jail, the girls are provided with clothes and personal hygiene products, and they meet with people from the community who understand their plight and offer a way out of prostitution. They also get regular meals and sleep, which they likely have not been getting on the streets. Once they've been away from their pimps for a while, they are more open to seeing that they are indeed victims.
A twisted world of supply and demand
It's been said time and time again that prostitution is the oldest profession. As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply. In Nevada's small county brothels, the legal “supply” is considered safe for both the girls and the johns. Laws require the use of condoms, girls receive regular medical testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and rooms have panic buttons that can be pushed if the john becomes violent. The women are old enough to work legally in brothels, and society sees it as their choice.
On the streets, there are variables. Pimps run the girls—STD checks are few and far between, both johns and prostitutes get beaten up or robbed—and the girls are sometimes under the age of 18, not legally competent to make a choice to go into prostitution. If a john is picked up for solicitation, he receives a misdemeanor citation, which means he could go to jail and pay a fine up to $1,000. Usually, he just pays a fine and goes on his way. Pimps take a bigger risk. Just recently, an alleged pimp from Reno was indicted by the federal grand jury on a sex trafficking charge for transporting a 15-year-old girl from Bakersfield, Calif., to Reno.
Vernon McCullum, III, a.k.a “Fifth,” 20, of Reno, was indicted on one count of illegal transportation of a minor for prostitution or other illegal sexual activity. McCullum faces a minimum of 10 years to life in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. He pled not guilty.
“The community needs to really look at this situation,” said Carla Higginbotham, assistant United States attorney for the state of Nevada. “These are men who are paying for sex with a teenage girl. If they were doing that in their home with a neighborhood child, they would be prosecuted and rightly shunned as pedophiles and sex offenders.”
Higginbotham works in the division that deals with all forms of human trafficking and is part of the community team working to stop underage prostitution. She said that the community's sensitivity and awareness to sex trafficking have to be intensified.
Other agencies support Higginbotham's assertions.
Melissa Holland is the executive director for Awaken Reno. She explained that surveys, which included men from the University of Nevada, Reno, show that most men look at prostitution as a good thing, something that actually deter men from raping women.
“That just proves we have a long way to go in educating people about sex crimes, especially that rape and prostitution are entirely different crimes,” Holland said.
Chalmers said that tough laws must be written to break the “demand” part of the equation, and there must be harsh punishments to deter pimps and johns from the crime. He said that opportunity will arise when Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto presents A.B. 67 to the Nevada State Legislature this month. That law makes big changes in how sex traffickers will be prosecuted by increasing penalties and widening the definition of human and sex trafficking.
“A criminal knows that if he uses a gun when he commits a crime, the penalties will be harsher—we need for the same thing to happen in sex crimes, in that if a john has sex with a minor, he's going to pay a heavy price,” Chalmers said.
Michon Miller, assistant attorney general for Nevada, said the changes broaden and modernize existing laws and brings them into alignment with other states. The attorney general's office has been working with a variety of players from law enforcement, public defenders, prosecutors and advocacy groups to target specific changes that will make it more difficult to traffic young girls in Nevada.
“The other side of this is that we have to educate the public that this is happening to our children,” Miller said. “This is our problem.”Places to turn
Holland has worked to educate the residents of Washoe County about what is happening right under their noses. She and FBI agent Tiffany Short collaborate with local law enforcement and are usually called in as soon as a girl is arrested. Together they help provide some basic necessities, and they work with local agencies to get the girl home or to a safe location.
“We provide whatever they need, like bus tickets and housing, so they can get away from their pimp and hopefully back into a supportive environment,” said Holland.
Awaken Reno has a network of professionals who donate services to the girls, such as medical care, counseling and dental services. Even local tattoo artists have donated their services to cover brands and tattoos that the pimp may have forced a girl to get.
“Just like slavery, some of these pimps brand their girls so that others will know who the girl belongs to,” said Holland. “Having that brand gone makes a big difference in helping the girls feel free from that life.”
Advocates say that education also needs to happen in the schools, just like drug and alcohol programs and sex education programs. Children need to understand how they can be lured into being trafficked for sex. Short has spoken with school counselors, and has been asked to speak at some local high schools. Short and Holland hope that junior high schools will call on them for information. Police sergeant Chalmers said that school education is necessary, but the father of two also has some concerns about what is age-appropriate.
“I try to teach my kids about bad things and how to avoid them, and while I know this is happening all the time because I see it happen, I really don't know what is a good age to try to explain this to them,” Chalmers said.
A summit has been planned in Carson City on Feb. 11, which has been proclaimed Nevada Advocacy Day by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Several people and agencies expect to develop ways to inform Nevadans about sex trafficking.
Albright-Byrd spends her days speaking to service organizations, churches and law enforcement about her life in the Game, how she got out and how she became a survivor. Twice a month, she and a team of volunteers hit the streets of Sacramento armed with cookies, brownies and information, in hopes of taking even one girl off the streets. She knows about 80 percent of the girls who leave go back to the Game.
“I know from when I was a drug and alcohol counselor that there is a big difference in being sober and being in recovery—you can be sober and not be in recovery,” Albright-Byrd said. “So many of these girls might leave for a while, but they find the pain and struggle of the real world to be too much, so they go back to their pimps, and they lose touch with reality.”
Through Bridget's Dream, she hopes to build a transition house where girls can get away from their pimps while learning how to go from being a victim to being a survivor.
Though most victims come from broken homes and bad living situations. Albright-Byrd has also seen girls from caring homes get trafficked. She wants to educate parents about what signs to look for, as well as educate girls about not becoming victims.
“When I have my own kids, I'll be watching everything they do and making sure they do what's right,” Albright-Byrd said. “My mother knew where I was and what I was doing because I told her, and even though she would come visit me, she did nothing to help get me out. I won't let that happen to my kids.”
Awaken Reno welcomes volunteers, administers safe environments for those wanting out of prostitution and donated professional services, and accepts donated money and good. The organization can be reached at awakenreno.org
, or by calling (775) 393-9189
More information about Bridget's Dream can be found at www.bridgetsdream.org
, or by calling (916) 235-3690.
For more information about the Feb. 11 “Nevada Advocacy Day to end human trafficking” summit, which will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Carson City, 8 a.m.-noon, call (202) 745-1001 ext. 132.
Shawn Stockman & Boyz II Men Wage War Against Child Abuse & Neglect
For 20 years Boyz II Men , which includes founding member Shawn Stockman and his bandmates Nathan and Wanya Morris, has been winning millions of fans around the world with their harmonies, hits, and presence.
Shawn and the Boyz marked their 20 th anniversary this year by releasing the aptly titled, Twenty, last fall. Boyz II Men will have a residency at famed Las Vegas venue the Mirage, starting March 1 st , 2013 and will also be joining New Kids on the Block and 98 Degrees on a hotly-anticipated Package Tour this summer.
In addition to touring and creating albums with his group Boyz II Men, R&B singer Stockman has also brought his musical talent as a judge on NBC's “The Sing-Off.” He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Sharonda Jones and their children.
Founded in 1959 by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, Childhelp® is a leading national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect. Childhelp's approach focuses on prevention, intervention and treatment. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD®, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This Friday February 8th, the organization will be hosting it's 3rd Annual Childhelp Celebrity Golf Invitational in Rancho, Mirage, California. Singer LeAnn Rimes will be performing and celebs such as Maks from Dancing with the Stars and Alice Cooper will be teeing off.
Interview by Giacinta Pace
Q: What is your cause and how did you get involved?
Stockman: We performed at the annual Childhelp Drive The Dream gala in Arizona on January 12, 2013. It was a great way to start the new year. Childhelp is one of the country's leading nonprofit helping kids suffering from child abuse and neglect. They focus on prevention and have resources for treatment and intervention including the nation's only 24/7 expert National Child Abuse Hotline.
Q: there any particularly memorable experiences you have had with this organization ?
Stockman: Performing at the Drive The Dream gala was a blast. We had a great time and look forward to continuing our support for Childhelp.
Q: Why is it important for celebs to support charities?
Stockman: Outside of the moral obligations, it's important for celebrities to support a cause because of how many people we reach at one time. By supporting a cause, we bring awareness to a multitude of people. Its good for the cause we're bringing awareness to and the outreach can help with a possible solution.
Q: What do you hope for the future of this organization?
Stockman: Childhelp will become the go to organization for any child abuse related conversation, incident and prevention. Childhelp's programs and services are expanding and include residential treatment services, children's advocacy centers, therapeutic foster care; group homes; child abuse prevention, education and training; and the National Day of Hope®, part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month every April.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Stockman: We are proud to support this organization and look forward to seeing them grow. Also, we have a non-profit called "The BoyzIIMen House", our slogan is we are an organization that helps organizations in need! Because there are three indidviduals in the group, we support different causes, one I (Shawn) support is the support of families autistic children. My organization is called Micah's Voice, named after my own son who was diagnosed with autism at age 2! A web site will be up in about 2 weeks that will be a informational site concerning the condition. We are honored to do as much as we can for who we can, and we will continue to throughout our careers!
Colo. officials to set up child abuse hotline
DENVER (AP) — Colorado officials are setting up a statewide telephone hotline for people to report child abuse and neglect.
According to the Denver Post (http://tinyurl.com/alnhd2l), the plans are expected to be announced Wednesday. The reforms follow the deaths of 175 children under state supervision over the past six years.
The state will also build a website where the public can see how county child welfare departments are faring at protecting children.
"One With Courage" Program Fights Child Sexual Abuse
by D.K. Wright
"One With Courage" is a statewide initiative by the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network. In Wheeling and Belmont County, Harmony House is part of that program. It refers to the adults in a child's life.
"For so long, we've wanted children to be courageous and come forth and tell," says Leslie Vassilaros, executive director of Harmony House. "Now we're asking adults to be courageous. So One With Courage is basically saying, are you the one with courage."
It's aimed at parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors, scout leaders or coaches.
They are asked to have the courage to step forward if they suspect a child is being sexually abused.
The signs include a child regressing in behavior.
"Some children may already be potty trained and now they're starting to soil their pants," explained Vassilaros. "Sometimes in school, children that got good grades are now getting poor grades. Sometimes children can't sleep at night so they're falling asleep during the day or in school. Maybe there is a relative that the child used to be very close to and now the child tends to hide from that person."
The child can visit Harmony House, and have a forensic interview with a trained, non-judgmental expert.
"And if the child does have a disclosure, we will then provide intervention--medical exams, mental health, whatever else the child might need," she said.
And if you don't think it could happen to a child close to you, consider this.
One out of every four girls, and one out of every six boys is sexually abused.]
And only one out of every ten ever tells anyone.
CALM at Heart Luncheon Exhibits ‘Healing Through Art'
Supporters brush up on their own artistic skills in learning how creating art can be life-changing for children traumatized by abuse
by Melissa Walker
Guests of the CALM at Heart, Healing Through Art luncheon embraced their inner-artist and learned that creating art can cultivate a positive transformation and be a life-changing remedy for children emotionally scarred from abuse, during an event benefiting the Child Abuse Listening Mediation Art Therapy Program held recently in the Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.
Founded in 1970, CALM is the only nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County focused solely on preventing and treating child abuse and family violence through comprehensive cutting-edge programs, such as its Art Therapy Program spearheaded by Christine Scott, clinical art therapist.
“Art therapy is the preferred modality for traumatized children because often children have been lied to and misled by their abuser with language, and it could be very difficult for them to talk about such topics that they may not have the language for,” said Scott, who has worked at CALM for eight years. “And so to show what happened to them through art helps them heal when they can tell their story.”
More than 300 attendees clad in stylish spring dresses and casual business attire happily mingled in the midday sun shining over the seaside terrace as courteous waiters served cool beverages and delicious appetizers, ever mindful of an array of silent auction items lining the length of the glass enclosure.
CALM Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez was all smiles as she shook hands and exchanged warm hugs with friends, supporters and colleagues, and shared her enthusiasm about the art program with Noozhawk.
“CALM's Art Therapy groups help decrease the survivors' sense of isolation and provide a safe place for survivors to tell their stories with courage,” she said. “By exercising their creativity, sexual abuse survivors restore a sense of hope for the future.”
When the crowd flowed into the adjacent ballroom for lunch, they were surprised to find that the elegant ballroom had been transformed into an art studio. Tables were covered with butcher paper, and each place setting came equipped with a small blank canvas, a set of paint brushes and a rinse jar beside a color wheel palette with blue, gray and white paint.
Guests eagerly grabbed the white CALM aprons from the back of their chairs and settled into their seats, ready to dive in and stir their creative juices, while others looked a bit perplexed and slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of applying paint to anything other than fingernails.
Standing on a platform in the middle of the room, committee member Anne Youngling put everyone at ease, saying a little anxiety was normal. The painting activity focused on each guest's variation of blue hydrangeas and was followed by an informative slideshow presentation titled, “The Healing Power of Art Therapy,” that Scott shared to educate the group about the program.
Guests were encouraged and spurred on by a Painted Cabernet instructor and a handful of assistants who encircled the room offering advice and encouragement to help guests create their own floral masterpieces.
It wasn't long before the room livened up with bursts of laughter and chatter that floated over the 1970s rhythm-and-blues tunes playing in the background, reinforcing that everyone was having a great time.
Scott explained that art therapy is a modality of psychotherapy that uses art to facilitate change in the client, and that the client's unconscious feelings can often be more immediately expressed with visual images and metaphors.
That fact became clearly evident to onlookers when pictures drawn by sexually abused children in the program emerged onscreen depicting images of lopsided homes with rain clouds overhead, broken hearts, and angry, disheveled faces. Other disturbing images included drawings of human figures with dark scribbled circles omitting genitals or crude, phallic-like objects.
“A child's picture always communicates a feeling,” said Scott, who helps clients in the program encapsulate pictures into feeling words and emotional language, such as “I am scared.”
Scott noted that over time, art therapy group members reported a sense of well-being after expressing such long-buried feelings.
Colorful illustrations drawn in crayon referenced within the slideshow showed enlarged, smiling faces holding bold red hearts, rainbows and stick figures that indicated the social and emotional impact art therapy has made with clients who have enrolled in the program — art therapy promotes self-expression rather than self-repression.
“I see about 20 children annually myself, personally in individual art therapy,” Scott said.
CALM also has an array of evidence-based art therapy programs, including teen (ages 14 to 17), teen girls (ages 11 to 13) and domestic violence children's group (ages 5 to 12).
Each program has six children per art therapy group, and the next open cycle is scheduled for June.
“The art therapist's viewing and acceptance of the artwork helps the clients begin to see and accept their own story,” Scott said. “Art therapy fosters resiliency.”
The afternoon concluded with a delicious lunch and a greeting from Rodriguez, who spoke about the dangers of child abuse and reminded everyone about the “I Will Not Be Silent” campaign, promoting adults to speak out against child abuse. District Attorney Joyce Dudley followed as the host of a vibrant live auction that generated a buzz of interest.
For more information about CALM or to purchase a ticket for the 27th Annual Celebrity Authors' Luncheon on March 16, click here or call 805.965.2376
Panel: Preventing child sex abuse up to everyone
by Nick Coltrain
Boiled down, the importance of Tuesday's child sexual abuse seminar could be summed up like this: It's everyone's responsibility.
“You don't need to be a social worker to have a positive effect on a child's life,” Dawn Meyers, director of social work for the Clarke County School District, said.
She joined representatives from the district attorney's office, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services and The Cottage, a sexual assault and children's advocacy center, to send that message in just one of eight sessions for participants throughout the day at St. James United Methodist Church in Athens.
The event, No Fear Hear, was hosted by LEAD Athens, a leadership class organized by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, to bring light to what is often a dark secret, organizer Erin Barger said.
Sally Sheppard, executive director of The Cottage, said that children can often not understand the weight of what they're saying, even as heinous things are coming out of their mouth.
“They do not know, for the most part, what sex is,” Sheppard said.
Meyers noted that a lot of her office's calls start with teachers asking their students how the weekend was. The exercise builds a connection, she said, even if it is as simple as a thumbs up or thumbs down.
“It's not atypical for my department to get a call on a Monday morning from a teacher saying, ‘Whoa, what do I do?'” Meyers said.
For young children, it's also important to realize how much of a cue they take from the person to whom they're revealing their abuse. Hannah Anderson, child services program manager at The Cottage, used the example of a 5-year-old girl telling Mom what happened, Mom gets into a big fight with her son, and the daughter is shut down by the time investigators arrive.
The panelists noted that children often talk about what happened to them, especially if they're young enough not to realize the weight of it. That makes it important for the adults to pay attention and not let the child linger in a place where they can be abused, they said. Athens-Clarke County Assistant District Attorney Jon Forwood said that kids don't just walk up to police officers to tell them they're being abused.
“Child sex abuse is such a complex, intricate problem that takes all of us (to address),” Meyers said.
Some of that means simply talking about it — telling children what to look out for so they know if something that's happening to them is wrong.
“We're giving power to those who are abusing our children by not talking about it,” Sheppard said.
Top experts gather in Carmel Valley for Help Keep Kids Safe town hall forum
by Karen Billing
Last week the lobby of Cathedral Catholic High's Guadalupe Theater was filled with large posters of missing children. Some of the faces, unfortunately, are well known, the ones we know who never came home like Chelsea King and Amber Dubois.
“San Diego has known too much tragedy. There are too many names etched into the hearts and minds of San Diego,” said Ernie Allen, co-founder of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children
Allen was a distinguished guest at Cathedral Catholic High's Keep Kids Safe town hall forum on Jan. 30. The town hall presented an impressive gathering of authentic voices, advocates and experts on child exploitation, including kidnapping survivors Jessyca Mullenberg Christianson and Alicia Kozakiewicz, as well as Erin Runnion, the mother of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002.
The forum topics and conversation were difficult to hear, but ultimately very important.
“The message of tonight is that it takes a whole community to keep kids safe,” Allen said.
The event was presented in partnership with The Chadwick Center for Children and Families at Rady Children's Hospital. Cathedral Catholic senior James Morris and Bishop's School student Mason Church, both young advocates for missing children, were also key in organizing the event.
The panel members were available as they were in San Diego last week participating in the San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment.
“These are tough issues,” Allen said. “But there is hope.”
He said more missing kids are coming home safely in America than any other time—the law enforcement community is better prepared, laws are better, the technology is better and the public is more alert and aware.
However, thousands of children are still being victimized in the country. Allen said there are currently 795,500 reported missing children. Of those, 203,900 are family abductions.
One in five girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in 10 boys; however, only one in three children will tell anyone about it.
Allen said 89 percent of the female victims are assaulted between the age of 12 and 17; 29 percent are victimized by someone that they know.
There are more than 736,000 registered sex offenders and 90,000 are in California alone.
Allen said rapes and sexual assaults are declining but still two-thirds of sex offenders in state prisons have victimized children and 30 percent have assaulted more than one child.
Allen said that additionally 100,000 kids are trafficked for sex in this country, many of them leaving their homes voluntarily with a predator who has lured them or they are targeted out of the child welfare system.
“(Sex trafficking) is not just a problem on the other side of the world, it's a problem in U.S. cities and the victims are U.S. kids,” Allen said.
Allen said one of his first cases with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which he also co-founded, was 7-year-old Leticia Hernandez who was abducted from her front yard in Oceanside in 1989. He said during the 13-month search for her they believed they came close to finding her several times but toward the end of the investigation her body was recovered close to her home and it appeared the remains had been there for quite some time.
Allen was stung by criticism he received that they had created false hope in the public that they would find her.
“There's no such thing as false hope,” Allen said. “What's the alternative? Stop looking or assume the worst?”
One survivor's story
“It takes courage for young people to stand up here and say ‘This happened to me and I don't want it to happen to you,'” said Charles Wilson, the executive director of the Chadwick Center, which serves about 1,200 young children a year who are victims of child abuse and family violence.
Jessyca Mullenberg Christianson was one victim sharing her story in the hopes it will not happen to someone else.
Growing up in Wisconsin, by age 13 she was a survivor of abuse by three different pedophiles for almost a decade. In 1995 she was kidnapped by a neighbor who had told her that he could help get her written works published. He told her he would take her to see a publisher and she got into a car with him and dozed off, waking to find herself tied up. He took her to Houston, changed her name, cut and dyed her hair and made up a back-story that she would live by—she was his daughter and her mother and brother had been killed in an accident.
For three and a half months he kept her in a back room of a motel where he had got a job. He repeatedly beat her and sexually and psychologically abused her.
A woman in the motel recognized Jessyca's kidnapper on an episode of “America's Most Wanted” and called the authorities which led to her recovery and her kidnapper's arrest. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Mullenberg Christianson had to go through several surgeries to repair her jaw as she had been so badly beaten. She suffered psychological trauma and had trouble with bullies at school.
Despite her hardships in dealing with the resulting trauma, she was able to graduate college and got married. Although she was told she would likely not have children due to her abuse, she is now the mother of two.
She said she is forever grateful to John Walsh, who created “America's Most Wanted” after his son Adam Walsh was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. She is also grateful to the woman who had the courage to make that phone call.
“Be involved in your community and if you come across a situation where something feels wrong, contact the authorities,” Mullenberg Christianson said. “You never know whose life you could be saving.”
With the abduction and murder of her daughter Samantha, Erin Runnion went through every parent's worst nightmare. She was able to turn her tragedy into a powerful legacy for her child with The Joyful Child Foundation, a non-profit dedicating to preventing child sexual abuse and abduction.
Samantha was kidnapped in 2002 out of her front yard in Orange County, when a man asked if she would help look for a lost puppy. Runnion said the media called that summer of 2002 the “Summer of Abductions” because Danielle Van Dam's murder trial had just begun in San Diego and Elizabeth Smart had been missing for months.
Runnion said that Samantha had once asked her what she should do if anyone tried to take her.
“I really believed that never happens…I was wrong,” Erin said. “She was playing outside for less than five minutes. It was 11 days before she turned 6 years old, I had a trunk full of birthday presents.”
Her body was found the day after she was abducted. Alejandro Avila was sentenced to death for murder and sexual assault in 2005.
Looking for any kind of answers in her grief, Runnion went to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She was shocked to find out that there were 58,000 non-family related abductions in the country. Samantha's extreme case was “only” one of 115 annually where the children do not come home.
“One in five girls and one in 10 boys are being sexually abused. That is pandemic,” Runnion said. “It takes all of us to stop it…I ask you to find a way in your daily life to do what you can do to make the world a safer place for children and a safer place for you.”
The AMBER Alert system was enacted in California just days after Samantha's murder and in its first month recovered 12 children and 96 children the rest of the year.
Runnion said the law enforcement training, resources and awareness to combat these crimes is always improving but it's up to children and youth to “Be brave,” like Samantha scribbled on the bottom of many of the drawings she left behind.
“Recognize that you are worth protecting,” Runnion told the teens in the audience. “The largest number of victims are teenagers and most of you know the perpetrator. …No one has the right to hurt you or make you uncomfortable.”
Of the 13 missing children on the posters on the stage at Cathedral, there was only one who came home alive: Alicia Kozakiewicz. She was 13 when she was abducted but now 24, Kozakiewicz is using her voice through The Alicia Project to share her story nationwide.
“These are so important,” Alicia said, gesturing to the posters. “Pay attention to them please.”
Kozakiewicz befriended her kidnapper in an online chat room and she was “groomed” and manipulated by him.
“He told me what I wanted to hear,” she said
The Internet predator persuaded her to meet him offline and in January of 2002 and she got into a car with a “monster.” He took her from her home in Philadelphia to Virginia where he kept her chained. She was raped, beaten and tortured for three days.
She got her “miracle” and was rescued when her abductor broadcasted her abuse online and another man reported it to the authorities.
“We don't want this to happen to your families, we all have to play a part to keep each other safe because the monsters are real,” said Kozakiewicz, who spoke at the forum with her mother Mary Ann.
Kozakiewicz said those monsters could already be in your home, through children's computer screens and on their smart phones.
Kozakiewicz has thrown herself into the effort of educating others and lobbying for effective Internet safety legislation. She has testified before Congress and successfully lobbied Alicia's Law, an initiative to build capacity and funding to combat crimes against children. Alicia's Law has passed in Virginia and Texas and Kozakiewicz would like to see it passed in all 50 states.
She additionally does work nationally as the founder and president of Alicia's Project, an Internet safety and awareness program. At last week's forum, she led an Alicia's Project breakout session for the teens in attendance.
As 93 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds go online now and 73 percent of teens have cell phones and social networking sites, it's important to educate youth about being responsible with the snippets of information or photos they are posting online or sharing electronically.
One in 25 youths have received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact.
Panel member Joe Laramie, an administrator at the Missouri Attorney General's Office Internet Crimes Against Children Computer Forensics Lab, said parents need to pay more attention to their children's digital lives.
“I'm not talking about being a spy parent but being an involved parent,” Laramie said. “Know where they are and who they're hanging out with.”
Laramie said when sitting next to their child as they text, a parent should ask who they are texting with, maybe even ask to say hi to their friend.
“Freak them out,” Laramie said. He said a person on the phone or on the computer is no different than someone being in your home and parents have a right to say hello and find out who they are.
Panel member Darryl Foxworth, a San Diego FBI agent, advised parents to keep an eye on their children's cell phone bill and activity.
He said to ask kids for their friend's phone numbers and keep a list of known numbers.
“Look at the pattern of calls, times and durations,” Foxworth said.
Know the new rules
One of the panel members was Dr. Daniel Broughton, a professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. In 1981, after the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh, Broughton served on the steering committee of the first national conference on missing and exploited children and was a founding board member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Broughton talked about how the old standby rules that parents teach to children perhaps need to be revised.
Broughton said that one of the rules is to beware of strangers; however, knowing that the people that take advantage of children are rarely strangers, he said that advice seems “woefully inadequate”.
He said parents often also teach children not to be a tattletale, which can play directly into the hands of predators who thrive on secrecy. Another rule taught to children that plays right into the hands of predators is “do what adults tell you”— something Jessyca Mullenberg Christianson said she had in mind when she was victimized continually by adults in her life — she thought it was normal.
Broughton advised a new set of rules for children that could keep them from becoming a target:
|• If you're not with your parents, be with kids your own age. Never be alone with an adult with no other kids around.
• Your parents need to know where you are. Let them know where you will be.
“It's hard with teenagers because they're genetically incapable of doing what they said they'd be doing at the beginning of the night,” Broughton joked. “But when those plans change, they need to let parents know about those plans and parents have an obligation to let kids make those changes…if parents don't go along with the changes, those phone calls will stop.”
• Encourage children to trust what they feel is right. If something feels wrong or if something happens, talk to parents or a trusted adult right away.
This is especially poignant looking at those statistics of one in five girls and one in 10 boys who are sexually assaulted and the one in three who actually report it.
“Secrecy can last hours, minutes or an entire lifetime,” Wilson said. “Make it OK for them to come talk to you. Take the power away from the predator.”
Runnion agreed with the advice.
“We're so socialized to be polite it can be difficult to be assertive. Teach children it's ok to be assertive, it's not rude. Say no and mean it,” Runnion said.
For more information:
LAPD combs through newly released priest sex-abuse files
by Barbara Jones
LAPD detectives who investigate sex-abuse cases are combing through the newly released files of scores of problem priests to determine whether any of the cases can be prosecuted, authorities said Tuesday.
The department's Sexually Exploited Child Unit has joined with prosecutors in poring over some 12,000 pages of documents disclosed under court order by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
"We have copies of the list and we're going through the names, comparing them to cases we have to see if there's anything new or different," said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, the chief spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Smith said detectives are in contact with the District Attorney's Office, which previously said it is reviewing the files of 124 priests identified in litigation as having sexually abused children.
"We work hand in hand with them. We consult with them. Our investigators will be talking to them."
Their task is made more difficult by differing statutes of limitations governing sex crimes.
"It completely depends on the case - the allegation, what was known beforehand," Smith said. "Each single case will have to be determined."
An attorney for the archdiocese could not immediately be reached for comment.
The cases cover decades of abuse within the Los Angeles archdiocese, and reveal details of how Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders transferred problem priests from parish to parish as they maneuvered to protect them from the police.
The files were released as part of a 2007 settlement with more than 500 victims of priest abuse, who shared in a $660 million payout.
Over the last five years, the archdiocese fought to keep secret the names of accused clergy and their supervisors.
An initial court decision to black out the names was overturned by another judge, and the names of the accused priests and many high-ranking church leaders were disclosed in the documents.
However, a victims group has accused the church of withholding relevant documents and the names of other clergy who could be implicated.
Los Angeles-area woman initially charged as 'Jane Doe' in child pornography case named in federal grand jury indictment
Letha Montemayor Tucker now also accused of child sex trafficking
– The North Hills woman identified last month as one of two suspects sought in connection with a child pornography case tied to the San Fernando Valley was indicted Tuesday on federal charges of producing child pornography, as well as child sex trafficking.
Letha Montemayor Tucker, who uses the nickname "Butterfly," 52, was named in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury. The indictment accuses Tucker of conspiracy to produce child pornography, production of child pornography, conspiracy to engage in child sex trafficking and sex trafficking of children.
If convicted of all four charges in the indictment, Tucker would face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and could be sentenced to as much as life in federal prison. Tucker, who is currently being held without bond, is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment in U.S. District Court Feb. 13.
The indictment comes one month after tips provided by the public resulted in the identification of Tucker as one of two individuals allegedly involved in the production of a widely circulated series of child pornography images taken about 11 years ago. The pictures show an adult man, "John Doe," and a woman, now believed to be Tucker, sexually molesting a girl whom investigators have now confirmed was between 11 and 13 at the time the images were taken.
"The sex trafficking of minors is unconscionable under any circumstances," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. "As this case demonstrates, we will spare no effort in locating and prosecuting those who seek to take advantage of young, vulnerable victims."
According to the indictment, between 2000 and 2001, both Tucker and the victim lived in a residential hotel in the Los Angeles area. The indictment alleges that Tucker worked as a prostitute, provided the victim with crack cocaine and, on multiple occasions, directed the child to engage in sexual acts with Tucker's male clients. In or about May 2001, the indictment states Tucker contacted "John Doe" and asked whether he would be interested in having sex with the victim in exchange for money. Subsequently, Tucker brought the victim to "John Doe's" residence. There the defendant and "John Doe" engaged in sexual acts with the victim and photographed the encounter.
Based upon forensic analysis conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), investigators believe that the images were produced in the Los Angeles area, specifically in the San Fernando Valley. The child pornography images were first discovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Chicago in 2007. The material was submitted to NCMEC's Child Victim Identification Program, which determined the victim had not yet been identified and was not linked with other known child pornography images.
As a result of leads provided by the public, HSI special agents located the victim within a week after the case was announced January 3. She is safe and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
"The victim in this case was devastated when she learned from investigators that these sexually explicit images had been distributed over the Internet," said ICE Director John Morton. "The reality is, every time such images are viewed, the children shown are exploited yet again. That is why we owe it to these young victims to vigorously pursue these cases and hold the perpetrators accountable for their reprehensible crimes."
While Tucker and the victim were quickly found, the identity and whereabouts of "John Doe" remain unknown. In the images in the child pornography series, "John Doe's" face has been purposely obscured, but he appears to be a 40 to 50-year-old white male and would now be approximately 11 years older. HSI special agents continue to pursue several leads, but they are appealing again for the public's help. Anyone with information or tips that can assist in the ongoing investigation is encouraged to call 1-866-DHS-2ICE or visit http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp.
The announcement of the case against Tucker and "John Doe" was made in connection with HSI's Operation Sunflower, a recently concluded enforcement action aimed at rescuing victims and targeting individuals who own, trade and produce child pornography. Operation Sunflower was conducted as part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers.
Iowa man sentenced to 20 years for enticement of a minor
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An Iowa man was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving images of child pornography and transmitting obscene material to a minor under the age of 16 years old. The sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Jupiter Police Department.
According to court documents, Eric Runyan, 31, of Earlham, Iowa, used an online social networking application to contact and initiate a chat with a 9-year-old girl in Jupiter, Fla.
Runyan, using his screen name Hard_n_big2000, asked the victim, "How old u?"
The 9-year-old immediately responded, "10 … Leave me alone."
Runyan continued to chat with the victim and sent the child a picture of his genitals. He then proceeded to ask the 9-year-old to take and transmit sexually explicit images of herself, which she did. When the 9-year-old tried to end the conversation, Runyan sent her threatening text messages, saying that he would ruin the 9-year-old's iPhone. He also threatened to find and kill her.
When the 9-year-old reported the incident to her parents, Jupiter Police Department detectives and HSI special agents were able to determine that the communications originated from Runyan's home.
Runyan was arrested and confessed to his involvement in the crime. He stated that he used his iPod Touch to communicate with the 9-year-old victim, transmit the images of himself to her and receive the sexually explicit images of the child.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Free training offered: Preventing and responding to child abuse
. — The Melrose YMCA and the North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network invite parents, grandparents, teachers, day care providers or any interested adult to a “Stewards of Children” three-hour training class developed by Darkness to Light.
Darkness to Light is an evidenced-based adult prevention program addressing the issue of child sexual abuse.
This free training session will help adults understand, prevent and respond to the threat of child sexual abuse. It will be held Monday, Feb. 11, 6:30-9 p.m., at the Dutton Center, 1117 Main St., Wakefield. The program is free but registration is required. To register, call 781-279-0300.
Fighters Against Child Abuse shifts community focus to prevention
After meeting with multiple child abuse agencies and being advised where FACA can help most in the greater Carson City community, it has been decided that the new focus for Fighters Against Child Abuse in 2013 will be in the area of prevention.
That starts with empowering and educating individuals on Proper CPS Reporting of suspected child abuse. Fighters Against Child Abuse has partnered with West Coast World Martial Arts in Minden to help with its mentoring program for abused, bullied and at risk youth. This is done through free Martial Arts Classes offered to children that are referred to FACA through different organizations and agencies.
Martial Arts is used to rebuild self esteem in abused and bullied children, as well as refocus negative energy caused by child trauma. This partnership will enable the FACA Team to focus on helping as many children as possible.
Currently it is believed that 99 children are abused daily in Nevada.
For more information call 775-267-3111 or visit www.kochildabuse.com
Censoring the Language of Sexual Abuse
Numerous Orthodox Jewish websites censor the word “sexual” in the context of discussing sexual abuse. Such censorship sends the message to young people that body parts, sexuality and sexual abuse are so shameful, that adults can't even mention them in public.
By refraining from using words such as “sex” and “sexual,” Orthodox Jewish websites are unwittingly sending the message that sexual abuse is not something that should be discussed. This only perpetuates the existing shame, secrecy, stigma and fear surrounding the issue of sexual abuse.
Parents of pre-adolescent children certainly have a right to determine the age-appropriate language when discussing sexual abuse with their children, but that is no excuse for websites censoring terms necessary to define abuse.
If children are old enough to be on the Internet, they should be mature enough to hear the word “sex” or “sexual” in the context of discussing abuse.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, recommends “[t]alking openly and directly about sexuality” in order to teach “children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.” In a sexual abuse awareness seminar held in Crown Heights, experts explained that a lack of education makes adolescents more vulnerable to abuse.
The lack of discussion around the human body, intimacy and sexual issues, in essence, robs children of the ability to speak because they are not provided with the proper language.
Maintaining Halachic standards of Tzniut (modesty) does not conflict with the necessity of discussing sexual abuse openly and candidly. Tzniut concerns laws related to modesty of both dress and behavior—when dealing with normal, healthy interactions—not when educating the public on the dangers of sexual abuse.
The Talmud relays a story of a student that hid under his teacher's bed to learn how his teacher was being intimate with his wife. The student commented on the inappropriate language of his teacher to which his teacher exclaimed, “Get out! It's not proper (for you to be here)!” To which the student replied, “It is Torah—and study it I must.”
In contemporary society, the student might be accused of voyeurism—but this story illustrates the need to rise above the taboos of discussing sexuality. There is nothing shameful, sinful or obscene about having candid conversations about the subject – particularly in the context of educating the public on sexual abuse.
When the language center is shut down, the abuse survivor is less likely to speak, because they are fearful of voicing what is perceived as shameful, and so, sometimes, they can't even articulate their trauma.
Censoring the use of accurate language around sexual abuse perpetuates the notion that such discussions should be secret and such language is shameful. Living in secrecy is painful and damaging to an abuse survivor. We need to empower potential victims to talk openly and candidly about their experience.
State looking to extend statute of limitations for child abuse
by Joel Moreno
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Victims of sex abuse by priests say the statute of limitations is protecting too many predators, and state lawmakers are now looking at ways to change that.
The issue is that child sex-crime victims often wait decades before coming forward, which can wipe out the chance for criminal charges against their tormentors.
In an effort to solve that problem, state lawmakers in Olympia are mulling plans to extend the timeline for reporting the crimes.
Years of abuse by priests they trusted left deep emotional scars on Barbara Dorris and Mary Dispenza. Dorris said she was just 6-years old when the abuse began, but it took her decades to overcome her shame and name her parish priest as a rapist.
"He escaped prosecution, basically, because of the statute of limitations," Dorris said. "It's very hard for victims to come forward."
State law says rape of young children can be prosecuted until the victim's 28th birthday if the incident is reported to police within a year.
Dorri said that law only helps the criminals.
"Statute of limitations currently are archaic and predator friendly," she said.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee is now looking at extending the statute of limitations so accused child sex predators can be charged up until the victim's 30th birthday.
Many sex abuse victims accuse the Catholic Church of protecting predators over the years, and they're asking Archbishop Peter Sartain to embrace the new legislation.
"He could end some of this right now by mandating that all of the priests, brothers orders, release records, let the public know," Dispenza said.
Church officials say they do support lifting the statute of limitations for child abuse cases and say they proactively report suspicious activity to the police.
"We are on record as saying that those who abuse children should be criminally prosecuted," said Greg Magnoni, the Archdiocese of Seattle.
The statute of limitations legislation is still making its way through the Senate with a companion bill that's navigating through the House.
Despite that progress, Dorris and Dispenza say the Catholic Church could do more to advocate the change.
"We feel Archbishop Sartain has an obligation to do outreach," Dorris said.
State law currently allows sex abuse charges to be filed at any time if new DNA evidence is found. Without that, the crimes can be difficult to prove so many decades later.
Fleury furious at Alberta for veto of child-abuse treatment centre
by JOSH WINGROVE and PATRICK WHITE
In his playing days, an angry Theo Fleury was a dangerous foe – a diminutive winger with a fire in his belly and, often, an axe to grind.
Now aged 44 and long out of the National Hockey League, Mr. Fleury is a fighter of a different stripe. He's an outspoken advocate for victims of childhood sexual assault, himself among them, and his new target is the Alberta government.
The province recently denied a request for $650,000 to help build the Be Brave Ranch near Edmonton. The proposed $3.4-million facility is billed as the continent's first centre for long-term treatment of kids who have been sexually abused. Mr. Fleury supports the agency behind it, Little Warriors.
“What the provincial government is saying to us is that child sex abuse is fine, it's not a priority for us,” he told The Globe and Mail. “Where are the priorities with this government?”
Mr. Fleury and Little Warriors have since led a campaign to push for funding, one built on testimonials by survivors of sexual assault, asking why an oil-rich province can't scrape together the cash. “I'm appalled, and I'm angry,” one woman says in a video. “It's necessary. You have no idea what children go through,” says another.
But it's not just about $650,000. Little Warriors is seeking, separately, more than $5-million a year in ongoing provincial funding for treatment at the ranch – 15 beds and the staff to run them. Even for wealthy Alberta, it's not an insignificant amount. That kind of annual funding could hire about 65 first-year nurses or 75 first-year teachers.
And it's not just Alberta saying no. The federal government denied funding.
Alberta has balked, essentially, at helping to build a ranch before it knows if it can – or should – pay the price of treatment there. It says Little Warriors hasn't yet proven the ranch is a better use of funds than current programs.
“If there's more we can do for kids, I'm all for it. I need to have a business case,” said Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, whose department would be on the hook for the $5-million in annual funding. “I need to be able to demonstrate this is the best use of resources to achieve the result.”
Little Warriors was founded in 2007 by Glori Meldrum, a victim of childhood sexual assault who, like Mr. Fleury, is now an advocate. She's been in talks with the province for two years, which the province says will continue. “I don't think we've asked for an exorbitant amount of money,” Ms. Meldrum said, adding her ranch should be a priority for the wealthy province. Her agency has privately raised $1.4-million to build the facility. “It's about doing the right thing for these kids,” she said.
The request comes as Alberta sees its revenues drop and Premier Alison Redford's government undertakes what it calls “results-based budgeting,” a line-by-line review of spending. Each ministry is looking for cuts.
Mr. Hancock's ministry already gives about $18.5-million a year to treatment programs for sexual assault victims, including children. That includes nine treatment centres, in-home services and a range of counselling for victims and families.
“It's not fair to say that there's nothing happening,” Mr. Hancock said, adding any one of those programs would welcome the $5-million a year Little Warriors wants. “This is asking for funding for a whole new program, and we haven't got any data to show this is the best way to approach this problem.”
Alberta Health Services, meanwhile, spends another $4-million on mental-health treatment for those convicted of sexual assault, an initiative dubbed the Phoenix Program. In Mr. Fleury's eyes, that's money better spent on victims. He has been a fierce advocate for sexual abuse victims since disclosing his own abuse at the hands of disgraced junior hockey coach Graham James in his 2009 book Playing With Fire . The disclosure and therapy helped his recovery, he said, and the ranch would offer the same to kids.
“Little Warriors is a group where we can get these kids at a really young age so they can lead productive lives and avoid addictions and anti-social behaviour,” Mr. Fleury said.
Mr. Hancock praised Little Warriors' efforts in speaking out for victims, but said the question facing the province about the ranch is simple: “If you had another million dollars, is this where you'd spend it to get the results you want?”
Is Canada too soft on child sexual abuse?
by Community Team
A roundtable discussing harsher punishment for criminals who commit sexual offences against children is set to begin today
Victims rights advocate Sheldon Kennedy and OPP deputy commissioner Vince Hawkes are joining Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in Toronto to discuss the Harper government's next steps with respect to criminal justice measures and victim support.
The government intends on passing a victims' bill of rights later in 2013, entrenching several measures into a single piece of legislation. Victims rights groups are currently being consulted on what needs to go into this legislation, and no timeline has been offered for the bill's introduction.
Now, with a majority, the conservative government can pass legislation more easily and focus efforts on harsher punishments - one of four key priorities for the government in 2013.
The government wants to impose tougher mandatory minimum and maximum penalties for sexual offences against children under 16, and also create new offences targeting those who facilitate child abuse.
Under the proposed new laws, anyone who commits a sexual offence against a child will face at least 90 days in jail - currently the minimum is 14 days. And a more serious offence against a child will go up to a minimum of six months, up from the current 45 days.
Two new offences were created to reflect new ways predators have of accessing their victims via technology. They will to ban anyone from providing any material to a child for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against that child - which will have a minimum mandatory sentence of at least 30 days in prison - and ban anyone from using the internet to make arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child. This is to highlight that 'grooming' children over the internet is a crime
Education also needed: Kennedy
Kennedy, a victim of sexual assault at the hands of his former coach Graham James, feels that cases such as his highlights the need for more stringent punishments.
James previously served three and a half years in the late 1990s for assaults on Kennedy and another young player. In 2012, James was sentenced to two more years of jail time for assaults on former NHL player Theo Fleury and cousin Todd Hold, but he can apply for parole and be released by the end of this year.
While Kennedy agrees with the tougher sentencing proposed by the government, he is also an advocate for further education of the public and empowering victims and bystanders to speak out and take action.
Critics - including opposition MPs, professionals working in the corrections and justice systems, the Canadian Bar Association - say that the introduction of mandatory jail sentences would create more problems that it solves, citing trials in other jurisdictions - mostly in the U.S.
They say that imposing maximum sentences and mandatory minimums will burden the prison and court system in ways that are unfeasible, untenable and will potentially carry little benefit.
Critics say the changes would lead to:
- Increased costs of prosecution, leaving little money for rehabilitation programs
- Prison overcrowding
- Blanket sentences imposed regardless of specific circumstances
- More defendants pleading to lesser offences that do not carry a mandatory minimum sentence.
- Violation of provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and legal challenges against the government on grounds that the sentencing rules violate certain rights that offenders have under the Charter, such as the right to liberty, the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
Reporting Child Abuse: What to Do
Assistant Solicitor gives tips on collecting evidence to help prosecutors in child abuse cases.
by Jason Evans
The story of Stephanie Carter's short life and the horrible abuse she endured before her death is haunting.
It haunts Gloria Morris, Executive Director of The Parenting Place, home of Prevent Child Abuse Pickens County.
It's all the more haunting because it could have been prevented. Stephanie Carter, who died at the age of 4, could have been saved – if only some of the people in her life had spoken up and reported the abuse.
“This child was beaten so many times in the head that she actually became cross-eyed,” Morris said. Neighbors saw her chained to a tree in her yard. Stepmother would explain it away -'Oh, she runs away.' Now, is that logical?
“Nobody wanted to get involved,” Morris said. “Her stepmother finally killed her. The final blow to her head killed her.”
Before and after photos showed the abuse inflicted on the little girl over time, she said.
“You could see the physical changes in her,” Morris said. “Nobody stepped in.”
Stephanie's father, Derek Carter, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for homicide by child abuse. Her stepmother, Ila Michelle Carter, was sentenced to life without parole on the same charge.
Last month, the Children's Services Council of Pickens County sponsored training on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse.
South Carolina does not require everyone to report suspected abuse – but your conscience should drive you to report, Morris believes.
“You're saving lives,” she said. “You need to report.”
If you suspect a child is being abused, report it to the County Department of Social Services Office, to law enforcement or to the coroner in the event the child has died.
DSS and law enforcement are required to keep the identity of the reporter confidential, but may share the name with each other as the investigation continues.
Reporters are immune from civil and criminal liability for reporting child abuse and neglect in good faith. The law presumes that child abuse and neglect reports are made in good faith.
The state requires the following people to report child abuse if they suspect it: doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, EMTs, mental health, allied health, clergy, teachers, counselors, principals and assistant principals, social workers, substance abuse counselors, childcare workers, foster care workers, police/law enforcement, undertakers (and staff), funeral directors and staff, film processors and computer technicians, judges, foster parents, school truancy/attendance officers, guardian ad litem and juvenile justice officers.
If you're a person required to report child abuse and neglect and you fail to do so, you have committed a crime and could face a $500 fine and 6 months imprisonment.
Assistant Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Baker Cleveland spoke to the training's attendees about how crucial getting as much information as you can about the abuse is in the early stages of any investigation.
“Pickens County, sadly, is very high on child abuse, child sexual abuse, child neglect cases,” Cleveland said.
“While we do everything we can in the courtroom to help bring these perpetrators to justice – child abusers, child sexual abusers, child neglectors, whether directly or indirectly, every case starts with a report,” he said. “And every single case usually hinges on that very first instance of reporting.”
He said the Solicitor's Office has a very strong commitment to the children of the Thirteenth Circuit.
“There are basically for us two types of cases, child abuse and child sex abuse cases, and everything else,” Cleveland said. “We take those cases very seriously. They're in a class of their own. They are very difficult to prosecute, they are often very, very sensitive, with dealing with the victims, families, dealing with the defendants, the perpetrators their families, their people, their lives.
“The problem with these cases is, when it boils down to it, is these crimes are private and they are so heinous that very few people, no matter what evidence is in front of them, will confess to the crime, will admit to it, will enter a guilty plea, will have their case resolved any other way than having a trial,” he continued.
Those trials are “lengthy, drawn out and can be very difficult for everyone involved,” Cleveland said.
“That's why it's so important to have strong evidence and to have an excellent record of what happened to these children,” he said. “I can't tell you how many times I've looked at a case and said, 'Wow, there was evidence there and it wasn't recorded.'”
“We can't rewind the clock,” Cleveland said. “We can go back and talk to people again, we can ask questions, but often times the evidence that is the best is that that's on the front end.
He talked about the important of “maintaining the record.”
“The first time a child comes to you with signs of abuse, with signs of neglect, it is imperative to maintain the record and get every piece of evidence that you can.”
If there's visible injuries on the child, take pictures with your phone.
“Camera phone pictures … they are just as admissible as if the policeman comes out there or you go to the hospital and the SANE nurse takes them,” Cleveland said. “If you record a statement, what the child is telling you, in their own words, by any way – a tape recorder, on your phone, leave yourself a voicemail, whatever you can, that is extremely useful and valuable later on down the road when these cases come to trial.”
Take note of the child's emotional state when he or she tells you about the abuse.
“How is the child demeanor normally, if you know the child? How is the child's demeanor when they're making this disclosure?” Cleveland asked. “Did the child blurt it out excitedly? Were they extremely distraught?”
Cleveland said prosecutors aren't allowed to use of out-of-court statements in court. The victim is going to have to testify in court, but that information can be helpful
“There are circumstances, such as what we call excited utterances, where someone is under the stress of a situation and they blurt out, we can use that in court,” Cleveland said. “If a child is hysterical and something causes them to do that, there's a good chance that if you record that, or take pictures or in any other way very accurately record what happened, we can use that as compelling evidence in court, where otherwise it could be lost.”
Cleveland said there are zero statutes of limitation in South Carolina for any criminal offense.
But victims waiting to come forward does make prosecution more difficult, as there's a lack of physical evidence, he said.
Since cases can take years to come to trial, any evidence collected is helpful.
“It's very, very helpful to have a recording, photograph, your own notes, even things that you might not think would be relevant, all of that can have a huge impact,” Cleveland said.
Some training attendees worried that heavy questioning could make a child stop talking about what happened to them, or begin to change their initial story.
“That's a good point,” Cleveland said. “When I say get a very detailed account, make good records, I don't necessarily mean interrogate the child. I just mean anything the child says, does, looks like, acts like, feels like – make a note of it, whether you think it's important or not.”
When a child is telling you about abuse, it's important you not indicate disbelief, shock or anger.
“We have to be calm listeners,” Morris said. “And the rule is never, ever, ever promise not to tell. Because if you promise … then you have to tell because it's reportable, there's another trust issue.
“You have to say, 'I have to do whatever I can to keep you safe,'” she said.
Home not a safe place for abused kids
by Craig Anderson
DOVER — Earl Bradley and Jerry Sandusky are names the public recognizes as predators.
But there are scores of less recognized names committing child abuse every day.
And many are relatives or people who shares the homes of the children they are abusing. Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware officials said these abusers account for nearly 85 percent of cases.
In Fiscal Year 2012, the CAC investigated 1,302 cases of reported child sex abuse cases — about 3.5 per day.
“People are not aware of how prevalent the problem is,” CAC Executive Director Randall E. Williams said.
While the CAC conducted 250 interviews related to the investigation of Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley during a 2011 process that led to 14 life sentences for sexually abusing dozens of children, there were more than 1,400 other interviews conducted during the same 12 month period.
“The community is aware of the Earl Bradley and Jerry Sandusky (the former Penn State football coach imprisoned for the serial molestation and rape of minors) cases because they get the press, but generally the public is not aware of the majority of the occurrences involving a situation at home,” said Mr. Williams.
Officials did point to the Bradley case, however, as serving as a statewide rally point to increase educational programs and stiffen laws to thwart future occurrences of sex abuse of helpless and innocent kids.
Studies have determined that only 1 in 10 cases of sexual abuse are reported when they occur. As the victims grow and become more willing to talk as adults, interviews reveal that one in four females and one in six males will be a victim by the age of 18.
Estimates are that 30 to 40 percent of the time an older child is the abuser, which puts cases in the Family Court system.
Strides have been made in increasing public awareness and discussion of safeguarding children from potential abusers in positions of trust — church leaders, coaches and teachers.
But the greatest challenge lies in how to curb awful crimes that occur in what should be a safe haven — a home.
A review of central Delaware arrest warrants over several months showed that incestuous and abusive relationships reach prosecution level not every day, but often weekly.
Statistics indicate the offenses occur daily, and are generally undetected.
In January, charges came against a man accused of drinking on family movie nights and then fondling his daughters in a case where he admitted to investigators he knew it was wrong.
The offenses went on for six months, according to charging documents filed by the Delaware State Police.
Another scenario involved parents arriving home to find their son sexually penetrating his younger sister on a couch; after discussion, they decided not to contact police.
Unfortunately, the mother learned years later that her husband had been involved in sexual assault and she sought police involvement. The offenses were listed in court records as occurring over a two-year period between 2005-07.
A state police investigation proceeded, and the son was later charged with nearly 100 counts of second-degree rape, and the father was facing an unlawful sexual contact in a case that also involved liberties taken against a second female in the family.
On Jan. 21, Milford police arrested a 17-year-old male in connection with alleged sexual assaults that occurred with a 13-year-old female relative at a residence. According to detectives, the suspect had forced the victim to engage in sexual acts numerous times and was charged with two counts of second-degree rape and incest. Police said the case was still being investigated and more charges may follow.
‘Profound betrayal of trust'
While any origin — family or otherwise — of sexual abuse is horrific in nature, the path to discovery, treatment and prosecution is often pocked with a complexity of issues when relatives are both victim and suspect.
“It is a profound betrayal of trust for a person who has been abused by someone who has a significant relationship in his or her life,” said Deputy Attorney General Patty Dailey Lewis, director of the state justice department's Family Division.
A family's fabric can be ripped apart by claims of incest, when members can potentially take sides against each other on who to believe, or be destroyed emotionally and/or financially when a bread-winner goes to jail or children are taken from the home for their safety.
Ms. Lewis said that very rarely are both parents involved in the direct sexual abuse, but a non-participating partner may be unaware of the abuse, overlooking it for fear of family destruction or hoping that a perpetrator will change his ways with continued confrontation.
Confrontation within the home rarely works, the Delaware Children's Department said.
In fact, a seemingly innocent parent can be found guilty of the crimes of endangering the welfare of a child and/or conspiracy depending how much they knew of the offenses.
Delaware has a broad mandatory law that requires anyone with a reasonable suspicion to report their concerns to the 24-hour Division of Family Services hotline at 1-800-292-9582.
“It is a crime that is almost always preventable if kids know warning signs and are in an environment where they can go to a trusted adult,” Ms. Lewis said.
Regrettably, fewer than 30 percent of parents ever discuss sexual abuse issues with their children, the AG's office said. That leads to a significant barrier in disclosure due to the minor's unfamiliarity with exactly what is happening to them.
Ms. Lewis said she was encouraged by society's progress in more open discussion, which was seen as a cultural taboo until at least the mid-1970s.
Gradually, professional articles and training began to expand the awareness that sex abuse was all too frequent but rarely acknowledged.
“There was a tremendous cultural aversion to this, even in the psychology community and other fields and organizations that could make a difference,” Ms. Lewis said.
Center for children
Kent County Children's Advocacy Center Coordinator Diane M. Klecan, a forensic interviewer, and staff are a central part of the state's Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Intervention and Response Model the state uses to limit a child's rehashing of trauma to multiple agencies.
CAC interviewers conduct one on one discussion with the minors in their Dover, Wilmington and Georgetown offices, and other entities such as the Delaware Children's Department, Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies, medical and mental health services representative watch via closed circuit-television in a separate room.
The interviews are recorded on DVDs and available immediately to the state to be used as evidence.
As a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, the CAC debuted in Delaware in 1996 to operate without any undue influence of the government and serves as an impartial means to reaching whatever the truth may be.
There's a financial advantage to funding a CAC, which operates in 700 locations nationwide after being jump-started by Alabama Congressman Bud Cramer Jr. in Huntsville in the mid-1980s. A CAC brochure said a typical multidisciplinary team case handled through its non-profit costs an average of $2,902, compared to $3,949 for a non-CAC based investigation, a savings of 36 percent.
Not to be believed
Getting to the heart of the matter, literally, is a professional challenge for Ms. Klecan and other interviewers. While the CAC speaks with kids in all stages of investigation of prosecution, including ones with full confessions already rendered, most are in the initial phase.
An interview is conducted without the presence of a parent or significant other who may continue to intimidate implicitly or explicitly if under suspicion.
“When you're talking about someone in the home being involved, kids always fear not being believed,” Ms. Klecan said. “They often believe what the perpetrator tells them, such as ‘All this is your fault,' ‘I will go to jail,' or ‘You will be in big trouble if you say anything.'
“Anything that's important to a child, the perpetrator will use against them.”
The victim's young nature requires a delicate touch when presented to various agencies involved with a case. Law enforcement will not identify a victim if a press release is issued at all, in an attempt to maintain privacy for those innocents affected.
“There should be a certain sensitivity and the approach should be mindful of an age-appropriate response when dealing with the vulnerable part of the population such as children and those with disabilities,” said Maureen Monagle, coordinator of the state's Criminal Justice Council.
Ms. Monagle pointed to Delaware's small size as a benefit to quick coordination of agencies familiar with each other and how to mutually assist in resolving a troubling situation as best possible.
The CAC attempts to elicit all pertinent information during one interview, which is conducted in a child-friendly setting after assurances of safety and support for their needs have been communicated. While toys and other youth-oriented materials are provided in the waiting room, a chair and comfortable couch are offered in a sparsely filled interview room to limit distractions as conversations begin.
Located nearby is a locked chest of anatomical dolls of three different skin tones that can help children explain clothing, positioning or penetration issues. “Most of the time the dolls are not used, and they're only brought out if the first part of the interview warrants it,” Ms. Klecan said. “A doll is another tool that's available, but not always necessary.”
Those options include a large easel and paper available if drawing something is easier than talking about it; kids can also write their feelings into a diary-style form if needed.
In a room next door, various agency members watch the discourse live as they fill in the blanks to a proper response ranging from criminal charges to foster care options and planning mental health treatment and support system that's key to recovery.
“A synergy develops around the table as to what steps can be taken in a holistic manner to best benefit the child's welfare,” said the CAC's Mr. Williams.
Perpetrators engage in a planned approach of “grooming” to gain a position of trust with a potential victim and estrange the minor from anyone they might turn to for help. Isolating a child physically and emotionally is a hallmark of predatory tactics.
By the time physical contact occurs and escalates, experts report, the child already has been manipulated and confused. Previously learned proper behavior has likely been eradicated through a gradual process of deceit.
“In a family setting, prevention is geared generically toward teaching kids about good touch, bad touch and confusing touch,” said Dr. Victoria Kelly, director of the Delaware Children's Department.
“Children are pretty good about knowing a ‘bad touch' when they are hit or hurt. The ‘confusing touch' is where the child can become unsure of appropriate boundaries.
“The abuser is very good at garnering trust and creating secrecy through a wall of trust.”
Once the secret is out and prosecution completed, there's still the tragedy of a child who will likely need extensive counseling to heal emotional wounds caused by often years of abuse.
Contact Lifeline counselor Cheryl Wilson, whose nonprofit has offices in Milford and Wilmington, said treatment is much more complex with intra-familial abuses. Factors include how early in life the abuse occurred, its frequency and the relationship with the criminal abuser.
“If a stranger is involved there's a far shorter healing process, said Ms. Wilson, who primarily works with adolescents 12 and older. “Families are a complex issue because of the element of authority and power involved in a young person's life.
“There's a lot of confusion because you're taught from an early age to obey, listen to and respect people in positions of authority and trust.
“Kids may initially feel that they're really betraying the people they love and who they love the most. Some treatments and healing processes may take years.”
A holistic approach
Dover Police Department Victim Services Specialist Diane Glenn described the team process as a “village that comes together” and said “We do things very differently than 20 years ago.” She pointed to Survivors of Abuse and Recovery, and Darkness to Light programs as significant initiatives to increase services to victims.
The month of April has been designated nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness month, and Delaware will learn more from two events soon afterward — on May 1 at the Dover Sheraton Hotel and May 2 at Cape Henlopen High near Lewes. The keynote speaker will be Marilyn Van Derbur, the former Miss America 1958 who was sexually abused by her father for years and later founded the American Coalition for Abuse Awareness and One Voice.
Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden and his office have taken a significant stand against child abusers, through toughened laws in the Delaware Code and community outreach designed to educate the public and further public discussion. In 2012, Mr. Biden and legislators established strong protections and stiffer penalties through Senate Bill 234 that Gov. Jack A. Markell signed into law last June.
“Our laws to protect children and punish abusers cannot truly be effective unless they address the distinct nature of this crime, its perpetrators and their young victims,” Mr. Biden said last summer in the midst of turning misdemeanors into felonies and especially protecting children with intellectual or developmental disabilities and those 3 and younger.
Approximately 15 Department of Justice staff members are certified facilitators in the Stewards of Children program that trains adults to learn the signs of abuse and then act to report suspicions to proper authorities.
There are currently more than 60 facilitators throughout the state, with educational institutions University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College and Wilmington University committed to expanding the manpower involved.
The Stewards of Children is a three-hour program available to adults that includes a DVD presentation and a $10 cost for a workbook. Prevent Child Abuse Director Karen K. DeRasmo said the program has a goal to train 35,000 Delawareans by March 2016.
Ultimately, Ms. DeRasmo said, the educational programs and expanded public discussion are the best remedy for combating sexual abuse that occurs behind the closed doors of home when allegedly responsible adults are indeed the problem.
“The first aim is to educate adults on childhood sexual abuse issues,” Ms. DeRasmo said. “With that training, they can prevent, recognize and react responsibly to childhood sexual abuse wherever it is occurring.”
So far, more than 7,600 Delawareans have completed the course since the end of 2011, said YMCA Director of the Stewards of Children's program Nikki Mowbray, including 1,000 people through online training. The program was created by the Darkness to Light organization and funded with a grant awarded by the Delaware Community Foundation.
Adults trained in detecting possible abuse signs, and red flags for suspicious behavior, is a key, Ms. Mowbray said.
“It is so pervasive, and until we get to the point in society where people will say ‘No I'm not going to settle for this' and take steps to train themselves for awareness will the rates be driven down,” Ms. Mowbray said.
Let's stop child abuse before it starts
In the past 5 years, five children have died in Cascade County due to neglect and abuse. Children are beaten, denied adequate nutrition, suffering broken bones and concussions, and are left alone to die instead of receiving adequate medical care. Children, as young as a few months old, are being harmed right here in our community, and it must stop.
There are punishments in place to bring a measure of justice to the abusers, but retroactive penalties are not enough. A jail term can put cannot undo the damage. They cannot heal broken bones. They cannot restore a traumatized mind or return a young life. We must give our police and county attorneys tools needed to stop abuse before a child is hurt.
That is why I introduced SB 160 to the Montana Senate. SB 160 expands the criminal endangerment law to include new felonies involving child endangerment. It makes failing to obtain medical care for a critically injured child, allowing a known abuser or sex predator to care for a child, driving while intoxicated with a child, and failing to meet a child's nutritional needs punishable by law.
This bill will not solve the problem entirely. Citizens must speak up if they see something wrong. Community members and organizations like the Dandelion Foundation must be supported so they can continue to educate the public about the problem. But this bill is a start. This bill sends a strong message that putting a child in danger is never acceptable, and allows police to intervene and stop possible child abuse before it begins.
Children survive abuse, only to get tossed around complex child-welfare system
Senate District 12
by Christy Gutowski
Something about the bright first-grader worried his Chicago public school teacher.
The boy had recently missed two weeks of school. He wore only long-sleeved shirts, even when it was warm. And he hoarded food in his desk to take home to his younger sister.
The teacher, Jennifer O'Connor, had seen other children stash leftovers from their school breakfast, a sad reality in their Woodlawn neighborhood. But when O'Connor questioned the 6-year-old boy, his response stunned her.
The child said he and his sister were forced to eat cat food, while others in the home had a regular supper. He said his grandmother beat, bit and burned them with a hair iron and "whooped" them daily for something as simple as taking a cookie.
"There was no way I was going to let him go back home," said O'Connor, according to a police account. "Everything in my gut told me he was telling the truth."
Her hot line calls to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ultimately led to the siblings' removal from the home in October 2012 and the arrest of the grandmother who raised them after their mother lost custody.
A Tribune review of court records, police reports and confidential DCFS case notes revealed missed opportunities to intervene by child protection workers, neighbors and the siblings' own family. The case has raised questions about why, despite warning signs of trouble, the children were kept in the care of a relative now charged with abusing them.
What happened to the boy and his 5-year-old sister also underscores that even when children are placed in protective custody, they can end up facing further harm.
"All of the experts agree placements with relatives are better," said Dave Clarkin, a DCFS spokesman. "This case points out there are exceptions to that rule."
The grandmother, Goldine Williams, 47, maintains her innocence. She is being held on $200,000 bail on felony aggravated battery to a child charges. Two of her daughters — the children's aunts — also are accused of misdemeanor domestic battery against the siblings.
The Chicago detective who made the arrests, Pamela Childs, is among those questioning DCFS' role in the case.
Childs wonders about how closely the state monitored the grandmother's home. She is helping to link the biological mother, Barbara Williams, 24, with services as the woman tries to convince authorities she is a fit parent.
The children's love for the mother is evident, Childs said. Their feelings toward their grandmother also were clear to the 20-year police veteran.
"These kids trembled at the sound of the grandmother's name," Childs said. "They were covered in scars, bruises and burn marks. How could no one have noticed that?"
Her partner, Joseph Mancilla, recalled a question the little girl asked him during the investigation:
"Would you be my daddy for Christmas?"
In the weeks that followed, police collected toys, bikes and clothes for them.
The boy idolizes Spider-Man, but the detectives described him as a real-life hero, who found the courage to speak out at Fermi Elementary School because he wanted to protect his sister.
Warning signs of trouble
The siblings were placed with their grandmother in December 2008 after their mother was the subject of three hot line calls during the year.
The first inquiry began after Barbara Williams' infant daughter, born more than two months premature, ended up in the hospital with diarrhea. DCFS cleared the mother of wrongdoing, records show. But she agreed to take classes to learn how to better take care of a medically fragile child.
A second hot line call came months later when Barbara Williams, five months pregnant with her third child, reported her boyfriend had punched her in the abdomen. This time, DCFS accused her of neglect because the violence occurred in front of her son.
The final hot line call came in December after she brought her 14-month-old malnourished daughter to the hospital with serious injuries, including leg and arm fractures. Barbara Williams denied hurting her daughter. She said a child in the shelter where they were staying pushed the girl off a couch onto the floor when she momentarily left her alone.
Experts found a bite mark on the girl's foot consistent with having been caused by another child, reports show. Staff at the shelter said she appeared to be a loving mother. But doctors said the child's other injuries were too serious to support the explanation.
DCFS accused Barbara Williams of child abuse and medical neglect and placed her son and daughter with her mother, Goldine Williams, who had completed foster parent classes and soon said the children were flourishing with her.
But the Tribune found there were early indications this might not be a good arrangement. A clinical psychologist at Stroger Hospital recommended the children be placed in protective custody but, "preferably not with the maternal grandmother," due to abuse Barbara alleged she suffered as a child and their continued strained relationship.
"Children should be placed in a safe environment, preferably outside the family," the report read.
One month later, in January 2009, the assistant public guardian assigned to represent the children in Cook County child-protection court filed an emergency motion to review the placement with the grandmother.
The assistant guardian voiced her concerns about Goldine Williams' dirty home, the shut-off of natural gas service and her allegedly abusive relationship with her daughter, court records show.
Despite those concerns, all authorities and the judge involved in the custody case agreed the children were safe with the grandmother. The decision, officials said, was partly based on Barbara Williams' favorable comments about her mother.
"We went back and interviewed the biological mother," DCFS' Clarkin said, after the public guardian petition. "She said, 'My mother was a great mother. I have no concerns about her.'"
Barbara Williams told the Tribune she made that comment only because her mother threatened that her children otherwise would be separated and placed in strangers' homes.
That same month, Barbara Williams delivered a full-term stillborn boy.
While the children were living with the grandmother, DCFS paid a Chicago nonprofit agency Child Link to monitor the family and provide services. The foster care agency declined to comment.
A Child Link caseworker was required to make monthly home visits for four years, but state oversight ended in July 2012 after Williams adopted her granddaughter. Williams had been named the boy's guardian in late 2011.
Barbara Williams said she repeatedly complained to the Child Link caseworker to no avail about her mother's alleged physical discipline of the children. Clarkin said if she did complain, there's no record of it. He also said there was never any indication of abuse.
Court records show that DCFS did investigate the grandmother in April 2011 after the girl's school called the child abuse hot line to report a suspicious bruise on her thigh. DCFS did not find evidence that Goldine Williams hurt the child.
Barbara Williams said she constantly fought with her mother to have access to her children and confronted her about their punishments. The mother said she didn't know her children were being forced to eat cat food or the severity of the alleged abuse.
Williams admits she never called police or the DCFS hot line — a decision she now regrets.
Neighbors later told authorities they suspected the children were being mistreated but didn't go to police or DCFS officials with their concerns, according to documents. Others in the large extended family also didn't come forward. The siblings rarely played outside. The boy often walked to school alone.
No place to call home
Help finally came when O'Connor, the boy's teacher, left a detailed voice message at the hot line on Oct. 18 after she noticed him limping, documents show. Police later said he told her that his "nana" whipped him with the plastic sword his mother bought him for his ninja Halloween costume.
It's unclear from the records if the school ever reached the hot line that first day, but authorities did respond to the teacher's message. A DCFS investigator was outside the family's building in the 1400 block of East 68th Street about 8:30 p.m., agency records state. The worker left after his attempts to reach someone in the large three-flat went unanswered.
O'Connor and a school nurse called DCFS again the next day, after the boy came back to school and complained his leg hurt. He again accused his grandmother, saying "nana was fighting with mother, trying to put her out of the house. He did not want the mother to go and nana whipped him," according to records.
Another DCFS investigator went to the boy's school later that afternoon and interviewed him. The child was taken to a hospital. The grandmother met them there with the boy's sister. Records show the girl, also covered in cuts and bruises, implicated Goldine Williams as her abuser.
The grandmother has repeatedly denied hurting the children and accused Barbara Williams of inflicting their injuries during her unsupervised visitations, court records state.
In the three months since their rescue, the boy and his sister have been shuffled among multiple emergency shelters, foster homes and schools.
DCFS initially placed the children with one of Goldine Williams' sisters, but they were removed after less than two months when Detective Childs learned the woman had dangerous dogs.
The children spent one week in a shelter before DCFS moved them into the home of a 70-year-old unrelated foster parent in December. Weeks later, records show, she notified DCFS the arrangement wasn't working. Since Jan. 14, they have been at another emergency shelter.
The multiple placements trouble Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris.
"That's a huge problem for the system," he said. "Every time a child is moved into another placement, the system inflicts another trauma on them."
The shelter, Aunt Martha's Children's Reception Center in Bronzeville, is Illinois' largest, housing newborns to 21 years old, some with violent records. Barbara Williams said the siblings are together in their own room on a floor restricted for young children.
On Monday, the children are expected to meet their possible new foster parent, their third in three months.
Early on, experts described Barbara Williams as "well-intended, concerned and loving" but limited in her capacity to provide for her children. She completed the required services, such as parenting and counseling, but long struggled to find stable housing and a job.
"It was the worst day of my life," she said of losing custody. "I fault myself for them being taken away, but I'm doing everything in my power to get them back."
Now, the young mother says, she has a nice apartment, a solid support system, steady financial government assistance and a part-time job cutting hair. A decision looms about who will raise her children — and whether they'll be split up.
The latter is their mother's biggest fear.
DCFS encourages anyone who suspects a child is in danger to call 800-25ABUSE.
Warning over online child abuse
(Video on site)
Children are being groomed by paedophiles purely for online sexual abuse, experts have said.
Sex offenders are targeting children so that they can watch them performing sexual acts over the internet.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) said that for these paedophiles, physical contact with the children does not appear to be a motivation.
It follows the conviction in December of two brothers in Kuwait who targeted 110 children worldwide, including 78 in the UK, and forced them into performing sexual acts online.
CEOP also said that of 1,145 reports of online grooming last year, just 7% related to trying to meet a child in person, a drop from 12% in 2011.
Chief executive of CEOP Peter Davies said: “On a daily basis we see the devastation caused to young people's lives by online grooming.
“What we are seeing is that for a growing proportion of grooming cases reported to the centre, online abuse is an end in itself.
“UK children can be targeted from anywhere and offenders will cast their net widely to target large numbers of children. Things can quickly spiral out of control for victims.
“Children may be targeted because of their vulnerability but any child can be a victim. What is apparent is that parents' and carers' can make that vital difference in whether or not a child becomes a victim of these ruthless predators online.”
According to figures from Ofcom, six out of ten 12 to 15 year olds now own a smart phone, and that the number has increased by a fifth in the past year.
More than two-thirds of those do not have parental controls installed on their phones.
CEOP also said that instant messaging on some phones is used by paedophiles to groom potential victims.
It was used by offenders to make contact with children in around third of public reports of grooming in 2012/13.
Claire Lilly from the NSPCC said: “The internet is part and parcel of young lives and most can't remember a world before it existed.
“We cannot put the genie back in the bottle, but we can talk to young people and educate them on staying safe online just as we do about stranger danger or drugs.
“We are seeing a sharp rise in young people contacting ChildLine about being approached online, sending images to strangers or being exposed to online pornography.”
CEOP and the charity are encourage parents and carers to talk to children about what they do online on Safer Internet Day on Tuesday.
'A dozen abused kids too late': Pope removes Kownacki from priesthood
BELLEVILLE — Raymond Kownacki, whose history of years of sexually abusing children was brought out in testimony during a 2008 civil trial that ended with a $5 million judgment against the Diocese of Belleville, has been booted from the priesthood by Pope Benedict XVI.
According to a Jan. 25 "Official Statement" from Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton, Benedict's decree "means that Mr. Kownacki is no longer a member of the clerical state and has been dispensed 'pro bono Ecclesiae,' -- for the good of the church."
Diocese spokesman the Rev. John Myler could not be reached for comment. Braxton does not comment to local media.
Kownacki, 78, who resides in a nursing home in St. Louis County, is the second priest from the diocese to be removed from the priesthood following allegations of sexual abuse of minors. In 2007, Benedict removed Robert J. Vonnahmen, a former priest who was alleged by a diocesan review panel to have abused boys at a church-run camp in the 1970s.
Kownacki has stated in previous years that he did not wish to comment. He was never in open court as a witness or spectator.
"Kownacki abused and impregnated a teen, tried to perform an abortion, and assaulted dozens of kids," said Dave Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. This was a reference to allegations involving a Washington Park church in the mid 1970s where he raped his teenage housekeeper and then tried to abort her with his hands.
A federal lawsuit against Kownacki regarding these allegations failed because of the statute of limitations.
"Still, it took Catholic officials almost 20 years to defrock him after he'd already been ousted from ministry. These facts clearly show how little Belleville and Vatican staffers care about vulnerable kids and wounded adults," Clohessy said.
About a dozen other living priests who were removed from priestly duties in the mid 1990s but not from the priesthood following articles in the Belleville News-Democrat, have cases for total removal before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. They cannot minister or wear a priestly collar but continue to receive church retirement benefits.
"It's 40 years and a dozen abused kids too late," said Belleville attorney Mike Weilmuenster, who, with his former law firm partner Stephen Wigginton, successfully obtained judgments against the diocese in four civil suits involving Kownacki, including three where the minor victim was not identified. Wigginton is now the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.
The total payoff is at least $7.5 million, according to court documents. However, in at least two of the settled cases, the parties agree not to reveal the amount of the judgment.
The most prominent of these lawsuits involved former altar boy James Wisniewski, whose $5 million judgment after trial more than four years ago grew to $6.33 million with interest when the diocese paid it off in August 2011.
"It's better late than never," Weilmuenster said. "Given this guy's age, his true judgment will be coming soon."
The Kownacki trial not only focused on the allegation of predatory sexual abuse of minors by the former priest, which went unrefuted, but brought to light many allegations of a cover-up by former high-ranking diocesan officials. Braxton was not assigned to Belleville during the time Kownacki was still a priest assigned to minister to a parish.
Testimony during the trial concerning claims documented in church memorandums showed that the leadership of the diocese knew of Kownacki's crimes, but transferred him to parishes without warning parishioners that their children could be in danger.
Bill to change reporting proposed
Measure wants all adults to report child sex abuse
by Jonathan Shorman
Any adult who witnesses child sexual abuse would be legally required to report the abuse under a bill receiving attention in the Missouri Senate.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence, chaired by Springfield Sen. Bob Dixon, met late Wednesday afternoon to consider Senate Bill 113. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, expands the list of child sex abuse mandatory reporters.
Current law requires certain professionals, such as teachers and doctors, to report suspected child abuse. Schmitt's bill keeps those reporting requirements in place, but adds a requirement that any adult who witnesses child sex abuse must report to law enforcement or the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services.
In making his case for the bill, Schmitt invoked Penn State as a situation where his bill would apply.
“I think at the end of the day what this comes down to is doing the right thing and expecting our neighbors to do the right thing to protect our kids,” Schmitt said.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said he was concerned the bill does not define sexual abuse and someone could be prosecuted if they see abuse but do not necessarily know what they saw. Schaaf asked Schmitt to consider adding a “reasonable man” standard to the bill, which would require people who reasonably believe they witnessed abuse to report it.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the law would represent a “sea change” in the law because generally the U.S. does not recognize a “duty to rescue.” The example Schaefer used was that in France if someone falls into a river and a passerby sees them, he or she is legally required to rescue the drowning person. Schaefer said that while he acknowledges the horror of abuse, the bill would change previous legal precedent.
After Dixon asked her to come forward, Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri Kids First, said the law does not match the recommendations of a Missouri child sex abuse task force that released its findings at the beginning of the year. The task force recommended requiring current mandated reporters to report suspected abuse directly to law enforcement or Children's Division. Currently, mandated reporters can report to a designated agent — such as a principal, in the case of teachers. Schmitt's bill does not change that.
Van Schenkhof also said the task force considered a recommendation similar to what is included in Schmitt's bill but found that such a requirement would not have a great impact because the vast majority of child sexual abuse is not witnessed.
Aarika's Law Introduces Changes to Child Abuse Law
Aarika Sanchez accused her stepfather Johnnie Swaim of molesting her and the case went to trial in 1995. Swaim was acquitted. This prompted Sanchez's father to create Aarika's Law.
The law would extend the time limit of reporting child abuse.
In California the time limit is one year to report child abuse. If Aarika's Law is approved, the time limit would be five years and if those who fail to report abuse would be prosecuted.
"There shouldn't be a statute of limitations in this because most victims are not speaking out till five, 10, 15, 20 years," Elias Sanchez, Aarika's father said.
Sanchez was outraged when his daughter Aarika told him Swaim, a former California Highway Patrol officer had abused her when she was four.
Swaim is on trial again for similar charges with two other accusers and witnesses say the mom was told about the alleged abuse.
"It should be mandatory for all responsible adults to report the molestation not just specific people," Sanchez said.
"Just believe them. Believe them and go to the authorities and do the correct thing that is going to report it," Aarika said. Sanchez says this is his family's mission now. they're trying to get support from politicians to make aarika's law official.
"When you have one out of every four girls getting molested, one out of every six boys being molested over 42 million survivors just in America alone. Every 10 seconds in America a child is being sexually abused," Sanchez said.
"So it's like they're screaming for help. So if they tell you just do the correct thing and go report," Aarika said. You can find out more information about Aarika's Law by going to their website at www.aarikaslaw.org.
Alex Gibney Tackles Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal In HBO's
'Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God'
by Ellen Killoran
Alex Gibney seems to be everywhere these days. The astonishingly prolific Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker (“Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room”) recently made waves at Sundance with “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” which screened to rapt audiences and unsurprisingly drew criticism from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's legal team.
In “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in The House of God,” which premieres on HBO on Feb. 4, Gibney turns his attention away from corporate greed and freedom of information to child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, offering a fresh take on an old story by examining widespread, historical abuses through the eyes of a now-grown group of silent victims: former students at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wis., who for years were terrorized by the school's beloved headmaster, Father Lawrence Murphy.
Between 1950 and 1974, Father Murphy routinely raped and molested the deaf students at this boarding school in a Milwaukee suburb, often strategically targeting those students whose parents could not communicate in sign language -- making it impossible for the boys to share their secret with a trusted adult who could speak out on their behalf.
A handful of Murphy's victims, now in middle age but still deeply traumatized, gave candid, chilling accounts of the abuse and their desperate, sometimes cruelly thwarted struggle to expose the priest's criminal activities. From there, Gibney takes us to the Vatican to expose the Catholic Church's sophisticated and willful coverup of clerical sex abuse, a web of silence that reaches far beyond the Holy See and persists in protecting the abusers instead of the innocent children who continue to be victimized.
On Thursday, Gibney spoke to IBTimes about what he discovered in making “Mea Maxima Culpa" (which translates to "my most grevious fault" in Latin), sharing his thoughts on why the Catholic Church has been so reluctant to come clean on clerical abuse and what, if anything, we can expect to see change in the Vatican. He also spoke about what it's like to be the busiest documentary filmmaker working today, and gave us a little tease about the top-secret Lance Armstrong documentary currently in the works.
IBTimes: There are so many stories of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Was there a particular reason you chose to focus on these deaf boys?
Gibney: That just happened to be part of the story. I didn't realize until I got into it just how impactful [their deafness] would be. It was a more egregious abuse of power, since Murphy would go after children whose parents couldn't sign. Obviously we were playing with a lot of silences in the title.
One of the challenges Father Murphy's victims faced was the inability to tell a trusted adult what was happening to them. Not only could some not communicate with their parents in sign language, at least one of your subjects talked about his limited ability to read or write. Is it common for some deaf people to struggle with literacy?
You can be quite fluent in American Sign Language and not be fluent in reading and writing American English -- they are two different languages.
Gary Smith, one of the former students who spoke of his difficulty communicating in writing, filed a civil lawsuit in 1975 against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Murphy. Yet a short time later, he signed a document -- that he couldn't fully comprehend -- retracting the allegations and offering his apology. Why did he sign it?
He didn't have an independent signing interpreter to translate the document for him, because he trusted the person who explained the document to tell him the truth. [Gibney is referring to a nun at St. John's, who was primarily responsible for misleading Smith into signing the document.]
How did your subjects who were Murphy's victims respond to seeing “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” for the first time?
They saw it for the first time in Toronto [the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, this past November]. It was difficult for them to see. A lot of them were crying. But I think they were gratified in the end. They are committed to protecting the children [who are still at risk for victimization]. They really feel good about speaking out.
We are a lot more sensitized to these issue than we were back then. The community around deaf children is so much more educated. And we have made progress in terms of how we see figures of authority.
For anyone who has been following the numerous cases of clerical sexual abuse, I think it might be easy to come away with the sense that sexual abuse is almost systemic to the Catholic Chruch. I believe Richard Sipe [ a former Benedictine monk turned scholar, who counseled abusive priests and has written extensively on the break of the celibacy vow] even says as much, and "Mea Maxima Culpa" does seem to reinforce this notion that the threat of sexual abuse is very significant. Do you feel that high-profile cases like these skew people's perspective, and suggest that a bigger majority of Catholic priests are abusers or potential abusers than is the reality?
Richard Sipe was saying it was systemic in the sense that abusers are allowed to exist without proper scrutiny. He did a report for the Catholic Church about the sex lives of priests -- he discovered that over 50 percent of Catholic priests have sexual lives. But that doesn't mean those are all deviant sexual lives.
Look at Penn State, and BBC, with the Jimmy Savile scandal. Predators do abound, in places outside of the church. The problem is that the Catholic Church has at its heart a culture of secrecy.
I hadn't realized what a critical role, and for how long, Pope Benedict [former Cardinal Ratzinger ] has played in this ongoing sex abuse scandal. "Mea Maxima Culpa" explains how the current Pope is probably more knowledgeable than anyone about the nature and extent of clerical sex abuse throughout the decades, since for many years he has been the sole gatekeeper of any files related to priest abuses. Yet, while Ratzinger is clearly culpable for allowing abuses to continue, he comes across in your film as a deeply conflicted character, and there is a suggestion he would like to do more about it. Would you agree with that impression?
Definitely. Ratzinger tried for years to hold to account [Father Marcial Maciel] Degollado [ a notorious perpetrator of sexual abuse who bought influence over the Vatican through high-ticket fundraising ], but was stymied by Pope John Paul II -- who doesn't come across well in the film at all. The sad fact of Pope Benedict is that he didn't follow through. He didn't have the courage of his convictions. Indeed, he is a prisoner of the system himself -- the system is more concerned with the reputation of the church than the well-being of the victims. ... but the fear of scandal that permeates the church just leads to even greater scandal.
I read in an another interview that said none of this can ever be resolved unless the church releases the documents it has on clerical sex abuse. Do you think the Catholic Church will ever change the way it approaches, and covers up, priestly abuse?
To say that there haven't been any changes isn't right. Bishops have insisted on changes. ... but even then, abuses continue. The biggest crime is the Catholic Church's refusal to come clean on this issue. Where is the Truth & Reconciliation commission? Where is the responsibility to come forward and disgorge documents because it is the right thing to do? There are a lot of files that probably have to do with abuse that is going on right now.
Why do you think the church refuses to come clean?
I don't know. I don't think they are motivated to. ... Only when the church is turned inside out by its members will things change. Then the Vatican won't be able to hold on anymore.
You are often referred to as one of the hardest-working and most prolific documentarians working today, and you certainly seem to have an unusual ability to juggle a number of different projects at the same time. How are you able to switch gears?
I do it by standing on the shoulders of very talented people. While I move from project to project, I have a dedicated small staff on each film who work on that film only, so that they are not conflicted. ... My staff is small in size but enormous in its contribution.
Speaking of prolific, you have a Lance Armstrong documentary in the works, set for 2013 release. Anything you can tell us about it? Do you have Armstrong's cooperation?
We are working very hard on it, that's all I can say. ... And yes, Armstrong has been involved.
Former sex trafficking victim shines light on dark underworld of Super Bowl
by Naomi Martin
Amid the parties and fun of Super Bowl 2013, authorities say, there is a dark underworld of girls and women being forced into the sex trade. Sitting in the festive lobby of a New Orleans hotel, festooned with San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens decorations, Clemmie Greenlee, a former victim of sex trafficking from Nashville, recalled being brought to cities around the South to prostitute for those attending such large-scale events.
For Greenlee's pimps, the influx of people provided a massive money-making opportunity.
"When they come to these kinds of events, the first thing you're told is how many you're gonna perform a day," she said Friday. "You've got to go through 25 men a day, or you're going through 50 of them. When they give you that number, you better make that number."
Having been abducted and gang-raped by her captors at age 12, Greenlee said, she was one of about eight girls controlled by a ring of pimps, men who injected them with heroin and, at times, kept them handcuffed to beds. For trying to run away, she was once stabbed in the back.
Now 53, Greenlee works at Eden House in Uptown New Orleans, the first shelter for sex-trafficking victims in Louisiana; the center opened in October 2012.
"If you don't make that number (of sex customers), you're going to dearly, dearly, severely pay for it," Greenlee said. "I mean with beatings, I mean with over and over rapings. With just straight torture. The worst torture they put on you is when they make you watch the other girl get tortured because of your mistake."
Sex and Super Bowls
In the past year, authorities in Louisiana have been working to raise awareness about the rampant sex trafficking that has historically accompanied the Super Bowl. While there is a widespread perception that human trafficking is a problem only in foreign countries, data from the U.S. Department of Justice show the average American prostitute begins working between the ages of 12 and 14.
Established in 2006, the Louisiana Human Trafficking Task Force, comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, plus faith-based and nongovernmental organizations, has been meeting regularly to try to increase trafficking arrests and rescue the victims.
As a tourist destination, New Orleans attracts sex workers year-round, said Bryan Cox, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in New Orleans. But many of those young women are not here by choice. So, in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, both outreach and undercover efforts have ramped up.
Those efforts have paid off to some degree already. As of Thursday, at least eight men had been booked with sex trafficking and five female victims had been rescued from their clutches, Cox said, noting that such cases are investigated jointly by the New Orleans Police Department, State Police, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, among others.
Two of the women, ages 21 and 24, were brought to Covenant House, a homeless shelter for young people at the edge of the French Quarter, according to executive director James Kelly. After taking a shower and spending the night, however, the women left without accepting the services Kelly and others were trying to offer them.
"We believe they went back to turning tricks," Kelly said. "We did our best to try to care for them and try to get them to stay, but they were 21 and 24, and there was no way we could force them to stay, and neither could the FBI."
You've got to go through 25 men a day, or you're going through 50 of them." -- Clemmie Greenlee
Such behavior is common, Greenlee said, noting that she had repeatedly returned to her captors after stays in the hospital or jail, mainly out of fear. She said many times, the women are brainwashed; they believe they have no other options, no future to pursue.
"They're terrified," she said. "You can say you're going to save us, you can say we don't have to worry about the pimps no more. We already know what power they have shown us. So either you come back to them, or you find out two days later they either got your grandmother or they just broke your little baby's arm.
"There's no such thing as we want to go back to these guys," she said. "We do not feel that no one -- not even the law -- can protect us, and we do not want to die. I'd rather live in that misery and pain than to die."
Messages on bars of soap
Aside from police sting operations, advocacy groups and local police agencies have been trying to combat the problem by handing out pamphlets to local hotel concierges, bartenders and club bouncers, asking them to be on the lookout for women who appear fearful and show signs of being controlled by the men they're with. One of the signs a woman is being trafficked is that she is not allowed to speak for herself, advocates say.
Some groups have been handing out to hotels bars of soap that have a sex trafficking hotline phone number on them, hoping that women who are desperate to escape will see the number on the soap bar and take a chance on a phone call that could save them. Other groups have been providing strip clubs with posters that urge people to call in tips.
For Greenlee, her chance at a turnaround came from a similar help card in Nashville. Having run away from her captors in her 30s, she said, they did not chase after her because she had "aged out." Living in an abandoned house in Nashville, shooting heroin with other junkies and prostituting herself, she had lost all hope of a normal life.
But one woman, a former sex worker who knew Greenlee and had graduated from Magdalene House, a safe house program in Nashville -- the philosophy of which Eden House was based on -- visited Greenlee almost weekly. She would leave little cards with the Magdalene House telephone number on them. But having given up, Greenlee shunned the woman and her cards.
After about five months of cards piling up, one day Greenlee woke up and realized she needed to take the chance. She was 42 years old. "I went to the phone and I pulled out some of them 99 pieces of paper that girl had left.
"The one thing I had in my head was, 'If I learn how to live and heal, I can get back and get those girls. I can go back and tell people what they do to us,'" she said. "I'm not ashamed of what done happened to me. I don't care if I never get a husband. It just don't make no sense that we had to go through this."
"It's not as easy as saying, 'Call this number, escape,'" said Kara Van De Carr, executive director of Eden House. "But women who have hit rock bottom and realize they're going to die in that lifestyle will try anything to get out."
Authorities urge those who suspect trafficking to contact local police or the Department of Homeland Security at 1.866.347.2423. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center also staffs a toll-free 24-hour hotline at 888-373-7888.
Local Group to Present Information to Educate about Issue of Human Trafficking
The Brown County Community Resource Coordinating Group (CRCG) will be offering information regarding the growing problem of human trafficking. Deena Graves, Executive Director of Traffick911 will present a brief, one-hour overview of child/human sexual trafficking on Tuesday, February 5th at 9:30 AM at the Family Service Center in Brownwood. An additional 4-hour training will also be offered with continuing education credit.
“While I've thought that child-sex trafficking is something that happens only in big cities, I was wrong,” said Bob Conteras, co-chair of the Brown County CRCG. “Ms. Graves will give us a brief overview during our meeting and is willing to schedule four-hour group trainings for organizations, along with CEUs, for those who are interested.”
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It is the fastest-growing crime in the world, with the perpetrators making $32 billion a year buying and selling people for their profit and pleasure. The profits are huge and the risk of being prosecuted is slim- the United Nations says 99% of victims are never rescued.
Domestic minor sex trafficking is the buying and selling of America's own children. Federal law defines domestic minor sex trafficking as the exchange of a sex act for anything of value.
While it is true that there are children who are at higher risk for becoming a victim, such as runaways and throwaways, all American children are at risk. Gangs and the Mexican cartels are sending recruiters into Texas schools to find victims. Children are kidnapped. People they know are selling them and threatening their families if they tell. Sometimes their own families sell them.
A lack of awareness in our country, coupled with the explosion of the Internet, makes the job of the pimp and the recruiter extremely easy and the job of law enforcement extremely difficult. The scope of this horrific crime seems impossible, but each person can make a difference by teaching their own children about the traps of traffickers and knowing the red flags to watch for in other children.
Visit www.traffick911.com for more information.
Human Trafficking: A Big Business Built on Forced Labor
by Neha Misra -- Solidarity Center Senior Specialist, Migration and Human Trafficking
Trafficking in persons has become a big business. Globally, it's a $32 billion industry involving 161 countries -- including the United States. Trafficking in persons involves activities where one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service. While many people are aware of sex trafficking, human trafficking that involves forced labor is far more prevalent. Some 78 percent of forced labor is based on state- or privately-imposed exploitation, not forced sexual exploitation.
It's likely you have encountered at least one of the 21 million people in forced labor. In developed economies such as the United States, Europe and Japan, we are seeing an increase in cases of trafficked immigrant teachers, nurses, construction and service workers -- all who hold valid visas. Their presence shines a light on the structural failures within our economic and employment systems that increase immigrant workers' vulnerability to severe forms of labor exploitation. Multinational corporations, employers, businesses, labor recruiters and others exploit these failures.
In other words, human trafficking is not only a big business. Trafficking in humans is increasingly a legitimate business.
While the media portray traffickers as organized criminal syndicates or underground blackmarketeers who exploit undocumented workers, today's traffickers can also be licensed labor recruiters -- those who solicit workers for jobs in other cities or countries -- employers or even government officials. Trafficking for labor exploitation occurs within the legal framework of employment and business and through documented visa programs.
Trafficking for labor exploitation often goes undetected and gets little attention. Immigration officials may categorize immigrant workers who are trafficked as undocumented workers and deport them. Police and labor inspectors may view involuntary servitude or debt bondage in sectors such as agriculture, construction, manual labor and manufacturing as "mere" worker rights abuses, and so not justifying a remedy. Prosecutions for forced labor are far fewer than those for trafficking for sexual exploitation (and even those are low).
When such cases do make it to the justice system, they provide a rare look into the struggles of these exploited workers. In 2010, the U.S. Justice Department investigated the case of 400 Thai migrant workers who were allegedly trafficked to the United States under the H-2A visa program through false promises of decent work. The Thai workers "took on crushing debt to pay exorbitant recruiting fees," ranging from $9,500 to $21,000. After they arrived in the United States, according to the indictment, their passports were taken and they were set up in shoddy housing and told that if they complained or fled they would be fired, arrested or deported.
Human trafficking thrives in an environment of worker exploitation and engenders forced labor, debt bondage and other egregious labor abuse. The creation of so-called guest worker programs and the rise of "labor recruiters" have exacerbated the vulnerabilities for workers inherent in labor migration. Many labor recruiters charge exorbitant fees for their services, forcing workers into debt bondage. Temporary labor migration or "guest worker" schemes promoted by governments to fill demand for cheap labor often create a legalized system for employers to exploit workers, deny them their rights and increase their vulnerability to trafficking and forced labor.
If we want to end trafficking, forced labor and other forms of modern slavery, we must address these broader underlying root causes, including failures to protect workers and enforce labor standards. One of our most important weapons in the fight against trafficking is the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), currently pending reauthorization but languishing in Congress. The TVPA provided critical resources and important tools. Its reauthorization is critical to maintaining U.S. leadership on this important issue.
Other steps to address forced labor through human trafficking include:
· Reforming labor laws to cover people now excluded from legal protection, such as domestic workers, and ensuring such laws are implemented and enforced.
· Providing safer migration processes for workers.
· Boosting scrutiny of imports and exports to ensure goods made by trafficked or forced labor are not allowed in the marketplace. U.S. law does not allow evidence collected by unions (and, hence, from the exploited worker themselves) or non-governmental sources to be the basis for restricting the importation of products made by trafficked or slave labor.
· Increasing pressure on companies to map their supply chains and make such information public.
· Promoting freedom of association and the right to organize -- worker reporting and worker representation over unenforceable codes of conduct and third-party monitoring -- as an effective way to monitor supply chains for trafficking and forced labor.
· Regulating labor recruiters and subcontractors more strictly, ensuring the elimination of fees for jobs and the imposition of strict liability for employers for the actions of their recruiters/subcontractors.
The Solidarity Center has details on these proposals and more.
Rabbi apologises for remarks on sex abuse
by Barney Zwartz
THE American rabbi who compared sex abuse with a case of diarrhoea has apologised after a backlash by Melbourne Orthodox Jewish leaders and the movement's New York headquarters.
Rabbi Manis Friedman told young adult students that sex abuse was like a former case of diarrhoea - embarrassing but private. He said not reciting a blessing was worse than being sexually abused and that victims learnt ''an important lesson'' from abuse.
Melbourne abuse-survivor Manny Waks, founder of advocacy group Tzedek, said on Thursday he would sue Rabbi Friedman in Jewish courts in Sydney and New York.
But late on Friday Fairfax Media received an email from Rabbi Friedman saying he was deeply sorry for his ''completely inappropriate'' language.
''I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable,'' he said.
''Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenceless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which they live. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organisation or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.''
Rabbi Friedman said he would be sure to make those points clear in future, and that the subject could not be neglected. ''I hope over time to earn the forgiveness of those who were hurt by my words.''
After The Age reported Rabbi Friedman's remarks on Friday, Chabad Lubavitch said Rabbi Friedman was not a Chabad emissary, as reported, but a Minnesota-based teacher who did not speak for Chabad.
On Friday, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria called on Rabbi Friedman to apologise. Its president, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, said the remarks were incorrect, potentially harmful and disregarded and trivialised the suffering of abuse victims. He said Rabbi Friedman had no connection with Chabad in Melbourne.
Earlier, Organisation of Australasian Rabbis president Moshe Gutnick - also a Chabad rabbi - said Rabbi Friedman had shown ignorance and the height of insensitivity.
Mr Waks welcomed the apology and said he would consider his options about the lawsuit. ''I'm pleased that Rabbi Friedman has held himself accountable,'' he said.