National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Occasionally we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

May - Week 2
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.


LAUSD cracks down on teacher misconduct; 100 fired, 200 resign, 300 'housed'

by Barbara Jones

The personnel files stretched the length of the 15-foot conference table in Superintendent John Deasy's office, a chronicle of the corporal punishment, verbal and physical abuse and sexual misconduct reported in the classrooms of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Cuts and bruises. Curses and racial slurs. Caresses and pornography.

In the past, the misdeeds detailed in the teachers' files would likely have earned the offender a disciplinary memo, maybe a week's suspension, perhaps a transfer to another school.

Today, they're grounds for firing.

Under the zero-tolerance policy that Deasy enacted after the Miramonte Elementary sex-abuse scandal erupted in February 2012, the school board has voted to dismiss more than 100 teachers for misconduct, and accepted the resignations of at least 200 others who were about to be terminated. Nearly 300 additional teachers accused of inappropriate behavior remain "housed" in administrative offices while officials investigate the complaints.

"It feels like we're seeing more cases," said school board member Tamar Galatzan, who is working to streamline LAUSD's cumbersome process for investigating alleged misconduct.

"We've heard from principals that, 10 years ago, many felt that if they jumped through all the hoops to recommend dismissal, the board wouldn't back them and they would get a teacher back who not only had been reported for wrongdoing but was now hostile.

"Now, principals know that their recommendation will be supported. Once the allegations are investigated and confirmed, the board will move to dismiss teachers who shouldn't be teaching. "

Under California law, a school board's vote to dismiss a teacher takes effect 30 days later unless the educator appeals to the state Office of Administrative Hearings. LAUSD officials say they expect an appeal from every teacher dismissed since the district's crackdown on misconduct.

It's the files of those teachers that were spread out in Deasy's office after he agreed to provide a first-ever public accounting of the potentially career-ending behavior alleged of teachers in LAUSD classrooms.

"It is important for people to know that this administration will remove teachers who act like this. They should have supreme confidence that we won't ignore a complaint or over-react or under-react," he said. "Student safety comes first. "

The files are crammed with paperwork from the internal investigations that can take a year or more to wrap up. There are statements from students, parents and witnesses; disciplinary memos; supporting documents like attendance sheets and gradebooks; and the paperwork formalizing the reason for their dismissal. Some include photos of injured students, copies of X-rated images found on district computers or stick-figure drawings by kids too young to verbalize what happened.

Most of the files also contain rebuttals of the allegations or explanations from teachers defending their actions.

"We get a pretty thorough written briefing," said Galatzan, a career prosecutor who represents the West San Fernando Valley, "If a board member wants additional paperwork, then we're provided with that. Several of the teachers also have voluminous e-mail correspondence with the board, so we become more familiar with some cases than others. "

What Deasy agreed to provide were the basics of the complaints. Because the files contain the names of teachers, students, classmates and parents, he read aloud from the complaints but omitted identifying details.

He did provide the genders of the employees and students, the type of school and its general location in the district and, where available, the year the teacher was born.

On the advice of the district's lawyers, he did not discuss the dozen-or-so cases in which LAUSD is involved in active lawsuits or the teachers are facing criminal charges.

Nor did he disclose any specifics about the 44 teachers who were cleared of the allegations against them and returned to the classroom.

Still, it took hours to pore through the files of the 58 men and 26 women, Deasy frequently shaking his head or rubbing his eyes as he recited the litany of alleged misconduct that led to the employees' dismissals.

"God, how do I even explain this?" Deasy asked, before recounting that a Westside elementary teacher in his early 60s "trained" his students to give him a full-body massage for 20 minutes every day while he "rested." Youngsters, including some special-education students, later told officials that he shouted profanities, spanked them and hit them with rolled-up papers when they misbehaved.

The initial incident was reported by a classroom aide assigned to help the special-ed students.

That's also how the district learned about a teacher at a San Fernando Valley elementary school who disciplined youngsters by locking them in a bathroom or barricading them in a corner using tables and chairs. "Maybe this will teach you a lesson," the teacher reportedly told the kids as they cried to be released.

And that an Eastside elementary teacher used clothespins to pinch the ears of youngsters who weren't paying attention to the lesson. The same teacher also discouraged thumb-sucking by putting nasty-tasting disinfectant on kids' fingers and forced students to scrub their desks using cleanser and their bare hands.

A rash of sex-related complaints were made in the weeks after the Miramonte scandal broke, including allegations of tickling and fondling, and inappropriate and vulgar comments made in class. One high school student said a female teacher inexplicably took her along when she went shopping for sex toys in Hollywood. A few months later, girls at another high school complained that their male teacher had downloaded photos of them onto his laptop, and given each a salacious name.

Nearly a dozen male teachers were fired for pornography found on their district-issued laptops.

They include an instructor at an Eastside middle school who inadvertently projected an X-rated video rather than the family-hour fare he'd planned to show his class as a "reward" after a difficult week. "You didn't see this," he told the kids, shutting down the film once he realized his mistake. Several students reported the incident, and officials found 636 pornographic images and two adult videos on his computer.

And there were dozens of reports of corporal punishment, which LAUSD abolished in 1984 and which is also banned by state law. Some complaints came from campus nurses who treated injured students and others from parents who noticed cuts and bruises when their kids got home from school.

"I want my days spent supporting the tens of thousands of amazing teachers," Deasy said. "Instead, they're taken up by a very, very few with gross misconduct. "

Teacher misconduct became a hot-button issue after teacher Mark Berndt's arrest on charges that he'd blindfolded and spoon-fed his semen to 23 students at Miramonte Elementary. Pressure mounted with news reports that there had been prior complaints against Berndt; that he'd received $40,000 to resign; and that the district had failed to tell parents about the accusations or to report his alleged misconduct to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

After the Daily News reported in February 2012 that Telfair Elementary teacher Paul Chapel had been arrested four months earlier for molesting students, the district announced that parents would be notified within 72 hours about alleged teacher misconduct.

Deasy also ordered that all accusations of wrongdoing for the previous four years be sent to the credentialing panel - an exercise that overwhelmed the state agency with more than 500 files.

And he imposed the zero-tolerance policy, which he defended against criticism that it is too harsh and fails to distinguish between innocent and predatory behavior.

"Miramonte occurred in the middle of my first year as superintendent, and I learned a great deal about how to change the system of reporting and investigation," he said. "When we know something, we do something. "

But United Teachers Los Angeles leaders have characterized Deasy's actions as a "witch hunt," saying he's using misconduct allegations to get rid of troublesome teachers and those on the upper rungs of the experience and pay scale.

Richard Schwab, a partner in Trygstad, Schwab & Trystad, the law firm that represents UTLA in labor issues, said he's seen a significant shift in the types of allegations being used to dismiss teachers.

"Every case must be judged on its own merits," Schwab said. "But in a number of cases, the nature of the charges haven't been appropriately investigated or have been too vigorously pursued and the evidence never supported such allegations. "

Under current law, teachers who are fired by the school board have 30 days to appeal their dismissal to the state's Office of Administrative Law. It assigns each case to a panel composed of an administrative law judge and two educators - one chosen by the teacher, the other by the district - which reviews evidence and hears witness testimony before deciding whether or not the teacher should be fired. That process may take years, however, and cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff time and legal fees.

And either the district or the teacher can appeal the administrative ruling to Superior Court, dragging out the case even longer. Over the last decade, LAUSD officials say, they've won about half of the cases that have gone to an administrative hearing and 60 percent of those appealed to Superior Court.

There have been efforts in recent years to streamline the process, but none has been successful. Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-San Ramon, has introduced a new measure that some believe has a chance of passing.

Assembly Bill 375 would set a deadline of seven months for the administrative appeal, start to finish. It has the support of UTLA and the California Teachers Association, which last year lobbied strongly against a bill that would have given a school board the final say in firing a teacher. Under heavy lobbying by the unions, that measure died in committee.

Deasy, the school board, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and some education advocates support the goals of AB 375, but say it doesn't go far enough in letting districts get rid of bad teachers. Some officials also worry that lawmakers will consider all of the problems solved if they pass AB 375, halting efforts for additional reforms.

The current dismissal process includes a mandatory settlement conference, with a mediator trying to negotiate a compromise between the district and teacher before the case goes to a hearing. It was at this point that Berndt, the accused Miramonte teacher, received a $40,000 payout to drop the appeal of his dismissal.

Deasy said he has put an end to that type of incentive.

"We're not doing that anymore," he said. "Not on my watch. "

Schwab, the UTLA attorney, said many veteran teachers opt to resign rather than pursue an administrative hearing because they fear losing their lifetime health benefits if the ruling goes against them.

"Although they may be innocent or not guilty of the offense they're accused of, they are deciding it's in their best interest to resign," he said. "This is a tool being used to attack some very, very good teachers. "

If the employee prevails, however, the district must reinstate the employee and pay back wages.

Even if the district is ordered to reinstate a teacher, Deasy said he has no intention of letting employees accused of misconduct back in the classroom.

"We're ordered to keep them hired, but there are other jobs," he said. "I can't think of a case where that person should be back in front of students. "

With nearly 300 teachers still being investigated for misconduct, and new allegations trickling in, the abuse crisis in Los Angeles Unified is unlikely to end soon. While there are efforts to make the process more manageable, there's no indication that district officials or the school board plan to change their tough stance on student safety.

"The fact that the school board is dismissing teachers who are being physically abusive to students is the way this process is supposed to work," Galatzan said. "I'm certainly not going to apologize for that. "


Los Angeles

The LAUSD misconduct files, teacher by teacher: Dr. John Deasy chronicles 15 months of accusations against educators who were terminated

by Barbara Jones

In a series of interviews, Superintendent John Deasy chronicled the cases of classroom employees in Los Angeles Unified fired for misconduct over the last 15 months.

The following is a compilation of the files, including when the accusation was made and when the teacher was terminated.

Deasy declined to identify the teachers or where they taught but did provide information on the Educational Service Center area where the school is located and, when available, the year the educator was born.

Teachers dismissed by the school board can appeal to a panel composed of an administrative law judge and two educators.


•  A teacher of handicapped students at a middle school in the North ESC was accused of putting a student on his lap, saying he loved her and making her feed him. The incident was reported by a parent and corroborated by an aide. The teacher, born in 1949, was dismissed by the school board in February 2013. The case took so long to resolve because it included a lengthy police investigation.


•  A student at a West ESC middle school reported being struck in the face and eye by a male teacher born in 1955. The instructor was fired in November 2012.


•  A boy at an East ESC high school went to the school nurse for treatment of cuts and bruises caused by a male teacher. The file includes photographs of his injuries. The teacher was fired in February 2013.

JUNE 2011

•  A male teacher at a North ESC elementary school was accused of punching and kicking a student. He was fired in January 2012.

•  A teacher at a West ESC elementary school was accused of claiming to be the principal and ordering materials for the school from a company she owned. She was fired in October 2012.


•  The district received a report that a teacher assigned to a South ESC high school had previously engaged in sex and drug use with male students in another state. She was fired in 2013.


•  A female student at an East ESC high school complained of inappropriate advances by a male teacher, including hugs, fondling and declarations of love. Other students -- boys and girls -- said he'd forced them to role-play sex acts between a "master and slave," and would act out scenes in which he'd put his head on students' chests. He also asked the teens about their drug use and talked about his own. The teacher, who was born in 1954, was fired in November 2012.

•  A female transportation worker failed to notice that an elementary-age student had fallen asleep and was still on the school bus at the end of the route. She was fired in April 2012.


•  A student complained that a male teacher, born in 1960, had deliberately touched him on the buttocks during class at a South ESC high school. Administrators found inappropriate posters and photos, including images of recreational alcohol and drug use, on the classroom walls. He was fired in January 2013.

•  A male teacher at a West ESC middle school was accused of showing students images of naked children and of adults wearing skimpy outfits. As the investigation evolved, he was accused of possessing a knife on campus and forging administrators' signatures on purchase orders. The teacher, born in 1968, was dismissed in February 2013.


•  A male teacher at an East ESC elementary school was arrested on undisclosed federal charges. The teacher, born in 1972, was fired in February 2013.

•  A female teacher at an East ESC elementary school was arrested on undisclosed federal charges. The teacher, born in 1974, was fired in February 2013.

•  An administrator at a South ESC elementary school heard a teacher using racial and sexual slurs and threatening a class of special-education students. The teacher's file included complaints dating back to 2008 that he left students unsupervised, cursed a coworker and slammed a student into the wall. The teacher, born in 1955, was fired in October.


•  A teacher at a South ESC middle school was accused by a male student at another campus of sending sexually explicit text messages. The student said the male teacher, born in 1970, propositioned him and described his own affairs with other men. His file includes prior complaints that he threatened and showed pornography to students. He was dismissed in November.

•  A teacher at a North ESC middle school was accused of physical and verbal abuse by two students -- a boy and a girl. The boy said he was struck and touched inappropriately by the male teacher, who was born in 1951. The district confiscated the teacher's district computer as part of the investigation, and found pornography. The teacher was fired in December.

•  A teacher a North ESC high school pulled the table out from under a special-needs student who was sleeping with his head on the surface. The boy fell and suffered a head injury that required medical treatment. The teacher's file revealed the teacher had 16 prior complaints of verbal and physical abuse of students, confrontations with parents and failure to complete paperwork required for special-education students. He was fired in December.

•  A girl complained to her mother that she'd been sexually harassed by a male teacher at her East ESC high school. His district computer was confiscated, and pornography -- 22 films and 42 images -- were found, along with inappropriate emails. Harassment complaints against the teacher had been filed at several other schools, dating back to 2001. The teacher, who was born in 1949, was dismissed in December.

•  Female students at a South ESC high school complained to a woman instructor that a male teacher had engaged them in inappropriate conversations. Interviews with other students found that he talked to them about pornography he'd watched, and asked them whether they watched porn and about their level of sexual experience. The teacher, born in 1947, was dismissed in December 2012.

•  A parent complained that a male teacher at a West ESC middle school inked an inappropriate "tattoo" on a student. Investigators talked to other students, who complained of inappropriate sexual comments. The teacher, born in 1978, was dismissed in January.

•  Parents took their son to the hospital after he came home from his East ESC elementary school with blisters on his palms. Investigators found that the teacher forced the boy and a classmate to crawl back and forth on the pavement because they were late for school. The teacher, born in 1952, had several prior warnings about misconduct. He was fired in February 2013.

•  A teacher at a North ESC middle school twisted a student's arm, with photographs taken to record the injuries. He'd been accused in 1999 of throwing a shoe and striking a child; in 2001, of throwing the contents of a desk at a girl who couldn't complete an assigned task; in 2003, of violating a doctor's orders that a student have limited activity; and in 2004 of throwing a clipboard at one student and hitting and pushing another. The teacher, born in 1961, was fired in February 2013.

•  A parent reported that she'd found inappropriate electronic messages from a female teacher at an East ESC middle school to her high school-age daughter. Investigators determined the teacher had engaged in a years-long "salacious and inappropriate sexual" relationship with the girl, who was a former student. The teacher was fired in February 2013.

•  A girl at an East ESC high school said a female teacher took her along on a visit to a sex shop in Hollywood, where the instructor purchased paraphernalia. The teacher's file included a photocopy of the sales receipt and pictures of the sex toys she purchased. She was fired in March 2013.

•  A teacher at a West ESC elementary school was fired in February 2013, a year after a mother reported that he'd tickled and fondled her daughter. As the result of "extensive LAPD involvement," three girls were identified as victims of the teacher, who was born in 1974.

•  A female teacher assigned to a South ESC elementary school pleaded guilty to an unspecified federal charge. She was fired in January 2013.

•  A female teacher born in 1955, working at a middle school in North ESC, pulled the chair out from under a girl, pushed her out into the hallway and locked the door. The instructor's file showed several prior warnings about dealing with anger. She was fired in February 2013.

•  A teacher at a West ESC elementary was fired after complaints that he fought with students. His file showed a pattern of calling students names, then slamming them into the wall or pushing them to the ground when they reacted. He was born in 1947.

MARCH 2012

•  Parents of a special-education student said a male teacher had slapped and grabbed their son, resulting in bruises to his leg. Seven other special-needs students, ages 6-8, were found to have been victims of corporal punishment in complaints dating back three years. The teacher, born in 1967, was fired in February 2013.

•  A male teacher born in 1979 and assigned to an elementary school in the South ESC, was accused of fondling a female student at an East ESC campus. The complaint alleged abuse beginning in 2006. The LAPD declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence. There were no prior complaints against the teacher, who was terminated in March 2013.

•  A special-education aide entered the classroom of a West ESC elementary school and found the teacher -- who was born in 1952 -- receiving a massage from students. Witnesses said the teacher had trained students to give him daily massages of 20-25 minutes while he "rested." Students also said the teacher shouted profanities at them, insulted them and smacked them with rolled-up paper as discipline. Ultimately, 13 students -- half of them in special-education programs -- were identified as victims. The teacher was fired in November.

•  A student at a North ESC elementary school said a teacher dropped the youngster off at his house while he ran errands, then drove the boy back to school. Administrators talked to other students, who said the teacher called them names, talked about using marijuana and cocaine and made sexual references using his hands. He was fired in December.

•  After Superintendent John Deasy ordered administrators to review all personnel files for misconduct that may have been mishandled, a principal at a South ESC high school determined that a male teacher had shown pornography to students in 1999 and 2002, using his district computer. The principal confiscated the computer and found sexually explicit material. The teacher was fired in December 2012.

•  A principal at an ESC South elementary school checking a report from students that a teacher had been acting strangely found her drunk in front of her students and bottles of beer in the classroom. The teacher, born in 1965, was fired in December 2012.

•  A male teacher at an East ESC high school was accused of paying students to do his work, such as mailing letters and returning phone calls. His computer was confiscated to determine whether there had been inappropriate communication with students, and officials found an "extensive upload" of pornography and images of drug use. The teacher, born in 1960, was fired in December.

•  A student at a South ESC high school complained that she'd been touched inappropriately by a male teacher. The file shows the teacher, born in 1955, had previously been admonished at six schools for mistreating female students, such as ordering them to stand up in class to exhibit the size of their breasts and making them do jumping jacks in the classroom. He was fired in December.

•  An aide reported that a special-education teacher at an East ESC elementary school used clothes pins to pinch closed the ears of students who weren't listening to the lesson. The teacher was eventually accused of pinching and hitting students, using bad-tasting disinfectant to dissuade a youngster from sucking his thumb; and forcing students to use their bare hands to wipe down their desks with spray cleaner. The teacher, born in 1960, was fired in February.

APRIL 2012

•  A teacher at a North ESC high school was accused of sending inappropriate texts and emails to four girls, and partying with students. He was fired in October.

•  A student at a South ESC high school threatened suicide after a male teacher ridiculed the boy whom he perceived to be gay. Complaints dating back to 2003 show "persistent, inappropriate and vulgar comments" to students, such as using racial slurs with African-American students and taunting an overweight student. He also told students about his sexual relationship with a coworker and was accused of making repeated sexual demands of another employee. The teacher, born in 1973, was fired in December.

•  A 21-year-old female student reported to officials that she'd been raped in 2010 at the home of a teacher who had hired her to work for him. The teacher was working at an elementary school in South ESC at the time of the accusation. Law-enforcement officials said the case was too old to prosecute. The woman was able to describe the incident in detail and the teacher, born in 1959, was fired in December 2012.

•  A teacher at a high school in ESC North was accused of striking students in the stomach and head and using graphic and threatening language against boys in his class. The teacher was born in 1946, and had numerous complaints in his file about using inappropriate language and not following the curriculum. He was fired in December 2012.

•  Students told an administrator that they'd seen a male teacher at a North ESC middle school watching pornography on his district laptop. The computer was confiscated and the teacher was fired in April after sexually explicit images were found. He was born in 1952.

MAY 2012

•  A parent reported that a youngster an an East ESC preschool had been hurt when he was grabbed by the shoulders and dropped by a teacher. An investigation turned up complaints that the teacher, born in 1955, pushed and screamed at children, and that he'd previously been accused of fondling a young girl. He was fired in October.

•  A male teacher at a South ESC elementary school was accused of pulling a girl out her out of her seat by her braids and yanking a boy's arm in an altercation. The teacher's file revealed multiple prior complaints. The teacher, born in 1953, was fired in November.

•  Employees at a North ESC high school reported that a male teacher was driving away from campus when he stopped his car, got out and began arguing with two boys. The altercation escalated, and the teacher struck and kicked the teens. The teacher, born in 1971, was fired in December.

•  Parents reported that a male teacher at an East ESC elementary school kissed their child, and photographed and videotaped the youngster without permission. The teacher, born in 1968, had complaints in his file about similar behavior dating back to 2000. He was fired in December.

•  A teacher, born in 1960, was found drunk in the special-education classroom of a West ESC elementary school. Her file included complaints of substance abuse in 2010 and 2011, and showed the district had provided professional assistance. She was dismissed in December 2012.

•  A male teacher at a North ESC middle school was accused by two girls of touching their breasts in an incident that was witnessed by several people. The teacher, born in 1947, was fired in December 2012.

•  Based on a tip on an employee hotline, the district opened an investigation into misconduct by a female teacher at a North ESC middle school. Ultimately, six students said the teacher -- born in 1944 -- pushed them, punched them or hit them until they cried. The teacher previously had several warnings about her conduct. She was fired in December.

•  Several female students at a South ESC high school complained that a male teacher had images of them on his laptop, labeled with nicknames based on their physique. He was dismissed in December.

•  A teacher at an East ESC middle school offered to show students a film stored on his district laptop as a reward after a long week. They had the choice of "The Spy Next Door" or an episode of "The Simpsons" or "America's Funniest Home Videos." Instead, a pornographic movie was projected for a short period of time. The teacher told the class, "You didn't see this," and changed it, but several students reported the incident. The district confiscated the computer and found two X-rated videos and 636 pornographic images. His personnel file showed he'd had disciplinary conferences for screaming at students, parents and administrators. He was dismissed in March 2013.

•  A male teacher assigned to an East ESC high school was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. He was fired in February 2013.

JUNE 2012

•  A male teacher born in 1955 was accused of injuring a student's face at an East ESC elementary school. He had been warned several times previously about using corporal punishment. He was fired in November.

•  Parents of a special-education student at a South ESC elementary school reported that a teacher hit and screamed at their child. She was also accused of putting students in "time out" for extended period of time and of throwing out food that wasn't eaten in time. She was fired in December 2012.

•  A teacher born in 1955 was accused of physically abusing students at a South ESC elementary school. Adults and children reported she locked students out of her classroom, and placed her knee in the back of youngsters as she pushed them to the floor. There were no prior complaints against the teacher, who was fired in January.


•  Two female students reported that a male teacher at an East ESC high school had transported them without permission from an after-school event, and had kissed and fondled them. The incident occurred in 2006, but had not previously been reported. The teacher, born in 1977, was fired in October.

•  A teacher at North ESC elementary school threw a book at a boy, striking him in the head. The student went to the nurse, and 11 students said they witnessed the incident. They also said the teacher bumped them in the face with his stomach, grabbed and twisted their shirts into a knot, hit them with a ball and pushed them with a table. However, there were no prior complaints in his fire. The teacher, born in 1968, was fired in February 2013.


•  A female teacher at a North ESC elementary school was accused of hitting a student in the face and arms. Investigators identified several other youngsters who said the teacher had hit them, called them names, and shoved them into their seats. Her file showed several prior warnings about abuse. The teacher, born in 1949, was fired in November 2012.

•  The parent of a first-grader at a North ESC elementary school complained that a female teacher, born in 1968, grabbed the boy hard enough to hurt him and leave marks. She was fired in November 2012.

•  A special-education teacher at a North ESC elementary school dragged students into the corner and barricaded them there using classroom furniture. "Maybe this will teach you a lesson," the teacher told the kids, according to an aide who reported the incident. The teacher also locked students in the bathroom against their will. Photos of the barricade were included with the complaint. The female teacher was fired in November.

•  A parent filed a complaint against a female teacher after a child came home with signs of injury. Ultimately, four youngsters said she pinched, slapped or grabbed them and that she called them names and belittled them. The teacher, born in 1974, was fired in December 2012.

•  A male classified employee at a West ESC high school was accused of threatening to harm students he was monitoring. Witnesses verified students' accounts. He was fired in December 2012.

•  A female teacher at a South ESC was accused of kicking, pushing and cursing students and screaming at staff members in front of children. Another employee in the classroom reported the behavior. The teacher, born in 1966, was fired in January.

•  A student at a South ESC high school reported that he'd been punched by a male teacher, who had been warnings in his file about physical and emotional abuse dating back to 1999. There were also documents in his file related to poor performance. The teacher, born in 1965, was fired in February.

•  A mother reported in September 2011 that a male teacher at a South ESC elementary school had molested her daughter. The abuse took place out of state and involved a girl who was not a student at the school. The investigation expanded, and the teacher -- born in 1970 -- was fired for molesting seven students, boys and girls.


•  A male administrator, born in 1959, was fired for embezzling district funds from an East ESC high school.

•  A veteran teacher at a West ESC elementary school was fired in November 2012, a month after a student reported that he'd been hit hard enough to cause pain. The investigation revealed complaints dating back to 1999 by boys and girls who said the teacher lost his temper and threw objects at them, and touched them and himself inappropriately in the classroom.

•  A male teacher, born in 1957, brandished a knife at an administrator during a conference related to complaints that he'd thrown a chair in anger, and used racial slurs to curse at students and administrators. He also brought a knife to the dismissal hearing before the school board in November 2012, which was found during a security check. The teacher had been assigned to a middle school in the West ESC.

•  A teacher at a South ESC high school was fired in December 2012, two months after parents called administrators and questioned his demands that they feed and house him as part of the after-school help he was providing to their son. The teacher was born in 1953.

•  Parents complained that a female teacher at an ESC elementary school had sprayed white-board cleaner on their child's face, saying it was holy water to exorcise the devil from the boy. Another student told investigators he'd been made to stand up so his classmates could see that he looked like a monkey. The teacher's file included previous complaints of inappropriate language. She was fired in December.

•  A female teacher at a North ESC elementary school was accused of pulling a girl by the hair and forcing her to sit in the corner. Her file shows complaints of abusive behavior dating back to 2005. She was fired in December.

•  A male aide at a South ESC high school was accused of abusing special-needs students, including boxing the ears of kids with cochlear implants. The aide, born in 1973, had previous been reprimanded for poor attendance and cell phone misuse. He was fired in December.

•  Parents complained that a male teacher at a North ESC middle school had asked girls in his class to wear a particular Halloween costume because he wanted to photograph them. Students told investigators that the teacher, born in 1963, rubbed their shoulders and backs, and had them write poems about their buttocks. The teacher had been warned of inappropriate behavior dating back to 1997. He was fired in December.

•  A male teacher at an East ESC middle school was accused of using corporal punishment against a wheelchair-bound student. Seven adults reported seeing the incident. The teacher, born in 1955, had several complaints dating to 1998 of kicking, pushing and man-handling students. He was fired in February.

•  A student at a South ESC elementary school went to the nurse for treatment of a bloody finger which he was was caused by his male teacher during a physical altercation. His file including accusations of harassment, abusive language and corporal punishment involving eight students, dating back to 1998. He was fired in February 2013.

•  Two boys at a South ESC elementary school told an administrator they' had been grabbed and kicked by their male teacher, and one boy said he'd been knocked out of his chair. Evidence included drawings made by classmates who witnessed the incident. The teacher had complaints of misconduct in his file. He was fired in February 2013.

•  A male teacher at a North ESC elementary school was acussed of hitting a boy -- an incident witnessed by two adults and 17 students. His file includes multiple warnings dealing with complaints that he'd taunted and verbally abused students during expletive-filled rants. He told one girl, "A dog could draw better picture than you." The file included photos of a girl's arm injured by tape which he used during a demonstration of how to "tar and feather" someone. The teacher, born in 1958, was fired in February 2013.

•  A female teacher, born in 1965, was accused of hitting a student and pushing him down at a West ESC middle school. The teacher was charged, but parents refused to let their son testify and charges were dropped. She was fired in February 2013.

•  A teacher, born in 1965 and assigned to an elementary school in ESC South, punched a boy in the face and chest after he refused to answer her questions. Her file showed she'd been involved in a 2010 altercation with a co-worker who had touched her classroom bulletin board. She was fired in February 2013.


•  A teacher at a South ESC middle school was accused by a student of putting his hands around her waist, and caressing their lips and buttocks. Two other girls in different classes said they'd also been victimized. The teacher had been warned in 2005 and 2007 not to engage in this type of behavior. He was fired in December 2012.

•  A male teacher at an East ESC high school was fired for changing a student transcript -- transforming very low grades to very high -- so the student could apply for college. The switch was discovered when the university called the district to confirm the grades.

•  A female teacher at an East ESC preschool was fired for slapping a student's face, leaving marks that were photographed and included in the file. The teacher was accused of yelling at students who couldn't complete a sentence, and using force to make them sit down. She was born in 1954.


•  A female teacher born in 1970 was accused of using corporal punishment to discipline emotionally disturbed youngsters enrolled in an elementary school in North ESC. The initial incident was witnessed by an aide and the investigation identified seven other victims. The teacher was fired in February 2013.

•  An itinerant teacher -- assigned to teach specialized classes at a series of campuses -- was accused of screaming at his students, grabbing them and throwing them to the ground. The initial incident was reported by a staffer at an elementary school in the North ESC. One student later said the teacher had ripped his sweatshirt because he hadn't worn the appropriate uniform for an event, and there were also accusations of hazing. The teacher's file showed years of below-standard evaluations. The teacher, born in 1956, was fired in February 2012.

•  A male teacher born in 1953 was fired in December for exposing himself to coworkers at a South ESC high school.



Brother Arrested in Fatal Calif. Stabbing of Girl

VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif -- Authorities have arrested the 12-year-old brother of an 8-year-old girl who was mysteriously stabbed at her home in a rural Northern California community last month.

The boy, who was not identified, will be charged with homicide, Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz told reporters Saturday night.

The April 27 attack on Leila Fowler shook the tightknit Valley Springs community of about 7,400 people and set off a massive manhunt.

The boy had told police he found his sister's body and encountered an intruder in the home while their parents were at a Little League game. He described the man as being tall with long gray hair.

Police have said there was no sign of a burglary or robbery at the house.

Investigators did a door-to-door sweep of homes, storage sheds and horse stables scattered across the oak-studded hills foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Divers also searched two nearby reservoirs in search of clues.

As part of the investigation, authorities seized several knives from the home Leila shared with her father, stepmother and siblings to determine if one could have inflicted the fatal wounds. A neighbor who told detectives she saw a man flee the Fowler home later recanted the story and was discredited by police.

Leila's brother was taken into custody at 5:10 p.m. Saturday and police hastily called a news conference to announce the arrest.

"Citizens of Calaveras County, you can sleep a little better tonight," Kuntz said.

Authorities spent over 2,000 hours on the investigation "to provide Leila Fowler's family answers to her death," the sheriff said.

Kuntz said the investigation was ongoing. He declined to provide further details.

Several days after the killing, hundreds of people gathered at Jenny Lind Elementary School where Leila was a popular 3rd grader. Her mother, Krystal Walters, tearfully thanked the crowd for the support.

"I just want to thank the entire community and all of our family and friends for all the overwhelming amount of support you've given our family," Walters said at the time. "It will never be forgotten. Thank you."



Do everything to protect your family against child molesters

by Susan H. Oliva

If you have a radio, television or Internet access, I guarantee you have heard the about the recent Cleveland child abduction case that involves three young women. As a nation, we should find this case very disturbing.

Every hour, more details are disclosed by the three young women held captive. These young women are survivors of both physical and sexual abuse. It is horrible to imagine 10 years of tragic abuse happening right next door. Child sexual abuse is a community problem and happens next door every day.

Everyone must be aware, and do their part, to prevent, report and protect our children. Child molesters are someone you know -- but you don't really know -- because they hide who they really are.

Stranger child abductions do happen, and it makes the headlines, but far more often children are sexually assaulted by their own family members or someone they know really well.

Where do we find, and who is, a child molester? Research demonstrates that the child sexual offender is a family friend or one of the many professionals or volunteer staff who come in contact with our children every day. Sex offenders work very hard to seduce and silence their victims, but they also work very hard to deceive adults, and pretend they are model citizens.

Child molesters do their best to appear stable, employed and respectable. They live in nice houses, go to church, eat in restaurants, and pay their taxes. In the Cleveland case one of the neighbors stated they knew the alleged offender "all of their life, and believed he was a good person."

As hard as it is to believe, three out of four sexual offenders were already preying on victims before they reached their 18th birthday. They want to be perceived as "good people."

Talk to your children. It is essential that you believe and support your child. If your child tells you about "inappropriate touching," do not automatically make excuses for the adult your child disclosed about. If they say they do not want to go to someone's house, ask why.

The child is telling you because they trust you, and they want the abuse to stop. Children need to know you will believe them, as well as protect them. They may feel they have let you down because they were touched and never told, despite your warnings.

Unless we step-up and pay attention, we will be no match for child molesters. A child molester is active in the child's life through family, school, neighborhood or church. They are very good at convincing people that the child is mistaken, or that they were "just wrestling or playing." The molester may know you (the parent) and without a doubt, they believe that you will believe them, and not your child.

Let your child know that if something happens it is not their fault, and they will not be in trouble. Let your child know that if they cannot tell you, they should tell another adult, perhaps a relative or school counselor.

Child abuse prevention programs help, but they cannot do it alone. As parents you must talk to your children. Let them know that they are able to tell you anything. Listen, communicate and believe. Child abuse is an extremely underreported crime. Tragically, most child abuse cases will never be reported. Nationally it is believed for every one child abuse victim identified, 10 additional children are being victimized that no one will ever know about.

If you suspect that a child is being victimized, call 911 or report to the Child Protective Services hotline (800) 252-5400. Visit the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso's website: on tips on child abuse prevention and awareness.

It's the law. Do your part and protect El Paso's children.

Susan H. Oliva is executive director, Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso.


Iowa considers new approach to child abuse reports

Associated Press

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Human Services is on the verge of taking a less-confrontational approach toward adults accused of minor acts of child neglect, saying the agency wants to better balance the rights of adults with the need to protect children.

A bill allowing the new policy was unanimously approved by the Senate and the House. If signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad, the new system would take effect in January.

Iowa is following at least 23 other states in implementing such a system, which ends the once standard process of conducting a full investigation of all child abuse reports, even when it seemed clear a child wasn't in imminent danger.

The new system creates a two-track process that requires a full investigation in cases involving sexual, physical and substance abuse, but if the Department of Human Services decides a child isn't at immediate risk, caseworkers can take three days to respond. And when they do respond, caseworkers would focus more on connecting parents with services they need to properly care for a child — an approach called a family assessment.

“In the current system, our approach to every case was looking for a victim and a perpetrator,” said agency spokesman Roger Munns. “The new way is a looking at the needs of a family and finding a way to do the least amount of intervention possible.”

Neglect accounted for about 80 percent of the 11,637 child abuse cases in Iowa last year, but almost a quarter of those abuses were considered minor because there was no indication of sexual abuse, physical harm or presence of illegal drugs and substance abuse around the child.

The department found many of the less-serious cases stemmed from families in poverty who simply needed better access to services.

“A child might not receive the right kind of nutrition or might come to school with improper clothing, not because the parents didn't care about the child, it's because they couldn't afford the right type of clothing,” said bill sponsor Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo.

Dotzler described the current system, which requires DHS caseworkers to respond within 24 hours to reports of child abuse, “like sending a SWAT team to take a cat out of a tree.”

The new approach gives caseworkers a chance to work with the family and let them describe their situation without fear of losing custody of their child, Dotzler said.

Stephen Scott, executive director of the nonprofit group Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, said the change makes sense, but he worries that delays in evaluating cases could be dangerous.

“Having the response be not prompt enough is one concern,” he said.

Scott said he hopes the agency takes a conservative approach and does quick evaluations if there is any risk to a child.

Julie Allison, the health department's bureau chief of child and welfare protective services, said child safety won't be compromised under the new plan.

“If a child is unsafe, they are kicked over to the child abuse assessment side,” she said.


Witnessing Domestic Violence Decreases Gray Matter Volume

Children who are exposed to domestic violence are at much greater risk of developing psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress (PTSD) when compared to children who have never witnessed domestic violence. Being a witness to abuse, verbal aggression, or physical violence can increase a child's chances of exhibiting behavior problems such as defiance, aggression, and bullying. Although these associations have been clearly established, less is known about the neurological effects of exposure to violence. Numerous studies have been conducted on the brains of children and adults to see how childhood sexual abuse, neglect, and other forms of maltreatment affect survivors.

To extend the existing literature to include the neurological impact of exposure to violence, Akemi Tomoda of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts recently led a study that analyzed the gray matter volume (GMV) in a sample of 22 young adults who had witnessed domestic violence (WDV). The participants reported on frequency of verbal aggression and physical violence that occurred in their homes. Their brain scans were then compared to those of 30 young adults who had no history of WDV or psychiatric issues.

The results revealed that the WDV participants had over 6% less GMV than the control participants. Cortical thickness was also measured and was found to be significantly lower in the WDV group. This finding is similar to findings on survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Another interesting finding was that of dissociation. Some WDV participants had high rates of depression and anxiety, while more resilient WDV participants had virtually no psychological symptoms. However, the resilient individuals did have dissociative experiences that were similar to the susceptible WDV individuals and dissociative scores that were much higher than any found in the control participants.

“Hence,” added Tomoda, “Although resilient subjects in the WDV group did not experience the most common psychiatric consequences of exposure (depression and anxiety), they did experience heightened levels of dissociation.” Additionally, Tomoda found that WDV between the ages of 11 and 13 had the largest impact on GMV and neurological variances. Therefore, Tomoda believes that this developmental period presents a vulnerable stage during which efforts should be made to reduce exposure and victimization for children at risk of domestic violence.



State senator allegedly didn't report child sex abuse

LEWIS COUNTY – Senator Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, failed to report possible cases of child sexual abuse, according to court documents obtained by the Seattle Times.

The Times reports the Senator's wife, Jacqueline Hatfield, witnessed “inappropriate behavior” between the Hatfield's 15-year-old son, and a younger child last February. Jacqueline told her husband who did not immediately report the incident to authorities.

Hatfield said he had discussed with his lawyer about the incident and was planning to bring his son in to counselling. Police launched an investigation after the victim reported the abuse to school officials last month. Hatfield's son pleaded guilty this week to allegations of several incidents of abuse, spanning months. He will be sentenced to 30 days in a juvenile facility and more than two years of therapy.

It is unclear if the younger child was living with the Hatfields at the time of the abuse, the Times reports. Law requires adults who have reasonable cause to believe a child living with them has been sexually abused to report the incident to police.

Lewis County prosecutors said the Hatfields won't be charged since they claim they didn't know all the details about the ongoing abuse.

The victim reportedly told Jacqueline Hatfield about similar “inappropriate” situations happening in the past, but according to court papers, didn't explain the severity of the abuse.



Tarrant Co. Jury Gives Man 45 Years For Sexually Abusing 10-Week-Old

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A 40-year old man was sentenced by a Tarrant County jury to 45 years in prison for sexually abusing his girlfriend's 10-week-old daughter.

Derek Ryan Wilson was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 6-years-old, a charge that carries no possibility for parole. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $10,000.

Authorities say Wilson denied assaulting the infant at first but later confessed and told them he did it because he was “curious” about the baby's anatomy.

“What makes this act so heinous is that the defendant preyed upon a non-verbal infant who couldn't even hold her head up yet,” said Prosecutor Kelly Meador. “This jury spoke for her with their verdict.”

The baby is believed to be one of the youngest child sexual assault victims ever handled by the Tarrant County DA's Office says Dr. Jamye Coffman, a certified
child abuse pediatrician who is the Medical Director of the CARE Team at Cook Children's Medical Center.



Ex-Delaware County principal pleads guilty in child porn case

MEDIA, Pa. - May 10, 2013 (WPVI) -- A former suburban Philadelphia public school principal is facing up to 10 years in prison in a child pornography case.

Troy Czukoski pleaded guilty Friday.

Prosecutors charged the 42-year-old in March, saying they found more than 150 pornographic images of children stored electronically at his Exton home.

Czukoski had been the principal of Springton Lake Middle School in Delaware County.

Authorities say they seized two flash drives and 48 CDs and DVDs in an Oct. 18 search.

Authorities say they searched a movie production company that sold DVDs and streaming videos online featuring boys and found that Czukoski had been a customer.

His lawyer didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Friday. Previously, the lawyer said Czukoski is an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Sentencing has been set for Aug. 12.



Cleveland kidnapping story spurs needed parental discussions with children

CLEVELAND - Recent, more vivid details emerging from Seymour Avenue's crime scene have led many parents to reassess just how much to expose to their children.

Clinical psychologist Lori Stevic-Rust of Stevic-Rust & Associates, LLC., in Willoughby offered guidance Thursday for families who may already be at their limit for information overload after four days of intense news coverage.

She said pushing for too much discussion about a news topic with details so disturbing that they may further traumatize children. It may not be the answer to quality communication among family members.

"We have to take the lead from our children. You know there are a lot of teenagers, young adults, who are already saying ‘I really don't want to hear all of that. I don't want to know all the details,'” Stevic-Rust said.

“It's bad enough to know that they were kept in that home for 10 years, so I think we really have to respect when children say, 'I just can't.' There's no value in pushing the details for them.”

At the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, President & CEO Megan O'Bryan has seen a spike in calls to the downtown center from former rape and assault victims following daily details of the women's freedom. For people in need of rape counseling, reliving their own trauma after hearing news stories needs to be recognized by those around them, according to O'Bryan.

"At the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, we have so much compassion for Gina, Amanda, Michelle and their families,” O'Bryan said.

“I think what we know from our experience in working with thousands of survivors of sexual abuse is that the road to healing is going to be a long one, and is going to require a lot of support from their families, from the community and from professionals and it's going to be an ongoing process for all of them," said O'Bryan.

"As this story unfolds, it is most certainly going to bring up issues for people in our community who are surviving their sexual violence,”

“And I will say, in Ohio, 1 in 6 adult women are survivors of rape and if you have never gotten the help and support that you need to begin that healing journey, there's help available. In Cleveland that help would be at our Rape Crisis Center and we can be accessed at 216-619-6192, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," added O'Bryan.

For more information on the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center go to:

For information on Lori Stevic-Rust's clinical psychology services go to: or



Horrifying New Details Revealed in Leaked Cleveland Police Report

by Abby Haglage

Forced abortions, chains in the basement, and cruel mind games. What the three captured Cleveland women told police after they were rescued.

Just two days after three missing women were rescued from a Cleveland home, an official police report — obtained by local news source WKYC — exposes the horrific conditions the women say they endured behind closed doors. In the grisly report, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus explain in vivid and horrific detail how their alleged kidnapper, Ariel Castro, successfully held them captive for nearly a decade.

“All three women victims stated that Ariel chained them up in the basement,” the report reads. “But eventually he let them free from the chains and let them live upstairs on the second floor.” Once on the second floor, the physical, sexual, and mental abuse the women endured daily only worsened. They were rarely permitted to leave the house—they remember doing so only twice—and when they did, were forced to don humiliating wigs to mask their identity.

When Castro had guests over to his home on Seymour Avenue, he made sure they were invisible. “He would bring the women upstairs to the attic, tie them up, and tape their mouths,” reported Fox 8 Cleveland. The 52-year-old would then blast music throughout the house, silencing any attempts the women made to scream for help. According to one of DeJesus's cousins, Castro further humiliated the women by forcing them to eat cake and “celebrate” National Abduction Day each year.

But among the most repulsive passages in the report is Castro's treatment of the women after impregnating them—a product of his continual rape of all three. Reliving the scene for police, the women paint a horrifying picture of Castro's forced “barbaric abortions”; he would allegedly starve the women for up to two weeks before “punch[ing] them in the stomach until they miscarried.”

According to the report, Michelle Knight was forced to endure the inhumane termination not once but five times. If surviving five savage abortions wasn't enough, Knight was then forced by Castro—at the threat of death—to deliver Amanda Berry's baby. The women explained how Castro provided nothing other than an inflatable baby pool meant to hold “the mess.” Castro allegedly terrorized Knight throughout the birth: “He said if the baby died, that he'd kill her,” the report reads. When Berry's baby stopped breathing moments after leaving the womb, Knight had no choice but to perform CPR. She “breathed for her” until she could breathe on her own, the women recounted.

How exactly Castro was able to keep all three women from escaping—after he had stopped chaining them to the basement ceiling—is unclear. But a thorough read of the report suggests one of his main tactics was fear. Amanda Berry, who escaped to save all three after Castro left without “locking the big door,” told police she was terrified that he was “testing her” by leaving it unlocked.

Castro, 52, faces four charges of kidnapping and three charges of rape.



Horrifying New Details Revealed in Leaked Cleveland Police Report

by Abby Haglage

Forced abortions, chains in the basement, and cruel mind games. What the three captured Cleveland women told police after they were rescued.

Just two days after three missing women were rescued from a Cleveland home, an official police report —obtained by local news source WKYC—exposes the horrific conditions the women say they endured behind closed doors. In the grisly report, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus explain in vivid and horrific detail how their alleged kidnapper, Ariel Castro, successfully held them captive for nearly a decade.

“All three women victims stated that Ariel chained them up in the basement,” the report reads. “But eventually he let them free from the chains and let them live upstairs on the second floor.” Once on the second floor, the physical, sexual, and mental abuse the women endured daily only worsened. They were rarely permitted to leave the house—they remember doing so only twice—and when they did, were forced to don humiliating wigs to mask their identity.

When Castro had guests over to his home on Seymour Avenue, he made sure they were invisible. “He would bring the women upstairs to the attic, tie them up, and tape their mouths,” reported Fox 8 Cleveland. The 52-year-old would then blast music throughout the house, silencing any attempts the women made to scream for help. According to one of DeJesus's cousins, Castro further humiliated the women by forcing them to eat cake and “celebrate” National Abduction Day each year.

But among the most repulsive passages in the report is Castro's treatment of the women after impregnating them—a product of his continual rape of all three. Reliving the scene for police, the women paint a horrifying picture of Castro's forced “barbaric abortions”; he would allegedly starve the women for up to two weeks before “punch[ing] them in the stomach until they miscarried.”

According to the report, Michelle Knight was forced to endure the inhumane termination not once but five times. If surviving five savage abortions wasn't enough, Knight was then forced by Castro—at the threat of death—to deliver Amanda Berry's baby. The women explained how Castro provided nothing other than an inflatable baby pool meant to hold “the mess.” Castro allegedly terrorized Knight throughout the birth: “He said if the baby died, that he'd kill her,” the report reads. When Berry's baby stopped breathing moments after leaving the womb, Knight had no choice but to perform CPR. She “breathed for her” until she could breathe on her own, the women recounted.

How exactly Castro was able to keep all three women from escaping—after he had stopped chaining them to the basement ceiling—is unclear. But a thorough read of the report suggests one of his main tactics was fear. Amanda Berry, who escaped to save all three after Castro left without “locking the big door,” told police she was terrified that he was “testing her” by leaving it unlocked.

Castro, 52, faces four charges of kidnapping and three charges of rape.



Ohio man's ex-relatives say he beat them, kept mannequin in home

Associated Press

CLEVELAND – The man accused of holding three women captive for a decade in his Cleveland home terrorized the mother of his children, frequently beating her, playing twisted psychological games and locking her indoors in the years before their relationship disintegrated, her relatives say.

Several relatives of Grimilda Figueroa, who left Ariel Castro years ago and died after a long illness last year, painted a nightmarish portrait of Castro's family life as authorities made public horrifying details of the abuse endured by the imprisoned women.

In interviews with The Associated Press on Thursday, the relatives described Castro as a "monster" who abused his wife and locked his family inside their own home. Their views were at odds with those of some of Castro's family and a neighbor, who knew the former school bus driver only as a happy and respectful man.

Figueroa's relatives said Castro savagely beat her, pushing her down a flight of stairs, breaking her nose and dislocating her shoulder, among other injuries. Her sister, Elida Caraballo, said Castro once shoved Figueroa into a cardboard box and closed the flaps over her head.

"He told her, `You stay there until I tell you to get out,"' said Caraballo, who cried as she recounted her late sister's torment. "That's when I got scared and I ran downstairs to get my parents."

Prosecutors said Thursday they may seek the death penalty against Castro as police charged that he impregnated one of his captives at least five times and made her miscarry by starving her and punching her in the belly. The allegations were contained in a police report that also said another one of the women, Amanda Berry, was forced to give birth in a plastic kiddie pool.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said his office will decide whether to bring aggravated murder charges, punishable by death, in connection with the pregnancies that were terminated by force. McGinty said Castro will be charged for every act of sexual violence, assault and other crimes committed against the women, suggesting the counts could number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Castro, 52, is being held on $8 million bail under a suicide watch in jail, where he is charged with rape and kidnapping.

"Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct," McGinty said. "The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life."

The three women said Castro chained them up in the basement but eventually let them live on the home's second floor. Each woman told a similar story about being abducted after accepting a ride from him.

Berry, now 27, told officers that she was forced to give birth in a plastic pool in the house so it would be easier to clean up. Berry said that none of the women -- or her 6-year-old child -- had ever been to a doctor during their captivity.

Michelle Knight, now 32, said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved her for at least two weeks and "repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried." She also said Castro forced her to deliver Berry's baby under threat of death if the baby died. When the newborn stopped breathing, Knight said she revived her through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

During his brief arraignment Thursday, Castro tried to hide his face, tucking his chin inside his shirt collar. He appeared to close his eyes during the hearing and awkwardly signed documents while handcuffed. He did not speak or enter a plea.

In court, prosecutor Brian Murphy said Castro used the women "in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit."

Kathleen DeMetz, a public defender assigned to represent him at the hearing, didn't comment on his guilt or innocence or object when prosecutors recommended that bail be set at $5 million. The judge, instead, ordered Castro held on $8 million bail.

Castro was arrested Monday, when Berry broke out of his run-down house and called 911 while he was away. Police found the two other women inside. The women had vanished separately between 2002 and 2004, when they 14, 16 and 20.

Police then entered the house and found the other women, who flung themselves into the officers' arms.

Berry and former captive Gina DeJesus, 22, went home with relatives on Wednesday. Knight was reported in good condition at a Cleveland hospital.

Castro's two brothers, who were arrested with him but later cleared of involvement in the case, appeared in court on unrelated charges Thursday and were released.

Figueroa's relatives said Castro often forced her to remain inside her home and forbade her from using the telephone. After warning her not to leave, he would test her to see if she obeyed, Caraballo said.

Some relatives of Castro have said they were shocked by the allegations against him. An uncle, Julio Castro, said it's been difficult news to absorb.

"Of course we have taken it hard," he said. "We only knew one Ariel, my sweet nephew. He was a sweet, happy person, a musician. We didn't have the slightest idea of the second person in him."

Juan Perez, who lives two doors down from Castro, said Castro was always happy and respectful. "He gained trust with the kids and with the parents. You can only do that if you're nice," Perez said.

On a recent visit to Castro's rundown home, his friend Ricky Sanchez said he heard noises "like banging on a wall" and noticed four or five locks on the outside door. While he was there, a little girl came out from the kitchen and stared at him. But she didn't say anything.

"When I was about to leave, I tried to open the door," he said. "I couldn't even, because there were so many locks in there."

Relatives say that in 1996, Figueroa finally left Castro after he hit her for the last time. After one particularly bad beating, Figueroa ran outside with one of her sons, crying out to neighbors just as the captive women did.

"The neighbors went across the street to get her," Elida Caraballo said. "And that was the last time she ever stepped in the house."



In note, Ariel Castro claimed he was sexually abused as a child

Cleveland man allegedly confessed years ago in writing to taking the three women he's accused of raping and holding captive and said that he was abused as a child and raped by an uncle, CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton reports.

According to a law enforcement source, Ariel Castro apparently contemplated committing suicide in the lengthy, handwritten note discovered in his house from which the women - Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 - escaped Monday.

According to the source, Castro wrote about his whole life, saying that he was abused by his parents as a child and that he was raped by an uncle.

Castro also provided details about taking each of his alleged victims, who went missing in their teens and early 20s. The note was discovered by FBI agents searching his house this week.

CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports Castro called himself a "sexual predator" and blamed the women for their own kidnappings, but he asks for whatever money he has to be donated to his victims after his death.

Investigators inferred from the 2004-dated note that Castro was going to commit suicide. He asked in the note that all of his money be provided to each of his victims.

Castro, 52, appeared in a Cleveland courtroom Thursday where a judge ordered him held on $8 million bond. He's been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

His brothers, Onil, 50, and Pedro, 54, were also arrested Monday but Cleveland City Prosecutor Victor Perez has said there was no evidence to charge them with a crime.

The development comes as new details of the women's harrowing ordeal were confirmed in a police report obtained Wednesday by CBS News, which corroborated information received earlier from a law enforcement source.

Knight has told investigators Castro forced her to deliver a baby born to one of the other women, and he warned her if the baby were to die, he would kill her.

Knight told police, according to the report, that Castro impregnated her "at least 5 times," but that each time he would starve her and then punch her in the stomach to induce a miscarriage.

Six years ago, however, when Berry had her daughter in the home, Knight and DeJesus were forced to help with the delivery.

According to the police report, Knight said Castro threatened to kill her if Berry's baby died. Knight told police the newborn girl stopped breathing at one point, so she "breathed for her," giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to keep her alive.

Berry told police that the girl - who was also rescued with the women earlier this week - is Castro's daughter.

According to the police report, Berry told investigators that Castro would sometimes leave the house with their daughter, and that the girl was never told the other women's real names, in case she were to repeat them in public and raise suspicion.

DeJesus told police she was raped by Castro but doesn't believe she ever became pregnant.

The three women and the now-6-year-old girl were rescued from Castro's house on Monday after Berry escaped with the help of a neighbor and called 911.

Berry was able to escape, according to the police report and the law enforcement source, because Castro forgot to lock the main front door in his haste to get something to eat. Instead, he locked only a screen door. He was arrested at a nearby McDonald's.

Berry and DeJesus returned to their homes Wednesday for the first time since Castro allegedly offered them rides and kidnapped them.

Berry told police that none of the women had received any medical treatment during their captivity.

Knight remained hospitalized early Thursday morning.


'We should never give up hope': 5 other missing-child stories with happy endings

by Erin McClam

Hundreds of thousands of children are reported missing each year according to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children — although that figure includes vast numbers of kids who briefly run away, are abandoned or are taken by relatives.

The center says a far smaller number, about 115 a year, are victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping, meaning they are abducted by a stranger or an acquaintance, taken far from home and held with the intent to keep them for good.

That includes three women who were reported missing a decade ago in Cleveland and found Monday in a house where police said they had been held against their will by three brothers.

It also includes Jaycee Dugard, who said Tuesday of the Cleveland case: “The human spirit is incredibly resilient.” The story proves, she said, that “we should never give up hope.”

Here are five more of those stories with happy endings — complicated and scarring, but culminating in freedom.

Jaycee Dugard: Something ‘made her a survivor'

Her story is perhaps the most famous of its kind: Dugard was abducted from a California bus stop in 1991, when she was 11. She told authorities that her captor used a stun gun to take her.

Eighteen years later, in August 2009, a man named Phillip Garrido showed up at the University of California at Berkeley with two girls and asked for a permit to hold a religious event. Two campus police officers thought something didn't look right.

Garrido turned out to be a paroled sex offender, and the girls turned out to be children he had fathered with Dugard — whom he had locked in a backyard shed and raped over and over.

Garrido was sentenced to 431 years in prison. His wife, Nancy, got 36 years to life. Dugard wrote in a 2011 memoir, “A Stolen Life,” that she kept from going crazy in part by taking companionship from cats and making up stories in her head.

“Something inside that frightened little girl made her a survivor,” she wrote, “and she has made me the person I am today.”

From 2012: Dugard's diary details horror in captivity

Elizabeth Smart: ‘Indescribable fear'

Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped at knifepoint in June 2002 from her parents' home in Salt Lake City. She was chained, sexually abused and forced to wander from town to town for nine months.

She was rescued in March 2003, days after her case was featured on “America's Most Wanted,” when passersby spotted her outside a Walmart with Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Only at the police station did she take off the gray wig and sunglasses she had been forced to wear as a disguise.

Mitchell is serving a life sentence, his wife 15 years. Smart has since worked as a television commentator and an activist for abused children. She got married last year to a man she met on a Mormon mission in France.

She told jurors in 2010, at Mitchell's trial, that she remembered the feeling of a cold knife at her neck when Mitchell took her — telling her to come with him or he would kill her and her family.

“I thought I was having a nightmare,” she said. “It was just indescribable fear.”

From 2010: Elizabeth Smart says it is ‘possible to move on'

Shawn Hornbeck: ‘My parents will always look for me'

Hornbeck was last spotted in October 2002, riding his bike in Richwoods, Mo. Four years later, police were searching a suburban St. Louis home for another missing boy and made a stunning discovery — not just that missing boy but Hornbeck, too.

Investigators said the abductor, Michael Devlin, put Hornbeck through hell for the first month of captivity, tying him to a futon and duct-taping his mouth. Hornbeck later said there was not a day in those four years when he didn't think Devlin would kill him.

Devlin is serving a life sentence. Hornbeck later started a foundation to help other kids who have been abducted.

“What really made me hold on strong was just knowing that my parents will always look for me,” Hornbeck told TODAY in 2010, “just because I've always had just one of the best connections a kid could have with his parents.”

From 2010: Hornbeck credits family in surviving abduction

Carlina White: ‘I've lost 23 years of being with my daughter'

White solved her own kidnapping.

She was three weeks old when she was kidnapped from the 17th floor of a Manhattan hospital in 1987. She grew up wondering why she did not look like Ann Pettway, the woman who was supposed to be her mother.

White said she became pregnant as a teenager and asked Pettway for a copy of her birth certificate. Pettway said she didn't have one because she had been given away as a baby by a drug addict.

Years later, in 2010, White was living in Atlanta with her daughter and clicked on the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. There she found her own baby pictures.

Pettway was sentenced last summer to 12 years in prison. Her true mother, Joy White said she kept a baby photo by her bed for 23 years.

“I've lost 23 years of being with my daughter,” she said.

From 2011: Father, aunt of Carlina White talk about difficulty of reuniting

Katie Beers: ‘There is a road to recovery'

She sang “Happy Birthday” to herself in captivity.

Beers turned 10 during her kidnapping, which attracted nationwide attention in 1993. While she was missing, revelations surfaced that she had been sexually assaulted for years by the husband of her godmother.

But it was a family acquaintance, John Esposito, who admitted to detectives that he had kidnapped the girl and held her in a Long Island dungeon. Beers later said that Esposito had placed a tape recorder there, which picked her up singing the song.

Esposito is serving 15 years to life. Beers wrote that she still can't stand two staples of her imprisonment — chocolate dinner mints and the Whitney Houston song “I Will Always Love You,” which was playing constantly on MTV and VH1 at the time.

Beers is now married with two children, although she has declined to say where she is or what her married name is. She wrote in the book, “Buried Memories,” that the abduction helped her overcome the years of abuse.

“I want to be able to help people who might not know where to turn,” she told The Associated Press earlier this year. “To see that there is a road to recovery.”

From 1993: Katie Beers found alive



Schools ill-equipped to respond to teen dating violence

by Rachel Lowry

CLEARFIELD, Utah — On a frigid December morning in 2003, 16-year-old Katie Payne walked into the common hall area at Clearfield High School with her friends before class, her then-boyfriend's arm around her. Amid high-spirited discussions revolving around weekend plans, Payne's silence went unnoticed.

None of her friends suspected she was fighting to hold back tears. On the way to school, she would later tell investigators, her boyfriend had banged her head against the dashboard, yelled at her, slapped her, called her names and sexually assaulted her, with threats if she told anybody.

After that day walking through the school's halls with the his arm around her, she didn't tell anyone. Not for six agonizing months.

Today, Payne, whose name is now Katie Burke, is — fortunately — in a completely different place. She married a different man three years ago, and she and her husband are expecting a child. She is one of 1.5 million students per year who experience alleged physical abuse from a dating partner in high school.

Though Clearfield High School worked to help Burke when the situation came to their attention, 83 percent of schools in the U.S. do not have a protocol or procedure in place for responding to incidents of violence, according to a study published in last year in Pediatrics. School districts and teenage peers can do more to protect students who suffer abuse in relationships.

"What about the student who has been bruised and abused? Does she not deserve help from those who notice in the classroom?" said Jagdish Khubchandani, an assistant professor of community health education at Ball State University who authored the study. "I am surprised it is even a question whether schools are supposed to provide a safe climate, and respond to incidents of bullying and dating violence, knowing fully well that these issues are at large in the American society."

What are the trends?

The study surveyed 305 counselors, all members of the American School Counselor Association. Nearly 90 percent of respondents reported that training to assist victims of teen dating abuse has not been provided to personnel in their schools in the past two years. More than 60 percent of school counselors reported they had assisted victims in the past two years, despite the lack of training.

"There are so many victims and survivors of abuse, at a young age, who are not being assisted," Khubchandani said. "To me, that speaks volumes about the condition of adults who are in abusive relationships."

As a psychiatrist with a medical degree from India, Khubchandani saw the rising battle against adult domestic violence in the U.S. Khubchandani and was prompted to get to what he sees is the root of the issue — teen violence.

Nearly 20 percent of teens who are exposed to violence in high school are victims of domestic violence by the age of 24, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington.

Many instances of violence begin in schools. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that 3 million crimes occur in or around schools each year and every day an estimated 160,000 students skip school because they fear being physically harmed by their classmates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

School employees are being taught by old handbooks that don't address current issues, Khubchandani said. "They're still stuck on tobacco and obesity, which is OK, but they need to see that there are more paramount challenges at stake today."

The field of dating violence is relatively new, Carrie Mulford, coordinator of the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Teen Dating Violence, said. "We can't look back to see how dating violence norms have changed over time because people weren't really doing research in this area until recently." However, recognition of it as an issue has recently drawn the attention of many organizations, including government researchers such as Mulford.

Many parents aren't aware that it's such a problem until their kid is the one being victimized, clinical child psychologist Barry Plummer said. "This has gotten out of hand quickly." Forty-seven percent of teens said they had been victimized by controlling behaviors of an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend in 2009, according to a study by Liz Claiborne Inc. and the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Nearly 1 in 3 teens reported sexual or physical abuse or threats.

What are the causes?

Burke remembers meeting her perpetrator near the beginning of her sophomore year. She and some new friends had skipped class to go to the mall, inviting her future ex-boyfriend. "I was instantly drawn to him," Burke said.

Three months into their relationship, Burke recalled her ex-boyfriend starting to get mad about what she wore to school and who she talked to. "He hit and punched me every day, and the sex became violent."

When Burke told her ex-boyfriend she was pregnant, she recalls him holding a knife to her neck, threatening to kill her. She feared for her life. "He pushed me down the stairs and hit me with a rod."

Burke said she miscarried. She got a protective order against her ex-boyfriend a and he wound up on probation.

In October, the now ex-boyfriend pleaded no contest to allegedly pushing a later girlfriend, AshLee Bambrough, out of a moving vehicle. Burke and Bambrough have joined together to raise awareness, speaking about their experience at high schools across the state and creating a Facebook page, " Team AshLee," to update others on the case.

Many youth in violent relationships accept violence because their friends do, Mulford said. He says spreading the word about what is and isn't acceptable to teens can help get at the root of the issue.

Boys and girls who showed aggression against a partner reportedly acted out of jealousy or anger, Mulford found in research. Studies show that boys say they use violence to control the relationship, where girls are more prone to show aggression in self-defense, Mulford said.

Teens pick these patterns up early on in life, Khubchandani said. "This needs to be prevented before they begin believing this is the norm."

What are schools doing?

There is a gap in education in which students aren't learning about what is and isn't a healthy relationship, said Cristina Escobar, director of Love is Respect — an Austin, Texas-based collaboration between Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline, which seeks to educate and empower youth and young adults to prevent and end teen dating violence.

Break the Cycle distributes curriculum to schools across the country, trains teachers and school counselors, connects schools with community resources, and puts policies in place with a protocol to follow when an issue arises.

Love is Respect offers a national, 24/7 hotline — launched in 2007 with help from founding sponsor Liz Claiborne Inc. — that is accessible by phone or Internet to parents, teachers and students.

Additional programs are being implemented to help teachers educate teens about the issue. The National Crime Prevention Program has instituted a program called Community Works, which gives middle and high school teachers curriculum to educate students about violence, usually in an after-school format. The program, which has reached over 800 community work sites within the U.S., is focused on involving teens in discussion and solutions, National Crime Prevention Program Communications and Marketing Director Michelle Boykins said.

Teens should be aware of the issue, but schools also should handle reports of dating violence consistently, said Barbara Higgins, family crimes and intervention coordinator and victim advocate with the Sandy police. Instead, different schools follow different policies.

Teen dating violence is not tied to any specific code in many states, including Utah, Higgins said. "It's an umbrella to a lot of other crimes." Though much more can be done, schools try to work with officers in removing youth from schools or changing school schedules, Higgins said.

"If a student is being harassed by another student, they are encouraged to report that to any adult in the system," said Christopher Williams, the Community Relations Director for Davis School District. "That information will be shared with student services. "I've worked for the school district for 13 years and I can say that I don't know of any situation in which harassment or bullying or intimidation has been allowed, when it has been reported."

Moving forward

Ultimately, teens themselves can play the biggest role in combating teen dating violence, Plummer said. "The kids on the periphery are the most powerful agents of change. They can stop and convince their other peers to stop what they're doing."

Burke, for her part, has since learned to pick up the pieces and move forward with full confidence. She transferred to Canyon Heights, a private school within the same district, where she finished her senior year.

Burke went on to hairstyling school, at which point she met her husband, Gregory Burke. The happy couple is expecting a child.

"I am at peace in my life now. I slowly over the years put myself all back together again and have grown tremendously from this lifeless girl into this full of life, confident woman," Burke wrote on her blog. "I want this so much for ... all other victims. We are strong survivors who together can make a big difference."



Suffering in silence

The life of a survivor of Childhood sexual abuse

by Margie Thomas

When people hear the term Childhood sexual abuse survivor/victim they may not think much about it or they may wonder how can something that happened to someone so long ago still affect them?

In Australia 1 in 3 Women and 1 in 4 to 5 men are have been sexually abused by the time they are 16. When a child is sexually abused they don't always tell someone for many reasons.

One reason is that they were often too afraid to tell because they didn't want to get in trouble; they were told it was their fault or someone would get hurt if they did. If they had the courage to tell most of the time they were not believed or ignored anyway.

Some children were punished for what happened. The child relied on these adults for protection. To them the adults were gods and all powerful, so if an adult chose to abuse a child, in the child's mind it must be their own fault as a god is perfect and all other gods (adults) will believe the adult over a child. So the child is punished for someone taking their innocence!

The child must survive so they develop ways to make sense of it all which may include burying it all in a box in their head. They use most of the energy for survival that was meant to be used for normal development.

The survivor becomes a teenager, the abuse may continue. They may find themselves in the arms of drugs, alcohol and maybe many sexual partners to try to ease the inner pain. Some will just keep the lid on the box and appear completely normal.

The survivor becomes an adult, they may choose to marry young to get away from the abuse not necessarily choosing the best partner for themselves but one who is a form of rescue from where they came from.

They will often suffer anxiety and depression not always realising what they are suffering because they have learned to turn off what they feel for their own survival.

The survivor may have children and in most cases will vehemently protect them so as the same will not be repeated on to them. Unfortunately they may become helicopter parents terrified for their children's safety.

As the adult survivor grows into their 30s to 40s after being able to keep it all together from the out side something changes. A lot of survivors start to suffer post traumatic stress disorder.( not unlike war vets)

They have flashes of emotions that don't fit in with what is happening in the present or at least do not fit in with the magnitude of the present situation.

A sudden feeling of utter terror, their heart starts to race they may break out in a sweat. The feeling is so strong that they feel like something terrible is going to happen at any moment!

Then there is sudden physical flash backs where the survivor can feel the hands of the perpetrator on them when they are no where near them. A very terrifying experience!

When they are being intimate with their partner all they see is the perpetrator there with them! What happens is that the box in their brain that they put the trauma in all those years ago gradually builds up like a pressure cooker, if the pressure is not released slowly or at all it will explode and nothing will hold that lid on, that is what happens to survivors.

That is why people can't understand how a person seemed to be doing fine with it all and then suddenly they fall apart screaming and running. When a survivor is going through Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PSTD), telling them to "get over it", "the past is in the past" or "just forgive your perpetrator and move on", WILL NOT HELP. PSTD is the entire trauma that should have been dealt with at the time of abuse but the survivor could not do anything about it.

They were totally powerless in the situation. They were taught to keep it quiet and just accept it as it is with no help or support. If a child was supported, was protected from the abuser and there was justice done straight away, they would probably never have to suffer all of this.

So as an adult survivor, all these feelings of terror, powerlessness and anger that they should have been able to get help with as a child eventually have to come out.

Survivors also suffer a lot more physical ailments because their bodies have had to put up with increased amounts of adrenaline rushing through their bodies from the "Fight or Flight" mode they spend their life in. This causes damage to all the organs.

So it seems that the adult survivor may only feel like trying to get justice a long time after the event. This causes problems, how can they prove anything?

Some people around them think they are lying when they at last share the truth (particularly family).

The perpetrator is now an old man (or woman) and seems to be a lovely person who wouldn't hurt a fly.

So when elements of society and family say just forgive them, they are reinforcing the silencing that happened as a child, they are reinforcing the feeling that they do not deserve justice!

The survivor then feels powerless, angry, depressed and can feel suicidal. Stuck in a trap they were caught in as a child and now can still not get out of!

They have never had a chance in their whole life to tell the truth, to have people stand up for them and get angry at the abuser for them.

So I am asking when can we see a just system for survivors, that is survivor friendly? When will society accept that these things have happened and still happen today? In our Australian population of 23 Million 6.5 Million people will be or have been sexually abused by the time they are 16!

That is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about!

When will these INNOCENT survivors get their justice and support?

When will people accept that no matter how old or how nice a person is , if they have sexually abused someone that is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE and needs to be treated as such.

When will society realise that being sexually abused as a child doesn't just stop there, it gives the survivor a life time of pain and suffering.

Would you tell someone to just forgive an offender that murdered a loved one and say well that happened years ago don't worry about it now?

Healing is possible but a survivor needs professional and community support to work through these issues they do not need to be silenced and ignored.

We need a huge cultural shift. Children are not objects to be used for adult's power and pleasure.

We need to stand by our survivors NOT our abusers!!!

Margie Thomas, Cert 4 in pastoral care and a survivor of CSA, Normanville.



Bullying program gives adults hope for children

by Kelly Cernetich

Mary Foor of Duncansville said she transferred her son, then a seventh-grader, out of the Hollidaysburg Area School District in February 2012 because other students were teasing him about his clothing, stealing his lunch and kicking his textbooks down the hallway.

After spending a year at Blair County Christian School, Foor said her son wants to return.

"He misses activities he was able to do in Hollidaysburg" like band and theater, she said.

But she's not so sure it's a good idea and recalled that, as a bullying victim herself, she knows it could get worse if he goes back.

When speaker Elizabeth Bennett, a national bullying expert and advocate, asked the audience how many of them were bullying victims, the show of hands proved Foor wasn't alone.

More than 200 people attended Wednesday night's bullying program at the Ramada Altoona Conference Center, sponsored by a Blair County committee of local mental health service organizations as part of May is Mental Health Month activities.

Bennett explained that she doesn't use the term bullying. It minimizes the problem, she said, and the term peer abuse better explains what people are going through.

When one calls it abuse, "you put it up there with other forms of abuse" like domestic abuse, child abuse and elder abuse, she said. "You start to see the seriousness of it," she said.

Bennett often relayed her own experiences to educate the audience on how the abuse can be detected and what to do - as well as what not to do - to stop it.

"I was passive too," she said, pointing to a slide showing what types of children normally are bullied and how they cope. She also said bullying victims sometimes become bullies themselves.

"I know I did that," she said. "Because I didn't want to be abused."

Adults are the ones who have the power and understanding to prevent peer abuse, she said. There are a lot of feel-good marketing strategies that can rally kids to treat each other better, but adults have to follow through.

"It's up to us to stop this," she said, pointing out the need to get training and know the proper way to report and stop bullying.

Bennett also emphasized that there is hope.

"It's not like ... nothing's ever going to be happy again or bright again," she said, and adult survivors are proof of that.

Pat Long brought her granddaughter to see Bennett speak.

The Altoona eighth-grader said she's been bullied since kindergarten.

"Apparently I'm ugly and stupid," she said.

Tears in her eyes, Long said she wanted the girl to know there's "a light at the end of the tunnel" and they're going to stop the bullying.

Long took pages of notes during the program and said she came out of it "very impressed" with Bennett and the knowledge she has.

She said she wants to buy Bennett's book and use it whenever any of her grandchildren are facing abuse from their peers.

"I am hopeful," she said.


Keeping Up the Fight Against Child Sex Trafficking

Ed. note: The full text of the op-ed by Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett is printed below. The piece is published today on The Huffington Post, and can be found here.

Yesterday, I was honored to attend the 7 th Annual Pearls of Purpose Gala hosted by FAIRgirls. FAIR stands for Free, Aware, Inspired, and Restored, and it works to prevent the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education. At the gala, I spoke about the horror of child sex trafficking—a crime that President Obama and his administration have been fighting hard to end for good.

About a year ago, I visited FAIRgirls. I will never forget sitting around the table with a group of girls as they used beads to make earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. At first, I was struck at how hard they each concentrated on their masterpieces, with meticulous attention to detail. But then, slowly, they began to share their stories.

As the girls described the atrocities they had suffered—in many cases, for years—my blood boiled. How on earth could this happen time and time again, right here in our community? How could the internet be used so blatantly as a tool to sell our children into slavery?

At the same time, I was inspired by the professionalism and sensitivity of the FAIRgirls staff and the resilience, strength, and courage of each of the girls, as well as the steadfast and tender support they demonstrated to one another. Were it not for FAIRgirls, I cannot imagine what the future of thousands of girls would be.

It still shocks me that we are forced to ever string these three words together: Child. Sex. Trafficking.There is no issue as grave and devastating.While FAIRgirls is helping to transform the lives of girls, one girl at a time, we must all accept responsibility to vigilantly ensure that no girls are exploited, abused, or trafficked in the first place. And if they are, we must provide them with loving, patient, and comprehensive care so that they do not just survive, but thrive.

Last September, President Obama devoted his address at the Clinton Global Initiative to the evil—that's what he called it—of human trafficking.

President Obama's message to survivors was, “We see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity. And we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.”

From the time President Obama took office, we have worked to make sure these words ring true.

We have prosecuted a record number of human trafficking cases and provided critical funding to support the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls and texts anywhere in the country to link trafficking victims with critical services.

Last year, President Obama directed his Cabinet to redouble the Administration's efforts to eliminate human trafficking. Since then, the Administration has made significant progress based on a few principles:

•  First, the government should lead by example. So President Obama signed an executive order that strengthened our country's existing zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking in government contracting.

•  Second, everyone should be equipped to address and respond to trafficking. So we educated and provided tools to federal, state, and local officials to help them identify human trafficking and be more attuned to the needs of survivors. As a result of this training, we will all be better equipped to detect and stop trafficking, as well as to ensure that survivors are never treated as criminals.

•  Third, we need to make it easier to stop traffickers. So we streamlined current procedures for the existing T-visa process, so survivors can remain in the United States and help bring their traffickers to justice.

But we can do more, and the last few months have seen several significant milestones in this fight.

In March, President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Trafficking Survivors Protection Act, as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This will make sure that survivors have the resources they need to recover and will help us bring traffickers to justice.

In April, for the first time, the President's Federal budget included $20 million focused on the needs of domestic survivors of human trafficking, many of whom are girls or young women. This amount will fund direct services such as housing assistance and counseling for survivors of trafficking. It will help train service providers and will also invest in data collection, research, and evaluation.

Last month, we held a White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. We also developed a strategic action plan to better coordinate and strengthen services for survivors.That action plan was released for public comment on April 9, because we recognized that those on the ground have the information and experience that will help us make this plan even stronger.Comments are due by May 24.

Later this month, the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, chaired by Secretary of State Kerry, will meet to review the Obama administration's accomplishments and to set the course for the federal government response for the next year.

Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, we're building public-private partnerships to provide cutting-edge technology that can help law enforcement to identify children advertised on the internet.

We've made great progress on child sex trafficking. But we still have a long way to go, and we will continue working with organizations such as FAIRgirls until we never have to say those three words together again. Instead, we tell survivors, and organizations that serve them, four different words: “You are not alone.”

Together, we can make sure every child has a chance to grow up happy, healthy, and confident-- and never in fear.

Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She oversees the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.



Police facing questions in 3 women's kidnapping, escape in Cleveland, Ohio

by John Coyne and Thomas J. Sheeran

CLEVELAND - One neighbor says a naked woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago. Another heard pounding on the home's doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.

Both times, police showed up but never went inside, neighbors say. Police also paid a visit to the house in 2004, but no one answered the door.

Now, after three women who vanished a decade ago were found captive Monday at the run-down house, Cleveland police are facing questions for the second time in four years about their handling of missing-person cases and are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.

City Safety Director Martin Flask said Tuesday that investigators had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house but were still checking police, fire and emergency databases.

The three women were rescued after one of them kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbor's telephone to call 911.

"Help me. I'm Amanda Berry," she breathlessly told a dispatcher in a call that exhilarated and astonished much of the city. "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."

Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, police Chief Michael McGrath said.

Three brothers, ages 50 to 54, were arrested. One of them, former school bus driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, situated in a poor neighborhood dotted with boarded-up houses just south of downtown. No charges were filed.

A relative of the three brothers said their family was "totally shocked" after hearing about the missing women being found at the home.

Juan Alicea said the arrests of his wife's brothers had left relatives "as blindsided as anyone else" in their community. He said he hadn't been to the home of his brother-in-law Ariel Castro since the early 1990s but had eaten dinner

A sheriff deputy stands outside a house where three women escaped Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in Cleveland. Three women who went missing separately about a decade ago were found in the home Monday just south of downtown and likely had been tied up during years of captivity, said police, who arrested three brothers. ((AP Photo/Tony Dejak))with Castro at a different brother's house shortly before the arrests were made Monday.

A 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry's daughter also was found in the home, police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said. He would not say who the father was.

The women were reported by police to be in good health and were reunited with joyous family members but remained in seclusion.

In eastern Tennessee, Berry's father, Johnny Berry, told WJHL-TV that he spoke to her for the first time Monday night by phone at his home in Elizabethton.

"She said, 'Hi, Daddy, I'm alive,'" Johnny Berry said. "She said, 'I love you, I love you, I love you,' and then we both started crying."

Although Amanda Berry was born and raised in Cleveland, her father, grandparents and cousins live in Elizabethton. Before she disappeared, she often visited Tennessee during the summers. Family members said they visited her in Cleveland about three weeks before she went missing.

The head of the FBI in Cleveland, Stephen Anthony, said the families' prayers for the missing women had been answered.

"The nightmare is over," he said. "These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin."

He added: "Words can't describe the emotions being felt by all. Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry."

Police would not say how the women were taken captive or how they were hidden in the neighborhood where they had vanished. Investigators also would not say whether they were kept in restraints inside the house or sexually assaulted.

Four years ago, in another poverty-stricken part of town, police were heavily criticized following the discovery of 11 women's bodies in the home and backyard of Anthony Sowell, who was later convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

The families of Sowell's victims accused police of failing to properly investigate the disappearances because most of the women were addicted to drugs and poor. For months, the stench of death hung over the house, but it was blamed on a sausage factory next door.

In the wake of public outrage over the killings, a panel formed by the mayor recommended an overhaul of the city's handling of missing-person and sex crime investigations.

This time, two neighbors said they called police to the Castro house on separate occasions.

Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter saw a naked woman crawling in the backyard several years ago and called police. "But they didn't take it seriously," she said.

Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of the house in November 2011. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. "They walked to side of the house and then left," he said.

"Everyone in the neighborhood did what they had to do," said Lupe Collins, who is close to relatives of the women. "The police didn't do their job."

Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, but not in connection with the women's disappearance, officials said.

In 2000, before the women vanished, Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made, Flask said.

In 2004, officers went to the home after child welfare officials alerted them that Castro had apparently left a child unattended on a bus, Flask said. No one answered the door, according to Flask. Ultimately, police determined there was no criminal intent on his part, he said.

Castro, 52, was well known in the mainly Puerto Rican neighborhood. He played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands. He gave children rides on his motorcycle and joined others at a candlelight vigil to remember two of the missing girls, neighbors said. They also said they would sometimes see him walking a little girl to a neighborhood playground.

Tito DeJesus, an uncle of Gina DeJesus, played in bands with Castro over the last 20 years. He recalled visiting Castro's house but never noticed anything out of the ordinary, saying it had very little furniture and was filled with musical instruments.

"I had no clue, no clue whatsoever that this happened," he said.

Also arrested were Castro's brothers Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50. Calls to the jail went unanswered, and there was no response to interview requests sent to police, the jail and city officials.

Ariel Castro's son, Anthony Castro, said in an interview with London's Daily Mail newspaper that he now speaks with his father just a few times a year and seldom visited his house. He said on his last visit, two weeks ago, his father wouldn't let him inside.

"The house was always locked," he said. "There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage."

Anthony Castro, who lives in Columbus, also wrote an article for a community newspaper in Cleveland about the disappearance of Gina DeJesus just weeks after she went missing, when he was a college journalism student.

"That I wrote about this nearly 10 years ago - to find out that it is now so close to my family - it's unspeakable," he told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

On Tuesday, a sign hung on a fence decorated with dozens of balloons outside the home of DeJesus' parents read "Welcome Home Gina." Her aunt Sandra Ruiz said her niece had an emotional reunion with family members.

"Those girls, those women are so strong," Ruiz said. "What we've done in 10 years is nothing compared to what those women have done in 10 years to survive."

Many of the women's loved ones and friends had held out hope of seeing them again,

For years, Berry's mother kept her room exactly as it was, said Tina Miller, a cousin. When magazines addressed to Berry arrived, they were piled in the room alongside presents for birthdays and Christmases she missed. Berry's mother died in 2006.

Just over a month ago, Miller attended a vigil marking the 10th anniversary of Berry's disappearance.

Over the past decade or so, investigators twice dug up backyards looking for Berry and continued to receive tips about her and DeJesus every few months, even in recent years. The disappearance of the two girls was profiled on TV's "America's Most Wanted" in 2005. Few leads ever came in about Knight.

Knight vanished at age 20 in 2002. Berry disappeared at 16 in 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. About a year later, DeJesus vanished at 14 on her way home from school.

Jessica Aponce said she walked home with DeJesus the day the teenager disappeared.

"She called her mom and told her mom she was on her way home and that's the last time I seen her," Aponce said. "I just can't wait to see her. I'm just so happy she's alive. It's been so many years that everybody thinking she was dead."

Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, who were held captive by abductors at a young age, said they were elated by the women's rescue.

"We need to have constant vigilance, constantly keep our eyes open and ears open because miracles do happen," Smart said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CEO, John Ryan, said Berry, DeJesus and Knight likely would be honored by his group.

"I think they're going to be at the top of the list," he said.



For Amanda Berry and other Cleveland victims, recovery begins with patience

Amanda Berry and the two other victims of the Cleveland kidnappings are now reemerging into a different world from the one they left 10 years ago – and as different people. Experts' advice: Go slowly.

by Mark Guarino

After a decade of being held captive in a Cleveland home, three women freed Monday night face a healing process that will not be easy or happen overnight, say experts.

In 10 years, the world has changed, and they have changed. The youngest captive, Gina DeJesus, was kidnapped at age 14. The mother of another of the captives, Amanda Berry, died three years after she was abducted, and reports suggest that a 6-year-old girl freed from the house Monday could be Ms. Berry's daughter.

For women who have had little control of their own lives for years, the transition back into a normal life can be overwhelming, and the struggle to regain a sense of control often begins with the need to tell their own story in their own time and on their own terms. The seeds of recovery, experts add, often bloom only with time and no small amount of love.

“It's going to take a lot of understanding and patience from friends and family to try to help them lead the life they want to,” says Jim Hmurovich, president of Prevent Child Abuse America, an advocacy group in Chicago.

Systematic abuse at the hands of a stranger, particularly when it takes place during a long period of confinement, can create in victims intense feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Recovery can often be affected by how victims deal with these raw emotions.

“Being held and traumatized for a long time, you often develop questions like, ‘Why me?' or ‘Will this ever end?' and will try to determine the meaning of the trauma,” says Megan Berthold, a clinical social worker at the National Association of Social Workers, who has worked with refugee survivors of torture. “Often you don't know if you will survive, so being able to make some sense out of it, and developing strategies to cope, to be resilient in the process, can make a huge difference on whether one survives the ordeal, and in shaping their response afterward.”

Elizabeth Smart, the Salt Lake City girl freed in 2003 after nine months in captivity, says tormentors use sexual violence to devalue the victim's individual worth, making them feel they have to remain under their captor's protection. Speaking at a human trafficking forum at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore last week, Ms. Smart said her captor reduced her to feeling like “a chewed up piece of gum.

“Nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away. And that's how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? … Your life still has no value,” said Smart, who is now an advocate for victims of sexual violence.

The possibility that at least one of the Cleveland women had a child during her captivity could add new and complicated dimensions to her recovery. The situation appears to echo that of Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 and held in captivity for 18 years in Antioch, Calif. , during which time she gave birth to two children.

When victims are raped and conceive children, “the child may serve as a possible reminder of the perpetrator, trigger memories of him, and of those experiences,” says Ms. Berthold.

Yet children can also help victims cope, she adds. “The child may have bonded in a very positive way with the mother in giving them her a sense of purpose to stay alive.”

The fact that the women were so young when they were kidnapped – Ms. DeJesus at age 14, Berry at 16, and Michelle Knight at 20 – also means they will return as adults to lives they were taken from as children. These will be new lives that the women might not recognize. “This kind of upheaval may be hardest to cope with,” says Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center in St. Paul, Minn. “You become a person frozen in time. How do you get that time back?”

Berry's mother died in 2006 after three years looking for her daughter. “She literally died of a broken heart,” family friend Dona Brady told the Associated Press.

During this process, reuniting with former loved ones can become traumatic if family members or friends push too hard to learn the details about the victim's experience while in captivity. Recovery can take years, and victims need time to feel that they control their own story, which is a first step to feeling empowerment over their own lives, says Katie Hanna, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence in Cleveland.

“It gives them some of that power back when so much power was taken away from them,” Ms. Hanna says.

Often, victims of sexual violence feel most comfortable talking to other victims.

“It is often difficult for survivors to talk about what happened because of the social stigma of what happened. Individual therapy can help, but sometimes connecting with other survivors can be very validating for them,” Hanna says.

Ms. Dugard told ABC News in March 2012 that a breakthrough in her recovery was realizing she had the power to make decisions on her own, after almost two decades of conceding that authority to her captors.

“Just being free to do what I want to do, when I want to do it,” she said. “That's the whole learning process to, to know that you can.”



Kidnap survivors react to rescue of Ohio women

by Sharon Bernstein

The three young women imprisoned for around a decade at house in Ohio are going to need support and, most of all, privacy as they re-integrate into society, survivors of other long-term kidnapping ordeals said on Tuesday.

Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who disappeared in separate incidents between 2002 and 2004, were found alive on Monday at a two-storey home in the same blue-collar Cleveland neighborhood where they had gone missing.

Three brothers have been arrested as suspects.

But even as neighbors celebrated and media from around the world converged on the Seymour Avenue block where Berry led the escape, survivors of other kidnapping ordeals, Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, urged people to leave the three women alone.

“Just coming home, trying to reach some kind of normalcy and just fitting in with their families” will be a challenge, Smart told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “They've been gone so long. A lot has changed. A lot has happened.”

Now married and an activist for missing and exploited children, Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002 at age 14. She was rescued nine months later.

Smart offered to meet with the Ohio survivors but said she would only do so if that did not infringe on the private space they need to heal.

Her message of the need for space was echoed by Jaycee Dugard, who was taken from a California bus stop at age 11 and held for 18 years before she was freed in 2009.

“These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world,” Dugard said in a statement, and urged the women not to let their ordeals define them.

“This isn't who they are,” Dugard said. “It is only what happened to them.”

Their rescue, she added, “reaffirms we should never give up hope.”

Dugard wrote a book about her captivity, “A Stolen Life,” and in 2011 filed a lawsuit accusing the federal government of failing to properly monitor and track her captor, Phillip Garrido, a convicted sex offender.

Still, she guards her privacy. As an honoree at a dinner on Tuesday night by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, Dugard planned to deliver a simple, “Thank you,” instead of a detailed speech, a spokesman said.


Rebecca Bailey, author of “Safe Kids, Smart Parents” and a therapist who has worked with Dugard, urged the public and the press not to speculate about what may have happened to the three Ohio women during their imprisonment.

“Please avoid labels and conjecture in order to prevent further stress and pressure,” she said in a statement. “For you this is news, for them this is real life.”

Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, a social worker with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the women will undoubtedly also need help from a trained therapist.

“There are incredible complexities that are very unique to this type of trauma,” Gilmer-Tullis said. “It really requires an understanding of a treatment professional who can understand and help that child or young adult move forward.”

Family members of victims have sometimes found purpose in creating foundations to help look for missing children or provide support to survivors, she said.

The family of Shawn Hornbeck, who was abducted as an 11-year-old in Missouri and held for four years before he was rescued with another boy in 2007, started a foundation to help other missing and exploited children. Elizabeth Smart's family also started a foundation.

Gary Toelke, sheriff of Franklin County, Missouri, was at the center of the investigation that led to discovery of Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, who was abducted when he was 13. Toelke said he and a deputy sheriff recently attended an Eagle Scout ceremony for Ownby, and said that he was attending college.

Another famous child kidnap victim, Katie Beers, has written a book called “Buried Memories” that she hopes will help childhood victims of abuse and neglect. Now 30, she is married with two children, aged one and three, and works in a family insurance business.

Beers, abducted in 1992 two days before her tenth birthday and held in a concrete bunker in New York for two weeks before police rescued her, credits her foster parents with helping her survive.

“I went from a very neglectful and abuse-ridden childhood to the abduction right into this foster home,” she said, citing a cocoon of warmth and privacy they built around her after her ordeal. “They didn't allow me to see the media storm that was all around me.”



Change sought in Mass. limit on sex abuse lawsuits

Associated Press

BOSTON — An attorney who helped lead an $85 million child sexual abuse settlement against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston before revealing that he had been a victim of child molestation urged state lawmakers to raise the statute of limitations on sex-abuse lawsuits.

The measure, heard Tuesday by the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, would give victims until age 55 to file civil claims against their alleged attackers. Under current Massachusetts law, most victims have only until age 21 to bring civil lawsuits, according to backers of the legislation.

"It's not going to be complete justice, there will never be complete justice," attorney Eric MacLeish said before meeting with lawmakers.

"But this bill will be so helpful for so many people and I would like to think that it could have been helpful to me," he said, adding that he would argue for the bill from both the standpoint of a lawyer and abuse victim.

MacLeish brought a picture showing himself at age 9 with classmates at a boarding school in England, where he said he was sexually abused by a teacher.

MacLeish was among the lawyers in the landmark 2003 clergy abuse case that led to compensation for hundreds of people who said they were abused by priests as children. Yet during that time, he did not reveal his own grim experiences.

"Even though I knew I was a tough advocate for people who had been sexually abused ... the most terrifying thing for me, that I never spoke about, was going back and confronting the people who had molested me," he said.

After the settlement with the church, MacLeish suffered post-traumatic stress brought on by years of dealing with the stories of others who had been sexually abused, he said. He was haunted in particular by the case of one client who had been raped as a 9-year-old boy.

MacLeish gave up his law practice, got divorced and suffered flashbacks, nausea and insomnia.

An exception to current Massachusetts law allows people over the age of 21 to sue their alleged abusers if a claim is filed within three years of the time they first realize that they had been harmed by past abuse.

MacLeish said in his case, he had never repressed the memories of abuse, even recalling details as vivid as the pattern of the wallpaper in the room where he had been molested.

"I never forgot it, but I was never able to deal with it," he said. "I was afraid to go there. I thought that if I did I would become unraveled. My elixir, my medication, was representing abuse victims and trying to save people."

Mitchell Garabedian, another Boston attorney who advocates for abuse victims, said raising to 55 the age up until which a person can file claims would recognize the difficulty many people have confronting the trauma until well into adulthood.

"Even if a person realizes they were abused and it caused them problems, they still might not have the coping mechanism to call someone up and say, 'I'll have to do something about this.'" Garabedian said. "I have clients in their 80s who have been carrying abuse around for 75 years."

Those skeptical of raising the statute of limitations say the long passages of time, scarcity of witnesses and sometimes vague recollections of events can make it difficult for the accused to get a fair hearing.

Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University who specializes in child sex-abuse statutes of limitations and supports the Massachusetts bill, said several other states, including California, New York and Pennsylvania, are considering similar legislation.



Trafficking In America Task Force presents, Creating a Culture Free of Slavery

2013 National Conference, May 23-25, Nashville, TN

Trafficking In America Task Force understands that hearing from former Pimps and Predators about the inner workings of human trafficking is important in helping the public understand the reality of trafficking from their viewpoint and perspective. Many of these former predators, whose lives have now been transformed, are helping prevent others from entering the “Game”.

Nashville, TN

For the past two years the Trafficking In America Conference has focused on human trafficking 101 with speakers presenting on the basics of human trafficking. This year's topics will delve into some of the dark sides that people generally don't discuss, and you'll hear from professionals working in other aspects of prevention such as the travel and tourism industry; the poverty connection; trafficking in the Military, fatherless homes, gang involvement, etc.

The Trafficking In America Conferences aren't just an annual gathering of people that come and go. They are designed for the general public to become informed and educated by Experts and Authorities; to protect their at-risk youth, and to mobilize and engage people across America to help turn this horrendous crime of human trafficking around. The human trafficking conference team gives great thought to topics that will help make an impact in the lives of those that attend. The 2013 Anti Human Trafficking Conference offers a slate of expert Speakers this year that will address our attendees with the awareness and practical tools they need to make a difference and save lives.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry — just behind drug trafficking — with children accounting for roughly half of all victims-USA Today-1/22/2012

Unlike many of those working in anti-human trafficking, The Trafficking In America Conference has taken the stance since inception that Pimps and John's need to be restored as well as victims (since so many are also victims of child sex abuse) so as to help prevent others from falling into the trap. Derek Williams, one of the presenters, a former pimp whose life has been transformed, is the founder of Back to The Streets, a ministry dedicated to educating youth about human trafficking from his perspective and prevent them from becoming involved. “Just as we need to learn from survivors about their reality, we need to understand Pimps and Johns from theirs,” said Yvonne Williams, Conference Speaker Coordinator.

Two of the conference Keynote Speakers are: Laura Lederer, JD, Demand Reduction and Frank Schaeffer, Living One's Religions through Combating Human Trafficking. Other Speakers who are Experts and Authorities on Human Trafficking include: Linda Dixon: Department of Defense; Agent Greg Christopher, FBI; Debra Moser- Finney, EEOC and Labor Trafficking; Lynn Walsh: Fatherless Homes and Their Effects on Children; Saturday – Joan Keddell: International Tourism Management Institute: Travel, Tourism and Trafficking; and, “the Bishop”, Understanding Gang Involvement in Human Trafficking, as well as survivors of Human Trafficking.

This year's Human Trafficking Conference will feature a special Memorial Day Service to honor our Military around the world. A special guest from the Department of Defense will be on hand help with this event.

What is Human Trafficking?

Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (courtesy of

About Trafficking in America Task Force

Trafficking in America Task Force is a 501c3 non-profit charitable organization and has been working since 2004 to educate the American population about the reality of the sale of American women, men, and children into sexual slavery for the profit and pleasure of their perpetrators, and that the forced labor trafficking of both adults and children is real in this country.

Our Vision is – To help eliminate the human trafficking of women, men and minor children in America, and to provide a culture for our children free of sexual exploitation and slavery, where people know and own their own intrinsic value.



Bondi enlists Florida businesses to help fight human trafficking

Attorney General Pam Bondi is turning to Florida businesses to expand her “zero tolerance” campaign to crack down on human trafficking in the state, which has seen an increase of teen runaways, the homeless and immigrants as prime victims.

Bondi met with a handful of business leaders who joined her at a press conference Tuesday to discuss a public-private partnership, with a “tool kit” to help train employees at all levels to recognize signs of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a “$32 billion business that exploits women and children,” Bondi said, with 27 million people enslaved worldwide. “Human trafficking consists both of sex trafficking and labor trafficking. And sadly it's happening right here in our state.”

Florida was ranked third in the number of trafficking calls received on the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in 2011.

Businesses, Bondi said, “are uniquely positioned to help stop human trafficking” with “eyes and ears that they don't even know they have.”

Representatives of Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber Foundation, the Florida Petroleum Council, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Trucking Association met with Bondi Tuesday.

Noticeably missing was a representative of the agriculture industry but Bondi said she planned to get leaders of that industry involved.

With good reason.

Terry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, said a study done in 2010 discovered that “human trafficking has permeated a great many of our businesses in agriculture, in our resorts and in our entertainment industry.”

Immigrants who may have documents stolen or are indebted to a smuggler can become victims of trafficking. Coonan said sex trafficking victims from 90 countries have been found in Florida, but the number of trafficking victims who are homeless or runaways are increasing, Coonan said at Tuesday's press conference.

“Teenage runaways are in a relationship with a pimp who they think loves them but who in fact exploits them for several thousand dollars a night and brutalizes them in the process,” Coonan said, noting that homeless men in Palatka have been exploited because “no one would miss them.”

But Florida legislators have sent a few bills to the governor that address human trafficking this session.

The state now has “among the best state laws anywhere in the country combatting and criminalizing trafficking” that pertain both to criminalizing human trafficking and to help victims, Coonan said.

The Legislature passed a bill (HB 7005) to add regulations to curb massage establishments that could be a front for human trafficking.

Also a bill (HB 1325) that would allow sex trafficking victims “to vacate their convictions so they do not follow them through life” and another (HB 1327) to create an exemption of criminal history for trafficking victims passed this year.

Legislation passed in 2012 increased penalties for human trafficking and created “safe harbors” to help victims.

Mary Lou Rajchel, president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association, said she would support educating and motivating her industry “to learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking and what they do when they see it.”

Florida's businesses “now have a crucial role to play in combatting trafficking,” Coonan said. “We don't see people in chains now but it's invisible chains.”

Report suspected human trafficking cases to local law enforcement or 1-800-96-ABUSE.



Authorities say human-trafficking crimes happening ‘in our midst'

by Ed Meyer

Human sex-trafficking crimes, many similar to the cases of the Cleveland women found alive Monday after disappearing as teens more than a decade ago, are occurring all around the area.

That was the main topic of a sobering speech U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach delivered less than a week ago at the City Club of Cleveland.

Juvenile trafficking in particular, for forced labor or “literally being raped for money,” occurs “in our midst” in communities throughout Northeast Ohio, he said.

“It's down the street at a coffee shop. It's at that hotel you drive by off the freeway exit where you live. It's in your neighborhood nail parlor or some of the farms you drive by as you use our interstates,” Dettelbach said in his hourlong speech.

Although his federal agency, the U.S. Attorney's Office, declined to make any distinct connection between teen trafficking and the extraordinary case involving Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, the issue was brought to public attention by DeJesus' mother.

In April 2004, Gina was 14 when she was last seen on her way home from Wilbur Wright Middle School near West 105th Street and Lorain Avenue in Cleveland.

Years later, after never giving up hope her daughter would be found alive, Nancy Ruiz told a Cleveland television crew in April 2012: “I always said it from the beginning: She was sold to the highest bidder.”

Dettelbach, who began his prosecution career in California in 1996, when he won convictions in a case involving 70 Thai women forced to live in “sub-human conditions” at a compound where they worked as seamstresses for no pay, told his audience Friday that the same kind of horrific conduct has happened here.

“It's in downtown Cleveland. It's in Willoughby Hills. It's in North Olmsted. It's in Mentor,” he said.

“And that's not just conjecture or me picking on particular cities. That's telling you the places where we discovered some of this conduct and cases we have already prosecuted.”

In a meeting in Akron last May with reporters and staff members of the Beacon Journal editorial pages, Dettelbach told a similarly chilling story of a trafficking crime that happened a block away from his office.

In December 2011, Eric Tutstone, 44, of Cleveland, was sent to prison for 11 years for trying to sell a 16-year-old girl into prostitution to a madam for the sum of $300.

The attempted sale, Dettelbach said, took place at a Starbucks coffee shop on West Sixth Street in Cleveland's Warehouse District.

Court records showed the girl told an FBI agent investigating the case: “When I saw Eric take the money, I knew I had just been sold.”

In another “sex for sale” trafficking case, Dettelbach said in his Beacon Journal interview, a Toledo girl who disappeared as a runaway — at the same age as Gina DeJesus when she went missing — was rescued by authorities only two blocks from where she lived.

Michael Tobin, Dettelbach's spokesman, said there are signs the public can look for to prevent trafficking crimes.

“In general, it's when something doesn't look right. It can happen in a restaurant or a local nail salon,” Tobin said, “when someone is not allowed to talk, or are being intimidated, or appear to be in fear.”

In Friday's speech in Cleveland, Dettelbach used the stunning example of the Thai women who were kept in forced labor in a guarded compound. It was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence with the wire pointed inward, he said, “so that nobody could get out.”

Tobin urged anyone suspecting such illegal conduct to make the first call to the FBI: 216-522-1400 in the Cleveland area or 330-535-6156 in the Akron area.



The Slave Next Door

Probe into Saudi compound highlights growing problem of human trafficking

by Adam Kredo

Days after federal authorities busted a “possible human trafficking” ring at a Saudi diplomatic compound in Virginia, state lawmakers and law enforcement officials warned that the Old Dominion is becoming a sanctuary for sex traffickers.

Nearly 80 Northern Virginia establishments have been identified as operating illicit sex rings that enslave mostly young American girls, forcing them to engage in sexual acts for money, Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) and state law enforcement officials told a crowd of some 50 concerned residents during a town hall forum Friday morning in McLean, Va.

Onlookers appeared shocked to learn most of those who are forced into the sex business are 12- to 14-year-old local girls who come mostly from well-to-do families.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well you're in Fairfax county, [and] there's a lot of money there, a lot of influential people. We're in D.C.'s backyard, so human trafficking can't exist there.' Well it is,” said Detective Bill Woolf, a Fairfax county police officer who works on the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force.

There have been 21 individual sex trafficking cases encompassing 38 defendants and at least 37 juvenile victims in just the past year, Woolf said.

The forum, held at the McLean Community Center, came just two days after federal authorities launched a probe into “a possible case of modern slavery” at a highly secured diplomatic compound owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Two women were reportedly rescued from the compound by federal authorities. One of the alleged victims “tried to flee by squeezing through a gap in the front gate as it was closing,” according to NBC News.

Asked by the Washington Free Beacon about the case, Woolf declined to comment on “an active investigation” and directed a reporter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is helming the investigation.

Two DHS agents “did remove two Filipino potential victims of human trafficking and the investigation has just begun,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Brandon Montgomery told the Free Beacon Friday afternoon.

Federal authorities are “interviewing the victims and will collaborate their stories as we begin the investigation,” Montgomery said. “The victims are provided assistance through [non-profits] that we work with to provide them the care and assistance they might need.”

The department takes a “victim-centered approach in these types of cases and upon getting reasonable information or confirmation we would remove the individuals and begin a full investigation, not let them linger in potential abuse,” Montgomery said in an email.

“As this is an active investigation, I cannot provide details of the case, however in general, many victims have valid passports and/or visas that are taken from them; they work exhaustive hours and sometimes don't get paid what was promised or nothing at all,” Montgomery said.

Saudi Arabia has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a “tier three” country with regard to human trafficking, Rep. Wolf told the Free Beacon in an interview. This means it ranks among the worst offenders with regards to combatting sex slavery.

Virginia Republican state lawmaker Barbara Comstock said it is shocking to learn young girls are being enslaved “in our own backyard.”

“We didn't realize how closely this would be in our own backyard here in McLean,” Comstock told attendees at Friday's town hall forum. “But obviously we've known for years human trafficking and sex trafficking have been a problem in our community.”

“People come in through our airports, they're trafficked in our hotels. Young girls are solicited in malls and dragged into this heinous crime,” Comstock said. “These girls have been drugged, brought into human trafficking, and abused in just horrible ways.”

Virginia is bad on sex trafficking, according to Virginia Republican state lawmaker Tim Hugo.

“Virginia has some of the weakest laws on trafficking,” Hugo said, noting state legislators are just beginning to combat the issue by passing new measures. “It's something people really didn't think about over the years.”

At least 100,000 American children are exploited “through pornography and prostitution every year,” Wolf said. “Sex trafficking wasn't just occurring in far away places but right here in Virginia.”

Several Northern-Virginia-based sex rings have been broken up in just the past year, Wolf said.

“I've seen credible reports of nearly 80 establishments, notably massage parlors, throughout our region, not statewide,” he said. “Some are in busy office parks while some are in major thoroughfares, we walk and drive by them every day.”

“In March of 2012, federal prosecutors charged five local men with trafficking teenage girls into prostitution,” Wolf said, explaining most were coerced by local gangs, such as the Crips, which has a strong presence in Northern Virginia.

Gang members affiliated with the Crips approached some 800 young girls along D.C. metro lines, as well as on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. There are an estimated 80-100 gangs active in the Northern Virginia area, according to a 2009 report.

“These are our neighbors, our students, their friends who are at risk,” Wolf warned. “I don't see this as a problem going away anytime soon.”

Sex trafficking is attractive to gangs and other criminal groups because it is a high profit operation, according to Detective Woolf.

With just a stable of two women, criminals can make around $1,000 per night, or $180,000 a year, making sex crimes much more attractive than drug dealing, Woolf said.

“There's a lot of money to be had in sex trafficking and a lot of demand out there,” he said.

Teenage girls can be forced to see 10 to 20 men a night, “and sometimes these girls are as young as 12 or 13-years-old,” Woolf said.

“They could be anyone. They could be your neighbors. They could be at your church,” he said. “A lot of our victims come from middle to upper-class neighborhoods.”

Most young girls willingly engage in this activity after being brainwashed by abusive men, Woolf said.

“They're not grabbing them and forcing them into the back of a truck,” he explained. “They're at our bus stops, metro stops.”


New Jersey

NJ bill on human trafficking signed into law

by The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. - (AP) -- Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation that tightens New Jerse's human trafficking laws ahead of the 2014 Super Bowl.

The new law increases penalties on those who fail to verify that advertisers on their sites are not minors, and it establishes so-called "john schools" to educate patrons of prostitutes about the industry's exploitation of women and minors.

The law also allows courts to vacate the criminal convictions of those compelled by their traffickers to break the law.

The bill's sponsors sought to have the new provisions in place ahead of New Jersey hosting the 2014 Super Bowl, the kind of event they say historically sees an increase in sex trafficking.

The laws apply not just to prostitution but also to other forms of forced labor.



Three Ohio women found alive after being missing for a decade; 3 men arrested

by Andrew Rafferty and Matt DeLuca

“Help me, I'm Amanda Berry.”

With one frantic 911 call on Monday evening, three women missing for years were found in a Cleveland house where they had been held against their will, police in Ohio said.

“I've been kidnapped,” Berry, who disappeared a decade ago, told the dispatcher. “I've been missing for 10 years and I'm out here. I'm free now.”

Officials confirm that one man has been arrested after three Ohio women were found alive after being missing for a decade.

Berry and two other women, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, went missing between 2000 and 2004 in separate incidents. The women were all between the ages of 14 and 20 when they vanished.

Neighbors and relatives celebrated the happy ending, but for some, the years had taken their toll. Berry's mother died in 2006, not knowing whether her daughter was alive or dead.

Three suspects are under arrest, the Cleveland Division of Police reported. The men were identified as Hispanic males aged 50, 52, and 54. A search warrant related to the arrest was executed by police at an address on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, police said. Police are expected to hold a news conference Tuesday to provide more details.

The three women were taken to a hospital and were reported to be in “fair condition” on Tuesday morning, a nursing supervisor at Metro Health Medical Center said. At a news conference on Monday evening, Dr. Gerald Maloney of Metro Health Medical declined to comment on whether the child brought out of the house by Berry had also been admitted.

The three disappearances had stumped police in Cleveland and shaken the community for years. Berry, now 27, was reported missing on April 21, 2003 after she phoned her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a fast food restaurant. About one year after that, 14-year-old DeJesus vanished while walking home from school.

Neighbor Charles Ramsey said he was at home when he saw a man from across the street running to the house next door. When Ramsey went outside, he said, he saw a young woman who said she was trying to escape the house.

“This girl is kicking the door and screaming,” Ramsey said. “She says, ‘I've been kidnapped and I've been in this house a long time and I want to leave right now.'”

Police in Cleveland made an amazing discovery -- three young women who went missing a decade ago were found alive and safe. Rachel Dissell, a reporter for Cleveland Plain Dealer, who's been following this story for 10 years, shares the latest details in the case.

When the door would not open Ramsey helped kick it down, he said, then allowed Berry to call 911. The young woman carried out a child through the broken door, and told Ramsey it belonged to her captor. Police then entered the house and brought out Dejesus and Knight, according to Ramsey.

Shocked relatives could hardly believe that their missing family members had been found after so many years.

Michele Knight's mother Barbara told The Plain Dealer newspaper that she prayed police had correctly identified her daughter.

"I'm praying that if it is her, she will come back with me so I can help her recover from what she has been through," the hopeful mother said. "So much has happened in these 10 years. She has a younger sister she still has not met. I missed her so much while she was gone."

Destiny Berry, cousin to Amanda, told WKYC: "I just want to see her; I just want to see what she looks like. I just want to hold her."

Destiny and her sister were best friends with Amanda before her disappearance. "We were so close, inseparable. And when she came up missing it killed us. Going 10 years without knowing what happened to her, not knowing anything tears us apart,” she said.

Another of Berry's cousins, Tasheena Mitchell, told WKYC that she was "so excited.” "I thought about her every day. I prayed about her every night. I'm just so excited that we're here. And we're so close but so far away because they won't let us in," she said. "I knew that she would come one day. I just don't understand why it took so long. I'm just happy that she's here."

The DeJesus family continued to hold out hope, holding vigils for her. DeJesus' mother, Nancy Ruiz, told WKYC at one in April: "She's still out there, and we need to bring her home.”

Earlier this year a prison inmate was sentenced for admitting he gave authorities fraudulent tips about Berry's remains.

Robert Wolford, who is serving time for killing a homeless man, told police the woman was buried under a Cleveland lot, which was then dug up by backhoes.

And two men arrested for questioning about DeJesus' disappearance were released in 2006 after police failed to find the woman's remains during a search of their house.



Transcript of long-missing woman's 911 call


A transcript of the 911 call placed Monday by a woman missing since 2003, when she was 16.


Caller: Help me. I'm Amanda Berry.

Dispatcher: You need police, fire, ambulance?

Caller: I need police.

Dispatcher: OK, and what's going on there?

Caller: I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now.

Dispatcher: OK, and what's your address?

Caller: 2207 Seymour Avenue.

Dispatcher: 2207 Seymour. Looks like you're calling me from 2210.

Caller: Huh?

Dispatcher: Looks like you're calling me from 2210.

Caller: I can't hear you.

Dispatcher: Looks like you're calling me from 2210 Seymour.

Caller: I'm across the street; I'm using the phone.

Dispatcher: OK, stay there with those neighbors. Talk to police when they get there.

Caller: (Crying)

Dispatcher: OK, talk to police when they get there.

Caller: OK. Hello?

Dispatcher: OK, talk to the police when they get there.

Caller: OK (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: We're going to send them as soon as we get a car open.

Caller: No, I need them now before he gets back.

Dispatcher: All right; we're sending them, OK?

Caller: OK, I mean, like ...

Dispatcher: Who's the guy you're trying -- who's the guy who went out?

Caller: Um, his name is Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: OK. How old is he?

Caller: He's like 52.

Dispatcher: And, uh -

Caller: I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last 10 years.

Dispatcher: I got, I got that, dear. (Unintelligible) And, you say, what was his name again?

Caller: Uh, Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: And is he white, black or Hispanic?

Caller: Uh, Hispanic.

Dispatcher: What's he wearing?

Caller (agitated): I don't know, 'cause he's not here right now. That's why I ran away.

Dispatcher: When he left, what was he wearing?

Caller: Who knows (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: The police are on their way; talk to them when they get there.

Caller: Huh? I - OK.

Dispatcher: I told you they're on their way; talk to them when they get there, OK.

Caller: All right, OK. Bye.


Child Abuse Hotline Ad Uses Photographic Trick That Makes It Visible Only To Children

by Betsy Isaacson

How can organizations aimed at putting an end to child abuse send a message to children without also tipping off adults? It might be as simple as creating an ad that only children can see.

A Spanish organization called Fundación ANAR, or Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk, created a bus-stop advertisement in April that features the group's hotline number for children to report abuse. But by using a process called lenticular photography, the company made the hotline number, and much of the ad's content, visible only to those under a certain height -- presumably children.

Lenticular photography allows companies to create an image in a way that lets viewers see one of several different photos, depending on where they're standing. In the case of ANAR's ad, anyone taller than 4 feet 5 inches -- the average height of a 10-year-old, according to the group -- would see a picture of a boy with an unmarked face and the following message: "Sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it." Anyone under that height would see an image of the boy with a bruised face, the organization's hotline number (116-111) in white text, and the message, "If somebody hurts you, phone us and we'll help you."

Evidence suggests that in the U.S., it's a difficult task to get more abused children to contact authorities. According to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, the majority of reports of child abuse come from "mandated reporters," those in professions required by law to report signs of abuse if they see them.

But the campaign has succeeded in spreading awareness, which is what its creators wanted most.

The YouTube video for the company's ad campaign says, "thanks to the publicity on media and all the comments on social networks, the campaign has achieved its main objective: Raise awareness of the Foundation and [its] phone number 116-111 got children and teenagers at rick.



Study examines risk factors in recurrent child abuse, neglect

by Sharita Forrest

The shorter the intervals between previous child maltreatment incidents, the greater the likelihood that the child will experience abuse or neglect in the future, suggests a new study by a social work professor at the University of Illinois.

The study, which included more than 18,000 cases of child maltreatment in Illinois, also sheds light on the characteristics of victims, their caregivers, family structure and other factors that may increase children's risk of maltreatment. Saijun Zhang, a research assistant professor in the Children and Family Research Center at the university, examined the intervals between maltreatment reports to determine if the elapsed time between them was predictive of future maltreatment.

"This study specifically focused on the type of cases that we call 'chronic maltreatment,' in which a child or family has three or more maltreatment incidents within a certain period of time," Zhang said. "Chronic maltreatment is a serious concern because it indicates unresolved harm to the children. These families also consume a disproportional amount of child welfare resources because they require repeated child protection responses and services."

Zhang's data came from the Illinois Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS), the administrative database that logs all child maltreatment reports, investigation procedures and findings.

The study sample was limited to children who were the subject of at least two maltreatment reports, substantiated or unsubstantiated, from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006. Zhang then tracked those children for the next five years. Children who were in foster care at any time during the study period as well as children who were older than 14 years when the study began were excluded.

The average number of maltreatment reports preceding a subsequent report during the five-year observation period was 3.3, Zhang found. And the shorter the interval between reports, the greater the likelihood that the child would be the subject of a subsequent maltreatment report.

"Compared with cases that had an interval between reports of more than two years, the odds of experiencing a subsequent maltreatment report were 1.7-2.3 times greater for cases with intervals of 13-24 months, seven to 12 months and less than six months, respectively," Zhang said.

The researchers also examined whether the number of children and the number of adults in the household had differing impacts on maltreatment.

"Our study shows that a larger number of children at home is associated with increased likelihood of maltreatment, perhaps because caregivers are overburdened by child care and other demands," Zhang said. "And having four or more adults in the home seems to increase the likelihood of maltreatment in the future too, perhaps because there are resource inadequacies in these kinds of households."

A family's having received child welfare services during the year preceding the study heighted risk of maltreatment. Children who were at greater risk of maltreatment were white, female, younger than age 8, had disabilities and were living with their biological parent(s), as opposed to living with non-relatives.

Understanding the relationship between recurrence risk and past maltreatment, including the intervals between previous incidents, "will help improve the precision of the tools that caseworkers currently use for assessing risk of future maltreatment," Zhang said.

Co-authors of the study were Tamara Fuller, the director of the Children and Family Research Center, and Martin Nieto, a senior research specialist in the center. The center is a unit in the School of Social Work at Illinois.

The study, titled "Didn't We Just see You? Time to Recurrence Among Frequently Encountered Families in CPS," appears in the May issue of the journal Children and Youth Services Review and is available online.




Justice for sex assault victims?

Confidence lacking in system but fixing it won't be easy

Results of a new government survey regarding sexual assault and the justice system paints a discouraging picture of the law's ability - or inability - to provide justice for victims.

The survey indicates that most victims, male and female, of both child and adult sexual abuse didn't bother to file a complaint with police because of a lack of confidence in the system.

The report, titled The Victims of Crime Research Digest, noted, "There was a perception among some that while the survivor must cope with the traumatic experience, the accused is not punished."

The report was based on a survey of 207 sex abuse survivors at six sexual assault centres in primarly urban areas across the country in 2009 and included a range of demographic groups. The research found that the majority of victims didn't bother to report the abuse because they didn't feel they would be believed or didn't trust the justice system.

In a Canadian Press story in Monday's Lethbridge Herald, people who work with victims weren't surprised by the survey results. "It's just the same old, same old," said Hilla Kerner of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. "There is a general national failure of the criminal justice system to respond to women reporting on all forms of male violence against women - rape, battery, incest and prostitution."

Kerner pointed to several shortcomings in the justice system, including a lack of thorough police investigations, the fact prosecutors rarely take such cases to court, and a low conviction rate. Kerner's group provided numbers even more grim than the government survey results - out of 113 calls the centre received in one month last year, only 17 women opted to file a complaint with police, and only one instance resulted in the case being tried and netting a conviction.

Those are discouraging numbers. In light of the statistics, it's not hard to see why sexual assault victims are reluctant to pursue a complaint.

The statistics and the survey suggest there's work that needs to be done to improve the system of handling sexual assault complaints, and obviously there's not a simple one-fix solution because it's a complicated process. For example, concerning the perception of a lack of thorough police investigations and the complaint that prosecutors rarely take sexual assault cases to court, it must be remembered that the legal system is a complicated process involving a lot of stringent requirements that must be met in order for a case to hold up in court. Perhaps what's needed is a closer examination of what's taking place within the system to see if something can be improved.

Shoring up the system to better provide justice for victims of sexual assault will be a lengthy and complicated process. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to fix it. Victims deserve justice, and the sooner society starts to improve the process, the sooner real justice can be delivered.



Businessman finds 'internal peace' speaking out about sexual abuse

by Shelia M. Poole

ATLANTA — C. David Moody was at the top of his game.

His Lithonia, Ga.-based C. David Moody Construction Co. had grown into one of the nation's largest black-owned businesses and a top general contracting and construction management firm in the Atlanta region.

But something dark gnawed at him. This thing crawled into his thoughts at night. It robbed him of sleep. One time he had a panic attack so bad he called his wife of 30 years, Karla, to say goodbye.

After a second attack, he realized it was time to confront something that had plagued him for decades.

He had been sexually abused as a child.

And he had kept the secret hidden for 26 years.

But acknowledging it to himself and going public were two different things. Moody decided last year the only way to truly silence his demon and help others was to speak out.

“I decided I was going to find the internal peace that has eluded me for decades,” Moody, 56, wrote in a blog in October.

There were two incidents that provided that extra push.

In 2010, he and his wife were touring the offices of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy when he suddenly broke down in tears as he remembered his own abuse.

Then there was the firestorm that surrounded revelations that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had abused young boys.

“There was no one to protect those boys,” Moody said. “It bothered me how adults left kids in that environment with that guy.”

Since he's started the blog, Moody said he's gotten a number of telephone calls from people who start crying or say he has given them the courage to speak out.

Many others felt the same way as the Penn State scandal came to light. The online hotline of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network saw a huge increase in people reporting they had been sexually abused as children, said Jennifer Marsh, the network's vice president of victim services. A large percentage of them are men, she said.

Nancy Chandler, the CEO of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, said that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

“People think men and boys aren't victimized,” Chandler said, “and when they are, it is so difficult for them to come forward.” She said Moody's blog, which combines his thoughts about building a business, his travels with Karla and his struggles as a survivor of sexual abuse, has been enlightening.

“He's very out front about the demons he had to fight,” Chandler said. “The demons stay with people if they don't get treatment early on. He carried that burden by himself all those years.”

Moody won't discuss details of the abuse, which he says happened twice at the hands of a male teenage baby sitter when he was 10 years old. His response, though, was pretty typical of victims - especially young ones. He felt shame and guilt. He didn't trust people. Sometimes his anger seeped to the surface and he questioned himself.

Was it his fault? Why couldn't he fight off his attacker? And, as he got older: What if, by not speaking out, Moody enabled his abuser to hurt someone else? He didn't tell a soul until 1992.

He and his wife told their two children, now adults, when they felt they were old enough to understand.

“I couldn't make them live in my fear,” he said.

Moody said he sought counseling and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was shocked,” Karla said about hearing of the abuse for the first time. “And as a nurse my shock meter is a bit high.”

Moody only saw his abuser once about four years after the incidents. But by then Moody was an older and, at 6 feet tall, much bigger person.

“I gave him that look that said, 'I'm not that kid anymore,'” said Moody, who later excelled in football, basketball and baseball. “It's best that you don't come near me.”

When his family moved from Chicago to Michigan, Moody believed he had buried the incident. Occasionally, it returned, triggered sometimes by smells.

Longtime friends and colleagues were stunned by the revelation.

“Construction is a high-stress business and I saw that stress in Dave, but I did not think anything was out of the ordinary,” said Larry Gellerstedt, the president and CEO of Cousins Properties.

Gellerstedt said he's noticed a change in his friend since he spoke out.

“I think speaking out has also brought a calmness and balance to Dave as his perspective of life and family has matured,” he said. “David's courage has made me admire him even more than I already did, and I'm lucky to have him as a friend.”

Moody eventually started to tell more people about his abuse. He first spoke publicly in 2012 during an Operation PUSH event. He was on a panel and noticed several young women in the audience looking like they had lost hope. “Something just came over me,” he said. “I told them we've all been through a lot in life. I'm a sexual abuse survivor.” Moody said it took years for him to come to grips with what happened and to be able to forgive his abuser.

Do people think he's crazy for going public? Perhaps.

“I know God has a plan for me,” said Moody, who wants to give others hope. “We have a choice. I decided that that person was not going to control my life and take away my joy. Happiness feels a lot better than pain and sadness.” His wife notices the difference as well.

“A lot of things you don't get over, but you can get through,” Karla said.

“It doesn't change how I feel about him. Having a secret, no matter what the secret is, can tear you up. I think it freed him.”



Casey Anthony judge reveals he felt ‘shock,' ‘disbelief' after ‘not guilty' verdict

by Jessica Chasmar

Florida Judge Belvin Perry, who presided over Casey Anthony's murder trial, revealed he was shocked by the jury's verdict, saying there was “sufficient evidence” to convict the “very manipulative” mother of deceased Caylee.

“There were two sides to Casey Anthony,” Judge Perry told NBC's “Today Show.” “There was the side that was before the jury, where she portrayed the role of a mother who had lost a child — someone who was wrongfully accused. And then you could notice the change and transformation in her when the jury went out.”

Mr. Perry said he believes the jury let Ms. Anthony free because she was “very manipulative” and had an personable lawyer, Jose Baez.

The judge described his emotions as “surprise,” “shock” and “disbelief” when the jury handed down it's “not guilty” verdict in July of 2011. He said he had to read the verdict twice in his head to make sure he had read it correctly.

“There was sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict of murder in the first degree in this case,” he said. “But you've got to realize this was a circumstantial evidence case,” he added. “All the defense had to do was create that reasonable doubt, and that's what they did.”

The judge added that justice had been served “in a sense, because a jury has spoken, but justice will finally be served one day by the judge of judges. She is going to have to live with this and deal with this for the rest of her life.”



Tennessee served more than 768 domestic violence victims in 24-hour period

NASHVILLE, TN -- In just one 24-hour period, 768 victims of domestic violence and their children across Tennessee received life-saving services from local domestic violence organizations. Survivors were given a safe place to stay and resources to escape violence and abuse. Over 100 requests went unmet in that same day due to lack of funds. In addition, domestic violence victim advocates in Tennessee answered 295 emergency hotline calls.

According to a report released on September 12, 2012 by The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) reduced funding for domestic violence services means that programs are unable to help survivors with shelter, attain legal help, or leave abusive partners.

“Across the country, domestic violence programs are working harder than ever to help victims of abuse,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of NNEDV. “But we also know that, across the board, funding for victim services is dwindling while the demand is climbing.” Unfortunately, 101 times on that same day, requests for services went unmet in Tennessee, largely due to lack of funding.

"Clearly, there aren't enough resources for domestic violence victims in Tennessee," said Kathy Walsh, Executive Director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. "As federal resources are cut and demand for services increases, the state is going to have to fill the gap to make sure more victims don't go without the help they need."

• Tennessee ranks 3rd in the nation for the rate of women murdered by men. In 2011, there were 96 domestic homicides in Tennessee; police responded to more than 84,500 domestic violence offenses; and domestic violence made up more than 52% of all crimes against persons.

• While Tennessee has 95 counties, we only have 30 state-funded family violence shelters. Many of these shelters serve multiple counties and large rural populations.

• State funding for family violence shelters is generated from marriage license fees and offender fines and totals less than a million dollars a year. There has been no increase in state funding in more than 10 years.

• Federal funds for shelters were reduced by 8.7% in 2012 and even greater cuts are expected in 2013 as a result of sequestration.

• Family violence shelters have reported an increase in the demand for services while at the same time experiencing significant cuts in funding.

The economic conditions of the past few years have had a significant impact on domestic violence programs. “Cutting funds to domestic violence programs means that victims have fewer places to turn,” added Gandy. “It is impossible to hold offenders accountable and provide safe havens for victims with reduced funding for services and shelters. Budget cuts at the local, state, and federal level are creating increased danger to victims and their children.”

Additionally, funding cuts resulting from the sequester also worry victim advocates. According to recent analysis, sequestration will result in approximately 70,000 fewer victims getting help from domestic violence programs and approximately 36,000 fewer victims having access to protection orders, crisis intervention and counseling, sexual assault services, hospital-based advocacy, transitional housing services, and help with civil legal matters.

On the census day, local domestic violence programs across the country provided help and safety to 64,324 adults and children who were victims of domestic violence. Sadly, 10,471 times on that same day, requests for services went unmet, largely due to lack of funding.

Funding to underwrite some of the costs of administering the survey was generously provided by the Avon Foundation for Women and printing was provided by the Allstate Foundation. “This highly regarded report provides a snapshot of the life-saving services being provided to victims of domestic violence every day,” said Carol Kurzig, President of the Avon Foundation for Women. “We are honored to partner with NNEDV to help them shine a light on the great work happening, as well the many unmet needs in every community across the nation.”

On September 12, 2012, 32 out of 32, or 100% of identified local domestic violence programs in Tennessee participated in the survey. The figures represent the information reported by the 32 participating programs about services provided during the 24-hour survey period. In addition to the number of victims served, these programs answered more than 295 hotline calls and educated more than 731 individuals on domestic violence in Tennessee on the survey day.

Download: Tennessee Domestic Violence Programs which provide agency names and contact information for victims of domestic violence.

Established in 1983, the TN Coalition is a statewide non-profit coalition of diverse community leaders and program members committed to our mission of ending domestic and sexual violence in the lives of Tennesseans and changing societal attitudes and institutions which promote and condone violence through public policy advocacy, education, and activities which increase the capacity of programs and communities to address such violence. The Coalition provides a wide variety of training and technical assistance on domestic and sexual violence to communities throughout Tennessee, including an annual conference. For more information or to make a donation, please visit

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a 501(c)(3) social change organization, is dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking no longer exist. As the leading voice for domestic violence victims and their allies, NNEDV members include all 56 of the state and territorial coalitions against domestic violence, including over 2,000 local programs.




Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Over Hyped

Columnist Mike Moran argues that sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is no more prevalent than in other large institutions.

by Mike Moran

Note to pedophiles everywhere: if you have pornographic images of children saved on your computer, the employee you paid to fix your computer problems may not put his disdain of child exploitation over his chipper "customer is always right" work ethic. You may want to save that stuff somewhere else or (preferably) make getting psychological help a priority over your tech support.

Earlier this year, local deacon, William Steven Albaugh of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church on Belair Road, was reportedly snitched on by a Baltimore County Verizon employee who had access to Albaugh's computer. Police searched his home in March and he was charged with having more illegal images, though no children were reported to have been harmed. Albaugh is currently out on bail, presumably thanking God for not being a suspected pedophile awaiting trial within the general prison population.

While a news story about a Catholic Church official being accused of pedophilia is not at all uncommon, this current, local investigation is a good opportunity to ask the question:

Why are news stories about Catholic Church officials being accused of pedophilia, not at all uncommon?

Is the Catholic Church some kind of pedophile magnet?

Do the strict sexual sanctions imposed upon Church officials drive them into pedophilia?

Or, is the existence of a higher correlation between Catholic Church officials and pedophilia merely a media-fueled mass panic, unfairly targeting the Church?

Well, if you look at the statistics, that seems to be exactly what it is. Despite the fact that every instance of child exploitation is about as cruel and disgusting as human behavior gets, there is simply no evidence of any link between higher rates of pedophilia and Catholicism. Instances of child abuse within the Catholic Church are no higher than in other institutions like the Boy Scouts, public schools, or any other religious organization.

"We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else." Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has previously said.

Even within organizations in general, where one may think adult perverts would have easier access to their prey, there's no real evidence that abuse occurs more often than in other settings. Though, admittedly, it's hard to put an exact number on how much child-abuse occurs, especially within homes.

This is not to say that the Church has necessarily always handled abuse allegations in the most responsible way. The investigation into alleged silent transferring of accused priests from parish to parish and other suspicious behavior should—and no doubt, will—continue. Rumors of a Vatican wide cover-up, leading to Pope Benedict XVI's sudden resignation, have thus far been unproven and rest firmly in the realm of unverified conspiracy theories. The guy didn't exactly appear to be lying about being way too old and way too sickly.

If anything, this scandal is less about protecting children from predators and more about corruption by a powerful entity.

While a correlation between Catholics and higher rates of pedophilia is indeed a media induced myth, child sexual abuse is not at all. Unlike many other attention grabbing media go-to's, that seldom occur and directly affect few school shootings, terrorist attacks, toxins in the air, etc., molestation of minors occurs in alarming numbers every day. Approximately 1 in every 10 children you encounter have suffered from sexual abuse at some point.

While these numbers are declining over time, we should use the media coverage to acknowledge and fight against, the presence of one of the ugliest things occurring in our neighborhoods regularly, instead of merely stigmatizing members of one controversial group.

About this column: Comedian Mike Moran gives us his take on life in the city.



What you can do to help prevent child abuse

Direct intervention is just one option

by Dr. Wendy Gladstone

Today four children in America will die of child abuse or neglect. Four died yesterday. Four more will die tomorrow.

Of course, these numbers are averages, so there might not be exactly four deaths each day, but even so, the suffering and loss these numbers represent is repugnant. And they remind us that child abuse is a life-threatening problem.

In a typical year, more than 6 percent of children experience sexual victimization. In that same typical year, more than 1 in 10 American children suffer abuse or neglect and almost half experience a physical assault. Child maltreatment is common.

Infants and children who are degraded, beaten, denied food or otherwise mistreated are more likely to have unhealthy brains, bodies and psyches. They need more medical, educational, social and legal help. Even decades later, the effects can still last, resulting in a tougher time forming healthy relationships with other people, providing for a family, getting and keeping a job and remaining independent. Child abuse is costly to society.

Everyone would like to prevent child abuse, but sometimes it's hard to know exactly how to do that. April was Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it's still a good time for each of us to think of ways we can help.

Look around your neighborhood and reach out to families that might need some support. Struggling families who have social connections, concrete help in times of need and understanding of the needs of babies and children are less likely to mistreat them. Make friends with new parents who are possibly without anyone to turn to when times get tough. Offer to make meals for a parent exhausted by the day-to-day responsibility of caring for children. Invite families to join a play group so parents can learn that what might seem like bad behavior is really normal and not deserving of punishment. Or show how you deal with misbehavior in ways that don't involve violence, insults or scare tactics. Tell parents about helpful local agencies like family support centers. Offer to drive if transportation is difficult. You don't have to be a child development expert, just a friend.

Have you ever seen an adult hit a child, or call a child names or threaten them? That's a time when you can step up and offer to help them. Just saying that you've been in their shoes with kids who act up and that you know it can be hard to get children to behave can stop hurtful behavior as it's happening. If you see or learn about someone abusing or neglecting a child, call the child protection program in your state to let them know that a family needs their intervention. You can make your report confidentially. You may be preventing a very serious problem for a child.

If you'd rather work behind the scenes, you can volunteer at any of the many agencies that include child abuse prevention in their activities. Or you could help out in a nonprofit group that works for social justice and economic opportunity. Why does that lower rates of child abuse? Economic stress is a major trigger for child maltreatment and reducing poverty for families with children is protective. Here in America, millions of children experience poverty every day. Compared to other developed nations, the United States has one of the highest rates of children living in poverty: 20 percent. Only Mexico, Chile and Turkey rank worse than our country. Donate to a local food bank or support subsidized housing or low-cost day care. Write a check to one of these many worthy nonprofits. If your finances make that impossible, write your legislators and encourage them to direct funding to programs that assist families trying to make ends meet.

Teach your own children to respect others. Talk to them about how important it is to stay out of situations that involve bullying other kids. Don't let children resort to violence against another person as a way of solving disagreements or expressing frustration. Make those rules apply to everyone in your home. If we all make it our responsibility to bring up kids to understand these important lessons, we will have gone a long way to stop child abuse.

Whatever you do, remember that prevention is possible. Even a small act on one person's part can have a huge benefit for a child. All it takes is you.

Wendy Gladstone, MD, is medical director of The Care Program in Exeter.



Child advocate says child abuse prevention starts with education

by Angelica Duria

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — In recent weeks, there has been a number of sad stories of babies and young children dying from co-sleeping, child abuse and neglect.  It's a problem we're seeing across our area.

One child advocate says prevention starts with educating the youth.

Rene Howitt started an organization in Missouri called Cope24, that strives to reduce child abuse and neglect by reaching out to young adults before they become parents.

“Why aren't we giving our kids all of the knowledge about parenting?  We know most of them are going to be parents,” she said.

Howitt was in Milwaukee Friday promoting her new documentary on families with children suffering from shaken baby syndrome.  One of the families featured is from Milwaukee.

“They're never going to be like you and I.  The damage is just devastating,” said Howitt.

Aside from the documentary, Howitt has also spoken to more than 18,000 students in 200 high schools nationwide, using her class curriculum and videos to teach teens about difficult parenting situations and how to deal with them.

“The mentality has to be different and it's not,” she said.

In Milwaukee county, the problem is severe.  In the last month, three children died in a West Allis house fire after their mother locked them inside a bedroom, a Milwaukee infant died from co-sleeping, and another baby, shaken and dropped on his head, later died from injuries.  In all cases, the parents were charged in their deaths.

Howitt says all of it is preventable.

“These parents want their children.  They just don't want to take care of them the way they should be taken care of,” she said.

Howitt hopes to reach out to students here in Milwaukee to try and break the cycle.  While she hasn't visited any schools in Wisconsin, she says has been communicating with a few and hopes to bring her program to the Milwaukee area.

If you would like to learn more about Cope24 and her documentary, click here.



Colorado protection workers release child abuse report that shows flaws in welfare services

DENVER - A child abuse report released by Colorado child protection workers this week cites flaws in welfare services and procedures.

Child protection workers made significant efforts last year to identify more cases of child abuse and neglect, but a failure to accurately complete risk and safety assessments continues to affect how county departments handle maltreatment cases.

The report from the Colorado Department of Human Services examined cases of child fatalities, near fatalities and incidents of abuse or neglect from 2012. Officials say the state's computer system makes it difficult to track cases from county to county.

According to the Denver Post, nine fatalities, two near fatalities and one incident of egregious abuse qualified for full fatality review in 2012.

The report also provided lawmakers with 23 recommendations for improvements to child welfare services throughout the state and in specific counties.

"It is a baseline report and the first one ever as dictated by statute," Human Service Department spokeswoman Liz McDonough told the newspaper. "We appreciate that the recommendations were included, and we are already working toward implementing many of them and we look forward to continuing to report our progress to the General Assembly."



After suicide: All that's left is 'why?'

Suicide remains a taboo topic, but understanding what drives people to end their lives is the key to prevention. Some families shattered by the act offer their insights.

by Michael A. Fuoco

Suzanne Taylor noticed the glance. She couldn't help but imagine what the woman was thinking.

"Yes," Suzanne thought. "I'm the parent of the child who died by suicide."

In the late afternoon of a November day, her son Grant got the .22-caliber rifle that his dad used to shoot groundhogs -- the only unlocked gun in the North Huntingdon house. He found the clip and bullets in the basement. He returned to his bedroom and fatally shot himself in the head.

He was 17.

Suicides generally are not part of the public's discourse. For privacy reasons and perhaps the stigma that surrounds them, mainstream media do not routinely report suicides committed in private -- homes or garages, university dormitories or deep in the woods.

But they're much more prevalent than most people realize. There were 38,364 people in the United States who killed themselves in 2010, the most recent statistical year. That's more than twice the number of homicides. And that's nearly 5,000 more deaths than occurred in traffic accidents.

And for every suicide there are 25 non-fatal attempts -- a staggering 1 million people who annually try to end their lives.

A traumatic event -- a job loss, a relationship breakup, a scandal, for example -- is often assumed by friends or relatives as the "reason" a person committed suicide. But, researchers say, such a singular event was only the proverbial last straw.

• •

Suzanne and her husband Keith can't help but wonder over and over and over again why their son killed himself on Nov. 1, 2011. "What did we miss? What could we have done?"

But through counseling and support groups they know there are no simple answers. Those who commit suicide -- the nation's 10th leading cause of death -- have a fatal merging of a diagnosable mental illness such as depression, characteristics such as lifelong relationship difficulties, impulsiveness or feeling hopeless, and the onset of life stressors. By themselves, those factors are usually manageable. Combined, with no mental health intervention, they can persuade an individual that life is not worth living.

For many families like the Taylors, there are no warning signs. Grant, the youngest of three boys, was a senior varsity wrestler, a show choir member and a church youth deacon who planned to go to college.

Grant was upset but not despondent, they say, when he was suspended from Norwin High School in the fall of his senior year -- his very first school suspension -- for looking at pornography on a friend's smartphone and for having snuff in his backpack. On the second day of that in-school suspension, he was called into the principal's office and was told a female student had accused him of exposing himself in class.

As Grant was on his way home on the school bus, administrators were calling Suzanne at her work to tell her about the situation, which could possibly result in expulsion. As Grant got off the bus, he told his friends, "See you tomorrow."

Suzanne couldn't reach her son or husband by phone and rushed home. Not knowing about the latest situation, Keith arrived home first, heard Grant upstairs in his bedroom and asked if he would help cut the grass.

"I'll be out in a little bit," Grant responded as Keith went outside to start mowing.

Grant taped a note to his desk. "Problem solved," it read. He pulled the trigger.

• •

For those in Grant's age group -- 10 to 24 -- suicide was the third leading cause of death in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was the second leading cause of death in the 25-34 age group.

Overall, the national suicide rate increased 3.9 percent over the preceding year, making it the highest rate in 15 years.

For those between the ages of 35 and 64, there has been a 28 percent increase over the last decade. The CDC said possible contributing factors for the rise in suicide rates among middle-aged adults include difficult economic times and increased availability of prescription painkillers.

And in the military, suicide has reached epidemic proportions, with the Pentagon reporting 349 active-duty suicides last year --120 more than the combat deaths recorded in Afghanistan.

Men are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide than women, but women attempt suicide three times as often as males. Men are more likely to choose deadlier methods, such as firearms. Women are more likely to poison themselves.

Studies indicate that 90 percent of suicidal individuals suffer from a diagnosable mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis or post-traumatic stress disorder. But since only a relatively small percentage of those will commit suicide, additional factors make someone vulnerable to suicide, noted Alexandre Y. Dombrovski and Katalin Szanto, psychiatrists at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC.

The researchers, who are conducting cutting-edge studies of suicide attempters to gain insight into the psychological factors and decision-making processes, said characteristics that can put people at risk include substance abuse, impulsivity, a feeling of hopelessness, relationship difficulties, a predilection for aggression, and mental disorders.

"You can have these characteristics and be fine until you experience an episode of depression or psychosis or an alcohol binge or sometimes several things at the same time. That's when people have the highest risk," Dr. Dombrovski said.

"It's a combination of vulnerability and stressors," Dr. Szanto added. "However, if you have good protective factors, social support, good treatment for substance abuse or psychiatric illness, you may never get suicidal, even if you have these predilections."

• •

What remains of Karla McWilliams' essence are the photographs. In them all, her face is electric, her smile wide and welcoming, her eyes blue and sparkling.

So happy, her mother, Rita, once remarked.

"It's an act, Mom," Karla responded. "I'm always acting,"

Try as she may, Karla never found the happiness her photographs imply. Mental illness, first diagnosed when she was a teen, and a series of traumatic incidents robbed her of that possibility. On Nov. 20, 2012, she stopped looking and killed herself. She was 29.

"It was a struggle all her life. She tried really, really hard," Rita said. "I thought she'd make it but she never did."

Karla's troubles began in the seventh grade. The straight-A student couldn't sleep and one night woke up her parents at 3 a.m. Crying, she said, "You have to help me, Mom. I can't go on."

Diagnosed with severe depression, she was put on the anti-depressant Zoloft. But the next year, when Karla was 14 and starting the school year at Greensburg Central Catholic, Rita found her crying in the game room, holding her dog.

"I'm saying goodbye to Patches," Karla said. "I'm saying good-bye to you, Mom, but don't tell Dad because he'll be too upset. I won't be here in the morning. I hear voices coming out of the closet telling me to kill myself. I have to kill myself."

Thus began a life of in-patient and out-patient treatment, various diagnoses including anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, and resistance to medication and several suicide attempts. For a time, she would be on the upswing but then some trauma would rip her down. Her apartment building burned, killing her dog and destroying all she owned. She was sexually assaulted twice. A boyfriend was killed at a construction site. Her fiance broke off their wedding plans.

Still, along the way, she earned her high school diploma and an associate's degree with high honors in human services, put herself through modeling school, and worked as an intern at the non-profit agency Mental Health America of Westmoreland County, where her mother, a former teacher, also worked. She also became a statewide advocate for better transitioning of mental health services for teens moving into adulthood.

The end came last November. After Rita left for work, Karla turned on a Christian TV station and put her comforter and pillows in the bathtub. She sealed the bathroom door with tape, lit a small charcoal grill and lay down in the tub, clutched rosary beads and waited to die.

Later, when Rita broke through the screen door with the police behind her she found a note warning of toxic fumes but reassuring her the dogs were safe. "You did everything you could, Mom," the note said. "I'm so, so sorry. I love you now and always and forever."

Next to her heart, Rita wears a locket containing the last photo taken of Karla. In it, the woman with the sparkling blue eyes is smiling, as ever.

• •

Suicides are a major public health issue but, unlike homicides and motor vehicle deaths, they're not reported in the media unless they're committed in public or involve someone famous such as former NFL star Junior Seau, movie director Tony Scott or country singer Mindy McCready.

"There is a stigma. As a nation, we don't talk enough about suicide," said Charles F. Reynolds III, a Western Psych psychiatrist whose research into depression and suicide prevention, particularly among older individuals, is internationally recognized.

"Unless we shine the light on it, it's going to continue to be a real issue. Stigma I think is a huge issue [with suicide], and mental illness itself is still stigmatized. Rather than recognizing mental illness as a complex brain disorder we continue to stigmatize it as a failure of character."

• •

For years, Jill Kowalewski had been looking forward to renewing her marriage vows with her husband, John, on the couple's 15th wedding anniversary.

But on that day, Sept. 26, 2002, she stood alone in the soaking rain, waiting to attend her first support group for survivors of suicide.

John, 35, had killed himself in their Kansas home eight months earlier, on Jan. 18, 2002. Despite some problems, the couple had built a good life together. With his suicide, John left his Greensburg Salem High School sweetheart to raise their two young sons, ages 10 and 9, and with mortgages on homes in Kansas and Arizona.

"As the boys have grown and are doing well I am able to forgive him a little bit more but I was angry because I looked at it as 'You divorced me in the most brutal way you could. You hurt my boys and this is the legacy you left them.' "

John had started his truck parked in the family's garage, lay down in the truck bed and wrote a suicide note. In it, he revealed he had been sexually abused multiple times by multiple people as a child, was addicted to pornography, accepted blame for whatever problems the couple had, professed his love and said they all would be better off without him.

Later, Jill cried to a friend that John would still be alive had she not made an issue of finding pornography on their computer the day before he killed himself. "She said, 'Everyone else had a fight with their husbands, too, but they didn't go in the garage and kill themselves, did they?' I needed to hear that."

So distraught was Jill after the suicide she ended up in a psychiatric hospital for five days, diagnosed with grief-induced psychosis.

She and the boys moved back to Saltsburg, Indiana County, went to therapy, earned her human services degree from Seton Hill University and worked for a time at Mental Health America of Westmoreland County. There she met Beth Crofutt, who likewise lost her spouse to suicide. They started the suicide support group LOSS (Loved Ones Stolen By Suicide) in the fall of 2007.

"When people come to group they realize they're not alone, there's someone sitting there whose spouse, child or parent also did this dreadful thing. I'm just trying to find some good in this horrible loss of mine. This is the good I've found."

• •

Four to eight people grieve intensely for each suicide, studies show. One of Dr. Reynolds' research projects is studying how best to deal with prolonged, complicated grief unleashed on loved ones by a traumatic event, particularly a suicide.

Part of the experience of complicated grief in suicide survivors is trying to make sense out of the senseless.

"The feelings of guilt that often burden survivors of suicide are key themes we see," said Dr. Reynolds, former president of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"We try to help them see mental illness is no less than any other medical illness. It can sometimes be terminal, can sometimes be fatal, and there are consequences for those so afflicted."

• •

There are days that Fran Samber pretends her brother Michael Unglo is still in New York City -- still an advertising copywriter making a six-figure salary, running marathons, traveling to Europe, living a happy life.

But three years ago Saturday, on May 4, 2010, Michael killed himself while in a residential mental health treatment facility. He was 39.

"Until the day I die, I am completely altered by his death and there's no changing that," Fran said.

Michael first attempted suicide in 2008 in New York. When he awoke from a coma in the hospital with his two brothers around him, he revealed what he had repressed for years: "Richard Dorsch raped me!"

A former priest, Mr. Dorsch had been the family's pastor in the 1980s at All Saints Church in Etna, where Michael had been an altar boy. He had been removed from the ministry after his 1994 conviction of molesting a 13-year-old boy in North Park and had been accused in other pedophile cases, but as with Michael, criminal and civil statutes of limitations had expired.

Michael tried to return to work but "once the floodgates were opened, there was no stopping" the flashbacks of being raped from fifth through eighth grades, Fran said.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh agreed to pay for his therapy at in-patient stints in New York and Maryland and finally in Massachusetts. But in early 2010, the diocese informed Michael it would cut off funding after a final $75,000 payment, even though a center doctor told diocesan officials on April 5, 2010, he still needed treatment. A day short of a month later, he died of a self-inflicted cut. His family's wrongful death suit filed against the diocese was rejected by state courts.

"When you have someone you truly love actually perform an action that results in the end of their life, you just can't wrap your mind around it," Fran says. "I'll die and never understand it."

• •

The research being conducted by Dr. Dombrovski and Dr. Szanto seeks to elucidate the distortions in the thinking of a suicidal person.

People who are suicidal are shortsighted and prefer immediate rewards, their findings show. These are the people who would rather take $10 now rather than $50 in six months. Additionally, they tend to ignore important information in their decision-making.

"In gambling, they would ignore the odds in how they bet," Dr. Dombrovski said. "That echoes their experience in a suicidal crisis when there are important things to think about, like 'How will this affect my family?' They don't seem to be thinking about that in the crisis."

Dr. Szanto said about one-third of suicide attempters report thinking their family would be better off without them and another third don't consider what the consequences would be for their family.

"The whole suicidal crisis unfolds in a very limited time," Dr. Dombrovski said. "People are not thinking very deeply at these moments. Once they come out of that state they see things completely differently."

Indeed, the researchers' studies show that 75 percent of those who attempted suicide ultimately believe it was a foolish act.

• •

Enveloped by the night, racked by grief, Michael Vernon sat on his mother's grave.

"Why did you do this?" he yelled. "How could leave us? Why? Why?"

Tears flowed. No answers came. He returned night after night. Always the questions went unanswered.

He was 29 when his mother, Nancy Jean Vernon of Homestead, hung herself from a punching bag in her basement. She had told his father, who uses a wheelchair because of a car accident and also has multiple sclerosis, that she was going to do some laundry.

Afterward, his father told Michael that he had refused a suicide pact proposed by Nancy, 56, who suffered from depression.

She was the second woman in the family who had killed herself and been found by Michael's father. Nancy's mother had suffocated herself. She had been about the same age as Nancy, on the cusp of the peak age group for female suicides, 45-54.

"I did the guy thing, I was good at shutting it off even though when it opened back out the pain was overbearing. I didn't know how to handle it," Michael, now 46, recalled, sitting in his Ligonier home.

He turned to drugs and alcohol for about two years, bottling up his emotions during the day and letting them erupt in the cemetery at night. Finally, he decided that he wouldn't let her end control his future. He cleaned himself up and met Jo, who would become his second wife.

A registered nurse, she got him to see a therapist and he has attended the LOSS support group for three years.

"My anger toward her is gone. Counseling taught me to deal with emotions, group taught me to realize it was an illness. It was a death like anyone else's but it has a stigma."

Committed to helping others avoid his experience, he is in the process of becoming a facilitator for a suicide support group in the Ligonier area.

He now remembers his mother in happiness. On his desk in the mortgage office he and Jo operate is a framed photo of him and Nancy, joyfully dancing cheek-to-cheek.

• •

Suicide rates can be reduced by "limiting access to things that kill you," Dr. Dombrovski said. In England, for example, the suicide rate was cut when the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen was packaged in blister packs, making it more difficult to access enough pills to overdose. In Sri Lanka, there was a major drop in the suicide rate when access to pesticides was limited.

Dr. Szanto said studies elsewhere showed declines in suicides with better treatment of depression by educating primary care physicians about mental illness and suicide risk factors, and coordination between primary care providers and mental health resources, so they all would be readily available to patients.

In the United States, where firearms are used in slightly more than half of the nation's suicides, reducing access would produce a drop in the suicide rate, researchers say. Many suicidal people lacking access to a firearm won't pursue other means, Dr. Dombrovski noted.

"We try to persuade patients and family members to remove firearms until the patient feels better or to take other steps to lock up firearms, to decrease their availability," noted Dr. Reynolds, director of the Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research for Late-Life Mood Disorders.

"You just don't see this in other countries that have a more restrictive set of policies on gun control," he said. "It's a peculiarly American issue."

• •

Cotton and rice were growing on the successful Woodrow Plantation in Mississippi in 1977 when owner Charles F. Reynolds, a "hale fellow well met," grabbed one of his .22-caliber rifles and killed himself. He was 90.

At the time, Dr. Reynolds, his grandson and namesake, was a psychiatric resident at Western Psych with an interest in geriatric psychiatry. His grandfather's suicide solidified his professional path.

His grandfather developed depression in the wake of a stroke and a painful herpetic infection "and saw no point in going on and shot himself," said Dr. Reynolds. "It's a sad story but I'm afraid it's a typical story."

Suicides among men over 75 are three times the national average.

Dr. Reynolds said his grandfather had seen his primary care physician shortly before the suicide, which is fairly typical among elderly suicides.

"His comment to me was 'Your granddaddy didn't have any more windmills to tilt at.' I thought that was pretty eloquent. It raises a pretty profound issue: Is it ever reasonable for older adults to take their own lives? It can be a rational issue but 90 percent of suicide cases are the product of mental illness.

What pushes people over the edge to suicide, Dr. Reynolds said, is "feeling trapped, feeling hopeless, feeling such a sense of there being no future. What's the point of having no more windmills to tilt at?"

"As a clinician my view is to treat his depression, help him feel better, and he may well have a different perspective on things. If people get help, most of the risk for suicide can be successfully managed."

• •

Four days after Grant took his own life, the Taylors' oldest son, Alex, asked his parents to come outside the family home.

In the darkened distance they saw flickering flames, like fireflies floating down Mitchell Drive toward them. It was a procession of 150 of Grant's classmates carrying candles in silence.

They wore T-shirts honoring Grant that said "Never Take Life for Granted -- 11-1-11."

Amassed outside the family's home, they sang "Because I Knew You" from the Broadway play "Wicked," a song Grant had sung in show choir. The final lines: "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

A poem. More songs. The students approached the Taylors and placed flowers at their feet.

And then, as they had arrived, they departed in silence -- but for the tears.

If you need help Mental Health Crisis Intervention Allegheny County: 1-888-796-8226 Westmoreland County: 1-800-836-6010 Beaver County: 724-775-5208 Washington County: 724-225-6940 Fayette County: 724-437-1003 Butler County: 1-800-292-3866 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 Grief following a suicide HEAL project (Healing Emotions After Loss): 412-246-6006



Child care workers charged with failure to prevent child abuse

by Meghan Dwyer

RACINE (WITI) — A Racine child care center is under fire after two teachers in the facility are accused of watching a two-year-old boy get beat up by other kids and shooting video of it too. The center in question is the  Bundle of Blessings Kid Kare on Northwestern Ave.

The teachers accused in this case are identified as 23-year-old Krystina Woods of Racine and 22-year-old Jakitta Hollins of Caledonia.

The case centers around video that surfaced on social media. It shows three small children assaulting a two-year-old back on April 12th. If you listen closely to the video clip, you can hear the teacher behind the camera laughing. Court documents say when it was all over, the two-year-old who was being beaten threw up.

The mother of the boy who was beaten by his playmates finally found out about the beating on April 25th when the daycare's former director texted her a copy of the video. She says she watched in horror.

The criminal complaint says, “Hollins stated that she observed the fight for approximately 10-15 seconds and left the room to take care of another child. Hollins stated that she returned to the room and observed the beating was still occurring. Hollins stated that she eventually went over and broke up the fight.”

The complaint says Hollins “thought Woods would stop the fight.” But after further investigation, “Woods did not attempt to stop the fight or break up the fight, but stood and watched and videotaped the fight.”

Woods and Hollins are being held at the Racine County Jail on the following charges: Child Abuse/Failure to Prevent, Child Neglect, and 3 counts of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

The two-year-old boy who was beaten has been to the doctor. Physically, he's okay. But emotionally, his mom says he's very scared.

The Department of Children and Family Services revoked the license of The Bundles of Blessings Kid Kare on Thursday, May 2nd. According to the state's website, the daycare is not fighting that decision. A review of the facility's records show it had 52 rule violations in the last two years.

Racine Police investigators are interested in any additional information that you may have about this crime. You are urged to call the Racine Police Department Investigations Unit at 262-635-7756. You may also contact Crimestoppers at 262-636-9330, or by texting RACS plus the message to CRIMES (274637) and referring to Tipsoft I.D. #TIP417 with your text message.



Ministers To Focus On Stopping Childhood Sexual Molestation

The organization Black Concerned Clergy of Atlanta, Georgia on May 6th to discuss how they might implement the nation's foremost program for the Prevention of Childhood Sexual Molestation, BEE WISE KIDS ( to reduce the epidemic of sexual abuse against children in the Atlanta area.

Creator of the BEE WISE KIDS curriculum, Elder Raymond King, will be on hand to address the assembly. His life's mission is to help curb the ever-growing epidemic of childhood sexual molestation around the world, by educating parents and institutions as to the true dangers facing their children and empowering the children themselves to recognize dangerous situations and how to react when confronted by them.

According to King:

“Awareness is the first step in bringing about change and that's why it is important for the clergy to lead the way as advocates for children to support today's the growing nationwide effort to bring attention to the national plague of child abuse in all of its many forms.

“Childhood sexual molestation has now reached epidemic proportions around the world, greatly assisted by the modern Internet as pedophiles and child traffickers are better able to stay ahead of authorities, yet despite the heightened danger, most childhood sexual molestation is still predicated not by strangers lurking in the shadows, but, sadly, primarily by trusted relatives, authority figures and family friends.

“Parents and leaders are often not aware of the dangers children face and are not aware of how to educate their children in how to protect themselves, and that is what the Bee Wise Kids curriculum addresses.

“I believe that it is this practical ‘educating and enabling' factor of the BEE WISE KIDS education curriculum that is drawing the attention and support of parents and religious leaders from across the nation, to include Raleigh's Pastor Shirley Caesar, ‘Queen of Gospel Music', (, who are willing to challenge the traditional ‘veil of silence' to educate children, parents and institutions in an effort to combat this ever present danger to children.”

“It is most inspiring that the Black Concerned Clergy of Atlanta, Georgia are stepping forth to take leadership in this vital nationwide initiative.”

About BEE WISE KIDS' Creator, Raymond King:

Raymond S. King Jr. and his wife, Susan King, felt a special calling to develop the BEE WISE KIDS program after recognizing the destruction to people's lives caused by Childhood Sexual Molestation. He is active as a public speaker, traveling regularly across the US to address audiences of both young people and adults. He can be heard on his weekly radio program at

King actually lives a “double life” as a religious educator and an entrepreneur, owner of Products Plus, a manufacturing company for natural-based personal care products to include Ultimate Desire for Men ED formula, Simplee Natural Moisturizing Crème and IPF Pain Relief Lotion, all available from Amazon. Part of the profits from his product sales goes to support his ministry.


Raymond King / Bee Wise Kids
Tel 336-215-7978
1315 Headquarters Dr
Greensboro, NC 27405



Tallassee man charged in 'horrific' child sexual abuse case

A child sexual abuse case with multiple victims in Tallassee has left law enforcement officers, counselors and residents shocked and saddened.

According to police, Stephen Norman Conrad Jr., 31, of Worthington Circle, Tallassee, has confessed to the sexual abuse of at least eight children. Police said many of them were abused repeatedly. Three other people have been charged with failing to report the abuse.

Charges against Conrad included, as of Friday, about 86 counts of sexual abuse of a child younger than 12, first- and second-degree rape and first-degree sodomy. Tallassee Police Chief Jimmy Rodgers said he expects there to be additional charges.

Police said they believe all the victims are younger than 12 and that the abuse has happened over the past 11 years. Jannah Bailey, executive director of Child Protect in Montgomery, said the youngest victim was 3 months old.

“It just makes us sick,” Bailey said. She added the organization feels there might be more victims who currently are older than 12 but were younger than 12 when the abuse occurred.

Child Protect is helping with interviews and evaluations, Rodgers said. Police have notified parents of the victims and are working with the Elmore County Department of Human Resources for further investigation and treatment.

Tallassee police also arrested Conrad's wife, Brandy Jean Conrad, 26; Helen Hazel Gantt, 56; and Jeffrey Mark Ray, 41. All are Tallassee residents.

They are charged with failing to report the sexual abuse of a child, and investigators said they had knowledge of the abuse of at least one child and made no attempt to report the abuse.

Rodgers said the three observed at least one of the instances of abuse.

If Conrad is convicted, he could face a sentence of life in prison without parole. Bond was denied for all those arrested.

Police do not believe any other adults were aware of the abuse, and Rodgers said the abuse probably was able to go on as long as it did because the victims were so young.

“I think it was just the age of the children involved and their unwillingness to speak about it,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said the investigation began April 22 after the police department received an anonymous tip concerning the abuse of one child.

“It just unraveled from there,” he said.

Rodgers said investigators have reason to believe there are more victims based on some of the comments Conrad made.

He said it is “the most awful case this area has seen.”

Pastor Gene Bridgeman of Elam Baptist Church in Tallassee said residents still were digesting the news Friday.

“The town is pretty much in shock, especially from the number of accounts,” Bridgeman said.

Bridgeman and Pastor Chris Whittington of Living Water Worship Center were praised by Rodgers for their assistance in the initial counseling of the victims and parents.

Bailey advises anyone who suspects child abuse to take it seriously.

“You want to make sure if a child comes to you, it's very important that you pay attention and don't take it lightly,” she said.

Some of the victims were children of women Conrad developed dating or friendship relationships with and apparently felt comfortable enough to allow him to be alone with the children.



Montgomery's Child Protect reacts to horrific Tallassee sex abuse case

by Bryan Henry

In the 12 years Jannah Bailey has been running Child Protect in Montgomery, she can't recall anything so vile, so shocking as to the charges against 31-year old Steven Conrad of Tallassee.

"As of a mother and grandmother I can't even fathom what goes on in people's heads," said Bailey.

Conrad faces more than 80 counts of sexual abuse, rape and sodomy against children under 12-years old. Tallassee police say some were children of the women Conrad dated. Investigators say the abuse started 11 years ago and some of the victims were abused more than once.

Today, Bailey's staff interviewed 6 of the 8 victims. It was part investigative to help law enforcement and part healing, pointing the children to the road of recovery.

"Are there going to be scars and memories? Absolutely. This now becomes part of who these children are," Bailey said.

On Worthington Circle in Tallassee where some of the alleged abuse took place in Conrad's mobile home, neighbor Cecil Chandler is still reeling from the shock of it all.

"I've never heard anything like this, man. It's messed up," Chandler said.

Former Tallassee mayor George McCain doesn't recall hearing Steven Conrad's name until now.

"I've never heard anything this bad in this town," said McCain.

WSFA 12 News has learned that among the 8 victims, the youngest is a 3-MONTH old infant boy, and according to sources very close to the investigation, the baby boy is Conrad's own son.

In fact, Tallassee police are already on the record as saying Steven Conrad abused some of his other children although police declined to say just how many of the 8 belong to him. Police say Conrad has confessed to it all.

"I don't want to even think about it," said a shakened Bailey.

What sickens Bailey just as much is the fact three other suspects face the lone charge of not 'reporting a sexual abuse.' Police say the three including Conrad's wife, 26-year old Brandy Conrad, knew about at least one case but didn't report it.  Bond has been denied for all four suspects.

While all of this continues to unravel in Tallassee, Steven Conrad remains in the Tallassee city jail under suicide watch.

Conrad is expected to make his first court appearance on the charges next week in Elmore County.