Recognize and help prevent child abuse
by David Whisenant
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Headline after headline lately, one sad case of child abuse after another.
On Wednesday a Charlotte man was found guilty of beating his 23 month old baby to death.
In Lancaster County, a 5 year old girl was found dead on Tuesday. Investigators have charged the mother's boyfriend with her death.
And there was the widely reported case of little Kilah Davenport who was beaten so badly she suffered brain damage.
So the big question, how do you prevent these cases from happening?
"I think it's awful," said Cassandra Wilkinson. "I think any person that inflicts abuse on a child has a problem themselves that they're not dealing with, so they put it on a kid, and I think it's awful."
And as awful as it is, it's also common.
The web site childhelp.org is run by a children's advocacy group. It says that there's a suspected new case reported every ten seconds, that every day five children die as a result of child abuse, and that in 90% of cases, the victims knows the abuser.
"This stuff doesn't have to happen," said Beth Moore of Prevent Child Abuse Rowan.
As a forensic interviewer with Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, Moore knows the subject of child abuse better than most, and she knows the signs.
"Any kind of behavior that's out of the ordinary for the child, especially teachers, in school if they have kids that are doing things that are out of the ordinary, kids that are just acting out that are normally well behaved children, typically those are prominent signs that a child is being abused, and obviously the bruises."
But seeing signs is one thing, doing something about is something else.
"It is a cycle. For kids, if they abuse is all they've ever known and all they've ever dealt with, then it's just going to get passed along," Moore added.
When suspected abuse is reported to police or social workers, or by simply calling 911, the victim often comes to a place like Prevent Child Abuse Rowan. Many larger counties in the Carolinas have similar facilities.
At Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, Beth conducts an interview and there can be a medical exam if needed. Moore says that even in a friendly interview situation, abused children are often scared to talk about it or get the abuser in trouble.
"My job is to minimize trauma for that child and to maximize information that they're giving me," Moore added. "When I'm in the room with a child I'm really trying to find out what has happened to them and afterwards we get a team of people together to move forward."
If you suspect child abuse, it's against the law not to report it. And usually you can remain anonymous. The bottom line, according to Beth, is to take the first step towards breaking the cycle of abuse.
And child abuse is often referred to as a cycle because there is a better than 30% chance that a child who is abused today will abuse his or her children later in life. Stopping it now can save future generations.
Police: Brothers fight off boy's would-be kidnapper at Parnell Park in Whittier
by Ruby Gonzales and Brian Days
WHITTIER - A 12-year-old boy playing at Parnell Park was grabbed by a man but escaped when his two brothers fought off the would-be abductor Tuesday, police said.
The attempted kidnapping occurred around 7:25 p.m. at Parnell Park, 10711 Scott Ave.
Whittier Police Lt. Jay Tatman said the 12-year-old was on the swings while his 13- and 14-year-old brothers were playing basketball when a man walked behind the younger boy.
Tatman said the man put the 12-year-old in a headlock-type hold, placed his hand over the boy's mouth and told him, "Don't say anything."
The boy was pulled off the swing.
"The young victim was able to make some type of noise that alerted his older brothers," Whittier police said Wednesday in a written statement. "They ran over to their younger brother and started punching, kicking and screaming at the suspect."
The man then let go of the child and fled.
The suspect ran west through the park toward a residential neighborhood, police said, while the siblings ran in another direction, toward their home.
Officers searched the area for the man but didn't find him.
The failed kidnapper was described as a Latino man between 30 and 40 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and of stocky build. He was unshaven and had a scar on his right cheek, police said. He wore a dark hooded sweat shirt, dark short and white shoes.
It was unclear if he suffered injuries in the scuffle with the boys, Lt. Steve Dean said.
Tuesday's incident was the second time in recent weeks that Whittier children have freed themselves from would-be abductors.
But police said there is no indication Tuesday's incident is connected to the Feb. 21 attempted kidnapping of two girls. Both girls also escaped from that suspect after being placed into his car near Founder's Memorial Park at Citrus Avenue and Broadway. The suspect remains at large.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Whittier Police Department Detective Bureau at 562-567-9270.
Child sex abuse lawsuit window should be opened
by Bill White
Over the years, I have heard and told the stories of numerous men and women who were molested as children.
I wrote about one of them earlier this year, a 37-year-old survivor of a kidnapping and years of abuse. Unable to seek justice because his statute of limitations had expired, he has had to endure the additional torment of knowing his abuser is a youth sports coach today, with easy access to new victims.
Every time I talk to one of these survivors of child sex abuse, it strengthens my conviction that we need to change these statute of limitations laws, and not just because of the healing this would provide the victims, important as that is. In many cases, it also would identify predators who still have access to children.
Unfortunately, those efforts have been blocked by powerful institutional lobbyists and by legislative leaders — in the state House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, and minority Chairman Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks — who have buried these proposals to prevent their colleagues from discussing and voting on them.
Neither of the two major statute of limitations bills put forth in the last session or this one have made it to the House floor for a vote. The new versions of those two bills, again sitting in the House Judiciary Committee, 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.
I'm writing about this again today because advocates for these efforts hope they will succeed next Monday in finally getting this issue to an actual discussion and vote on the House floor — and they're rallying the public's support.
Their hopes revolve around House Bill 342, which would prevent the courts from disclosing the name of a child victim of physical and sexual abuse when the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense. The plan is to propose amending this bill to include the two-year window provided for child sex abuse cases in which the statute of limitations prevents civil action.
I'll share an email that is being forwarded to state representatives this week. I received it from Maureen Martinez of the group Justice4PAkids and also got a phone call from Tammy Lerner of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse. Both are urging members of the public to contact their state representatives in support of this effort. Here's the email:
We know that the trauma of child sex abuse lasts a lifetime — but the time available to sex abuse victims to seek justice is too short. Most victims of child sex abuse are too young to speak out. When they are adults they still face trauma, depression, addiction and shame.
Our laws should give victims a chance to hold perpetrators accountable — and to expose them for the danger they are to all of our children.
Recently, the Task Force for Child Protection made recommendations for new laws and procedures dealing with child sexual abuse. The task force, however, failed to take up the most powerful tool designed to expose predators and to afford victims the justice they deserve.
On Monday, March 11, we will have an opportunity to create a one time, two-year window that suspends the civil statute of limitations to allow past victims of child sex abuse to be heard. It would allow access to the justice system so that suspects could be subpoenaed and deposed. The victim would still have to prove "gross negligence" and the current sovereign immunity defense for public employees would be suspended.
HB 342 is on the House voting calendar on Monday, March 11. At that time, Rep. [Michael] McGeehan [D-Philadelphia] and Rep. [Mark] Rozzi [D-Berks] will be offering child sex abuse statute of limitation amendments to the bill. These amendments would allow access to the justice system so that suspects could be subpoenaed and deposed. This helps identify and put current predators on notice. It is critically important that you vote for our children by supporting the McGeehan and Rozzi amendments.
It's time to put the victims first.
Martinez said people shouldn't be distracted by smoke screens about false claims — a tiny percentage and unlikely to survive the rigors of the court system — or the perceived threat to church finances. I can tell you that I've talked to a lot of abuse survivors, and most of the cases involved family members, family friends, teachers or counselors, not the clergy.
"Our message has nothing to do with the Catholic Church," Martinez told me. "It doesn't matter who abused you. Our message is clearly showing how, when you open a two-year window, it exposes current predators that are out there."
Lerner said, "It's not a religious issue and it shouldn't be a political issue. This should be an issue about protecting kids."
If you agree, contact your legislators today and tell them you want their support for this effort. Meanwhile, I'll share another survivor's story — and her message about what that two-year window would mean to her and other potential victims of her abuser — next time.
Breaking the silence on prostitution in Twin Cities
by Meleah Maynard
It's hard to put an end to a problem that few people know of, let alone talk about. And that's precisely why the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) is working hard to raise public awareness about sex trafficking and the prostitution of women and children in the Twin Cities through a series of public discussions aimed at putting an end to the practice.
Lauren Martin, who joined UROC in 2010 as director of research, has been studying sex trafficking since 2006 after being hired by North Minneapolis' Folwell Neighborhood Association for a two-year project examining the problem.
Martin developed the proposal in partnership with community members after talking with people about what they were experiencing. “I had just finished my Ph.D. and was in between jobs when a friend asked me if I could do some filing at a North Minneapolis non-profit,” she recalls. “I said ‘sure' and once people in the community got to know me, they told me there was a problem with prostitution and they wanted me to help figure out solutions.”
Looking back, Martin remembers thinking her work on the subject would be temporary. But as she interviewed people who been exploited and hurt, as well as advocates and police officers who were trying to help them, she realized she'd become personally invested in the research. “After so many people have trusted me with their stories, I can't just walk away,” she says. “That's what engaged research is all about, connecting with people and communities and putting what you learn into action.”
Out of the darkness
In 2006 and 2007 Martin interviewed more than 150 people who had traded sex for food, shelter or other reasons, and during those talks she noticed one overwhelming theme. “Everyone talked about the shame, stigma and judgment they endured in their lives because of sex trading and trafficking,” she recalls.
“People had been kicked out of their families, even churches, because our society tends to blame people who trade sex regardless of the reasons for doing it.” And it is this atmosphere of shame and isolation, Martin says, that creates the perfect environment for exploitation because, “What could be better for a trafficker than finding someone who is very disconnected from systems of support and full of shame?”
Trading children and adults for sex is a highly profitable market, and as long as the practice remains shrouded in silence, traffickers will have free reign to prey on vulnerable people. So in addition to producing reports on Martin's research, UROC partnered with the University's Center for Integrative Leadership and North Minneapolis' Kwanzaa Community Church to host public discussions on the impact of sex trafficking and prostitution on urban communities and how to end it. Part of UROC's Critical Conversations series, the first event was held on October 18 and was so successful, it was followed by a second discussion on the same topic on January 24.
The audience for both discussions included “a pretty amazing cross-section of people,” including survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution, North Minneapolis residents, members of community organizations, police, University faculty and students, Martin says. The third event in the series will be held at UROC on Thursday, March 14 at 7 p.m. and will focus on the juvenile sex trafficking and law enforcement, in particular how communities can assist in the investigation, arrest and prosecution of perpetrators.
Panelists include Sgt. Grant Snyder of the Minneapolis Police Department's Child Abuse Unit and Senior Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Anne Taylor. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required because space is limited. Register online at http://uroclawenforcement.eventbrite.com, or call 612-626-8762.
For Martin, breaking the silence around sex trafficking is a concrete way to take action to stop it. And engaged research partnership with the community on this issue has produced other positive results. Kwanzaa Community Church, for example, opened the Northside Women's Space, a safe place for women and girls involved in the sex trade to come together and talk about what they're going through. “It sounds easy to start something like this, but it's not,” says Martin. “This is essentially the community stepping forward to say: ‘We have space for you because you are part of us and we are here.'”
Another successful outcome of Martin's research is Gaining Independence for Females in Transition (GIFT), a new model for helping women on probation for prostitution-related offences. Developed in partnership with the Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, GIFT's mission is to offer people a probation experience that will help them gain strength and move forward with their lives. “The model is really working, and we are seeing women leaving probation in a better place than when they came in,” Martin says.
As for the future, Martin will continue her research on sex trafficking as part of UROC's ongoing partnership with the community around this issue. Recently, she and Richard Lotspeich, an economist at Indiana State University, were commissioned by the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center to write a paper analyzing the benefits and costs of providing early intervention to juveniles involved in the sex trade. “We found that sex trading is so harmful to juveniles, it exacts a huge cost on the state over time,” she says, explaining that for every $1 invested they estimate the state will get a return of about $34. “To us, that seems like a very strong indication that it is in the best interest of Minnesota tax payers to fund early intervention and prevention.”
Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.
Bill would change child abuse reporting law
Mandatory reporters would go straight to Children's Division
by Jonathan Shorman
JEFFERSON CITY — A bill to implement one of the top recommendations of a statewide child sexual abuse task force moved one step forward in the legislative process Wednesday.
House Bill 505 would change the child abuse mandatory reporting law. Currently, mandated reporters, who are often teachers, must report suspected abuse to either the Missouri Department of Social Services' Children's Division or to a supervisor. The bill requires mandated reporters to go directly to the Children's Division.
“This change would make the duty to report individual, thus ensuring that reports make it to Children's Division and that children aren't forced to recount their abuse to multiple individuals,” Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis County, told the House Judiciary Committee.
Changing the mandated reporting requirement was proposed at the start of the year by the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. Haefner was a member of the group.
Haefner, the bill's sponsor, said the legislation does not increase the number of mandated reporters. She said the bill is designed to stop the possibility that someone at a school, such as a principal, would choose not to report an abuse allegation.
Haefner used the Penn State abuse investigation as an example of a situation this bill would prevent. In that case, assistant football coach Mike McQueary is reported to have witnessed abuse by Jerry Sandusky, which he then reported to coach Joe Paterno. However, McQueary's report did not make it to authorities.
Kelly Schultz, director of the Office of Child Advocate, testified in favor of the bill. She said the measure will help prevent abuse cases from “slipping through the cracks.” Part of the aim of the bill is to cut down on the number of times a child has to recount abuse.
“The best practice is not multiple interviews. That's why we have child advocacy centers where we have somebody trained to do the forensic exams and interviews,” Schultz said.
Multiple interviews can lead to accounts of abuse that appear contradictory, depending on what kind of questions a child is asked or how, even if a child is describing a true event, experts said during testimony.
One Senate bill would go further than Haefner's bill. Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, has proposed expanding the number of mandated 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 to the Children's Division.
At a hearing in February on Schmitt's bill, 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.
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.
On Wednesday, she testified in support of Haefner's bill.
Expanding access to faster hearings
In a hearing that lasted a little under three minutes, Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, presented a bill to the House Judiciary Committee to allow fathers who have judgments of paternity access to expedited hearings.
The bill, House Bill 566 , would make fathers who have a judgment of paternity (a legal finding establishing a man as a child's father) eligible for expedited hearings when violations of custody or visitation agreements are alleged.
Austin said the bill affects fathers who have not been previously married to the mother of their child. He said the Missouri Supreme Court has already found that unmarried parents must be treated the same as married parents and that his bill brings the law in line with that view.
“Instead of having to file a motion for contempt and have a later hearing, they can have an expedited hearing and get in there quicker. It benefits both the parent who's been infringed upon, but it also benefits the child,” Austin said.
No one testified on Austin's bill.
Denver Police Want Help Identifying Suspect In Child Abuse Case
DENVER (CBS4) – Denver police would like the public's help identifying and locating a suspect in a child abuse case.
Police released a photo of the man they are seeking. They don't know the man's name or where he might be.
No other information about the case or the man has been released.
Anyone with information is asked to call Denver police at (720) 913-2000. Remain anonymous and call Crime Stoppers at (720) 913-STOP (7867). Text to CRIMES (274637) then title DMCS and enter the message or send an e-mail to metro-denvercrimestoppers.com.
Child Abuse Prevention Program
Crime victim advocates are launching a new program aimed at reducing the number of children who are sexually abused in our area.
The Crime Victims Assistance Center was selected as one of 3 pilot sites in New York State to introduce a campaign started in Massachusetts called Enough Abuse. The goal is to teach parents and childcare professionals what signs to look for in such cases. In particular, the effort focuses on the practice of grooming, in which a pedophile gains the trust of a victim and his or her family before beginning the abuse.
C-VAC Executive Director Raini Baudendistel, says there were 300 cases of child sexual abuse in Broome County last year alone. Baudendistel says, "We want to continue with the children, but we want to bring in parents and those professional people that work with children to sort of close that loophole a little bit and really start the conversations about how to keep our kids safe and step away from the tabooness of discussing it because we can't fix it if we don't talk about it."
The center is partnering with Child Abuse New York and the state of Massachusetts to introduce the project with the hope of taking it statewide in the future.
Stopping child abuse: 'It's not about whether we can, it's whether we will'
by Tom Adams
EUGENE, Ore. - Cutting child abuse and neglect in Lane County by 90 percent by the year 2030: Is that preposterous - or possible?
"I think yes, the answer is anything is possible," said Kelly Sutherland with the Relief Nursery.
The idea for the "90 by 30" project came 2 years ago not because existing programs don't work but because University of Oregon educators think they can work better. The project is paid for from private funds and grants. The program will be holding its first annual conference Friday and Saturday at Eugene's Valley River Inn.
"It's more the idea of taking the responsibility for that intervention away from that handful of people in government or non-profits and putting it where it belongs with each of us," said program director Phyllis Barkhurst.
So how will it work?
Barkhurst said Lane County will be divided into six zones, with local councils getting information to people on the warning signs of abuse.
"Where you know your neighbor and know that you can trust your neighbor and you can reach out to your neighbor for support; even in those neighborhoods, rates of abuse and neglect are much lower," said Dr. jeff Todahl, program co-director.
The challenge is daunting. In 2011, nearly 75,000 founded cases of child abuse or neglect were recorded in Oregon, 710 of those in Lane County.
Going hand in hand with the abuse cases are the cases of neglect, something the Relief Nursery in Eugene has to deal with every day.
"Neglect does not have to be an intentional act," Sutherland said. "It's a product of the environment and their circumstances and so we need to collectively address those issues."
Inform and mobilize: dual goals of the "90 by 30" project so that maybe horrible abuse deaths like Jeanette Maples in 2009 can be prevented.
"It's not about whether we can," Todahl said. "It's much more a matter of whether we will."
K-State Students Take Stand Against Human Trafficking
MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Kansas State University students are spending hours on their feet this week to help bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking.
Members of K-State's Freedom Alliance club are hosting the "Stand for Freedom" campaign at the Student Union from March 4-8, 2013.
The students are standing 27 hours throughout the week for the 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide.
"We are joining with IJM, the International Justice Mission, with the Stand for Freedom campaign. They were able to get about 400 universities across the nation to get in on this and what we're doing is standing 27 hours throughout the course of this week to help raise awareness of human trafficking," said Alex Kieffaber, KSU Freedom Alliance president.
"The main types of trafficking is labor and sex trafficking, with victims found as young as 3 years old, even in sex trafficking. Just last April there was a case of human trafficking found in Manhattan, KS so it is not just in the larger cities but even here in Kansas. That is why we believe it is so important to bring awareness to this horrible issue so we can hopefully prevent others from becoming victims and aid in the rescuing of current victims," Kieffaber told WIBW.
During the campaign, the students are also trying to help IJM collect signatures for their petition to President Obama asking him to continue making the eradication of modern slavery a priority.They're are also trying to raise funds for IJM so they can continue to rescue victims of slavery and prosecute the cases: https://www.ijmfreedommaker.org/campaign/922/KState-Stand-for-Freedom.
Child sex abuse prevention training
MOUNT GILEAD — HelpLine of Delaware and Morrow Counties is offering “Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children” training, a program targeting the end of child sexual abuse.
Stewards of Children is a comprehensive program that incorporates all of the fundamental mechanics necessary in creating organizational policies and procedures that keep children safe.
The program is designed for organizations that serve youths and for individuals concerned with the safety of children.
The training program is from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Mount Gilead Community Service Building, 619 W. Marion St., Mount Gilead.
This three hour program is free and provides free CEU credits.
Registration is required. To register, email Shilo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 614-507-5703
Wash. Senate passes child sex trafficking bills
Washington state Senate has unanimously passed a pair of bills meant to crack down on child sex trafficking.
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state Senate has unanimously passed a pair of bills meant to crack down on child sex trafficking.
The first measure passed Monday would impose a $5,000 fine on top of existing penalties for those using online ads to facilitate the commercial sexual abuse of a child. That money would go toward state efforts to prevent and stop prostitution.
The second bill would expand the definition of "communication with a minor for immoral purposes" to include buying and selling sex acts and engaging in sex trafficking. It would also increase penalties for clients of child prostitutes and add trafficking and commercial sexual abuse of a child to the list of sex offenses requiring sex-offender registration.
Both measures will go next to the House.
The virtual street corner: Sex trafficking online
by Natalie Brand
PHOENIX -- Carolyn Jones used to work Van Buren Street. She entered into the dark world of prostitution as a teenager.
"It basically started as a way to survive," Jones said.
Her chapter of torture and trafficking lasted about 30 years, until tragedy struck her family. Her sister, who also worked as a prostitute, was murdered, along with several of her friends, in a spree of killings which involved prostitutes in 2003.
"I found myself at a bus stop crying out to God, 'Please, Lord, give me a chance to get out of here. Give me a chance to live again!'" she recalled.
Nearly 10 years later, Jones is speaking out as a survivor to raise awareness about a new generation of victims.
While numbers are extremely hard to track, it's estimated hundreds of girls are trafficked across the Valley.
However, the new street corner has gone virtual.
"You won't see a lot of girls working out here on the street, that's the way it used to be," Jones said. "It is so easy to go online and order a young girl, just like you're ordering pizza. That should not be!"
Arizona State University Associate Professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz has done extensive research on Backpage.com. She found nearly 80 percent of ads posted on the "adult services" section of the site are believed to be for selling sex.
"It's so easy," said Roe-Sepowitz. She analyzed hundreds of ads, looking for key words and cues that could indicate victims, including young girls.
"She could be 15 years old," Roe-Sepowitz said while pointing out a potentially questionable ad. "Sweet, super cute ... all indicators of youth."
She said often times the girls are dressed to appear much older.
"Traffickers are really smart," she said. "When you're selling kids, you're going to be smart about it."
"The huge trend is in social media," said Sgt. Clay Sutherlin of Phoenix Police Department's Vice Squad. He said pimps have even turned to sites such as Twitter and Facebook to recruit their victims.
"You have people out there, the sex traffickers, who are probably sending out hundreds and hundreds of friend requests," said Sutherlin, who admits a good portion of his team's work is now online.
He said predators are looking for vulnerable, at-risk children and teens, who can be groomed and manipulated into a lifestyle of prostitution and pain.
"What have we become?" Jones asked. "When you look at a 13-year-old in the face and they tell you, show you their scars ... it breaks you down."
Jones now works as an advocate with Streetlight USA
, a local group providing shelter and treatment to underage victims.
Her focus now is to stop the cycle of abuse.
"We won't tolerate prostituting of our children," Jones said. "This is not going to happen on my watch."
Facebook and Twitter both say they have zero tolerance for sex trafficking or exploitation.
"We take human trafficking very seriously and while this behavior is not common on Facebook, we have implemented robust protections to identify and counter this activity," said Facebook spokesman Fred Wolens. "We maintain a robust reporting infrastructure that leverages the over billion people who use our site to keep an eye out for offensive or potentially dangerous content."
Facebook has a contact form
to report trafficking in its Help Center
According to Twitter's policy, content promoting child sexual exploitation will be removed from the site without further notice and reported to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Twitter accounts believed to be promoting trafficking are to be reported to email@example.com
, according to their policy.
For more information on local resources for sex trafficking, go to Streetlight USA
from Liz McDougall, Backpage.com:
The commercial sexual exploitation of children is an abhorrence in our society. It is appalling as a street crime and it is appalling as an Internet crime. It is also an extremely complex problem, and it must be fought intelligently. Backpage.com is at the forefront of fighting it intelligently online with approximately 80 staff dedicated to operating a 24/7 triple-tier prevention system (including an automated filter and two levels of human review) and an unparalleled law enforcement support system.
There is no question that, domestically and globally, everyone needs to do more to combat the atrocity of child sexual exploitation. Backpage.com is committed to continuing to aggressively battle this social abomination with law enforcement, with willing anti-trafficking organizations, and with other online service providers. But there is so much more that needs to be discussed and addressed to prevent vulnerable populations from becoming victims of exploitation and to halt trafficking as a lucrative criminal enterprise.
Pennsylvania boy, 12, dies after fight with 'bully,' mom questions whether school did enough
by The Associated Press
GLENOLDEN, Pa. — A sixth-grader who was injured in an altercation with another boy at school two months ago was taken off life support and died, and his suburban school district on Monday made extra counselors available to fellow students.
Bailey O'Neill, who had just turned 12, died Sunday morning, family members said.
He had suffered a concussion, a broken nose and other injuries during the encounter with the boy at Darby Township School, in suburban Philadelphia, on Jan. 10. He later began having seizures, and doctors induced a coma.
Bailey told his mother, Jina Risoldi, that he had been at recess when the boy, who was taller, challenged him to a fight.
Risoldi said last month that her son declined to fight, saying he was worried about being suspended. She said a boy then pushed him from behind and he was struck in the head about five times.
"This is not a fight between two boys," she said. "My son didn't fight back."
Risoldi said school security and a teacher rushed in to break it up.
Bailey spent the rest of the day at school, but over the following days he complained of severe headaches and dizziness, began sleeping a lot and became irritable and confused, his mother said.
"He had no problems before the fight," Risoldi said last month. "He was always extremely healthy, rarely got sick."
Bailey was an honor roll student who served on the student council, and he enjoyed baseball and swimming.
His mother said the other boy had challenged him to a fight earlier that week, and she had questions about whether the school did enough to prevent the encounter.
She said school officials were aware the boy had a history of bullying other children. She said the boy was suspended and subsequently returned to class.
On Monday, District Attorney Jack Whelan told the Delaware County Daily Times that he was waiting for autopsy results and re-interviewing witnesses but considered charges to be likely.
Last month, police Deputy Chief Brian Patterson told the newspaper what happened between Bailey and the other boy was a "one-on-one altercation" and was captured on video surveillance. A man who answered the phone late Monday at the Darby Township Police Department said officers could be contacted on Tuesday for comment.
Southeast Delco School District Superintendent Stephen D. Butz expressed condolences to Bailey's friends and family.
Shattuck-St. Mary's victims silent on abuse, until one was charged with his own crime
by Elizabeth Dunbar
ST. PAUL, Minn. — It took a new sex crime for police to learn that a Shattuck-St. Mary's School teacher might have molested male students at the Faribault boarding school more than a decade ago.
One of those alleged male victims waited until he was facing 10 years in prison for his own crime to make accusations against former drama teacher Lynn Seibel. Eight months later, Seibel is in a Minnesota jail facing 14 felony counts of criminal sexual conduct and three related counts.
The former student, now in his late 20s, in November asked a Minnesota judge for a lighter sentence for having a 16-year-old girl send him sexually explicit photos of herself. Given the former student's past history of abuse, prosecutors and the judge agreed that he should not serve time in jail and instead should have a chance to have his record wiped clean if he met the terms of his probation.
The story of how police worked with that man to build a case against Seibel demonstrates the power of the criminal justice system in breaking through the silence that shrouds many sexual abuse cases.
The former student, whom MPR News is not identifying because he is an alleged victim of sexual abuse, accused Seibel of inappropriately touching him while the two were alone. He also accused Seibel of leading group masturbation sessions in another student's dorm room. He led Faribault police detectives to five other male former students who raised similar allegations between 1999 and 2003.
The criminal complaint hints that there might be more victims: "You could just get the roster of the dorm when I was there and everyone was involved in this," one of the victims told detectives. But the phones have quieted at the Faribault Police Department, police said.
Shattuck-St. Mary's is a private Episcopal school with about 400 middle and high school students. Given the school's national reputation as a hockey powerhouse, as well as a general reluctance among victims of sexual abuse to talk about their past, the six victims listed in court documents might be the only ones who come forward. And for those six, the process for some has involved finally realizing that they were victims of sexual abuse, investigators said.
"Some of the victims just felt this was normal and didn't realize it wasn't — until they weren't in that school anymore, until they became adults, until they talked to other students about their high school experiences and what they used to do and started to figure out that there were just some lines that were crossed that probably shouldn't have been crossed," said Faribault Police Detective Brandon Gliem, who interviewed several of the alleged victims.
The school has said administrators were unaware of the specific allegations against Seibel until he was charged in October. Seibel left the school in 2003, after being confronted about child pornography found on his computer according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
VICTIM BECOMES PERPETRATOR
The alleged victim in the Shattuck-St. Mary's case who was the first to come forward is not alone among offenders who discuss their past as part of legal proceedings.
In this case, the man was being interviewed as part of an investigation that happens before sentencing. Those investigations, as well as conversations with defense attorneys, often unearth possible explanations for the individual's behavior, including whether they've been crime victims themselves, said John Stuart, the state's chief public defender.
"Everybody has a story," he said, "which is important for us to understand, because then maybe we can keep the next person from having that experience."
Studies have shown a higher rate of childhood sexual abuse among sex offenders than the general population, a reality that has led many offenders to seek therapy for their own suffering while serving out sentences for harming someone else.
A person's abuse history can help explain behaviors ranging from violence to substance abuse, said Mic Hunter, a Twin Cities psychologist and family therapist who works with the national advocacy organization Male Survivor.
"The more we're able to talk about this and the more people can get help, we're going to be preventing crimes — not just child sexual abuse, but other crimes as well," he said. "If we were able to reduce child sexual abuse, we'd be affecting positively every problem we have in society."
Victims of child sex abuse often wait years before revealing they were abused, as was the case in most of the clergy abuse incidents and the scandal involving former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. Sexual abuse victims and experts who work with them say coming forward often coincides with struggles the victims face in adulthood, as well as a realization that they're not alone.
"Everybody kind of comes to their own place in their own healing process and has to find a time when it feels safe for them to share their story," said Cindy McElhinney, program director at Darkness to Light, a national organization working to reduce the incidence of childhood sexual abuse.
While one alleged victim in the Shattuck-St. Mary's case came forward while dealing with his own struggles in June 2012, the others gave statements to police knowing they weren't the only ones making allegations. None of the men has come out publicly to tell his story, but court documents show another high-profile sexual abuse case was on their minds.
Faribault police received the first report about the alleged abuse at Shattuck-St. Mary's just three days after Jerry Sandusky's trial began. When police interviewed that first victim a couple of weeks later, he told investigators that things had changed regarding "sexual predators" and that he believes Seibel would be in jail if the abuse had happened today.
Two of the other victims told investigators in the weeks and months that followed that the Sandusky case reminded them of their abuse.
Media coverage of the Seibel case prompted a male victim of another alleged incident at Shattuck-St. Mary's during the 1980s to come forward. Charges against his teacher, Joseph Machlitt, were filed in November.
But media coverage isn't the only trigger. Some victims, after years of contemplating what happened to them, come to realize that what they experienced as a child was abuse, said William Seabloom, a certified sex therapist who has worked with sex offenders and victims for more than 30 years.
"They change their position to being a victim, where they didn't feel [they were] a victim at the time. That can create all kinds of future problems for them," he said.
Gliem, the Faribault police detective, said he believes Seibel took advantage of his position to persuade the victims that his behavior was appropriate.
"Mr. Seibel himself is a drama teacher, a very educated man, very charismatic, very forward thinking, and the children at that school were at the mercy of his charismatic and convincing attitude," he said.
If no one else comes forward in the case, it might be because their needs have already been met, said Pat Marker, who became an advocate for victims of sexual abuse at St. John's Preparatory School in Collegeville after coming forward in 1989 about abuse he suffered there. "For a lot of people, all they need to do is just have their story validated," Marker said. "But those people who then come forward and validate the stories of others by making their stories public, those are important pieces to getting the help and the healing."
Marker said the reluctance among some victims to come forward isn't surprising given Shattuck-St. Mary's reputation. In the case of St. John's, many victims didn't want to bring shame to their parents, who paid thousands of dollars to send them there, he said. Boarding school tuition at Shattuck-St. Mary's is about $40,000 a year.
"If the school is well-known, that's to the advantage of the perpetrator. Nobody wants to be the person to tarnish that school's reputation," Marker said.
Steubenville Rape Case: Ohio attorney general says more charges possible after rape trial
CBS/AP) COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's attorney general says he'll announce after the upcoming rape trial of two high school football players whether charges will be brought against others who may have witnessed the alleged assault.
Mike DeWine says he isn't ruling additional charges in or out in the case, which centers on the rape of a 16-year-old girl in eastern Ohio. At least three other students witnessed the encounter, and still others apparently knew about it and posted messages and photographs about the incident on social media sites.
Hacker-activist groups and women's advocacy organizations have questioned why people who knew about the rape weren't charged under an Ohio law requiring people to report crimes of which they're aware.
On Monday DeWine said his office is now investigating what happened after the alleged assault.
DeWine's office told lawyers for three witnesses last fall that their clients wouldn't be charged. The two teens accused of rape are scheduled to appear in juvenile court on March 13.
TAKING AIM AT SEX ABUSE
Conference focuses on human trafficking, which feds are prosecuting more
by Elizabeth Aguilera
Human-trafficking cases filed in San Diego federal court have jumped more than 600 percent in the past five years as the victimization of children and adults for sex or labor has gained a bigger spotlight, law-enforcement officials said Friday at a regional conference on the topic.
One of those cases began when a San Diego teenager found a job as a bookkeeper for a small, home-based business. The position quickly turned into a nine-month nightmare of beatings and sexual slavery. Within weeks, the employer revealed himself as a pimp, beat the teen and set a $1,200 daily quota for her prostitution. The victim was 17 at the time.
On Friday, she shared her story at the American Bar Association's daylong conference at the University of San Diego. The pimp was arrested as part of a law-enforcement investigation, and he is serving 30 years in prison.
The survivor, now 20, asked not to be named for this story. But she decided to speak at the event because “how else are people going to know what is happening here in our community?” More than 175 attorneys, advocates, educators and doctors attended her session and others.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said the huge increase in federal prosecutions — from a couple five years ago to dozens now — is expected to rise further as special units in her office, local and federal law-enforcement agencies, nongovernmental groups and educators focus on trafficking.
Nationally, the Department of Justice has seen its number of trafficking cases increase 30 percent in the past three years, she said.
Paralleling the growth in enforcement has been the rising amount of money spent on creating public awareness of the crime and helping victims. The combined efforts are aimed at curtailing what has become the second-most lucrative criminal endeavor in the world.
Friday's conference, the first of its kind in San Diego County, is evidence of the greater attention paid to the issue in the past year. Grassroots campaigns against human trafficking received a significant boost with President Barack Obama's speech in September and his executive order requiring stricter hiring guidelines, increased training and other efforts.
Experts said there is actually more labor trafficking in the United States than sex trafficking, but that it is harder to prosecute because victims are mostly migrant men who are reluctant to report the abuse. Sex-trafficking victims, usually thought to be foreign, are predominantly U.S. girls.
“Human trafficking is not isolated to Third World countries. It's prevalent all across the globe, it's prevalent in our own borders,” Duffy said. “All ages and all ethnicities are being victimized.”
Americans make up 72 percent of human-trafficking victims, according to a report released last year by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Duffy said the victims have gotten younger in recent years; the typical age of a new victim is now 12 to 14.
The affected children are not all runaways or kids from broken homes. Gangs have moved into the trafficking business because they see the selling of girls as a recyclable, highly lucrative and low-risk product.
Teenagers — mostly girls — are recruited by classmates, pimps and boyfriends who may be gang members with promises of love, glamour and money. Once in the grip of a gang, the victims are often branded, beaten and humiliated to maintain control over them, as prosecutors revealed last year in the takedown of an Oceanside gang prostitution ring that landed dozens of men in jail.
Human trafficking also has changed with the use of technology to recruit and advertise, said Travis Le Blanc, special assistant attorney general of California.
Traffickers seek vulnerable girls and boys by trolling the Internet, especially Facebook, looking for kids who appear bored, sad, lonely or neglected. They cruise malls during school hours to chat up youngsters who did not go to class and lurk around homes for foster children, centers for at-risk children and classrooms with special-needs students.
“It's all lifestyles, we've seen it in all facets,” said George Crysler, a deputy sheriff who is part of the North County Human Trafficking Task Force.
Foster children are most at risk but it can happen to anyone, said Sharon Cooper, an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Medical School.
“Traffickers are very, very wily in the way they locate victims,” said Cooper, who was a speaker at the conference.
Parents and other guardians often do not know what is going on until it is too late. Their teen has become isolated and angry, has skipped school, has been staying away all night and has possibly threatened to run away, Cooper said. She encouraged parents to call the National Missing and Exploited Children's hotline if their child runs away.
Because sex trafficking often involves minors, educators are critical partners for law enforcement, social-service organizations and nonprofit groups working on trafficking issues, said Jeneé Littrell, vice principal at Chaparral High School in the Grossmont Union High School District. In the education field, she is a pioneer in addressing commercial sex exploitation of children and is developing a guide for the U.S. Department of Education that can be rolled out to school districts nationwide.
“I can't think of a school district in San Diego that has not been touched by this, including some of the private and elite schools,” she said. “Schools have to be ahead of the curve.”
Littrell said Grossmont Union has been proactive on the issue and has tracked numerous student victims — who have experienced anything from one coerced sexual interaction to ongoing trafficking — and worked to “wrap them” in support services. The district has created an infrastructure that includes a partnership with local law enforcement, social-service agencies and nongovernmental groups.
The district also works to prevent or detect the grooming or luring of teens for sex trafficking by giving training on the issue to all of its employees, Littrell said.
Shock toll of child-on-child abuse
Thousands of young people are committing acts of sexual abuse against other children every year, the NSPCC warned.
The charity found there were more than 5,000 cases of abuse by under 18s reported to the police in the last three years. In some instances acts of sexual abuse were committed by children as young as five or six.
Nearly all - 98% - of the 4,562 offenders were boys and where the relationship was recorded, at least three out of five of the victims knew their abuser, the NSPCC said. More than a third of the offences were said to have been committed by a family friend or acquaintance, and one in five by family members.
The NSPCC obtained the statistics through Freedom of Information requests to each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. But only 34 forces supplied figures - revealing a total of 5,028 offences - so the true number of offences is likely to be higher, the NSPCC said.
The findings follow a report by probation inspectors last month which found that police, social workers and teachers were missing the warning signs that a child may sexually offend.
The NSPCC warned that easy access to indecent material could be leading to an increase in the number of children needing help. The charity has found that more children were carrying out online grooming and harassment.
Claire Lilley, policy adviser at the NSPCC, said she hoped the findings would ring "alarm bells" with authorities that the problem required urgent action. She said: "In some cases older children are attacking younger ones and in other cases it's sexual violence within a teenage relationship. While more research needs to be done on this problem, we know that technology and easy access to sexual material is warping young people's views of what is 'normal' or acceptable behaviour."
A Government spokesman said: "The number of young people cautioned or convicted for sexual offences has fallen by nearly a quarter over the past five years. However, these young people remain some of the most challenging in society and most have extremely complex issues and needs.
"We are driving up the skills and experience of social workers so they are better able to identify the warning signs much more quickly as well as strengthening guidance on child protection."
Anyone worried about a child can contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, and children wanting help can call ChildLine on 0800 11 111.
More than 100 young people committing child sex abuse in Lincolnshire
More than 100 offences of under-18s committing child sexual abuse were reported to Lincolnshire Police in the last three years.
Figures obtained by the NSPCC through the Freedom of Information Act revealed a total of 126 child sex abuse cases.
This is part of the England and Wales combined total of 5,028 during the same time period.
In some cases, older children are attacking younger ones, while in others, it is sexual abuse within a teenager relationship.
There is also an increasing problem of sex crimes on the internet and mobile phones, including online grooming, harassment in chat rooms and 'sexting'.
Some children as young as five or six are even committing acts such as rape and other serious sexual assaults.
Nearly all the offenders, 98 per cent, were boys. And where the relationship was recorded, at least three out of five of the victims knew their abusers.
More than one-third of the offences were said to be committed by a family friend, and one in five times it was a family member.
The findings follow a report by probation inspectors last month which found that police, social workers and teachers were missing the warning signs that a child may sexually offend.
The NSPCC, which provides treatment to help reform children as young as five who exhibit signs of harmful sexual behaviour, is warning that easy access to indecent material could be leading to an increase in the number of children needing help.
Claire Lilley, policy advisor at the NSPCC, said: "We hope our findings will ring alarm bells with the authorities that this is a problem which needs urgent attention.
"In some cases older children are attacking younger ones and in other cases it's sexual violence within a teenage relationship. While more research needs to be done on this problem, we know that technology and easy access to sexual material is warping young people's views of what is 'normal' or acceptable behaviour.
"Children who are sexually abusive have often been victims of abuse, harm and trauma themselves. Exposure to this can make them think abusing someone or being sexually violent is ok.
"But evidence shows that most young people who receive behaviour changing treatment early on, such as that offered by the NSPCC, will not continue to sexually abuse others or grow into adult offenders.
"If we are to tackle this growing problem and protect young victims, more needs to be done to identify and treat children at risk of sexually offending. And we must do more to shield young people from an increasingly sexualised society."
Any adult worried about a child or in need of help and advice can contact the NSPCC's helpline on 0808 800 5000.
Children and young people can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111.
Advocate Erin Merryn brings campaign for education against child sex abuse to Long Beach
by Eric Bradley
LONG BEACH - A woman who was sexually abused as a child visited Long Beach on Friday to spread word about her nationwide campaign to get schools to teach child sex abuse education.
When Erin Merryn was 6, a neighbor raped her, and the abuse continued for almost three years until she moved away. A family member began molesting her when she was 11, and she stayed silent until two years later when Merryn's younger sister told Merryn she was being abused by the same relative.
Now 27, Merryn is championing Erin's Law, which mandates sexual abuse and abuse prevention curriculum in schools. Her home state of Illinois enacted the legislation in January.
"As a young child going to school, I learned tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills. I learned D.A.R.E., the eight ways to say no to drugs," Merryn said during an event at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
Where, Merryn asked, was education on who to tell if she was sexually abused or what to do if she was told to keep it a secret?
Her abusers threatened her to keep her quiet, telling her they would come get her at night, or that revealing the abuse would destroy her family. She has made it her mission to educate and empower children through her namesake law, with a goal of passing it in all 50 states.
Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic in the United States, with one in four girls and one in six boys victimized, according to Angela Rose, founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment.
While there are many high-profile national and local cases - such as the Jerry Sandusky scandal, abuse in the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church and recent revelations of molestation by Los Angeles Unified School District teachers - there are more stories that are unheard and children who suffer in silence, said Rose, who was 17 when a convicted murderer on parole kidnapped her from a mall.
"It is up to us to protect them and to be their voice," she said.
In addition to Illinois, Erin's Law has been enacted in Indiana, Maine, Michigan and Missouri. The legislation has also been introduced in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Mississippi, Minnesota, New Mexico and Nevada, according to Merryn's website.
While California seems to be ahead of other states - sexual abuse education is written into state code - it is often not taught at schools, Rose said.
"What this is today is the start of a conversation," she said.
Councilman Dee Andrews, who hosted the event at Long Beach Miller Children's Hospital, said he helped arrange Merryn's visit after seeing her on television.
"I was amazed at how this young lady has turned a negative into a positive for so many people," Andrews said.
For more information on how to deal with and prevent child sexual abuse, go to www.shatteringthesilence.org
Miss America Joins Brooklyn DA to Combat Child Abuse
by Zachary Stieber
NEW YORK—Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan joined with Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and the Crimes Against Children Bureau to raise awareness for child sexual abuse on Thursday.
Twenty-nine percent of female rape victims in the United States occur when the victim is younger than 11 years old, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 1992.
Hynes said when he learned that Hagan's platform was raising awareness about child sexual abuse and preventing it, he wanted to partner with her to help raise awareness.
“I applaud Miss Hagan for tackling such a difficult and personal issue,” he said in a statement. “I understand what it's like to be the child of an abused parent—my mother was the victim of domestic violence. Miss Hagan and I know this abuse leaves no member of the family unscathed.”
Hagan said in her immediate family alone, five women, including her mother, have suffered from abuse. The women “have come forward with stories from their childhood that will forever haunt me,” said Hagan in a statement.
“They have inspired me to become an advocate so that I can bring light to a challenging issue that so desperately needs our attention,” she added.
The Crimes Against Children Bureau was created in 1997 and seeks to investigate and prosecute offenders who abuse children under 13.
If you know of a child who is in immediate danger, call 911.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the New York State Child Abuse & Maltreatment Hotline at: 1-800-342-3720