Guest view: A child abuse survivor's healing and journey back
by BRENDA PLUMLEY
I was born into a violent family. My parents were not mature enough, nor did they have the skills to handle conflict in a mature, balanced way. Though they separated when I was about 2 years old, they continually fought as if they were still in an unbearable marriage.
To me, my mother made decisions that were dysfunctional. The times she witnessed the abuse of her children and did not intervene made me understand she was incapable of making decisions to benefit her children.
Surrounded by abusers
My mother chose friends and partners that abused children. I witnessed the adults around us abuse my siblings and glorify in the power of their abuse. My mother decided to let other people raise her children so that responsibility would not fall on her. People outside the family tried to report the abuse, but my mother eluded them every single time. She absolutely felt she had the right to treat her children any way she wanted.
I was first sexually abused at age 2 by a neighbor. This memory resurfaced in 1995 through a bevy of nightmares and anxiety/panic attacks. Up until that point, I only had vague fragments of memories that always seemed like a dream. It was validated by a sibling who was also abused by the same man.
When I was 4, a sibling began to sexually act out on me. He began sexually abusing me and two of my sisters. I witnessed his abuse on my siblings get worse in the years that followed.
Abuse took many forms
When I was about 6, my mother allowed her new partner to move in. A few months later, the brother of her partner also moved in. He began to abuse us, including sexually abusing some of my siblings and other children in the neighborhood. His violence, like my mother's partner, was vile, inhuman and included abuse of animals. The abuse took on many forms, including using food as punishment. Some aspects were even torturous.
In 1976, my mother was able to elude the authorities again by moving us out of state and away from the people who turned her in. In this new state, the family member who was abusing my sisters and me became more violent. If my sisters were not there to help fight back I think one of us would be dead.
Bad arm of the law
This family member found employment with a law enforcement agency. One of my sisters tried to run away, but his employment gave him an advantage in finding her; he brought her back two weeks later.
Through a series of events, he was able to hold me against my will for more than a year. His abuse was relentless and insidious. I was made to seek employment and sign over my paychecks to him. However, his paranoia that I would escape made him harass me at work to the point I was fired. I tried to report the abuse to another law enforcement employee where he worked, but she recorded it and played it to him. I knew I was either going to escape or kill myself. It was too difficult to live under such circumstances.
Finding a way out
I made contact with a counselor at a safe house and began planning an escape. I was able to sneak a few dollars from a babysitting job and had saved up about $80 when he found out. He took a knife and cut my clothes and told me if I left I would regret it. But that day after he left for work, I left too. I went across the street to a restaurant to make the final steps of my escape.
I did break free that day but the road to healing has been a long journey. I was still affected by the abuse and it made adjusting to a new life very difficult. In the years since my escape, I battled drug addiction, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, panic attacks, and anxiety attacks.
A long journey back
Healing has been difficult.
Childhood abuse leaves scars that can turn the past into a monkey on a survivor's back. It is impossible to forget or get over because there is so much involved. It must be worked through.
I have come to realize that my past is not what defines me. My childhood was viciously abusive but the only way to stop abuse is by standing up to it, not cowering down to its perceived power.
I am not a victim. I am a survivor. While I am still healing, I have found that the darkness of the past won't overshadow all of life. My life, and how it turns out, is up to me.
Brenda Plumley lives in Oneida County
April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Learn how you can take action locally by visiting www.ywcamv.org.
Need help with child abuse or sexual violence? Call the YWCA Mohawk Valley's 24-hour confidential hotlines: 866-4120 in Herkimer County or 797-7740 in Oneida County. To access the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center, call 732-3990.
Sorority members help young mentees fight teen dating violence
by Lauren McEwen
V'Nell DeCosta, president of a local graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, was shocked to discover that the preteen girls she and her sorority sisters mentor in Prince George's County, were witnessing teen dating violence. The girls told them troubling stories they'd seen and heard about: couples whose arguing got too intense or whose fights turned physical.
What DeCosta and the members of the Upsilon Tau Omega Chapter heard first hand is part of a troubling national trend. According to Break the Cycle, a national agency based in Los Angeles that providing dating abuse prevention programs to youth, one in three teens nationwide is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. That's a number that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
And in many cases, the victims do not report the abuse.
“The statistics show that only 33 percent of the teens who are experiencing this have ever told anyone about the abuse,” says DeCosta, quoting data she retrieved from Break the Cycle. “We need to bring this out and let our young people know that we're here to support you, and to help you.”
So the sorority sisters and their group of mentees- who are in a program called Emerging Young Leaders- decided to host a walk to raise awareness about teen dating violence. The event, which took place last Saturday at Fort Washington Park, was organized and led by the the girls. About 150 people attended and DeCosta said they raised $200 for county domestic violence programs. They also also collected toiletries for survivors in Sheriff High's Domestic Violence Intervention Program and at My Sister's Place, a D.C. organization that provides shelter, education and assistance to women and families affected by domestic violence.
Colleen Gallopin, director of training and technical assistance for Break the Cycle, says there are more aspects to the research on the topic that are missing.
“Dating abuse, especially among youth, has been studied...a much shorter time than domestic violence has,” says Gallopin who works in Break the Cycle's Washington office. “There are still things we want to explore with the research that we don't know yet,”
For instance, although the research shows that a number of young people are experiencing some kind of violence from a dating partner, Gallopin says steps need to be taken to understand those numbers more clearly.
“The research asks ‘Have you ever been hit by a partner, or hit a partner?' That's a yes or no and we can count that, but what we want get to is why? What was the impact?” says Gallopin.
“Sometimes, the answer is self-defense, or perceived self-defense, and that's very different from ‘I wanted to control my partner.' We want to look at things behind the number,” she says.
The research on teen dating violence had been limited in the past for a number of reasons, but the fact that many teachers, parents and researchers were unable to take the issue seriously played a factor.
“We had to get to the point where we realized that this was happening in young people's lives -- that young people are experiencing the same severity of abuse, frequency of abuse, injury and possible homicide that adults are experiencing,” says Gallopin.
She also says that has a lot to do with some adults' refusal to believe that young love can be that deep.
“As adults, we do have a tendency to minimize the importance of young relationships, I think to our detriment and to the detriment of the young people that we serve because to them, they are not in any way minimal. To them, they are everything,” she says.
Marcia Alexander-Adams, media relations specialist for the chapter, said it was important for parents to take the dating habits of their children seriously.
“Parents, if your child says they're dating, they're dating. You can convince yourself that they're not but if they think they're dating, they're dating. It's not just puppy love,” she says.
Gallopin said that DeCosta and her sorority sisters did a few things that are immensely important in working with the girls. First, they created a comfortable environment for the preteens to talk about dating violence. Break the Cycle's research shows that one in three young people knows someone who is experiencing or has experienced teen dating violence. It is important to make young people feel comfortable enough to discuss what they have seen or heard.
“We see it over and over. Young people want to talk about this. They see it among their friends, in their schools. Whenever we create a space where it's safe to discuss it, they open up,” says Gallopin.
Second, they put the young people in charge of organizing the walk. “So often we're talking about what's best for young people and how to help young people without any actual young people in the room. We at Break the Cycle and our colleagues try not to let that happen,” says Gallopin.
DeCosta says the payoff of their decision to have the girls plan the walk was immediate. Not only did the teens help plan the event, they also hosted most of the program before the walk.
“They did the prayer and introduced our guest speaker, Prince George's County sheriff, Melvin C. High, as well as State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks. They kicked off the walk and they felt extremely empowered,” says DeCosta.
High, whose agency boasts a holistic, domestic violence division that seeks to “help people move from being victims to having a constructive future,” was glad to be invited to the walk.
“This is an issue in our country, regardless of race or gender, that people face. This is an issue that is affecting families in our country, so we should not be ashamed to talk about it or to address it, so that this is not a closeted issue,” says High.
Gallopin stresses the importance of getting young people involved in the solution.
“Everything we do in community organizations and schools that want to do this kind of work is youth-driven,” she says. “Meet them where they are. We know that they want to talk about it, we know they have great ideas, and also, if we do something, without getting young people involved and that's not what they want to do, they're not going to do it.”
Marshaé Weaver, 13, has been participating in Iota Gamma Omega Chapter's EYL activities since she was in 6th grade. She said the teen dating violence awareness walk taught her a lot about noticing the warning signs and being catalyst for change.
“We talked about the effects of abuse on communities and families,”says Weaver. “A person who is being abused - their grades may begin to slip, they may withdraw from family and friends and isolate themselves from people,”
Gallopin says that on an individual level, adults can also help to prevent teen dating violence by modeling healthy relationship behavior and interaction between partners, traits she says relationships young people see and hear about in films, television and music, may be lacking.
“It's about talking about what good, healthy relationships look like. How do you make them work? How do you overcome conflict? It's OK to argue, but how do you resolve it?” she says.
She also stresses the importance of creating a safe space for teens to talk to adults about relationship issues. Minimizing the situation or dismissing the adolescents' feelings can cause them to shut down.
“It makes young people feel like you don't get understand it, so you couldn't possibly answer their questions about abuse,” says Gallopin. “Be open and non-judgmental. Those are things that we can all do, at minimum,” she says.
Reports of child abuse, neglect increase
Spike doesn't mean attacks on children are up, necessarily
by Jennifer Smith Richards
Reports of possible abuse or neglect of children continue to rise in Franklin County, driven in part by more notices from schools, day-care centers and others who work with kids.
And despite recent cases of school employees who are accused of failing to report incidents at their schools, reports from school workers and other so-called “mandated reporters” accounted for nearly 60 percent of the cases referred to Franklin County Children Services last year.
Nearly 13,000 of the 22,000 total reports of possible abuse were made by people who state law says must notify children services or police if they think a child has been hurt. That includes police officers, lawyers, clergy, doctors, day-care and school employees and social workers. Two years earlier, calls from mandated reporters accounted for slightly less than half of abuse reports.
Some say that high-profile cases of abuse in recent years that initially went unreported have reminded people that they need to speak up on behalf of a child. Others attribute the increase to better training about who is required to report suspicions and when.
“We've become more diligent, hyper-vigilant. The efforts have ramped up. It's no surprise for me that the numbers for mandated reporters are on the rise,” said Karen Days, president of the Center for Family Safety and Healing, which is on the Nationwide Children's Hospital campus. The center offers training about mandated-reporting rules and responsibilities.School employees are among those who reported possible abuse or neglect more often.
In Franklin County, reports from principals, school nurses, teachers and aides grew by about 23 percent between 2010 and last year, when they referred 3,765 cases.More reports, however, do not mean abuse is on the rise. On average, fewer than half of reports are investigated. Reasons include that some incidents are not seen as serious enough. Of those that are investigated, few are found to be abuse or neglect.
Some cases get no final ruling but families get help from the agency.Reports by mandated reporters last year were slightly more likely to be investigated, but the low report-to-investigation rates still hold true: Of the 1,200 reports from Franklin County teachers last year, about 500 were investigated by Children Services and 40 were confirmed.
There's no penalty for reporting something that Children Services decides doesn't need a closer look or isn't verified as abuse. But it's a crime for mandated reporters to keep silent when they suspect abuse. Two Columbus school principals were fired in recent years because they did not report child-abuse allegations. (One of them was charged with a crime but found not guilty.)
Four employees from two Columbus elementary schools face district-level discipline right now. At South Mifflin Elementary, a special-needs boy knocked teeth loose after his teacher allowed him to climb inside a stretchy body sock. The teacher sought medical treatment for him but didn't report the injury to Children Services or her principal. The principal didn't immediately report once he learned of the incident, according to district accounts.
At Sullivant Elementary, an aide for special-needs students was accused of shaking a child and yelling “shut up” at him. Another aide who said she witnessed it didn't tell because she “did not want to get anyone in trouble,” she said. A week later, after praying about what she had seen, she decided to tell the principal, a district document says. The student doesn't speak.
The principal didn't call Children Services because she didn't consider it abuse, documents say.
It's not clear if either case is abuse or if an investigation would be opened by the child-welfare agency. But educators do not need to confirm that abuse happened to make a report, said Jesse Looser, who oversees the abuse-report screening hot line at Children Services.
“They don't have to have overwhelming evidence. As long as they suspect something is occurring, they can call us,” he said.School employees must decide whether a reasonable person would consider something abusive, and that requires some judgment on the educator's part, said Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association.
Columbus school employees are trained each year on their mandated-reporter duties and are told to decide whether it's reasonable to suspect abuse or neglect and to report it immediately, district spokeswoman Jacqueline Bryant said in an email.
“We do not expect personnel to conduct a full-fledged investigation on a matter before calling FCCS,” she wrote. “We advise our employees, when in doubt, to err on the side of reporting.”
It might be that the rise in reports — but not in investigations — comes from workers' erring on the side of caution, some experts say.
“I tell people, ‘Risk being right.' It's just as simple as that,” Days said.
Child abuse prevention efforts to grow
Toledo-based group taking message to sports teams
by FEDERICO MARTINEZ
A Toledo-based child abuse prevention organization is taking its message to football fields, boxing rings, basketball courts, wherever youth sports teams assemble.
The organization, Yell & Tell Stop Child Abuse Now, will take the wraps off the sports initiative April 7 during the 10th annual rally from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Franciscan Center at Lourdes University in Sylvania. The event is open to the public.
Organization founder Pam Crabtree said the nonprofit organization plans to sponsor several existing youth sports teams, with the goal of helping educate coaches and players about child abuse prevention. “The board wanted to become more proactive at getting kids involved,” Ms. Crabtree said. “The new sports initiative will give us a more visible presence in the community.”
Although details are being worked out, the “sports grants” from Yell & Tell will be used to buy team uniforms, or for other team needs.
In return, the team's uniforms will prominently feature the Yell & Tell name or logo, board member George W. Hayes, Jr., said.
Mr. Hayes said the collaboration is a good fit, because youth sports are all about building players' self-esteem and character in conjunction with team chemistry.
“Once you put a child in a sport, it helps them tremendously,” he said. “They just open up.”
One of the first recipients will be the Toledo-based Believe Center in the Aurora Gonzalez Building, 1 Aurora Gonzalez Dr. The Believe Center provides various sports programs for youths, including baseball, boxing, and football, Mr. Hayes said. The amount of the grant, to be used to fund the boxing and football programs, has not been determined.
Believe Center administrators will begin initial training for coaches April 8, Vincent Riccardi, the center's program director, said.
Beginning in May, students and coaches will be required to attend a weekly, one-hour workshop that will focus on child abuse prevention and other related topics, such as self-esteem.
Onsite counselors will be available if coaches or players need to talk in private, said Mr. Riccardi, a certified criminal justice specialist.
“We know there's going to be some issues coming up — issues that have been suppressed for a very long time,” he said. “Not just with the kids, but with the coaches too. The reality is it's going to come out.”
The purpose of the workshops isn't to undermine parents, or “separate families,” Mr. Riccardi and Ms. Crabtree said.
The purpose is to educate adults and youths about what child abuse is and create safe and healthy environments for youths.
Many of the youths and families that utilize the Believe Center are Latino, which poses additional challenges, Mr. Riccardi and center director Tonya Duran said.
Latinos tend to be family-first-oriented, meaning that the good of the entire family often takes precedence over the needs or welfare of an individual, Ms. Duran said.
Child abuse is a taboo topic that is not often discussed or addressed in families because it would bring shame to the entire family.
The workshops at the Believe Center will try to “dispel the stereotypes that families have about speaking out,” Mr. Riccardi said.
“It's not a sign of weakness if you share your hurt,” he said.
Ms. Crabtree, a victim of abuse, founded Yell & Tell in 2003. The purpose of the organization is to raise public awareness about child abuse.
The rally is just one of several events planned throughout the state during April, which is recognized as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month in Ohio.
Fight eating disorders, child abuse
by Loni Nannini
Spring is in full bloom in the Old Pueblo, and there's no better time to get out of the house. Several low-profile nonprofit organizations are offering a little extra incentive to do just that, with causes ranging from child-abuse prevention to support for those coping with eating disorders.
"April is Prevent Child Abuse Month, and with the March for Children we try to draw attention to the needs of children as well as the need for strong families," said Bob Heslinga, executive director of Aviva Children's Services. The nonprofit is one of several sponsors of the Ninth Annual March for Children on April 13. Other sponsors include Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Pima County and Community Partnership of Southern Arizona.
"The march is not a fundraiser, but if we can help garner support for the agencies involved, that makes it even more worthwhile," Heslinga said.
Aviva and CASA help children in need, including almost 3,700 in Pima County in the care of Child Protective Services.
Aviva is a Tucson-based nonprofit that provides support and resources for children who have experienced abuse, neglect or poverty and are in the care of CPS. Aviva's Parent Aide Program provides supervision during visits between parents and children, while a Parent Peer Support Program offers ongoing support after families are reunified. Volunteer opportunities include mentoring and tutoring children or serving as a "life book" writer to create narratives about the children's pasts.
CASA of Pima County is affiliated with the Pima County Juvenile Court and appoints volunteers to serve as "the eyes and ears of the judge and the voice for the children." Each advocate is an integral member of the team of attorneys, CPS case managers and other professionals assigned to protect children who have been removed from their homes and placed in temporary or group homes due to abuse or neglect.
Since 2009, Pima County has experienced a 49 percent increase in the number of children in out-of-home care, according to Becky Ruffner, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona.
Ruffner attributes the increase to a combination of causes, including changes in CPS policy and the economic difficulties and skyrocketing unemployment that began in 2008.
"The No. 1 report CPS receives is neglect, and that goes to meeting basic needs such as food and clothing," Ruffner said. "I really like CASA because it directly engages everyday citizens in helping kids in out-of-home care."
Another issue that hits close to home for many people is eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men nationwide suffer at some point from a clinically significant disorder - anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder or an otherwise unspecified eating disorder.
"Many people say that if you have another disorder or illness, you wouldn't hesitate to take medications or seek treatment, and in the case of eating disorders we are making great progress in sharing with people the treatments and support that are available," said Mandy Shoemaker, coordinator of the Tucson NEDA Walk on April 7 at Reid Park.
Shoemaker emphasized that overcoming the stigma and the misconception that eating disorders are all about vanity are central to her mission with the walk, where information and resources about treatment will be available.
"In the past it has been a taboo or uncomfortable topic, and many people are embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it, but there is no shame in it. New research is showing it may even be a chemical imbalance in the brain.
In some cases, it can be an obsession that spirals out of control, or in other cases, a mental illness," said Shoemaker, 30, who is in recovery after struggling with an eating disorder since age 12.
Overall, Shoemaker hopes to help others realize it is possible to overcome eating disorders with help.
"If I can do it, anyone can do it," she said. "It is really one day at a time and, at times, one hour at a time."
If you go
• What: Tucson National Eating Disorders Association Walk.
• When: April 7 - 8:30 a.m. registration; 9 a.m. walk.
• Where: Reid Park at Ramada 20 in the northwest corner of the park near South Country Club Road and East Camino Campestre.
• Cost: $25 for adults; $15 for students; $10 for children 12 and younger.
• The details: Festivities include a 1.9-mile, family- and pet-friendly walk, a free T-shirt with registration, and resources and information about treatment and support for eating disorders.
• All proceeds benefit the National Eating Disorders Association and affiliated groups to fund research, prevention and education about eating disorders.
• Info: Go to neda.nationaleatingdisorders.org/site/TR/NEDAWalk/General?pg=entry&fr_id=2080 or call 1-212-575-6200.
• What: Ninth Annual March for Children.
• When: 9:30 a.m. April 13.
• Where: The parking lot of CrossFitWorks, 244 S. Tucson Blvd.
• Cost: Free.
• The details: This half-mile, family-friendly walk marks April as Prevent Child Abuse Month and promotes individuals, families and communities that are engaged in child development and child-abuse prevention.
• Festivities at the end of the walk include refreshments, speakers and information about resources that increase protective factors for children at Aviva Children's Services, 153 S. Plumer Ave.
• Info: Go to www.marchforchildren.webs.com or call 327-6779.
Pinwheels Will Spin Against Child Abuse
by Jocelyne Pruna
About 2,500 pinwheels will be placed at six law enforcement agencies in Benton County Monday (April 1) after a ceremony at Dave Peel Park in Bentonville.
Each pinwheel represents one of the 432 confirmed child abuse cases in Benton County in 2012. The Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) of Benton County along with volunteers will place 432 pinwheels at each location.
“I think putting those pinwheels out really makes a connection for people,” said Beverly Engle, CAC executive director.
Pinwheels are a symbol of child abuse, and it's a reminder of the bright future they deserve.
“It relates to us in the sense that that's what we are trying to do is restore that wonder and that delight,” said Beverly Engle, CAC executive director.
Keith Eoff, Rogers Detective, has worked with the CAC for 12 years. He said he hopes with awareness Benton County child abuse cases will decrease.
“Hopefully we can get that number down but the good thing about it is that number also represents that those kids are safe now and they are getting the help that they need,” Eoff said.
Eoff said reporting abuse is crucial and said the community can't ignore it.
Some people say, “That's not my family, that's not my problem, well it is your problem because it's a vicious cycle,” Eoff said.
Detective Eoff listens to the young victims through a monitor in a separate room while a forensic interviewer meets with the child. He can sometimes be joined by a state trooper, prosecutor and DHS representative.
Eoff hopes each pinwheel sends a powerful message.
“I think it represents hope that people are getting educated on child abuse,” Eoff said.
The pinwheels spin in the wind serving as a colorful reminder to protect children.
“Whether it is a parent or a grandparent or a school teacher, we have to become aware and we have to be aware of what the dangers are,” Engle said.
Pinwheels for Prevention starts at 12 p.m. with a proclamation by Judge Bob Clinard declaring April as Child Abuse Awareness Month. The First Baptist Christian School Choir will perform. The guest speaker will be Sen. Cecil Bledsoe. In attendance will be Mayor Bob McCaslin, Benton County Sheriff Kelley Cradduck as well as every Chief of Police.
The pinwheel locations will be: Benton County Sheriff's Dept., Bentonville Police Dept., Rogers Police Dept., Bella Vista Police Dept., Pea Ridge Police Dept., and Little Flock Police Dept.
One April 2 nd , the CAC will also will kick off a new event with Orangeleaf Yogurt in Rogers. Orangeleaf will begin selling pinwheels 2 for $3, one to be placed out in front, and one to keep.
On April 19 th , the CAC will have its annual Glow Run 5k event at the Frisco Stage at Downtown Rogers. Click here to register.
Helping hands: Price Cutter helping to fight child abuse
Price Cutter will expand its community support by taking a leadership position in the National Child Abuse Prevention Month activities in the Springfield area, according to a press release.
During April, 12 Price Cutter stores will offer customers the opportunity to join them in preventing child abuse and neglect by making a $1, $3 or $5 donation to Isabel's House, Crisis Nursery of the Ozarks.
Isabel's House, a project of the Junior League of Springfield, provides 24-hour temporary residential care, 365 days-a-year, for children when there is a crisis or troubles at home.
According to the Children's Defense Fund, the 2012 statistic for the number of children who are victims of abuse and neglect in Missouri is 5,313, a press release said.
The campaign will run from Monday to April 21.
All proceeds will support the needs of children that temporarily call Isabel's House home.
Gazette opinion: Time grows short for child abuse legislation
Last year, Montana's Child and Family Service Division completed 8,060 investigations of child abuse and neglect reports involving 11,835 children. Abuse or neglect was substantiated in 2,037 investigations, including:
1,647 cases of neglect or deprivation.
203 cases of physical abuse.
90 cases of psychological abuse.
53 cases of sexual abuse.
10 cases of medical neglect.
34 case of other abuse or neglect.
Children may be counted in more than one of the above categories, according to data presented to the 2013 Legislature. Clearly, child abuse and neglect is a big problem in our state. The public officials charged with protecting children as well as those responsible for prosecuting criminal acts against children need effective laws to do those important jobs well.
That's why the Montana Association of County Attorneys endorsed bills written to ensure that the most serious cases of child abuse and neglect are promptly reported and that consequences for offenders are appropriate to the crime.
With less than four weeks left in the session, there's still work to be done on child protection bills.
Senate Bill 160 would make it a felony to cause “substantial risk of death or serious injury to a child under 14” by failing to seek medical care, leaving the child with a person known to have abused the child, making or dealing drugs where a child is present or by operating a motor vehicle with a child in the vehicle while the operator is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. SB160 awaits House action. Sponsors include Elsie Arntzen, Taylor Brown, Margie MacDonald and Kendall Van Dyk.
Senate Bill 198, sponsored by Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, would increase the maximum prison terms for assault on children under 36 months of age. Present law provides a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. SB193 would increase that to 20 years for victims under age 3 and to 40 years if the child suffered serious bodily injury. SB 198 also awaits House action.
House Bill 74, which would close a communication gap between child protection and law enforcement is languishing, stuck on a 6-6 tie in Senate Judiciary Committee after passing the House. HB74 was inspired by a Yellowstone County case, proposed by County Attorney Scott Twito and sponsored by Rep. Margie MacDonald.
It simply would require that the Division of Child and Family Services promptly report certain serious cases of child abuse promptly to local law enforcement, the county attorney or the attorney general.
The case that brought the lack of such a requirement to light involved sexual abuse of a child that was reported to the Yellowstone County attorney's office nearly a year after the child's mother reported the abuse to child protection authorities. The mother had expected the offender would be charged. When that did not occur, she went to the sheriff's office. Twito's office filed felony sexual assault charges.
At the committee hearing in February, proponents of HB74 included county attorneys from Yellowstone, Gallatin, Cascade and Lewis and Clark counties as well as Sarah Corbally, administrator of the state Child and Family Services Division. No opponents testified.
HB74 would require Child and Family Services Division to relay to law enforcement reports involving the death of the child as a result of child abuse or neglect; a sexual offense against the child; exposure of the child to an actual violent offense as defined in law; or exposure of the child to the criminal manufacture or distribution of dangerous drugs. No one who carefully considers this bill could be against notifying law enforcement of such serious reports.
We have previously thanked Sens. Robyn Driscoll, Larry Jent, Anders Blewett, Cliff Larsen and Scott Boulanger for voting in favor of HB74 in Judiciary Committee. We ask the other committee members, Chairman Terry Murphy, Vice Chairman Scott Sales, John Brenden, Jennifer Fielder, Chas Vincent and Art Wittich to reconsider their opposition and vote for this common sense measure.
We call upon Montana state senators to review HB74 and then vote to pass it out of committee or blast it onto the Senate floor this week.
'Blue Kids' are back as reminder to report child abuse
by Debra Pressey
CHAMPAIGN — The "Blue Kids" have made their annual reappearance in Champaign County starting Friday and they've got a big message to deliver.
For each one of the approximately 30-35 wooden kid-shaped cut-outs that will be placed in public areas around Champaign-Urbana and other local communities, there are more than 50 annual cases of child abuse or neglect reported in the county, according to Mike Williams, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center.
The Blue Kids campaign, sponsored by the Children's Advocacy Center, serves as a two-pronged reminder, Williams says:
— Children are being abused and neglected.
— When abuse or neglect is suspected it should be reported so it can be investigated.
More than 200 children were interviewed at the Champaign County Children's Advocacy Center alone last year, and there are about 1,800 cases of abuse and neglect reported in the county a year, Williams said.
Anyone who suspects abuse or neglect should report it to local law enforcement or the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, he urged.
Better to report suspected abuse or neglect and be wrong, than to remain silent and be right and allow the abuse to continue, Williams said.
You don't need to be able to prove abuse or neglect to report it, he said.
"I think a lot of people think they need to be able to prove it before they need to make that report," he said.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and some other events planned to raise awareness in Champaign County include:
— Champaign County CASA will display more than 350 blue pinwheels in front of the Champaign County Courthouse, with each pinwheel representing one child in the Champaign County court system as a result of child abuse or neglect.
— Champaign County CASA is asking local businesses to be its partner for "Go Casual for CASA" and allow employees to dress casually April 5 in exchange for a $5 donation. For information: http://www.facebook.com/champaigncountyCASA
— Crisis Nursery invites the community to be part of its third annual "Wrap the Nursery" event at noon April 10 to support the nursery as an "island of safety" for children in the community.
Participants planning to wrap around the nursery are asked to wear something blue. Lunch will be provided, according to Crisis Nursery development and marketing director Kristen Bosch.
More Crisis Nursery events planned for the month. See the calendar at: http://www.crisisnursery.net
DCFS Child Abuse Hotline : 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873).
The Parenting Network offers child sexual abuse prevention workshops
Valuable training offered for teachers, social workers, parents
The Parenting Network invites teachers, social workers, parents and any adults interested in the well-being of children to attend our Stewards of Children workshops: Friday, April 19, 2013 from 9:00-11:30 AM at The Parenting Network.
Stewards of Children is an evidence-based curriculum created by Darkness to Light, a non-profit dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse. Using a combination of video, workbook and discussion, this workshop is designed to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
“This training is very powerful,” said Ruth Miller, program director at The Parenting Network. “I've been to many workshops on the subject, but Stewards of Children really presents the topic of child sexual abuse in a way that is empowering for adults. For too long, the responsibility has been placed on the child, but in reality, only adults can prevent sexual abuse.”
The training is open to the public and is of specific interest among teachers, social workers, youth workers, coaches, ministers, counselors, childcare providers, parents and any adult who cares about children. The cost is $30 per person and includes the training, workbook, resources and certificate of completion. Beverages and snacks will be provided.
This workshop will be held at The Parenting Network at 7516 W. Burleigh St., Milwaukee. To register for this training, call 414/671- 5575. Payment is due one week before the class.
Charlotte group fights human trafficking, help sex workers escape
by Lisa Thornton
Downstairs in the dressing room of one of University City's two strip clubs last November, a Thanksgiving feast lay spread across a table that's usually reserved for pasties and body glitter.
Roast turkey, sweet potato pie, stuffing and green beans – prepared by local caterers – were brought to the ladies by members of Rise Up, an organization based in Charlotte that fights human trafficking.
Its founder, Aimee Johnson, who lives in Concord's Moss Creek neighborhood, launched the ministry 14 months ago to help women out of what is known as “The Game:” legal and illegal adult entertainment.
Sex trafficking in North Carolina has followed the national trend in recent years. It's become such a concern that the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of North Carolina now considers the fight against the crime one of its highest priorities.
“We are committed to preventing human trafficking and bringing traffickers to justice so we can eradicate this form of modern-day slavery that is becoming more prevalent and more frequent,” said Lia Bantavani, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney.
Separate factors have turned the Charlotte region into a hotspot for sex trafficking, Bantavani said. Its major sports franchises attract potential customers; its larger size makes it easier for traffickers to blend in unnoticed; and because sex trafficking is considered a mobile crime, its close proximity to highways makes it easier to rotate sex workers quickly between cities.
“Often times traffickers and their victims do not stay in one location long enough for law enforcement to identify them and ultimately bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Bantavani.
A few sex trafficking-related arrests have come from the University City area, said a Charlotte Mecklenburg police officer within the division, but for every person caught, several are undetected.
In the strip clubs, pimps posing as customers frequently approach the women with promises of more money.
“I've had it happen over and over and over again,” said Heather, 21, who works at one of the clubs in University City and prefers her real name not be published. “We have $50, $30, $20 nights, where you are there for nine hours and you make a few dollars,” she said. “Girls will start getting fed up, and pimps will come in, and the girls are easily swayed.”
Once a month, Rise Up teams – usually consisting of two women and one man – stop into one of 14 strip clubs in Charlotte. The man stays outside for security while the women take goody bags filled with cupcakes, lip gloss and shampoo to the entertainers in the dressing room.
“We try not to take too long, because we realize that this is their way of making money,” said Johnson. “To a certain point, we respect that they need to make that money, and not take up all of that time.”
The owner of the clubs the ministry visits has given his consent.
“I think he sees it as a service to them as well, because if we're helping these girls, getting them to doctor appointments, helping them go to crisis assistance, figuring out food and clothing, it keeps them out of their pockets,” said Johnson. “They're not going to them for loans or other things.”
At first, the women meet the Rise Up members with suspicion, but after a few visits the skepticism fades away.
“Some of the other girls come running up. They really realize we're not there to judge them. We love them. We care for them,” said Johnson. “We'll offer GED classes, life skill classes, life coaches to mentor them. We'll help them with whatever they need.”
The organization is helping Heather transition out of the game.
“I think of her like a little sister,” said Karen Mundy, 36, a member of the outreach program and a mentor to Heather. Mundy, who lives off Back Creek Church Road, helps babysit Heather's 5-month-old baby and drives her to doctor's appointments and job interviews.
“It's a really hard thing to get out of,” said Heather. “It's such fast money. I can make a $100 and do what I have to do with it, like pay rent.”
Since it began 14 months earlier, Johnson said, they have helped six women leave their traffickers, and helped five leave the club scene altogether.
Heather, she said, is on the verge of becoming the sixth person.
“Through this, she has just blossomed and changed,” said Johnson. “It's been amazing to see her walk into motherhood.
“Every life is beautiful, and no one is broken beyond repair.”
Want to help? Need help? • Rise Up Ministries offers several training workshops for those interested in joining the strip club outreach program. Visit www.riseup52.com for details. • Need assistance getting out? Call 1-980-248-3844, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Florida ranks third in human trafficking complaints
by Margaret Kavanagh
FLORIDA -- When it comes to human sex trafficking, many people believe it doesn't happen where they live.
But Florida is one of the most common places for sex trafficking.
In fact, according to the state attorney general, Florida ranks third in the country when it comes to the number of complaints they received into the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's human trafficking hotline.
Amanda Fortner started as a prostitute when she was 18 years old.
Ten years later, she is working to change her life. However, through her time on the streets, she said she has seen many young victims being taken advantage of.
“Throughout the years, it pretty much destroyed any ounce of humanity that was inside me," Fortner said. "I've been beat. I've been robbed. I've been raped. I've been tortured, tied up. I mean, terror that I wouldn't wish on anyone."
Victimized by the sex industry herself, Fortner said she has seen too many girls trapped in a world fueled by drugs, sex and control.
Many of the victims are teenagers when they first enter.
"They're the easiest ones to catch," Fortner said. "They are runaways and they want attention. They scoop up these girls with stupid promises and make them work all night long and give them one oxycotin and that is their payment."
At times, expert said they are held against their will.
Fortner said she could leave whenever she wanted, but was afraid to leave.
Sue Aboul-Hosn, a representative with the Department of Children and Families, works closely with many of the victims in Central Florida.
"It's everywhere all around you. You know, it's not just lower socio-economic groups. We've seen it everywhere and it's a problem," Aboul-Hosn said.
Experts said Orange Blossom Trial is known as a haven for this type of activity in Orlando, along with parts of International Drive.
Unfortunately, they said with tourism comes a lot of this type of criminal behavior.
“These pimps travel into these areas where there is business so we are a big tourism industry for people to come and go and the weather and different things," Aboul-Hosn said. "I think that is part of it. But there is no magic reason why it's in Florida. It's everywhere.”
Fortner said she would think, "'OK who am I going to have to sell my soul to today to continue to have a place to live.' It's not like you can just jump out of it and grab a new job."
But that's exactly what she is doing now.
Looking to the future, putting the past behind her, and hoping to help others.
According to the state attorney general, "National Human Trafficking Resource Center, there are 27 million people enslaved worldwide... Victims of human trafficking include children, women and men who are subjected through force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor."
Attorney General Pam Bondi has worked to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. During the 2012 legislative session, she joined Sen. Flores and Rep. Snyder to advocate legislation that cracks down on human trafficking.
The Department of Children and Families is working on creating a safe harbor home for the underage victims in the community.
They said many of the people involved are foster children who don't concern themselves victims.
For human trafficking victims, help is just a text away
by Michigan Radio Newsroom
The Polaris Project now offers help to human trafficking victims by text message.
Sarah Jakiel is with the non-profit group.
She says victims are often hiding in plain sight. “I think people just don't realize the number of industries and areas where trafficking is happening. From domestic servants or people forced to work in restaurant settings, agriculture, small businesses, carnivals and then everything in the sex trafficking side.”
Jakiel says victims are often recruited with promises of good jobs and then forced to work as slaves. “The numbers can be shocking for the general public. This issue is really happening in every city and state in America.”
Now if victims can't call the hotline, they can text a quick message to BeFree (or 233733) for help.
Jakiel says texting allows victims to stealthily ask for assistance.
“It really just comes down to the fact that the ability to send a silent text message may mean the difference between escape and continued exploitation and we hope this new channel of communication allows a lot more people to reach our services.”
The Polaris Project has been helping victims for about 12 years. It gets about 2,500 calls each month.
Jakiel says the hotline has gotten calls about cases of human trafficking from all over Michigan “Detroit and Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo and other areas. The calls have referenced over 238 individual victims of trafficking. And they have been about both sex trafficking and labor trafficking situations.”
For information about programs in Michigan click here.
Tenn. man tried to sell 6-year-old daughter to get $1,500 for girlfriend's bail, police say
(CBS) KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Shawn Wayne Hughes, a 32-year-old Kingsport, Tenn. man, was arrested for allegedly agreeing to sell his 6-year-old daughter in order to get bail money for his girlfriend, the Kingsport Timesnews reports.
Hughes was arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with illegal payments in connection with placement of a child and two counts of possession of drugs, according to the paper.
Hughes' girlfriend, 27-year-old Jessica April Carey, was arrested on March 21 on a charge of child abuse and neglect, the paper reports.
It was reportedly Carey's grandmother who called police on Wednesday to report Hughes was trying to guilt her into giving him money to bail Carey out of jail.
According to the paper, the grandmother let police listen in on her phone call with Hughes and in that call he reportedly offered to sell his 6-year-old child to her in exchange for the bail money.
Hughes allegedly agreed to sign over legal custody of the girl if she gave him $1,500.
Police directed the grandmother to agree to the deal and set up a meeting place, the paper reports. When Hughes went to meet the grandmother, the police were there and arrested him.
The paper reports that Hughes was booked into the Kingsport City Jail with his bond set at $16,000. As of Thursday afternoon, Carey reportedly remained jailed.
The Department of Childrens Services was notified of the incident.
Crisis hotline operators reaching out to teens, 1 text at a time
by LEANNE ITALIE
NEW YORK - They stream in from teens around the United States, cries for help often sent in by text message.
"I feel like committing suicide," one text read. "What's the suicide hotline number?" Another asked: "How do you tell a friend they need to go to rehab?"
DoSomething.org, an organization that encourages activism among young adults, gets plenty of text messages asking for help, but it isn't a hotline. So the nonprofit's CEO, Nancy Lublin, is leading an effort to establish an around-the-clock text number across trigger issues for teens in the hope that it will become their emergency line, perhaps reaching those who wouldn't otherwise seek help using more established methods of telephone talking or computer-based chat.
"Most of the texts we get like this are about things like being bullied," Lublin said. "A lot of things are about relationships, so we'll get texts from kids about breakups, or `I like a boy, what should I do?' But the worst one we ever got said, `He won't stop raping me. It's my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. Are you there?'"
Lublin hopes the Crisis Text Line, due to launch in August, will serve as a New York-based network, shuttling texts for help to partner organizations around the country, such as The Trevor Project for gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning youth or other groups already providing hotlines on dating and sexual abuse to bullying, depression and eating disorders.
As more teens have gone mobile, using their phones as an extension of themselves, hotline providers have tried to keep up. Fewer seem to operate today than in decades past. A smattering reach out through mobile text, including Teen Line in Los Angeles, though that service and others offer limited schedules or specialize in narrow areas of concern when multiple problems might be driving a teen to the brink.
Some text providers operate in specific places or rely on trained teen volunteers to handle the load across modes of communication. Several agreed that text messaging enhances call-in and chat options for a generation of young people who prefer to communicate by typing on their phones, especially when they don't want parents, teachers, friends or boyfriends to listen in.
Katie Locke, 26, in Philadelphia was one of those teens in 2006, when she found herself in a suicidal panic after a fight with an old friend.
At 18, she said she grabbed her phone, left her college dorm room and headed out in the cold to sit on a bench to talk with a worker on a crisis phone line she knew from one of her favorite blogs. The number was the only one she had handy and it didn't offer text, which she would have preferred.
"People don't always have the (mobile phone) minutes or aren't in a position where they can speak aloud if they're in danger from somebody around them," Locke said. "I know for me there were other times when I probably should have called a crisis hotline and didn't because of the anxiety about calling. That was such an enormous barrier, to have to dial a phone number."
Brian Pinero, director of the National Dating Abuse Helpline run by a nonprofit called Love is Respect, knows that lesson well.
The organization launched phone and computer-based chat in 2007, and chat quickly grew to the more heavily used method of contact. The Austin, Texas-based group launched text in 2011 and it's now about 20 percent of the operation, Pinero said.
According to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, one in four teens is a "cell-mostly" Internet user. Texting among teens increased from about 50 texts a day in 2009 to about 60, with the number running into hundreds for some.
"Phone calls are not the way young people express themselves," said Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and an assistant professor of media, culture and communication at New York University.
Comparisons of text hotline volume and efficiency are hard to come by. Researcher Deb Levine, executive director and founder of the nonprofit ISIS, for Internet Sexuality Information Services, said it's clear the number of hotlines of all kinds has declined significantly since a heyday in the 1980s.
But chat and text help have been on the rise for more than two years, she said. Most are small-scale operations serving specific communities, said Levine.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is in its second year of running one of the largest text and chat outreach operations for people ages 15 to 24, targeting African-American and Latino youth through promotional campaigns on MTV, websites and mobile providers, social media, wallet cards, video and Seventeen magazine.
Through February, nearly 185,000 conversations — 22,447 via text — were recorded, according to Planned Parenthood. About a third of conversations on health-related topics — including birth control, abortion and pregnancy tests — were with users both under 25 and African-American or Latino.
Debbie Gant-Reed sees the need every day. She's the crisis lines coordinator at a 24-hour help line in Reno, Nevada, called the Crisis Call Center. The center has been providing 24-hour text help for two and a half years, fielding about 500 text conversations a month.
"We're now taking texts from all over the country," she said. "You can chat all you want but you're going to get older people. Young people don't chat. They text."
http://www.crisistextline.org/ (text service scheduled to launch in August)
Planned Parenthood Federal of America text line video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?vqYj4TF4c42Y (text PPGO to 774636)
National Dating Abuse Helpline: http://www.loveisrespect.org/about-national-dating-abuse-helpline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ (phone and chat service only)
Crisis Call Center: http://www.crisiscallcenter.org/crisisservices.html (text ANSWER to 839863)
Teenlineonline.org: Teen Line in Los Angeles (text TEEN to 839863)
Take Back the Night scheduled
It's an event which takes sadness and turns it into hope.
by Greg Little
HONESDALE -- — It's an event which takes sadness and turns it into hope.
The annual "Take Back the Night" event presented by the Victims Intervention Program is set for next week.
It will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at the Cooperage on Main Street in Honesdale.
Michele Minor-Wolf, executive director of VIP, said this year's even will be "a little different."
One way is the fact it is being held indoors.
Another is the program.
Author Norman E. Friedman, who has written a book about child sexual abuse, will be the featured speaker. Wolf said he will talk for about 45 minutes.
Take Back the Night will also have some of the same traditions as always.
Wolf said survivors of abuse will be speaking, there will be the exhibit of shoes which depicts the atrocities of abuse, the quilt project will be on display and there will be artwork on display.
Entertainment will be provided by Patrick J. Fiore & Students.
Wolf said there will be T-shirts for sale and refreshments will be served, including desserts and coffee.
She said there will be handouts available and she feels this is a "teaching opportunity" for VIP.
Everyone from the community is invited to attend the event.
If you would like more information about Take Back the Night, contact VIP at 253-4401.
About the author
Norman E. Friedman has been caring for other people's children and their parents for more than 50 years.
Trained as an educator, administrator, counselor, and mental health professional, his career has focused on the care and treatment of children and youth with serious emotional problems.
Since his retirement as Executive Director of a large residential treatment center in New York State he has been employed as an abuse prevention training specialist by the A.M. Skier Insurance Agency in Hawley, Pennsylvania for the last 14 years. His appearance Wednesday is sponsored by the A.M. Skier Insurance Agency.
Recognized for 25 years of service to children of Westchester County on June 30, 1998, the day was named in his honor. Honored by the Westchester County Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect on April 18, 1996, he received an award for his efforts to prevent physical and sexual abuse of children.
For the past 25 years, he has consulted at schools, camps, day care centers, and other congregate care facilities throughout the United States when issues of physical or sexual abuse have become a concern.
Well known as a national speaker, Norman has taught as a guest lecturer at Westchester Community College and Fordham University School of Social Work. He has been quoted by the New York Times, Gannett Newspapers, The Washington Post about issues of Inappropriate Intimate Behaviors relating to adults and children in congregate care programs.
His book, “Inoculating Your Children Against Sexual Abuse: What every parent should know!” is available worldwide on www.amazon.com
For more information, visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charleston's Darkness to Light president reacts to controversial Sandusky interview
by Lauren Sausser
NBC was wrong to air a jailhouse interview with convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky, the President and CEO of the Charleston-based Darkness to Light told Radar Online.
Darkness to Light is a local nonprofit with a national reach that is trying to end child sexual abuse.
In an interview with Radar Online, Darkness to Light President Jolie Logan said, “Allowing him the opportunity to appeal to the public can do great damage to the progress we are making towards better protecting our children. And it disrespects survivors of sexual abuse in the process.”
She added, “The tragedy is an enormous example of how adults fail to protect children. Whether or not our intentions were good, we as a society failed.”
Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach, was convicted last year of abusing 10 children.
On Monday, the NBC Today Show aired a portion of an interview conducted with him in jail by a documentary filmmaker.
The entire Radar Online article is available on its website.
Missouri bills would broaden child abuse reporting
by Nancy Cambria
Years before Jerry Sandusky was charged with a crime, an employee at Penn State University said he witnessed him sexually assaulting a boy in a shower in a team locker room and told his boss.
But as news reports and a formal inquiry later revealed, that boss, Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno, and others up the university's chain of command did not report the incident to police or state child abuse investigators. And the employee — building his own coaching career under Paterno — remained silent.
That scandal prompted review nationwide of how crimes against children are reported. Now that scrutiny has made its way into a second year of proposed legislation to revise Missouri's mandatory reporting laws for child abuse.
One Senate proposal wants to make anyone 18 and older who witnesses the sexual assault of a child a “mandatory reporter,” meaning the witness would be breaking the law if he or she failed to call authorities. The measure has had a lukewarm reception among child abuse prevention advocates who believe it would have minimal impact. But it also has some adamant supporters, including a Boone County prosecutor.
The other measure, a Missouri House bill, has full support of groups such as Missouri Kids First, a child abuse and neglect prevention group, and a state task force on child sexual assault prevention that met last year.
Instead of widening the net of those who must report child abuse, the House bill would shore up the accountability of current mandatory reporters such as teachers. In most cases it would require a person who directly witnesses probable child abuse or neglect to immediately call the state child abuse hotline in the Missouri Children's Division.
It would eliminate a current option that allows the witness to instead tell a superior who would then, in theory, make the hotline call. The bill further would forbid an institution to begin its own internal investigation before making a hotline call. And it would protect employees who make hotline calls from retribution.
Proponents argue the changes would better prevent an incident of child abuse from falling through the cracks. They also would help deter leaders of an institution such as a school or a camp or youth sports league from remaining silent to ward off unwanted attention.
“We want the Children's Division to be overseeing these investigations and not schools, because we have seen too many cases where schools have competing interests that are sometimes hard to understand,” said Emily van Schenkhof of Missouri Kids First. “We have seen schools and other institutions that have put the interest of their own schools above the children.”
The bill so far has had limited opposition. Otto Fajen, legislative director for the Missouri National Education Association, said schools applaud the measure because it promotes a whistle blower status for employees.
But he said educators want to make sure the bill is detailed enough to create a school-wide culture that enables teachers and staff to fulfill their reporting obligations. He said the measure needs to respect the abilities of school counselors trained in detecting child abuse, and it must give teachers support to be able to leave the classroom immediately and make the hotline call.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-south St. Louis County, said she was motivated by Penn State and her own daughter. Her daughter, a former teacher at a St. Louis charter school, had witnessed a parent severely beating a child with a belt just before the start of the school day, Haefner said.
The daughter told the school's principal but found out the next day that a hotline call had not been made.
“It turned out that child was let to go home with that parent,” Haefner said. “My daughter was just so taken back by that. That someone could decide up the chain of command, ‘Mmm, we're not going to deal with this.' ”
Van Schenkhof said the bill was drafted after consulting with child advocacy centers statewide. The child advocates said that getting rid of the ability to boot the problem up the chain of command would have the strongest impact for children, she said.
As the law stands now, “It allows the person to put the blame on someone else when it really is on the individual,” van Schenkhof said.
Kelly Schultz, director of the Missouri Office of Child Advocate, said the current system of reporting up the chain of command had unintended consequences, even when it resulted in a hotline call.
When a teacher reports an incident to a supervisor, the child is often re-interviewed, giving the child the opportunity to recant when he or she senses that a parent or relative could be in trouble. Sometimes the child discloses another event, but it sounds as if he or she is telling two different stories. What results, Schultz said, is a watered-down hotline call or investigations with conflicting accounts that can make it difficult to substantiate abuse or press criminal charges.
“That is why we would prefer someone who is trained in evaluating children, including child advocacy centers,” she said. “Because they are not adding padded questions.”
Amid a national call to ramp-up mandatory reporting laws, there are groups in child welfare that have protested the move, arguing it's a knee-jerk reaction to Penn State.
In a position paper, the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform argued that expanding the pool of mandatory reporters to include any adult would flood state child protection offices with calls that don't meet the most minimal standards of abuse, leaving child safety “workers even less time to find children in real danger.”
The organization noted that child abuse investigations are already traumatic for children and families. A law that opens the door to more unnecessary invasions of privacy, including physical exams and family separations, is detrimental to children.
Some proponents are backing the more far-reaching proposal by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, to make any witness of a child sexual assault a mandatory reporter. About 20 states nationwide have similar laws on the books. Dan Knight, the Boone County prosecuting attorney, said the torture and murder of 2-year-old Cortez Johnson in 2008 was a wake-up call for him that reporting rules need to be as strong and inclusive as possible.
Knight said two people had seen Cortez whimpering and naked in the corner of his parents' home, his hands, wrists and mouth bound with duct tape, and did nothing. Ten days later the toddler died of blunt head trauma. Medical reports concluded that the child had been beaten and burned repeatedly and had received more than 200 injuries, some of them disfiguring, over a period of months.
Knight said the child had never been to the doctor, and was not yet school-age, so he had no contact with mandatory reporters. Under the proposed legislation, the onus would be on everyone to make sure children such as Cortez do not fall through the cracks, he said.
“Had the mother not brought the boy to the emergency room on the day he died, we might not have ever found out about this,” Knight said. “I know how incredibly important it is for people to report abuse, because I know what can happen as a result.”
The Senate bill is SB113. The House bill is HB505.
CAN Council promotes child abuse hotline in the Great Lakes Bay Region
by Jessica Fleischman
SAGINAW, MI — The Child Abuse and Neglect Council of the Great Lakes Bay Region is encouraging area residents to speak up when witnessing possible signs of child abuse.
In an effort to increase awareness of a statewide child abuse hotline, which was unveiled by the Michigan Department of Human Services in March 2012, the CAN Council is working to get the number in the the hands - and wallets - of as many community members as possible.
A new CAN Council campaign features literature and wallet-sized cards displaying the toll-free child abuse hotline. Calls to 855-444-3911 can be made from any location in Michigan 24 hours a day.
The literature instructs those with suspicions of possible child abuse to call the statewide number, but also lists 911 for situations involving immediate danger.
The flyers and cards will be available in public places, such as hospitals and office spaces, according to the CAN Council.
"When you suspect physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect of a child, you have to make the toll-free, confidential call to (855)444-3911 to help break the cycle," the back side of the two-sided flyer reads.
According to the CAN Council, Saginaw and Bay Counties saw a total of 1,495 confirmed child abuse cases in 2009.
The CAN Council operates offices in Saginaw, 1311 N. Michigan, and Bay City, 715 N. Euclid. The Saginaw office can be reached at 989-752-7226 and the Bay City office can be reached at 989-671-1345.
Motorcycle parade to help boost child abuse awareness
by RIALDA ZUKIC
The Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center is gearing up for its 14th annual Great Teddy Bear Run in honor of national child abuse awareness and appreciation month.
The Great Teddy Bear Run, which will be April 6, is a motorcycle parade where participants strap teddy bears or stuffed animals to their motorcycles and ride through the streets of Bowling Green to help raise awareness about child abuse and funds for the organization.
"The Great Teddy Bear Run really has become our way of really stopping our community – the general public – and getting their attention to just think about the reality that we have so many kids in our community that are abused and neglected every day," BRACAC Director Dawn Long said.
BRACAC provides services to children who have disclosed or have concerns of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation. It serves Warren, Simpson, Monroe, Metcalfe, Logan, Hart, Edmonson, Butler, Barren and Allen counties. The center provided services to 417 children from July 2010 through June 2012, with a majority of the children under 12 years old, according to Long and BRACAC reports.
With child abuse affecting communities, it's important to have events such as the Great Teddy Bear Run for people to realize how many people are affected, Long said.
"One in three girls and one in six boys, by the time they reach 18, they will have experienced some level of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation," Long said. "The laws are changing because more and more adults are starting to step up and say, 'This is what happened to me when I was a child and I want to be actively involved with what's going on to make sure that the laws are changed, that this is not allowed to continue to happen.' "
On-site registration for the event will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Warren County Justice Center. The cost is $20 per bike.
Parade participants typically bring a teddy bear or stuffed animal, "but we always tell people if you don't, please don't let that stop you from coming out because we have a good supply," Long said.
The parade will leave the justice center at 11:15 a.m. and head toward the final destination at Harley-Davidson Bowling Green at 251 Cumberland Trace Road, crossing Veterans Memorial Lane, Campbell Lane, Lovers Lane, Cemetery Road and Scottsville Road along the way, Officer Ronnie Ward, spokesman for the Bowling Green Police Department, said.
The BGPD helps lead the parade, and roads will be closed for a short time as the bikers move through, Ward said.
"While the motorcycles are passing through, we'll close the roads and once they pass we'll open them back up," Ward said. "Some of the intersections may be closed for up to 20 minutes."
Up to 1,000 bike riders typically participate in the parade, and about the same can be expected this year, Long said. "Bowling Green police ... have been wonderful to us every year. They help us safely move anywhere on average between 700 to 1,000 motorcycles in this massive parade through Bowling Green," Long said.
Harley-Davidson Bowling Green has sponsored the parade for several years.
"There's nothing like looking at Cumberland Trace and seeing hundreds of motorcycles riding this way," Harley-Davidson Bowling Green marketing manager Robert Brown said.
Harley-Davidson donates funds to BRACAC and provides entertainment featuring local artists who will perform April 6 at the Harley location on Cumberland Trace Road. "It's for a great cause, for the kids," Brown said. "All of us at Harley have a soft spot for that."
Funds raised go toward financing services that BRACAC offers, such as medical examinations, which can be extensive in some cases. Those are provided at the center to the children at no cost to their families, Long said.
"We are able to do what we do because we have riders willing to saddle up and come out," she said. "It's just fun."
— For more information about BRACAC, visit the website at bracac.org, and for information about the Great Teddy Bear Run, call the center at 270-783-4357.
County committed to child abuse prevention
by RUDY HERNDON
ALAMOSA — In the time that it takes you to read this sentence, someone in the United States is reporting another case of child abuse.
From one end of the country to the other, Americans file 3.3 million reports of child abuse every year, and altogether, their reports may affect twice as many children.
Child abuse typically occurs when parents find themselves in stressful situations and don't know how to cope. But most cases could be prevented if families had the community support they need in order to nurture their children, Alamosa County commissioners said Wednesday.
To raise awareness of the issue, the board voted unanimously to declare April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Commission Chair Darius Allen told representatives from the county's human services department that the annual declaration is one tradition he'd gladly do away with.
“One of these days I'd like to see you come in and say: ‘We don't need that today. Everything's OK,'” he said.
Until then, Allen and the rest of the board are urging every citizen, community agency, faith-based group and business to become more involved with the county's efforts to help every child grow up in a secure and loving environment.
“As a nation and as a community, it is our responsibility to build a safe and nurturing society so that young people can realize their full potential,” their proclamation says.
Commissioner Marianne Dunne thanked county officials for taking a hands-on approach to address the problem at the local level.
“We have to be proactive and get down to where the real causes are,” she said.
The county's most recent child welfare report found that officials assessed or accepted 73 cases involving 109 children, according to Department of Human Services Deputy Director Laurie Rivera.
As of late-February, 82 open cases were pending, and 52 of those went through the court system.
Allen took a few moments to honor Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly for his work on behalf of those children.
There's more work to be done, though, to engage communities at the local and national levels.
Advocates say the issue affects people across the spectrum. Victims and perpetrators of child abuse come from every class, ethnic group, religion and educational background.
But the problem may take its greatest toll on the youngest and most vulnerable Americans. About 80 percent of abused children who die each year are under the age of four, according to the group Childhelp.
Those who survive abusive childhoods are more likely to perpetuate the cycle.
Almost one-third of abused children will go on as adults to abuse their own children.
Others are more likely to engage in risky or dangerous behaviors as teenagers or adults.
Among other things, they face a greater possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases; abused girls are also more likely to become pregnant at young ages.
Two out of three people who enter drug abuse treatment programs report that they were abused as children. About one in three are more likely to commit violent crimes, while women who were abused as girls are 36 percent more likely to end up in prison at some point in their lives.
The total costs to society add up to a staggering $124 billion a year, according to Childhelp.
Fix law that limits testimony from young sex-abuse victims
by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
Imagine a youngster twice victimized — once by the horrific crime of sexual abuse, then by a legal process that is supposed to provide justice. It happens on too many occasions, in too many courtrooms. Fortunately, Lauren Book hopes to change that.
Book speaks from experience. She was once the victim of a sexual abuser who was the family's nanny. Refusing to remain the victim, she has become the champion for sexually abused children whose voices wouldn't otherwise be heard. She has started a nonprofit, called Lauren's Kids, and every year pushes the Florida Legislature to change laws in a way that helps those who've been abused.
HB 7031 is her latest effort at reform. The bill would align Florida law with the federal Adam Walsh Act by tightening provisions on when someone can have their status as a sexual offender changed, raise the penalties for people who expose themselves to children and add requirements that judges must consider in determining bail.
The highlight, though, is a proposed change in the rules regarding hearsay evidence.
Currently in child sex-abuse cases, unless the victim is 11 or younger, most information obtained outside of a jury's presence can't be used in court because it's considered hearsay. Older children must wait weeks, months, sometimes years, before deciding whether to recount the sordid details of their abuse in open court, or forgo testimony altogether.
HB 7031 would raise the age for the hearsay exception to 16, allowing the early, more accurate accounts by older children to be used during trial.
The bill has its safeguards. Defense attorneys would still have adequate tools, like the deposition process, to make credible cases on behalf of their clients. And a judge would still make the final call of whether the information gathered during that initial interview should be admitted or not.
But it would help prevent what all too often occurs today: young victims, robbed by time, struggling on the stand to present clear and convincing testimony about their abuse.
The bill's chances of passage are improved by the backing of state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, son of Florida Senate President Don Gaetz.
It doesn't hurt that Lauren is the daughter of Ron Book, one of Florida's most influential lobbyists and biggest money raisers for political candidates. Book's name opens doors in Tallahassee and, this time, the benefactors are young abuse victims who stand to gain from his daughter's singular focus.
As an advocate, Lauren Book has a string of accomplishments, from her annual awareness-raising walks to Tallahassee, to obtaining $1.5 million from the state in 2011 to develop an age-appropriate violence-prevention curriculum for kindergarteners.
Her greatest success, however, came after overcoming four years of sexual assault from an employee who had been considered part of the family. In 2002, Waldina Flores was sentenced to 15 years for sexual battery by a custodian and 15 years for lewd or lascivious molestation on a child under 16. Young Lauren took the high road: "I really don't wish any harm on Waldy," she told the court. "I forgive her for her weaknesses, which have hurt me."
Book deserves credit for her dedication to helping abused children. While providing safeguards for the wrongly accused, the Florida Legislature should work with her to turn this good idea into state law.
House Bill 1988 tackles child sex abuse education
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- One woman made a powerful testimony at the State Capitol on Thursday over a proposed bill hoping to keep our kids safe from sexual abuse.
House Bill 1988 hopes to "get the wheels moving" on what's known across the country as Erin's Law. The ultimate goal is to bring age-appropriate education on child sex abuse into schools, so kids don't experience what Erin Merryn said she went through multiple times growing up.
"I stayed silent. The only message that I was getting as a child was 'This is our little secret. I'll come get you Erin. I know where you live,'" Erin Merryn said.
Merryn told an Arkansas House Committee Thursday that's how she felt after her first time being sexually abused at six years old. The 28-year-old now wants to change that message through Erin's Law, which is pushing age-appropriate education in school.
"I knew as a child how to duck and cover from a tornado, how to run out of a burning building, how to evacuate a school bus but we fail to teach kids on the prevention of sexual abuse, on empowering them to speak up and tell a safe adult," Merryn said.
House Bill 1988 would jump-start Erin's Law by creating a task force to study child sexual abuse in Arkansas and ways to bring preventative education into schools.
"This is not sex education or abstinence education, we're not advocating for any of that in Kindergarten through 5 th grade," State Representative John Baine said. "We want to advocate for kids that they know how to reach out to teachers when they feel like there is something going on or a secret they shouldn't keep."
The bill's sponsor, Representative John Baine from El Dorado, wasn't expecting to get the bill passed in committee Thursday, but he and Erin ended up getting the first round of approval.
"Congratulations, Mr. Baine. Your bill passes," said Committee Chair Representative David Meeks.
This bill seemed to hit the hearts of lawmakers. THV 11 cameras caught some of them giving Merryn hugs and handshakes afterwards.
Some other states have already passed a bill like this, including Indiana, Michigan and even Illinois, where Merryn is from.
The proposed Arkansas bill heads to the House floor Monday. If the bill eventually becomes law here, the task force studying the preventative education would have to submit a report by the end of next year. The implementation phase would come after that.
Senate bill passes to fund agencies against child sex crimes
by Danica Lawrence
A local effort by a Tulsa senator and an advocate against child sex trafficking to fund an agency that fights against child sex crimes is moving through the state legislature.
Senator Dan Newberry authored Senate Bill 1002 that will create a direct line of funding to agencies fighting against child sex crimes like the Internet Crimes Against Children Oklahoma Task Force.
The bill would add a $10 fine to every misdemeanor and felony ticket in the state; then that money would get divided up among the ICAC's agencies. $5.00 would go to ICAC; $2.00 would go to CART (Child Abuse Response Teams) they work in conjunction with ICAC; $2.00 will go to a special District Attorney's fund to prosecute these guys. Some DA's may not be specialized in processing the sex crime.
“The intent here is to raise the dollars, the ability to give the agents with the tools necessary and go after the perpetrators,” said Senator Newberry. “The whole $10, the global package, will be expected to generate at least $3 million a year, which is a small price to pay to protect the innocence and the lives of these children.”
Jason Weis is local advocate against child sex trafficking. He kick started this bill's legislation in October after researching that agencies like ICAC lacked the funding for resources and man-power.
“I'm a father of two kids, I've never been abused, I'm just a citizen who cannot stand to sit by and just read about these terrifying crimes against innocent children go on.”
20-year-old Tori Waite has also become a supporter of SB 1002.
“When I was young I was molested by the men in my life,” said Waite.
She soon got in touch with Weis and told Weis her story. Waite's mother was also a victim of child sexual exploitation and also a victim of domestic violence as an adult.
“My daughter is so strong and I know this chain of sexual violence will stop with her,” said Emilee Waite.
“I am healthy now and I feel healed,” said Tori Waite. “I do not want to be seen as a victim, but as a survivor. I want this bill to pass because I wish there had been more funding for these agencies when I needed it.”
Senator Newberry and Weis are encouraging you to call your local representative with any concerns or to show your support and have them call the appropriations and budget committees.
Senator Newberry can be reached at his office at: 405-521-5600
Report domestic violence, child abuse
In Linn County, the number of people who have called the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence hotline has increased 52 percent over last year.
The number of children seen for child abuse assessment at the ABC House has increased by 9 percent.
These numbers may be increasing for a variety of reasons. A spokeswoman from CARDV said it may be that more people need services, or that people are more aware of the services the organization offers.
A spokeswoman from ABC House said the numbers may not reflect an increase in child abuse, but rather show an increase in the number of children who are being referred to the Department of Human Services, law enforcement or by the medical community.
While the numbers may not show positive proof that abuse in general is on the rise, what it does show is reports of abuse are on the rise.
And that's really a good thing.
For every adult, teenager and child who is connected with one of these organizations, that's one less person suffering in silence. Further abuse can be prevented.
It looks depressing on the surface — more battered and abused youth and adults, more children screened for abuse.
The truth of the matter lies in the fact that it is being reported more, which means neighbors are looking out for each other. It means people are standing up and saying no to abuse more often.
Domestic and child abuse is a community issue. Children cannot learn as well in school if they know they will face abuse by a neighbor, uncle, aunt, coach, teacher, or someone else close to the family — because that is who tends to be the abuser.
In fact, abusers are very good at targeting and grooming children to accept abuse. They are stealthy about it, and often fool vigilant parents and community members.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, according to the ABC House.
Only one in 10 kids will actually tell. That means 90 percent of children who are abused suffer in silence.
They may try to disclose what's going on to a trusted adult and not be heard.
Learn to hear it.
Likewise, domestic violence may start slowly. It may start with a slap to the face on a bad day, dismissed by the survivor as a one time event.
Domestic violence and child abuse can turn deadly quickly.
You can help.
Don't turn up the volume on the TV when the neighbors are fighting again. Call the police instead. You could be saving someone's life, and the life of a child.
Detective Shelly Winters said it takes a woman seven times to get out of an abusive relationship. Your call could be No. 1, and get her started on her journey away from the predator. It could be number seven, and her last straw. Maybe it's the call that gives her the courage to call CARDV and start a new life.
Women and men can be survivors of domestic violence. Winters said it is about control.
There isn't one indicator you can put your finger on when it comes to domestic violence, according to the spokeswoman for CARDV. Everyone will respond to it differently.
One thing is certain: It can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter how old, what race, education or income status.
The bottom line is, if you're concerned about someone's safety, call police.
See the stories on A1 for more information.
Attend the Darkness to Light training on April 16, which is sponsored by ABC House and Court Appointed Special Advocates. The training is free and teaches what to look for, how to listen, and what to say if a child discloses abuse to you. ABC House accepts $10 donations, but encourages everyone to attend regardless of ability to donate.
Meanwhile, April is Child Abuse Awareness month.
Join the conversation at a rally at noon on April 4 at the Lebanon Justice Center. The more we talk about it, the more aware we become. The more aware we become, the greater the chance we can help put a stop to abuse.
Safe Harbor provides abuse prevention training
by Kayla Deneau
Speaking out loud about sexual abuse may be difficult, but the people at Safe Harbor Children's Advocacy Center want the issue front and center in the public's mind.
They do this by offering training to professionals and parents that, among other things, helps them spot sexual abuse in people they meet.
Safe Harbor offered one such training session for several dozen people Thursday, March 21.
Survivor accounts hit home for Amy Aernouts, assistant director of Lakeshore Pregnancy Center in Allegan.
“The actual people talking about their experience and the abuse they had to go through,” she said, is what struck her the most during the training.
The program is called “Stewards of Children” and it is a child sexual abuse prevention program designed by the Darkness to Light organization. The training is dedicated to the discussion of child sexual abuse, including prevention and how to handle the aftereffects of child abuse.
Safe Harbor director Lori Antkoviak has been certified through Darkness to Light and has been giving these trainings for approximately two years.
Safe Harbor Children's Advocacy Center provides free services to child abuse and neglect victims in Allegan County. These services include counseling, forensic interviews and court advocacy. It is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse as well as providing care in the aftermath.
She said one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they reach age 18. More than 90 percent of them know their abuser.
Child sexual abuse is defined as sexual acts or stimulation occurring between an adult and a minor or two minors where one exerts power over the other.
The training focuses on seven steps: learn the facts, minimize opportunity, talk about it, stay alert, make a plan, act on suspicions and get involved. The sessions last two to three hours and are free of charge.
Antkoviak said when people leave the training, she hopes “they at least come away with an awareness that sexual abuse occurs in our own community.”
Antkoviak is willing to travel to schools, churches and other businesses in Allegan County that feel employees will benefit from the training.
Aernouts said the training is important for basic information while working with young parents and that it will be very helpful in her line of work.
According to the training, spreading awareness is key to the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Aernouts said, “I would definitely recommend the training to others. If we can prevent it from happening to one child, it's worth it. As a society we are becoming more aware, but we need to continue.”
Anyone interested in the trainings can visit safeharborallegan.org or d2l.org or call (269) 673-3791.
Safe Harbor has two upcoming events: the Pinwheel Garden and the Lifeline Event.
Monday, April 1, at 9 a.m. Safe Harbor will “plant” a Pinwheel Garden.
It is a free community event where attendees can learn more about Safe Harbor, be educated about child abuse prevention, help plant more than 100 pinwheels on the front lawn of Safe Harbor's office, take a tour of Safe Harbor and enjoy refreshments.
Antkoviak said, “The pinwheels symbolize a happy childhood and we hope all children in our community have a happy childhood.”
The fifth annual Safe Harbor Lifeline Event will be Friday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m. at The Silo at 1071 32nd St.
It is the organization's largest fundraising event of the year. It features food, games, live and silent auctions and guest speaker Shirley Petersen who grew up in Plainwell.
Petersen was abused as a child and has since authored two books and opened a nonprofit to help educate others about prevention and to help them work through the abuse should it occur.
Tickets for the event cost $50 for one, or $75 per couple and must be purchased by April 10.
To purchase tickets, or for questions about the pinwheel garden, contact Alexa Sorensen at email@example.com or call (269) 673-3791.
More than 254 victims of domestic violence served in just one day
Over 24 requests went unmet in that same day due to lack of funds
by Corbett Sionainn
VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
In just one 24-hour period, local domestic violence programs across Vermont provided help and safety to 254 adults and children who were victims of domestic violence. Survivors were given a safe place to stay and resources to escape violence and abuse. Sadly, 24 times on that same day an individual's needs were not met.
“The shelters operated by the member programs of the Vermont Network are filled to capacity every night. These shelters offer survivors and their children safety and support,” said Karen Tronsgard Scott, executive director of the VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “We should ensure that all survivors have access to shelter and transitional housing by increasing the level of funding provided for these services.”
In addition to the number of victims served, more than 85 hotline calls were answered and more than 54 individuals attended 6 training sessions provided by local domestic violence programs on the survey day.
“Domestic Violence survivors are particularly vulnerable when the economy suffers. Options for leaving abusive relationships dry up and survivors struggle to support themselves and their children,” continued Ms. Tronsgard Scott. “Limitations in state supports like Reach Up and housing subsidies only worsen conditions for domestic violence survivors and their children, leaving them with even fewer options for safety.”
For the seventh consecutive year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) conducted its annual National Census of Domestic Violence Services on September 12, 2012 and today released their analysis of that data in the report: Domestic Violence Counts: A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services. The national report revealed that reduced funding for domestic violence services means that programs were unable to help survivors with shelter, attain legal help, or leave abusive partners.
On September 12, 2012, 100% of Vermont's local domestic violence programs participated in the survey. The figures represent the information reported by the 12 participating programs about services provided during the 24-hour survey period.
Funding to underwrite some of the costs of administering the survey was generously provided by the Avon Foundation for Women and printing was provided by the Allstate Foundation.
The full report is available online at http://nnedv.org/resources/census/3418-2012-report.html.
Vermont's statistics are in the back of the full report and are posted at http://nnedv.org/docs/Census/DVCounts2012/DVCounts12_StateSummary_VT.pdf.
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About the VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
As the state wide leader to end domestic and sexual violence, the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, in collaboration with its member programs, is the collective voice for social change on behalf of domestic and sexual violence survivors in Vermont. For more information about the Vermont Network call 802-223-1302 or go to our website at www.vtnetwork.org. See us on Facebook at VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a 501(c)(3) social change organization, is dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking no longer exist. As the leading voice for domestic violence victims and their allies, NNEDV members include all 56 of the state and territorial coalitions against domestic violence, including over 2,000 local programs. NNEDV has been a premiere national organization advancing the movement against domestic violence for almost 25 years, having led efforts among domestic violence advocates and survivors in urging Congress to pass the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994. To learn more about NNEDV, please visit www.nnedv.org.
Child Abuse Victim Tracks Down ‘Bogeyman' Years Later For Revenge Killing, With Unexpected Results
by Debbie Emery
A man, who was brutally raped as a seven-year-old boy, meticulously planned his murderous revenge decades later, but what he couldn't predict was that the “bogeyman” that haunted him for 25-years has turned into a “frightened, damaged” old man.
David Holthouse is now revealing his plans to become a killer along with the trauma of his boyhood sexual assault in the stage adaptation of Stalking The Bogeyman , which opens off Broadway in February 2014, ABCNews.com is reporting.
“This wasn't just a revenge fantasy, though it's tempting to lie about it now,” revealed 41-year-old Holthouse, a documentary filmmaker and investigative reporter in Alaska who packed a Beretta 9 mm with a silencer and the serial number scratched off when he went to his nemesis' Colorado home. “If I had gone through with it, I most certainly would have been caught.”
Holthouse's horror story began in 1978 at the hands of a family friend's 17-year-old son — while the adults were ”drinking wine and playing board games” the high school football jock whisked the young boy away promising a karate lesson.
“I didn't know what was going on, but I knew it was bad, so I started crying, and he told me to shut up and then started chasing me around the room, waving the sword,” wrote David as he recounted the attack. “He put the blade to my throat and backed me into a corner, where I dropped into a crouch and cowered. Then, he told me to take off my pants.
“I was seven, and it was violent, sick, pedophiliac rape. … I no longer believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, but from that night on, I had no such doubts about the Bogeyman.”
The shamed child never spoke a word about his ordeal – not even to his parents – despite attempts by the teenager abuser to repeat the attack. ”I didn't want their memories of my childhood tarnished with this scum,” he explained.
“I didn't really have a firm concept of what had happened,” Holthouse later told ABCNews.com. “Nobody ever talked to me about sex or rape. I don't think it was a function of the era,” he said, explaining that most kids his age didn't even have a word for it. “It was easier to keep quiet.”
As a troubled teenager, David became obsessed with the subject and researched rape out of fear of becoming part of the ”vicious cycle” of sexual abuse and growing up to become a pedophile himself.
“I felt like a werewolf had bitten me and it was only a matter of time before the full moon rose,” said the victim, who had planned to kill himself and make it look like a mountaineering accident if he ever suffered dark intentions himself.
In a bizarre twist of fate, David moved to Colorado and was told by his unsuspecting mother that the rapist was now living in Denver with his wife and children, which sparked his deadly payback plot of stalking his suburban home and learning the man's daily routine.
Holthouse intended to shoot his assailant below the waist, watch him “writhe like a poisoned cockroach,” then kick him in the stomach and shoot him three times in the head – believing that because he had never breathed a word about the rape, he would not be a suspect.
Ironically it would be David's own childhood diaries that would bring the truth to light though, when in 2003 – 10 days after he bought the gun – his mother found his notebook detailing the assault and called him in tears. She then sent an anonymous letter to the man's parents, telling them their son was a molester and to keep him away from children, and cut off all future ties with the family.
The revelation caused the would-be revenge killer to call off his attack, and instead, a year later he sent two letters to his assailant asking: ”Remember me?
“Simply ignoring this letter is not going to work,” he warned. “If I don't hear from you by Friday late afternoon, I'll start calling your house, and then knocking on your front door.
“I want to be perfectly clear here: I am not threatening you with any physical harm, and I am not hinting at blackmail. I don't want your blood or your money, just one uncomfortable conversation.”
Holthouse had already begun putting his story down on paper for publication in the Denver Westword in May 2004, and two days before it was due to run, the man called and agreed to the confrontation.
“I've thought 100 times about contacting you in the last 20 years to tell you that, and I just never had the courage to pick up the phone,” the rapist said, according to his victim. “I'm sorry for the pain I've caused you and my parents and your parents.”
He went on to claim that David's rape was the one and only assault he had perpetrated, and that since then he had told his wife and parents the dark truth.
“I doubt that is true,” said a skeptical Holthouse. ”He tried to repeat the crime against me for the next two years of my childhood. He would have assaulted me again, given the opportunity — I believe that.
“I think as a society, we turn rapists into monsters and he had turned into a monster in my mind. Doing that is a risk because most rapists lead normal lives.”
Now the bogeyman has lost his evil power, the former abused child is married with his own two-year-old son and preparing to become a published playwright.
“I was expecting this sort of lightning-bolt catharsis,” he said. “I thought I'd suddenly feel a lot better. That didn't happen. Since then, I've realized that, at least for me, there's no such thing as getting over it. All I can do is get better with it.”
5 Questions for Pamela Pine, Founder of Stop the Silence
Dr. Pamela Pine is the founder of Stop the Silence, an organization whose purpose is to expose and stop child sexual abuse, as well as assist in the healing process for survivors.
Dr. Pine has a PhD in public health communication from the University of Maryland and has worked throughout the world on programs geared toward improving the lives of poor people.
As part of the effort to raise awareness about childhood sexual abuse, her organization hosts The Race to Stop the Silence, an 8K run (or walk).
This year the organization celebrates the race's tenth anniversary. The event will take place on April 14th in downtown Washington DC.
Dr. Pine was kind enough to shed light on this important issue and provide details on the upcoming race.
1. The numbers reported on the Stop the Silence website regarding the frequency of child sex abuse are rather staggering. Can you put the scope of the problem into perspective for our readers?
Dr. Pine: More than 1 out of 4 girls and about 1 out of 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18 in the U.S. and the numbers are similar to that in many parts of the world. That translates into an estimated (possibly an underestimated) 50 MILLION adult survivors of child sexual abuse (or CSA) in the U.S. alone. Most kids are abused by someone they know and who have regular access to them.
I know it's hard to think or talk about but the reality is that it's not only a horrible situation, it's a major public health issue and it can be prevented and it can be treated – and we must. CSA often has pretty terrible consequences that include poor substantial negative mental health outcomes, school performance, teen pregnancy, prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and homicide, and chronic disease. And it costs this country billions of dollars every year.
But first we have to be willing to talk about it and deal with it. So, that's why we started Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, Inc. and the Race to Stop the Silence.
2. Please tell us about the organization, Stop the Silence, and how it works toward the goal of ending child sexual abuse.
Dr. Pine: It's a long story but the long and short of it is that I'm an international public health specialist and I started reading and learning about CSA in 2000, and, given the numbers and consequences, couldn't let it go. This was, of course, before the Catholic Church scandal hit the papers, and of course way before Penn State.
Now we know that it's a problem that affects us all, but in 2000, all I had to think about was my own kids being abused and they became all kids, and I just had to do something. We got early support from Senator Barbara Mikulski and Health and Human Services, and foundation and other groups and individuals. We incorporated the organization in 2004.
The mission of Stop the Silence is to expose and stop child sexual abuse and help survivors heal worldwide. We focus on: Awareness through media and outreach and events like the Race so that people know what's going on, and also our Art as Advocacy program that uses theater and film to open people up to understanding; Prevention by educating and training parents, communities, and service providers to understand the issue and to recognize signs and symptoms of it, as well as educating kids to know what to do if they're afraid or approached in a way that makes them uncomfortable or is wrong so that we can stop it from happening altogether; and Healing for children and adult survivors – to help them know they're not alone and help them find the help they need.
3. How does the upcoming Race to Stop the Silence support those efforts?
Dr. Pine: The Race helps us reach millions through the mass and social media – through efforts of good people like yourself – which lets us talk about the issue and what we do as a part of why the Race was created, like we're doing here, and what we all need to do. And it also lets us reach out to many in other, various ways before the Race (through Twitter and Facebook and networking with others) and then at the Race itself. At the Race, we have fun, fun, fun (it's an 8K race and walk, and kids' fun run, and we have entertainment, and great prizes and food, etc., etc.), but we also provide information on the ground, very briefly during the ceremonies, and also through informational booths.
4. The race/walk looks like it is shaping up to be quite an event! Can you tell us a little bit more about the great people involved and the race day festivities?
Dr. Pine: Oh, gosh. There are so many wonderful people involved. Mark Moseley, famed former NFL and Redskins player, and also our national spokesperson, has been incredible! He has taken on this issue lock, stock and barrel, as they say. He is reaching out to his network and through media. And then there's Jerry Olsen, the Director of the Washington Redskins Alumni Association. He has really put the name and weight of the organization behind what we are doing. Stop the Silence is their primary charity for 2013 and so we'll be benefitting from their upcoming 34 Annual Charity Golf Classic at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. It's going to be great! Every team gets to play with a ‘Skin great! And it's a great way again to have fun and support our work. Then, of course, I need to mention all the wonderful people who help put this event together, like Jeff Ruday, who is managing the event logistics, and our sponsors like Birdees, Inc., and Akire Multisport, and IGA Financial and many others. And we have entertainers, like Niqqi, who is donating her time and talent. And so many, many more!
5. If someone cannot attend the event, is there a way he/she can still support the cause?
Dr. Pine: Absolutely! Besides the Race and the Golf Tournament, the easiest way for people to donate to the cause is through our website and go to the Donate tab on top. There are lots of traditional and new ways to donate safely and securely there. People can also volunteer with us – and there's a Get Involved tab on the website for that!
For more details on the race, including public transportation information and links for race registration, visit our Race to Stop the Silence event listing .
Anonymous Rallies Against Horrific, Abuse-Riddled "Troubled Teen" Industry
by Roy Klabin
A faction within the exceedingly diverse "Anonymous" online collective has begun targeting the Troubled Teen Industry — trying to expose cases of extreme child abuse, sexual misconduct, psychological torture, and even deaths, at various facilities which claim to "correct bad behavior."
The sales pitch is simple: "If your teen has emotional issues, abuses drugs, or is promiscuous, help is just a phone call away. Our programs promise to fix bad behavior by teaching your child life skills and building self-esteem." Now imagine you're a teen that parties too much, or doesn't respect your parents, or perhaps you're gay and refuse to accept Jesus Christ into your life. There are facilities all over the country that will soon teach you to stop being so different! Sometimes you get taken to these facilities in the middle of the night, grabbed from your bed by camp employees your parents have let into your home.
Exposure of the behavior modification industry is slowly gaining traction. Kidnapped for Christ is a feature-length documentary film which follows the stories of several American teenagers who were sent to an evangelical Christian reform school located in the Dominican Republic called “Escuela Caribe.” Help at Any Cost is a non-fiction book that examines how the troubled teen industry cons parents and hurts their children. But it seems parents all over the country are still falling for the misleading assurances offered by these companies — even though every corporate site that promises sunshine and happiness has shadow sites full of survivor's horror stories.
Factions within the Anonymous umbrella who have tried to raise awareness over a particular injustice (especially relating to child abuse) have often adopted a hashtag nomenclature. #OpPedoChat attacked and exposed pedophiles on Twitter. #OpLiberation actively aims to protect children in abusive homes through exposure of their tormentors. #OpLithChild aimed to rescue one girl in Lithuania who was being prostituted out to powerful men. #OpDarkNet has unearthed massive pedophile rings on the so-called hidden web.
The philosophy is simple: in a world of webcams, victims can no longer be hidden away, and can instantly share their suffering via the world wide web. But there are places where no cell phones or Internet are permitted. Places isolated in the wilderness miles from any form of civilization, where children are taken to correct their behavior — and suffer a wide array of vicious torments.
#OpTTIAbuse represents hackers, activists, victims, parents, and survivors who are trying to expose horrific abuses being suffered by children across this country at various facilities hidden away from public scrutiny. The half-joking threat of being sent to "boot camp" as a disciplinary measure for bad behavior has been around since the 1960s. But over the years, these facilities have grown and are making millions of dollars abusing, neglecting, and traumatizing children in their care.
Salon ran a horrifying expose of one corporation in particular: CRC Health Group — a company that was purchased by Mitt Romney's old homestead Bain Capital. Several accusations of mistreatment, abuse and wrongful deaths have been hurled against it. CRC manages a lot of rehabilitation centers across the country, so oftentimes deaths are attributed to relapses in drug abuse by the adults in their care. But CRC also owns Aspen Education and "Youth Care" — which was featured on Dr. Phil as a great place to send troubled teens.
Cases where children have died from mistreatment, medical neglect, or starvation have rarely led to any consequences. This is partly due to the lack of any regulatory oversight, as well some states not even requiring any licensing system for these programs to exist. Mental Health reported on the various facilities in America, and assessed that new oversight was desperately needed.
"Some residential treatment programs, especially community-based non-profit residential programs, provide excellent care and communicate candidly with families. However, the United States Government Accountability Office's 2007-8 studies demonstrated ineffective management practices, lack of staff training, misuse of physical restraints and deceptive marketing practices in eight case studies of abuse and death in residential facilities …"
The lack of accountability, and frequent dismissal of children in their care as devious troublemakers, has caused a deadly culture of abuse and medical neglect. While originally paying out silencing settlements, CRC has now responded to a series of lawsuits by requiring that parents sign lengthy contracts and waivers that except the company from any blame — even in instances of death. Instead of reforming their practices, they are now free to charge parents extra fees for any unforeseen "services" required to discipline a problematic child.
It's hard to judge a parent's choices in how they raise their children, and rarely are standards universal. Is a firm spank a form of abuse? Should children be home-schooled? Is it fair if parents indoctrinate a child into their faith, or should children be left to make their own decisions? We have laws and child protective services specifically to limit a parent's ability to harm a child. But any complaint filed by a child at these facilities is lost to the winds due to a complete lack of regulatory accountability or public awareness.
The prison-like design of some of these facilities further limits the children's ability to report abuse. The internet is rife with testimonials of children who tried to run away, only to find themselves surrounded by miles of unending wilderness. The children rarely have access to telephones, and when they do utilize these connections, their conversations are watched carefully. If they were to say anything "negative" to their parents, like "I miss you, I want to come home" they would be punished for being "manipulative."
Anonymous groups continue to try and expose the survivor stories from within the system, but with limited attention from the press their success has been marginal. Some of the major companies involved have even managed to lobby and block reform on private residential "treatment" centers. This is a difficult subject, as a lot of parents are desperate to help their children — turning to whichever service is closest, cheapest or most convincing. But we should be insisting on the same kind of government regulation and laws that restrict a parent's ability to abuse their child, for the facilities that make a profit from disciplining them.
PSU Employee Training for Child Abuse Prevention and Reporting now Online
UNIVERSITY PARK, – Penn State's professional program designed to help individuals recognize and report suspected child abuse is now available online for University employees.
Approximately 3,500 employees have completed the “Reporting Child Abuse” program since it went live on Feb. 28. In addition, more than 11,000 people also have completed Penn State's face-to-face training for identifying and preventing abuse.
Last spring, Penn State finalized a new administrative policy, AD-72, “Reporting Suspected Child Abuse,” to provide guidance to University employees regarding mandated reporting requirements according to the University and the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law. The policy requires that all University employees complete the training each calendar year.
Currently the online training is available for University employees only, noted Susan Cromwell, director of workplace learning and performance in Penn State's Office of Human Resources. Training availability will be expanded to include volunteers and students by the end of May. “In the interim we will continue to offer live training for these groups until all training is online,” she said.
Once fully implemented, the online program will replace the live, face-to-face training. However, face-to-face sessions can still be requested and used in specialized circumstances, noted Susan Basso, vice president for Human Resources.
More than 11,000 authorized adults — employees or volunteers who have responsibility for minors — have completed face-to-face training. The University began live sessions last April to address an immediate need to train authorized adults who would be working with children at numerous summer camps and workshops at University Park and other Penn State campuses across the Commonwealth.
According to Cromwell, the online format greatly simplifies delivery of the training.
“It's much more accessible,” she said. “Employees, volunteers and students will be able to take the training at their convenience, and we can accurately track all individuals who have been trained. Also, if the law or information changes at any time, we can easily make updates.”
The program is part of Penn State's initiative to help ensure a safe community for children, with the goal of educating the University community about child abuse and reporting. The program is intended to move people from not only awareness of the issue but toward having the confidence to take action, Basso said.
The training is required for all University employees at every campus location, with the exception of Penn State Hershey Medical Center/College of Medicine, University Health Services and the client representation clinics of the Dickinson School of Law. Each of those units follow the policies and training appropriate to its own unique activities.
Group presents child abuse report
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A Norfolk-based group held a discussion Tuesday to address child abuse issues in Hampton Roads.
Prevent Child Abuse: Hampton Roads presented a report detailing a jump in the number of child deaths due to abuse; 10 children died from abuse in 2011 and 16 died in 2012.
The report also included information on unfounded deaths; 25 deaths last year were associated with unsafe sleeping conditions.
"With regards to safe sleep, on the back is always best," Bessie Marie Renner with Prevent Child Abuse said. "A firm surface. No toys, no pillows. Nothing like that in the bed. Anything that could possibly cause suffocation."
Lastly, the report revealed an increasing number of children dying in the care of their parents.
Child Abuse & Neglect Continues to Increase In Mesa County
by Courtney Griffin
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Child abuse and neglect continues to be a problem but especially in Mesa County, as it ranks higher than the State of Colorado.
"What happens a lot; people say 'I wish I would have reported that but I wasn't sure if it was abuse," said Jill Calvert, division director of child welfare services in Mesa County.
According to the most recent Kids Count Report In Colorado, child abuse and neglect affects 8.3 percent of children from newborns to age 18.
"Mesa County is at 11.3 percent, so we're three percent higher than the state as a whole," said Calvert.
The numbers continue to increase. According to the Child Welfare Trend Data, last year 470 children fell victim to abuse or neglect, resulting in three deaths.
Officials say child abuse is defined by the Colorado children's code
which includes emotional, physical, and or sexual abuse, and neglect.
"A lot of times when there's neglect, a lot of things can happen when children are left with people they don't know very well. That's when sex abuse happens. So really, neglect is what we see the most," said Calvert.
The Mesa County Department of Human Services is constantly making sure their practice is consistent, evidence based, and more preventative than reactive.
"Mesa County was one of the first to be involved in what they call the Colorado Practice Model and it basically defines best practice for child welfare," said Calvert.
After applying all the programs, the Department of Human Services will evaluate the community.
"Every community has a different footprint. We look different here in Mesa County than Boulder looks, Larimer County, then Denver," said Calvert.
Officials with the Department of Human Services say parents should not be afraid to make a report, or call the hotline for help.
"There's a lot of things we can do to help mitigate safety issues while the children remain in the home," said Calvert.
The Mesa County Department of Human Services hotline number is (970)-242-1211.
April is child abuse prevention month. There will be many child abuse prevention agencies getting the word out about abuse and how the community can participate in helping stop it.
Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center helps streamline child abuse investigations
by Ashley Peskoe
Two siblings, an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, started acting out in school. Teachers talked to them to see what was causing their behavior. Then a school counselor, members of the administrative staff and a school nurse each questioned the children to get to the bottom of the situation.
They discovered the girl was sexually abused by an adult and then sexually abused her brother.
Next came the cold, sterile hospital room where a doctor asked the children's story again before giving them a physical exam. Then there was a trip to the police station where they had to recount their experience yet again.
The multi-step process that these two children endured is similar to what many child abuse victims went through before the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office opened the first phase of the $2.4 million Child Advocacy Center in 2009.
“If all the services are in one spot, we don't have the kid and family running around … we began the healing the minute the kid and family walks through the front door,” said Martin Krupnick, a Freehold-based psychologist and advisory board member for the Friends of the Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that fundraises for the center.
And Lynn Reich, chair of the Friends of the Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center, said the number of child abuse cases reported in Monmouth County is a problem that has steadily increased in recent years.
In 2012 there were 484 child sex abuse victims in Monmouth County, compared to 2007, which had 452 child victims, according to the prosecutor's office.
Acting Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said one of the goals of the Child Advocacy Center was to cut down on the number of times these children would have to relive the details of their abuse, by allowing several agencies to take part in the interviewing process simultaneously.
“The idea of a Child Advocacy Center really has two parts, it's to make it a child-friendly environment, and is to be a child-appropriate place for the professionals who respond to child abuse to coordinate their response,” said Assistant Prosecutor Peter Boser, director of the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Bureau of the prosecutor's office.
A trained detective will conduct the interviews about the crime that occurred in one of three rooms equipped with hidden cameras. In a separate room, local police, officials from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency and any other authority who may need to witness the interview can watch it on a computer screen where it is broadcasted live. It is also recorded for future reference.
Before the interview is over, the detective will step out of the room and ask the other authorities if any additional questions need to be answered.
Detective Shawn Murphy, who works in the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Bureau at the prosecutor's office, said the interviews are done this way so only one person is conducting the interview and to build a rapport with the child.
“I think that this is the best practice that I have seen,” said Susan Rekevall, multidisciplinary team coordinator at the center. “I think the collaboration, the coordination amongst the different disciplines, I think it streamlines things for the family, the children aren't interviewed over and over again.”
While the center has been effective, Gramiccioni said there is need to build the planned second phase of the center, which calls for a medical suite, a therapy center and office space. Currently, employees of the center work at various locations in the county.
The medical suite would be used to conduct physical exams in a location that's not a hospital, and the therapy center would include mental health treatment rooms for individuals and groups. Phase two is estimated to cost $2.5 million, according to the Friends of the Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center.
“We've come a long way since we've built this facility. It's like hitting a double at a baseball game when you know you can hit the home run,” Gramiccioni said. “The home run for us is centralizing this all under one roof. That's not to say we're failing when we do these abuse investigations. We're doing it really, really well, but we can do it much better. We can do it more efficiently and more importantly, we can do it most responsive to the victim.”
Sexual assault: Now's the time to talk about it
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Every year, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center chooses a specific topic to focus on.
This year they are centering in on child abuse — specifically, early education and prevention.
The group's slogan is “it's time… to talk about it.”
We wholeheartedly agree.
We need to create a world where young children are aware of the dangers that may cross them. We do not advocate instilling fear in young minds, but sexual assault is serious and should be treated as such.
Every year, there are 207,754 victims of sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Of those victims, 44 percent are under the age of 18, and 80 percent are under the age of 30.
It gets worse, as 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported. Because of this and other factors, 97 percent of perpetrators in the United States never see the jail cell.
For us, the most alarming statistic is that two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
We need to teach our children to speak out and get help for themselves and others who may be victims. We also need to teach them not to become perpetrators themselves.
We tell our kids not to get in cars with strangers, but what will it take for us to sit down in a classroom and educate about rape and other forms of sexual abuse at a younger age? Why don't we teach our children what to do when someone they trust poses harm — or even how to recognize actions that are harmful?
Teaching these kids about sexual abuse and the implications it poses for all parties can and will limit the frequency of such tragedies.
None of this can happen until children learn how to get help.
Fortunately, Oakland University is creating an environment that informs its students about the implications of sexual assault.
Thursday's “Take Back the Night,” — a session on ending violence against women — is just one facet of Oakland's point to end sexual assault. The event, which will be held in at 7 p.m. in the Banquet Rooms, will allow sexually and physically abused victims to share their stories with others and realize they are not alone.
The OU Police Department also serves as a resource on campus, frequently holding Rape Aggression Defense personal training lessons throughout the year to teach women how to fight back.
The NSVRC is right. It's time to talk about it, starting now.
'Darkness to Light' Teaches Adults to Prevent Sexual Abuse in Children
by Wendy Mills
Several local agencies continue community-wide efforts to educate more adults on how to prevent sexual abuse in children. Bivona Child Advocacy Center is one of about a dozen agencies that offers a program to prevent, recognize and react to signs of abuse.
Bivona says since introducing "Darkness to Light," a child sexual abuse prevention program, to Monroe County last May, more than 2,100 people have completed the training program.
"Now they do know what they can do and they do know who to go to and what to say and how to keep kids safe," said Stephanie Szwejbka, Prevention Education & Outreach Specialist.
"That is the mission of Darkness of Light, to take the responsibility off children to protect themselves and put it on adults' shoulders. Any adult that has any interaction with kids, whether it is a parent, whether it is a babysitter or a childcare provider, or even somebody that is a professional in the field," said Stephanie Szwejbka, prevention education and outreach specialist.
The class offers proactive steps to encourage adults who recognize that a child is being sexually abused to then do something about it, like calling Bivona, or the police.
Monroe County Sheriff Investigator Wendy Malsegna specializes in child abuse investigations.
"I look at them like fingerprints and that there are no two cases alike and the dynamics vary from case to case and victim to victim," said Malsegna. "It has given me a heightened awareness that all kids can be victims. I am also a mother of three myself and it has also given me extra awareness for my own family."
Clifton Manns attended the program to learn everything he can to help educate others to resolve child sexual abuse. He's a retired police officer and active member of the Rochester Area Child Abuse Network.
"Our question that we always ask ourselves is, if we do not do it, if we do not protect our children, who will and that is an obligation that we have and we take very serious," said Manns.
Bivona says one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday and 90 percent of sexually abused children know their abusers.
"It is not the stranger in the park, it is not the guy leering at the school yard, it is somebody in their circle of trust, whether it is their coach, an uncle or whether it is a father or mother," said Szwejbka.
Bivona will continue to host Darkness to Light programs each month. For more information, or if you suspect someone of abusing a child, you are encouraged to call Bivona at (585) 935-7800.
Raise awareness, help prevent sexual abuse
Each April, Sexual Assault Victim Services (SAVS), a program of Napa Emergency Women's Services (NEWS), recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This year's motto is: “It's time ... to talk about it! Talk early, talk often. Prevent sexual violence.”
We ask all of Napa County to join the conversation — focus on healthy sexuality and child sexual abuse prevention and start talking about healthy childhood development to prevent child sexual abuse.
Not easy topics to discuss, but national statistics indicate that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
Confronting child abuse must be a priority when the reality is that as many as 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 3 girls will experience a sexual assault before age 18.
Most abusers are adults and 93 percent of survivors know their abusers, who, in many cases, are family members.
Less than 20 percent will ever tell anyone that it happened. In 2012, SAVS provided services for almost 300 survivors throughout Napa County — 147 under age 18.
Please help us end sexual violence toward our children and our adults:
|• Get the facts. Sexual assault is a crime of control, not passion.
• Voice the truth. It is never OK for someone to force sex.
• Confront “rape myths.” Openly disagree with victim-blaming.
• Volunteer. Take the NEWS training to become a sexual assault and domestic violence counselor.
• Join our Coaches Campaign.
If you are a coach of any sport, join coaches throughout Napa County who have taken a stand against sexual assault by signing a pledge saying they have zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse.
NEWS believes that the majority of coaches are trusted adults who share our concern for the protection of children and young adults and they support, mentor, and serve as good role models for their youth.
For more information and to obtain a copy of the pledge, call 707-252-3687 and ask to speak with any SAVS staff member.
Begin this April, and make all year long “the time ... to talk about it.” Judy Durham SAVS program manager, Napa Emergency Women's Services
Lancaster YWCA asks public to write letters to those healing from sexual abuse
by LYNN SCHMIDT
Staff Writer Since April is "the time of year when spring brings with it renewal" and it's designated as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the local YWCA has launched a letter-writing campaign urging the public to submit words of encouragement to those healing from sexual assault and trauma.
"Sexual assaults are grossly underreported," says Kelsey Smoker, a child and adult counselor with the YWCA Lancaster's Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center. Smoker says her most recent statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by age 18.
"We want to show our clients that they are not alone," Smoker explains. "There are other people supporting them along this journey; people they might not even know."
Smoker says any source of encouragement is welcome, be it inspirational quotes, poems or thoughtful words.
"You do not have to be a survivor of sexual assault to write a letter," Smoker says. "Share kind words of encouragement and empowerment to those who are healing from abuse. Any kind thought is appreciated."
The letters will be screened by counselors at the YWCA center and those which are deemed "safe and encouraging" will be placed in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center's waiting room to be read by those who have appointments there.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center staff is emphasizing healthy sexuality and its connection to child sexual abuse prevention. Its campaign this year focuses on encouraging the public to learn what healthy relationships are and talk about them. Find free resources at nsvrc.org
YWCA Lancaster's Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center offers empowerment counseling services to children, adults and families who have survived sexual assault. It has seen more than 800 individuals in the last year, Smoker says. Counselors and trained medical advocates are available. The staff also provides community education through presentations, groups and racial justice initiatives.
Persons interested in writing encouraging messages should send letters to:
SAPCC: Letter Writing Campaign
110 N. Lime St.
Lancaster, PA 17602
Oregon lawmakers target pimps, child sex traffickers
by Christian Gaston
SALEM -- Oregon lawmakers are working to improve the tools that cops and social workers can use to separate pimps from the children they exploit.
It's hard to know exactly how many children are working as prostitutes. But the problem is real, says Glen "J.R." Ujifusa, who prosecutes sex trafficking cases in Portland. Ujifusa said at least 80 children are victims of sex trafficking each year in Multnomah County alone.
More than 20 bills amending state laws related to sex trafficking have been introduced this legislative session. It's too early to know which bills, if any, will advance given a lack of state resources. And the complex world of sex trafficking is a difficult one to legislate without unintended consequences.
Senate Bill 673 and House Bill 2019 would let prosecutors use racketeering laws to break up a pimp's "business" and create a new crime of "patronizing a trafficked child." Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose
, is co-sponsoring the Senate bill, which will get a public hearing Tuesday, with Sen. Betsy Close, R-Albany
"This is a very tough, bipartisan bill to make it the policy of the state of Oregon to go after sex trafficking," Johnson said.
Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie
, a social worker herself, is sponsoring the House version of the legislation, which received a hearing Monday.
"I've worked with kids in this age group. Our intention with all these kids is to get them out of this life of prostitution," Tomei said.
Other bills would increase the term of post-prison supervision for convicted pimps and allow police to arrest pimps for attempting to sell a child for sex.
But in the complex world of child prostitution, where victims are used to recruit new victims and pimps direct their charges from prison, any tweak to the law can create unintended consequences.
Take House Bill 2431, for example. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis
, would prevent courts from finding children charged with prostitution guilty.
"If you are a 14-year-old and a 40-year-old has come and bought sex from you, I do not believe you are a criminal," Gelser said. "I think you're a victim of a sex crime."
But Ujifusa, the Multnomah County deputy district attorney, worries that the legislation could create a catch-and-release scenario where cops have a harder time separating kids from their pimps. Often, those children plead with police to hold them captive so that their pimps can't get to them, he said.
"They say to us that they need to be held, and their cell phones taken away until they can feel safe that their trafficker is behind bars," Ujifusa said, at a February hearing.
Gelser's working on amendments to her bill to address Ujifusa's concerns. Miriam Green, who oversees Multnomah County's child abuse program, said that technical issues aside, Gelser's bill is a good start.
"If you want to change the conversation, that's a place to start changing the conversation," Green said. "So that the public and the parent or whomever see these kids as the victims that they are and not blaming them."
Jamie Broadbent, who supervises a small unit of social workers in Multnomah County that specializes in child prostitution cases, said her team actively tracks about 60 exploited children at any given time.
Broadbent's caseworkers try to build strong relationships with the kids in order to create a barrier between victim and exploiter.
Broadbent said that changes to Oregon law that gets more pimps away from their victims could help her team of social workers break through.
"I think that anything that intervenes or creates a barrier for the exploiter – the more window we have to work with a child," Broadbent said.
Human-trafficking survivor shares story of freedom
by Jessica Troike
FULTON, MO -- 12.3 Million. That's the number of victims of human trafficking worldwide.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims are usually sexually exploited by force, coercion, or fraud.
Many people are trapped by traffickers by the promise of a good job in another country, a false marriage proposal, being sold into the sex trade by others, or being kidnapped, according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Nine years ago, 20-year-old Sula Skiles was a Lincoln University student with a promising future in modeling. Little did she know she would become a victim and eventual survivor of human trafficking.
Skiles signed with a modeling agency in California, where she attended several events and parties with other models. It was there she met the billionaire that promised her a modeling job overseas.
"I was this young, ambitious, naive model given this opportunity to go to another country for this modeling job...everything checked out that it would be legit. I looked online, researched everything, I was just really excited but I was only given a one-way ticket, and that should have been a red flag for me," said Skiles, a motivational speaker, minister, and sex trafficking abolitionist.
She had had no idea that for the next three weeks she would be subjected to human trafficking. The billionaire she thought she'd be working with for a modeling job purchased her as a gift for himself and his girlfriend's pleasure.
She was an object and a prisoner at the billionaire's estate overseas, and eventually back here in the United States.
"Throughout the time of being there and meeting this girlfriend and all of that, I was able to convince her that I would stay with her and that's how I was eventually able to get a ticket to go home," Skiles said.
Sula shared her story with 200 William Woods University students tonight and is a motivational speaker for groups across the country.
"If I would have known that something like this existed, I absolutely know within my heart that I would have made different decisions. Awareness is so powerful. As traumatic and as overwhelming as the topic of sex trafficking is, it's important to know how it affects us here even as Americans, it's not just overseas."
Though many victims don't find a happy ending, Sula Skiles is a survivor, and has made peace with her experience. Her story is one of freedom, and she is now happily married with a daughter and a baby boy on the way.
To learn more about Sula, go to her website at www.sulaskiles.com
For more information about human trafficking, you may visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking
The number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is 1-888-3737-888.
Lawmakers tackling human trafficking in Bakken
by Kathryn Haake
HELENA — Montana lawmakers are looking at ways to prevent and punish human trafficking in response to reports of increased prostitution in eastern Montana communities teeming with people who have come to find work in the Bakken oil boom.
There are four bills being considered this legislative session. So far, they have received widespread support in a male-dominated Legislature, said Sen. Elsie Arntzen, one bill sponsor.
“This was not a laughing matter. It was not a barroom look of how our Wild West used to be,” Arntzen said. “This is something that my colleagues took serious. And that's incredible.”
While some prostitution cases may hint at human trafficking, there is no actual proof that trafficking is a problem in Montana, said a second bill sponsor, Rep. Sarah Laszloffy, R-Laurel. But without the language on the books to correctly identify cases as human trafficking, victims are left without access to help and authorities without the tools needed to track it, she said.
One concern is that law enforcement may be missing the signs and mistakenly charging victims of trafficking with prostitution, said a third sponsor, Rep. Jenifer Gursky, D-Missoula. Human trafficking is a form of slavery that happens when a victim, either an adult or a child, is coerced, deceived or forced into labor — sometimes prostitution, sometimes other forced labor.
Montana is one of the “faltering four” states — along with Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming — that has not passed adequate legislation to assist victims and end the crime, according to Polaris, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.
The group has identified 10 categories of law it says are critical to ending human trafficking. Montana already has laws in two of these categories, including broad human-trafficking and labor-trafficking statutes.
The proposals now being considered include a measure to seize a perpetrator's property, one to post a human-trafficking hotline in truck stops and a third that would allow victims to have a prostitution conviction vacated if they were wrongly charged.
The fourth bill would provide approximately $250,000 for training, counseling and education programs in communities affected by the oil boom.
Laszloffy's measure, House Bill 478, aims to prevent the trafficking of minors. Penalties for the trafficking of minors are steep in current law — up to 100 years in prison for the perpetrator — but Laszloffy proposes adding a property-seizure clause and changing the definition of a minor from 12 to 18 years old.
“We really wanted to focus on children and making that its own individual offense,” Laszloffy said. Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, is also zeroing in on child sex trafficking in the eastern part of the state.
He says a bill in the works aimed at dealing with impacts of the Bakken boom, such as demands on infrastructure, is going to be modified to include $250,000 for human-trafficking education for parents and children in those communities. Ankney said the funds he expects to be included in House Bill 218 would also assist law enforcement training and counseling for victims of human trafficking.
It is to hit the House floor this week and Ankney said it's likely to pass.
But child sex trafficking is only part of the issue.
Other bill sponsors say their proposals would support adult victims, too, such as Gursky's House Bill 488 to post the number of a human trafficking hotline on truck-stop bathroom walls.
Senate Bill 259, sponsored by Arntzen, would give trafficked victims a clean slate by allowing a court to vacate a prostitution conviction if significant evidence of human trafficking is present, while making the records that led to that conviction confidential.
Victims must be allowed to move forward with their lives and find employment without having a prostitution charge show up on their background report, the Billings Republican said.
Arntzen is hopeful this Legislature will create proper legislation to advocate for victims of human trafficking, while creating a way for authorities to track trafficking in Montana.
Senate Bill 259 cleared the Senate and the House. House Bill 478 passed the House Floor, has been endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will now need the approval of the Senate floor. House Bill 488 passed the House is under consideration of the House Business and Labor Committee.
Studies: Disproportionate number of black children wind up in L.A. foster care
by Ben Baeder
Eight out of every 100 children in Los Angeles County are black. And 29 out of every 100 children in foster care are black.
That jump in proportion, which is common statewide, is one of the most controversial discussions in the child welfare community.
And when black children go into foster care, they get stuck there 50 percent longer than children of other races.
During the 2000s, social work experts suspected that institutional bias and racism by social workers caused the high proportion of black children in foster care.
Leaders in the social work community made that assumption based on decades-old data that showed that black children were abused and maltreated at the same rate as children of other ethnic classifications.
County child protection agencies across the United States concentrated on training their workers to be racially sensitive.
But new studies show that black children die and are mistreated by family members more often than other kids. And instead of rooting out alleged racism, the county now faces a more nuanced and difficult task - getting into black neighborhoods and finding out how to best help children who are mistreated.
"There was no smoking gun," said Armand Montiel, who started as a frontline social worker and now is in charge of public affairs for the county's Department of Children and Family Services.
"It almost would have been easier to solve this if racism or bias were the case," he said. "We could target that with training or by weeding out workers who were biased. But that's not the case. It's much more complex. "
The county the last few years has ramped up its efforts to take a serious look at why so many black children end up in foster care.
But if racism is a factor, then the racism would come from a staff made up mostly of ethnic minorities.
The number of black children in foster care is almost identical to the percentage of black social workers.
Of the 3,179 county social workers who make up the county's front-line staff, 907 are black. The largest number of social workers, 1,390, are Hispanic. About 590 are white. Some 280 are Asian or Filipino. And 10 are American Indian. Interested in becoming a Foster Parent for Los Angeles County? Information is available by calling the Los Angeles County Resource Parent Recruitment line at 1-888-811-1121
A grim picture
By almost every measure, black children in Los Angeles County, and California as a whole, are at far higher risk than other children.
They are more likely to die than other children, and on average, they have more identifiable risk factors than children of other ethnic groups, according to recent data from researchers and county reports.
Of the 350 to 400 of all children who die suspiciously of suspected abuse or neglect in Los Angeles County each year, 20-25 percent are black, according to the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury report released last June. That's far higher than their 8-percent share of the child population.
Very few of those deaths take place while children are placed in foster homes, according to county statistics. In fact, 90 percent of the deaths of children who have had contact with the county's Department of Children and Family Services die when they are living with their birth families, according to the Grand Jury report.
A look at neighborhood data shows that one Los Angeles County area stands out for its high child mortality rate - South Los Angeles.
The 2009 death rate for children in South Los Angeles neighborhoods was 23.3 per 100,000 children, according to the most recent statistics available from the Los Angeles Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Most of the rest of the county had a rate that averages about 15 deaths per 100,000.
On a national scale, the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect released in 2011 found that children in black families are mistreated at a rate about 1.7 times the national average.
"In nearly all cases, the rates of maltreatment for black children were significantly higher than those for white and Hispanic children," the study found.
With all those risks at home, it's no wonder that so many black children end up in foster care, experts say.
Those statistics match research findings that show a strong correlation between poverty and child maltreatment.
If there's any hope in making a dent in the number of black children in foster care, it can be found in new research that shows exactly what types of families are most at risk for having a child in need of protection, experts say.
Starting in 2011, USC researcher Emily Putnam-Hornstein and her mentor, Barbara Needell, took a novel approach to characterizing the situations that end up with a child getting reported for maltreatment in California.
They took birth records and compared them to reports from the state's child protection agencies.
They came to a telling conclusion: Based on risk factors, they could almost predict which babies would be reported to child protective services before they turned five.
Things such as low birth weight, low income, a young mother, low education, and no father listed on a birth certificate were predictors of the child being reported to a child protection agency.
Putnam-Hornstein found that black babies were twice as likely to have a low birth weight than the rest of the children born during the study period. One out of five black children had no father listed on the birth certificate, a ratio almost four times higher than white children.
Further studies found that California residents probably weren't singling out black families and reporting them to child protective services.
In fact, when controlling for poverty, black children were less likely to be reported for child maltreatment than children of other races.
Putnam-Hornstein found that building racial sensitivity among social workers probably wouldn't cause a serious reduction in the number of black children in foster care.
"Our findings suggest that although working to address... biases is in no way inappropriate, in isolation, these efforts are unlikely to achieve the desired effects," she said.
Other studies show that black families use corporal punishment about 10 percent more often than parents from other ethnic groups.
Former foster child Marcellia Goodrich said she and other black foster youth were disciplined very severely in their birth homes. She was raised in South Los Angeles and now lives in Long Beach. She spent much of her childhood in foster care.
"I've been hit with a switch, a telephone, an extension cord," said Goodrich, 22.
Goodrich's childhood also had another risk factor, the lack of a father. Her father left when she was a baby and is now in prison, she said.
National data show that about 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock compared to a rate of about 40 percent for the general population.
Black men are also 5.8 times more likely than white men to be in prison or jail, according to national justice statistics.
The leading voice for studying ways to reduce the proportion of black children in foster care is Dorothy Roberts, a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor who wrote the 2002 book "Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare. "
She was one of a host of child-welfare experts who during most of the 2000s believed that institutional racism was the leading cause of the high number of black children in foster care, an argument that has lost steam the last few years in the face of new data.
Roberts and her colleagues cited a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study of children ages 5-15 who were taken from their parents on marginal circumstances of neglect. The study shows that older children in marginal cases placed in foster care had poorer outcomes than children who are left home. In other words, foster care in some cases worsened a child's circumstances.
Roberts and others have said counties should heed the results of those findings and do a better job of working with black families to keep children in their birth homes.
"They assume that taking a child away from his or her family is better than leaving the children home," she said. "That assumption is made the most often about black families. "
Roberts says the issue is so complex that some in the social welfare world are tired of talking about it.
But Roberts maintains that the proportion of black children in foster care is important to discuss.
"When I started working on this subject, it had been how long, 20 or 30 years, since somebody had taken a serious look at this," she said. "My work was really a call for more research. "
The issue should be of concern, she said.
"If we saw these same numbers with white children, there's no way that society would find it acceptable," she said.
Other researchers say the last 10 years of efforts to target alleged racism were misguided and a waste of time.
Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Bartholet is generally considered the main critic of the "racism" argument.
"The bottom line is that there is absolutely no evidence of system bias," Bartholet said. "What we do have is overwhelming evidence that there are higher black maltreatment rates. "
Worry about children first
Foster parents say race is too important in social work and that social workers should start worrying about children more than race.
Foster parent Cynthia Bradbury said a Los Angeles County social worker last year overtly talked about race when it came to Bradbury's foster son, Xander, 2, who is black. It was clear the worker did not want her to adopt Xander, she said.
Xander has a congenital heart defect that will kill him without a heart transplant.
Bradbury is a registered nurse, and she's white.
"She said he needed to be with a black family," Bradbury said of the social worker, who was black. "She asked: 'What are you going to do when you have an African-American teenager standing in front of you?' And I said would do the same thing I did with my own teenage son. "
Throughout Xander's case the social worker brought up race, Bradbury said. Bradbury said she felt like she was being harassed.
In a separate foster care case years ago, an 8-month-old girl was removed from Bradbury's home by Orange County social workers because another couple wanted a white baby.
"I loved that little baby, and I wanted to adopt her, but they took her anyway," Bradbury said.
County officials said race-based decisions are not allowed and that they would look into Bradbury's case.
On the other hand, there aren't many white and Latino couples knocking down doors to adopt black children out of foster care, said Johnston Moore of Long Beach.
Moore and his wife Terri are about to adopt their seventh child from Los Angeles' foster care system.
"When it's a cute little baby from Ethiopia, there are scores of families willing to adopt," Moore said. "But if it's a traumatized 7-year-old boy from Compton, everybody runs the other way. "
Issues of race and foster care need to be discussed, otherwise they will fester while policy makers focus on less-important topics, Moore said.
"There are some elephants in the room, but a lot of people don't want to talk about them," he said.
One of the main reason so many black children are in foster care is the length of time they stay in foster care.
County statistics show that black youth stay in foster care 50 percent longer than children of all other ethnic groups. In Los Angeles County, the average foster care case lasts about a year and a half. But for black children, it lasts more than two years.
This month, the county unveiled a 46-page study of why black children linger in the system so long.
The report called into question all the practices of the Department of Children and Family Services, including asking hard questions about the department's commitment in some of the county's poorest neighborhoods.
Among other things, the study found: - The office that serves South Los Angeles is 7 to 10 miles away from the neighborhood it serves and has no free parking.
|- The social workers that serve black communities tend to transfer to other offices after about a year, handing off all their cases to transitional workers.
- Case loads are highest in the neighborhoods that need the most service.
- Services offered to help families reunify with their children are applied unevenly, if at all.
The report said the department needs to put an office in South Los Angeles and to evaluate whether social workers are simply checking off lists or actually trying to help parents change enough to get their children back. It asked the county to find a way to keep social workers in the same offices so families have continuity of service.
It also called for "racial humility" classes to help social workers become more understanding of black families.
DCFS spokesman Armand Montiel said county executives for years have been concerned about the rate of black children in foster care. The county has a 5-year-old taskforce charged with finding out how best to help the black children and families served by DCFS.
The department is planning to implement many of the changes suggested in the report.
"I think it's easy for us to say that this is a social welfare problem, or this is a law enforcement problem, or this is an economic problem and that we don't really have the power to change it," Montiel said. "Yet there's pressure on us, both internally or externally. We want to respond to that pressure. If we have to swim upstream, so be it. We're not content to leave things how they are. "
The county report echoes a state audit released in 2012.
The state audit found that DCFS offices in neighborhoods with the most black residents have higher rates of incomplete investigations and staff turnover.
For instance, the rate of incomplete investigations in offices that serve the South Los Angeles neighborhoods was three times higher than the department average.
Workers in those offices more often asked to get transferred or ended up quitting, according to the audit.
The state found that about 29 percent of social workers in the Compton DCFS office had less than two years of experience.
Poverty at the root
Researcher Brett Drake of Washington University in St. Louis' school of social work said that poverty is the strongest factor correlated with foster care.
Blacks in the United States typically live in concentrated pockets of "crushing poverty" that whites generally don't experience, he said. When researchers control for poverty, the child maltreatment differences between white and black families disappear.
Black households earn three times less than their white counterparts, and a comparison of assets is even more disparate, Drake said. Race matters far less than economic status, he said.
Drake is skeptical of the movement to address the problem through racial-sensitivity classes.
Racism may be a tiny problem, but it's not nearly as destructive as poverty, he said.
Counties should focus on trying to find out exactly why black families are faring poorly in poverty-stricken black areas. And the battle, he said, starts with trying to make sure that black children don't grow up in extreme poverty.
"Blaming it all on bias is really the coward's way out," he said.
Toni Oliver, the vice president for the National Association of Black Social Workers, said big-city social welfare agencies across the country have got to take a serious look at why so many black children are going into foster care and staying in foster care so long.
Some states, such as Texas, have made strides to make systemic reforms across different levels of the government, she said.
Oliver hoped researchers and welfare executives would set aside their philosophical differences and try to find ways to assist black children and their families.
Children should not have to grow up in foster care, she said.
"We cannot accept things the way they are right now - we just can't," she said. "This has got to stay constructive. It's just that when you start talking about race, everybody starts choosing sides. "
Since science helps researchers know what children are likely to be reported for abuse or neglect, Putnam-Hornstein posited that the government should seriously consider identifying young mothers with high risk factors and then give intense government services to help stabilize those same mothers. A change in the way at-risk mothers are treated might help families of all races and ethnicities, she said.
"It's not really clear to me that we are doing everything we can to target these families that have higher risk," she said. Interested in becoming a Foster Parent for Los Angeles County? Information is available by calling the Los Angeles County Resource Parent Recruitment line at 1-888-811-1121
Avoiding Another Penn St.
by Mike Wise
Hours before the NCAA men's basketball tournament's first play-in game, three retired professional athletes walked through the doors of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for the country's most important sporting event.
One, a Hall of Fame ex-Baltimore Oriole, had an idyllic childhood. The other two men, who used to play in the NFL and the NHL, went through hell, unable to admit for years the sexual abuse they suffered as kids.
Cal Ripken Jr., Joe Ehrmann and Sheldon Kennedy played different sports. Their careers were as different as their demeanors and speech. But their cause was singular as they grabbed the microphone and spoke to the heads of Pop Warner, USA Swimming, the Boys and Girls Clubs and 50 other youth organizations.
“Basically, we're all committed to make sure more kids don't suffer,” said Ehrmann, a towering, gruff, white-haired former defensive lineman who played for the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions in the 1970s and early 1980s.
In the coming days, a document intended by its authors to be the “gold standard” for helping prevent childhood sexual abuse will be made available at safetocompete.org. The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the children's center that hosted the two-day event in Alexandria, Va., are urging every youth sports organization to adopt a set of guidelines. The goal is to enlighten both kids who play sports and their parents, to empower the bystander who sees something wrong and to better expose the sick people who prey on children.
The committee that assembled the guidelines benefited from the input of pediatricians, law-enforcement officials, advocates for better background checks of coaches and volunteers, and a team of international sports scientists. It also had the personal anecdotes of survivors such as Ehrmann and Kennedy, and the social conscience of Ripken.
“After this, I think every parent of a youth sports player in America today ought to be able to go to any coach and say, ‘What's different since Penn State? What have you put in place that makes my child safer and better protected?' ” Ehrmann said. “And I think if we can create that kind of social agitation that would really force a tremendous amount of organizations and coaches to implement it, (we've succeeded) in helping some of those kids.”
This was a disturbing — but even more necessary — meeting of minds.
An FBI survey of incarcerated pedophiles, we were told at Tuesday's session, revealed they committed on average 150 acts of molestation. Some of the literature found in the homes of arrested pedophiles included nearly 200-page guides on how to groom boys for sexual abuse, naming specific coaching and volunteer jobs in which they had a better chance of not getting caught. “It doesn't matter how or where you want to find children, but sad and lonely children are the children you want to look for,” stated one of the directives, available online to pedophiles. There were interviews with convicted child sexual predators about the demented rationalization they use to “help” kids through a rough time.
Horrifying but true: People of Jerry Sandusky's ilk actually network better than some of the people entrusted to stop them.
Ehrmann's and Kennedy's stories resonated the most because they were about the cure: coming forward. They showed a courage that had nothing to do with the shake-it-off, don't-show-weakness worlds of football and hockey they played in.
For decades, Ehrmann, 63, locked away the image of two men sexually assaulting him at age 12. But after adult survivors of sexual abuse from Sandusky's Second Mile charity came forward to confront their abuser, Ehrmann said, it “re-traumatized me in a very profound way.”
“I admire, in Penn State, the amount of courage that it took for those young men to stand up publicly, to speak out,” he said. “It really confronted my own lack of courage that I wish I had revealed so much earlier.
“Most men don't report until a minimum of five years. It's very difficult. It's tied into your masculinity. It's tied into your whole self-concept, this concept of shame that somehow I'm deeply flawed. I'm unworthy of love, connection. And so what you do is hide that. So what I did, as many men do, I built a facade. I trained people to see me as this tough-guy athlete.”
Kennedy, 43, a former Canadian hockey pro, saw the youth coach who abused him more than 300 times on television with other kids 17 years ago while Kennedy was playing for the Calgary Flames. He couldn't take it any longer.
“None of the other adults at the time were doing anything about it,” he said. “I knew I'd never be the dad I wanted to be unless I dealt with it.”
Graham James, the coach once celebrated as The Hockey News' Man of the Year, was eventually sentenced to five years. Kennedy battled cocaine addiction and many other demons before writing the book Why I Didn't Say Anything two years ago.
“The shame and the guilt that's exemplified in sport culture,” he explained. “We've been taught our whole lives to be tough, strong and, you know, never surrender, and to be able to show weakness, especially to that extreme, is so shaming that people have a hard time with that. That's why we have a lot of kids killing themselves.”
Ripken was fortunate to never have the same experience. But he and the foundation named for his late father knew, after what happened at Penn State, that they wanted to act. “It's a sadness that comes over,” Ripken said. “There's a victimization that I can't fathom. You know, kids are very fragile. And your responsibility as a parent is to bring them along and protect them.”
After Kennedy spoke to the full conference room, he stepped away from the microphone and breathed deeply. Then he expressed how important it was that he came forward. He said the fear of being ostracized if he ever told was quickly put to rest. Among the 250,000 letters he received of support afterward, many of which came from men who were sexually abused as boys, was a note from a veteran of the U.S. Army.
“He sent me his Purple Heart,” Kennedy said. “He wrote, ‘You deserve this.' ”
Connecting dots on child abuse to save lives
The Washington Post KAYDENCE LEWINSKI, 5 months old, shaken and beaten to death; Angela Palmer, 4, burned to death; Brianna Blackmond, 23 months, beaten to death; Samuel and Solomon Simms, 6-year-old twins, strangled; Jaydon Hoberg, 17 months, raped and beaten to death; Chandler Grafner, 7, starved to death; Prince McLeod Rams, 15 months, drowned.
These horrific cases from different times and different parts of the country, like hundreds of other incidents each year in which children die as the result of abuse and neglect, attracted attention. Grisly details of the children's deaths generated headlines and sometimes action — a person arrested, a case worker blamed, an agency director fired, a local law changed.
What has been lacking is a systematic examination of policies and processes or the development of a comprehensive strategy to prevent such deaths. That may change with establishment of a national commission that will evaluate prevention and intervention efforts and recommend how federal, state and local agencies can strengthen protections for children and vulnerable families.
The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is the result of legislation, the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012, that got broad, bipartisan support in the House, passed the Senate unanimously and was signed by the president on Jan. 14. The commission will consist of 12 members, six to be named by the president and six to come from Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate. Members are expected to be named next month.
It comes none too soon. Even as the overall rate of child abuse has declined, there's been virtually no decline in the rate of child abuse fatalities. Experts estimate that more than 2,000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, with nearly 82percent of the victims under the age of 4. The Every Child Matters education fund points out the 15,510 children known to have died between 2001 and 2010 is about 2½ times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, these numbers are underreported because there is no national standard for reporting.
Improving the collection of data, a key to devising better solutions, is among the commission's missions, along with studying best practices and examining demographic and risk factors that may predict maltreatment. The commission will take a broad, multidisciplinary approach that will allow it to discuss and recommend ideas across boundaries that may normally limit such efforts — such as the lines between federal and state government, courts and child welfare agencies and health-care providers and law enforcement. We hope the commission takes a look at how confidentiality laws intended to protect children are perverted to thwart scrutiny.
Commissions always run the risk of producing expensive and ignored reports, but Congress structured this one to improve its chances for success. It must complete a report by a specific deadline, and federal agencies are required to respond to recommendations within six months. Political leaders will then need to follow up.
National Symposium on Child Abuse: New Research, More Teamwork More Than 26,000 Child Abuse Victims Served in TX Last Year
by John Michaelson, Texas News Service
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Professionals in child-abuse investigation and treatment, including some from Texas, are meeting this week in Alabama for the National Symposium on Child Abuse.
The conference features discussions on the latest research on a variety of topics - including, said Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Centers, a holistic approach to care - all under one roof.
"Child abuse, especially child sexual abuse, is not just a criminal justice issue, not just a Child Protective Services issue," Newlin said. "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 said his organization is seeing a troubling trend - an increase in child neglect across the nation. In Texas, Children's Advocacy Centers served more than 26,000 children last year. More than two-thirds of them reported sexual abuse, with the alleged perpetrator most often related to or known to the child.
There are 850 Children's Advocacy Centers nationwide. They also provide child abuse prevention training to more than a half-million people a year. Newlin said the child-friendly setting and team strategy have paid off for county and state budgets - and for individual families.
"Utilizing the CAC approach, we have better outcomes and we save more than $1,000 per case," he said. "Just by utilizing this model that's more effective, we saved our nation a combined $270 million."
Newlin said the symposium has attracted people from every state and from other countries interested in adopting a CAC system.
More information is online at nationalchildrensalliance.org
Highly sexualised society to blame for big rise in sex abuse and sex behaviour reports at South Australia schools
by Education Editor Sheradyn Holderhead
SERIOUS incidents of a sexual nature reported in South Australian public schools have risen almost 60 per cent in three years, which a child protection expert blames on our highly sexualised society.
Education Department figures out Tuesday show that last year there were 155 incidents of a sexual nature reported - 47 for sexual abuse and 115 for sexual behaviour. Seven incidents appeared under both categories.
In 2011 there were 134 reported incidents of a sexual nature, up from 97 in 2010.
Last year in total there were 2622 "critical incidents", which include violence, bullying and drugs. This was an increase of 93 on the 2529 reports made in 2011.
UniSA child protection expert emeritus professor Freda Briggs said teachers and other workers were often poorly trained to deal with child sexual behaviour and abuse.
"Early-childhood students only get one 50-minute lecture when we used to have a whole semester on child protection," she said.
"A lot of this is because either these children are being sexually abused themselves and repeating what they learn or being exposed to so much pornography. We are living in a highly sexualised society.
"Children will be demanding oral sex usually in the school toilets (which) presents a problem for schools because it's hard to police without adults being accused of perving."
A department spokeswoman said the data included observations, allegations, reports or concerns and did not take into account whether reports were substantiated.
The spokeswoman said there were five reports of adult-to-child sexual abuse on school grounds - all were investigated and charges were only laid relating to one report.
Reports of intruders declined from 106 in 2011 to 82 last year and verbal abuse decreased from 680 in 2011 to 563 last year.
Education Minister Jennifer Rankine said the State Government and private education sectors developed guidelines on responding to problem sexual behaviour in children in 2010.
"A key focus is how young people and their families can access appropriate counselling and therapeutic services," she said.
"Understanding and using the guidelines is incorporated in the mandatory child protection training that all new education and children's services staff undertake. Existing staff undertake the training on a three-yearly basis."
Highest reported occurring incidents in 2012:
Verbal abuse: 563
Nonprofits ask for help in fight against child abuse
Businesses have opportunity to support awareness campaign
by Savannah King
Four community nonprofits are looking to local businesses for help during National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
During April, The Children's Center for Hope and Healing, Family TIES, the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children and CASA Hall-Dawson are encouraging area businesses to help raise awareness about child abuse and to get involved in the Blue Ribbon Campaign.
Local businesses can join the effort by agreeing to sell paper blue ribbons, the symbol of child abuse awareness, for $1.
Each blue ribbon has room for the purchaser to sign his or her name.
The ribbons can be displayed in a prominent place.
Businesses can also participate in a Casual for a Cause, Blue Jeans Day fundraiser for the campaign. Companies can get involved by encouraging employees to dress down one day in exchange for a $5 donation.
There is no cost to businesses who wish to participate. All of the money raised through the campaign will be split between the four nonprofits to help prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect and increase awareness within the community.
Dee Dee Mize, executive director of Families TIES, said the campaign's goal is to let people in Hall County know what is happening to children and to show the community what services are available to victims.
She said the resources offered by the organizations are free to families and rely on community fundraising efforts to operate.
“We want to bring awareness to the community about what we're doing in Hall County and make a difference,” Mize said. “I think what it boils down to is that we want (child abuse) to go away and not be a part of our community or culture anymore.”
In 2012, the Children's Center for Hope and Healing offered counseling to 1,500 victims of sexual abuse from its 13-county district.
“There are more survivors of child sexual abuse than there are of cancer,” said Emily McMath, director of finance and development of the Children's Center for Hope and Healing.
“People just aren't aware of how it affects every socioeconomic status right here in Hall County.”
McMath said the biggest hope for the campaign is that it raises awareness and provides an opportunity for people to talk about abuse.
She said talking about abuse helps victims heal and could prevent abuse from occurring.
“It is something that people don't want to talk about,” McMath said.
“If it happened in their family, oftentimes there is a shame involved and we want people to talk about it because it helps them heal.”