Tears flow as residential school victims share stories of abuse and heartache
by Andrea Sands
EDMONTON — Crumpled tissues damp with the tears of residential school survivors were collected in a small basket Saturday as men and women recounted traumatic childhood memories that torment them.
The Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in Edmonton Saturday to collect statements, both privately and during public sharing circles, at Boyle Street Community Services, at 10116 105 Ave. It's the first time the court-ordered national commission has held such an event at an inner-city agency.
“This is a missing story in our work,” said Willie Littlechild, one of three commissioners.
“We've been to over 500 communities across Canada over the last three and a half years, listening to stories about the residential school experience,” said Littlechild, a lawyer and former MP originally from Hobbema.
“It's been very difficult to hear from the street, for example, homeless people, and their story is critically important. We were ordered by the court to try to find out the truth about residential schools ... and they make the story complete. So it's important for us to come to the community as opposed to asking them to come to us.”
The commission was established as part of a residential schools settlement that included compensation and an apology in 2008 from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to former residential school students.
About a dozen men and women participating in a morning sharing circle at Boyle Street Community Services sat on folding chairs around a video camera that recorded their statements.
In the centre of the room was a small bundle, two pouches of tobacco wrapped in layers of coloured broadcloth and tied with blue ribbon. Cultural adviser Gary Moostoos will later take that bundle to a sweat lodge, pray over it and offer it up in a sacred fire.
The tissues collected during the sharing circle will also be burned in a ceremony meant honour the cleansing and healing power of those tears, said Brenda Reynolds, who facilitated the sharing circle and works with the Indian Residential Schools resolution health support program.
More than 130 residential schools operated with government support in Canada. More than 150,000 students passed through those schools. Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and placed in the church-run schools where they were isolated from their culture and language and, in some cases, physically and sexually abused.
Alberta had about 24 residential schools, the most in Canada.
Survivors told stories Saturday of lasting anger that got them in fights as adults or in trouble with the law. Some dulled their painful memories with substance abuse — alcohol, heroin, sniffing gas.
Myles, who did not want his last name published, sobbed as he described the sexual violation and mental and physical cruelty that started when he was a five-year-old boy and lasted until he was 12. The fear and suffering he endured for most of his childhood at a residential school in Wabasca still haunts him daily, Myles said.
“They say it's going to end. Believe me, it's never going to end,” said Myles, 58.
“People tell me that's in the past. We're the ones that feel the pain. We're the ones that feel the hurt. We're the ones that have been destroyed, our thoughts and our minds.”
He described being slapped, choked, grabbed by the hair or ears, stripped of his clothes and being sexually abused. He learned to keep quiet, shut off his emotions. Some students committed suicide, he said.
“My spirit was getting weaker. My body was getting heavier, so heavy, like I was carrying a big tree that I was going to carry for the rest of my life,” Myles told the group.
The smell off coffee still sparks flashbacks of frightening mornings waking up at the school, he said.
“Now, today, it haunts me every day. When I try to sleep, I hear footsteps.”
Myles said his children urged him to attend Saturday's event and “tell it all, Daddy,” so he did.
“I've got to keep going and work on myself,” Myles said, exhaling heavily.
Group pushes for child sex abuse awareness, prevention
by Kassie Bettis/Times-Georgian Times Georgian
In light of recent events related to child sexual abuse, steps are being taken locally to help children get the help they need while putting predators behind bars.
The Georgia General Assembly recently took one of those steps by passing a bill with the goal of ensuring all incidents of child sexual abuse are reported in the state of Georgia, and local child advocates say it's a step in the right direction.
According to House Bill 1176, any person who works with a child is now a mandated reporter. This means anyone who works with children is now obligated by law to report child abuse to the appropriate authority within 24 hours of the case being reported. If not, the adult stands to face criminal charges.
Mandated reporters are not only people who work specifically around children, such as teachers or doctors. Any adult, including volunteers, who works with or around children is now responsible by law to prevent and report child abuse.
But some companies or organizations might not have a policy in place for reporting such information, and individuals may simply have no idea how to handle such an incident. In that case, a program called Darkness to Light can help.
Darkness to Light, an international nonprofit organization, seeks to protect children from sexual abuse by educating adults on the subject. This places responsibility on adults, not the victims, in preventing new cases and being properly educated on how to handle reports of child abuse.
Darkness to Light hosts a program that can be taken locally at the Child Advocacy Center in Carrollton by anyone who is 18 years of age or older. This program educates adults on how to react to child sexual abuse by recognizing the signs, but also how to prevent such a tragedy. Included are ways to educate children so that they are more aware of a potential danger. By recognizing child sexual abuse and taking a stand against it, Darkness to Light provides safe, legal answers for anyone.
It is generally thought that child sexual abuse could never happen in small, tight-knit towns. But Martha McClendon, a volunteer at Darkness to Light, says that isn't so.
“Haralson County has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the state of Georgia,” she said.
According to the Darkness to Light website, in the United States, one in four girls will be sexually abused by the time she reaches 18 years of age. For boys, the numbers are one in six.
“People don't want to talk about child sexual abuse because it's disgusting to think about, but it happens,” said McClendon. “It's very damaging, emotionally and psychologically to the child, especially if it is someone who they trust.”
McClendon realizes the panicked dilemma that a person might face when confronted with child sexual abuse. The person entrusted with this information is not always the parent of the child. Often, the victim does not come forth and tell their parents, but rather another trusted adult in their life.
“It's important for organizations to have a policy in place because if you do suspect something, or if a child discloses something to you, how do you handle it?” McClendon said.
Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere. It is vital, experts say, that not only professionals and volunteers learn the proper steps in preventing sexual abuse, but that parents are properly trained as well. Darkness to Light's seven-step training session provides tools in which adults can recognize verbal and physical cues of child sexual abuse.
McClendon said the goal of Darkness to Light is not a “witch hunt.”
“Our goal is to make people aware that there is a problem,” McClendon said. “And to see signs of child sexual abuse so that a person can protect a child, and also to protect themselves.”
Darkness to Light training sessions are currently free to residents of Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties, thanks to funding and grants. For online training, visit www.d2l.org. For more information about the program or the center, contact Emily Cole at 770-328-4197, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authorities consider possible sex trafficking in case of missing Colorado teen
by Cristina Corbin
Authorities searching for a 17-year-old Colorado girl are considering the possibility that the missing teenager is a victim of sex trafficking, a law enforcement official confirmed to FoxNews.com.
Raven Cassidy Furlong, of Aurora, Colo., left her home on Feb. 5 with two friends, telling her family that she would return in two days, according to investigators.
Her vehicle, registered under her stepmother's name, was found earlier this week in Venice, Calif., near Los Angeles.
Aurora police have classified Furlong a "runaway," but when her name was discovered on the modeling website, ModelMahyem.com, her family questioned whether she was tricked into moving to California with the promise of modeling work.
Furlong, as well as her two companions, ages 16 and 19, have not been located, and there is no evidence at this time to indicate the teenagers were lured to Los Angeles for the purpose of prostitution, according to authorities. But sex trafficking is being considered as a possible scenario, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told FoxNews.com.
"In cases where evidence may indicate [sex trafficking], that is clearly a concern that would be thoroughly addressed by law enforcement at the state/federal level, especially in cases involving minors," Eimiller said.
The Aurora Police Department is the lead agency in the case, assisted by both the LAPD and FBI as part of a task force that addresses crimes against children.
Michelle Bart, a Furlong family spokeswoman, told FoxNews.com on Wednesday that "We have reason to believe she is still in the Los Angeles area and being held against her will."
Furlong's case follows the disappearance of two other young models, Kara Nichols, who also had a profile on ModelMayem.com, and Kelsie Schelling, who has a modeling profile on the site Explore Talent. The two women are still missing, but there is no evidence that their cases are connected to Furlong's, according to Aurora police.
County officials step up efforts against teen sex trafficking
by Jim E. Winburn
VICTORVILLE • The county's top officials are stepping up efforts to alert the community to teenage sexual exploitation in the High Desert.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said human trafficking taking place in the county was “absolutely shocking.”
“Many of our children are being sexually exploited at the hands of pimps and gang members who see them as nothing more than a reusable commodity,” Ramos said. “This is outright slavery.”
Ramos said it's not only happening on the streets, but also on the Internet, where children and teens are sexually exploited in motels, hotels and apartments.
First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood agrees with Ramos that the sex trafficking of teenagers has gained a foothold in the county.
Lovingood and Ramos are teaming up to increase public awareness on sex trafficking by hosting a documentary film called “Teenage $ex 4 $ale.”
The DA's office released the documentary in January, which informs the public on the sexual exploitation of minors in the county. The trailer can be viewed on the DA's website at www.sbcountyda.org.
As part of his zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking, Ramos used the documentary in January to launch his announcement for creating more effective prosecutions of human trafficking crimes and assisting victims.
Ramos praised San Bernardino Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation for raising awareness and helping victims of human trafficking who are lured or coerced into sex, usually for profit.
Ramos helped create CASE with the support of the county Board of Supervisors in 2009.
Since its formation, about 7,400 law enforcement and community members have been trained about human trafficking in the county.
CASE team members have also provided services and resources to about 75 young people who have been victims of sexual exploitation.
The DA's office has began implementing other efforts to crack down on sex trafficking, such as the “Stop-the-John” Project that releases and posts names and photographs online of those defendants convicted of solicitation, and creation of the Girls Court, which provides services and resources to minor victims forced or caught in the life of prostitution.
Human trafficking was made a felony in California in 2001. However, the DA's office received even more help with prosecuting human traffickers when recently passed Proposition 35 laid down harsher penalties for offenders.
Californians approved Proposition 35 in November by more than 81 percent of the vote. The “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act” Initiative increases prison terms for human traffickers, forces convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders, and mandates law enforcement training on human trafficking.
According to the DA's office, the average age a victim is first trafficked ranges from 12 to 14 years old.
From mid-2010 to mid-2012, the nine regional human trafficking task forces in California identified 1,277 victims, initiated 2,552 investigations and arrested 1,798 individuals, according to a 2012 report by the California Department of Justice.
The film, “Teenage $ex 4 $ale,” is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 9 at Cinema 12 Plaza, 9711 Ninth Ave. in Hesperia. Lovingood and Ramos will speak at the showing, and a discussion will follow the film, which is 45 minutes in length.
Admission is free and the public is encouraged to RSVP by either emailing email@example.com or calling 760-995-8100. Deadline to register is April 2.
Ad Campaign Promotes Bill To Help Sex Trafficking Victims
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A media blitz is underway to draw attention to a need for housing to deal with the growing number of children caught up in sex trafficking.
The “MN Girls Are Not For Sale” radio campaign is in support of the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth bill that's currently making its way through the state legislature.
The illegal activity of child sex trafficking is hard to measure, but Minnesota law enforcement has seen an uptick in the number of girls being sold for sex.
Lee Roper-Batker, CEO of The Women's Foundation of Minnesota, says victims lack options for a safe place to stay.
“They try to reach these girls only to have them disappear because there is no place they can bring them that's safe right now,” Roper-Batker said.
There are only four shelter beds across the state that are designated for child sex trafficking victims. On any given night, there are more than 50 girls who need a safe place to sleep.
“We are poised to become the first state in the nation to set up systemic shelter and treatment for girls who've been sex trafficked,” she said.
Jeff Bauer of The Family Partnership says the bill making its way through the legislature is designed to create safe space for these young victims.
“It's $13.5 million for a safe shelter and housing, for comprehensive services and treatment and for training for law enforcement to better identify victims and investigate cases,” Bauer said.
Bauer and Roper-Batker are behind the media blitz, designed to bring attention to the problem
“The commercials are hard hitting,” Bauer said. “They're pretty direct.”
Roper-Batker says no community is immune to this growing epidemic.
“This is an unimaginable crime of violence against our children and we have a chance now to be part of this solution to end it,” Roper-Batker said.
They've invested $20,000 for radio spots in six different cities across the state to gather support to protect the children.
“We need people in every community across the state to stand up right now to end this thing,” Bauer said.
He says the girls involved in the sex trade are as young as 13 years old.
Click here for more information on the “MN Girls Are Not For Sale” campaign.
N.J. Assembly sends human sex-trafficking bill to Christie
by Brent Johnson
TRENTON — The state Assembly has given final legislative approval to a bill aimed at attacking the human sex-trafficking trade in New Jersey, and has sent it to Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.
The Assembly passed the measure (A3352) by a vote of 76-0 on Thursday, four days after the state Senate gave it unanimous approval.
Sponsors of the bill said that while the state Division of Criminal Justice reports that there have been 179 cases of sex and labor trafficking in New Jersey in the last seven years, experts estimate there are, in fact, thousands of incidents each year.
"Human trafficking is a horrific crime that is vastly underreported, making it all that much harder to crack down on," Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Because the victims, often children and vulnerable women, are too afraid and dependent on traffickers to break their silence, human trafficking has remained largely in the shadows of society."
Huttle said that "many times they are exploited for years and coerced into prostitution, labor, and drug activity," and that the bill would "help raise awareness and toughen prosecutorial tools, two key elements needed in the fight to end this modern day slavery."
The bill would increase fines and penalties related to the crime; establish a fund to help victims; create a 15-member state commission to study the problem; require "Johns" who use prostitutes to attend classes about the effects of human trafficking; and toughen penalties for those who publish ads for escorts who are minors.
In addition, the measure would allow prostitutes who demonstrate they were victims of trafficking would be able to have their convictions overturned, and mandate that law enforcement officials be trained on how to respond to the needs of human trafficking victims.
"Human trafficking is a crime against humanity," Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter Sumter (D-Bergen), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Perpetrators profit off the exploitation of the weak and vulnerable. This is not something that should be allowed to continue."
Huttle said she was pushing to have the legislation in place before New Jersey hosts the Super Bowl next year, noting that it's an event that has historically seen an increase in sex trafficking.
She said there are "two important messages" in the bill.
"To victims: You're not alone," Huttle said. "To perpetrators: We're coming after you. We're taking a spotlight and shining it on this issue so that it can't operate in the shadows anymore."
Last July, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa urged law enforcement authorities to pursue human-trafficking investigations more aggressively.
WSU setting up center to aid youths ensnared in human trafficking
by ROY WENZL - The Wichita Eagle
The day after Valentine's Day in 1994, a Wichita woman named Karen Countryman shot herself to death at her home, leaving a suicide note for her 13-year-old daughter.
Her look-alike daughter, also named Karen Countryman, ran away from foster care the next year and spent two years eluding police and social workers trying to rescue her.
She saw sex traffickers abusing children on the streets. She made rescue her life's work.
Now Wichita State University is establishing a Center for Combating Human Trafficking, with Karen Countryman-Roswurm, 32, as the executive director. The center will train police, prosecutors, medical providers, faith groups and others in how to combat trafficking. It will be an advocate for victims. It will try to reshape public policy on a national scale.
By building the center entirely around Countryman-Roswurm's expertise, WSU leaders think they can become not only a regional center to combat trafficking but eventually the strongest voice in the nation to fight the crime. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the center on Feb. 13. The start-up cost is estimated at $50,000 a year from the university, with the center also applying for grants.
“She's already one of the leading experts on human trafficking in the nation,” WSU's Keith Pickus said of Countryman-Roswurm. Pickus will step down as the university's provost in July and serve as the center's director of operations. “Not only does she have the theoretical and academic background, but her personal story is unique. No one in the country combines what she has.”
Countryman-Roswurm, who has a doctorate in psychology, said human trafficking earns billions annually for pimps and other criminals. It victimizes an estimated 100,000 children in the United States and possibly hundreds of children in Sedgwick County, she said.
“These people we've called prostitutes – many of them are children,” she said. “Most of them were sexually abused, including in their own homes, from the time they were small.”
In Topeka, state legislators are debating an anti-human-trafficking bill. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who wrote much of it, said it was inspired and shaped in part by Countryman-Roswurm. She came to him as early as 2007, he said, when he was the Republican majority leader in the Kansas Senate, asking that he help change state law regarding trafficking.
“Hers is a remarkable American story of a person who was dealt a difficult hand and turned it into an inspiration for anyone who's seen it,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said Senate Bill 61, if approved, will dramatically change how police, courts and social workers treat the victims of trafficking.
Schmidt was instrumental in creating the state's first human trafficking law in 2007.
But where that law defines child sex workers as “prostitutes,” they will now be defined as victims, he said.
“So much of the conversation we've had about these victims for many years is just wrong,” Schmidt said.
“These are human beings,” Countryman-Roswurm said. “They are victims, they are survivors.”
She said a study she completed last year involving 258 child victims interviewed at the Wichita Children's Home showed that 70 percent had been victims of physical violence, 68 percent had been sexually assaulted and 40 percent were forced, coerced or “frauded” into being exploited in sexual trafficking.
Most runaways stay homeless only a few days or weeks before they get into sex trafficking, go home or are arrested. As a teen, Karen Countryman's experience was different. She stayed homeless two years, in 1995 and 1996. She slept on the couches of strangers and friends, completed her GED – and after she saw human trafficking on Wichita's streets, she became what Schmidt called a relentless advocate for human trafficking victims.
She ran away from the Wichita Children's Home during her homeless years, resentful at how social workers such as Sarah Robinson, the director, curtailed her street freedom. She startled Robinson and other social workers by reappearing in 1996, in court, with a thick, detailed portfolio of her job and academic history. That made her the first teen to be court-emancipated from state care, Sedgwick County judges said at the time. She was 16.
In 1997, Robinson hired Countryman, while she was only 17, to be a Street Outreach worker, driving through Wichita neighborhoods, including in the most dangerous areas at night, finding and rescuing runaways. Robinson sent along an experienced Street Outreach worker to help and protect her.
That was Will Ellis, the father of University of Kansas freshman basketball player Perry Ellis. Robinson hoped the elder Ellis, with his perpetual serious look and 6-foot-8 height, would intimidate anyone who might want to bother Countryman on the street. But Ellis always said Countryman was the intimidating half of their team.
Robinson said Countryman and Ellis saved several lives. Robinson now regrets that she sent a slightly-built teen girl into dangerous streets at night. “We'd not do that now.”
“But she has what our Street Outreach director, Risa Rehmert, calls the three-second rule,” Robinson said. “Risa said in three seconds, Karen could step out of the Street Outreach van and engage a runaway or anyone else so compellingly that they don't turn and walk away. Now she does the same thing with people in Washington, D.C.”
As early as 1998, she walked right up to gang members at night, befriending them, petting their pit bulls, asking their help in finding troubled teens. She got in the faces of belligerent teens or talked them into letting her help them. She saw how police treated trafficking victims.
From WSU, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in social work in 2005, a master's degree in 2006 (4.0 grade-point average) and a doctorate last year.
Countryman-Roswurm now frequently flies across the country to teach, including as the keynote speaker, at national conventions of police, prosecutors, social workers and federal investigators. She has spoken to such groups in Washington, D.C.; New Orleans; Indianapolis; and other cities.
Coming face to face
Marc Bennett, the Sedgwick County district attorney, said Senate Bill 61 was written mostly by Schmidt. But Bennett said he wrote the first draft, inspired in part by conversations organized in 2006 by Countryman-Roswurm.
She had been fuming for years that the justice system wrongly treated child trafficking victims. In 2006, she formed a roundtable group that put police, prosecutors and social workers face to face with each other.
Month after month, in sometimes fiery talks drawn from her street rescues, she challenged them to change their language, their thinking, their policies and state law. Bennett, an assistant district attorney then, attended some of those meetings.
“She opened everybody's eyes,” Bennett said.
‘Nobody did anything'
What got her started was a beating that took place in her car while she sat in the driver's seat dialing 911.
“I was tracking homeless and runaway youth to see how they were progressing into adulthood, and one of the young ladies participating in the study was living on North Broadway,” she said.
This was 1998, she said. She was 18. The young woman she was picking up was 16 or 17.
“She was living in an apartment complex on North Broadway. Next thing I know, she's arguing with her boyfriend, who was acting as her pimp.
“She started running toward my car. And time kind of stood still. I attempted to reach into my back seat to get my cellphone out of my purse, and … she had opened up my car door. She was in my car, five months' pregnant, (her) top ripped off. Her pimp-boyfriend was on top of her, hitting, biting, scratching, cursing.
“A law enforcement officer came. There were cars that had slowed down or stopped. … There were people crowding into the parking lot. Nobody did anything. This police officer came, got the perpetrator, put him in his car.
“This young lady was absolutely seen as a prostitute. … They did not view this as a domestic violence situation.
“And so this young lady was told …‘this guy is going to be released within 24 hours if you don't come to the courthouse. And you need to file a restraining order. … You need to testify in court.'
“(She) said, ‘Karen, I can't do that.'
“I said, ‘Why not? You need to get out of this situation.'”
The young woman said she feared she'd be killed if she testified.
She said Countryman did not understand her life.
“‘My Dad had sex with me,'” Countryman-Roswurm recalled her saying. “‘My Dad let my brothers have sex with me. My Dad let my uncles have sex with me. He invited all his friends to have sex with me so that he could get his drugs, so that he could get his alcohol. So that he could get his cigarettes. And this is the most control I've ever had.'
“She had been treated as a commodity from the day she was born. She had been stolen. So it wasn't a stretch that she could be sold.”
Not really a choice
Lt. Jeff Weible, who commands Sedgwick County's Exploited and Missing Child Unit, said police work on trafficking and victim rescue has improved in recent years. Some, but not all, of those improvements came because of Countryman-Roswurm, he said.
Human trafficking cases are harder to investigate than nearly any other crime, Weible and Bennett said.
Nearly all the child victims, most of them girls, were sexually abused from the time they were babies or pre-schoolers, they said.
“They think this life they are in, as bad as it is, is not nearly as bad as what they had before,” Bennett said.
Weible said his unit has investigated 125 human trafficking situations since 2006.
But he said, “We have a lot of activity we don't know about, and the perpetrators are getting more sophisticated. They are advertising online in various places, for example.”
Bennett said the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office has brought charges in about 25 sex-trafficking cases in the past seven years.
“But of those 25 cases, which involved 25 separate children, I know that every one of those 25 children ran away from protective custody at least once, some of them multiple times,” Bennett said.
They try to avoid testifying even though they live in dangerous and demeaning situations, he said.
“Right now we have a victim who we put in placement, with relatives out of state, and she's on the run again, in the wind,” Weible said.
Everything happening now is long overdue, Countryman-Roswurm said.
“I think it's so easy for the general public to look at these circumstances that aren't necessarily abduction and kidnapping cases and say, ‘Well, why are you in this situation, why don't you leave?' It's because, what did I see on the streets? What did I see in street outreach?
People are doing what they think they need to do to survive. They are acting out of hopelessness. Desperation. They are utterly alone. Choice? There never really is one.”
Human trafficking involves more than prostitution
The Columbus Dispatch
A disproportionate focus on human trafficking for prostitution could lead advocates to overlook people who are enslaved for labor such as farm work or house cleaning, said a scholar at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.
Although addressing sexual exploitation is important, many people, often immigrants, are trafficked for construction, agriculture, domestic and other jobs, said Yvonne Zimmerman, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at the Delaware seminary. “There's a failure to see the problem in its full scope,” Zimmerman said. “It's easy to garner public support for a campaign focused on sexually exploited women, but less for ... undocumented immigrants.”
People trafficked for labor often are enslaved because they fear violence if they resist, and they are paid nothing or very little. They might be immigrants whose passports have been taken by their captors, rendering them undocumented. They might be told they will be freed once they work off a debt, but the debt is impossible to repay.
The International Labour Organization estimates that 20.9 million people were in forced labor last year, including 14.2 million exploited for labor
and 4.5 million for sex. The remaining 2.2 million were cases of state-imposed forced labor.
Since 2008, the Salvation Army in central Ohio has helped 260 trafficking victims: 21 percent for labor, 76 percent for sex and 3 percent for both. Seventy-seven percent were American-born; 23 percent were foreign nationals.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who reconvened a Human Trafficking Commission in 2011, said he agrees that labor exploitation is overshadowed by sex exploitation. He said he struggles with people who “think human trafficking doesn't exist in this country.”
To make his point, he often refers to nail salons where workers don't speak English or make eye contact — and where there might be sleeping bags in a corner.
“I use that as an example of how human trafficking can exist among us, and we don't really recognize it,” DeWine said. “I think there has been a lot of discussion about the sex aspect of this, but ... human trafficking is such a diverse thing and can take so many forms and so many shapes.”
Border states and communities with large immigrant populations tend to identify a greater number of labor-trafficking cases, said Michelle
Hannan, the director of professional and community services at the Salvation Army in Central Ohio.
“In Ohio, while we have a strong and thriving immigrant community, I think we are probably slower to identify human trafficking in some of the industries in our state,” she said.
Among the keys, she said, is raising public awareness.
“Once people understand more about trafficking, they're looking for it and reporting it, and it kind of snowballs,” she said.
Some employers engaged in forced labor would not see themselves as traffickers but as shrewd businesspeople finding the cheapest workers, Zimmerman said. “Part of what makes it so hard to identify is that it can be so integrated into the fabric of society. It doesn't look any different than business as usual until you look below the surface.”
Zimmerman, who last year published the book Other Dreams of Freedom: Religion, Sex and Human Trafficking, has focused her research on how American Protestantism has shaped the way the federal government responds to the trafficking problem.
She recommends that policymakers listen to a wider range of voices, from evangelical Protestants to people who aren't religious. She also suggests that advocates listen to survivors of trafficking to empower them to live the lives they want to live — and steer away from telling them how to live.
“I think trafficked people are so much more than victims,” she said. “When people are exploited, they have more than simply the right to be rescued. … Some of those rights are to have their own dreams and goals for themselves.”
If you are a victim of human trafficking, the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition operates a 24-hour hot line at 614-285-4357.
If you think someone might be a victim of human trafficking, call the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 1-855-BCI-OHIO.
Signs of trafficking:
• At workplaces such as nail salons, employees seem to live where they work. Indications include sleeping bags, back rooms that appear to be living quarters, or groups of employees being driven to a workplace.
• Responses to casual questions seem scripted or rehearsed.
• Workers seem too young or act fearful or submissive. They might not be permitted to go out alone or speak for themselves.
• At hotels, an older man checks in one or more young women or girls. They refer to him as a boyfriend or “Daddy” and might have a tattoo of a man's name. The person paying the hotel bill might have multiple cellphones or laptops and might visit often on weekends but have a local address.
• Security measures — such as barbed wire or bars on windows — appear designed to keep people inside.
Source: Ohio Human Trafficking Commission at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/humantrafficking
National outrage, local silence follows Torrington rape, bullying charges
by Jessica Glenza, The Register Citizen
TORRINGTON, Conn. — As international media scrutiny fell on Torrington, police confirmed Wednesday that charges against two 18-year-old Torrington High School football players, as well as an unidentified 17-year-old, stemmed from the alleged sexual assaults of two 13-year-old girls.
Both players, Joan Toribio and Edgar Gonzalez, have pleaded not guilty to felony charges of sexual assault and two charges of risk of injury to a minor. Toribio is charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault, while Gonzalez is charged with one.
Before the story gained media attention, it had already created a storm of controversy within the school community. Students flocked to social media in the days surrounding the arrests of Gonzalez and Toribio, with several students offering support for the two football players and others blaming the victims for causing the incident.
References included calling a 13-year-old who hangs around with 18-year-olds a “whore,” and claiming the victims “destroyed” the lives of the players.
The case drew comparisons in media coverage to the recent rape conviction of two Steubenville, Ohio football players, where social media also played a major role. Locally, a source with knowledge of the case said, “Part of the problem is the bullying aspect. The re-victimization, the person is re-victimized every time there's a comment.”
While the cases remain sealed at Litchfield Judicial District court, some small, clarifying details were released by police Wednesday.
Gansler, Domestic Violence Survivor Push For Tougher Sentences
It was nearly five years ago, Erin Curtis was beaten and stabbed during an argument with her then husband.
She says her two sons, who where then nine-years-old and two-years-old witnessed the argument, and the attack.
The Baltimore County woman says her now ex-husband pleaded guilty to attempted second degree murder, and received 12 years in prison.
She told members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday that her ex-husband will likely be released after serving only six years.
"So my ex-husband who committed this violent crime in front of my children is eligible for parole in six years, where I feel my children and I were given a life sentence," Curtis told senators.
Curtis was testifying in favor of a bill that would allow judges to add five years to the prison sentence of anyone convicted of a domestic violence related crime, if the crime was witnessed by a child between the ages of two and 18.
The bill is backed by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who has made the issue his top legislative priority of the year.
Gansler says that there is evidence that children who witness abuse often become abusers themselves when they become adults.
Gansler cites numerous federal reports, including a task force led by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Curtis told senators that her children have had nightmares after the incident, and both she and her sons have undergone counseling.
"With this added time, my youngest son...would be able to mature, and make his own decision on what kind of relationship that he will have with his father, once he is released from prison," Curtis added in her testimony.
There is no word on when the Senate committee will vote on this bill.
A similar version of this bill has been introduced in the House of Delegates.
What About the Victim: The Steubenville Rape Victim's Recovery
by Maia Szalavitz
How does public exposure affect recovery from a very private, traumatic experience?
The day after two Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players were found guilty in juvenile court of raping a 16-year-old girl, the victim faced a perilous new journey. Forced to confront her experience in public after photos and video of her on the night in question were circulated on social media, the 16-year-old is now being threatened by those siding with the athletes, who were part of the community's beloved Big Red high school football team. Two girls made online threats to the victim via Twitter, menacing her with homicide and bodily harm for coming forward and launching the trial that led to the guilty verdicts for Ma'lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17. The girls were arrested and taken to juvenile detention.
Both Mays and Richmond face at least one year in juvenile detention, with Mays potentially serving an extra year for taking and distributing images of the girl while she was naked.
But with so much attention focused on the lasting legacy the convictions will have on the boys, there seemingly hasn't been as much concern for how the victim moves on from this very public exposure of a night she would rather put behind her. As the latest threats against her highlight, the fact that her experience unfolded in front of millions on social media may make her recovery all the more challenging. The social and emotional support that she does or does not receive now, experts say, could help determine whether she will be resilient or suffer lasting psychological damage.
“We do know that the more severe the traumatic experience is, the more severe the reaction will be,” says Edna Foa, a professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading expert on trauma. Rape, regardless of the level of physical force involved, is always traumatic, although, fortunately, the vast majority of people who suffer trauma do not develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But in this case, the victim was betrayed by a young man she trusted. In texts sent before the girl became aware of the online photos and videos, Mays told her, “I'm going to get in trouble for something I should be getting thanked for taking care of you.” She later responded, “It's on YouTube. I'm not stupid. Stop texting me,” the New York Times reported.
Two of her former best friends testified for the defense in the trial, claiming that it wasn't unusual for her to get drunk and to lie. Such betrayals worsen trauma: traumatic experiences that involve disrupted relationships tend to be the most likely to cause lasting psychological harm because they undermine trust.
In addition, social rejection and victim-blaming can potentially cancel out the resilience provided by support, according to Foa. “People saying things like ‘Get over it' or ‘Maybe you had something to do with it' — that we find to be a really negative predictor [of recovery],” she says.
Rape victims — and even those injured in less stigmatizing ways, such as during natural disasters or accidents — often feel shame and guilt over the experience and blame themselves for what happened. What may make recovery even more difficult for the Steubenville victim is the fact that evidence of the night's events were widely distributed, including in a 12-minute video that mocked her inebriated and unconscious state. “We don't have data on it, but I think it would add to severity,” says Foa. “It's another dimension of the severity that she was so exposed.”
But there is a fine line between the harmful effects of such public exposure and the potential benefits of not having to hide or conceal emotions. When Jessica Stern, then 15, was raped at gunpoint in her home, along with her 14-year-old sister, in the late 1970s, the incident was kept quiet. Her widowed father didn't even return home early from his business trip following the attack; the police questioned her as though she were covering up for having a secret boyfriend. And law enforcement did not inform the public; the man went on to rape least 42 other girls and women, as Stern later detailed in her book Denial.
Stern, who is now a terrorism expert and a fellow in human rights at Harvard University, developed PTSD as a result of her unresolved response to her traumatic experience. She would frequently dissociate (become entirely disconnected emotionally from her surroundings) or be hypervigilant to the tiniest hints of threat or fear. While this gave her the ability to stay calm in and survive terrifying situations, like interviewing armed Al Qaeda members in the field, “I'm not sure my response was totally healthy,” she says.
In Stern's case, sharing her experiences rather than bottling them up could have saved her from the personal turmoil that resulted from her heightened sensitivity to threats and her tendency to distance herself emotionally in relationships.
Indeed, Amy Vorenberg, who at age 13 was raped by Stern's attacker, had a much more open recovery experience. Her parents immediately surrounded her with support: the day after the incident, a group of her friends from the neighborhood slept over to protect her. She slept in her mother's bedroom for years (her parents were divorced), and all her classmates and teachers were aware of what had happened so that they could be sensitive to her needs. She was “frightened but felt held,” Stern writes in her book about Vorenberg, who is now a law professor and reported a much smoother path to recovery.
“The most important thing anyone can do is to decrease the trauma survivor's sense of shame,” says Rachel Yehuda, a professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine (formerly Mount Sinai) in New York. “Even in nonsexual traumatic events, there's a certain sense of shame at being victimized, and that's certainly true in the context of sexual abuse. The provision of social support is mostly to try to not judge the event or the victim's role in the event.”
That's the type of support Stern would like to see for the Steubenville victim. And, fortunately, the teen seems to have at least one powerful and understanding ally: her mother. Family support is especially important in overcoming trauma, and the victim's mother has been a champion for her daughter throughout the ordeal. It was her mother who, along with other relatives, took her to the police several days after the incident and presented officers with a flash drive containing the images and social-media evidence they hoped would be enough to find and charge the perpetrators.
After the verdict, she told CNN that the result is “the start of a new beginning for my daughter.” “We need to stress the importance of helping those in need and to stand up for what is right. We hope that from this something good can arise,” she added, referring explicitly to helping others faced with the same situation. The verdict itself, as vindication of the victim's side of the story, is a form of social support, notes Yehuda. “That might help,” she says.
Therapy can also be useful, if needed. “If after two to three weeks, she still feels as bad [as she did initially after the trauma] and you don't see any natural recovery, that's the time to go to treatment,” says Foa, who developed the trauma therapy known as prolonged exposure. It takes about eight to 15 sessions and involves discussing the trauma explicitly and helping victims to face situations and feelings that aren't comfortable and that they want to avoid.
“The treatment helps you process the trauma by asking you to talk about it rather than avoid it,” says Foa, noting that many patients lives' become so constricted by fear that they no longer go out of the house or engage in activities they used to enjoy. Another evidence-based treatment for trauma for youth is called trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy — and this also helps people make sense of trauma and interrupt the negative thought and behavior patterns it can produce.
Stern notes that while social media forced the Steubenville victim to face her experience even if she wasn't ready or willing to do so, the richness of our social connections can also be turned around to help in her recovery. “I hope she will feel an army of women lifting her up,” Stern says, citing the recent cases in India and Somalia where women have begun to challenge cultures that condone rape after horrifying incidents became public. Seeing hope beyond the awful specifics of the attacks, Stern says, “I feel we've reached some sort of tipping point where rape victims all over the world are standing up and saying we're not going to let ourselves be shamed into silence.”
“She had the courage — and it absolutely is courage — to come out against this violence,” says Niobe Way, a professor of psychology at NYU. “We need to be creating networks of support for her that can help her deal with this inevitable hostile response.” As Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said following the arrest of the two girls who threatened the Steubenville victim via Twitter after the guilty verdicts were announced: “Threatening a teenage rape victim will not be tolerated. If anyone makes a threat verbally or via the Internet, we will take it seriously, we will find you, and we will arrest you.” Those words were also a statement against a culture that minimizes or even glorifies violence against women and holds athletes to a different standard by which even criminal behavior is deemed acceptable.
It's our ability to support rape victims and reject victim-blaming that will determine whether victims are helped or hindered in their recovery, say experts. And whether we successfully challenge cultural ideals that hold victims more responsible than the perpetrators. “We don't want to believe we are a part of a culture that perpetuates these negative messages, but we are,” says Way.
Study: Women Abused As Kids More Likely To Have Children With Autism
The results are the first to suggest a trans-generational contributor to the developmental disorder.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry , is the first to examine the potential legacy that a mother's experience with childhood abuse could have on the health of her own children. The findings are especially sobering given the latest statistics released from the Centers for Disease Control, which found a significantly higher rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) — one in 50 compared to one in 88 from a report released in 2012 — among school-aged children than previously thought.
The authors of the JAMA Psychiatry paper studied more than 50,000 women enrolled in the Nurse's Health Study II, who were asked about any history of abuse before they were 12. The questions delved into both physical and emotional abuse, as the women evaluated whether they had been hit hard enough to leave bruises, as well as whether adults or caregivers had insulted, screamed or yelled at them. They also filled out questionnaires about whether their own children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. The scientists also had access to the nurses' health records, so they could adjust for other maternal health factors known to influence autism risk, including nine pregnancy-related conditions such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, alcohol consumption and smoking.
Women who reported physical, emotional, or sexual abuse when they were young were more likely to have a child with autism compared to women who were not abused. The more severely the women were abused, the higher their chances of having a child with autism; compared to women who weren't abused, those who endured the most serious mistreatment were 60% as likely to have an autistic child.
Because it's possible that a mother's exposure to abuse as a child could also lead her to engage in behaviors associated with harming the fetus — such as smoking, drinking during pregnancy, using drugs, being overweight, having preterm labor or giving birth to a premature or low birth weight baby — the scientists also calculated how much these factors contributed to the risk of ASD in the next generation. To their surprise, these conditions explained only 7% of the heightened risk among the abused women. That meant that abuse was exerting more lasting effects on the women's bodies that were translating into an increased risk of autism in their children.
How? The researchers believe that some of the lifestyle circumstances associated with abuse, such as poor nutrition, could be responsible for some of the association. It's also possible that abuse causes biological changes in a woman's immune system, including disruption of the stress response, that could lead to harmful effects on a developing fetus. Studies have shown that autistic children showed abnormal stress responses, and it's possible that a mother's altered stress reaction could be passed on to her child. “Maternal inflammation affects the developing brain, and maternal inflammation and immune function have been hypothesized to be causes of autism,” the researchers write.
The researchers also speculate that childhood abuse can leave women in a state of chronic stress; the constant release of stress-related hormones could also increase a developing child's chances of developing autism, since such androgens have been associated with autistic symptoms. Finally, a mother's childhood abuse could be an indicator of a genetic risk for mental illness, which is often associated with abuse of youngsters. Studies showed that mental illness and autism may share genetic risk factors, “therefore, the perpetration of child abuse by grandparents and experience of abuse in childhood by the mother may be indicators of genetic risk for autism in the child,” the study authors write.
“Childhood abuse is associated with a wide array of health problems in the person who experiences it, including both mental health outcomes like depression and anxiety, and physical health outcomes like depression and anxiety, and physical health outcomes like obesity and lung disease,” said senior study author Marc Weisskopf, an associate professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, in a statement. “Our research suggests that the effects of childhood abuse may also reach across generations.”
Is that legacy enough to explain the apparent rise in ASD documented in the most recent government data? The CDC data was based on parental reports of autism; a representative sample of parents were asked whether a doctor had diagnosed their child with autism, and some experts caution that such reports are not as reliable as health records documenting the disorder. Still, the latest statistics suggest that at least awareness of ASDs is increasing, and with it, potential explanations for what might be contributing to the disorder.
If childhood abuse turns out to be one of these reasons for the rise in autism cases, then efforts to prevent it take on new urgency, since such interventions can benefit more than just one victim.
Governor signs bill empowering child abuse review panel
by BEN FINLEY
FRANKFORT, Ky. —Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill Wednesday that gives broader investigative powers to a state panel that reviews serious cases of child abuse and neglect in Kentucky.
Beshear created the panel last year by executive order. But the law gives panel members deeper access to case files involving children who died or suffered serious injuries. The panel makes recommendations on how authorities and social service agencies can better serve these kids. It has already said more training is needed.
Before the governor signed the bill, Dr. Stephen Wright, medical director of Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, said his hospital sees victims almost every day.
"Whether it's physical abuse or sexual abuse or neglect, it's almost at least one child a day," Wright said. "A couple weeks ago we had four children within a 24-hour period, three of which needed to go into our pediatric intensive care unit. And one didn't survive. This has to stop."
The board's membership includes state lawmakers, judges, social workers, doctors and Kentucky's chief medical examiner. They will continue to meet quarterly. The law will allow them to discuss certain cases in private to protect victims' identities.
The panel began reviewing cases earlier this year. Among them was the death of 3-year-old Alayna Adair of Christian County. She died of a head injury while in her father's custody in 2011.
According to media reports, Department of Community Based Services Commissioner Teresa James told the panel that there were "egregious" failures that led up to the girl's death, although she said Alayna's case isn't representative of how most are handled.
The state became involved in the case after Alayna suffered a broken arm. But she was not removed from her father's custody and died a couple of weeks later.
"We so blatantly disregarded policy, and we failed this girl and her family," James told the panel when they began to raise concerns about its handling. "I have agonized over the failure. We had multiple opportunities to prevent this death."
James said employees who didn't follow correct procedures were disciplined swiftly after the problems were discovered, but she declined to say how.
Alayna's father, Charles Morris, is charged with murder in her death. He has pleaded not guilty in the case, which is set for trial in September.
Pope Francis supports zero tolerance of child abuse
by Thomas Reese
Pope Francis is on record as supporting zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of minors by priests. In a 2012 interview, then-Cardinal Bergoglio said that a bishop called him for advice on how to deal with it, and "I told him to take away the priests' licenses, not to allow them to exercise the priesthood any more, and to begin a canonical trial in that diocese's court."
He went on to say that he was unconcerned about the impact on the image of the church. "I do not believe in taking positions that uphold a certain corporative spirit in order to avoid damaging the image of the institution." He was critical of the earlier practice in the United States of moving priests to a different parish. "It is a stupid idea; that way, the priest just takes the problem with him wherever he goes."
He noted that Pope Benedict supported "Zero tolerance for that crime" and admired "the courage and uprightness of Pope Benedict on the subject." He says, "we must never turn a blind eye" to abuse. "You cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person."
In the interview, he argues that celibacy is not the cause of pedophilia. "More than seventy percent of cases of pedophilia occur in the family and neighborhood: grandparents, uncles, stepfathers, neighbors. The problem is not linked to celibacy. If a priest is a pedophile, he is so before he is a priest."
Give Minnesota sex abuse victims more time for justice
by JAMES C. BACKSTROM
We must recognize that the nature of these incidents means that feelings can be repressed well into adulthood.
Childhood sexual abuse is an epidemic. More than 80,000 American kids are sexually abused every year. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they reach age 18. Nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur against children ages 17 and under.
Some of these tragedies make high-profile news, like the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal last year and the recent criminal charges against Lynn Seibel, a former teacher at Shattuck-St. Mary's boarding school in Faribault. Most of these incidents, however, never get reported to police and prosecutors or see the light of day in a civil courtroom. Most victims of childhood sexual abuse lock away memories of horrible trauma deep inside their minds, for many years.
This is not that hard to understand if you think about it. These are frightened kids who often do not fully comprehend what is happening to them. And the vast majority are preyed upon by someone they know and trust: a parent or sibling, a relative, a coach, a teacher, a minister or priest, a Boy Scout leader, or an older family friend. Few actually fall victim to unknown sexual predators — and those few cases are much more likely to be reported promptly to law enforcement.
Most child victims of sexual crimes repress the troubling memories for many years, though these memories will often come bubbling back to the surface at some point in their lives. And when they do, these victims, who are now adults, deserve a chance at justice.
We have done a good job in the last 20 years of expanding the criminal statute of limitations in cases of this nature, so that perpetrators can be found and held accountable for their crimes. Today, in Minnesota, the criminal statute of limitations for a child sexually abused before age 18 is the latter of nine years after the offense or three years after it is reported to law enforcement. In other words, it is nonexistent for practical purposes.
Sadly, the same is not true of the civil statute of limitations. Today, in our state, court interpretation of existing law prohibits the filing of a claim for damages by a victim of childhood sexual abuse more than six years after the trauma was last inflicted. As a society, we must recognize the pain, trauma and feelings of guilt that lead child victims of sexual abuse to repress these incidents for many years, often well into adulthood. It is in the interest of justice and protecting these most vulnerable victims to allow them to seek redress for the pain and suffering they have endured once they finally realize the full extent of their victimization.
Eliminating the civil statute of limitations in these cases would allow child sexual abuse victims to sue their abusers and organizations that may have made such abuse possible or failed to stop it. In my opinion, courageous victims who commence civil lawsuits against their abusers are doing a great service to all our children by helping to prevent the abuse of future victims. Allowing civil litigation is one of the most powerful tools we have to ensure more accountability and to prevent future abuse.
I applaud and support the effort underway at the Minnesota Legislature in HF681 and SF534 to, in essence, eliminate the civil statute of limitations and allow these victims to seek their day in court when they are finally able to do so. I urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to support this important and needed change in our laws. The victims of these terrible crimes deserve no less.
James C. Backstrom is the Dakota County attorney.
FMCS to hold annual fundraising dinner
CANTON –– The Fulton-Mason Crisis Service's (FMCS) annual fundraiser dinner/auction will be held on Friday, April 26, at the Kemper Banquet Hall in Canton.
The annual fundraiser is held on the last Friday in April each year.
Chrissie Peterson, Canton City Attorney, has agreed to be the Mistress of Ceremonies for the fundraiser/dinner. Curtis Gorsuch and Doug Hensley have agreed to provide their auctioneer services for the event.
Doors will open at 5 p.m. for viewing of the auction items, registration and social time. Dinner will be served around 6:15 p.m., and the live auction will follow.
FMCS continues its mission to serve the needs of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and/or elder abuse. Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used for the Jeannette Ann Children's Center and to continue the other FMCS programs that provide education and support services for clients and their children.
FMCS staff provides individual and group support sessions for adults and children, emergency services (food, shelter, transportation and hygiene items), transitional housing, advocacy (medical, legal and 3rd party), educational information and referrals.
The dinner/auction fundraiser is the primary source of local support for FMCS. FMCS has begun collecting donations for the auction baskets. Anyone who would like to make a monetary contribution, donate items for the auction and/or purchase tickets for the event should contact FMCS at 647-7487 (business line).
Wear blue next month to raise awareness about child abuse prevention, Dallas Children's Advocacy Center
by Jennifer Emily
It's still March, but the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center is sending out reminders that next month is Child Abuse Awareness Month.
“We hope you think about one or more simple actions to take during this month. We don't care what you do; we just urge you to do something , ” the advocacy center says in an information packet sent out this week. “I hope you will join us in raising awareness within your organization for our community's most vulnerable citizens — our children.”
These are upcoming events for Child Abuse Awareness Month in Dallas:
April 3 : Appetite for Advocacy Luncheon featuring Ashley Judd.
April 5 : Child Abuse Prevention Coalition event. 11:45 a.m. on the east steps of the Old Red Courthouse in downtown Dallas.
April 10: Show your Blue Day. Promote and execute some special organization-wide activity of everyone wearing blue. Send the advocacy center a photo via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and the center will post it on its Facebook page.
April 28 : For places of worship to incorporate some kind of information into a sermon or bulletin about child abuse prevention.
For more information, go to www.istandup.org. There, you can find information about the awareness month, how to talk to your child about abuse, tips on protecting your child, how to recognize signs of abuse and how to report it.
According to the advocacy center:
FACT: Only about 1 in 10 children who are sexually abused will tell while they are still children.
FACT: More than 90 percent of the time, children are abused by people they know and trust, not strangers.
FACT: The Dallas Children's Advocacy Center served more than 2,400 children in 2012. These were children who had been sexually abused, severely physically abused or children who witnessed something violent, like a homicide.
FACT: More than 2,000 children in the United States annually have a cause of death listed as “homicide.” More than 80 percent of these children are under the age of 4. More than 80 percent of these children are killed by one or both parents or a parental figure.
Training to focus on prevention of child abuse
JOELTON, Tenn. (AP) — Victim advocates are holding a free training program to teach the public and child care providers how to identify signs of child abuse.
You Have the Power, a nonprofit agency founded by former first lady Andrea Conte, is holding the training on Tuesday at the Joelton Baptist Church in Joelton. The program is funded under an agreement with the state of Tennessee, Office of Criminal Justice.
The program is titled "Innocence Shattered: The Devastating Legacy of Educator Sexual Misconduct," and will teach how to identify signs of inappropriate educator behavior, correctly report suspected abuse and learn about available resources and prevention.
Child care providers can receive a certificate of attendance that can be used to meet training requirements.
Effort to reduce child abuse in Texas
Texas - Protecting children at risk of abuse is becoming a top priority for state officials in Texas.
Texas ranks third in the country with the most amount of child abuse deaths.
Now there's new legislation being proposed that aims to help reduce the potential for injury and death of children in abusive homes.
The bill would set aside funding to increase in-state funded home visits for families who are at the highest risk for a variety of child-related problems
The senate has budgeted $8-million as of right now but children's advocates are asking lawmakers to budget $27 million instead.
Home visiting programs put parents with professionals who give them information and support during pregnancy and a child's early years.
Families subject to home visits would be those where children have been exposed to one or more risk factors that lead to negative consequences.
There are more than 470,000 families in Texas that would fall into that category.
The Texas Association for the Protection of Children say the continued rise in child abuse and poverty vastly increased the number of at-risk Texan families in need of home visitation support.
Less Public Interest in Prevention of Child Sex Abuse?
Sandy Springs children's advocate says she received more calls on how to recognize signs of sexual abuse in children, last year, after the Penn State scandal, but has less turnout these days for training sessions on the topic.
by Adrianne Murchison
A year ago, when the Penn State scandal made national news headlines, Kim Cunninghis, saw increased local interest from people calling to be informed on prevention of child sexual abuse.
That interest has waned, even though people are more aware that research shows 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by age 18.
“My phone is not ringing as much,” she said.
The Sandy Springs resident is a facilitator for Darkness to Light, children's protection agency, and has held several training sessions informing parents, educators and adults who work with children on how to recognize signs that a child has been sexually abused.
Although few people attended the most recent Stewards of Children session, held last week in Sandy Springs, Cunninghis was not deterred.
“For every 1 adult trained, 10 children are saved from sexual abuse,” she said.
It's estimated that 3,200 Sandy Springs children are affected by sexual abuse.
Cunninghis explained that a common problem is parents and adults caring for children don't acknowledge their instincts when they sense something wrong. It may be that a child is acting differently, or a parent has an uncomfortable feeling about an adult that is around a child.
Georgia Center for Child Advocacy and Darkness to Light research shows the following:
- 30-40 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by a family member.
- About 60 percent are abused by someone close to the family.
- Fewer than 10 percent of abusers are strangers. More than 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know the perpetrator.
- Nearly 40 percent of children are abused by older or larger children.
To Cunninghis' earlier point that people are less interested these days in prevention of child sexual abuse, Darkness to Light says a survey showed fewer than 30 percent of parents bring up the topic of sexual abuse with their children.
It's rare for a child to reveal that they have been sexually abused. If they do, it is often to an adult other than a parent. Sexually abused children who either keep the experience a secret, or confide it to someone and is then not believed, carry psychological and emotional problems into adulthood, according to Darkness to Light.
Sex abuse survivor launches walk in Key West
by TERRY SCHMIDA -- Citizen Staff
If that old adage that "the longest journey begins with a single step" is true, than sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book is well on the way to completing her trip.
Book's journey is a personal odyssey of healing.
From the time she was 11, the Aventura native was sexually molested and otherwise physically abused by a nanny for over six years.
She has not let the experience defeat her, however.
On Tuesday morning, Book laced up her trusty Brooks running shoes, paused for a photo op at the Southernmost Point, and began walking -- to Tallahassee.
Beginning in 2010, Book has undertaken an annual walk across Florida to the state capitol to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and help lobby for specific legislation.
Book is also the founder of the Lauren's Kids nonprofit and the author of a memoir, "It's OK to Tell: A Story of Hope and Recovery."
This year's Walk in My Shoes event will see Book criss-crossing the state, walking 1,500 miles to the capitol steps, where a "Rally in Tally" will stress Book's 2013 legislative priorities.
"We're trying to create a standardized abuse prevention curriculum that will reach every child in the state in grades one through five," said Book, who previously championed a similar, successful initiative for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. "Protecting our kids is just as important as teaching them their ABC's and 123's. And 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable through education."
Book, whose father is a well-known attorney and lobbyist, is also pushing for passage of HB 7031, which would extend the "victimless prosecution" option -- currently available to victims 11 years old and younger -- to children as old as 16.
"Basically, information gathered during an interview at a child advocacy center by a child protective team member or an investigator could be used in court so that the victim wouldn't need to testify on the stand," Book explained.
Should the bill pass, it will be yet another legislative feather in Book's cap.
She has devoted her life to working with her foundation to further the cause of child sex abuse victims, and has advocated for a number of legislative initiatives over the years, including HB 525, which, in 2010, eliminated the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal prosecutions for crimes related to sexual assault committed against children under 16.
Last year, Book promoted HB 1355, which requires anyone with knowledge of abuse of children to call the Florida Department of Children and Families' (DCF) hotline, at 1-800-962-2873. That law became effective in October.
Lauren's Kids has also partnered with DCF to launch the Don't Miss the Signs campaign, an attempt to educate adults on the warning signs of child abuse, and the process of making a report.
Book said she got the idea for the walks while healing from her own experience.
"It was really important to me to come up with a way to meet other individuals, and find out how they're helping themselves, and where they go for help," Book said. "I figured that the best way was to hit the road and walk, and talk with people. Over the years it really has helped make a difference. I see people now that I met on my first walk who didn't know where to turn back then, and now they're doing better, maybe in stable relationships. It's all about helping survivors to be survivors."
On Tuesday, Book held a press conference and rally at the Key West Publix, where she promoted Walk in My Shoes.
Among the attendees was Monroe County State Attorney Catherine Vogel.
"We really appreciate all the work done by victim's advocates, including Lauren Book," Vogel said. "This is a really amazing thing that she's doing."
Book's walk across the state will take in 55 events in 42 days, including a stop 10 a.m. today at Christina's Courage, 1663 Dunlap Drive in Key West, where she will connect with survivors at the sexual assault treatment center.
To donate to Book's cause, or more information, visit www.laurenskids.org
DCS child abuse hotline cuts wait time, hangups
Shorter message, staff changes allow more calls to be answered
by Tony Gonzalez
Improvements to Tennessee's child abuse phone line have allowed more calls to be answered and dramatically decreased the time callers wait on hold — reversing trends that alarmed officials, child advocates and lawmakers last year.
New data from the Department of Children's Services show it usually took less than 40 seconds for a call to be answered during the past four months. That's down from an average wait of just more than three minutes in 2012, and average waits of more than five minutes in the call center's worst-performing months.
DCS also shortened the hotline's prerecorded message, which had included 15 seconds of silence.
That change — and adjustments to staffing — cut the number of hangups. In recent years, a quarter of calls were abandoned during low-performing months, but during the past four months less than 5 percent have gone unanswered.
“We would like to continue to drive that down,” said Larry Martin, a special adviser assigned to DCS by Gov. Bill Haslam. “The key metrics certainly indicate improvement, significant improvement. I think we can continue that.”
Each year, about 165,000 abuse and neglect reports come into the DCS hotline, whether from a neighbor, teacher, doctor or police officer. Almost two-thirds prompt a caseworker to respond. The other third of calls are “screened out,” meaning investigators are already working the case or didn't receive enough information to warrant a check, officials said.
The call center began missing more calls in 2010. Problems persisted through October 2012, when the center's director resigned and two non-DCS groups were asked to examine what was going wrong. DCS officials said then that more calls, clunky computer software and high staff turnover contributed to answering the calls.
The department added staff and got new computers and phones, which made some difference, officials said.
Changes since October have been guided by the state's Office of Customer Focused Government, which seeks government efficiency. That office also tapped three unpaid experts to help, looking at everything from the typing speeds of call takers to phone technology.
“We didn't really have trained call center managers,” Martin said of DCS. “We had people that were good, knowledgeable at the subject matter that DCS is responsible for.”
'Like 911 calls'
Martin described improvements to lawmakers during a special hearing last week, taking to the podium after Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Antioch, asked about the “big problem” of missed calls.
Among key changes, Martin said, was examining peak call times so that enough staffers can be scheduled in those periods.
DCS also found problems with the 90-second recorded message callers first heard.
“Once you endured that, then at the end of the message, there was a roughly 15-second silent period,” Martin said. “Fifteen seconds, if you're on the phone, is a long time. People would hang up, thinking they had been disconnected.”
The agency cut the silence and trimmed the message to 15 seconds.
Attention has also turned to the call takers, whose work consists of listening to graphic details of abuse allegations for hours on end. They must know how to question hesitant or emotional callers for details that determine how DCS will investigate.
In addition to recruiting more staffers with child welfare and customer-service experience, the call center now hosts daily meetings and monthly briefings to show call volume trends and identify training opportunities.
Martin said the new DCS goal is to answer 90 percent of calls within 10 seconds — a standard used by emergency dispatchers.
“We're trying to set a standard that is higher, because these are more like 911 calls,” Martin said.
DCS also has a new way to connect high-priority callers to call takers trained in handling calls from professionals. The department has used special phone lines for police, doctors and teachers, although Jones suggested last week that too few people know of them.
“I don't think there is any question that we need more marketing out there,” said DCS Interim Commissioner Jim Henry.
Accomplishing such goals will fall to the center's newly named director, Dimple Dudley, who served as interim director since October.
While the Office of Customer Focused Government completed its work, the child welfare nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation has not yet delivered recommendations about the call center that officials anticipated by the end of 2012.
The federal government also examines state child welfare agencies based on the percentage of calls screened out from call centers, which don't prompt investigations.
In 2011, Tennessee screened out 37 percent of calls — below the national average by 2 percentage points, federal numbers show.
DCS spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said employees at the call center answer standard, computerized questions at the end of each call to determine which ones should be screened out. Calls may be screened if callers don't identify specific perpetrators or locations, if DCS is already involved with a family (the information is entered into the case file), or if multiple calls come in rapidly on the same day.
From 2010 through 2012, six Tennessee children died sometime after a call about their safety was screened out by call takers, DCS reported in response to Democratic lawmakers' recent questions.
One child was the subject of three screen-outs in 2011. Of those three, one call was disconnected before information was provided. The other two arrived after DCS was already investigating the child's well-being, allowing information to be added to the file. The child died almost a year later, in 2012.
Doctor to be sentenced for not reporting abuse of child
by Mary Beth Lane
LANCASTER, Ohio — A Fairfield County judge is scheduled to sentence a doctor next month for failing to report known or suspected child abuse.
A jury convicted Dr. Anthony D. Zucco of the fourth-degree misdemeanor on Monday. The offense is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, County Prosecutor Gregg Marx said yesterday.
Physicians, nurses, teachers and others are required by state law to report child abuse to authorities. Juvenile Court Judge Steven O. Williams scheduled sentencing for April 10.
The State Medical Board “will be following this case very closely and will take action as appropriate,” spokeswoman Joan Wehrle said yesterday. A criminal conviction is grounds for discipline that could range from a public reprimand to permanent revocation of a doctor's medical license, she said.
Among the disciplinary cases heard by the board since 1995, there has been just one other related to failure to report child abuse, Wehrle said: In 2000, Columbus pediatrician Dr. Lawrence P. Heiny was reprimanded for not reporting physical abuse of a child to a children-services agency.
Zucco, 56, of West Jefferson, practiced at Premiere Medical Care, an urgent-care office in Lancaster. He could not be reached yesterday; an office worker said he no longer works there. His attorney did not return a telephone message.
A woman took her daughter, who was then under age 14, to see Zucco in August 2011 and reported that the girl had been sexually assaulted by a family member, Marx said.
Zucco did not perform a medical exam and told the girl that reporting the incident would result in her name being printed in a newspaper. The mother took her daughter to county Child Protective Services, which contacted the authorities and investigated, Marx said.
The family member who assaulted the girl, who also was a minor, has been prosecuted in county Juvenile Court, Marx said.
Zucco applied for an Ohio medical license in 1995. Approval was delayed, however, while the medical board weighed his U.S. Army background. According to medical board records, Zucco pleaded guilty in 1991 to smuggling anabolic steroids into the United States and admitting that he had discussed a deal to murder someone with a sergeant. He was sentenced to six months in the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and left the Army with a general discharge.
Zucco told the medical board he never would have committed a murder but let the sergeant think that he would because he feared the sergeant would report his steroid use to military authorities.
The medical board granted his license in 1996, with a one-year probation.
Former Jewish leader's sex abuse charges rock Melbourne community
by Dan Goldberg
SYDNEY (JTA) -- Menachem (Manny) Waks was on a leadership training program in Israel in June 2011 when he made a decision that would radically change his life.
Flicking through Melbourne's The Age newspaper on his laptop one morning, he spotted an article about David Kramer, who was convicted of pedophilia in Missouri in 2008 and now was wanted in Melbourne on allegations of child sex abuse dating to his stint as a teacher at Chabad's Yeshivah College in the late 1980s.
Waks, a former vice president of the Executive Council of Australian Jews, studied at the all-boys college. He was not one of Kramer's alleged victims, but the article stirred nightmarish flashbacks.
“When I saw that article, I thought this is the right opportunity,” Waks, 36, told JTA. “I knew there were other perpetrators and victims within the Jewish community. Someone needed to shatter the wall of silence, and I realized it needed to be me.”
The wall was decimated on the morning of July 8, 2011, when Waks' story was published on the front page of The Age.
Under the headline “Jewish community leader tells of sex abuse,” Waks revealed he had been molested as a student -- not once, but several times. Not by one official, but by two -- one of whom he claims is the son of a venerated Chabad emissary.
Waks said he was molested in a synagogue and in a ritual bath, where he was lured to bathe in the nude by his alleged assailant.
His revelations landed like a bomb in Balaclava, a leafy Melbourne suburb that is home to a large proportion of the 50,000-strong Jewish community, including many affiliated with the Chabad hasidic movement. The explosive accusations by Waks -- in particular his claim that senior Chabad rabbis covered up complaints by parents and even helped alleged perpetrators flee the country -- triggered a sequence of dramatic events that has shaken the Jewish community.
Nearly two years on, the aftershocks are still reverberating.
In December, Waks testified before the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse. Next month, he is expected to be called before the royal commission into institutional child sex abuse in Australia. And he has taken leave from his job as a public servant to work as the full-time director of Tzedek, an advocacy group he founded last year for Jewish victims of child sexual abuse.
In short, he has become the face of child sex abuse in the Australian Jewish community, the shoulders on which other victims lean and their primary media spokesman.
Sitting in a cafe in the heart of Jewish Melbourne last week, Waks looks nothing like the devout hasidic kid who grew up in a strictly Orthodox household with 16 siblings. Indeed, his traumatic childhood prompted Waks to sever ties with Chabad in his late teens, shave his beard and abandon his black hat. Today he is bespectacled and sports a goatee; a tattoo is visible on his left arm.
“I hate going to synagogue,” Waks says. “I feel very uncomfortable being there. I can't even utter prayers from the siddur. But I go there for my kids.”
Since he came forward, Waks says dozens of Jewish victims of abuse have contacted him. Of those, only one -- Yaakov Wolf, the son of a popular kabbalistic rabbi -- has spoken publicly.
“It's been endemic within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community -- both the abuses and the cover-ups. There's enough evidence to support that,” Waks says. “There are so many cases, so many allegations, so many perpetrators, so many victims and so many more allegations yet to be revealed.”
Waks says he has received “incredible” support from within the community. Ze'ev Smason, a St. Louis rabbi who reported the allegations against Kramer to police, congratulated Waks for helping confront “a form of spiritual toxicity” within Orthodoxy. Waks says his family also has been largely supportive.
But to others, Waks is exploiting an unfortunate situation. He has been accused of grandstanding and seeking fame and fortune while taking down the very organization that helped raise him and his siblings.
“Is it grandstanding?” Waks asks. “Maybe. But the simple rhetorical question to these individuals is this: What have you done to address the rampant child sexual abuse and cover-ups that have plagued our community for decades?”
Perhaps inevitably, the intense media coverage Waks has generated has had a polarizing effect in the Jewish community.
The editor of the Australian Jewish News, Zeddy Lawrence, wrote that the scandal indicates the Orthodox rabbinate is “an apple that is rotten to the core.” In response, Rabbi Meir Kluwgant, the president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, wrote last week, “Never in my history as a religious leader within our community have I experienced such disrespect and contempt leveled at the religious leadership as a whole.”
Chabad's leadership has remained tight-lipped since the charges were first made public. In a July 2011 letter, Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, the principal of Yeshivah College, called the effects of abuse “profound” and urged victims to contact authorities. He declined to comment further because the matter is before the courts.
In August, Yeshivah Center, the college's parent body, apologized “unreservedly” for “any historical wrongs that may have occurred.” A spokesman for Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., noted that the organization's child safety policies requires reporting child abuse to the appropriate authorities.
At least three cases are slated to go to court this year, two of them embroiling Yeshivah College. Kramer, who was extradited late last year, will face a committal hearing next month to ascertain whether the multiple counts of assaults against minors between 1989 and 1992 merit a trial.
In July, David Cyprys, a former board member of an Orthodox synagogue and a former security guard at the college, will face trial on 41 counts of child sex abuse against 12 former students, including Waks and Wolf.
And a third man, whose name is being suppressed by a court order, also is expected to face trial later this year on charges involving Jewish children in a non-Orthodox Jewish organization.
Despite the progress in the courts, the public criticism and the expressions of remorse from religious leaders, Waks says he has no intention of letting up.
“If I step away, there are many powerful individuals and bodies who would still much rather see this whole scandal swept under the carpet,” Waks says. “We are resilient. We will not be intimidated. We will no longer remain silent.”
Sympathetic coverage of Steubenville teen rapists by media sparks outrage
by Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's no secret that in news coverage, a human interest angle can be powerful. But as media giant CNN learned Monday, if the only humans available to put on television are convicted rapists, maybe don't go that route.
A firestorm of protest began shortly after CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow broke into Sunday's "State of the Union" program to report that two Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players had been found delinquent in the rape of a 16-year-old girl -- a finding comparable to a guilty verdict -- in a juvenile court bench trial.
The teens had been accused of raping the girl who was so incapacitated by alcohol at a series of parties last August that she was incapable of granting consent. In addition, one of them posted a nude photo of the girl on social media.
Cameras filming the trial -- something not allowed in Pennsylvania -- showed Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, sobbing after the verdict was read by visiting Judge Thomas Lipps.
CNN anchor Candy Crowley told Ms. Harlow, "I cannot imagine, having just watched this on the feed coming in. How emotional that must have been, sitting in the courtroom."
Ms. Harlow, who has been covering the trial in the city of 18,000 just over the West Virginia border, replied, "It was incredibly emotional -- incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart."
By way of introducing CNN legal contributor Paul Callan to describe what might happen after they had served their sentences, Ms. Crowley began "You know, Paul, a 16-year-old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16-year-olds. The other one, 17. A 16-year-old victim."
"Well, you know, Candy," Mr. Callan said, "We've seen here a courtroom drenched in tears and tragedy and, you know, Poppy's description, I think, you know, sums it all up. But across America scenes like this happen all the time."
Almost immediately, the hash tag "#rapeapologist was started on Twitter, and a petition demanding CNN apologize to the rape victim and her family, repeatedly, appeared on www.change.org.
It had almost 45,000 signatures as of mid-afternoon Monday, with a posted goal of 100,000.
"Admit that your coverage was extremely off base and tell us why it was off base," the petition read in part.
A typical response on Twitter "@PoppyHarlowCNN, those boys destroyed their own lives when they COMMITTED A VIOLENT CRIME CALLED RAPE."
The Poynter Institute quoted Lauren Wolfe, director of the Women's Media Center "Women Under Siege" project:
"What I'm so furious about, after the act perpetrated on this young woman, is our media's take. Mainstream media, of course, reflects society -- so in this case, they reflect rape culture. But shouldn't we expect more from the media? Aren't there such things as news judgment and context and analysis?"
Victims of sex crimes are not named by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and most media outlets follow that policy. While the policy was crafted to protect victims from the social stigma that may come from involvement in sex crimes, it can create an imbalance. If there is just one side of the story to tell, there is the danger of aggrandizing that one side.
Although the Steubenville victim's mother eventually made a statement in court, decrying the men's lack of human compassion, the victim was not made accessible to members of the media. So the general picture painted in the media was one of sadness, of families struggling with the shame of the crime and the long-term implications.
Televising trials has turned the more sensational cases into full-blown media events. The fact that the Steubenville football players and their friends turned to social media to, in effect, brag about the rape of a drunk and unresponsive girl merely added to the circus.
But the Internet is forever, something underscored by crime blogger Alexandria Goddard.
A former resident of Steubenville with a particular interest in the case, she was taking screen shots from the Web of those posts -- posts that were later deleted.
She also claimed on her site, www.prinniefied.com, to have been in email contact with the victim, whom she named, since shortly after the event occurred.
"What normal person would even consider that posting the brutal rape of a young girl is something that should be shared with their peers?" Ms. Goddard wrote late last year.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has suggested a grand jury might be convened next month to determine if further charges are forthcoming in the case. At the same time, his recent statement also was a plea for the victim, for her privacy, and for that of anyone facing a similar situation.
"This has been particularly hard for the victim and her family. But it is even more of a tragedy when that victim is continually re-victimized in the social media."
Former Colt Joe Ehrmann to speak at child sex abuse summit
by Mike Klingaman
He was a bearded, Bunyanesque defensive tackle whose rugged play helped the Baltimore Colts to three straight division championships in the 1970s. But Tuesday, when Joe Ehrmann addresses a national gathering convened to deal with the problem of child sexual abuse in sports, he'll take part in one of the most meaningful huddles of his life.
His words will weigh heavily on the audience at the two-day Safe to Compete summit in Alexandria, Va., because Ehrmann — minister, motivational speaker and onetime Gilman coach — is himself a survivor of child sexual abuse.
He still feels tremors from that trauma.
"It hemorrhages your soul for a lifetime," said Ehrmann, who, at 12, was raped by two men at a campground near Buffalo, N.Y. "That's the leukemia [of sexual abuse]. It might go into remission, but it never goes away.
"I'm 63 and my life has been a long and painful journey. It didn't have to be this way, if society wasn't so shameful, and if I'd had the help [afterward] that I needed. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through that."
Organizers of the event say that Ehrmann's talk will resonate with the mix of representatives of more than 50 youth-based sports groups, from USA Swimming to Special Olympics to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, which helped plan the summit. In all, they'll hear from nine experts, including John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," and John Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which hosts the event at its headquarters.
"We're going to raise the public consciousness about this," Ehrmann said. "It's an opportunity for the sports community to take the lead, where other institutions haven't. No more dirty little secrets. The conspiracy of silence needs to be broken."
Who better to broach the issue than Ehrmann, an All-American at Syracuse and a Pro Bowler with the Colts?
"Joe is both survivor and coach. He has lived through this, and his innate ability to reach down and grab you by the heart makes you really understand the issue," said Steve Salem, president of the Ripken Foundation.
"He is a great facilitator, a national treasure and the best speaker I've ever heard. It's impossible to not do what he wants you to do."
What Ehrmann and supporters want is a positive response in the wake of the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach who was convicted last year on 45 counts of raping and abusing 10 boys over a number of years.
"This [summit] is one unbelievable opportunity for the sports world to create a gold standard for protecting kids, from the hiring and screening of coaches and volunteers to the reporting of incidents," Ehrmann said.
There is no data available on the prevalence of child sex abuse in sports, he said, because most instances, like his own, go unreported.
"Most guys don't report it. It's just too shameful," Ehrmann said. "Then it becomes a lifelong trauma."
What's certain, he said, is that pedophiles become coaches and youth sports volunteers in efforts to "create a facade, to come in under the radar. But if the sports community can raise those barriers, then those predators will move to some other place with lower barriers."
While the summit is expected to heighten awareness of abuse from within sports programs, that's only part of the answer, said Ehrmann. Parents must be pro-active as well.
"You need to be willing to talk about this with your kids. It's not shameful or dirty to do so," he said. "There's an age-appropriate way to address it, and not only as a one-time thing. It's just like talking to your kids about sex."
Too many families in small towns and quiet communities shrug off the problem because they assume "it can't happen here," Ehrmann said. "That's the mantra that's heard far too often, and it does a disservice to kids. If you have a suspicion of other adults, it needs to be brought up and reported. We've got to get over the discomfort of doing that."
Moreover, he said, parents need to examine the safety procedures of every sports organization to which their children belong.
"Ask every youth or rec league coach, 'What is different now because of Penn State?'" Erhrmann said. "If they can't tell you their procedures, pull your kids out and shop around. That's not fear-based. It's rational."
Proposals to reform child protection legislation strike contrasting approaches at state Capitol
by Ivey DeJesus
In separate and mutually exclusive press conferences, a cadre of Pennsylvania lawmakers on Monday presented contrasting proposals to reform child protection laws, at times refuting arguments presented from each other's respective sides.
In the first, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a package of 16 pieces of legislation that would broadly reform the language used in context to child abuse, including definitions of perpetrator and mandatory reporter. The legislation would also update procedures used to report child abuse, including reporting guidelines for medical practitioners and school employees, and increase penalties for failure to report abuse.
In the second press conference, state Representatives Mike McGeehan (D-Philadelphia) and Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) appealed to House colleagues to push through House Bill 342 and its two amendments, which would temporarily adjust the law to allow adults abused as children to press charges against their alleged abusers. The amendments also call for the suspension of sovereign immunity, which protects public school and state employees from lawsuits. The actual bill calls for the removal of statute of limitation in child sexual abuse cases.
The contrasting proposals underscored the seeming lack of consensus and failed attempts over the years to reform child protection laws.
Lawmakers have ratcheted up those efforts in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, which largely showed an inadequate system in place to protect children.
McGeehan and Rozzi's window proposal would temporarily suspend the statute of limitations.
Rozzi, a survivor of abuse, called the proposals sound public policy that merely introduce procedural changes to the law. He vowed not to let special interests deter him “from doing what is right.”
“It is time that we put this up for a vote,” he said.
McGeehan has tried unsuccessfully for a couple of years to get the legislation on the floor of the House.
Earlier, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, who chaired the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection and appeared as part of the panel of bipartisan senators, called the 16-bill package “more than a good start” to reform legislation that was “grotesquely unsatisfactory” and established in a “different world.”
“People were not looking at the child as an individual as someone whose interest needed to be put first,” Heckler said.
The bipartisan Senate proposal would advance the interest of a child who is being abused and make uniform all the components of the law that deals with child sexual abuse, he said.
Heckler said the 16-bill proposal follows the recommendation of the task force report, which found current statute of limitations adequate.
Heckler said a change to the statute of limitations would generate “extremely tough cases.”
“The statute of limitation exists for a reason,” he said. “That reason being that proof over the years is hard to come by.”
Heckler called advocates of a change in the statute of limitations a “narrow group of people who think trial lawyers are the solution to society's ills.”
In a seeming return volley, McGeehan, during his press conference, singled out “powerful, monied interest” and Representatives Ron Marsico (D-Dauphin) and Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks) as roadblocks to statute of limitations reform.
McGeehan said he was confident his proposed legislation would get on the House floor for a vote. McGeehan has the support of a coalition of advocates, which include the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.
“If this amendment comes to vote, it will pass and that's why it hasn't been scheduled for a vote because it will pass,” he said.
He said Marsico, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Caltagirone were determined to block progress in his proposed reform legislation.
“That's wrong,” McGeehan said. “The thousands of victims in the Commonwealth deserve better.”
Attorney Marci Hamilton, an expert in church and state law and statutes of limitations across the country, said the window component was a tried and tested tool that worked in several states.
She refuted claims made by Marsico that the window component would be unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. Hamilton said she had the cases to prove it would hold up in court.
“They don't have a single case,” she said of Marsico's claims. “They won't name a case because they don't have a case. My guess is they have a case from 1908...that's probably their best precedence.”
So, for the time being, the bipartisan group of state senators will try to push through their proposed 16-bill package, which largely would would implement changes recommended by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection.
Legislators involved with that piece of legislation include Senators Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), Bob Mensch (R-Bucks), LeAnna Washington (D-Montgomery) and Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny).
Ward said the current laws addressing child abuse had been “in the books for a long time,” and that changing times called for an overhaul to the state law. She said the task force showed that the current law was “vague, confusing and focused on perpetrators.”
Ward said the reform could not be implemented piecemeal, but that lawmakers needed to look at it as a whole
“It is wonderful and we are all so pleased,” Ward said. “The Senate will be taking up this bipartisan action and it is bipartisan because there is nothing partisan about child abuse.”
Among some of the components in the 16-piece legislation package are proposals to: update the definition of child abuse and procedures used to report child abuse and neglect; increase penalties for failure to report child abuse; changes to the ways information among medical practitioners and county agencies is exchanged. The package also includes a bill that would prevent “passing the trash,” or hiring educators who have been investigated, dismissed or disciplined for abuse or sexual misconduct.
The 16-bill package will on April 9 go before a joint public hearing by the Senate Aging and Youth Committee and the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
McGeehan said he and Rozzi were “very close” to getting their proposed legislation on the House floor for a vote.
Dealing with bullies and social media
by The Washington Post
Emily Bazelon, author of "Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy," answered questions recently in an online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:
Q: How can a parent of a young child (age 5-6) stop bullying before it starts without being all helicopter-y about it? As the mom of a young son, I want to jump in when he's having issues with his friends but feel like I need to let him figure it out.
A: When your kid is in tears, of course you should comfort him. But before you do more '" i.e., intercede on his behalf -- try to figure out if this is a pattern, and if he's really being made miserable. Because you're right, it's so important for kids to figure out how to handle conflict and overcome adversity. If you do think your kid is being bullied, ask him to help come up with strategies for dealing with it. The key to resilience is knowing that you can work something out on your own '" believing in yourself to come through a bad situation. If your kid helps solve his own problem, you've made him better off while also increasing his capacity for resilience and his sense of his own competency.
Q: Have social media made bullying easier and more culturally acceptable (compared with physical bullying) among adolescents and teens?
A: Social media have made bullying feel more prevalent to kids. Instead of going home after school and getting a break, they get drawn into following threads about themselves online. It's also changed bullying for kids who do it -- without face-to-face feedback, kids may be harsher and meaner online than they are in person.
Q: My 9-year-old daughter is on Instagram. It's completely open to us and she knows it, and is handed over to us whenever we ask. Obviously, all the controls are in place so that no one besides her friends are seeing the pictures (mainly of our pets and funny things she sees on commercials). When I look through her feed every day, I can't believe how many pictures these little girls post of themselves. I don't know why I find this so disturbing, but I do.
A: First off, good for you for scrolling through her feed every day. I have to say, though, that I also find this troubling, and here's why. The site is habituating your daughter and her friends to giving up their own privacy. The kind of widespread sharing they're doing is exactly how Instagram and Facebook -- which owns Instagram -- make money. Facebook's business model is based on users sharing as much information as possible. Your daughter's photos sound totally innocent, but is it a good idea for her to grow up thinking that every moment is fodder for photos broadcast over a network? Just asking.
Q: I find myself battling the "my friends are doing it" argument constantly. Considering the world has become so socially digital, how do we safely prepare our kids without holding them back?
A: Go step by step. When your fourth-grader tells you that everyone has an iPhone, that's not true, and even if it is, who cares? The question is: Is she ready to handle it? With my own kids, our strategy has been to delay and then set limits. So my older son got a phone when he started a new school last fall for seventh grade, but we got him a dumb phone -- no Internet and no camera. And at night it charges downstairs while he sleeps upstairs.
Q: What kinds of things should parents teach their children to help them "play nicely" with their friends online?
A: Think about the impact of what you're writing could have in the same way that you would if the other person was standing in front of you. Remember that online interactions are harder to interpret because there's no tone of voice and no physical cues. So you should actually be more careful than you would be if you were talking.
Beyond Facebook: Kids avoid parents' watchful eyes on newer social networks
by Anne Flaherty
WASHINGTON -- Relieved your kids aren't posting embarrassing messages and goofy self-portraits on Facebook? They're probably doing it on Instagram and Snapchat instead.
The number of popular social media sites available on kids' mobile devices has exploded in recent years. The smartest apps now enable kids to chat informally with select groups of friends without bumping up against texting limits and without being monitored by parents, coaches and college admissions officers, who are frequent Facebook posters themselves.
Many of the new mobile apps don't require a cellphone or a credit card. They're free and can be used on popular portable devices such as the iPod Touch and Kindle Fire, as long as there's a wireless Internet connection.
According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, more than three-fourths of teenagers have a cellphone and use online social networking sites. But educators and kids say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Facebook for teenagers has become a bit like a prom -- a necessary rite of passage with adult onlookers -- while apps such as Snapchat and Kik Messenger are the much cooler after-party.
Educators say they have seen everything from kids using their mobile devices to circulate online videos of school drug searches to male students sharing nude pictures of their girlfriends. Most parents, they say, have no idea.
"What sex education used to be -- it's now the 'technology talk' we have to have with our kids," said Rebecca Levey, a mother of 10-year-old twins who runs a tween video review site called KidzVuz.com and blogs about technology and educations issues.
Eileen Patterson, a stay-at-home mom of eight kids in Burke, Va., said she used to consider herself tech savvy and is frequently on Facebook, but was shocked to learn her kids could message their friends with just an iPod Touch. She counts nine wireless devices in her home and has taken to shutting off her home's Wi-Fi after 9 p.m., but Patterson calls her attempt to keep tabs on her kids' online activity "a war I'm slowly losing every day."
Among the most popular mobile apps among kids is Instagram, free software that digitally enhances photos and posts them to your account online. The photos can be shared on other social media sites such as Facebook, which bought Instagram last year.
Snapchat, among the top 10 free iPhone apps available, has been coined by the media as the "sexting" app, It lets you send a text, photo or video that self-destructs within 10 seconds of being opened.
Kik Messenger also allows unlimited texting for free and offers anonymity to its users. Able to run on an iPod Touch or Kindle Fire, Kik allows vague user names that won't reveal a person's real name or phone number.
Cardinal claims pedophiles should not be treated like criminals
Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of the Roman Catholic Church claims pedophiles should not be punished and should not be treated like criminals.
While speaking to the BBC, Napier, a South African cardinal who helped elect Pope Francis, claimed pedophilia is a psychological illness and not “a criminal condition,” arguing that “pedophilia is actually an illness. It is not a criminal condition, it is an illness.”
Napier noted that he knew at least two priests who became pedophiles after being abused as children. Napier said:
"Now don't tell me that those people are criminally responsible like somebody who chooses to do something like that. I don't think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished. He was himself damaged."
Napier seems to draw the unwarranted conclusion that the rape of children can be excused or minimozed if the adult rapist was once an abused child.
Barbara Dorries, from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests told the BBC:
“If it is a disease that's fine, but it's also a crime and crimes are punished, criminals are held accountable for what they did and what they do.
“The bishops and the cardinals have gone to great lengths to cover these crimes to enable the predators to move on, to not be arrested, to keep the secrets within the church.”
Technically, Napier is correct in asserting that pedophilia itself is an illness, and not a crime. However, Napier goes one step further and draws the unwarranted conclusion that pedophiles who were abused as children do not deserve to be punished as adults for acting out on their pedophilia impulses because they themselves were damaged as children.
Napier is wrong. Once the adult pedophile acts on the impulse to rape or molest a child they are committing a most heinous crime, a crime they are responsible for, regardless of their childhood experience. Adult predators who rape children are criminals, and should be punished as such, regardless of past childhood trauma or current ecclesiastical status.
State Shuts Off Child Abuse Info
A joint newspaper investigation shows the Missouri Department of Social Services' practice of releasing information after the deaths or near deaths of children has come to a sudden and unexplained end.
After high-profile tragedies a decade ago, the Missouri state system charged with protecting children began releasing records previously closed to the public.
But the Springfield News-Leader and The Kansas City Star report the openness ended in June after a 10-year-old girl was freed from a Kansas City closet weighing 32 pounds.
Department officials refuse to talk about the case, but court records show the 10-year-old girl was hospitalized as a 4-year-old because she was so underweight.
Soon after the mother regained custody, the girl dropped out of sight.
Missouri D-S-S has never explained why it suddenly shut off its public information.
National Symposium on Child Abuse: New Research, More Teamwork
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Professionals in child abuse investigation and treatment are meeting this week in Huntsville, Alabama, including some from Arkansas. At the National Symposium on Child Abuse, they'll get the latest research on such topics as trauma-focused therapy, sex trafficking and online exploitation.
Many youngsters in abusive situations are now seen at Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs), where they are interviewed by specially-trained investigators and receive medical treatment and counseling.
Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center, explains it is less stressful for kids and families to receive these services in a single place.
"Child abuse, especially child sexual abuse, is not just a criminal justice issue, not just a Child Protective Services issue," said Newlin. "It's that, plus a mental health issue, a medical issue, and only by having these professionals work together, we'd be able to be effective in our response."
Newlin notes that they're seeing a troubling trend: an increase in child neglect across the country.
About a dozen CACs in Arkansas coordinated almost 3900 cases last year, most of them involving sexual abuse.
There are 850 CACs nationwide. They also provide child-abuse-prevention training to more than a half-million people a year. According to Newlin, the child-friendly setting and team strategy have paid off for county and state budgets, as well as for individual families.
"Utilizing the CAC approach, we have better outcomes and we save more than a thousand dollars per case," he said. "Just by utilizing this model that's more effective, we saved our nation a combined $270 million."
The National Symposium on Child Abuse runs through Thursday. It has attracted attendees from every state, and also from other countries interested in adopting a CAC system.
View CAC statistics by state at: NationalChildrensAlliance.org
Pennsylvania family suing sex offender neighbor that assaulted daughter into buying their home
The family says convicted pedophile Oliver Larry Beck recently returned home after serving a two year sentence for sexually abusing their daughter. They're finding it difficult to sell their home with a registered sex offender living nearby so they're suing Beck in an effort to force him into purchasing their home in a groundbreaking lawsuit.
by Lee Moran
A Pennsylvania family whose daughter was sexually abused by a neighbor in 2011 is suing him into buying their home.
The couple say they need to leave their house in Upper Milford Township to get away from Oliver Larry Beck, 65, who recently returned after completing a two year jail sentence.
But, with the registered sex offender living so close by, the unnamed pair are finding it hard to sell their property.
So, in a groundbreaking lawsuit, they are asking a judge to force him to buy the home for $235,000 - as well as demanding damages for their child's pain and suffering.
The Morning Call reports Beck was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting the child.
He groomed her for two years - by taking her on drives, giving her candy and playing games - before luring her into his basement, making her take off her clothes and assaulting her.
After being released from prison, Beck returned to his home - which the family says had made their lives unbearable.
The lawsuit has been met with a mixed reaction, with some legal experts questioning whether a judge even has the power to grant the request.
"I have never heard of that and the court may say it has no authority to order that," University of Virginia Law School professor Douglas Laycock told The Morning Call.
But sexual assault survivors said it could set a "positive precedent."
Executive director of Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg Jennifer Storm said: "I applaud any effort that a victim can take to ensure their well-being."
Taking the First Step
Shelter staff helps abuse victims rebuild lives
by Judith McGinnis
Tears can overwhelm Mary in an instant, sometimes coming from a place even she struggles to understand.
Now a client of First Step Inc., she spent days wandering the streets before a local church referred her to the shelter for women trying to overcome domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Her boyfriend of many years, the man she once loved, had become increasingly physically violent and psychologically abusive. She had lost faith in herself and couldn't imagine getting her life back to normal.
“They ask 28 questions on an intake form when you come in. They kind of walk you through what's been going on in your life, the kind of pressure you've been under and what your (domestic) relationship has been like,” said the attractive 40-something woman. “I answered positive to 25 for the questions. It was the first chance I'd had to look at things clearly.”
Although each case is different, Mary's is a story with which First Step counselors and staff are familiar. Bit by bit, the confidence of once self-assured women can be eroded until they feel trapped in a violent relationship.
Many are unemployed at the insistence of their abusers, persuaded that they're too “stupid” or “lazy” to hold a job. Over time they may become isolated from family and friends.
These invisible walls can be difficult to break through. “Often they don't know where to start,” said Rosemary Klepper, a resident advocate at the First Step shelter. “They may have no ID, no money — they literally leave everything behind to escape.”
In 2012, First Step served more than 230 women and the children who came with them. Mona Watson, First Step program director, said clients stay a minimum of 30 days in the shelter but can remain longer while they seek jobs and stable housing and meet other needs.
“We not only provide emergency shelter but 24-hour hotline advocacy, individual and group counseling and legal advocacy,” Watson said. “Our Staircase Project educates victims of family violence about its effects and how to stay safe once they begin to rebuild their lives.”
Mary describes a process that began the day she arrived at the shelter, the location of which is kept secret for the safety of clients. Klepper and Myra Gideon, a survivor specialist, guided her through the process of finding housing, transportation and food assistance. In less than two weeks she had secured temporary identification.
At the First Step Family store, she was able to find clothes suitable for job interviews.
“I've worked all my life and have a good employment record but have left jobs at different times to help family members,” she said. “Here I was directed to people at the HUB program where I can get help building a résumé that will focus on my strengths.”
Rebuilding lives shattered by abuse takes education, Watson said. Many women who end up in violent relationships come from families where such behavior was common. Others may have been subject to physical or sexual abuse as children, the memory of which was suppressed until present abuse brings it back to the surface.
“More than half of our clients were abused as children,” Watson said. “This is the reason we have the ‘Expect Respect' programs for children grades six though 12 where we teach how bullying and dating violence can result from the cycle of family violence. The Staircase teaches adults awareness of the long-term effects of domestic violence for themselves and their children.”
Like many abused women, not all of Mary's memories of her boyfriend are bad. He was there for her through tough times, but alcohol fueled his growing violence.
The contradiction can bring on tears. Klepper and Gideon offer hugs and remind Mary that she is strong enough to overcome the brutality that put her on the streets.
“I'm still a little shaky,” she said, wiping her eyes. “But my experience here has been so positive, so supportive; I'm doing my best to keep the glass half full.”
Watson says First Step always needs volunteers for its Family Store, shelter and areas in which special skills can be put to work. Volunteers take part in orientation and training in which they learn how to best use their talents to help people in crisis.
First Step serves Archer, Baylor, Childress, Clay, Cottle, Foard, Hardeman, Jack, Montague, Wichita, Wilbarger and Young counties. For more information on programs or to volunteer, call 940-723-7799, or go to www.firststep.org. For counseling services call 940-692-4494.
The 24-hour crisis hotline is 1-800-658-2683.
The “Two Step for First Step” fundraising dinner, dance and auction will be from 6-10 p.m. April 6 at the Elks Lodge, 4305 Seymour Highway. Tickets are $20 per person and $35 per couple. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Call 940-723-7799 for information.