Why are rape charges missing in child sex abuse cases?
Lawyers eyeing liability of abortion providers who don't call police
by Jack Minor
In what has been called the worst child sex abuse scandal in American history, the abortion industry could soon find itself beleaguered by multiple lawsuits from trial lawyers representing hundreds of thousands of victims of statutory rape.
“The abortion lobby is engaged in a pedophile protection racket and protecting pedophiles who rape underage girls,” Mark Crutcher, founder of Life Dynamics, said. “These abortion clinics receive money from the federal government. We are literally paying for the rape of our young daughters.”
Life Dynamics conducted extensive research into why 60-80 percent of teen pregnancies were the result of being impregnated by an adult.
“We realized that something had to have accounted for how this occurred beneath the radar to the point where no one except those who study it would know about it,” he explained. “The only way this could happen is if the institutions and the entities out there who should be reporting this were not doing so. We talked to people we knew in the medical community who worked in environments where they would have access to children or worked in the emergency room hospitals and started asking them about it.”
He said they quickly discovered the problem was not in the hospitals, but in the vast numbers of abortion clinics around the country where employees and managers were ignoring state laws mandating they report instances of possible child abuse to law-enforcement.
“When we began to investigate we found it was even worse than we thought it was. Initially we thought perhaps the abortion clinics were only reporting half of the incidents, but instead we found that they were reporting hardly any of them.”
As part of the investigation, worked on over an extended time period, the organization conducted an undercover operation where they called every Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Federation facility in the country. The caller told abortion workers she was a 13-year-old child who had become pregnant by a 22-year-old man and wanted to have an abortion while concealing the relationship from her parents and authorities.
The investigation revealed that over 90 percent of the clinics ignored mandatory reporting laws and many actually helped the caller avoid various state laws including parental notification in order to prevent them from having to report the incident to law-enforcement authorities.
The documentation of the report as well as the audio recordings are available to the public.
In a call to a Dallas clinic the caller asked if anybody would have to know about her adult boyfriend. The worker advised her to not talk about him, saying, “We don't even want to know about him, because technically we would have to report him to the cops. Just like I said, that's statutory rape.”
Incredibly, at one clinic in Fort Worth, the worker helped advise the young girl that she could bring in anybody and tell them at the clinic he was her father to get around the state's parental notification laws.
“Even if he was older, we have to see their driver's license and we can't prove if they're not your mom or dad. They just have to swear on an affidavit here in our office that says they are your parent,” she said. “I mean, you know, I'm not even supposed to be telling you this, but there's no way that I can know for a fact that who you bring in here is not your mom or dad.”
The following day the girl called back and talked to the same worker. She said, “I was talking to my boyfriend and I told him what you said about getting someone to come in that was old enough to be my dad.”
The worker responded, “Yes, yes, yes.”
She continued, “Well, he's got an uncle who is 50 who said he would do it.” Despite the underage girl saying she was going to lie at the clinic, the abortion worker had no problem with that.
“Well as long as he doesn't tell me he's not your father, then we're all right.”
In Colorado, rather than be concerned about a young girl possibly being sexually abused, the abortion worker stopped her when she mentioned her boyfriend was an adult, saying, “Oh, Okay. Let me stop you right there because if you tell me anything else, I have to call the police, because you're 13 and your partner's 22.”
“That's against the law. I have to report it by law. So I don't want to know your name or anything about you if you don't want me calling the police. So what you need to do is you need to call completely anonymously and, umm, you know, talk to someone on our appointment line. And you don't tell us anything about who your partner is, okay?”
When she expressed concern her boyfriend might get in trouble and asked if the worker would turn him in, she was told not to worry.
“No I won't, but maybe when you go to the doctor you shouldn't tell him how old your boyfriend is. I think it would be better just, you know, maybe have a girlfriend come with you and tell them your boyfriend is 16 or something because he could get in a lot of trouble.”
Crutcher said this should outrage any parent who has a young daughter.
“You have to remember what's happening right there,” he said. “You have an adult in a state talking to what they perceived to be a 13-year-old child who was a victim of sexual abuse by an older man and telling that child to lie about his age in order to conceal the crime. If you're a parent, especially if a father and you're not outraged then you don't have a pulse.”
Following the investigation, Life Dynamics realized they had uncovered a scandal that has the potential to dwarf the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
“Nobody is arguing that there's anything more than a handful of priests relatively speaking and yet the Catholic Church has already paid in excess of $3 billion,” Crutcher said. “However, what is happening with the abortion providers in this country is the greatest conspiracy in American history. Every abortionist in this country could end up in a state penitentiary if this thing were pursued.”
In addition to calling for authorities to investigate the illegal acts in the tapes, Life Dynamics produced a DVD and contacted over 53,000 trial lawyers across the country educating them about what Crutcher calls a pedophile protection racket by the abortion clinics.
Crutcher noted that under state mandatory reporting laws, when an underage girl seeks any type of service from abortion facilities she is providing evidence she is sexually active. While it is unclear who the activity is with, since she is legally not old enough to provide consent for sexual activity, the evidence meets the threshold for child sexual abuse and mandatory reporting laws apply to the abortion worker.
He goes on to say that it is not the job of workers of the abortion clinic to decide if a crime has been committed or not.
“If a person comes into an emergency room with a gunshot wound and tells the doctor and staff not to call the police because he just shot himself accidentally, no one would think of not reporting it,” he said. “This is no different. It may be no crime has been committed, but that is for law-enforcement to determine, not the abortion workers who are not trained investigators.”
According to Crutcher, many of the attorneys they contacted agreed with him that large numbers of young girls are being harmed and there is a real need to help families with litigation against abortion providers who have essentially covered up child rape by refusing to abide by mandatory reporting laws.
“The phones are ringing off the hook,” Crutcher said.
Paul Samakow, a personal injury attorney in the Washington, D.C., area, who also practices in northern Virginia and Maryland, said when he first heard about the evidence presented by Life Dynamics, he was shocked at the extent of the problem and it left him “breathless.”
“Over the years I have handled a few sexual abuse cases, but never any cases involving minors,” Samakow told WND. “The concept presented to me through this DVD by Life Dynamics leaves you breathless. Of course, we are all aware that sexual abuse occurs in minors and young women, but I had no idea the problem was this prevalent.”
Samakow has been practicing since 1980 and has won victories against groups including the nursing home industry for abusive practices. He is also a featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio. He is planning on reaching out with advertisements to the Hispanic community in the area, where he is well known.
While some may think that Samakow's pursuit of the abortion industry is part of a political agenda to outlaw abortion, he says the abortion debate has nothing to do with this issue at all.
“To me this has nothing to do with the political or religious discussion regarding abortion,” Samakow explained. “The law says they must report and their failure to do so can lead to situations where the underage girl will suffer psychological and emotional damage as well as dependency on others, failed relationships and the likelihood of not completing school or potentially turning to prostitution. There's a laundry list of bad things that could happen that could be prevented if the incident were properly reported to authorities like the law mandates.”
He continued, “There is a need to help the families. I'm not saying there was abuse in every case. If a teenager was impregnated by another teenager that might not be abuse, but it is statutory rape. This isn't a mistake here. This isn't a ‘whoops! I didn't know I was supposed to report.' This is a guaranteed connect the dots showing that because they didn't report, these underage girls are going to have problems in the future.”
Crutcher said he believes the actual number of rapes by older men that are going unreported could be staggering.
“Three things we point out in the DVD are that abortion, dissemination of birth control or treatment for STDs are all indications of sexual activity and when they are indicated, on its face that is evidence of child abuse and must be reported.”
He said, “Of those three activities, the smallest number is going to be abortions while the largest number is birth control. If you just look at abortion, which is the smallest number of the three, there are nearly 3,500 abortions done in America every single day. The abortion industry and government figures show 25 percent to 40 percent of abortions are done on minor girls. This is potentially of thousands of victims every single day just from abortions.
“This is an outrage and what is going on here is absolute and utter scandal. If you simply look at the numbers on these things this is the largest criminal conspiracy in American history.”
Recognize the signs of sexual abuse of children
by Chad Nation
The best time to talk to your child about sexual abuse is right now.
That's a popular saying among advocates teaching the dangers of child sexual abuse. Prevention of abuse is difficult, especially if children do not know what they are protecting themselves from and who they can turn to for help.
And even adults may not understand or recognize child sexual abuse, said Vicki-lynn Kelly, training and prevention educator for the Catholic Charities Phoenix House.
“Unfortunately, children who are being abused don't always straight out tell adults what is happening to them in ways we can recognize; it can be subtle things,” Kelly said.
“Predators chose kids who are less likely to be believed - so kids without many friends or supports, who have gotten in trouble before or perhaps whose parents are busy trying to work as much as they can to hold the household together financially and therefore aren't around as much as they would like to be.”
One sign that children give parents is saying they don't like a certain person they were previously close to, or don't want to go to that person's house anymore. Or they may say their stomach hurts or just that they are sick - making excuses not to visit with someone or go to their house, she said.
“On days when we are busy and trying to get everything done, we might chalk it up to them being difficult,” she said, which makes sense considering many of the changes can also occur if they are experiencing bullying, difficulties with schoolwork or even hormonal changes as they mature.
“We might assume they are going through a difficult phase, particularly if their behavior in general changes. They might see increased anxiety, anger, withdrawing if they were previously outgoing - all sorts of changes,” Kelly said. “So it can be really hard to interpret.”
Stop It Now, an organization that provides information and resources to keep children safe and create healthier communities, teaches that any one sign doesn't mean that a child was sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you begin asking questions and consider seeking help. Keep in mind that some of these signs can emerge at other times of stress such as during a divorce, a death of a family member or pet or problems at school or with friends.
Some trauma induced signs more typical of younger children include an older child behaving like a younger child, such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking; has new words for private body parts; resists removing clothes at appropriate times, such as baths, bedtime, toileting or diapering; asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games; or mimics adult-like sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animals.
Some signs more typical for adolescents include:
• Self-injury – cutting or burning.
• Inadequate personal hygiene.
• Drug and alcohol abuse.
• Depression, anxiety.
• Sexual promiscuity.
• Running away from home.
• Suicide attempts.
• Fear of intimacy or closeness.
• Compulsive eating or dieting.
And since over 90 percent of children who are abused by someone they – or their parents – know and have some level of trust in, teaching children about their bodies is more important than ever, Kelly said.
“It is hard to imagine the people we know and trust would be capable of harming our children,” she said. “That is why talking to kids about their bodies is really important – particularly giving them the right names for all the parts of their bodies.”
Protecting children also means talking about what parts of their bodies are private and what that means. Talk about hygiene and medical treatment in simple ways, but let them know they have some control over who sees or touches their private areas once they are old enough to wash themselves.
Children must also know, Kelly said, that they can always ask questions and the importance of telling another adult if someone asks to see their private areas or offers to show them their private areas.
“Be very clear that you won't be mad at them whether they comply or not and that they can come to them any time,” she said. “Some people use the areas that a bathing suit would cover, but whatever you work out for your family, just make sure you talk about it more than once.”
Teach children about safety
The Child Sexual Abuse Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network recommends the following tips for teaching children to avoid sexual assault.
• Teach children accurate names of private body parts.
• Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.” Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.
• Teach children about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.
• Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (such as politely refusing hugs) and to say no to touching others.
• Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts, such as bathing or going to the bathroom.
• Teach children to take care of their own private parts while bathing or wiping after bathroom use, so they don't have to rely on adults or older children for help.
• Educate children about the difference between good secrets, like surprise parties — which are okay because they are not kept secret for long – and bad secrets, those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay.
• Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don't do it. If you're concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions. The best time to talk to your child about sexual abuse is now.
We must protect our children from sexual abuse
by Susan Keith
Selma City Council representative for Ward 3
Some months ago, we watched in dismay as a man of high morals and esteem lost his job and the respect of a community-at-large for failing to protect child victims of sexual abuse. Joe Paterno — coach, global sports legend, professor, father, grandfather and all around putative good guy — was unable to fluidly navigate the system designed to protect children.
If a man of Paterno's stature – and I have to believe that in Centre County, Penn. he received every degree of respect and awe that Nick Saban would receive in Tuscaloosa — has trouble in the system, what about the rest of us?
There is nothing at all pleasant about dealing with cases of child sexual abuse.
One of the most uncomfortable aspects of child sexual abuse cases is that you can't take the sex out of them.
In a perfect world, this would be something children would have no knowledge of or exposure. Our world is much, much less than perfect.
While we cannot possibly keep our children safe 100 percent of the time, we can — we must — give them tools to help them stay safe. We do this by teaching them that we will believe them when they tell us someone has done something awful. Even if it is someone we love. Child molesters are often family members or trusted friends.
Children need to be taught that it is okay to be assertive with adults to protect themselves. Family rules about secrets, knowing who safe people are, safe code words and safety plans should be clear with the children.
Know who your children are going to be with when they are not with you. Above all, make sure your children know not to go with someone they don't know.
Parents, understand this: Wherever children are, there are people who exploit children.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse can be hard to recognize. Many of the symptoms are also indicative of other trauma a child can experience.
A few signs that can indicate concern and should be addressed include:
Sudden behavioral changes
Sudden decrease in self-esteem
Withdrawal from people and activities
Nightmares and sleep problems
Age inappropriate sexual knowledge, awareness, or acting out
If you suspect a child has been sexually abused, you should call one of the agencies listed below. Law protects all those reporting such worries or incidents, acting in good faith.
Ignoring these situations will not make them go away. It means the abuse continues happening to that child. It means it will happen to other children. Child molesters don't stop on their own volition.
The good news is you do not have to make any determination about the situation. There are trained professionals who will work with the people and pertinent agencies involved to determine the truth and the course of action.
Unaddressed and untreated, victims of child sexual abuse typically wrestle lifelong issues such as addiction, psychosomatic illnesses, subsequent victimizations, poor life choices and a plethora of other ails.
Let's put an end to sexual abuse and let the healing begin.
To report any kind of abuse of a child, call the Department of Human Resources at 874-1400.
To report the sexual abuse of a child call the Child Advocacy Center at 872-5200
You may also report cases of child abuse or maltreatment to the:
For cases within Selma city limits or the Selma Police jurisdiction, call the Selma Police Department at 874-6611.
For those cases throughout Dallas County, call the Dallas County Sheriff's Department at 874-2530.
For those cases within the 4th Judicial Circuit, call the Office of the District Attorney at 874-2540.
Jewish community to recruit men, boys in fight against abuse
by Kevin Rector
BALTIMORE (MCT) — When Nancy Aiken talks to students in Baltimore's Orthodox Jewish community about domestic violence and sexual assaults, she asks the boys a simple question: How many of you want to grow up to be a perpetrator of violence?
Aiken knows the students mean it when they say, "No, not me." But she also knows, statistically, that some will, indeed, become wife beaters or sexual predators.
"There is only so much we can do to train our young women how not to be victims," said Aiken, executive director of the Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women, or CHANA. "We have to train our young men not to be perpetrators."
Aiken's organization, in partnership with Jewish Women International, is getting a major boost with a $350,000 Justice Department grant to recruit men and boys in the Orthodox community as allies in the fight.
Community leaders say the effort is necessary.
"I don't know any authority in the Orthodox world today — mainstream authority — who does not already agree that this has to be addressed, it has to be addressed swiftly, it has to be addressed concisely," said Larry Ziffer, executive vice president of the Center for Jewish Education in Baltimore, who plans to work closely with CHANA in the community.
"To me it's a huge problem if there is one woman who is abused or one child who is abused, and there were things the community could do and they didn't do it in the past," Ziffer said. "If there is anything we can do in terms of prevention, to keep people safe, we have a moral and a legal and theological obligation to do it."
The three-year grant from the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women, announced last month, is aimed at men and boys of minority groups — such as the Orthodox and immigrant Jewish communities of the Park Heights neighborhood — that don't regularly tap into secular counseling services or authorities.
The Orthodox community has its own courts for handling abuse allegations. Aiken said the large immigrant Jewish populations in Baltimore — Farsi-speaking Iranian exiles and refugees of the former Soviet Union — are often distrustful of police.
Such communities often "look for Jewish remedies to their concerns, and not elsewhere," Aiken said. She said that approach leaves out valuable public health and legal perspectives, puts critical decisions in the hands of religious leaders who have, at times, swept problems under the rug and can lead to community silence and a tendency to blame the victim.
The problems of domestic abuse and sexual assault in Baltimore's Orthodox Jewish community surfaced in a series of high-profile cases.
In 2006, the Orthodox community rallied around Cynthia Ohana after her husband, who was found by a civil court to have abused her, refused to grant her a religious divorce.
When Rabbi Jacob A. Max was convicted in 2009 of sexually molesting a woman in a Reisterstown funeral home, others came forward with accusations of abuse.
Such cases have been chronicled by journalist Phil Jacobs — a member of the local community and a survivor of sexual abuse himself.
Jacobs, the executive editor of The Baltimore Jewish Times, began a series of stories in 2007 detailing cases of sexual abuse that implicated revered rabbis and leaders in the community.
The series shocked the community and drew criticism from some, who accused Jacobs of breaking with the custom of bringing claims of abuse or assaults directly to rabbis.
The problem was that in Jacobs' reporting, the accused sometimes were rabbis.
When he was 14, Jacobs said, he was molested on several occasions by a man who would give young boys new sports equipment and invite them to his apartment to watch pornography.
When the man fondled him, he said, the experience was so foreign that he didn't know how to register it.
"Back then this was not on my computer, my mental computer. I had no idea what he was doing, and I didn't know what to do about it," said Jacobs, now 59.
Jacobs didn't start addressing the problem until he was 40, when he told his wife. When he moved back to the Baltimore area, he got involved with a group of local survivors, which led to him meeting the subject of his first story about abuse in Baltimore's Jewish community.
After that story appeared, Jacobs said, victims flooded him with requests for help or for more stories on the topic of abuse in the local Jewish community.
Jacobs has since worked closely with CHANA and its offshoot, the Shofar Coalition, which serves adult survivors of childhood abuse.
He called the new grant program wonderful — another step in a shift in the community toward acknowledgment of the problem and a desire to do something about it.
Abuse victims need to break down doors, find healing
My name is Kiryn Evans (previously Kristi Simmons of Nauvoo) and 2013 is the 10-year anniversary of the brutal murder of my mother, Kathy Simmons, at the hands of her husband, Kevin Simmons. Kevin made good on his promise to someday kill one of us. He beat her to death and she died at OSF in Peoria, where I now work as a registered nurse.
I write this every year as part of my healing process, but also to use my horrific experience to educate others and empower those who are being abused and degraded. I am a survivor of the Simmons household, one in which I was abused until I got out. Unfortunately, even after I got out Kevin harassed me, and depression and PTSD haunted me for many years. I became an alcoholic and drug abuser; I practiced self-destructive behavior, such as anorexia and cutting. I allowed many men to abuse and degrade me. I put myself in therapy at age 19 and I owe my life to my counselors.
There are many dirty secrets in the households in our communities. They are the households of (like my mother), doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers, police officers, etc. Abuse crosses all socioeconomic barriers and does not discriminate. Unfortunately, many nurses are the victims of domestic violence. Their children are affected just as much as they are, if not more. There is still a significant misconception in our society that what happens behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors. What happens behind those closed doors must be acknowledged, talked about and stopped. Those doors must be broken down by a society whose members care more about each other than "not airing the neighbors' dirty laundry." That dirty laundry is killing us.
Maya Angelou, a poet and sexual abuse survivor, said, "Surviving is important but thriving is elegant." I agree. We have to survive and then learn how to heal and be happy.
I chose to become an RN and am currently working on my master's degree to become a family practitioner. I have been trained as a pediatric and adolescent/adult sexual assault nurse examiner. I have spoken at the Take Back the Night Rally at WIU in Macomb for the past two years. I do these things to heal myself but also to take a horrific childhood and make it into something beneficial. I was beaten down many times over many years, but I have risen and am strong. I will never stop. I will never back down. I have a lot of doors to break down.
Kiryn Evans is a local nurse. She lives in Peoria.
Free tattoos bring attention to child abuse prevention
NAMPA -- Dozens of people got free tattoos today, all to draw attention to child abuse prevention.
April is Child Abuse Prevention month. Radio station Kiss 103.3 organized the event as part of their "Paint Boise Blue" campaign. Nampa Ink donated their time and supplies. 208 Tattoo in Boise also brought out one of their tattoo artists to help.
Dozens of people got tattoos of either a blue ribbon or blue pinwheel, two symbols of the cause. Folks from Nampa Ink said people were in line Friday night so they could be first to get a tattoo on Saturday.
Some folks were tattoo veterans; for others it was their first. Everyone we talked with said they were looking forward to supporting the cause.
"Growing up I've had child abuse and I think the first tattoo it'd mean a lot to me. And when I have kids I want to be able to show it, that it happened to me and I want to prevent it from happening. I want a different lifestyle for them," said Danielle Stanfield, who showed up to get her very first tattoo.
Dave Williams came with other members of his organization called, Bikers Against Child Abuse. He said this hits close to home because he was abused as a child. He got the tattoo on his arm, right above his watch.
"I picked this spot mainly because in the summer time or whatnot it is always on show, whereas my other two tattoos are not. So this one will be visible all the time," said Williams.
There were so many people, they had to cut the line off to get everyone done in time.
Child abuse on the rise in region
by STEPHEN RICKERL
With a decade-long trend of increasing rates of child abuse and neglect in Southern Illinois, child ad-vocacy services are urging everyone to be more vigilant.
According to the Voices for Illinois Children Kids Count 2013, child abuse and neglect cases between 2009 and 2011 increased 1.3 percent in Franklin County, 50 percent in Jackson County and 13 percent in Williamson County.
Dave Clarkin, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman, said the increase in cases is not a statewide trend. He said DCFS partners are reporting victims are younger and younger and the abuse is getting more severe.
“Younger victims are particularly a concern because an older kid can tell another adult what's going on and even understands what's happening to them is wrong,” he said. “When someone abuses a kid that's 6 months old, the kid doesn't know that this isn't normal and they obviously can't tell anyone.”
Kids younger than 5 and not attending school are at an extraordinary risk of harm in the most severe abuse, he said because two-thirds of reports come from mandated reporters like school districts, teachers and counselors.
A department report released in November showed a 5 percent increase of reported abused and neglect of children in downstate Illinois. Citing the Child Abuse and Neglect Statistical Report, the state said its Child Abuse Hotline received 25,348 reports of suspected abuse or neglect involving downstate children from July to October, compared to 24,053 at the same time last year.
Data further illustrated that in 2012, for every 10,000 Illinois children, 91 were indicated cases of abuse or neglect.
In Southern Illinois Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Pulaski, Saline, Union and White Counties had abuse and neglect rates more that twice the state average, according to the DCFS report.
Since 2003, reports of suspected abuse in downstate Illinois increased 20 percent, according to the department. During that same time reports of abuse and neglect declined 9 percent in Cook County.
Linda Reiss, associated executive director for Lutheran Social Services Southern Region, said abuse and neglect go hand-in-hand. She said often a parent will turn to drugs and alcohol because they don't have hope, a job or a decent place to live.
She said while many people might work harder, or take on a second job, some don't have that drive and turn to drugs to kill their pain.
“It seems like every time something gets cut, it's usually those programs that help the poor people, the drug addicted, the mentally ill,” Reiss said. “I really think the poorer the area, the less the resources, which creates the trickle effect that affects the children and the families.”
Also, Reiss said, the increase in abuse reports might have something to do with an increase in willingness on the part of society to report abuse.
Jo Poshard, director of Poshard Foundation for Abused Children, said a frightening fact is that there were 90 child deaths last year where abuse or neglect was indicated. She said 40 of the 90 died from suffocation because of sleep conditions. Something her foundation is very concerned about.
Poshard said children need to sleep in bassinettes or cribs, not with parents.
She added the top requests at the foundation are for beds and cribs.
Vallejo woman organizes city-wide march to prevent child abuse
by Irma Widjojo
A Vallejo woman is organizing a city-wide march to raise awareness against child abuse, a cause that is personal to her.
Kelly Maestas said she became the organizer of the Vallejo Million March Against Child Abuse by chance.
The 37-year-old woman, and mother of five, said she was researching online for resources on child abuse because of a couple of incidents involving her 12-year-old daughter at school.
During the research, she happened upon the nonprofit organization Children Without A Voice USA, which was looking for volunteers to organize the nation-wide April 22 march in their own cities.
According to its website, the organization is "dedicated and determined in fighting crimes, child abuse and neglect in America through education and advocacy."
Maestas immediately took that opportunity.
"I'm so grateful that I fell upon it," Maestas said. "I feel like I'm doing something for today's youth."
Maestas, who moved to Vallejo two years ago from Richmond, said the incidents involving her daughter were not her only motivation.
She and her husband are also child abuse survivors, she said.
"I've done a lot in my life to try to hide it, and to forget about it," Maestas said. "As I get older, I realize that I didn't do anything wrong. I do wish someone had stood up for me."
She said she was physically abused by relatives as she was growing up after losing her mother at 11.
"I guess I got lost in the shuffle," Maestas said. "It took me a long time to forgive, and now I have forgiven but I have not forgotten."
She said currently about 35 people have signed up to join the all-day march. But the relatively small number does not worry her.
"We may be small, but our voices will be heard," Maestas said.
The free community event is mainly to raise awareness, she added.
"I want people to understand that child abuse is 100 percent preventable," Maestas said. "I also want to see the government and the law makers create tougher sentences for those who abuse children. (The children) are our future."
Nearly 3 million child abuse cases are reported each year in the country, according to the CWAV USA website. However, there's a lot more that were unreported.
The rally is planned from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the area of John F. Kennedy Library, 505 Santa Clara St. Participants should sign in at the table set up at the library's entrance.
Those interested in joining should contact Maestas through www.facebook.com/MillionMarchVallejo, or email her at email@example.com, or call (415)532-5772.
For more information, visit www.childrenwithoutvoiceusa.org
PSU Fayette rally addresses sexual assault against children and adults
by Karl Polacek
Most people are familiar with the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, according to Dr. Francis Achampong. But even before that case, Penn State Fayette, Eberly Campus had begun to focus on sexual assault and abuse against family members.
On Friday, the annual Sexual Assault Prevention, Victims' Rights & Child Abuse Prevention Month Rally was held at the campus.
The four-hour program, moderated by Dr. Jo Ann Jankoski, assistant professor of health and human development at the campus, focused on making individuals not involved in law enforcement or the medical professions aware of what they can do to help abuse victims.
Jacquie Fritts, executive director at the crime-victims center of Fayette County, said it is often impossible for people to believe someone who they know is a victim of a sexual assault.
“No one wants to talk about it,” she said, noting that addressing the problem goes beyond the scope of being discovered by health professionals and law enforcement officers. “If we can't talk (about abuse) how are we going to stop it?”
The way to help end the violence is to get people involved, she said.
“I've been working (on these cases) since I was hired, and I'll be working on them until I die,” said Gina D'Auria, Fayette County director of Children and Youth Services. “My goal is unemployment. (But) the world has changed.” Jankoski reminded the audience that families once protected its members from assault. Today, however, families can be the most dangerous place.
The problem for 93 percent of the victims is that the abuser is known to them.
According to panel members, Fayette County is considered rural and backward by some people, but it is on the cutting edge in addressing the problems of various forms of abuse. The county recently created the position of assistant district attorney for adult sex assaults and domestic violence and hired Meghann Mikluscak for the position. The county also hired Kevin Grippo as a county detective to assist Mikluscak.
Although she just began her job, Mikluscak said she already had three cases last week.
Another problem that has been developing in Fayette County is human trafficking. Because the county is mostly rural, there are locations where those involved in the trafficking can bring their victims into the area, locking them up for years at a time. The victims may be used for sex and other deviate forms of behavior.
Rewards are few for those who work in the field, however.
The advisory board for the county CYS has initiated the Compassionate Educator Award Dinner, which honors David Madison for his 31 years working at CYS. Five educators have been chosen as finalists for the 2013 award and will be honored April 18 at the Cabaret on Peter Street in Uniontown.
Finalists are Mary Chesler of St. John the Evangelist Regional Catholic School in Uniontown; Angela Machesky of Lafayette Elementary in Uniontown; Elizabeth Machesky of Laurel Highlands Middle School; Jane Naymick of Ben Franklin Middle and Elementary School; and John Sharp of Laurel Highlands High School.
Letter to the Editor
Encourages efforts to stop sexual assault and child abuse
To the Editor:
Child sexual abuse is real and it happens close to home. If we want it to stop, we have to acknowledge it and talk about it.
There is no better time to start the conversation than April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County — the lifeline for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault who live in Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull — is encouraging everyone to commit to learning about child sexual abuse and starting conversations with their family and friends. The center is offering three ways for you to get involved:
• The Center's White Ribbon Campaign, an organization of men committed to stamping out violence against women and children, is holding its first event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Saturday, April 27. The event begins with registration at 8:30 a.m., at the Fairfield Train Station (westbound into Grand Central), followed by a walk up the Post Road. Around 10:30 a.m. the program begins, featuring many speakers, including Michael Gillum and Dawn Daniels, the psychologist and mother of Aaron Fisher, Jerry Sandusky's first victim. The pair, along with Fisher, has just written Silent No More , in which they relate Fisher's harrowing quest to bring Sandusky's crimes to light, his tale of abuse and his fight to expose the truth. Anyone is invited to walk for free, although the center is encouraging walkers to solicit sponsors. All money raised is tax deductible and will be used by the center to help victims become survivors. To register or for more information, visit the center's website: www.cwfefc.org
• Any man or boy can join the White Ribbon Campaign by simply logging onto www.cwfefc.org and pledging his support to end domestic violence. The pledge button is prominently displayed on the left side of the center's home page.
• Call the center at (203) 334-6154 or log on to www.cwfefc,org for more information about sexual assault and domestic abuse. And keep these hotline numbers handy: Domestic Violence Hotline, 888-774-2900; the Rape Crisis Services Hotline, 888-999-5545.
In addition, it's important to remember that child sexual abuse thrives in silence. If adults do not educate children about body parts, appropriate touch and healthy sexuality, that education is left to abusers. By starting conversations about age-appropriate behaviors and healthy boundaries, adults open lines of communication and let children know that it is safe to talk about situations that make them feel uncomfortable
Adults can help prevent child sexual abuse by showing respect to children, modeling healthy behaviors and boundaries and confronting adults when they act in ways that are inappropriate instead of responding with silence and discomfort.
The center's sexual assault advocates and its multidisciplinary teams are the most important resources for young child victims. Last year, the center helped 339 sexual assault victims, and our MDT reviewed 201 cases of child sexual assaults and conducted 151 forensic interviews of children. Let's work together to see that number decrease next year.
Debra A. Greenwood
President and CEO
The Center for Women and Families
Child abuse is completely preventable
by Rush Russell
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Having children is certainly one of life's greatest joys, but raising children can also be stressful, even for those who have the best information and support.
Sometimes, overwhelming stress and a lack of knowledge about child health and development can lead to child abuse and neglect, and it can happen in any community, anywhere. We all have a role in preventing child abuse from ever happening, but when we fail, our children, our communities and our country pay a steep price.
Victims of child abuse have a greater chance of academic failure, substance abuse and mental health issues, chronic health conditions, juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior. In economic terms, child abuse costs American taxpayers more than $80 billion a year to fix something after the fact that could have been prevented. The good news is that we know how to prevent child abuse and we are making some progress, but we can and need to do much better.
However, it's challenging to build support for such a cause as preventing child abuse and neglect. Some people shy away from the issue, for various reasons, including discomfort with the tragedy of child abuse, blaming “bad” parents who would do such a thing, and believing that child abuse “doesn't happen in my neighborhood.”
I recently met with a prominent political leader in our state who also serves on the board of an organization involving therapy dogs.
He noted that it had just received a donation of several million dollars from someone who loved dogs.
We acknowledged that the cause of child abuse prevention was unlikely to see that level of support, for all of the reasons above. I love dogs, too, but don't our children deserve better? In speaking recently with the founder of a national philanthropy that supports child abuse prevention as its primary goal, he noted that “there is really no direct constituency for the cause of child abuse prevention” compared to that of other nonprofit causes, such as universities, hospitals, faith-based organizations or specific health issues.
So it makes it much more difficult to generate awareness and support — and the opportunity to prevent abuse before it ever happens.
On April 2, Prevent Child Abuse America was invited to ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange to raise awareness about April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and about an event happening in Times Square on Tuesday.
The invitation from Nasdaq the second-largest stock exchange in the United States, highlights the understanding that investment in childhood health and development has been shown to be an effective tool for economic development, with proven returns to American taxpayers and economic productivity.
The event, Pinwheels for Prevention, will feature Miss America, Mallory Hagan, who is championing the cause of preventing child sexual abuse in our country. The April 16 event will create the largest “pinwheel garden” in the country, in Times Square, using the small sparkling, spinning toy as a symbol of a happy and carefree childhood — and of child abuse prevention. I hope that events like these during Child Abuse Prevention Month that raise awareness about the need for preventing child abuse, can help us understand that we all have a role play to prevent child abuse from ever happening to our children.
How? By helping parents who are friends or family when they face the stress of parenting; by encouraging healthy, respectful relationships with and empathy for our children; by supporting our neighbors and faith communities to help families who may be struggling; and by telling our policymakers that it's time to make child health and development a national priority, equal to others that make our country so great.
On the same day as the Nasdaq event, newspapers in New Jersey reported the death of a 4-month-old infant in the state who was shaken by his mother because he wouldn't stop crying.
The baby's father was quoted as saying that he believed the baby would still be alive if they had received “parenting lessons.”
A number of hospitals across the state have recently begun an intensive program that provides a powerful reminder to new parents about the stress a crying baby can cause and how parents can cope. Rigorous evaluations have shown the program to be effective in dramatically reducing the incidence of shaken-baby syndrome.
So far, however, only a small group of hospitals has adopted it. We know how to prevent child abuse, but we can and must do a better job.
Rush Russell is executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey ( preventchildabusenj.org ).
Stopping Child Abuse
by Perry Russom
Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Five children die every day from abuse, according to Childhelp.
Eighty percent of 21 year olds who were abused growing up have at least one psychological disorder.
"Last year, we served over 340 victims of child sex assault," said Raini Baudendistel of the Crime Victims Assistance Center. "The number keeps going up."
With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, a new initiative in Broome County has been announced.
It's called Enough Abuse.
The Broome County Family Violence Prevention Council is teaming up with the Crime Victims Assistance Center in the program.
Broome County was one of a handful of counties in New York chosen as a pilot county for the initiative.
The county was not awarded any money for this new program, but it will work off volunteers and seminars.
The idea is to train 30 people on how to notice and prevent abuse.
Those 30 people will then hold two seminars where they educate the public on stopping child abuse.
"We hope again that this month and several activities together catch people's attention," said Erik Jensen, of the Family Violence Prevention Council. "The message is that this isn't a one-time sort of issue. This is an issue that is ongoing and we all need to be careful and we all need to be clear on how we are acting in the community."
More information on child abuse:
Dutchess County child-abuse center to expand
by Roberto Cruz
To meet the increasing threat of child abuse, the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse is planning to expand.
Reported cases of child abuse have been increasing in Dutchess County, said Kathleen Murphy, executive director of the center.
“We're seeing a rise in the number of kids we're serving,” Murphy said. “We treated 823 children last year and at this rate we're going to see over 1,000 this year.”
But just like the numbers, the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse itself is growing, Murphy said.
She said it's important for lawmakers to know that the well-funded center is there for them in their policy-making and for victims who need help.
The nonprofit is about “five or six” months away from raising the funds necessary to move the center into a new location on Van Wagner Road, she said.
“As child abuse is rising, it's so important to have politicians come see our building and see what we're trying to do,” Quinn Shaw, president of the board of directors at the center, said about the move.
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-Millbrook, was the latest lawmaker to tour the center and to learn more about the services it provides.
“No child should continue in life in an environment where they don't feel safe whether it's in their schools ... or in their neighborhoods; it's the most important thing,” Barrett said.
Barrett, who co-sponsored a bill (A.5488) to extend the statute of limitations for certain sex offenses committed against children, said as a mother she prioritizes the safety and education of children to ensure safer communities now and in the future.
Barrett said she is in favor of any opportunity to support children subjected to abuse and is willing to be a voice for them in the Assembly.
“Everything that I hear when I'm back in the district, which is my favorite place to be, are things that I can bring back to Albany to inform my colleagues (and) to inform legislation,” Barrett said.
“Those are all opportunities to increase the discussion and to bring the resources and the focus back to the district,” she said.
Services provided at the center include educating students from Dutchess County's schools how to report physical or sexual abuse and classes to teach parents (including teen parents) how to nurture their children.
The Child Advocacy Center, inside the building, coordinates services for child victims and their families involved in some of Dutchess County's most severe sexual abuse investigations.
The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse was founded in 1973 to help prevent child abuse in Dutchess County. The not-for-profit often partners with law enforcement agencies and the Dutchess County Department of Social Services.
Royal commission counselling pledge
by Catherine Armitage
The federal government is to spend an unprecedented $44 million on counselling for people who relive traumatic childhood experiences for the royal commission into child sex abuse.
Organisations that can deliver counselling, support and case management services before, during and after interaction with the royal commission are invited to apply for funding, the government said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard established the royal commission to investigate how institutions entrusted with children had handled allegations and instances of child sexual abuse. The government is promising to do ''everything it can to help survivors of past abuse receive support and justice'', and to ensure such practices do not recur.
Trained counsellors have begun taking calls from abuse survivors, with 5000 or more predicted to come forward. Public hearings are expected to begin within six months.
Support groups have warned of the risk of further trauma to people recounting childhood abuse at the hands of authority figures in institutions such as churches, schools, orphanages and sporting organisations.
''Obviously when you have people who have waited sometimes decades to be heard that trauma is going to be raw and there are going to be lots of emotions flying around,'' said Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, which has 5000 members and subscribers. ''They are going to be at risk. There need to be mechanisms in place for people to feel safe.''
This brings the known cost of the commission to $66 million before it has taken any formal evidence.
The lead commissioner, Justice Peter McClellan, warned at its first sitting that it ''will continue to require the commitment of very significant sums of public money''.
Teens arrested in rape case tied to Saratoga High student's suicide
by Eric Kurhi
SARATOGA -- Three 16-year-old boys were arrested Thursday in the sexual battery of an intoxicated and unconscious 15-year-old Saratoga High School student, who killed herself last fall after photos of the assault went viral.
When digital photos showing what had happened "spread like wildfire," the aftermath was so humiliating and torturous the gifted and well-loved Audrie Pott could no longer take it, said Robert Allard, the attorney for her family.
"Poor Audrie was terrorized by cyberbullying," Allard said.
She posted on Facebook, calling it the "worst day in her life," a life she now wanted to end -- which she did Sept. 10, eight days after the assault.
Allard said Thursday that Audrie's family is having mixed emotions about the arrests of the three Saratoga High students, including one who has since transferred to Christopher High in Gilroy.
"The wound is still very raw," he said. "They want to feel as if justice will be done after these kids were arrested, seven months after acting as if nothing had happened. But at the same time it's a reminder that Audrie is gone."
According to Santa Clara County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jose Cardoza, the boys were booked into juvenile hall on two felony and one misdemeanor count each after authorities received information from school resource officers at Audrie's school. Their names are being withheld because they are juveniles. Allard said Audrie's parents hope they won't be treated as juveniles in court.
This newspaper does not, as a rule, identify victims of sexual assault. But in this case, Pott's family wanted her name and case known, Allard said. The family also provided a photo to The Associated Press.
They want their beloved daughter's case to become a model for a law bearing her name.
"Audrie's Law would address some of the things that happened here," Allard said. "There are two common elements here that are being repeated across the country --
sexual assault by an adolescent and the cyberbullying that follows."
Allard said nearly all children have cellphones, each one a potential tool for defamation.
"They are all capable of instantly spreading information into the community in the most volatile ways," he said. The power of pressing a button is immense."
Audrie's parents and stepmother, who asked for privacy until a Tuesday news conference, started a foundation aimed at providing kids with music and art scholarships -- two of the great loves in their daughter's life. The Audrie Pott foundation, at audriepottfoundation.com, also offers youth counseling and support.
According to the foundation website, Audrie was a gifted artist who played the viola and piano and loved to sing. She also played soccer and was "fast and tenacious with a nose for the goal."
"She was compassionate about life, her friends, her family, and would never do anything to harm anyone," according to the site. "She was in the process of developing the ability to cope with the cruelty of this world but had not quite figured it all out. Ultimately, she had not yet acquired the antibiotics to deal with the challenges present for teens in today's society."
Allard said the sexual assault happened when Audrie went to a party hosted by a sophomore girl from her school. The student's parents were out of town in Napa, and she invited friends over.
"You know how that goes: word gets out and then there were 10 to 15 kids there."
He said Audrie had been there early, and by the time others arrived later she was already passed out.
"It was one of those things where she was thinking that she was safe and secure but she was not," he said. "She was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people."
At the Tuesday conference, Allard said they will reveal more about the case as well as a civil suit that is in the works. Allard would not specify the defendant named in that litigation.
Los Gatos-Saratoga school district officials stated that their "sympathies go out to all of the families affected by this tragic situation."
"We are cooperating with law enforcement as they continue to look into the details of this case," Superintendent Bob Mistele wrote in an email to this newspaper. "Collaborating with our parents, students, staff and community we will continue to work diligently to maintain a positive climate at our high schools based on respect, responsibility, and open communication that discourages cyber bullying and inappropriate conduct."
USC Clothesline Project Offers Education and Support
by Jennifer Bellamy
Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the University of South Carolina is working to make sure the university community knows where to get help for this issue and others.
Students took time out of their day to help spread a message of knowledge and encouragement as part of the effort. It is called the Clothesline Project, a national initiative to raise awareness about some very serious issues, like sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence with decorated shirts and displays in the community.
"I put that I'm a survivor and basically that everyone needs to know because it can happen to anyone," said USC senior Allaina Johnson.
She says she has experienced and witnessed the results sexual assault. That is why she paused to decorate a shirt meant to tell her story as well as offering support for others.
"People don't really know and it's good for people to have an awareness about it because if you don't have an awareness there's no help for it there's nothing to make it better," said Johnson.
Each color shirt represents something different. Yellow represents relationship violence, pink stands for sexual assault, purple symbolizing hate crimes, white in honor of survivors and victims, blue representing child abuse and red for male supporters.
Michelle Eichelberger, an Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator with the USC's Student Health Services, says campus organizations and residence halls have participated as well.
She says project let educates the university community and reminds them they have somewhere to turn if they need help.
"There's a resource here on campus that cares about what's happening and they'll know where they can come, so we try to do events and stuff like this so that people can see the good side of what we do so that it's not as bad if you end up having to use us on the victim's advocacy side," said Eichelberger.
She says statistics show that domestic violence and sexual assaults have begun to occur at younger ages, making it even more important to raise awareness on campus and in the community.
"It's not just when you get into your adult life and all of a sudden this is a problem, we're seeing it in high schools, we're even seeing it as young as in middle schools. And with sexual assaults, child sexual abuse is a major issue as well so it's never too soon to start talking about it and letting people know what's going on," said Eichelberger.
That is part of what motivated Johnson to stop and lend her time and creativity to an important cause.
"It speaks volumes that people are out here devoting their time to do it because of course we're all racing to class but if you can't take the time out of your day to give somebody the support that they need and that comfort, it's gonna be an ever revolving cycle and we need to break it," said Johnson.
Eichelberger says they plan to display the shirts Monday in front of the Russell House.
Advocates Push for Better Protection of Children with Disabilities
Abuse prevention programs, and oversight regarding the use of restraints might mitigate disproportionate rates of abuse, they say
by Christen McCurdy
April 12, 2013 – Just under 12,000 reports of child abuse or neglect were substantiated by the state of Oregon in 2011, with 80 percent of those incidents involving a family member, according to the 2011 Child Welfare Data Book released by the state's Department of Human Services.
While the data book offers some demographic information on children who are the subjects of abuse investigations, such as age and race, and the results of substantiated abuse reports (such as whether the child stayed at home or was placed in foster care), the report does not gather data on disability status.
Because states are not required to submit data on the disability status of abused or neglected children, it can be hard to determine the precise numbers, but children with disabilities are, disproportionately, the targets of abuse, according to the data that does exist.
The 2009 Child Maltreatment report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – using data from states that collect some type of information on disability status, along with their abuse reporting – said 11 percent of child maltreatment victims had a reported disability, whereas U.S. Census figures say just five percent of children between the ages of five and 17 have disabilities – with the HHS report and Oregon data book noting that younger children (between birth and age six) are more likely to be abused or neglected.
Disability advocates say data gathering needs to improve, but maintain that policymakers have enough information to act on the research they have.
Three years ago – partly as a response to a series of headline-grabbing cases where people with autism (both children and adults) were killed by relatives or paid caregivers – some autism and disability advocacy groups declared March 1 the Autism Day of Mourning, and candlelight vigils were held in several cities, including Portland.
“People with disabilities are vulnerable for many reasons,” said Kim Musheno, director of legislative affairs for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. “It may be that they can't speak, can't defend themselves physically, or are dependent on the people taking care of them.”
Physical abuse is also not limited to the home. In fact, Musheno noted that there's better data on the abuse of adults within group homes and institutions, and abuses of children in schools, because it's more difficult to monitor what happens in homes.
But what happens in public institutions can also be startling to a casual observer. In recent years, Musheno's group has advocated at a national level for reduced use of seclusion and physical restraints in schools – and Disability Rights Oregon has also fought for the last two legislative sessions to create a statewide system whereby parents or others can complain about the use of seclusion or restraints, and a regulatory body that can investigate those complaints.
Musheno's organization has pushed at the national level to prevent the use of seclusion and restraints in schools, an issue the Oregon legislature also mulled this spring.
A bill that would create a process for submitting and investigating and complaints involving the restraint and seclusion of children in schools was introduced in the Oregon Legislature by Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) during the 2011 session and died. A similar bill was reintroduced this session and referred to the Ways and Means Committee in March, but hasn't come up for a vote.
DRO advocated for the bill after reviewing data from the 37 districts (of Oregon's 197) that monitor the use of seclusion and restraint, finding 4,500 incidents where children were sent to isolation rooms or received physical restraints. The organization's report on the subject, “Keeping Schools Safe,” said DRO's staff had heard from families whose children had received a variety of restraints in school settings, including being strapped to their wheelchairs, placed in handcuffs or shackles or being duct taped to chairs.
At the federal level, the Association of University Centers for Disabilities testified in favor of a similar bill – the Keep All Students Safe Act – which Musheno said met with resistance from Republican lawmakers who don't want to turn it into a federal issue, though 26 states don't even require that parents be notified if their children have undergone restraint or seclusion in school.
Speaking Wednesday afternoon after a child abuse awareness event in the Children's Healing Garden at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, Dr. Dan Leonhardt, said he's been interested in finding ways to help children who have been abused and to prevent abuse since he began his career.
“The very first pediatric patient I saw was a victim of child abuse, and it probably affected the rest of my career path,” said Leonhardt, who has specialized in child abuse issues for the last 10 years. A strong advocate for programs that help survivors heal, h also believes there needs to be stronger attention on preventing abuse from happening in the first place.
Relief nurseries, home visitation programs and parental education – either of families with risk factors for abuse or families that have asked for help – all have a demonstrated impact in reducing incidences of child abuse, he said.
“We see a lot of parents who have an inappropriate response to normal childhood behaviors,” Leonhardt said, and they may also have unrealistic expectations for children with disabilities, particularly developmental disabilities. It's important, he said, for parents to understand that they can ask for help with their child's care, and it's okay for them to feel frustrated on occasion but they shouldn't take their frustrations out on their child.
“I think people look at this as someone else's problem,” Leonhardt said. “If there's a child being abused in our community, it's everyone's problem.”
Haunted by child-abuse trial, Lake Oswego juror finds a way to help surviving sister
From his seat on the jury, Josh Henle came to know the cruel forces that ruled Kara's hell. The parents who beat, shamed and starved Kara and her sister, Lexi. The misery that pervaded their cramped and filthy Sandy home.
And, there in the jury box, Henle began to transform. The businessman who regarded jury duty as a "disaster" for his work schedule and Hawaiian vacation became an impassioned child advocate. As a juror, he had the power to seek justice for Lexi, 3, who died from the abuse, but what about Kara, 2, who survived?
More Continuing coverage of Donald Lee Cockrell, who is charged in the death of his daughter, Alexis Marie Pounder. "My mindset changed pretty quick," after learning the nature of the case, said Henle, 29, sitting in his comfortable Lake Oswego living room on a recent morning. "I thought, 'This involves a small child, and grisly things that happened – abuse, torture.' That's when my passion to help kicked in."
Last month Henle and his fellow Clackamas County jurors convicted Donald Lee Cockrell of murder by abuse in the death of his daughter, Lexi, and Judge Susie L. Norby sentenced him to life in prison. As part of a plea agreement, Cockrell's former fiancée, Michelle Nicole Smith, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. Her sentence was substantially softened because Smith agreed to testify against Cockrell.
"Kara's still too young to understand," said Henle, over the incongruously joyful sounds of his own healthy 11-month-old daughter, Lauren, playing with her grandmother in a nearby room. "But one day it will hit Kara like a ton of bricks. That her father didn't love her enough to protect her. That her sister died in this terrible way. .. I want her to know, then, that there's a community of people that believed in her and even expected her to thrive. I can't think of a better way to send that message than with a college fund."
As Henle speaks, his voice catches and his gaze drops to the floor. "Some of this is going to be hard for me to talk about." The grisly autopsy photographs of emaciated, battered Lexi on a medical examiner's table. The tape of her speaking to a relative on the phone, pleading for food. Testimony about the "Kara-cage" -- a tiny floor spot between a wall and couch, where Kara slept and spent most of her sleeping and waking hours.
Accepting facts like these was painful enough, Henle said of his time on the jury. What made them nearly intolerable was that during the trial he couldn't talk about them with his wife, Katie Henle. And usually, he tells her everything.
"It was really hard on her, too, because she didn't understand why I was so down ... why I was sometimes so upset," said Henle, a successful company finance director whose regular demeanor is cheerful and energetic.
Instead, as the trial stretched on, Henle grew close to other jury members, who were also struggling with their horror and sadness.
"The case and the photographs were traumatic for all of us," said Jim Syring, another juror who became close friends with Henle during the trial. "I ate lunch with Josh almost every day, and I noticed a big change in him," said the 51-year-old deputy chief for Clackamas Fire District 1. The excitement of the first trial days fell starkly away, replaced by queasy devastation as the autopsy photographs emerged.
How, the men asked each other, could an innocent child die this way? How could a toddler survive in these conditions?
They did their best to support one another, and seek answers.
"I grew up believing that there's always a silver lining," Henle said. "In this case, though, I just didn't see it. I never thought this way before, but I was starting to think that there's true evil in the world. I looked at the situation, and didn't know how any of it could lead to something good."
The answer came to him soon after Cockrell's sentencing.
Henle was outside on a frigid March day, running, as he usually does for health and stress relief. He was passing several abandoned play structures, when he suddenly knew the most meaningful way in which he could honor Lexi and help Kara.
He would run for them.
But before recruiting people to sponsor him in this Sunday's Vernonia Marathon, he had to tackle the red tape. He wanted to run the fundraiser through a nonprofit, so that donors could deduct contributions from their taxes. He mentioned his situation to Norby -- who'd presided over the Cockrell case -- and she directed him to Shannon Kmetic, a former Clackamas County deputy district attorney. In 2009, Kmetic founded the Angels in the Outfield, a nonprofit that supports abused and neglected children.
Kmetic, who founded the group after prosecuting a heartbreaking child abuse case, generally prefers fundraisers that benefit all the program's children. Yet she made an exception for Kara's college fund, in part because -- in her 17 years as a prosecutor -- Henle was the first juror to ever step up with an idea for helping a child victim.
"He reminded me a little of what I was like when Angels started," said Kmetic, who is now senior assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice.
Apart from that, she said, "He's an amazing man, and is so energetic, ambitious and passionate about helping Kara."
As soon as Henle cleared that hurdle, he began networking with Syring and other jurors to spread Kara's story. He sought out more child advocates to join the cause. And he sent family, friends and co-workers an impassioned email, telling Kara's story and requesting help for her college fund. The support poured in. Henle -- who really hadn't known what to expect -- began to see that silver lining.
"It was really inspiring," Henle said. "And some of the people didn't have much money to be giving. It was like love -- you can't force it, but when it happens, you see these great actions that naturally flow out of it."
The Angels in the Outfield
The Angels in the Outfield is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization seeking to support, uplift and enrich the lives of children harmed by crime, abuse and neglect. The group, founded by Shannon Kmetic, a former Clackamas County prosecutor, grants requests to Oregon children ranging from birthday parties to summer camps and sports activities.
Funding also goes to more basic needs, such as counseling and tutoring. The group's annual Founder's Day Dinner and Auction will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Abernethy Center, 606 15th St. in Oregon City. To learn more about the group or volunteer, visit the group's website or call Shannon Kmetic at 503-313-8122.
Run for Kara
Josh Henle hopes to raise up to $5,000 for Kara's college fund Sunday by completing the Vernonia Marathon. By the end of the year, with the help of other jurors and friends, he hopes to raise $15,000. Contributions to Kara's College Fund may be made through the Angels in the Outfield , P.O. Box 2347 Oregon City, OR 97045. Please write "Kara's Fund" on the check or Paypal transaction.
Reporting child abuse
If you see a child in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
Report non-emergency suspicion or evidence of child-abuse to the state Department of Human Services, local law enforcement or state police. Most Oregon counties also have child-abuse hotlines:
Multnomah: 503-731-3100, 800-509-5439
Washington: 503-681-6917, 800-275-8952
Clackamas: 971-673-7112Kara now lives with her biological mother, Heather Pounder, who issued a statement thanking Henle and others but declined to be interviewed.
Aware parents can nip sex abuse in the bud, local crowd told
Expert says children exposed to inappropriate behavior may become offenders
by Patty Hastings
"Tell me what you think about sex offenders," Cory Jewell Jensen said to the crowd Tuesday night at the YWCA on Main Street. The full room, made up mostly of women, was completely silent for several moments before an audience member calmly answered: "Scum."
Jensen, a nationally known speaker and co-director at the Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Ore., led a workshop on protecting children from sexual abuse -- and from becoming abusers themselves. The sex offender population is expected to increase, she said, because people are being exposed to porn and adult sexual behavior at an earlier age, giving them distorted attitudes about sex.
"It's generally a problem that starts in childhood," Jensen said.
Sex offenders may have been over-sexualized or sexually abused early on; had arousing contact with other children, lacked healthy sex education and guidance as youth, or adults in their lives didn't identify inappropriate sexual behavior during childhood and intervene.
Sexual curiosity and discovery is normal for kids, but persistent or inappropriate sexual play or coercing other kids into performing sexual acts are red flags. Parents should regularly check on their children during playtime; those who catch their children engaged in inappropriate acts should stay calm and ask what they're doing and where they learned it.
Parents should be open, involved in their kids' lives and ready to talk with them about sexual behavior, development and abuse. This way, children see sexual abuse as something they should talk about and report. Reading books together, such as "Where did I come from?" "It's my body," "What's Happening to my body?" and "A Very Touching Book ... For Little People and Big People" can get the conversation started. Jensen advised telling children that touching other people's private parts is inappropriate.
For decades, Jensen has worked with sex offenders from all walks of life, including athletes, lawyers, ministers and police officers. It's hard to pick out the sex offenders based on their standing in the community. After all, she explained, those who want to gain access to children may seek out work or volunteer efforts that puts them in constant contact with youth.
Clark County has 1,256 registered sex offenders, including 43 Level III offenders who are most likely to reoffend. There are 571 registered sex offenders living in Vancouver, including 18 Level III offenders. Only 3 to 10 percent of offenders are ever caught.
Sex offenders are con artists, Jensen explained. By the time they're caught, they've already committed an average of 120 offenses, giving them plenty of time to formulate a response for inquiring individuals. They look like normal people with normal jobs and often have no criminal record, so most people will try to find another explanation. Many incest offenders are able to talk friends and family out of reporting them, so they continue molesting.
Child sex offenders target families with uninvolved parents who have weak bonds with their kids and are too stressed to pay attention. "Problem kids" with low self-esteem, who may not be supervised as much and get into trouble often are not only less likely to report sexual assault, they're less likely to be believed when they do, Jensen said.
An offender first grooms a child by promoting physical contact: rough housing, hugging, tickling and massaging. They may test the child's ability to "keep secrets" and expose them to dirty jokes and porn. Certain tricks can make sexual assault harder to identify. By befriending the child and making it seem like it's OK or even rewarding the child, the offender can manipulate children into cooperating with abuse. Some mistakenly believe they're showing love or affection and that the acts being done to them may not be painful.
Parents should be alert for offender behavior and watch for adults who:
• Are "always available" to watch kids.
• Buy children gifts for no reason.
• Want to take children on outings that involve being alone with them.
• Have a lot of child friends.
• Volunteer with youth groups, but don't have any children in those groups.
• "Accidentally" walk in on kids while they're dressing or using the restroom.
• "Accidentally" touch private parts.
• Make sexual comments to or about children.
Parents should be aware of anyone who spends time alone with their child, whether it's a baby sitter, coach or someone who's in the public restroom with them. By setting rules and boundaries, parents can decrease the risk that their child could become a victim.
While most of the people you know would never harm your children, Jensen said, parents should be aware of possibility that someone you know, like or even love could commit a sexual offense. If a child says they've been abused, most likely they're telling the truth. Most victims can recover if parents act calmly, swiftly and responsibly.
Polk Event Sheds Light On Child Sex Abuse
by Gary White
The local chapter of Darkness to Light, an organization devoted to ending child sexual abuse, will host an inaugural community awareness event Saturday in Winter Haven.
The gathering, which features presentations and information booths, coincides with National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event is organized by Winter Haven resident Kim Alvarez, a trained facilitator for Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training program.
Scheduled speakers include Major Joe Halman of the Polk County Sheriff's Office; Leeronnie Ogletree, author of "Major League Addiction, A Survivor's Journey"; Norma Vaillette, a licensed mental health counselor; and Marilyn Mancuso, who leads a support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Darkness to Light was created in 2000 and now has more than 3,500 facilitators in 49 states and 15 additional countries. The organization says more than 300,000 copies of its Stewards of Children curriculum have been distributed.
Alvarez has been leading Stewards of Children sessions in the area for about three years. The monthly sessions at various locations are intended to teach adults ways they can better protect children from child sexual abuse.
Alvarez cited statistics showing one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays. She said one in five children are sexually solicited on the Internet.
The community awareness event will take place at the Polk County Sheriff's Office station at 3635 Ave. G, N.W., in Winter Haven, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The schedule includes a break for lunch at noon.
The registration fee of $25 includes lunch. Organizers ask anyone interested in attending to register in advance by contacting Alvarez at 863-651-4964 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The event includes a bake sale. Darkness to Light items will be sold, along with children's sex abuse prevention books.
Alvarez said she hopes to make it an annual event.
Sexual Violence: The Hidden Conflict Crisis Stalking Children
Some of the most devastating effects of a war are the ones we don't see reported on the nightly news. It's not always the terror of bullets and bombs that weigh the heaviest on communities affected by war, but rather the long-term, numbing survival crises of hunger, disease and social breakdown that inevitably follow.
Hidden away in the darkest recesses of conflict-ridden villages and schoolrooms a more subtle destruction of people's lives plays out - endemic sexual violence and abuse.
Sexual violence is often deliberately deployed as a weapon of war, which catalyses and perpetuates conflict. In this context it is a security issue as well as a humanitarian issue, making divisions deeper and peace more elusive. Most of this horror goes unseen, although occasionally, some large-scale atrocity might make it into the Western media and we will all be outraged for a few hours.
But in war-ravaged communities, there is also an even less visible wave of sexual violence that can become the norm, committed not by only soldiers, but by civilians exploiting the social breakdown that conflict brings. When this happens, the complete destruction of a community is usually close, leaving its people far from the rule of law, support services or international protection. Most of those living with sexual violence and conflict as a daily reality suffer in obscurity without access to medical attention, criminal justice services or a voice in any peace process that follows.
Their plight is a public failing and a private tragedy.
Now a new report from Save the Children has revealed another dimension to this silent crisis, showing that children are bearing the brunt of sexual violence in war. It says that in current and former warzones from Sierra Leone to Liberia, Congo to Colombia, more than half of the victims of sexual violence are children.
Even for a problem that always hits the vulnerable hardest, such figures are staggering, and that is why it is vital that the UK is using its presidency of the G8 to leverage international commitment to prevent sexual violence in conflict.
I am proud that our government, led by William Hague, is rejecting the myth that rape in war is inevitable and is leading the way in the international community to end sexual violence in conflict. The UK's initiative not only seeks new funding, but also encourages states to commit to practical measures aimed at ending the impunity of perpetrators of sexual violence, supporting survivors and at protecting the human rights defenders who are working to improve the rights of victims in their own countries.
This approach matters because it is making sure that money will be spent building the capacity of countries themselves to tackle sexual violence; it will be spent on empowering survivors to recover and on helping local people hold their own governments to account. This is the only way to turn a silent crisis into a noisy protest and place the responsibility for the enforcement of ending sexual violence exactly where it should be - with the states themselves.
But a moment of truth for these efforts arrives this Thursday, when G8 foreign ministers will meet in London discuss what action to take on the issue. The FCO's initiative needs to recognise how badly children are being affected.
Until now, sexual violence in war has been viewed by many, myself included, as an issue primarily affecting adults. Most of the help available for survivors is aimed at adult women; where children benefit from projects, there is little recognition that their needs are very different.
The Save the Children report shines a light on the scale of problem and the devastation it causes. One 2012 study cited from post-war Liberia shows that 80% of victims of gender based violence were children - almost all of them had been raped.
The charity spoke to girls from Mali who saw their friends raped and killed by armed men, children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo subjected to vicious sexual attacks in recent fighting around Goma, and mothers in Colombia whose young children had been raped as the rule of law broke down around them. Separately these cases could seem like statistical anomalies, outliers specific to particular conflicts. Together, however, they indicate a disturbing pattern of large-scale child abuse that we have yet to acknowledge, let alone tackle.
There is no easy way to stop this crisis. To date funding for projects to protect women and children in conflict zones and other crises has been hard to secure. Protection for the vulnerable in humanitarian emergencies is consistently the worst funded sector of humanitarian response. But money alone will not be enough.
Unless the capacity to hold those responsible for sexual violence is strengthened, and states are able to protect their children properly, the innocent will continue to suffer. By acknowledging the true nature of this problem, and agreeing concrete steps to address it, the G8 take can a huge step towards tackling an issue that has been left in the shadows for too long.
From the White House
Working Together to Combat Human Trafficking
by Valerie Jarrett, Todd Park
Yesterday, we hosted the first-ever White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. The event brought together leaders from government, the private sector, advocates and survivors, faith leaders, law enforcement, and academia to talk about what we can do, together, to end human trafficking.
We took time to honor the stories and lives of brave survivors. We noted the great progress we've made against this grave injustice at the national and grassroots levels. We honored the recipients of the first Presidential award for those who have led the way in fighting human trafficking. And we put our heads together to come up with more solutions that we can get to work on right away. Because even one life devastated by trafficking is one too many. That's why President Obama's administration is working with partners around the country and the world to eradicate human trafficking.
Last year, President Obama delivered a speech on the fight to end human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York. There, the President said: “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.”
The President called on everyone to step up the fight against trafficking. And we have. Since last year, we have renewed sanctions on some of the worst perpetrators of human trafficking. We have released for public comment the Victims Services Strategic Action Plan. We have partnered with organizations and groups that help women and children escape their abusers. And we have expanded our interagency task force to include enforcement partners such as the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, along with many other Federal agencies.
Now, we are seeing the fruits of our labor. More nations around the world are passing and enforcing anti-trafficking laws. Here in the United States , we are charging a record number of predators with human trafficking violations. We are joining together with faith-based and neighborhood organizations to maximize resources and outcomes.
And we're particularly excited about the cutting-edge technology that's being developed to end trafficking.
At yesterday's forum, we highlighted new technology that is being used to help victims, connect them to services, and expose traffickers. We saw exciting demonstrations of some of these tools focused on reaching victims where they are – online and on their phones.
We also heard from a panel of law enforcement officers and leaders from Palantir Technologies and J.P. Morgan Chase about how we can bring private sector innovation and technology to fight child sex trafficking.
Just today, the President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships released their report and recommendations to the President on how we can better combat trafficking. You can read more about their recommendations here.
This week's events remind us that this is a battle we can win, when all of these voices speak as one. Together, we will continue the fight to end human trafficking.
Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. Todd Park is the United States Chief Technology Officer.
Child sex trafficking - as easy in Seattle as ordering a pizza
by LINDA THOMAS
In our society people should not be able to order a girl for sex the same way they can order a pizza and have it delivered to their home.
That's what a mom says about child sex trafficking, which she knew nothing about until her daughter was sold as a sex slave between Everett and Burien for 108 days.
"You warn them about the boogeyman and you warn them about the dangers of crossing the street without holding an adult's hand when they're younger, and you talk about the dangers of texting while driving. These are the things that you are worried about when your children are growing up," says Nacole, who didn't want me to use her last name.
"I don't think the thought ever crossed my mind that I'd have to warn my daughter about being a child sex slave."
Police estimate up to 500 teens, some children as young as 12 years old, are sold as sex slaves every day in King County.
The growing numbers have prompted new legislation in Washington, along with concerted effort between the F.B.I. and local police agencies to arrest traffickers who are often involved with gangs and organized crime.
Those efforts might help the next 15-year-old girl who suddenly writes a note and leaves home like Nacole's daughter did a few years ago.
"She said that she loved her family. There's nothing we did wrong, but she she needed to go find herself," Nacole says. "I'm thinking, ‘what, what do you mean go find yourself, you're 15, you've got your whole lifetime to find yourself.'"
Her daughter, a star soccer player at a local high school and a violinist, came from what Nacole says was a typical suburban home.
She had an older brother who went to an Ivy League college in New York, a sister who was involved in sports at school and two parents who told her often that they loved her.
When she disappeared, Nacole's husband drove the streets of Seattle looking for their little girl. Almost two weeks later, Seattle Police called the parents saying they'd found the runaway daughter.
"She looked completely different than she had 10 days before. Her hair was cut. It was colored. Her fingernails had been done. She had completely different clothes," she says. "On the way home she started telling us that she had been held captive in Everett, and that she had been raped and that she had been made to work the streets."
If you're a parent, pause for a few seconds and imagine how you'd feel after hearing your child say she - or he, sex trafficking happens to boys too - had just been forced into prostitution.
"As parent you just, you," Nacole says with her voice trailing off. "In hindsight, I think my entire family was in shock. We just said, ‘okay, you're more than the sum of these 10 days we're going to get through this as a family.'"
Nacole thought the ordeal was over. It happened again.
"She was lured out of the house by somebody she had met on the streets the first time. Within 36 hours she had been posted on the website Backpage.com by a 26-year-old man who said she was 18. He continued to post her repeatedly for the next 108 days," says Nacole.
The teen had developed what child sex trafficking social workers call a "trauma bond" with her pimps.
"They're asking her questions, they're taking an inventory on who she is, where she comes from, who are her friends, their families, what are her goals or objectives in life," says Phil Martin. "What the girl doesn't know is that he's just taking an inventory on her life and at some point he's going to turn that round and use it as a threat to keep her involved in prostitution and make money for him."
Martin, national director of Compassion 2 One, based in Issaquah, says he didn't know anything about child sex trafficking until about six years ago.
"I was just one of those people who thought girls did this by choice," he says. "Once I found out this was organized crime, or gangs, or just every day guys who were buying these girls. I found out how sophisticated it was, how premeditated it was."
His organization works to educate and rescue children - locally, nationally and internationally - from what has become a $42 billion a year illegal industry.
"If a guy has a hotel room, he's got three to four girls working between 10 o'clock at night until 5 o'clock in the morning and he's charging anywhere from $200 to $250 per sex act," Martin says. "The girl is going to service six to seven guys a night, do that for 30 days and the guy is a millionaire because you know she's not keeping any of the money."
Two anti-trafficking bills unanimously passed both the State House of Representatives and the Senate this year, and are waiting for Governor Jay Inslee's signature.
Under Senate Bill 5563, teachers in Washington would be trained to recognize sexual exploitation by traffickers and would be required to report student physical or sexual abuse.
Bill 5488 would impose an additional fine of $5,000 above existing penalties where an Internet advertisement led to sexual abuse of a minor.
These bills are on top of a dozen bills signed last year dealing with child sex trafficking.
Minors forced into the trade can now have their records cleared, due to a law created in 2012.
Nacole's daughter won't have a criminal record.
Although the now 18-year-old is still dealing with emotional issues, she's doing better after the family moved to a smaller town in a nearby state.
"This hasn't been easy. This wasn't anything I ever imagined for her," Nacole says. "I thought I was so in tune with my children and did everything I could to keep them safe. If this can happen to me, it can happen to you. It can happen to anyone."
New law to stop child sex trafficking
by Senator Thom Goolsby
To North Carolina's shame, our state ranks in the top 10 (number eight) for the sex trafficking of children. This form of prostitution is nothing more than systematic rape for profit. Behind every sale of a child for sex is the threat of violence or actual violence perpetrated against a minor.
Recent studies have shown that within 48 hours of running away from home, one in three children is involved in prostitution. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, $32 billion a year is made on sex trafficking, making it the second fastest growing crime segment, just behind the trafficking of narcotics.
New legislation was recently introduced in the North Carolina Senate to take our state off this top 10 list of shame and, hopefully, move us to the bottom. The proposed law attacks, first and foremost, the prime movers in sex trafficking of minors – the pimps. It jacks up punishment as high as a class B1 felony, sending them to jail for many, many years. But it does not stop there.
The proposed legislation is actually a comprehensive “safe harbor” law that goes after the sex trafficking of children in every way possible. The excuse of consent on the part of the child is not a defense to prosecution, nor a mistake in the age of the minor. Besides throwing the pimps in jail, the law moves to seize their property and illicit profits. A law already passed by the Senate turns these sex traffickers into sex offenders who are required to register as such when they complete their lengthy sentences.
The purchasers of sex, aka “johns,” are not overlooked either. When this legislation becomes law, anyone purchasing sex from a child will be guilty of at least a class C felony. The punishment goes as high as a class B2 felony if the crime is committed within 1,000 feet of a school. Additionally, the law allows for the impounding of a john's automobile and the levying of a $500 fee for its return after conviction with the money deposited into a victim compensation fund.
The most forward thinking part of the bill involves how these abused children are treated. Under current law, minors arrested on prostitution charges are placed in custody and treated like any other juvenile offender. If the minor is at least 16 years old, she is treated like an adult criminal.
The new legislation changes everything. It makes minors immune from prosecution. Instead, they are treated as victims and are subject to temporary protective custody. Law enforcement is required to immediately report an allegation of minor sex trafficking to the Director of the Department of Social Services (DSS) in the county in which the child resides. DSS is then required to commence an initial investigation into child abuse or child neglect within 24 hours.
This new law offers real hope for children caught up in the world of sex trafficking by treating them as victims and rescuing them from a living hell of abuse and degradation. It also metes out significant punishment to both pimps and johns who drive this train of rape and violence. It is past time that North Carolina was serious about ridding our state of the scourge of child prostitution. The new safe harbor legislation gives us a chance to take a bite out of this crime and get our state off the list of shame.
Thom Goolsby is a state senator, practicing attorney and law professor. He is a chairman of the Senate Judiciary 1 and Justice and Public Safety Committees. He is also a primary sponsor of this legislation.
Committee Passes Major Sex Trafficking Bill
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers continue their drive for anti-sex trafficking legislation by passing the session's most comprehensive bill on the subject.
Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted AB67 out of committee unanimously Tuesday, just days before the deadline for bills to clear committee.
The bill defines sex trafficking, stiffens criminal penalties, provides tools for victims and law enforcement officers and includes customers of trafficked persons in the same criminal class as the traffickers in some cases.
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Masto is the lead proponent for AB67.
The committee also passed AB146, which increases the penalties for holding a minor against their will and forcing them to do acts of service or committing other crimes.
The bills now await a full Assembly vote.
Group Seeking Shelter for Kids Affected by Sex Trafficking
Jennifer Gaines was 14 years old when she got recruited into prostitution.
"He said if I loved him I would help him out by turning tricks to make some money," Gaines said.
By 17 Gaines was a drug addict. By 18 she was in prison. Gaines says she spent 28 years working as a prostitute.
"Had they had services like what they are trying to get now, maybe I wouldn't have been out there so long and have lost so much," Gaines said.
On Tuesday, Gaines and other victims told their stories to the Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee at the capitol. They want $13.5 million to provide shelter, housing, and treatment for people who need help here now.
"While we sit here, 2013, there's 4 designated shelter beds in the entire state of Minnesota for children who have been sex trafficked," Jeff Bauer, of the Family Partnership Organization said.
So what they are proposing is a state wide system, a first of it's kind in Minnesota.
"So regardless if you are a child who is found in Duluth or Thief River Falls or down in Mankato or Worthington or wherever you might be, there's a shelter bed waiting for you," Bauer said.
Gaines says the organization "Breaking Free" in St. Paul helped her turn her life around, that and the birth of her daughter.
"I named her Destiny because I knew she was going to be the child to change my destiny," Gaines said.
So what happens now, the groups proposal could be included in the omnibus budget bill. In the next week or two both the senate and house will debate on what is in and what's out. They have bi-partisan support but moral support is not going to help these kids.
"Talk early and often" about sexual abuse, urge advocates
by Dave Marcheskie
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - Orange scarves were wrapped around the necks from several women with YWCA of Harrisburg Tuesday morning. The bright hue represented the color of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, honored through the month of April.
Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson led the first public press conference with the city's Sexual Assault Task Force since its formation last December. Tina Nixon with the YWCA of Harrisburg, Jennifer Storm with Dauphin County Victim Services, and Harrisburg Police Captain Annette Oates stood beside Thompson as she urged residents to talk about sexual abuse.
"Unfortunately children as young as two or three years old must be a part of this frank conversation," Thompson said.
Most people remember the violent abduction and sexual assault of a HACC student last December. The heinous actions of Clarence Shaffer, along with numerous other reported sexual assaults that first week of December, prompted Mayor Thompson to form the aforementioned task force.
In 2012, Harrisburg police reported 56 rapes, 5 attempted rapes and 106 sexual assaults. Police did acknowledge that a handful were either unfounded or cleared. Nonetheless, advocates maintain that one rape or sexual assault is one too many.
Jennifer Storm urged parents and caretakers to begin the difficult conversation with kids of all ages as soon as possible. Storm said start small with this daunting task, and keep the talks age-appropriate. She mentioned she spoke with her eight year-old niece, her 16 year-old niece and a nail technician at a local salon to spread the word.
"That's where change happens," said Storm. "That's where the conversations need to start. So it's those little steps that we can do each and every day that can really create awareness about this issue."
Instead of orange, Storm was dressed in teal. She explained teal represents Sexual Violence Survivors, also honored this month. Storm wanted people to know there are survivors not just in Harrisburg, but throughout Dauphin County.
Dauphin County reported 148 adult and 569 children survivors of sexual abuse.
"It's everyone's responsibility to talk often, talk early, talk about sexual violence," said Storm. "You can be a part of the solution."
Failed to Death
Child abuse hotline, training program advance in Colorado legislature
by Jordan Steffen and Jennifer Brown
Colorado would have a statewide hotline to report child abuse and an intensified training program for workers who screen abuse and neglect calls under a key piece of the state's child welfare reform plan passed by a House committee Tuesday.
"The system that you have now doesn't work," said Rep. Jenise May, D-Aurora, one of the bill's sponsors. "There are calls that we miss."
Since 2007, 202 children have died of abuse and neglect in Colorado. Among those, 75 had parents or caregivers who were known to the child welfare system before their deaths. In at least 13 of those cases, caseworkers left all calls regarding the family's welfare unassigned before the child died.
The Denver Post and 9News reported last year that a combination of factors, including lack of training and consistent standards, large caseloads and inadequate resources, were causing abused children to slip through the cracks.
The state's 64 counties each operate their own child abuse hotlines, then screen those calls and decide which require further investigation. The concern with that system is that some kids fall through the cracks, either because it's too overwhelming for a neighbor or grandmother to find the correct number and get in touch with a live person to make a report of suspected abuse, or because call screeners are not properly trained, bill supporters said.
"I challenge you to call a small county on a snow day like today and see if you can actually get someone," May said.
In the case of 2-year-old Caleb Pacheco, whose mummified body was found stuffed under a Sterling mobile home, child protection workers in multiple counties received 45 calls from people looking for and concerned about the little boy, according to a state review of his death.
The hotline legislation — which passed the House human services committee 8-5 and still must go to the full House and Senate — would create a steering committee of state and county child welfare experts to set up the specifics of the hotline, a public awareness campaign and training program.
It would take almost two years, until January 2015, to open the hotline for calls, according to the proposal.
The steering committee, which would have an outside consultant who is an expert in child abuse screening and prevention, would cost an estimated $25,000 this year and $704,000 next year. But the estimated cost in later years, when the hotline and training are in full operation, caused five Republican lawmakers to vote against the bill. By 2016, the hotline and screening could cost up to $3 million per year and include up to 40 full-time employees.
"Forty people? That gives me sticker shock," said Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who voted against the legislation.
A handful of lawmakers questioned whether it was necessary to have a statewide child abuse hotline when people could call 911. Colorado child abuse caseworkers handled 81,000 calls last year that were substantiated for abuse and neglect, a number that might overwhelm 911 operators and further lessen the chances that an abuse or neglect report would reach the right person, other lawmakers argued.
"I know from reading the child fatality reports that we can do a better job," said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, another bill sponsor and a former Boulder County child abuse caseworker whose job it was to screen abuse calls. "There is such reluctance to get law enforcement involved. The thought of calling 911 is so overwhelming for some people."
Colorado Human Services executive director Reggie Bicha said the 911 system is better suited to handle emergencies — when a baby has been shaken, for example. The hotline, however, is for the neighbor who hears the baby's cries and loud noises coming from the house, or sees the parents drinking too much and not caring for the child.
Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, said that by the time someone calls 911 to report an emergency, it is often too late to prevent abuse.
"What's not working is that children are dying, still," he said. "This is a way to move forward so children stop dying, so families start getting the support they need."
Colorado Counties Inc. supports the legislation, which allows counties to keep their own hotline if they choose. Screeners at the statewide hotline would transfer calls to counties operating their own hotlines. But in smaller counties, most likely, statewide screeners would answer the calls and route them to an appropriate person, particularly on nights and weekends when county screeners were unavailable. Screeners at the statewide call center, as well as county centers, would participate in training that "doesn't exit today," Bicha said.
The state legislature has passed measures this session that add coaches, assistant coaches, paramedics and EMTs to the list of "mandatory reporters" who are required to report suspected child abuse. The list already includes doctors and teachers.
Other pieces of Gov. John Hickenlooper's child welfare reform plan include new money to finance a study of workloads of child protection workers and new in-home services for at-risk families intended to prevent child abuse.
The legislature already has granted initial approval to a state budget that would dedicate $30 million in new funding for the package of reforms Hickenlooper proposed, Bicha said earlier Tuesday in a meeting with the Denver Post's editorial board.
The proposed budget includes $200,000 to hire a consultant to help guide the development of a new statewide hotline for child abuse. Bicha said other states reported the annual costs of running such a hotline range from $2 million to $18 million.
Pennsylvania State Senate panel hears fresh calls for post-Sandusky child abuse law changes
by Charles Thomps
The chair of the Pennsylvania Senate's Public Heath and Welfare Committee said she wants to see a package of bills designed to strengthen protections for children from all forms of abuse moved to Gov. Corbett's desk by the end of the year.
But Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County, cautioned it may take that much time to ensure the legislature is making the child protection system as strong as possible in Pennsylvania in the wake of sensational cases like the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
"I think we've learned a lot," Vance said after a hearing today on the findings of a blue-ribbon task force empaneled last year to recommend changes. "But have we learned enough to legislate intelligently? That is the question."
But task force leaders were clear enough about their must-dos.
They continued to hone in on the need for Pennsylvania to broaden its current definitions of child abuse so state reporting systems catch more of the cases that are investigated, and information on the families involved is accessible to those who need it.
At present, Dr. Cindy Christian noted, because cases regarding issues like home cleanliness, nutrition or neglect are not deemed abuse at present, too many children get left in dangerous situations where appropriate red flags have never been raised.
Christian, a noted abuse expert who recently became the City of Philadelphia's first Medical Director, said all too often she has come across cases where after the fact it became clear the same family had a long history in the system but - for legal reasons - the information was never shared to the next investigator who could use it.
It's "report. Report. Report. Report. Report. Report. Report. Report. Death," Christian said. ".... That is more common than you can imagine."
She also argued for a carve-out in the state's law restricting disclosure of a patient's medical information so doctors who encounter child abuse know that beyond simply making reports of their suspicions, they can freely discuss specific injuries they have seen with police and child welfare investigators.
"You need to have good information in in order to get good information out," Christian said.
Current laws probably weren't intended to do it, Christian said, but they have had the effect of "freezing people, and it prevents them from sharing some very important information. Pennsylvania could lead the way... in specifying that we want information sharing between doctors and others who are responsible for the safety of our children."
Vance said that she was in support of that. "I have thought for a long time that our HIPPA (patient privacy) laws have been carried too far," she said.
The other issue highlighted today was the task force's emphasis on the creation of more children's advocacy centers around Pennsylvania.
Such centers - which already exist in the midstate - provide a place where police and child welfare investigators can work together on a case of suspected abuse, with medical expertise as needed.
They also are designed to minimize the burden on youthful victims by, for example, taping one-time interviews led by specially-trained staff so that children aren't forced to recount their stories to a series of strangers over and over again.
Having a fully functional child advocacy center, task force member and Carlisle attorney Jason Kutalakis said, also helps to create an environment where children and youth caseworkers are more likely to stay in the field because they feel empowered to do good work.
That's important in a state where, all too often, the case workers are young college graduates who only stay in the field until they can get another job, noted Acting Secretary of Public Welfare Bev Mackereth.
"Most of our workforce leaves before the training is completed," Mackereth, who also served on the Legislative Child Abuse Task Force last year, said. "That doesn't do us a whole lot of good."
Mackereth said, in an ideal world, additional resources would be devoted to raise the salaries of the child welfare caseworkers.
To read the Pennsylvania Legislative Commission on Child Protection's full report, click here.
In all, Vance said there are at least 16 bills introduced in the Senate dealing with task force-related proposals. Others bills have already started to move in the state House of Representatives.
What we can do to prevent child sexual abuse
Statistics reveal an alarming rate of cases occur annually
by Elaine Stolte
Houston: Can we prevent inappropriate teacher-student relationships?
The answer is yes, through training and prevention. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and, unfortunately, news reports reveal an ongoing problem with inappropriate teacher-student relationships.
According to a recent account by Dallas' WFAA-TV, Texas leads the nation in reports of inappropriate relationships between students and teachers.
Terry Abbott, former chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush, told the station that Texas has seen 26 cases of inappropriate relationships since the beginning of this year; nationwide, there have been more than 200 cases.
The Children's Assessment Center hears the painful accounts of child sexual abuse committed by family members, friends, teachers and strangers. We treat nearly 5,000 sexually abused children every year. But parents are not powerless, and neither is the community. The following are helpful guidelines for those who care for and care about children.
What parents need to know:
Educate yourself regarding the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse. Talk to your children about appropriate boundaries and empower them to be in charge of their bodies and not to be afraid to say anything if something makes them feel uncomfortable. Recent statistics indicate that more than 80 percent of child sexual abuse cases occur during one adult/one child interactions. Therefore, if you eliminate or reduce one adult/one child interactions, you will dramatically lower the risk of child sexual abuse.
Tell your child to be leery if asked to accompany a teacher or a stranger anywhere without someone else present. No adult should ever seek directions or advice from a child. If a teacher is texting your child, call the teacher and ask how you can help. Monitor your child's Facebook account and know their friends.
Ask these questions of all youth-serving organizations your child is involved in:
1. How does the program screen staff?
2. Are criminal background checks conducted?
3. Do they check references?
4. How do they monitor interactions between adults and children?
5. How do they handle inappropriate behavior or allegations of sexual abuse?
6. What training do staff and volunteers receive regarding prevention of child sexual abuse?
What Houston needs to know:
The Children's Assessment Center deals with the topic of child sexual abuse on a daily basis.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
More than 95 percent of children are abused by someone they know and trust.
Only one in 10 children will tell of their abuse.
One in five children are solicited sexually while online.
All children have adults in their lives. Adults may miss the signs of abuse; therefore, they fail to report. It is easy to do because individuals do not want to notice, do not want to believe, do not want to imagine someone we know harming a child. Yet, child sexual abuse happens every day in our community in alarming numbers.
Let's encourage youth-serving organizations to train their staff on the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse. Let's ask the tough questions of these organizations. Let's not stand by silently. The Children's Assessment Center is a leading advocacy center in the nation, and we invite our entire community to join us in the fight against child sexual abuse.
Stolte is executive director of the Children's Assessment Center. Learn more at www.cachouston.org
Child sex-abuse prosecutions extended
OLYMPIA — Victims of child sexual abuse could report their assaults up to the age of 30 under a bill approved today by the Senate.
The bill extends the statute of limitations for charging suspects in child sexual abuse cases, which currently require a victim report the abuse in one to three years, depending on the age of the victim and some other circumstances.
Post traumatic stress disorder can keep a victim from reporting the abuse until after they become adults, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said.
“I think we want to catch as many sexual offenders as possible. We want to convict as many sexual offenders as possible,' Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.
The bill passed the both the Senate and House unanimously.
Abused by a teacher? Decades later, what does justice look like?
by Michael Miner
The time-honored way of writing a New Yorker exposé is to never raise your voice. Instead, pile one specific quietly on another until the reader is silently screaming.
In just this fashion, "The Master," the lead article in the April 1 New Yorker , considers the accusations made by former prep students at the Bronx's Horace Mann school that back in the 1960s and '70s they were sexually seduced by their English teacher. According to the accounts reported by the New Yorker 's Marc Fisher, the teacher, Robert Berman, would pick out boys from unstable families, tell them they were brilliant and must live for their gifts, begin inviting them to his home, and at some point suggest they take their clothes off. Some of the relationships allegedly formed in this way lasted for years.
Fisher's story followed recent accounts of sexual abuse by other Horace Mann teachers during the same era. One of those teachers, Tek Young Lin, told the New York Times last year, "In those days it was very spontaneous and casual, and it did not seem really wrong." It does now. The school is confronting its past, and the local district attorney has established a hot line for receiving confidential tips on staff improprieties.
Fisher was himself a Horace Mann student, class of 1976. He remembers Lin as "one of my favorite teachers," but Berman was another matter. Fisher tells us he was assigned Berman in tenth grade, sat through one class in which Berman compared the students to the piece of dropped chalk his heel was grinding into the floorboards, and transferred out. So did plenty of other students at the then all-male school. Yet many students who didn't bail remember Berman's class as transformative. Berman himself, still alive but long retired, denied to Fisher that any of the sexual misconduct he's accused of happened, and Fisher leaves us with room to doubt if we choose to. Few readers will choose to.
I read enthralled. Say what you will about the rebelliousness of adolescents, they can be putty in the hands of an adult who sniffs out their insecurities. I snickered as I read the following passage:
Gary Alan Fine, a 1968 graduate of Horace Mann and a sociologist at Northwestern University, accepts that Berman's accusers are telling the truth, but worries that the Horace Mann teachers are being judged by the standards of a different time. 'This was the late sixties, and what we now think of as rape or sexual assault didn't quite mean the same thing in that age of sexual awakening,' Fine said. What some teachers did 'was wrong, absolutely, but there are degrees of wrongness, and what was wrong in 1966 is today much more wrong. I can't imagine that in the late nineteen-sixties anyone would have been terribly surprised had they learned that some faculty were having sexual relations with students. Most would not have thought it good, but it was the way of the world.'
Fine said that Berman 'probably influenced me more for the better than any other teacher,' sharpening his writing, deepening his thinking, and opening him to beauty. Fine, who devotes his scholarship to scandal and reputation, said that his time in that secluded classroom informed his ideas about influence: 'If you're a powerful person and you do things that others respond to because of your power, you may convince yourself that they really love you and this is between two equals.' Still, he finds himself thinking about Berman and the other teachers as 'men in the twilight of their lives,' he said. 'Even if they did something wrong, at some point revenge or justice becomes unseemly. At what point do you say, "Let it rest"?'
He's contradicting himself! I told myself. How can a wrong be absolute yet not as wrong today as it was yesterday? And how does the unforgivable become more forgivable simply because time has passed? Time is always passing. Time doesn't reduce sin to anecdote.
Then again, was my catching Fine in this lapse more clever than smart? Fine teaches at Northwestern, just up the road. If I didn't like what he had to say, I could call him. And if I called him I should have something to challenge him with beyond don't be ridiculous! So I thought a little harder about what Fine said to Fisher, and came to the interesting conclusion that he had a point.
"Let it rest," or "let it go," isn't fashionable advice. Nobody likes giving a pass to someone who doesn't deserve one. But every day it seems we hear about victims of psychological abuse who we wish to God could somehow find a way to get on with their lives. To begin with, there's that vast pool of traumatized veterans of our most recent foreign wars. And what about disaffected Scientologists? The April 25 New York Review of Books carries Diane Johnson's review of Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. "Wright includes numerous accounts of broken health, mental breakdown, and suicides among members and former members," Johnson tells us. "Many speak of feeling permanently damaged, or of needing years to 'heal.' . . . Many have made videotapes. . . .Their stories are strangely similar, a certain flat affect in itself testimony to the lasting effects of indoctrination and the effects of fear."
Marc Fisher offers his own examples from the Horace Mann student body. One is "Gene," a former Berman favorite who for the past five years has been going to weekly meetings of adult survivors of childhood abuse. He's one of several Horace Mann alumni who have hired attorneys to help them seek compensation from their alma mater. Yet Fisher notes Gene's ongoing confusion. For instance, he still hangs on to a small bronze piglet from Italy that Berman gave him in tenth grade. "This meant that somebody loved me," Gene explained, "And nobody had ever shown me that before. . . . It's part of me, part of my life, I guess." On Gene's iTunes playlist is a Mahler symphony that was one of Berman's favorites. On his apartment wall is a painting by an artist Berman admired.
Don't wallow in the past is risky advice because when it isn't the right thing to say it could be harmfully wrong. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that when new syndromes are described and named they become contagions. Neurasthenia, fashionable in the early 20th century, passed out of vogue as depression swept in, and for a time in the 1980s and '90s depression was widely held to be a telltale sign of sexual abuse during childhood that had been totally repressed. Sympathetic therapists went to work on discontented patients, notably women who could not put a finger on their sadness, certain that the teasing out of buried memories of abuse was sound science and could and should lead to legal action and criminal penalties. Countless families were destroyed and reputations disgraced before reason gained the upper hand and that tide went out. I wrote sympathetically (for instance, here and here and here) about anyone who challenged the doctrine of repressed memory. To me it was pernicious madness.
I wrote Professor Fine and said I was interested in learning more about his views on changing moral standards and letting the past go. "Is ex post facto intolerance the price we pay for our moral evolution?" I wondered.
Fine wrote back to say he'd been "bombarded with comments" on the New Yorker article, "some favorable, others not." He'd written a short essay that he believed clarified his position, and he sent it along to me.
1) Instances of sexual contact between adults and minors, particularly when located within institutions, are inevitably acts of power. It may be that the adult convinces himself (or herself) that it is truly equal love, but that belief is false and wrong.
2) Attitudes towards social relations (and, in this case, crimes) change over time. Perhaps the most dramatic example concerns homosexuality. At the time we are talking about homosexual acts were criminal, today a majority of citizens support marriage equality. And attitudes toward sexual relations between adults and adolescents have changed. They were always wrong, but in the past several decades, we have become much more sensitive to the harm caused by these relations. Surely our attitudes to particular crimes change over time (marijuana? drunk driving?) No one understands this better than Catholic priests. Mr. Fisher points to scandals at other private schools, and one wonders in how many parishes did similar scandals occur. But they were not reported because it was believed that those in power did not consider them important or if they were reported nothing was done. This has changed. Of course, these actions were perpetrated by a minority of teachers and priests, but their institutions were willing to tolerate the actions and turn away from investigating. It was never 'OK', but it is taken much more seriously today. To me this is so obvious as to be an embarrassingly mundane comment. And I have no doubt that attitudes will continue to evolve in ways that I cannot predict. However I imagine that in 2050 there will be issues that are generally seen one way that we now see another. And our grandchildren will be quite certain of their beliefs as we are of ours. Perhaps in some absolute sense the actions remain as right or wrong, but they are treated in particular ways because of our changing beliefs.
3) We institute statutes of limitations on crimes for a reason. Memories fade. And Fisher makes clear that some of the things that these men believe are factually wrong. And of course Robert Berman vigorously denies the charges (I was not aware of that when I spoke with Mr. Fisher). I pointed out that I don't doubt the charges, but by the same token I have no knowledge of what actually transpired. After 40 years, well after the statute of limitations, we are unlikely to find a definitive answer. However, on Easter afternoon [when I wrote this], perhaps we can agree that soon enough St. Peter will sort it out if Robert Berman belongs purgatory or further down. For now I believe that these men should recognize the good that they [Berman's targets] themselves have done and, as I said, let it rest. Most of us have had moments of pain in our lives—abusive fathers, alcoholic mothers, a sister killed on 9/11, a brother paralyzed in Iraq. These pains—or those of these students—cannot be forgotten, but we must try not to define ourselves by the most painful things in our lives.
4) There was a fourth point, not in my section of the article. This is the fact that it is entirely appropriate to investigate the Horace Mann School. The school has responsibility for protecting its students. If they had reason to know of these activities (of any of the teachers) and did not act in a morally and legally appropriate action, their responsibility remains. Parents and children believed that the administration was operating with due diligence. There is a charge that a headmaster (now deceased) engaged in some forms of sexual abuse. If true, this is important, not because I would want to persecute a deeply flawed person, but because he represented the school as an institution. We should not focus on these old men, but on the actions of the school.
I wrote back with a few more questions, and Fine called me. We briefly went over the ground this post has covered so far. He's also a repressed-memory skeptic, though not quite as skeptical as I am. And when repressed memory stopped being the explanation du jour for all that ails us, he offered his thoughts on what succeeded it. "It was replaced by food allergies," said Fine.
But as for retroactive intolerance . . .
"I think we need a certain generosity of spirit," he said. "Let's take the case—let's use something historical, maybe not so historical in some ways. Let's talk about traditional slavery. If you go back to the 1750s, slavery is largely taken for granted by white landowners and by the white society in general. By 1850, slavery is still legal but it's increasingly recognized as a moral outrage. In the 1930s and '40s it was taken for granted that young people would smoke cigarettes. In the 1950s we began to have research on smoking. In the '60s we had the surgeon general's report, in the 1970s rules about smoking on airplanes. Onward and onward. It's not that you can choose one date—it's a process. But at a certain point there comes a moral consensus."
As to the matter at hand, teachers seducing students . . . "Of course it's wrong," said Fine. "I'm not defending these kinds of relationships. It was wrong in the 1960s. No one would come out and say 'I'm sleeping with my students.' But society then did not have the same need for rules, regulations, mandatory reporting laws, teacher training, et cetera." In other words—if I may risk putting my words in Fine's mouth—it was a wrong that in the 1960s society did not resist with anything resembling today's urgency. "I was there at Horace Mann and I didn't know any of this was going on," Fine told me. "There was certainly this culture of silence. I couldn't say whether these individuals have been tormented continually for 40 years—or were they disturbed, upset when it happened and kind of forgot about it? I don't know. For me, Berman was a strange man. He was not the right person for everyone. He was a weird person, but a compelling person in terms of what he was teaching. I can say I'm a much better writer because of being in his class. But I was never one of the Bermanites."
And you knew there were Bermanites?
I suggested to Fine that judging Berman's behavior 40 years ago by today's moral consensus could lead some of us to judge Fine as well for his obliviousness to what Berman allegedly was up to. Parsing the word finely, Fine protested. "It wasn't that I was oblivious back then," he said. He was unaware . He had no reason to know or duty to know. "The obliviousness in the 60s would have been to those people in charge of the school who had the duty to know. If Fisher can be taken seriously—and I assume he can—at various points parents came to the administration and said 'This is going on' and the administration took no action. That's the core issue. The school doesn't become a man in the twilight of his life."
Fine reminded me that Northwestern is also an institution under an obligation to confront its past. John Evans , a founder of the university in 1851 (Evanston is named for him),was governor of the Colorado Territory at the time of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, when more than 150 Cheyenne and Arapahoe, many of them women, children, and the elderly, were slaughtered by Colorado militiamen. Evans was asked to resign as governor in 1865, but he remained chairman of Northwestern's board of trustees until 1894. "The university let him stay on, and accepted his money—a lot of money," said Fine. In February, under pressure from students—pressure Fine applauds—Northwestern formed a committee to study this early chapter in its history and measure its moral culpability.
At this date, what can possibly be done? I wondered. "You can provide a fund for Sand Creek survivors to go to college, or the children of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne," Fine said. "You can have a lecture series on campus. You can hire more native faculty. You can have some kind of annual ceremony. These are all ideas that have come up—because there's no statute of limitations for institutions."
But what about Gene? I said. Horace Mann may have a lot to answer for, but it's not the school that is still messing with his head. It's Robert Berman. "The question is, where do you go for justice?" Fine replied. "Do you go to the door of an 80-year-old, or do you go to the door of an institution that had an obligation to protect you and didn't do it? He deserves justice, and Horace Mann can provide it. I gather the school has made a settlement with a group of plaintiffs, which means they recognize they didn't act properly, or if it went to court they'd lose."
We wondered if this collective action by former students was an unalloyed benefit to them all. Did it reinforce an idea they'd been permanently damaged by predatory teachers at Horace Mann even though some had not previously felt they were? We had no way of knowing.
After hesitating a beat, Fine decided to share something with me. "Berman actually, for a period of time, tutored me in Russian. In his apartment."
And nothing happened?
No, said Fine. Nonetheless, when Berman came under attack from other alums, Fine recognized a financial opportunity. He told himself, "If I say something happened in his apartment, maybe something would come my way."
Fine resisted the temptation. But did your own benign memories make you skeptical of the other students' claims? I asked.
No, he said again. "The argument Fisher is making is that Berman was manipulative and looked for those students who were at difficult points in their family relationships. My dad was a psychiatrist, and my parents were together. I would not have been a good target."
Child sex abuse survivors rally for change in Ore. statute of limitations
by KGW Staff
SALEM – Advocates for reforming the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse crimes in Oregon took to the Capitol steps Monday before a public hearing to discuss HB 3284.
People who described themselves as adult survivors of child sex abuse rallied and held signs describing what happened to them.
Oregon has a six-year statute of limitations on most sex crimes. The law allows for a longer period of time if the victim is under the age of 18. In those cases, the crime can be prosecuted any time before the victim turns 30, or within 12 years after the crime is reported to police or social workers.
Nationwide, 33 states have eliminated the statute of limitations on some or all child sex offenses, but not Oregon. In 2011, the Oregon legislature considered eliminating the statute of limitations, but the bill died in committee.
People who spoke out at Monday's rally said it often takes victims decades to come to grips with what happened to them and that's why they support HB 3284.
“If people are finally able to speak out and the statutes of limitations have expired, it can be extremely frustrating,” said abuse survivor Margie Boule. “But, beyond that, those abusers are still out there hurting more children.”
The Oregon House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to begin the public hearing at 1 p.m.
Criminal defense attorneys have argued that statute of limitations were created because over time, witnesses may die, memories may fade, or critical evidence may be destroyed or lost.
Victim advocates noted that these cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Studies have found that in the U.S., one out of four girls and one out of six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
Legislation would aid abuse survivors: As I See It
by Delilah Rumburg
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape works to eliminate all forms of sexual violence and advocates for the rights and needs of victims of sexual assault. In doing so, we support public policies that protect victim rights, promote public safety and hold sex offenders accountable for their actions.
We support Rep. Marguerite Quinn's, R-Bucks, bill (HB342) to prohibit the release of the names of adult survivors of child sexual abuse
We also support legislation proposed by Reps. Michael McGeehan, D-Philadelphia, and Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, to provide a two-year window of time to suspend the statute of limitations for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to pursue civil actions. Allowing victims time and privacy in the courts enhances safety for everyone.
Victims of child sexual abuse are usually the only people who know the identity of their offenders. Sexual assault is committed in private; rarely are there witnesses. Sex offenders plan when and where to sexually abuse their victims and they take steps to ensure that child victims don't tell anyone about their actions. They may confuse children by acting generous, giving gifts, saying they love them and no one else understands them. Many offenders tell victims no one will believe them; they caused the abuse or they will get in trouble. Often they threaten additional harm to the victim or others the victim loves and maintain relationships with the victim after the abuse has ended to help cover their crimes. In the words of Joe McGettigan, lead prosecutor in the Sandusky case, “ Humiliation, shame and fear equal silence .”
Most sex offenders begin their offending behaviors during their adolescence, and held unchecked, will continue through their adult lives until sued civilly or arrested. Undetected sex offenders inflict sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual harm against numerous victims who live with feelings of humiliation, fear and shame, and for many, silence. Many stay silent until they realize their abuser is still assaulting other children, or they learn that they were not alone. Victims must be provided opportunities to seek justice when they are ready.
Keeping victim names private protects victims from further re-victimization that can occur when they lose control of their very personal and painful story or when other people blame, question or harass them.
Just two weeks ago we witnessed how damaging actions are when a documentary film maker tormented Victim 2 in the Sandusky case by hinting in the national press that he would reveal his identify on his website, which he eventually did. Similarly, the country has watched the re-victimization and harassment of “Jane Doe” in Steubenville, OH. These public “outings” of victim identity remind survivors that there is a real risk to reporting the assaults they endured. The fear of being identified in public keeps many survivors silent about what happened to them and who did it, which means offenders go unreported.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape urges Pennsylvanians to contact their lawmakers and ask them to bring Quinn's bill to the floor for a vote and to support the “window” legislation. It is time to give survivors of sexual assault the opportunity to seek justice, promote public safety and do so with privacy.
Delilah Rumburg is the CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. She writes from Enola.
How to support a victim of child sexual abuse
by Donna Strickler
Child sexual abuse has been a frequent focus of national and local media in the last year. We know child sexual abuse happens — with great cost to children, their families and their communities.
Child sexual abuse is perpetrated at a rate that we have yet to fully comprehend. Best estimates suggest that one in four girls and one in six boys will experience child sexual abuse, according to a 1990 study, “Child Abuse and Neglect.”
It's hard to know the true extent of child sexual abuse because barriers to reporting are significant for children. They may not want to get the abuser or themselves in trouble. They may worry no one will believe them. The abuse may be normalized in their life, and they may not know it's wrong. Children may also blame themselves and feel ashamed about the abuse they endure. A child may disclose to an adult who may not know what to do and may feel as though they have to “prove” sexual abuse was perpetrated before they make a report (they don't).
Most of us can't imagine the trauma experienced by a child sexual abuse victim. Research tells us that the impact is long lasting and will often affect someone throughout his or her life. These significant impacts make child sexual abuse the most expensive violent crime in the United States.
The process a child and his or her family experiences after disclosing sexual abuse can help or harm the survivor, and what happens after is critical in the healing process.
What supports can communities put in place to lessen the trauma caused by having to re-tell their story to a number of strangers, ensure adequate medical exams are done and help navigate through a sometimes confusing criminal justice process?
The answer — across the U.S. and in Maine — is a multidisciplinary, victim-centered approach called Children's Advocacy Centers. Our local center, a program under the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center, is housed at Maine General Medical Center's Seton campus in Waterville. It includes a range of professionals from different disciplines including law enforcement, victim advocates, mental health services, child protective services, prosecutors and health-care professionals.
In the center, these teams work together on cases of reported child sexual abuse and are better able to guide children and their families through difficult and often hard to navigate systems. The results are more communication with victims by the same professionals who get to know their case, better victim and family support and confidentiality, and collaboration across service providers — all of which vastly improve the outcome of child sexual abuse reports. This also increases the likelihood of offender accountability, which helps prevent future sexual abuse.
The center in Waterville opened in May 2012. Since then, the staff have facilitated more than 170 forensic interviews and assisted in coordinating important support services for the families of the children impacted by this horrific form of violence. We know that all forms of sexual violence — everything from child sexual abuse to elder sexual abuse — are community problems with community solutions.
These types of centers are community solutions in the truest sense — people coming together to improve the way we work with child sexual abuse victims and survivors. They deserve all of the support we can provide and deserve to live in communities that seek to be “silent no more” and to end child sexual abuse.
For more information about the Kennebec & Somerset County Children's Advocacy Center, visit our website at www.silentnomore.org
Donna Strickler is the executive director of Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center, serving Kennebec and Somerset Counties. She may be reached at email@example.com
Awareness key in preventing child abuse
by Laura Militana
COOKEVILLE — It takes education and action to make a difference in the world.
And that can be done by one person — or by a group, such as CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates.
“I believe that an individual can change the world and our community,” Attorney General Gary Mckenzie told the audience during the 2013 Putnam County Blue Ribbon ceremony held Saturday. “Our worth in this world is related to our actions. These can live through our children.”
Mckenzie was one of the many speakers at the event. Other speakers included state Rep. Ryan Williams and child abuse survivor, CASA volunteer and local author Patsy Giddings.
“We're here to spread the message about child abuse,” Giddings said.
Giddings told the audience her experiences with child abuse — how it began at age 4 and the variety of abuse she and her siblings experienced, which continued as she moved through the foster care system.
“But this story does have a happy ending,” Giddings said. “This was God's plan for me. I'm now a child advocate — I'm happy, married and have a wonderful family.”
She also gave the audience some tips to look for if abuse is suspected.
“Watch for inappropriate behavior,” she said. “Watch for any inappropriate behaviors in other adults or older youth because children, especially young ones, are not as able to recognize these behaviors or to protect themselves. Also, stay on top of your children's use of technology — from Internet, email, instant messaging, webcam use, peer-to-peer social networking sites, and cell phones, including photo exchanges.
“Don't be afraid to speak up, even if you suspect a child is being abused.”
State Rep. Williams encouraged audience members to be a part of the solution to abolish child abuse.
“It's a dramatic, life-changing event,” Williams said. “It's also a time to focus on removing child abuse from our society. We're all called to do our part.”
Students from Algood's Head Start program, the Avery Trace Middle School choir and the Jere Whitson violin group also performed at the ceremony.
“April is child abuse awareness month, but don't just honor it in April — carry it throughout the year,” Williams said.
For more information about CASA or to find out more about volunteer opportunities, call 931-520-8733. To report suspected child abuse anonymously, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-237-0004.
Not reporting suspected child abuse is a felony.
Human-trafficking bill would toughen penalties in Ohio
by Rex Santus
COLUMBUS, Ohio - EleSondra De Romano says she was first trafficked when she was 11 years old.
That is two years before the average trafficking victim is forced into so-called modern slavery, according to Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat who is sponsoring legislation she said would reduce "consumer demand" for human trafficking.
Trafficking victims are often forced into prostitution, Fedor said Monday at a news conference where De Romano also spoke. Fedor said her bill would curb demand for trafficked prostitutes by invoking stricter and broader penalties for offenders.
"The worst criminals in our community are dealing in drugs, guns and girls," Fedor said. "And girls are the most profitable."
The measure would lengthen the statute of limitations for human trafficking by 14 years, as well as eliminate a requirement, in cases involving minors, that force or coercion be proven in trafficking prosecutions. The legislation would also criminalize the purchase of sex-for-hire advertisements that include a depiction of a minor, among numerous other provisions.
Fedor predicts sweeping bipartisan support for the bill, which has 53 cosponsors. The offices of Republican Speaker William G. Batchelder and Attorney General Mike DeWine also confirmed support for the legislation.
The proposal piggybacks on a bill Fedor sponsored in 2012. The legislature widely supported the law, which provides havens for trafficking victims and increased penalties for traffickers.
Fedor said it is important to revisit and strengthen trafficking laws because it is an always-evolving practice that is more common than people may realize. Fedor's hometown, Toledo, is often cited as a hub for sex trafficking, and the new legislation contains an emergency clause that would apply the bill immediately to Toledo.
"This is a pretty tragic situation happening in your own state and your own backyards," Fedor said. "It comes in many forms and fashions. It's like a chameleon. As soon as they figure out that we've figured out their scheme, they've moved, and they've changed into something else."
De Romano, of Toledo, is now an anti-trafficking advocate. At Monday's news conference, she implored lawmakers to continue their support of trafficking victims, saying preventive measures could be the savior of many Ohio children.
"It's very important that this legislation get passed," De Romano said. "Had this been around when I was being trafficked ... a whole lot of pimps probably would not be doing the things they are doing now."
Help the helpers stop child sexual abuse
by DONNA VICKROY
Here are some alarming numbers: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused during childhood. The average age of the victims: 9.
“This is a social epidemic and a real tragedy,” said Heather Randazzo, program coordinator for the Childhood Trauma Treatment Program run by Advocate Health Care. “A tremendous number of people experience abuse and don't come forward.
“It's like slavery,” she said. “We all have to do something in order to end it.”
That something begins with increased awareness, and what better time to consider this than during National Child Abuse Prevention month.
In addition to evaluating and treating children who have been abused, the program, with offices in Oak Lawn and Bolingbrook, sponsors workshops aimed at helping adults help children.
It has just trained its 1,000th adult in the Stewards of Children community outreach program. As a result, more than 10,000 children are now better protected from sexual abuse, Randazzo said.
“While that sounds like a lot, consider that there are 30,000 kids in the Valley View school district alone,” she said of the Romeoville-based district.
The Stewards of Children workshops train adults across Cook, DuPage and Will counties to learn the signs, symptoms and tools to recognize, react responsibly and prevent child sexual abuse.
“Our focus is to reach as many people as possible,” Randazzo said.
They visit adults who run schools, park districts, churches and other groups that cater to children, although any grown-up is welcome to attend a workshop. The 21/2-hour sessions can hold five to 25 people at a time.
“These are people who have a heart for children in their community and who understand the need to protect them,” Randazzo said. “It's a tough issue and a taboo topic, but the real tragedy is to ignore it.”
One such workshop was held last fall at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School.
School counselor Kathy Stangel called it “one of the most impactful workshops ever.”
In addition to learning the shocking statistics, Stangel said, the group was told an awful truth: that most abusers are people who are trusted to be alone with kids.
“Abusers know how to work their way into a family, to build trust,” Randazzo said. “They look for opportunities where children are left alone, or where parents are not paying attention.”
The attendees also were told to call police or the Department of Children and Family Services if they suspect abuse.
“It's important for everyone to know that abuse can happen anywhere, even in the nicest neighborhoods,” Stangel said.
Every time we hear about a case of child sexual abuse, a universal cry of horror goes out.
And then the questions begin. Why do some children end up becoming victims? What can a parent or guardian do to lessen a child's vulnerability?
While the symptoms of sexual abuse are myriad, with the damage occurring both physically and psychologically, the methods for stopping or preventing it are not, Randazzo said.
Open lines of communication and an understanding of what is acceptable behavior and what is not are two solid ways to reduce the likelihood abuse will occur. In addition, she said, adults need to take notice of any sudden changes in a child's behavior.
If Johnny comes home from a Scout meeting especially moody, or if he suddenly doesn't want to go to school anymore, Randazzo said it's time to start asking questions.
She recalled one case in which a busy mom had asked a baseball coach to drive her son home from practice. After that ride, the boy no longer wanted to play baseball. Further investigating revealed that the coach had suggested behaviors that made the child uncomfortable. Fortunately, the child told his mom about it before things escalated.
Don't expect a threatened child to act in any particular way, Randazzo pointed out. Sometimes children who feel threatened misbehave but sometimes they suddenly become perfectionists, hoping their good behavior will put a stop to an adult's inappropriate advances, she said.
“You have to observe the changes, you have to find out what's causing the changes, what's going on when you aren't around,” she said. “You have to make sure your child understands that no one is allowed to touch him inappropriately, and he has to understand what that means.”
The children who are least vulnerable are the ones who have proactive parents, parents who are involved, who ask questions, who observe and who talk with other parents.
“Kids who don't get a lot of attention from their parents are more easily groomed to be victimized,” she said. “If you have a strong relationship with your child and if you talk openly with him and don't force him to kiss or touch others, even relatives, they will be more likely to uphold those expectations.”
Equally important, she said, “If you suspect something is wrong, you have to do something about it.”
Many times adults just want the issue to go away, especially if the suspect is a figure of authority.
“You have to remember that certain behavior is inappropriate, regardless of who is doing it,” Randazzo said. “We tend to trust people by the hat that they wear.”
But, she added, an abuser's goal is to fool adults into trusting him or her.
“Don't trust somebody simply because of the role they play in your child's life,” Randazzo said.
If worse comes to worst and abuse is discovered, Randazzo said, it's important to know that victims can survive and, with effective treatment, go on to thrive.
In addition to coordinating the outreach program, Randazzo is an art therapist. She is also an adjunct professor at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.
“These kids are strong,” she said. “When you go through something terrible and make it to the other side, you're strong.”
Child abuse reports hit epidemic levels in Tarrant County
by Susan Schrock
FORT WORTH -- Thousands of shimmery blue and silver pinwheels, the national symbol of child-abuse prevention, twirled in tidy rows Monday on the lawn of TCU. For National Child Abuse Prevention Month, volunteers set up the pinwheel display along south University Drive to represent each of 5,598 children in Tarrant County who were confirmed victims of physical or sexual abuse in 2012.
"The pinwheels are beautiful until you realize what they represent," Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said. "Then it makes you almost just want to stop and cry to think that almost 5,600 kids have in some way or form been abused in the last year and that part of their childhood has been taken from them."
Child advocates say they hope the bold visual display will prompt community conversations about protecting children from the emotional or physical harm of abuse.
"In Tarrant County, one child-abuse victim is too many, but 5,598 is epidemic in its proportions," said Julie Evans, Alliance for Children executive director. "We hope this month this community will take the time to acknowledge these children and think 'What more can I do?' Child abuse is preventable."
Over the past 20 years, the Alliance for Children has helped more than 40,000 children across Tarrant County who have been victims of abuse or who have witnessed a violent crime. The nonprofit organization, which works closely with Child Protective Services, the Tarrant County district attorney's office, Cook Children's Medical Center and area police agencies, has centers in Arlington, Fort Worth and Hurst.
Whitley was among community leaders Monday who thanked the organization and its partners for their collaborative efforts to protect children from abuse and to help their families heal.
"I know many of them may be scarred for life and may never be able to come back from that. But there are those who do make it back because, during their experience with Alliance for Children, what they learn is they can trust adults again and they can feel that love surrounding them again," Whitley said. "They also are encouraged to receive counseling so hopefully that scar doesn't stay with them forever and they grow up and become loving caring parents who will hopefully never have to explain to their kids that that is not what growing up is about."
Issue won't go away
Of the 2,262 children served by the Alliance for Children last year, nearly 35 percent were below the age of 5, about 42 percent were between ages 6 and 12, and the rest were between the ages 13 and 18.
One of the nonprofit's many services includes counseling. Last year, 280 caregivers, 253 girls and 59 boys participated in group counseling while another 45 girls and 14 boys received individual counseling, officials said.
Ignoring child abuse won't make the issue go away, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said.
"You start thinking about child abuse and you think this is in somebody else's back yard. It's not. It can hit anyone," Price said. "Any child that is abused loses their trust and their faith in humanity, and the rest of us suffer as well as that child. No innocent child should have to do that."
Nearly 63 percent of the 2,262 children served last year by Alliance for Children were victims of sexual abuse. The victims did not know the perpetrators in less than 3 percent of the cases, according to the center.
The Arlington Police Department also set up 323 pinwheels in front of its station this week to recognize the confirmed child sexual assault victims in the city last year.
"The numbers are staggering," Arlington Deputy Chief Jennifer White said, adding that the city also recorded 193 confirmed child victims of physical abuse. "We know that number not only represents 516 innocent victims with physical or emotional wounds but it's just a small fraction of the total victims we know are out there."
White said it is her hope that communities continue to dedicate the funding and resources needed to help the victims heal and to incarcerate the people who hurt them.
"The only hope at preventing child abuse is to come together to discuss candidly what the problem is and to raise awareness so that our communities can become involved and say 'Enough is enough,'" White said.
What Can We Learn From Animal Abuse?
A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a Raw Story article titled, “If Only We Could Talk About Abusing Women Like We Do Abusing Cats.” And it got me thinking.
OK, we're going to get a little serious here for a moment. This is older news, but I still want to talk about it because it's important. The Steubenville rape verdict made me cry. I am elated justice prevailed, but disappointed with the rapists' sentences. More disappointing, however, was case coverage lamenting the rapists' lost “promising futures,” instead of what the survivor lost, and the victim-blaming responses that make me want to never leave my apartment again. Perhaps for good reason, too — following the verdict, two teenage girls were arrested for making threats against the Steubenville victim.
So what does this have to do with cats?
About a week ago, a sweet kid named Wendell in North Carolina chanced upon a group of boys ages 5 to 13 torturing a cat. The bullies were throwing the cat back and forth and trying to run over it with a bicycle. Fortunately for the cat, 10-year-old Wendell intervened, taking the cat home to his mother and rushing the kitty to an emergency vet. The cat, now named Jackson, was looked after by the Outer Banks SPCA until he — along with 16 other cats — was transferred to the North Shore Animal League America.
As the Raw Story article above points out, no one sympathized with Jackson's torturers, and no one said the cat “asked for it.” I agree with everyone's comments: Wendell is a hero, whose compassion and courage are worthy of the commendation he received. I pray that one day, when Wendell inevitably witnesses an injustice toward a woman, he will act upon the same instincts that compelled him to save Jackson — even if it's something as small as telling a male friend to refrain from catcalling a woman.
I pray that as Wendell navigates the tricky road of growing up a man in a culture that defines masculinity as violent and domineering, he continues to value his sensitivity — even when someone makes fun of him for it. I pray that Wendell continues to cherish not only the lives of cats, but the lives of women, people of color, and anyone — woman or man — whose existence outside conventions puts them at greater risk for mistreatment.
But on that fateful night in Steubenville, where was the Wendell who could have stopped it all? Why was it so easy for a 10-year-old child to see the wrong in torturing a helpless animal, and why was it so impossible for a group of nearly legal adults to, instead of exploiting a helpless young woman, help her? Why is it so much easier for some people to empathize with a cat and not a fellow human being?
There is a proven correlation between those who abuse animals and those who abuse people. According to the ASPCA, the majority of women (85%) and children (63%) who have been victims of domestic violence reported instances of their abusers hurting animals. A bulletin from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service concluded that understanding acts of cruelty to animals by children can lead to solutions for youth violence. More telling, however, the bulletin revealed that most children who hurt animals have themselves been victims of physical and sexual abuse, indicating a cycle of violence. At the core of violence lies a lack of empathy, and the ability to feel for others erodes as victims are subjected to abuse, making it easier for them to perpetuate the behavior.
I am not trying to make excuses for the Steubenville rapists, but I wonder what went wrong in their upbringings that allowed them to justify their actions to themselves. I wonder if the boys who tortured Jackson have been subjected to horrors beyond our darkest nightmares. I wonder about the football coaches who reassured their Steubenville players that they would “take care” of everything and failed to report the crime to the police. I wonder if the parents of Jackson's torturers punished their children for what they did to a helpless cat, but more than that, I wonder if, when those parents read about the Steubenville verdict, they said out loud that the victim was “asking for it,” setting up a precedent that it's OK for some people to be hurt by others.
Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” In these terms, 10-year-old Wendell is the greatest we can hope to be — he was up against a group of boys who could have easily turned their aggression on him, but Wendell did as his heart compelled him, for a creature some might call “just an animal.” If we are capable of such kindness and compassion, what goes wrong?
Jackson the cat's torturers were boys Wendell's age, and, since they've demonstrated their lack of empathy, should we fear what they might do to a helpless fellow human being? And, more importantly, what are we , as adult role models, doing to inadvertently perpetuate cycles of violence? When we call Wendell a hero for rescuing a cat, but we blame, withhold sympathy, and even threaten human victims for the crimes committed against them, we're setting up a confusing — and potentially dangerous — message.
Unfortunately, I don't have any answers, but since a lot of us here are women (and men who defy conventions), and we're all cat lovers, I wanted to see what you think. What will happen to Wendell as he grows up? Is he the harbinger of a new world of compassion? While I found the entire Steubenville case and some people's reactions to it upsetting, I took solace in the conversations it generated, in the strength it gave me and other victims to finally speak out about a problem that's been quietly plaguing women — and men — for far too long. Sadly, I don't think rape or animal abuse will ever completely cease, but I hope that Wendell is one of a generation of young people who have the strength to stand up for what's right. To some, it was “just a cat” Wendell saved, but one day it might be another human being.
A dark chapter in history
Recognising Switzerland's “slave children”
by Isabelle Eichenberger
In a practice that lasted in Switzerland until 1981, tens of thousands of children and teenagers were forcibly removed from their families, who for one reason or another were deemed by the authorities to be incapable of caring for them.
It is a chapter in Swiss history that has left painful scars. Now victims of these measures have been invited to a “ceremony of commemoration” in Bern on Thursday.
“I was born without a father and my mother gave me to my grandmother to look after. When my grandmother died, they placed me with the sisters and then with a farmer. I had to milk the cows before going to school and he treated me very harshly. I was nobody,” Paul Stutzmann recalls.
He later went on to become a craftsman specialising in windows, including stained glass. In addition to having six children of their own, Stutzmann and his wife took in two more from a relative who was unable to care for them.
Now 72, Stutzmann was one of an estimated 100,000 children subjected to the policy in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Effectively a cheap labour force, the children were sometimes beaten, malnourished, or sexually abused. For their part, unmarried teenage mothers and dropouts could be detained without trial or interned in psychiatric hospitals right up until the 1980s. The authorities sometimes even decreed that the adults should be castrated or sterilised and forced to hand their children over for adoption.
In the early 2000s, survivors' accounts began to appear in the media, triggering questions in parliament. For a long time, the churches, cantons, communes, and government all blamed each other – some even playing down the mistreatment suffered by the children.
The situation began to change in 2010 when, following heavy lobbying, women who had been detained without trial in the Hindelbank prison in canton Bern obtained an official apology from federal and cantonal authorities.
This week's historic commemoration, to be attended by Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, will for the first time bring together all those involved in the policy including representatives from the institutions, churches, cantons, towns and the Swiss Farmers' Union. Former federal parliamentarian Hansruedi Stadler has been nominated by the minister to mediate future discussions between the victims and institutions.
Too ashamed or too painful
“At the time, it was normal to mistreat the children and poverty was considered a flaw to be corrected with hard work. I was invited one day to a meeting of these people and I was so completely shocked by what they said that I was speechless,” says Walter Zwahlen, president of the Association for Stolen Children.
It is estimated that around 10,000 of these children are still alive but Zwahlen's association has only about 40 members.
“Many are too ashamed to come forward and it is too painful to reopen the old wounds,” he says.
Because the archives of these events are dispersed between the cantons, communes and institutions, or have even been destroyed, there has not yet been a national study undertaken of the practice. As a result, oral testimony is practically the only reliable source to document what happened. Nevertheless, Zwahlen has developed a unique library of 620 books of testimony from a range of countries where similar practices were carried out.
“It was the same elsewhere,” he explains. “There is just as little documentation as in Switzerland but the witness accounts are the same from Germany to Poland to Czechoslovakia or Norway.”
Years of pressure
“We can no longer ignore the fact that it happened. Many families have members who were farmed out,” says researcher Pierre Avvanzino, former professor in the social work division at the University of Applied Sciences in Lausanne.
“In 1987, the travellers' children taken from their parents were rehabilitated and received compensation. This was easy because the ‘children of the road' programme [1926-1973] was mandated at a federal level. The archives were centralised, so that it was impossible for the government to avoid either apologising or providing compensation!”
For the children who were forced to work on farms or and those detained without trial, it took years of pressure – including hunger strikes, appeals to the European Court of Human Rights and a travelling exhibition which began in Switzerland in 2009 – before a few cantons (Bern, Lucerne, Thurgau and Fribourg) issued apologies for past practices.
Two parliamentary initiatives are now calling for moral reparation and the launch of a national research programme. But the question of financial compensation is off the table for the rightwing parties and for most of the members of the judicial committee of the House of Representatives.
The billion franc disagreement
An economist from a large bank, working with the daily tabloid Blick , recently calculated that “the unpaid labour of children was worth between CHF20-65 billion to the agriculture industry. The some 10,000 children still alive should be eligible for around CHF1.2 billion ($1.6 billion).”
For Zwahlen, it's a realistic figure, but while the Swiss Farmers Union has acknowledged “this dark chapter in Swiss history”, it rejects both the idea of an apology or compensation.
“It's difficult, even impossible, after so many years, to fix an amount and any lump sum compensation could not take into account the conditions of the children which were different from case to case,” says union president Jacques Bourgeois.
Avvanzino is also sceptical: “It would take a lot of political pressure, something I don't see for the moment. Only a few people see it as an issue. The historical facts are still too disputed and, in my opinion, these children don't count for anything for politicians. But if we want to do something, it has to be done quickly because these people are dying off.”
So will Stutzmann go to Bern on Thursday?
“I don't think I have the nerve. And then, I've had a good life. For me, all this is in the past, it's over and done with,” he says somewhat hesitantly.
Although there have not yet been any scholarly studies into how children in Switzerland were brought up outside their families, it is officially acknowledged that, until 1981, children and young adults in need of care were forcibly placed in institutions or on farms.
1944: the weekly journal Die Nation published an investigation into the boys' home at Sonnenberg in canton Lucerne by the journalist Peter Surava and photographer Paul Senn. The institution was later closed and its director convicted of mistreating the boys.
1974: journalist and politician Arthur Honegger published a partly autobiographical novel about the forced placement of children, which sold more than 100,000 copies.
1981: seven years after the ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights, clauses were added to Swiss law was to cover deprivation of liberty for the purpose of social assistance.
1991: Bern historian Marco Leuenberger, whose father was a victim the forced labour policies published the first, and to this day, only, wide ranging study of such practices in canton Bern.
1999: a parliamentary initiative calling for compensation for victims of forced sterilisation was lodged. So far it has come to nothing.
2009-2013: the travelling exhibition “Enfances volés - Verdingkinder Reden” (Stolen Childhoods) consisting of nearly 300 stories and photos, has been seen by some 85,000 people across Switzerland.
So far, cantons Bern, Lucerne, Fribourg and Thurgau have officially apologised for the practices.
In 2010 following a parliamentary inquiry , the then Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf apologised for the incarceration of innocent women at the Hindelbank prison in canton Bern.
2011: two parliamentary motions were tabled; one calling for the rehabilitation of victims, and the second for the government to face up to what had happened and to issue an apology to the children involved.
Child Abuse is Everyone's Business
Editor's Note: The following is a news release from the Washington County Attorney's Office:
April is recognized in the United States as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Across the country, media outlets regularly report on situations of horrific abuse or neglect of children.
Unfortunately, as we've become accustomed to sensationalism in our news, it has become all too easy to gloss over these stories and headlines. We don't want to be reminded that every day, local county and tribal agencies must respond to reports of maltreatment of children in our own communities.
4,668 children were victims of abuse or neglect in Minnesota
14 children in Minnesota died as a result of their abuse or neglect that year.
Of those several thousand children victimized, 72.2 percent were neglected, 20.4% were physically abused, and 18.5 percent were sexually abused.
Nationally, a report of child abuse is made very 10 seconds.
In 2011, statistics show that at least five children died every day as a result of child abuse in America.
The problem isn't limited to the immediate, horrible abuse and neglect of the child; consequences of abuse can continue the remainder of a child's life.
Of children that survive abuse and neglect, 59 percent are more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent are more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% are more likely to commit violent crime.
Let's use National Child Abuse Prevention Month to raise awareness of the ongoing problems of child abuse and neglect, and educate ourselves, family and friends, on prevention.
First of all, acknowledge what child abuse is. It is any maltreatment of a child that results in harm or injury.
Physical abuse – hurting a child by hitting, burning, biting, or shaking. These injuries are not accidental.
Sexual abuse – any sexual contact with a child, including exhibitionism, photographs or films, or prostitution.
Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Employer Neglect - failing to give a child food, clothing, medical care, shelter, or supervision.
Emotional abuse and neglect – severely criticizing a child; scaring a child with threats of abandonment; failing to spend time with a child, or not showing a child affection.
Next, pay attention to the children you know and meet. Recognize signs of abuse or neglect.
Unexplained injuries are a more obvious sign of possible abuse. But, children may also show behavioral signs of abuse. Depression, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility can be indicators a child is being neglected or physically, sexually, or emotionally abused.
Please do not be afraid to act on what you observe. You may be a child's only lifeline to safety. Child abuse is everyone's business.
Suspected abuse should be reported to your local county child protection services office. Or call local law enforcement if necessary.
Social Workers and Officers in these agencies will appropriately investigate reports; they want to protect the children in our communities. Families may also receive services to hopefully end abusive behaviors, or assistance in finding resources to provide for their children's needs.
Intervention and prevention are critical.
Thirty percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, thus continuing the destructive cycle of abuse. The annual cost of child abuse and neglect in our country is estimated in the billions of dollars.
At a minimum this April – in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month – we can each practice one very practical tip with our own children.
Discipline them thoughtfully.
Do not discipline your child when you are upset.
Words and actions can inflict deep and lasting wounds.
The goal of discipline is to guide and teach, not to punish.
The word discipline is derived from the Latin “disciplina,” meaning teaching and learning.
Life and work can be stressful for adults, and parenting is hard.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month can be a time for us all to remember that, “Might does not make right.” Abuse of a child is never right.
Group shares updates on Montana child abuse bills
by Tara Grimes
GREAT FALLS - Guests at the Great Falls Child Advocacy Response and Evaluation Center's (CARE) second annual fundraiser and community education luncheon on Saturday celebrated a successful day as four bills against child abuse moved onto their next stages.
During the fundraiser, Cascade County Attorney John Parker announced how these bills were pushing their way through the Montana legislature.
"Today was a powerful day for child protection in the halls of the capitol," Parker said. "Two bills passed out of the House on to their third reading vote, one bill passed out of the Senate."
One of those bills, HB 433, is on its way to the governor's desk. It is backed by Great Falls Representative Jesse O'Hara and would close a loophole in the current law that allows registered offenders to evade convicition by failing to register their true address.
O'Hara said an offender would not be allowed more than 10 days away from their home without registering their new address.
Great Falls Senator Mitch Tropila wants to create a new felony for actions that lead to child homicide. This is SB 160 and is scheduled for its third reading. Another bill, HB 74, would mandate the Department of Family Services to immediately notify law enforcement of suspicious child crimes.
The last bill, SB 198 would increase the maximum penalty for criminals who assault children younger than three years old. It is scheduled for its third reading as well.
Great Falls Police Child Abuse and Sexual Crimes Detective Noah Scott said it's no surprise several of these bills are supported by Great Falls legislators, since Cascade County has seen five child homicides in the last five years and a recent spike in child abuse cases. He pointed towards a specific example.
"One thing is that we've had a re-emergence, a higher incidence, of methamphetamine use around children this last year and we're seeing that a lot more that children are being exposed to methamphetamine," Scott said.
Another bill backed by Great Falls Senator Anders Blewett died earlier this session. He had hoped to give juries better background on a suspect, by giving them access to evidence about prior sex crime convictions involving children.
Also at the luncheon, MSDB's group "Expressions of Silence" performed and the Great Falls Police Department presented a video in which Dandelion Foundation founder Jessica Bray shared her story of losing her 3-year-old daughter to child abuse.
Organizers are hoping they raised at least $20,000 from the event, with all the proceeds going to the CARE Center, which services victims of child abuse and their families.
5 Questions with Amy Lynn Braley: Protecting children and raising awareness
What's the difference between Chattahoochee CASA, Twin Cedars Youth & Family Services Inc. and Children's Tree House Child Advocacy Center?
Twin Cedars Youth & Family Services Inc. is a nonprofit agency that offers an array of programs for at-risk children and families in Columbus, LaGrange, Macon and Opelika. As a part
of Twin Cedars' family of programs, Children's Tree House helps ensure the protection of children in the six-county judicial circuit by offering forensic interviews and medical exams for suspected victims of child abuse and those who have witnessed violent crimes. Their expert staff works in concert with law enforcement, the District Attorney's Office and DFCS (Department of Family & Children Services) to preserve evidence for prosecution purposes and testifies as expert witnesses.
In addition, CTH offers free counseling to its victims and non-offending caregivers as well as courtroom advocacy. Chattahoochee CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) provides qualified and caring volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children in foster care who have come through the court system through no fault of their own. Volunteers make recommendations to the court for needed services and work to research permanency options so that children do not languish in a massive and complex child welfare system.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Which local activities are planned?
In recognition of Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month, Children's Tree House and Chattahoochee CASA are hosting Superhero Day on Saturday, April 13, on Broadway in Uptown Columbus from 8:30 a.m. until noon. This event is coordinated in collaboration with Uptown Columbus and will feature a superhero-themed 5K/1K fun run to raise funds and bring about awareness of child abuse in our local community.
The Superhero Run encourages runners to dress as superheroes, with the idea that every child needs a hero, but abused and neglected children need superheroes. To register for the run visit www.active.com. Other activities for Superhero Day include a sidewalk chalk contest, costume contest, puppet shows and much more. Child-friendly vendors will also be on site for car seat demos and child ID kits.
What's your advice for someone who suspects a child is being abused?
If you suspect a child has been abused or neglected, you should report it to DFCS. Reports are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the hours of 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. call 706-649-1370 or after hours call 1-855-GACHILD. You may also report child abuse to your local police department. In addition, Children's Tree House offers free mandated reporter training for the community. Call 706-327-9612 or visit our resource toolkit at www.twincedars.org
When it comes to child abuse rates, how does Georgia compare to the rest of the nation?
According to Kids Count, which provides state profiles on child well-being, Georgia ranks 37th -- or 13th from the bottom. Locally, in state fiscal year 2011, there were 1,372 suspected reports of child abuse. Of that number, there were 236 investigations with 155 found to be substantiated. Forty-nine children were removed from their homes and taken in foster care. Last year, our CASA program served 158 children in foster care, while Children's Tree House Advocacy Center provided more than 265 forensic interviews for suspected victims. Twin Cedars' programs seek to offer change in indicators that led to our low national status.
Aside from your organization, what's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
Since relocating here two years ago, I have enjoyed all of the family friendly activities offered by Uptown Columbus. The district has undergone a remarkable transformation through public and private partnerships and has so much to offer each year, with more than 150 event days on their calendar.
Education is the Key to Preventing Child Abuse
OLEAN – When adults learn the warning signs of child abuse and how to respond, children are safer.
“Stopping abuse before it occurs is the first step in prevention,” said Karen Hill, director of the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center (STCAC). “By educating ourselves and understanding what puts a child at risk we can take actions to counter those risks.”
As part of its Child Abuse Prevention Month campaign, the center is inviting individuals and organizations to partner with the centerto end child abuse in our community.
The Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center helps child victims of sexual abuse and maltreatment and their non-offending family members. Since it was founded in September of 2007 by Southern Tier Health Care System, Inc., the center has helped 1,328 children and their families from Allegany and Cattaraugus counties.
The following questions and answers are designed to educate the community about child sexual abuse and what caring adults can do to stop it.
Q: What is child sexual abuse?
A: Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and an adult or a child and an older child in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. Sexual abuse often involves direct physical contact and/or exposure to pornographic materials.
Q: How prevalent is child sexual abuse?
A: Nationally, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they're 18. Many children do not tell even if they have been asked. Almost 80 percent initially deny they were abused or are tentative in disclosing abuse. Of those whose disclose, approximately 75 percent disclose accidentally. In Allegany and Cattaraugus County, the population of children 18 and under is 28,605.
Q: Who are the victims?
A: Nationally, more than 20 percent of children are sexually abused before age 8. Locally, at the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center, 40 percent of the children seen are younger than 7 years old; 77 percent are younger than 12 years old.
Q: Who are the abusers?
A: Nationally, 90 percent of abusers are someone the child or family knows. Locally, 100 percent of alleged abusers have been someone the child or family knows.
Q: Can child sexual abuse be prevented?
A: Yes. Child sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy. By breaking the silence and starting a conversation with children, parents and caregivers can begin taking steps to prevent abuse. Start simple and be proactive.
Q: How old should a child be before talking to them about inappropriate and appropriate behaviors?
A: As early as age 3, children should understand that parts of their body are private and that it's not OK for just anyone to touch them. Use appropriate names for body parts. Avoid calling private parts made-up names. Explain that parts covered by a swimsuit are private. Teach children the difference between safe touches and unsafe touches. Don't tell them, “some people are bad ...” simply focus on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.
Mrs. Hill said there are many things adults can do to protect children in the community. She urged people to think beyond “stranger danger” scenarios.
“Teaching your children not to talk to strangers is good advice,” she said. “However, 90 percent of abuse is committed not by strangers, but by someone the child knows making it very difficult for the child to talk about.”
She said parents and caregivers should help children identify safe adults they can talk to and confide in.
Parents should also teach their children the difference between secrets and surprises, she said, noting that offenders often try to trick children into keeping “unsafe” touching a secret.
“We need to remind children not to keep secrets and that no matter what an offender might say, it's OK for the child to tell,” Mrs. Hill said.
She urged adults seeking more information to attend a free Stewards of Children child abuse prevention workshop on Friday, April 12 from noon to 2:30 p.m. The workshop will be held at the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center, 772 Main St., Olean. The workshop will be presented by Denise Straub, the STCAC program coordinator.
To register for the Stewards of Children child abuse prevention workshop or to schedule a Stewards of Children presentation at your agency or place of business, please contact the STCAC at (716) 372-8532. Stewards of Children teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
“Stewards of Children is the only nationally available program scientifically proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child-protective behaviors,” Mrs. Straub said.
The workshop is for any responsible adult who cares about the welfare of children. It is particularly beneficial for adults who work at youth-serving organizations such as sports leagues, daycare centers, after school programs, children's clubs, church groups and other locations where large groups of children gather.
“We need every adult to take the necessary steps to educate themselves on keeping children safe,” Mrs. Hill said. “If you see, hear, suspect, or in any way become aware that a child is being abused, take action.”
To promote Child Abuse Prevention Month, Southern Tier Health Care System will hold its sixth-annual Dress Down to Raise Awareness Day on April 26. Southern Tier Health Care System is offering Dress Down To Raise Awareness T-shirts for $10 and all proceeds will benefit the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center. The T-shirts feature the message “Education is the Key to Preventing Child Abuse” and can be ordered by calling Southern Tier Health Care System at 372-0614.
For more information on child abuse prevention, please contact the Child Advocacy Center at 372-8532 or visit www.sthcs.org
To report suspected abuse, contact the New York State Child Protective hotline at
(800) 342-3720 or your local law enforcement agency by dialing 911.
Sex abuse case shows CPS revolving door
by ERIC BETZ
The detective nearly took a step back as he opened the door to the apartment to serve the search warrant.
The stench of rotting food mixed with that of dirty clothes and feces was overpowering. Dirty dishes and trash were everywhere and the carpets were stained throughout. In a laundry hamper, he found a dead mouse.
The Flagstaff Police Department went to the 40-year-old father's Lake Mary home last October searching for evidence that he had been sexually abusing his 11-year-old daughter.
It was not the first time police and Child Protective Services had been to the home.
The girl and her brother had been taken away from their father at least twice prior to the sex abuse report, but they were returned each time.
The mother, who had separated from the father and given up primary custody, had asked for custody again, but she was denied.
The defendant had also been the subject of an investigation by Flagstaff police alleging that he had endangered the life of his son when he was hospitalized after being struck by a car while playing unsupervised in a parking lot.
The endangerment charge was ultimately dismissed in Coconino County Superior Court.
The man was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week for one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child as part of a plea deal with the Coconino County Attorney's Office. The man's name has been withheld to protect the identity of his victim.
A police report said that the girl's mother had surrendered primary custody of her children to the man when they separated.
A CPS report filed early in 2012 had detailed how the children had shown up at school reeking and were asked to shower. The principal told CPS that she had sprayed her office with Lysol after the children left because of the stench.
CPS case workers found living conditions similar to what the Flagstaff police detective walked into in October. The case manager said she almost gagged from the smell.
The father spent all day cleaning and the children were returned to him.
Then later in 2012, the mother, who lives in New Mexico, asked the Coconino County Court to give her custody.
"(The girl) said she was with her mom for the summer and she was happier," a report said.
Her motion was denied, court records show.
THREE YEARS OF ABUSE
Then last fall, the girl spoke up at school about being abused, according to a police report. She said she thought what was happening to her was wrong and told investigators about what her father had done to her in disturbing detail.
In a secret hiding place, she'd kept an exact count of how many times she'd been molested, over the course of approximately three years.
An investigator would tell the suspect during questioning that the level of detail -- including specific sights and smells -- would convince a courtroom of jurors of his guilt. The detective told the man he had a very, very intelligent daughter, a police report said.
"This just isn't right," the man said in response.
The girl told investigators that the abuse had started soon after her mother moved out. Her father would tell her not to tell police or he would go to jail, she told investigators.
TWO HOURS ON HOLD
In the fiscal year ending just before the father was arrested, CPS investigated 16 cases of alleged child sexual abuse in Coconino County. Case workers found just one instance in which they said the charge could be substantiated, according to the Department of Economic Security's most recent child welfare report.
At sentencing last week, the mother begged Coconino County Superior Court Division 2 Judge Dan Slayton for the maximum sentence allowable for her former husband, saying she couldn't believe what the defendant had done to his own daughter. Prosecutors also asked for a long prison sentence under the plea -- the plea agreement had set the penalty at between five and 10 years.
"I've been contacted many times by CPS and my kids have been removed from him twice," she said.
The mother said her response was, "What now?" when the school called about her children being taken away last October.
But the school said they couldn't tell her anything about what had happened to her children -- she'd have to contact CPS. It took some two hours on hold before she'd be confronted with the grim accusations.
"Please do not allow the system to fail my children for a second time," she said to Slayton.
HASN'T FULLY ADMITTED GUILT
In contrast, the defense had asked for a lenient sentence within the confines of the plea agreement, which required a five to 10 year prison term.
The man's family, including his brother, appealed to the judge, saying that the defendant had been a good father. His brother and others had asked the defendant not to take a plea deal and to stand up for his innocence at trial.
Under the advice of his attorney, the man took a plea deal for five to 10 years in prison.
The defendant still hasn't actually admitted his guilt, despite his plea. He took what is known as an Alfred plea, or an "I'm guilty but I didn't do it" plea. The plea enables a defendant to maintain innocence and make a deal with prosecutors when they've been advised that there is substantial evidence against them.
Bruce Griffen, the father's lawyer, highlighted strong family support as a reason for a sentence on the lower end of the plea range. In letters to the judge, the family also questioned the girl's credibility and begged for a light sentence.
"The longer he spends in prison, the less productive he'll be when he gets out," the man's brother said.
LIVED IN DISGUSTING CONDITIONS
However, prosecutors questioned the family's perceptions of the defendant, pointing out that he had been unemployed and on food stamps for more than a year, yet allowed his children to live in disgusting conditions.
Senior Trial Attorney Jonathan Mosher said that the man should have benefited from his family's support, but did not.
"We're talking about a young girl that is so traumatized by this that as a prosecutor I have to consider if I can put her through a trial," Mosher said. "We're eager to avoid further traumatizing the victim."
County Attorney David Rozema reiterated that point.
"In these types of cases, one of the things we give a lot of consideration to is whether the victim wants to move forward to trial or not," said Rozema. "You're asking a 12-year-old girl to walk into a court room and talk about what dad did while he's sitting there."
The top local prosecutor said he has to balance the victim's wishes with pursuing long prison terms in the interest of public safety. In this case, Rozema said he was happy with the 10-year prison sentence.
Ultimately, Slayton agreed with prosecutors and issued the maximum sentence, citing emotional harm to the victim. The defendant must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his natural life.
Sexual assault: 'I still have nightmares, but they don't rule ... me'
by Beth Smith
Julie lived with a secret.
“We had big bright smiles when we went out in public together,” said the western Kentucky resident. “Dad worked hard. The house was always spotless. We kids were spotless. We were perfectly normal — on the outside.”
But Julie, who is now in her 40s, was living a nightmare.
“It started at age 5 with my uncle,” she said. “Kids in my family were supposed to be seen and not heard. He was the only adult in the family who paid any attention to the kids. I was just thrilled to have the attention.”
What started as attentiveness, however, turned ugly, Julie said, and culminated in eight long years of sexual abuse.
“It lasted until I was 13,” she said. That's when she decided to confide in someone.
“Mom was getting all dressed up (to go out). We were going to be dropped off at my grandma's where my uncle lived, and I said, ‘I don't want to go.' I told her (the uncle) had been touching me.”
Julie said her mother didn't believe her.
Instead, Julie said she was beaten and forced to apologize to her uncle for lying about him.
Ironically, she said, he never touched her again.
Julie said her uncle was not the only perpetrator in the family, nor was she the only victim.
A childhood of sexual assaults, gave way to teen years and an adulthood of continued abuse, she said.
“I'm looking back and (the abuse) was just normal. I didn't like it. I remember screaming into the pillow. I was a violent kid. I was withdrawn,” Julie said. “It was normal. You didn't talk about it because it was grown-ups. You didn't question it.”
“I married an extraordinarily abusive man. I divorced him, went back ... I don't like it. It's just normal,” she said. “My children are a mess. They saw so much violence. One of my children still has nightmares. They grew up in sheer horror. I did drugs and drank with my children; I had sex with their friends. That was normal. That's what my dad did. ... Then I tried to commit suicide. When they brought me to, I was so mad ...”
Julie said her memories of the abuse or “flashbacks” brought strong emotions. “All the emotions ruled me. Hatred, anger rage, sorrow. It ruled me. It owned me.”
The secret was killing her. Until a year ago.
During a hospital stay, “a nurse told me about New Beginnings,” Julie said.
New Beginnings is an advocacy and resource center for victims of sexual assault. The agency serves seven counties in western Kentucky, including Henderson, Union and Webster.
Among the services offered by New Beginnings is specialized therapy, designed for survivors of sexual assault.
“I'm not half the mess I was in the first half of my adult life,” Julie said. “I feel like I have a new start. Like I can feel and handle situations. I can talk about this and walk out the door and I'm OK.
Every day has it's struggles. I still have nightmares, but they don't rule and own me anymore.”
Julie said she is learning to forgive those who hurt her. She said she is also in the process of being forgiven by her children for what they endured during their growing up years.
Forgiveness “is a big part of this,” she said. “And learning to forgive. My kids are forgiving me.”
Julie said after finding help at New Beginnings, her life has taken a new direction.
“I'm an artist ... I sell my paintings. I want that to take off,” she said. “I'm a writer. I'm writing my life story and short stories, which are fiction. I want a cabin on the lake with a vegetable garden. If I'm going to dream, dream big.”
For survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse, Julie said, “I want people to know they aren't alone, that they aren't crazy. For people who have been assaulted, our normal is different. And there is help. When parents hear this from their children, get them to the hospital. Get that DNA and get the (perpetrators) behind bars.”
“Get specialized therapy,” Julie said. “Get victims abuse therapy.”
“We have to find our voice,” she said. “It's OK to say no!”
CALM Recognizes April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Source: Child Abuse Listening Meditation
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time when CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) invites the public to join them in a community-wide effort to raise a collective voice against child abuse, and pledge support to their “I Will Not Be Silent Campaign.” To help educate the communities they serve in the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria regions, CALM is proud to host several events that are open to the public, including open houses, family & parenting lectures, and its 2nd annual “I Will Not Be Silent” Silent Gala & Auction in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month. CALM invites the public to attend these events and join the effort to build a community of responsibility.
· Wednesday, April 10 – Open House Reception at CALM's Santa Barbara offices, 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Brief program begins at 5:30pm with a Proclamation from Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, as well as recognition from the Goleta City Council and Hannah Beth Jackson's office. Meet the staff, tour the offices, and learn more about CALM's services in Santa Barbara.
· Tuesday, April 16 – CALM Community Lecture “Building Resiliency in Your Child,” Crane Country Day School (Barbakow Family Theater), 6:30pm – 7:30pm. Dr. Ryan Smith, a clinical psychologist and training coordinator at CALM, will discuss research behind resiliency in children and techniques to help children learn to copy with adversity. Childcare will be provided.
· Thursday, April 11 – Open House Reception at CALM's Santa Maria office, 11:00am – 1:00pm. Brief program begins at 11:30am with a Proclamation presented by Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino. Meet the staff, tour the therapy rooms, and learn more about CALM's services in Santa Maria.
· Saturday, April 13 – Children's Resource and Referral Center Conference, Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria, 8:00am – 4:30pm. CALM will present “Positive Parenting” as well as a workshop on “Understanding Postpartum Depression” at 11:00am – 12:30pm. This free event is open to the community, and will be of particular interest to early care and education professionals.
· April 15 through April 30 – Silent Online Auction, in the comfort of your own home! Local and national items available, including a vacation to Hawaii, Red Sox tickets at Fenway Stadium, golfing at La Cumbre Country Club, and a “Stay-cation” at the Circle Bar B Ranch. Funds raised will go directly to the critical programs and services that prevent, assess, and treat child abuse. Visit CALM's website for more details.
There are many ways to get involved with CALM – come in for a visit at either the Santa Barbara or Santa Maria offices, donate to CALM's efforts, and Raise Your Voice against child abuse. Unfortunately, child abuse does happen every day, in many forms – violence, sexual, neglect – and it continues to go unreported. CALM will continue to fight against child abuse for as long as it takes. PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT TODAY, raise your voice, and join CALM's “I Will Not Be Silent” Campaign.
CALM was founded in 1970 to reach stressed parents before they hurt their children. CALM continues to be the only non-profit agency in Santa Barbara County focusing solely on preventing, assessing, and treating child abuse and family violence through comprehensive, cutting-edge programs. CALM offers children, families, and adults a safe, non-judgmental, caring, and strength-based environment to heal and increase family well being. For more information about all of CALM's services, please call 805-965-2376, or visit http://www.calm4kids.org
Operation Broken Secret nets 10 arrests for child pornography
Alarming number of arrests took place in a 9-week period
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — In what is considered to be an unprecedented increase in the number of child pornography cases in Puerto Rico, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, working jointly with officers assigned to the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF) arrested 10 individuals on child pornography charges in a period of nine weeks. The latest arrests took place Thursday in the municipalities of Ponce, Guaynabo, Barranquitas and Toa Alta.
Enrique Pagan, 63, of Ponce; Francisco Aguirre-Sanabria, 45, of Guaynabo; Eric Remigio-Nieves, 35, of Toa Alta; and Edwin Ramon Cabrera-Rivera, 25, of Barranquitas, were arrested at their places of residence Thursday on child pornography-related charges and will have their initial hearing before US Magistrate Judge Camille Velez-Rive.
"As we commemorate April as Child Abuse Awareness Month, we want to remind everyone that the possession, distribution and production of child pornography are heinous crimes that victimize children for decades to come – as images are cycled through the Internet again and again," said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "HSI will continue to aggressively use its investigative authorities, in conjunction with state law enforcement agencies, to identify individuals who seek to exploit children in this manner."
Felix Pagan-Crispin, 36, of Arroyo, was arrested on Monday for production of child pornography. Carlos Lopez-Roldan, 30, of Yabucoa, was arrested March 8 in Caguas after an HSI investigation revealed that he allegedly used a video recording device to produce nude images of a 12-year-old female. Andres Ruiz-Huertas, 60, of Humacao, was arrested Feb. 19 at his place of residence after a referral from the Puerto Rico Police Department to HSI led to the execution of a search warrant during which several digital electronic storage devices containing child pornography were seized.
Nelson Santiago-Colon, 47, pastor of the Peniel Christian Church located in Santa Isabel, was arrested at his place of residence in Ponce Feb. 12 after a referral from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice to HSI revealed the violation of federal child exploitation statutes by Santiago-Colon. On Jan. 18, Puerto Rico Police Department officers arrested Santiago-Colon on charges of sexual activity with minors, lascivious acts and child abuse. Puerto Rico Department of Justice officials contacted HSI to charge Santiago-Colon under federal law. HSI special agents immediately began interviewing victims from the local case, which resulted in the arrest of Santiago-Colon on federal charges of transporting three minor males to his home where he allegedly sexually assaulted and committed lewd and lascivious acts on them. Santiago-Colon was charged with transportation of minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Edmundo Olivera, 68, was arrested at his place of residence in Reparto Metropolitano Feb. 6 for the possession of approximately 300 sexually explicit images of child pornography.
Jonathon White-Ayala, 24, was arrested at his place of residence in Vieques Jan. 28 after an HSI investigation revealed that he allegedly requested nude images of a 14-year-old girl and transported her to his residence with the intent that she engage in sexual activity.
In response to the need for an island-wide approach to fighting the escalation of predatory crimes against children, HSI San Juan partnered with members of local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as local and state government officials and community leaders, to form PRCACTF in June 2011.
Through PRCACTF, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas, and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico. The PRCACTF is composed of the following federal and state agencies:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE), Homeland Security
U.S. Attorney's Office
U.S. Marshals Service
Puerto Rico Department of Justice
Puerto Rico Department of Education
Puerto Rico Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO)
Puerto Rico Department of the Family
Puerto Rico Department of Treasury (Hacienda)
Puerto Rico Police Department
Puerto Rico Forensic Science Institute (ICF)
San Juan Police Department
These investigations were part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and the U.S. representative of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.