How Google Is Fighting Sex Trafficking With Big Data
For years human traffickers have used the latest technology to profit from the slave trade, but now software engineers at big data companies like Palantir and Salesforce are enabling anti-trafficking organizations to fight back--thanks to a little funding help from Google.
by Michael Grothaus
The latest estimates about human trafficking, which include individuals held against their will in the sex trade and forced laborers in agricultural, industrial, and manufacturing settings, are that at least 21 million people on the planet are currently in slavery. To put that figure in perspective, that's the equivalent of the entire populations of New York City, London, and Singapore combined. And it's an industry that generates over $32 billion a year.
I have a particular interest in sex trafficking. I know that's a weird thing to say, but it's because I was first exposed to it during the Cannes Film Festival many years ago, only I didn't realize it at the time. Years after, when I finally made the connection, I began writing a novel about it. Since then, I've talked to trafficking victims in Poland and Italy and France. I've spoken to a girl who was a source who has disappeared. I know of victims who are so traumatized they hear voices in their heads. In Krakow while researching sex trafficking, I was assaulted and told to leave the city or I would be killed. And in America, I've been laughed at when I've told people the subject of my novel because many here don't believe that modern-day slavery exists--or if they do, they think it's only something that happens in Asia or Eastern Europe or Africa. They have no clue that it goes on in big American cities, and in suburbs, and at truck stops across the country.
The billions of dollars are being made off the backs of people no different than you or I--they're just living in hell. Slaves in Asia who have literally been born and raised in a rice mill and have never stepped outside of it. Seven-year-old girls abducted in Russia or Brazil or America who are taken to foreign countries where they don't speak the language and are told that going to the police is pointless, because the police are in on it; that if they try to escape, their family at home will be killed. These are people who don't even feel like people anymore. They are property. Like your iPhone.
The thing about human trafficking is that it is not as “underground” as you might think a slave trade would be. Human traffickers use the latest technologies to their advantage--and do so exceptionally well. But now, thanks in part to a $3 million grant from Google, a group of three anti-trafficking organizations--Polaris in the U.S., LaStrada International in Eastern Europe, and Liberty Asia--are using innovative technology from big data partners Palantir and Salesforce.com to launch The Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network, which aims to turn the tide in the fight against modern-day slavery.
How Good Guys Are Using Technology Against Traffickers
“The traffickers are very savvy on the use of technology and the good guys need to get more savvy. We need to enable them to use the tools of the 21st century to take this on.”
That's what Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google Giving, tells me when I ask her how software can help fight trafficking. Fuller's interest in trafficking stemmed from her time at the Gates Foundation. She was in India helping launch an HIV prevention initiative when her research into the commercial sex industry there opened her eyes to the realities of sex trafficking.
Upon returning to the States, Fuller joined Google.org--the philanthropic arm of the search giant that develops technologies to help address global challenges. “We look at how can we attack real-world problems through our engineers, through tools that we actually build and develop ourselves,” she says.
Part of Google.org is also its charitable funding arm, Google Giving, which runs the Global Impact Awards that support nonprofits using technology and innovation to tackle tough human challenges. “I'm a big believer in the power of technology for social impact,” Fuller says. “I think that's an area that's very underfunded.”
And this year the Global Impact Award went to anti-trafficking organizations Polaris Project, LaStrada International, and Liberty Asia due to their burgeoning work with using big data to build an interconnected grid of modern-day tools to fight human trafficking.
“Trafficking isn't a very static or a very monolithic thing. There are uses of technology that traffickers are using that we haven't even learned yet. It's very fluid and the folks working on trafficking need to be as nimble as the traffickers are in our ability to innovate, in our ability to leverage new technologies to make our work more effective,” says Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project, one of the recipients of the grant.
Myles tells me that traffickers use technology like everyone else does--to make their lives easier. They use social media to recruit victims, they use mobile devices with built-in GPS to track women under their control, so they always know where they are and if they are servicing clients, and they even use Internet groups as a marketplace to buy and sell women and forced laborers.
Traffickers also use technology to get online customers via porn sites--even if those customers don't know that the women they're watching are being held against their will. “There are webcam sites that exist where traffickers force women to be involved in live online shows. Traffickers are forcing women and girls to strip and do sex acts over webcams for sex buyers that are in another country but are interacting with the women nonetheless,” Myles says.
So given the traffickers' skills with using technology to their advantage, what do Google, Polaris, and the rest think the answer is to fighting the tech-savvy slave trade?
Bringing Help Hotlines Into The 21st Century
When you think of a “hotline,” you think of an outdated, 20th century answer to data sharing--a 1-800 number. Maybe you even see a picture dialing in on a rotary phone. But when Google and Polaris think of hotlines, they're talking about centers that acquire data from multiple types of inputs, and using the latest data analytic technology to turn information into action.
“A lot of hotlines are stuck in the last century. They're only taking phone calls, instead of using new technologies and pushing the hotline to communicate in multiple channels or multiple modes of communication,” Myles explains. “We believe the next generation hotline needs to not just be phone services, but also needs to operate mobile, email, online reporting, and SMS messaging. We're ready to really push the hotline to become multi-modal.”
Google's grants aren't just helping fight human trafficking. Here are some other initiatives Google runs that uses tech to help solve social problems. Google Person Finder helps people reconnect with friends and loved ones in the aftermath of natural and humanitarian disasters. This was most recently used in the Boston bombings. Google Flu Trends helps estimate disease activity in near real time for a number of countries and regions around the world. Google Dengue Trends helps track the debilitating virus' outbreak so epidemiologists can better detect disease outbreaks earlier and use the information to reduce the number of people affected. Google Crisis Maps was created to show damage and resources following emergency events in the areas of wildfires, air quality, floods, and hurricanes.
Another problem with current anti-trafficking hotlines is that, for the most part, they work in isolation. A hotline in Poland collects and records data differently than one in Los Angeles, and that one does it differently than one in Thailand, and so on. But just as the web is interconnected, Google and Polaris believe hotlines should be as well. Instead of a hundred different hotlines using a hundred different data systems with a hundred different ways of tracking data, the two companies knew the time was right to move toward some standardization that anti-trafficking organizations can use.
Combine that standardization with cutting edge data aggregation and sharing tools and you have the genesis of the The Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network. Right now the hotline only consists of three organizations (Polaris, LaStrada, and Liberty Asia) but in the future it will be able to be quickly rolled out to other organizations thanks to a common backend provided by Salesforce.com.
“We're working with Salesforce to export our database infrastructure so that other hotlines around the world can just plug and play and grab our database infrastructure and start using it,” Myles explains. “If we do things like that, we'll start to get to a point where there's more uniformity around the world.” And that uniformity can eventually help free slaves.
Making Sense of the Data
It's one thing to standardize database infrastructures (and that itself is no small feat), but even then the data that is collected is only as useful insofar as you can process it and then use it to take action. That's where the software engineers at Palantir come in. Palantir was founded by a number of PayPal alumni and a group of computer scientists from Stanford. The company's technology grew from data analytic and visualization systems invented while at PayPal to cite fraud. But after 9/11 the founders received funding from the CIA's venture arm In-Q-Tel and decided to apply their technology to the areas of counterterrorism and intelligence.
What Palantir is allowing The Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network to do is to make all the data it gathers useful. And in the case of human trafficking, the data the hotline collects becomes useful in two distinct ways: the first for immediate response, and the second for pattern recognition.
The immediate response comes when a sex trafficking victim or a forced laborer manages to call or send a text into an operator at the hotline.
“When you're talking about someone who is taking a big leap of faith to call a hotline number from a sticker on a bathroom and say, ‘My pimp's asleep; my pimp's passed out,' and have someone there in seven minutes to help that person rather than 17 minutes--that window of opportunity can close very rapidly, and so each moment you can hasten that process is very, very valuable,” says Jason Payne, philanthropy engineer at Palantir. “The core workflow that we're providing is helping the call specialist comprehend their toolkit of options better and faster.”
In the case of immediate response like this, Palantir's technology lets a call center operator pull up a Java or HTML 5 web app that maps where the victim is calling from. The operator can then do a radius search around that area to find what partnerships they have with NGOs or law enforcement agencies and use a histogram to look at the data they have about each of those to find the best match and then facilitate a linkup.
How many slaves work for you? That sounds like a dumb question, but the fact is you may be directly or indirectly employing slaves and not even know it. Take the survey on Slaveryfootprint.org to see how you contribute to the slave trade.
In addition to powerful search and mapping tools, data is automatically pushed to the hotline operator instead of having to manually pull it. For example, if a caller is describing the service station on the side of the road she is calling from, data of possible matches are pushed onto the operator's screen as she inputs more information from the caller. In this way, Palantir's technology allows hotline specialists to achieve rapid spatial context in two minutes instead of the five or seven minutes it would take if they had to access three or four different databases to find that information.
“All of these search questions, whether it be a statistical search, a keyword search, a geographic search, can be saved and run in the background automatically,” Payne says. “When a hotline analysts logs in in the morning they see new information that matches those people. Using that easier capability to comprehend the data, they're able to look at what trafficking networks are in play to better understand where networks are active and where they're not.”
And it's the power of using big data to understand trafficking networks where the second part of Palantir's technology comes in: the ability to discern patterns in human trafficking so real-world resources such as law enforcement initiatives, government legislation, and NGO field work can be better allocated to fight it.
But perhaps most importantly, the systems developed by Palantir allow big data to be shared on a level that was previously unimaginable--something that was, in the recent past, almost as large an obstacle to taking action as collecting the data in the first place.
Another Obstacle: Sharing Data
“When we look at things like the 9/11 Commission or many other failures of organizational communication, it really boils down to data sharing,” Payne tells me. “The fundamental problem with any sort of collaborative effort to find any dark network is information sharing. Especially when you start to talk about personal identifiable information--or even more so when we start to talk about health information. What it takes to say, ‘Yes, I can share this information with another organization'... it's very, very difficult to make that ‘Yes' decision.”
The reason it was so difficult to get a “yes” decision in the past when requests for information sharing came in from various organizations was because before Palantir's technology came along, data sharing on a large scale was mostly all or nothing, which meant critical data would more often than not not be allowed to be shared because doing so could violate a person's civil liberties or various human rights laws across the globe.
“If it's an all-or-nothing decision the answer's going to be nothing,” says Payne. “Because you're breaking a cluster of laws in the International Health Regulations, like article 45, which protects an individual's identity, and also a number of HIPAA and numerous other privacy laws.”
As you might imagine, for all the agencies involved this was very frustrating. The data existed to help fight human trafficking, but because it's important to protect an individual's civil liberties, the potential answers for problems couldn't always be shared.
To put this in the context of a single data file of one individual--for a fictitious sex trafficking victim named Maria, for example--an anti-trafficking organization might have incredibly useful information they obtained from her. Maria's file could list her personal information, including name, date of birth, current address, original address, phone number, language spoken, and more (all important for a social worker to know), but her file might also contain the locations she was kept in while trafficked, how many men she was forced to service, the names of her pimps, descriptions of them (important for law enforcement and legislators to know), and it could also contain her ethnicity, HIV and other STD statuses, and history of substance abuse (important for health researchers and analysts to know). As you can see, such a file contains a myriad of valuable information for many groups of people--but rarely could that information be shared.
Sure, in the past an anti-trafficking organization could print out Maria's file, use a big black Sharpie to black out information, and then scan and fax the remaining information to the requesting organizations--but in most trafficking cases time is of the essence and even when time is not critical, certainly scanning Sharpied-out information to multiple agencies is not an optimal solution here. Not to mention the process may work fine for one victim's file, but when you get up to the hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of files, it's not practical.
In order to share mass amounts of useful data responsibly, the trick is in empowering organizations to share subsets of that data, so they can change their answer--which is going to be a “No” if it's all-or-nothing data sharing--to a “Yes.”
And that's exactly what Palantir's technology does: It allows big data to be shared through a very granular security model.
For example, the analyst looking at the larger trends in trafficking in a certain part of the world really has no need to know the personal identifiable information of Maria. There's no need for that analyst to know her phone number or address or name, but knowing the city that she was born in or her general age range or ethnicity is very important. Palantir's technology allows such sharing so that every single analyst gets access to only the data sets they need.
When describing granular data sharing, the easiest way to explain it is by likening it to Facebook. If you look at Facebook pre-2009, all of your data was accessible to everyone on the network. Since then it's iteratively gotten better about privacy and sharing settings to the point where you can share a status update with only a subset of people. That's similar to what the Palantir sharing information model looks like in terms of the ability to share specific facets with granular groups of people--but at a much more refined level, a level that does not exist in a lot of data analysis systems in the world today.
“When we start to talk about sharing between organizations going from Eastern Europe to America to East Asia, what we can do through our technological solution is we can actually empower organizations to say, ‘I'm willing and legally able to share this subset of data with this subset of people within the organization,'” Payne explains. “Once you start to build that collaborative picture, especially in something like the EU where you have open boundaries, you have the ability to start to understand where people are being trafficked from and to. That really will start to help comprehend what trafficking networks are at play that are moving these individuals.”
“Imagine what our global anti-trafficking effort could feel like if there were a powerful, effective, multi-modal, well-publicized and well-resourced ‘next generation' anti-trafficking hotline in every country or region of the world, and those hotlines were integrated, sharing data, leveraging new technologies, and coordinating more with each other and with myriad local law enforcement and service respondents,” Myles, the CEO of Polaris Project, recently told the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. “This global safety net will not only make it easier for the millions of people held in slavery to reach out to a hotline and access help, but it will also ensure that the first responders in the field are more prepared for that call when it comes in. Shared data and a powerful global data analysis initiative involving hotline call data will be critical to understanding the global footprint of human trafficking and driving new strategic interventions aimed at reducing and eradicating the crime.”
Why You Should Still Be Angry
I have yet to change my Twitter bio, which reads “I write about tech and sex trafficking, though not in relation to each other.” But thankfully, as of today that's no longer true. That's because technology and big data are finally at a point where they can help fight very real-world problems like sex trafficking and human slavery.
But just because Google and Palantir and Polaris and other anti-trafficking organizations are on their way to using technology to fight human trafficking doesn't mean the journey is anywhere near over. Hell, it's only just begun.
When I ask Google Giving's director Jacquelline Fuller what it's going to take to stop modern-day slavery for good--is better technology enough, or is more legislation needed, or more awareness, or what?--she says, “We need it all, baby. We need it all.”
Bradley Myles agrees. And he tells me an area that is critical in the future is awareness. That needed awareness not only comes in the form of new, creative ways to get hotline numbers into the hands of trafficking victims around the world, but also a need of awareness in the general population that slavery didn't end in the 1800s. It's still around today.
And if you're reading this--or if you ever have the soul-crushing yet eye-opening experience of talking to a trafficking victim--and that makes you realize that hell does exist on earth, and it makes you angry, but at the same time makes you feel helpless, know that you don't need to be a legislator, or a software engineer, or in law enforcement to make a difference in the fight against slavery.
Increased awareness matters. And awareness isn't going to increase about the slave trade unless you tell people; unless you take action. Show people this article. Tweet it. Share it on Facebook. Visit Polaris', LaStrada's, and Liberty Asia's websites. Check out the sidebars in this article to find out more ways you can help.
But above all, get angry, stay angry, and tell people about slavery. You don't need to have a $3 million grant to make a difference. You don't need big databases or powerful analytic tools. All the technology you need to spread this information is in your hands, as you read this, right now. So do it.
Here are just some of the hotline numbers currently available in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
In the U.S. (via Polaris):
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888, or text BeFree (233733) to the same number.
In Europe (via LaStrada):
Belarus: + 375 17 295 31 67
Bulgaria: + 359 2 981 76 86
Czech Republic: + 420 2 22 71 7171
Moldova: + 373 22 23 33 09
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: + 389 2 2777 070
Netherlands: + 31 33 448 11 86
Poland: + 48 22 628 9999
Ukraine: + 380 44 205 36 94
In Asia (via Liberty Asia):
Myanmar: (95) 67 412555 or (95) 09 49 555 999
Thailand: 1300 or 1191
Laos: 1191 or 1362
Vietnam: 1800 1567
Sex Traffic Of Children A Problem In West Michigan, New Shelter Opens
by Jennifer Dowling
A hidden problem impacting the entire country and right here in West Michigan is coming to light with the opening of a new shelter for women in Grand Rapids.
Last year, the national human trafficking resource center said it received more than 300 calls in the state of Michigan.
The organization reports 61 calls from Detroit, 25 from Grand Rapids, 12 from Mackinac Island and eight in Kalamazoo.
The new Manasseh Project shelter in Grand Rapids opened in October for women who were victims of the sex trade.
The shelter is designed to look like a home with a dining room and large kitchen, laundry, living room and bedrooms ready for 14 girls rescued from severe sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
“I think that people just believe that they are kids that just run away,” said Marie Brown, the house supervisor.
Brown said the public doesn't understand there are many hidden ways young girls from West Michigan have gotten pulled into the sex trade.
“It could be from somebody picking them up because a kid has decided I need a ride. It could be because the kid has decided I`m upset with a parent and I need your help,” said Brown. “A lot of people just are not good people.”
Sometimes law enforcement officials say women are scammed into sex trafficking through newspaper or online advertisements for jobs without knowing that criminals are posting the information as legitimate.
The ads include posts for model agencies, travel agencies, employment companies, babysitting services and matchmaking services.
If you do suspect something is suspicious, make sure to contact authorities.
The shelter has 14 beds and is currently housing 12 girls.
In order to get the girls prepared with life skills they may have missed out on, they also have a classroom with their own teacher, a beauty salon where they can feel good about themselves and learn grooming skills and an onsite therapist and wellness expert.
Since the girls have shared experiences, project coordinator Andy Shoper said it's important that they have each other for support.
“To give them space to heal together, just like we would afford any other traumatized child that opportunity,” said Andy Shoper, project coordinator.
Wedgewood Christian Services is also launching the public phase of its $10 million Capital Campaign with $7.7 million raised to date for the opening and operation of the Manasseh Project Shelter/Trauma Recovery Center.
The Growing Hope for Children Capital Campaign will invest $1 million in the new shelter.
Approximately $2.5 million is earmarked to expand the Henry & Carolyn Bouma Counseling Center and an additional 12,000 square feet to respond to a 300% increase in the Center's prevention and community-based education services for children, adults and families.
They say approximately $4.5 million of the campaign will support the development and opening of Lighthouse Academy – North campus.
The balance of the campaign will include technology upgrades and enhancements throughout Wedgwood to increase operational efficiencies and support for the expansion of Wedgwood's Foundation.
S.A. police patrolling Backpage.com in battle against sex trafficking
by Mayra Moreno
SAN ANTONIO -- For years, Craigslist was known for its racy advertisements aimed at luring visitors into paying for a random sexual encounter. According to San Antonio authorities, prostitutes are now using a new site to solicit their business: Backpage.com.
"This page developed after Craigslist cleaned up their escort part of their program," said Sgt. Wayne Swindle of the San Antonio Police Department.
Swindle gas worked over 60 to 70 prostitution cases, making a solid 67 arrests in his career on the undercover vice unit. He sat down with KENS 5's Mayra Moreno to explain why new websites like Backpage.com make it even harder for detectives like himself to make cases.
Cleveland suspect's daughter in prison for slashing baby's throat
by Steve Almasy
A daughter of Ariel Castro, the primary suspect in the abduction of three women found alive this week, is serving a 25-year sentence in an Indiana prison for the attempted murder of her baby six years ago.
Emily Castro was sentenced to 30 years with five years suspended. A judge found Castro guilty but mentally ill of cutting her 11-month-old daughter four times on the neck in April 2007.
An appeal, filed in late 2008, was denied by an Indiana court.
Legal documents state that on April 4, 2007, Castro, 19 at the time, was upset that her boyfriend -- the baby's father -- had moved out of the family's home in Fort Wayne. She took the baby into a garage and cut her neck four times with a knife.
Castro also cut her own neck and wrists.
Police were summoned to the house by a passerby who came upon Castro's mother carrying the baby and running from the home. Officers found Castro covered in mud, water and blood. Castro told paramedics she had tried to drown herself in a creek, according to an appeals court decision document.
The baby survived.
According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, the defense argued at trial that Castro had suffered from mental depression and became paranoid, thinking her family was trying to kill her and the baby.
The judge found that Castro still had the ability to know right from wrong.
She and her brother Anthony spoke at her sentencing hearing, the Journal Gazette reported.
"I don't know how this happened," said Castro. "I want you to know I am a very good mom."
Anthony Castro said his sister was not an animal. The family had dealt with his sister's illness every day, he added.
End this war on childhood
I believe in a child's right to a childhood. I appreciate that sounds like a statement of the blindlingly obvious. Sadly, in the adult-focused world our children have inherited, it is anything but.
by Sonia Poulton
Today, childhood has been devalued. It is a state to cast off, and with some derision, on a hastened march to adulthood.
From the provocative outfits they wear to the precocious comics they devour, to the reality shows they consume and the pop stars they adore, children (boys and girls) are fed a glut of skimpy clothes, erotic gestures and overtly sexual and debasing behaviour and language.
I have observed this phenomenon (to protect my daughter, now 15, from its impact) and I view the sexualisation of children as an outright assault on them.
Barrister Barbara Hewson recently created a furore when commenting on celebrity arrests following the Savile revelations. Appearing to show no empathy towards the young abuse victims, she said the age of consent needed to be lowered to 13 because: "I do not support the persecution of old men."
Yes, she really wrote that and, despite the justified vilification that followed, she has stuck doggedly to it. For some her suggestion is merely academic, for others it is far from it.
Last week, the sick reality of such a statement became clear as Operation Bullfinch, an investigation into child "grooming gangs" in Oxford, culminated at the Old Bailey.
If Ms Hewson had her way, there would be few convictions of this type. Despite the nine men maintaining an iron grip of sexual abuse on young girls, the depravity visited on some of these children would be legal and Statesanctioned.
As indeed would many of the charges relating to child abuse in North Wales care homes, or at the hands of Jimmy Savile or any Church-related acts of paedophilia that have come to light over the recent years.
And therein lies the dark heart at the debate about lowering the age of consent. To do so would be a green light for predatory older people, men and women, to satiate their perverse desires legally and with no fear of prosecution.
Oh how I wish Ms Hewson's ill-considered request was an anomaly. Sadly it is not. Lowering the age of consent has been a campaign issue for groups and individuals for four decades at least.
During the Seventies, UK pressure group Liberty, formerly known as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), called for 14 to be the age of consent.
At the time Harriet Harman, now Deputy Labour leader, was a senior figure in NCCL and the submission she signed off argued that "childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult, result in no identifiable damage".
EQUALLY the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which disbanded in 1984 and had affiliations to NCCL, campaigned to abolish the age of consent completely.
Recently political activist Peter Tatchell waved a PIE flag at a Unison rally. "Not all sex involving children is unwanted," it proclaimed.
Although repugnant, the banner was not unexpected as Tatchell had previously called for the age of consent to be 14.
Leaving aside how, as a parent, such a sign makes me react (much less how child abuse survivors must feel when they see it) the debate for lowering the age of consent lacks credibility.
The favoured argument is that children in other parts of Europe are permitted to have sex much younger than their British counterparts.
Who says these places, including Germany and Spain, have got it right? Show me a young teen who is truly ready to embark on a sexual relationship and I'll show you an enigma.
At 13, children cannot legally vote, drink alcohol, smoke, drive or leave home. Why should something as important as sex and the physical and psychological issues that accompany it be any different? Particularly when there is an age difference with those involved.
I was heartened last week when I appeared on ITV's This Morning to argue against lowering the age of consent and 91 per cent of the audience agreed. I worry about the other nine per cent.
So when the issue of lowering the age of consent raises its troubling head again, and it will, let us be in no doubt that this is not about "a human right to choose our sexual start-date" but about protecting children from predators who would take advantage of such a ruling.
Children need a childhood, not one that is bogged down by adult considerations. And it is left to us, as responsible adults, actively to reclaim childhood for them. They deserve nothing less.
Child abuse cases difficult to prosecute; welfare of victims is a priority
by DEDE BILES
Editor's note: This is the second in a four-part series on child sexual abuse. On Monday, the Aiken Standard looks at child sexual abuse education in the public schools and at home.
Allegations of child sexual abuse spark multiple courses of action. There are investigations to determine if the accusations are true and steps are taken to protect the child who is involved. If enough evidence supporting the allegations is found, prosecuting the suspected molester becomes a priority.
“It starts with law enforcement and the case that law enforcement puts together for us,” said Ashley Agnew, an assistant solicitor in the Second Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office. “The Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County contributes information as well. We are very fortunate that we have some agencies that are able to develop very complete cases in difficult situations.”
Local child sexual abuse cases are tried in the Court of General Sessions.
“We've had some success in the past several months,” Agnew said.
In April, a jury found Harold B. Cartwright III of Trenton guilty of raping three girls and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Last December, William Wallace Pou of Aiken was sentenced to 30 years in prison after a jury determined that he was guilty of multiple child sex abuse charges.
“There are some unique issues in these types of cases,” Agnew said. “It has been popularized in crime shows on TV that you look for fingerprints and all this evidence that you can pick up and hold and touch and see. But in sexual assault cases, we oftentimes don't have that kind of evidence. A lot of the time it's a ‘he said, she said' case, especially with children. You don't always have obvious injuries that anyone can see. You don't always get DNA that is going to match the perpetrator's DNA beyond all doubt. A lot of the times, it's just the testimony of a child because these crimes don't take place in broad daylight in front of people. These are crimes of isolation that occur in secret.”
The youth of the victims also is an important issue.
“Under the law, defendants have the right to confront their accusers, so the children have to be able to testify for you to go to trial,” Agnew said. “But if you go to trial, you're subjecting the victims to reliving the worst, most painful, terrifying moments of their lives in front of a courtroom full of strangers.”
In deciding how to handle sexual abuse cases, the welfare of the children involved and their ages are key considerations.
“We've had children as young as 5 or 6 testify,” Agnew said. “But many times, the parents, for good reasons, don't want to put their children through all that. One of the things we consider in trying to resolve cases is what's best for everyone. Sometimes the best solution is a guilty plea and part of that may be letting the defendant plead guilty to a lesser charge and receive a slightly lesser sentence.”
But resolving child sexual abuse cases that way usually isn't easy, according to Agnew.
“The problem is that you don't have many defendants readily willing to plead guilty because there are so many consequences to having a conviction like this in their criminal history,” Agnew said. “A person may be faced with registering as a sex offender or being on a child abuse registry. There is such a stigma associated with child sexual abuse. People are much less willing to admit to hurting a child than they would be admitting to other types of crimes.”
The Department of Social Services in Aiken County is another agency that takes action when there are allegations of child abuse, but only under certain circumstances.
“We investigate allegations when they are made against someone who is the child's parent or is acting in the role of a parent,” said Christine Wright, who is the director of the Aiken County Department of Social Services. “We also get involved when a parent knows about an allegation of sexual abuse and is not protective of the child.”
The Department of Social Services cases that involve child abuse are heard in Aiken County Family Court.
“The Solicitor's Office has to prove its cases beyond a reasonable doubt,” Wright said. “But we only have to prove that it is more likely than not that sexual abuse has occurred.”
Making sure youngsters are safe after sexual abuse allegations have been made is a priority for the Department of Social Services.
“We look for a solution that is the least disruptive for the child,” Wright said. “We want the perpetrator to be out of the child's home, and if there is a nonoffending parent who will meet the child's needs, we will place the child with him or her. But if that isn't an option, we will look for a relative or a close family friend who is be able to be the caregiver. The last option would be foster care placement, and that's done in coordination with Family Court or law enforcement.”
Other actions taken by the Department of Social Services can include making treatment plans for the child, nonoffending parent and/or perpetrator.
If there is a finding of sexual abuse in family court or criminal court, the molester's name can be placed in The Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect. South Carolina's Department of Social Services maintains the statewide list.
NUAMES student shares story of sex abuse, starting nationwide education movement
by JaNae Francis
LAYTON — Jaime Heiner remembers well the day her life felt like it was turning back around. She had arrived at her Kaysville home to find a bouquet of flowers on her doorstep.
When Jaime discovered the flowers were actually for her, she felt a warm embrace from the person who had sent them. And that person was a stranger.
“I said to myself: ‘Someone actually cares. I'm not alone. I'm not worthless,' ” she said.
That stranger was Lauren Wilko, who is now the Backyard Broadcast station chief for Davis High School.
Backyard Broadcast is a teen movement that started in Davis County and is spreading across the country. The effort is designed to stomp out child sexual abuse and especially human trafficking through advertising — broadcasting — about the problem in ways that help victims and educate potential victims about staying safe.
“Youth can power together to change the world,” Jaime said of the movement.
Jamie, 17, says she was sexually abused by someone she looked up to and who was a family friend.
Breaking free from the toxic relationship was difficult because her abuser said her life would be over if she ever told anyone about what he did to her, Jamie said.
But what she found when she did come forward and others reached out in support was quite the opposite.
“It was seriously a miracle,” she said.
After receiving the flowers from Lauren, Jaime started her own Backyard Broadcast group at Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science, a charter school in Layton where she is a junior.
“Throughout my process of healing, I found out that service was the best thing I could do,” she said.
“I have had several girls say they were victims of sexual abuse. ... It has been amazing to have someone else say, ‘I've been a victim, too, and I want to make a difference.' ”
Since Jamie started the group in March, interest has grown to about 40 members who are enthusiastic about talking to others about this issue.
The members wear their Backyard Broadcast T-shirts every week, and they just finished a monthlong effort to wear them every school day to spark conversations about human trafficking and sexual abuse.
“The shirts are $10,” said Clearfield resident Alex Bingham, a senior and the newest member of the NUAMES Backyard Broadcast.
“If you can't give that to stop child abuse, what would motivate you to stop child abuse?”
Merritt Cook, a junior from Layton and the vice station chief of the NUAMES group, said she believes child sexual abuse and human trafficking are important issues for people to know about and to strive to change.
Merritt said one of her college professors told her class about going into a bar in Korea and seeing girls there up for auction.
“It is horrible,” she said. “Their families knowingly sell them into this industry.”
She told of a story about a 15-year-old girl in the United States who was sold by her father, who then held her down during repeated abuses over three years.
And Merritt said a friend's eyes were opened when she went with her family to hang out on the streets and pretend to be homeless.
She said a man tried to persuade the friend to get into his car by saying he would take her to get food.
When the friend said no, Merritt said, the man went and got the food but then drove away without giving it to her when he saw her talking to her mother.
The friend said she later realized how tempting it would have been to get into that car if she had actually been desperate for something to eat.
One thing Jaime said she has learned is that many people don't believe child sexual abuse even happens in Davis County.
When Jaime talked and played the piano at a Prevent Child Abuse Utah event, she said, “One woman came up and said, ‘There's no way you can live in Davis County because there is no way sexual abuse happens in Davis County.' ”
But Jaime believes the problem exists everywhere.
According to childrescue.org, every two minutes in America, someone sells a child for sex.
Studies by David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:
• One in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
• Self-report studies show that 20 percent of adult females and 5 to 10 percent of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident.
• During a one-year period in the U.S., 16 percent of those ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized.
• Over a lifetime, 28 percent of those ages 14 to 17 in the U.S. had been sexually victimized.
• Children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.
Jamie said she also has learned that pedophiles look like everybody else.
“What little kid is going to get in a car with a scary man?” she said. “They look normal until they get behind closed doors.”
When Jaime's mother, Sue Heiner, was asked what she wished she had known before allowing an abuser access to her daughter, she said, “I wish I knew pedophiles come in all shapes and sizes. They are not the scary-looking people of our imaginations. They can be educated, friendly, normal-looking people.”
She also learned to keep her eyes open to the possibility that sex abuse can happen.
Jaime said keeping her abuse in the open has given her the power to speak in a way that makes people listen — and it has given her the power to make a difference.
“Part of the things Backyard Broadcast has done for me is help me decide what to do with my life,” she said. “I love how it makes me feel I can make a change.”
Jamie said her career plans now are to become an advocate for victims.
Click here for more information about Backyard Broadcast.
Kingston-based advocacy center serves needs of abuse victims
by PATRICIA DOXSEY
Just off of Broadway in Midtown Kingston, at 21 O'Neil St., sits an unassuming two-story house with a wooden porch.
A small plaque in the front yard announces it as the Ulster County Family and Child Advocacy Center.
Inside, brightly colored decals adorn the walls and inviting pint-sized furniture and stuffed animals fill most of the first-floor rooms.
Behind one door, accessible only to those with an electronic code to unlock it, is a room in which can be found another child-sized metal table — one that no child should ever have to see.
It's an examination table, used by the center's pediatrician to check children for indications of sexual abuse.
Opened last September, the center, one of only a few in the state, is the culmination of a process that began in 1994, when, following five murder-suicides in Ulster County, a multidisciplinary team under the auspices of the county Department of Social Services and the District Attorney's Office came together to develop a multijursidictional approach to domestic violence and the sexual abuse of children.
The facility is staffed by three Child Protective Services investigators and a supervisor and three members of law enforcement — one from the state police, one from the Ulster County Sheriff's Office and one from the Ulster town police. It is overseen by state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Senior Investigator Jimmy McKoy and also employs a receptionist and a victims' advocate. The center contracts, as needed, with a therapist, a pediatrician trained in child sexual abuse and a Spanish interpreter.
The facility's two primary tasks are reviewing all reports and maintaining a database of domestic violence in the county, and investigating the most serious allegations of abuse.
At present, the center maintains a database of more than 35,000 domestic violence incidents. The goal, McKoy said, is to track those cases to determine whether the center's staff should proactively address incidents of domestic violence within a family.
If investigators detect a pattern of domestic violence, they can reach out in a nonconfrontational manner to victims and offer services that can help victims escape their batterers.
“We don't just show up at your home,” said Michael Iapoce, the commissioner of the Ulster County Department of Social Services. “We are very sensitive about making sure we don't put a victim at risk.”
“Oftentimes, that's the call the victim is waiting for,” said Lynn Carlson, the assistant director of services for the Department of Social Services and supervisor of the center's Child Protective Services unit.
“It's hard to quantify your successes because you never know when tragedy is going to strike,” Carlson said. Even so, she said, a number of women have come back and thanked the center's workers for helping them leave their batterers and end the cycle of abuse.
“I think we have a lot of success stories,” Carlson said.
Barbara Sorkin, the deputy commissioner of the county Department of Social Services, said the domestic violence component at the center has a “very different mission” than at similar facilities in other counties and puts Ulster on the “cutting edge” of addressing domestic violence.
Still, like at centers in other counties, child abuse is a major focus of the Ulster County Family and Child Advocacy Center. In 2012, the center's staff investigated 347 of the 2,240 allegations of abuse or neglect in Ulster County that were called into the state's central registry for child abuse.
Of those incidents reported, 121 were for child abuse, including 84 allegations of sexual abuse against children. The remaining 221 reports concerned neglect or maltreatment.
While officials had been using a coordinated approach to investigating allegations of sexual abuse against children, they knew that having one location where a child could be examined and interviewed would ease the trauma of what was to come.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said the creation of the Ulster County Child and Family Advocacy Center was a community effort, with the Red Cross leasing the building to the county and paying for the cost of renovations; and the Bruderhof, an Ulster County Christian community, providing the labor to convert the building into a facility where children could be examined, interviewed and counseled and law-enforcement and child protective staff could work side by side.
Training for those who would work at the facility, as well as all the furnishings and equipment, were financed through a state Child and Family Safety grant.
“As a parent, this is the kind of place you wish never had to exist, but as the county executive, who understands the challenges faced by traumatized children, I thank God it exists,” Hein said.
Immediately, members of the multidisciplinary team said, they could see a difference in the reactions of children.
“When we used to do this years ago, law enforcement (who must investigate the criminality of alleged abuse) may have gotten the case late in the evening, after the child's been here and there, and by the time we see them, they're exhausted and asleep,” McKoy said.
By bringing all those services together under one roof, officials are able to limit the level of “secondary trauma” to the child who previously had to repeatedly recount the details of the abuse.
“It's one person, one interview,” McKoy said. “Previously, the child would have seen four or five different people.”
“People only dreamed of this in 1994,” Hein said. “To bring that dream to fruition is a very proud moment for my administration.”
NSW legal aid refuses to fund sex abuse claims
The New South Wales legal aid service has come under fire for its decision not to fund any compensation cases for institutional child sexual abuse.
Legal Aid NSW says it is expecting a large number of compensation applications as a result of the Federal Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
However, it has decided it will not fund the applications, saying they will impact disproportionately on its budget.
It follows the State Government's recent changes to the Victim's Compensation Scheme which means most victims of institutional abuse would not be eligible for compensation.
Greens MP David Shoebridge says it is a double blow for victims.
"This is a free pass for the Catholic Church and those other institutions that have abused children," he said.
"Just as they thought governments were finally listening to them, they got a Royal Commission, they thought they were being respected, they're now being told that the State Government is entirely going to cut legal aid.
"So they get a Royal Commission but they can never get compensation."
Mr Shoebridge says Legal Aid NSW should be given extra funding to pursue compensation for institutional abuse, saying the funds would be recouped if the claims were successful.
"At the end of the day if there's a solid case and the claims are successful, much of the funding can be recovered from the institutions that have failed these children in the first place," he said.
"This is an investment that the Government needs to make to ensure that victims of abuse get a modicum of justice."
New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has acknowledged that legal aid has scarce resources, but shied away from questions about increasing funding to the service.
"You can only live within your means but I make the point that within the federal royal commission, the argument and what it's been asked to look [at] is how you can get compensation from those institutions who have allegedly been involved in perpetrating this child sexual abuse," he said.
Woman Tells Her Story of Sex Trafficking and Incest
Connie Rose shared her story with NBC 6
by Myriam Masihy
Pictures of Connie Rose as a teenager in the 1970s should bring her a smile.
The statuesque brunette looks like a model in the photos, but Rose, a 56-year-old Tampa resident, says the suggestive poses of that teenage girl hide a horrifying tale of abuse.
“I am a survivor of almost 14 years of incest, about three, almost four years, of sex trafficking and I'm also the daughter of a sex offender and my pimp was my dad,” Rose said.
Rose says her father Zenon Anastassiou began sexually molesting her when she was a toddler. She says he told her it was a cultural thing and it gradually escalated into rape by the time she was 13. Anastassiou pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity with another child and assault against that child in 1987. Though Rose never brought charges against her father, she says her childhood was plagued by abuse and emotional extortion.
She says his message was clear: “You want to live in this house? You like the clothes that you get to wear? … Well, if you tell or you stop having sex with me that's all just going to go away.”
Just short of 16, Rose says she mustered up the courage to hold a knife to her father and tell him to stop.
“He laughed. He literally laughed in my face and he said I've been waiting for this day.”
That's when he allegedly began selling her to other men, using provocative and naked pictures he took of her. The torture allegedly lasted until she was 19 when she got married. Decades later, stories like hers continue to repeat themselves in Florida, a state that's become a hub for child sex trafficking.
Noel Thomas, the anti-human trafficking coordinator for the Department of Children and Families, says: “Florida is number three in the United States based on call volume for human trafficking.”
Thomas says children fall into sex trafficking through force, fraud or coercion.
That was the alleged case of a Miami-Dade teenager that NBC 6 interviewed last year. Her identity was not revealed because she is a minor. That teenager showed NBC 6 hotels where she had sold her body.
Police say Eugene Sneed and an accomplice befriended her in the least likely of places.
In a Miami-Dade courtroom a prosecutor said Sneed “… coerced a child of 13 years of age who they met in middle school and then put her on Biscayne Boulevard to prostitute herself to men.” Sneed pleaded not guilty to the sex trafficking charge.
Experts say children are also targeted at malls where they hang out with friends and on social media. Pimps profile kids and after learning what makes them tick, they swoop in using fake identities online or good-looking teens, known as runners, as bait.
Thomas says: “So when they actually get a connection and have someone meet them in person they oftentimes rape and abuse them and victimize them, all with photographs and video, using it as blackmail which just further pushes them into the life of human trafficking."
Rose described an approach human traffickers take this way: “…if you don't want your parents to see what you did and you don't want everybody at school to see what you did, you need to meet me next weekend at this place and then before you know it, this girl is then going to be sold."
Jorge Veitia runs SolMedia, an organization that tries to combat human trafficking by educating South Florida businesses.
Veitia showed NBC 6 spots in Miami Beach where sex traffickers target children, such as bus stops.
“This is an area where a guy will pull in, pick up a girl and go," he said of one.
With the help of volunteers, Veitia shows pictures of missing children who may have become sex trafficking victims after being kidnapped or running away from home or foster care.
“Statistics are showing that one in three of these kids end up being exploited within 48 hours," Veitia says.
He explains that once pimps have their victims, they market them using tools like online classified sites.
“Somehow like any good predator, pimps know where to find these children and present them with an opportunity to get a dinner or a safe place to sleep or to actually become their boyfriend," Veitia says.
Kim Butler is one of the volunteers that hit the streets of South Beach looking for missing children in hotels and other businesses.
Butler, who is also the pastor at Miami Dream Center and Miami Beach House of Prayer, said, “We started in January and every month we have had someone identified as being seen … sometimes they're a little bit nervous so they'll just point to the picture.”
Volunteers then report those sightings to the police but rescuing them is not easy because many times the victims develop love bonds with the trafficker.
Thomas said, “… So when they're removed from that environment, they'll oftentimes, without a chance to be deprogrammed and given rehabilitation, they'll run right back to the traffickers."
To aid in the recovery, Florida recently approved the Safe Harbor Law that allows minors rescued from prostitution to receive help instead of being sent to jail. But advocates say that's not enough, and that people need to be on the lookout for signs of child abuse and exploitation.
Butler said, “Somebody has to look for these girls and I feel like that's the attitude we need to take. If we were all too afraid to go out, then what about the girls that are missing?
Currently there are more than 50 South Florida children missing – girls and boys who could be in danger of falling into the hands of traffickers who are behind this “modern day slavery.”
Sex trafficking programs on the city's chopping block
by KGW staff
PORTLAND -- A $21.5 million budget shortfall is forcing Portland's mayor to make some tough choices, and several programs on the chopping block help teenage sex trafficking victims.
A hearing at Warner Pacific College started at 3 p.m. Saturday and city leaders are getting an earful from concerned citizens.
This is the second of three public meetings and the mayor is listening to all the testimony.
Earlier Saturday, KGW spent some time with a team of professionals who help young sex trafficking victims. They believe the city's proposed cuts could cost many young lives.
Escaping what young sex trafficking victims call “the life” is extremely difficult. However, more kids are getting a chance at normal lives thanks to several city programs, which now face $631,000 in proposed cuts.
“These are not kids or families that you see on Burnside and Second. They're scattered across the city every socio-economic category,” said Kevin Donegan who runs a shelter for sex abuse victims.
The city wants to cut several key positions, which Donegan says are instrumental in helping these troubled kids.
“I can't tell you how many times I have a 14 or 15-year-old girl here who's addicted to meth. It's just a nightmare to see,” he said.
“The budget cuts are saying to the most vulnerable youth in our city that they don't matter and that's what they've already been told by pimps and failed systems, so that's what I think is the worst part because they do matter,” said case manager Tanell Morton.
Morton is one of four case managers with the sexual assault resource center. She pounds the pavement every day giving support to sex trafficking victims--some as young at 11 years old.
“Our girls are in every public school, every alternative school. They're everywhere, in the grocery stores in the malls. They are all throughout our city,” Morton said.
Under the city's proposed cuts, Morton would lose her job along with another case worker. The remaining two workers would be forced to split all 120 sex trafficking cases in the city.
“We're going to lose more children in our city to extreme violence and nightly violence if they're not being killed they're still incurring violence every single night,” Morton said.
Local prosecutions for pimps have increased 350 percent in the last few years but the deputy district attorney's job that's behind all that is scheduled to be cut.
The next and last public hearing is set for next Thursday.
Project Rose targets Valley sex trafficking
by Natalie Brand
PHOENIX -- A two-day special sex trafficking operation, “Project Rose,” aimed to help nearly 100 people picked up off the streets of Phoenix.
The two-part operation focused on arresting traffickers and offering the victims of trafficking a special diversion program.
Police brought dozens of women to Bethany Bible Church over the span of Thursday and Friday. Once inside, they received information about resources available, ranging from medical care, mental health, crisis counseling and housing options.
“I'm like a host here,” said Sabrina White, a survivor of sex trafficking. “I greet the women, and I walk them through the process.”
White knows the pain of a lifestyle she endured for nearly 30 years.
“I was 16 when I first started,” said White. “I was raped several times, beaten several times.”
White managed to escape the world of sex trafficking through a program she wants others to know about. Project Rose, now an annual event, is a joint effort by Phoenix Police, ASU School of Social Work and Phoenix Prosecutor's Office. It offers a diversion program to those picked up in a two sting operation.
“We use our own officers to go out and solicit to see if that is in fact what they're doing. If it is, and we determine probable cause for their arrest, then we arrest them, and instead of taking them to the revolving door of jail, in, out, back on the street, we have this great program to offer to them,” said Officer James Holmes of Phoenix Police.
“We have about a 33 percent success rate. A lot of people will say that's not really a lot, but you're talking about 33 lives out of 100 that we've actually saved that's not gone back into the streets,” said Officer Holmes.
Sabrina White is one of those success stories. She's now returned to school and volunteers in her spare time. She credits the Dignity Diversion program, offered through Catholic Charities, for helping to save her life.
“I would probably be dead now; I'm almost sure, if I had stayed out there any longer,” said White.
Phoenix police tell 3TV this year they noticed an increase in needs for medical care and crisis counseling. As part of the operation, police gain intelligence and information about sex trafficking in the region.
Helping Victims of Human Trafficking Escape Abuse
by Tia Ewing
SACRAMENTO- It's a life that no girl dreams of when she grows up, life as a prostitute.
“I've been robbed, shot at, stabbed, and thrown out of cars when they are still moving,” said Amber. She started prostituting before she was old enough to drink. We are using the name Amber to protect her identity.
It's her reality and she says it pays her well, $1,000 a day.
It was tough listening to the mother of three; her story is one of pain and struggle.
We know sex-trafficking is a huge problem in our communities. FOX40 is committed to not only bringing you the news, but seeking help for those who need healing.
That's why we turned to Weave, Inc. Their mission is to help women who are victims of sex-trafficking.
“We are seeing younger and younger victims, many don't know they are being trafficked,” said Beth Hassett, the Executive Director of Weave Inc. in Sacramento.
Hassett says they've seen girls as young as 12-years-old working the streets and many have been convinced by their pimp that they're loved.
“Just convincing them that they've been trafficked is a huge challenge and trying to get them to use resources is difficult,” said Hassett.
The manipulators play mind games, convincing the women or young girls that they can't leave, even though there's an open door.
“She wants to be believed, there's a struggle for her and she wants people to believe her. That's the true story for any sexual assault victim.”
If you know anyone who is involved in sex trafficking and they need help you can call Weave, Inc. 24-hours a day. Their number is (916) 920-2952 or visit www.weaveinc.org
Nonprofits, state agencies work to help victims of human trafficking
by Savannah King
Jennifer Robson sits in front of her laptop computer and scrolls through a list of ads on an adult website, looking for a local woman to call.
Robson is the founder of Beautiful Feet Ministries, which reaches out to women and children involved in the sex trafficking industry in Hall County.
Robson recently started a call center where she and another female member of the ministry go through the lists of ads looking for local women they can help.
Beautiful Feet is part of Straight Street Revolutions in Gainesville and is also affiliated with an Atlanta-based sex trafficking rescue organization called Out of Darkness. Robson tries to share the organization's hotline number and website with every woman she calls.
“We're trying to build relationships up over the phone,” Robson said. “And we're trying to help these ladies out and let them know they're not alone and we're praying for them. If they want or need a way out of the industry, there is a way out.”
In 2005, the FBI deemed Atlanta to be one of the top 14 cities in the country for sex trafficking, with the highest incidence of child exploitation for prostitution.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Human Trafficking Unit, an average of 100 juvenile girls are exploited each night in Georgia. The average age of a girl when she is first prostituted is 13. Most victims of human sex trafficking are female but there are male victims, too.
Robson clicks on an ad revealing a photo of a young woman posing provocatively. It says the woman's name is “Jenna” and lists her prices — $175 for “whole,” $125 for “half.”
Robson explains that the ads often use vague language and false names. Some ads will spell out words using symbols and numbers instead of letters; others say “donations” or specific services are accepted in exchange for sex. One of the online advertisements notes that a woman will perform a sex act in exchange for lawn service.
Robson said there is much more sex trafficking going on in the area than most people realize.
“A lot of stuff is done online in this area,” Robson said. “I'm pretty sure there's a lot going on in low-income areas. From all of my training, I've learned about residential brothels, things that we would never even know exist. Especially with tons of people coming from different countries, we don't know who's here and who's not here. That would be so easy to happen here in Hall County. No one would even know about it unless they knew what signs to look out for.”
Several community organizations are working to raise awareness locally and to help the public recognize the signs.
WomenSource, a nonprofit aimed at empowering women in Northeast Georgia, recently held a Brown Bag Lunch focusing on the topic of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Grayson Pratt, vice president of advocacy and initiatives of The Junior League of Atlanta, presented the group with information about “the business” in an effort to raise awareness.
Pratt said she became infuriated as she learned more about what is involved in sex trafficking and quickly realized everything she'd assumed about the business and where it was conducted was wrong.
According to a Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children demand study by the Juvenile Justice Fund in Atlanta, geographically the largest group of men who purchase sex with young females is found in the north metro Atlanta area. Most “buyers” are between the ages of 30 and 39.
“When I heard that I thought, ‘Those are the men I know,'” Pratt said. “Those are my husband's friends, those are my friends. Probably someone that I know has hired a child at some point in their life.”
The Internet has opened avenues for sex trade that didn't exist before and provides an easy marketing platform for pimps and prostitutes.
Pratt said pimps often go online to find young girls to exploit, seeking out suggestive photos on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.
“A lot of the ways these buyers find these girls is online,” Pratt said. “They go through Craigslist and pornography.”
Pratt said grass-roots awareness is key to ending the business and preventing more children from being exploited. She encouraged the group of women at the luncheon to get “thoroughly freaked out.”
State departments are taking action to end sex trafficking, too.
In March, state Attorney General Sam Olens launched the “Georgia's Not Buying It” campaign to combat child sex trafficking. The campaign is focused on ending the demand for the sex trade of children.
The campaign's website, www.notbuyingit.org, provides information and a pledge form for men to get involved in the campaign. It also offers a warning to buyers saying, “Your secret is out. Georgia isn't buying the lie.”
Human traffickers face 25 years to life in prison, increased in July 2011 from a maximum of 20 years. Offenders also can be fined up to $100,000.
The Georgia Department of Education hosted a two-day conference in Atlanta to train educators and school employees to recognize and combat sex trafficking.
Jarod Anderson, director of learning support for Gainesville City Schools, did not attend the conference but said the system tries to keep up with all the information coming out from the state department about child abuse or human trafficking.
Anderson said that it's very important for teachers and school employees to notice symptoms of abuse, such as bruising or poor attendance, and notify the Division of Child and Family Services to conduct an investigation.
Because the symptoms could indicate other problems, educators follow a strict protocol to ensure they're not harming the child by trying to help. The teacher notifies a counselor who will then notify DFACS and begin an investigation if any abuse is suspected.
While Anderson said he hasn't personally experienced or heard of any particular cases of child sex trafficking “that's not to say it hasn't happened.”
The biggest thing that schools and parents can do, Anderson said, is to help children understand boundaries and how to get help should they need it. Establishing strong personal boundaries and self-esteem may be enough to prevent some children from ever getting involved in the industry.
“You just hope that something they've been taught by parents or picked up from school would be enough to cause them to say ‘no' or make some alarms go off,” Anderson said.
All the organizations aimed at sex trafficking agree that awareness is key to combating the problem.
Robson said she thinks it's awesome how many people are aware that there is a local industry and want to get involved.
“There's this huge awareness in Hall County,” Robson said. “But I don't know if we're putting a dent in it because this kind of ministry, of outreach, is not like you can go in and save the day and come out and everyone's good in the end. It's a long process.”
Mexican sex traffickers moving into U.S.
by Krupskaia Alis and Rafael Romo, CNN
Joanna moves her hands nervously as she speaks. Her oversized, golden earrings rattle as she shakes her head to make a point. Joanna is not her real name. She's speaking on the condition that CNN will protect her privacy and not disclose her real name. She's only 16 years old, but has already experienced a lifetime of horror, abuse and torture. She's a former sex slave.
It all started when she met a charming man. "I was in a normal relationship with him for three months," she says. At the time she was only 14 years old. She was treated like royalty and fell in love. A few months later he asked her to elope and she agreed.
"He promised that we would get a house and that we would raise children. I was naïve and believed everything he said. We started living together in July and by September he was already forcing me to work as a prostitute," Joanna said.
By then it had become painfully clear that Joanna's boyfriend was in reality her captor, a pimp who preyed on young, vulnerable teenagers whom he recruited in central Mexico with the purpose of forcing them into prostitution.
Joanna says she was forced to have sex with dozens of men for as many as 18 hours a day. There were days, she says, she would only sleep a couple of hours before starting another long and painful shift, sleeping with strangers who paid only a few dollars to be with her 15 minutes. The worst part was that if she failed to make at least $600 a day, she faced severe punishment.
"He hit me many times with a phone cable. He would hit me in the legs and hands. One time he started beating me with a broomstick. He beat me so hard that I couldn't even get up afterwards," Joanna said.
According to the Mexico City Human Rights Commission, as many as 70,000 minors in Mexico are victims of human trafficking. Most of them are subjected to forced labor, but a significant number are forced into prostitution, as in the case of Joanna.
Over the last decade, the problem has crossed the U.S. border. The arrests of 13 people in New York state in late April suggests pimps are also fond of getting cash, not only in Mexican pesos, but also in U.S. dollars.
According to authorities, the suspects worked a "sex trafficking corridor," transporting women from the small town of Tenancingo, in the central Mexican state of Tlaxcala, to the New York area.
Over a period of seven years, federal officials say, dozens of women were exploited; some of them were illegally transported from Mexico. Once in the United States, they were forced to have sex with as many as 30 customers per day, according to the federal complaint charging all 13 suspects. Victims were paid $30 to $35, the complaint says. Their driver would keep half. The other half went to the pimp, and the victims were left with nothing.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the defendants blatantly lied to their victims in order to recruit them.
"With promises of a better life, the members of this alleged sex trafficking and prostitution ring lured their unsuspecting victims to the United States and then consigned them to a living hell - forcing them to become sex slaves living in abhorrent conditions, and using threats, verbal abuse, and violence – sexual and otherwise – when they resisted and even sometimes when they didn't," Bharara said.
The complaint describes how one victim was smuggled into the United States with her young child. Once in New York, she was made to sleep on the floor with the child. But that was just the beginning of her ordeal. On one occasion, when the woman refused to work as a prostitute, she and her child were forced to stay outside on a cold winter night.
Federal agents conducted raids at six locations, including four brothels in Yonkers, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Queens. If convicted, the suspects face anywhere from two years in prison to life.
Humberto Padgett is a Mexican journalist who wrote a book titled "Intimate Portrait of a Pimp." Based on years of research and interviews with victims and pimps, the book describes how Mexican pimps operate and how they exploit their victims.
Padgett says trafficking young women in Mexico has increased faster than drug trafficking in recent years.
"You can only sell a kilo of marijuana once. But you can sell a woman multiple times, even as many as 60 times per day. In five years, a woman can make as much as a million dollars for her pimp," Padgett says.
Last year, Mexico approved a law that makes human trafficking a federal crime punishable by up to 40 years in prison. The law targets not only those involved in sex trafficking, but also other forms of modern slavery, including forced labor and child pornography.
Padgett says pimps force women to stay with them by threatening to kill family members if they escape.
Maria, another former sex slave who asked that her real name not be used, lost her father six months after escaping her pimp. The now-17-year-old believes the prostitution ring that held her is responsible for his murder.
"More than anything, I feel guilty about my father's death. Sometimes I think that I should've stayed with the pimp so that he would kill me and not my father," Maria says.
She's back with her family, but still suffers from depression and nightmares associated with the verbal and physical abuse to which she was subjected.
"There's no way I'm ever going to feel better," she says. "They destroyed my life."
Will Boy Scouts accept gay youth? Vote is imminent
by DAVID CRARY
With its ranks deeply divided, the Boy Scouts of America is asking its local leaders from across the country to decide whether its contentious membership policy should be overhauled so that openly gay boys can participate in Scout units.
The proposal to be put before the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council on Thursday, at a meeting in Grapevine, Texas, would retain the Scouts' long-standing ban on gays serving in adult leadership positions.
Nonetheless, some conservatives within and outside the BSA community have denounced the proposal, saying the Scouts' traditions would be undermined by the presence of openly gay youth. There have been warnings of mass defections if the ban is even partially lifted.
From the other flank, gay-rights supporters and some Scout leaders from politically liberal areas have welcomed the proposed change as a positive first step, but are calling on the BSA to go further and lift the ban on gay adults as well.
The Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith, said the policy toward gays had become "the most complex and challenging issue" facing the BSA at a time when it is struggling to stem a steady drop in membership.
"Ultimately we can't anticipate how people will vote but we do know that the result will not match everyone's personal preference," Smith said in an email.
In January, the BSA floated a plan to give sponsors of local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them. However, it changed course, in part because of surveys sent out starting in February to members of the Scouting community.
Of the more than 200,000 leaders, parents and youth members who responded, 61 percent supported the current policy of excluding gays, while 34 percent opposed it.
Those findings contrasted with a Washington Post-ABC News national poll earlier this month. It said 63 percent of respondents favored letting openly gay youth be Scouts, and 56 percent favored lifting the ban on gay adults.
Over the past several weeks, numerous public events have been staged by advocacy groups on different sides of the debate.
A group called Scouts for Equality has organized rallies in several cities aimed at urging local BSA councils to support an end to the ban on gay youth. Rallies opposing any easing of the ban, for youth or adults, have been organized by a group called OnMyHonor.net, which claims the pending proposal "requires open homosexuality in the Boy Scouts."
Both groups plan to have their leaders and supporters on hand in Grapevine as the vote takes place.
Among those heading to Grapevine to lobby for an easing of the ban are Tracie Felker and her 16-year-old son, Pascal Tessier, who, though openly gay, is on track to become an Eagle Scout as a member of Boy Scout Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, Md.
"We are absolutely dedicated to restoring integrity to Boy Scouting and reinvigorating the program," Felker said. "That can only be done by removing the stain of discrimination."
Passions also run deep on the other side, as evidenced by a live online event titled "Stand With Scouts Sunday" presented May 5 by the conservative Family Research Council. The council opposes lifting the ban on gay youth, saying such a change "will dramatically alter the culture and moral landscape of America."
Among the participants was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who lauded the Scouts' tradition of character-building.
"For pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because this happens to be the flavor of the month ... that is just not appropriate," Perry said. "Frankly I hope the American people stand up and say, 'Not on my watch.'"
Also appearing on the webcast was Jeremy Miller, a Scout leader from Ohio who said the proposed change "will open the door to boy-on-boy sexual contact, bullying and older Scouts being predators on younger scouts."
The BSA's national leadership has rejected such warnings as ill-founded. "The BSA makes no connection between the sexual abuse or victimization of a child and homosexuality," a new background document says. "The BSA takes strong exception to this assertion."
Of the more than 100,000 Scouting units in the U.S., 70 percent are chartered by religious institutions. While these sponsors include liberal churches opposed to any ban on gays, some of the largest sponsors are relatively conservative denominations that have supported the broad ban - notably the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Southern Baptist churches.
Knowing these churches oppose scouting roles for gay adults, the BSA leadership hopes they will be willing to back the easing of the ban on gay youth. As part of this effort, the BSA is emphasizing that sexual conduct by any Scout - straight or gay - would be considered unacceptable.
"We are unaware of any major religious chartered organization that believes a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation," the Scouts say in their new background document.
Southern Baptist leaders were outspoken earlier this year in opposing the tentative plan to let Scout units decide for themselves if they wanted to accept gays as adult leaders.
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, said the new proposal "is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality," but he nonetheless favors its defeat.
"A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support," Page told Baptist Press, the SBC's official news agency.
Baptist Press reported that the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., was considering ending a nearly 75-year sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop if the policy change prevails. The church's senior pastor, Ernest Easley, echoed warnings from other Southern Baptist leaders that any BSA accommodation of gays might prompt defections and trigger an expansion of the SBC's own youth group for boys, the Royal Ambassadors. According to BSA figures, Baptist churches sponsor Scout units with about 108,000 youth members.
Leaders of some smaller conservative denominations - including the Assemblies of God and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod - have signed a statement opposing the proposal to accept gay youth.
Some larger sponsors have either endorsed the proposal, or - in the case of the United Methodist Church and Catholic Church - declined to specify a position. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting issued a statement describing the membership debate as "difficult and sensitive" but stopping short of any explicit recommendation for how Catholic delegates to the BSA meeting should vote.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in April that it supports the new proposal, saying the BSA made a good-faith effort to address a complex issue. The Mormons sponsor more Scout units than any other organization, serving about 430,000 of the 2.6 million youth in Scouting.
The United Methodists are the second-largest sponsor, serving about 363,000 youth members; the Catholic Church is No. 3, with a youth membership of about 273,000.
Several regional Scout councils already have declared their position on the membership proposal.
In Tennessee, the Nashville-based Middle Tennessee Council and Jackson-based West Tennessee Area Council said they oppose the proposed change and support the current broad ban on gay youth and adults.
"We are continuing to uphold the standards, beliefs and traditions Scouting has held for over 100 years," said Lee Beaman, board president of the Middle Tennessee Council, which says it serves 35,000 youth and adults.
The day after that announcement, Bill Moser, a longtime Scout leader in Clarksville, Tenn., announced his resignation, saying he couldn't support a policy that would force openly gay youth out of Scouting when they turned 18.
The Greater New York Councils, which serve about 43,000 Scouts in New York City, is supporting the proposal to accept gay youths, calling it "a positive step forward." It is among the councils urging the Scouts to also accept gays as adult leaders.
The Los Angeles Area Council said it follows a nondiscrimination policy that extends to sexual orientation and it proposed that the BSA adopt a similar policy nationwide, opening its ranks to openly gay adults as well as youth.
However, the BSA leadership says no such alternative proposals will be put to a vote at the Grapevine meeting - only the single proposal to lift the ban on gay youth.
If the proposal is approved, the new policy would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. A task force already has been created to oversee its implementation.
Vermont lengthens statute of limitations for sex crimes against children
by Abigail Bleck
"A significant number of people go into their 30s, 40s and even 50s before they decide to come forward or even remember of the sexual abuse," explains Mark Lyman of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, in Albany.
Vermont, however, accomplished what New York has not. Just this week in Montpelier, the House and Senate increased the statute of limitations for sexual abuse against a child from 24 years to 40.
"This is clearly having an effect on our ability to protect today's children and really to do something about it," says Christina Rainville, Bennington County's Chief Deputy State's Attorney and the prosecutor who helped legislators draft the bill.
Rainville believes the change was necessary because children are often too fearful to report abuse at the hands of an authority figure. They also don't always realize--or remember--that it occurred, especially with young children. And for those who do, reliving the pain necessary for a successful prosecution isn't always possible.
"A huge percentage develop PTSD. They physically and neurologically aren't capable of dealing with the trauma. They can't talk and anything that reminds them sets off the triggers," adds Rainville.
Back in Albany, where the Legislative Session is nearing wraps, Lyman hopes New York notes and acts after Montpelier's progress.
"We need it. We've been asking for this legislation for many years but the time has come. We need this legislation now."
Vermont's Governor Peter Shumlin has not signed the bill yet but according to Rainville, she hasn't heard that he won't.
In previous years, New York's Assembly approved a statute of limitations change but the Senate did not.
Sexual abuse advocates say no statute of limitations at all would be best and also laws that allow for retroactive prosecution.
If you see signs of child abuse, remember Larry
by Rekha Basu
Nineteen years ago on Christmas Day, Larry Wohlgemuth, then 40, tied cinder blocks around his waist, put a gun in his mouth, and perched on the side of his fishing boat.
“There had been so much pain that I'd finally reached my limit,” Wohlgemuth would write in a stunning, first-person book called “Larry Tells Stories” that recently was self-published.
The pain was physical and emotional, inflicted by parents and relatives. It led to a spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, womanizing, and inability to find happiness in a marriage. He had enlisted in the military and drifted through jobs in technical support, sales and restaurant management, but eventually, post-traumatic stress disorder left him barely functioning.
This was him at the time of his intended suicide: “If I managed to fall asleep at night, I'd wake up screaming with nightmares. I had panic attacks that were so severe I'd lose all bowel and bladder control. If people were behind me where I couldn't see them, it caused unbearable anxiety. If someone came up behind me unnoticed, I would jump out of my skin.”
But he couldn't pull the trigger.
It's not often you get such an intimate survivor's account, especially from male victims, of the types of assaults against children that increasingly make news. It's tough to read, but knowing there is a happy ending helps, as does the conversational writing style, which is like a friend talking. (The book is available from Amazon.com.)
Larry says he was raped by his father's stepfather, starting when Larry was 3 and spent days being cared for at his grandparents' house. The man threatened to drill holes in his head and cut off his arm if he told anyone. Because it took place in the garage, the tools were brandished as weapons. If his grandmother heard his screams, she never responded.
She knew, however. So, eventually, did Larry's parents, when he told them at age 5. No one had picked up on the rectal bleeding that had him seeing a doctor. His parents would confront the older couple, but later resumed sending Larry back to his offender.
“Dad threw me back into the hands of a pedophile to resolve their financial situation,” he wrote. To justify doing so, his mother told the neighbors — in whom she had earlier confided about the abuse — that Larry had made it up.
At home, his father's heavy drinking and fits of rage would lead to weekly physical assaults. Larry's mother made him the sacrificial lamb to protect his siblings. His mother only would intervene to prevent suspicious marks on his face.
Then came her “brainwashing” sessions — saying it wasn't so bad, that his father did it because he loved him, and that Larry was strong enough to take it.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's adverse childhood experiences study surveyed 17,000 general patients about their childhoods, focusing on disruptive events including abuse, neglect, household substance use or mental illness; violence against the mother and parental divorce. Fifteen percent of women and 9 percent of men had four or more such experiences, which are considered major risk factors for everything from cognitive impairment to risky behaviors, illness and early death.
Larry's therapist, Rich Joens, who estimates he has worked with 1,000 sexual and physical abuse survivors, calls Larry's improvement “somewhat miraculous.”
“I've told Larry, ‘It's amazing you're not in prison,'” Joens said. “It's amazing that he hasn't killed somebody.”
Larry, now 59, speaks to other victims, offenders and sex-abuse counselors. “I tell them, ‘There's help out there and you can get it,' ” he said.
When he began remembering what happened to him, he sought corroborating evidence, including his childhood medical records. Through light therapy called EMDR, he was able to experience the flashbacks without the trauma, and work through them. PTSD is a common response to childhood abuse, Joens said, but it frequently is misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder or even schizophrenia.
Larry says he has forgiven his parents because that's what you do “if you don't want to die out of meanness and rage.” He said both had been witnesses to or victims of abuse growing up. A psychiatrist told Larry his mother probably expected it — even finding a husband who would treat her the way her father had.
His story is a wake-up call to parents, friends, relatives and bystanders to help stop the cycle when we see signs of abuse.
How to ask a child about possible abuse or sexual abuse
by Ruth Heiser
If you have cause for suspicion and talk to the child, try to remain calm and be careful not to show shock, disgust, anger, pain or blame. Just calmly say you would like to hear more about it and offer neutral responses or appreciate the child for being brave and talking about it. If you immediately blame the abuser a child may silence themselves in order to protect someone and the abuse could continue. Do not use phrases like, “let them do that” or the child, himself, feels blamed and will be silenced as well as traumatized a second time by being blamed. Do not create trauma or increase it. Skip the drama and avoid additional trauma.
Don't use words like abuse or sexual abuse since the term is defined differently by different people and is vague. Ask instead if someone has touched them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable or if they were made to do or see something that made them feel “yucky” or if someone hurt them.
In instances where there is visible trauma or bruising to the genitals, excessive masturbation or chronic, recurring urinary tract infections, sexual abuse needs to be seriously considered and medically investigated. Some kinds of damage are not visible without an internal examination by a physician and caution must be taken about doing such an exam since it can seem so similar to the abuse itself.
Certain sleep disturbances also need to be watched for and if a child fears or refuses to sleep except in unusual places like under the bed or in a closet or in a brightly lit living room, it is crucial to learn what is frightening about sleeping in bed.
There are many signs or clues to be observant for with the cautious reminder that there may be more than one way for a child to develop them. Symptoms are important whatever the cause, so look into the situation and talk to the child you are concerned about. It may be time to have a talk about how our bodies are personal property and children have a right to be safe and to feel safe. Mention that this can happen with people we know and care about since the stranger danger is significantly smaller than the risk with people who appear regularly in a child's every day life. To repeatedly abuse a child it is necessary to have repeated access.
Please also remember to prepare your kids. Don't scare your kids. Just empower them with the knowledge that they are allowed to say no to those who want to touch them or view them or put them on display or make them do things they do not want to do and to tell a trusted adult about it.
Ruth Heiser is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor of Mental Health and Counselor at the Behavior Management Systems' office in Spearfish. Contact her at 642-2777.
Series: Advocacy center aids victims of child abuse
by DEDE BILES
Editor's note: This is the first in a four-part series on child sex abuse. On Sunday, the Aiken Standard looks at protecting child abuse victims and prosecuting the abusers .
Child sexual abuse is much more common than most people realize. One in four girls and one in six boys will be molested before the age of 18, according to Darkness to Light, an organization dedicated to ending the problem.
Occasionally, a case will generate headlines. Last month in Aiken, Harold B. Cartwright III of Trenton was sentenced to 40 years in prison after being found guilty of routinely raping three girls from 1989 until 2011.
But child sexual abuse is an issue that usually remains under the general public's radar because “it's not something that people talk about very often,” said Gayle Lofgren, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County.
Many young sexual abuse victims remain silent. Statistics show that 73 percent of the children who are sexually abused don't tell anyone for at least a year. Forty-five percent don't talk about it for at least five years, and some never disclose that it happened.
Fortunately, Aiken County's leaders recognized the issue's importance. The Advocacy Center, established in the mid-2000s as a nonprofit organization, was the result of a collaborative community effort after it became clear that there were deficiencies in the local system for dealing with victims of child abuse.
Barbara Morgan was the solicitor for South Carolina's Second Judicial District when the process to create the Advocacy Center started around 2001.
“One of my assistants who handled child abuse cases, Brenda Brisbin, brought the problem to my attention,” Morgan remembered. “She told me that we had a crisis because the resources we needed weren't here and kids weren't getting taken care of appropriately.”
Traumatized youngsters had to tell their stories multiple times. They had to wait hours in emergency rooms to be examined. They were questioned in law enforcement interrogation rooms and the back of patrol cars.
“We've got to fix this,” Morgan concluded.
A series of meetings followed between representatives of the Solicitor's Office, school system, law enforcement, social services and various health and children's organizations. During discussions, the concept of a child advocacy center emerged.
“We determined that we needed a building that was really child-friendly, a place where children would feel safe,” said Robert Alexander, who was the Center's first board chairman.
Temporary arrangements were made so the Advocacy Center could be launched. Meanwhile, efforts began to seek grants and tax funds along with donations of money, services and land.
“We were able to raise nearly $1 million,” Morgan said.
The construction of the Center's permanent home on Trolley Line Road started in 2007 and was completed the following year. By design, the finished building looked more like a home than an office. Inside, there were rooms filled with comfortable furniture and toys.
Today, the Advocacy Center has a staff of six and an annual budget of approximately $400,000.
“I think it's been a splendid success,” Alexander said, “and the reason that it's been so successful is because people are not willing – thank God – to tolerate children being treated the way they are in some instances.”
The Department of Social Services and law enforcement personnel refer children and teenagers to the Advocacy Center. Its clients generally range in age from 3 to 17, but sometimes cases involve vulnerable adults who are mentally and/or physically challenged. In 2012, the Center's staff conducted 330 forensic interviews, 87 medical examinations and 514 therapy sessions.
The collaborative community spirit that brought the Advocacy Center into existence continues. While assisting youthful victims, the Center's staff regularly consults and cooperates with a variety of organizations. Many of them are the same ones that helped found the Center.
“We have a team of people from the community that we work with, and we meet every two weeks,” Lofgren said. “This has two purposes. One is to assist with investigations and possible prosecutions. The other is to do treatment planning for the children and their families by determining what needs they might have and how the community can best help them.”
The Advocacy Center also offers stewards of children training.
“It's a three-hour course that is adult-focused,” Lofgren said. “People learn about the signs of child sexual abuse and the things they can do to prevent it.”
To Morgan, the Advocacy Center has turned out to be something more than its developers envisioned.
“It has exceeded our expectations,” she said.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
How to Help a Child Recover From Child Abduction Trauma
by Dr. Gail Gross -- Family & Child Expert, Educator, Author. Ph.D. Ed.D.
An abduction victim's recovery is largely dependent on the relationship with their primary caretakers. Children take their lead from their parents, and if their parents cope in a positive way with an impossible situation, then their children will feel that they can recover and move forward as well. Therefore, it is very important for parents to know their children and know their children's history.
Children react to trauma in proportion to their past traumas. If they have a strong family of origin, are well-bonded and have not experienced trauma before the abduction, they are more likely to have a positive outcome. Children who have been traumatized by illness, abuse or discordant households, on the other hand, will have a more difficult time.
Listening empathically to children after a trauma, without judgment, is one of the greatest tools parents have. Through listening to their children, parents are letting them know that they are still valued and validated, regardless of what damage they may have experienced. Furthermore, by letting children express their feelings, parents give them a chance to grieve. This requires tremendous courage and composure on the part of parents, who are themselves grieving.
While listening, it is constructive to both confirm and validate what your children have been through and how they feel about it. On the other hand, never burden your children with how you feel about the trauma that they have experienced.
It is also important not to burden your children with the emotional reactions of others. If a parent or primary caretaker tells a child that everything will be all right, then he or she will believe that everything will be all right. Children take their cues from the adults around them.
Abduction and the abuse that comes from holding someone against their will may cause post-traumatic stress in victims. The insecurity that accompanies such trauma can be devastating, as children are removed from the safe and intimate world they know. Children that have been held captive in what can only be referred to as a prison mindset may now experience regressive behaviors such as insecurity, fear, hypersensitivity, sleep disorders, depression, free-floating anxiety and a heightened sense of death and destruction. Thus, helping children re-enter their families of origin can be quite difficult, and may take a considerable amount of outside counseling and time.
Parents and primary caretakers can help their children by creating a structure in which to re-establish a sense of sameness and routine. This will allow their children to, once again, feel secure.
Parents should not press their children for the details of their ordeal, but rather allow such information to unfold. Art therapy, talk therapy, music therapy and role-playing are all helpful ways for children to express the unthinkable. When words fail or cannot be used, these approaches can help children tell their painful story.
Younger children can use dolls in order to role-play what they have experienced. Art therapy, including drawing and painting, is also a way in which children can convey the unthinkable: their feelings of such terror, that words cannot lend voice to them. Outside counseling offers the proper container for such activities, to help guide parents and children through this emotional minefield.
This is the time to truly parent, compassionately and empathically. Encourage children to talk about their feelings, without pressuring them, which can only cause more anxiety and trauma. Observe your children and, with young children, observe their play. This is where they can freely act out their feelings, without attention or reprisal. Pay attention to their artwork and their schoolwork, and look for any signs of change. For all practical purposes, abducted children are going through post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, the main role that a parent has at this time is to re-establish a sense of balance, peace, calm, and security.
Make sure that you tell your children how much you love them, and how grateful you are that they are home, alive and safe. Impress upon them that there is nothing that they could have done or can ever do to make them lose your love. Explain that they were captives and it is not their fault; that they were just children and an adult took their freedom away. Then, most importantly, reassure your children that what happened to them does not define them; that what happened to them is not who they are; that they can move on with their lives. Reassure them that though some of their life was in captivity, the rest of their life will be free, and that though someone took away some of their life, they will not allow them to take anymore. Make sure that young survivors know that this is what they are: survivors. Be sure they receive professional support and counseling.
Don't allow your children to comfort you; you are the adult. For feelings of self-blame, doubt, or depression, parents should seek their own, separate professional help. Group therapy or support groups can offer invaluable assistance to parents. Adults need to garner their support and reassurance from other adults -- not to have a role-reversal with their children.
In the final analysis, the way back from the shadow is through the light. There is an ancient Jewish proverb, that when the heart is broken, it can mend -- though there will always be a scar. It is from this wound that we can offer empathy and compassion to others.
Mo. bill closes child abuse report loophole
Missouri lawmakers have Gov. Jay Nixon legislation closing a loophole in the state's mandatory child abuse reporting law.
The House and Senate both approved the measure without opposition Friday.
Missouri now requires mandatory reporters who suspect a child has been abused or neglected to "immediately report" or "cause a report to be made" to the state's Children's Division. But it also allows mandatory reporters to pass the information to another person in their organizations, for a decision on submitting the case to authorities.
The bill would require the mandatory reporter to submit the case directly to state officials.
Mandatory reporters in Missouri include such people as health care professionals, educators and social workers.
Child abuse reports is HB505
From the Department of Homeland Security
Watch Live: President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking
Childhood sexual abuse's long-term impact
by Susan Britt -- Gloucester Times
For most of her life, Ellen pushed the memory away, deep into a dark pocket of her soul. In counseling, she eventually felt safe enough to remember.
She and her friend, both 6 years old, were watching cartoons in her friend's living room. Her friend fell asleep on the floor and Ellen continued to watch, drowsily, from the sofa. Her friend's big brother, who was baby-sitting, came into the room. He placed his finger conspiratorially to his lips and lifted Ellen into his arms. He carried her to the basement and sexually abused her. Before he took her upstairs again, he told her that she was bad for doing this, and that if she told her parents, he would hurt her.
Large numbers of children are sexually abused every year. Like Ellen, they are often young, trusting and unable to fight back because the abuser is, in some sense, in charge.
Sexual abuse isn't always intercourse. It can be touching, fondling, exhibitionism or words and looks — anything that has a sexual intent and is directed toward a child. Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by adults, teenagers or older children. Although abused children do not always understand exactly what is happening, they understand instinctively that it is something “bad” and their self-esteem suffers.
Added to the sexual abuse is the psychological abuse of “don't tell or else…” Children often do not tell because their perspective is that every bigger person has the power of life and death over them. So, they are in a painful psychological trap: they are hurting, but they can't scream. The combined effect of this physical and psychological trauma is overwhelming so they push it away, and try to forget.
But, the subconscious doesn't forget. Abused children may experience anxiety, poor concentration, change in appetite and other physical symptoms. They may lose all trust in others and rebel against authority and become runaways. Or they become too trusting because their need to feel safe is so intense. In some cases, as with Ellen, this tendency to over-trust eventually manifests itself as promiscuous behavior.
Childhood sexual abuse affects the adult the child becomes. Some become anorexic, keeping a childlike body to deny their sexuality. Others are obsessive rescuers and caretakers. Few have positive self-esteem or healthy sexual relationships. And, very few ultimately recognize the source of their adult unhappiness.
Unfortunately, it will take a very long time for the three young victims of the horrific abuse in Cleveland, Ohio, to recover, not only because of their imprisonment and abuse, but because they missed experiencing their formative years in a healthy, family environment. They will require much loving care from their families and counseling to process what has happened to them and to ameliorate the symptoms of post traumatic stress.
Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist, Susan Britt, M.Ed., teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-546-9431.
State needs team effort to combat child sexual abuse
by ALAN WILSON
Child sexual abuse is not a comfortable topic for the dinner table. We shy away from it because of its complexities and the horrors of sexual abuse.
However, our silence only makes the systemic and system-wide failures in addressing the problem even worse. Significant progress will require vision, leadership, communication, cooperation and coordination.
Under the leadership of Bob and Lisa Castellani, the Silent Tears program was forged last year with the mission of giving “a voice to every child sexually abused.” An array of private-public partnerships and the world-renowned expertise of Victor Veith, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center, provided the foundation for a statewide task force. This task force includes law enforcement officials, prosecutors, child protection service facilitators, health care providers, civic, community, judicial and religious leaders.
As our state's chief prosecutor, I am committed to protecting South Carolina's children and giving them a voice. Last month, my office help host the annual Children's Advocacy Day at the State House and stood with legislators to discuss the need for greater protections for our most vulnerable children — those who are victims of abuse and neglect.
Over the past year, the Silent Tears Initiative conducted the nation's first Child Sexual Abuse statewide needs assessment.
This process included talking with key stakeholders and identifying representative counties, conducting face-to-face interviews with more than 200 child protection professionals across South Carolina, and distributing a statewide survey to more than 400 professionals.
The report's findings will be comprehensive, including reforms to undergraduate and graduate programs, frontline professionals, court systems, forensic professionals, prevention programs, the faith-based community and more.
Clearly, Silent Tears is a “best practices” model that should be replicated across the United States.
I look forward to joining U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Congressman Trey Gowdy, State Rep. Bruce Bannister, Victor Veith and the Castellanis on May 28 at 11 a.m. for the release of the Silent Tears' official report and presentation of its findings and recommendations. This will showcase how government can work with the private sector to give our children a voice.
The Silent Tears' study provides South Carolina with an opportunity to be a leader in eradicating child abuse. This is an issue that has no boundaries or lines. It affects all South Carolinians regardless of race, creed, religion, ideology or means.
Therefore, we must all come together to engage policy-makers, community leaders, child-care professionals and parents throughout our state.
Our children are South Carolina's most vital resource and our future. We all share in the problem of child abuse, so we must all share in the solution.
I hope you will find the time to become involved in the Silent Tears initiative and take part in protecting the future of our state. Join us as we work together to end child sexual abuse.
Alan Wilson, a Republican, is the attorney general of South Carolina.
Organization encourages locals to get involved, help prevent child sex abuse
by Lowell White
Volunteers in the west Georgia area are fighting to stem the tide of child sexual abuse, according to a Bremen woman who is on the front lines of that battle.
“Haralson County has one of the highest percentages of child sexual abuse in Georgia,” said Martha McClendon, a facilitator for Stewards of Children, a training program aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.
“House Bill 1176, passed by the Georgia General Assembly, went into effect July 1, 2012. That law says anyone who works with children – mostly volunteers in sports, recreation and church programs – are mandated to be reporters of child sexual abuse,” McClendon said.
Using the highly publicized Penn State scandal as an example of unreported abuse.
“Jerry Sandusky used his youth foundation as a tool to promote sexual abuse. We teach that what is done to you in childhood comes forward. The latest research supports the belief that the brains of those who are sexually abused are affected by the adrenalin rush that is caused by living in fear. Sixty percent of teen pregnancies follow early child sex abuse,” she said.
McClendon quoted statistics that show “1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.” These numbers are based on actual reports and do not take into account the children who do not have the courage to report it. One in five children is solicited while on the Internet, and 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abusers.
“In addition to the human tragedy, child sexual abuse trails only murder as the most expensive crime to taxpayers,” McClendon said.
The child sexual abusers present American taxpayers with a bill for $35 billion annually, she noted.
“Legal fees, law enforcement and government costs are $14,000 per child right off the bat – as soon as a suspected abuser is arrested.”
The long term impact on Haralson County taxpayers is $3,222,799, according to McClendon's data.
However, in an effort to combat child sexual abuse and its myriad consequences, McClendon said that West Georgia Partners to Prevent (P2P) conducts Stewards of Children training for churches, civic clubs, business firms and other groups. Stewards of Children is a prevention and response curriculum for adults produced by a Charleston, S.C., nonprofit known as Darkness to Light. The training includes seven steps to child protection: Learn the facts and understand the risks; minimize opportunity; talk about it; stay alert; make a plan; act on suspicions, and get involved.
“We found in our forensic interview training that even some children who say they were sexually abused later recanted under death threats or threats of beatings by their family. Bottom line, we have to believe the kids first. They don't have a voice; and it takes immense courage for a child to come forward, especially if the abuser is a family member, cousin or a friend of their parents.
“The training is really life-changing for those who have seen it. Parents come up to me afterwards and tell me that ALL parents should see it. Stewards of Children training changes lives and saves lives. That's what I really want to convey to the public. Prevention is the key,” she said.
The training sessions in English and Spanish are currently available for free due to grant funding and community contributions. Training dates and times are available on request by contacting the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center at 678-390-5116. For more information, visit WestGaPartnerstoPrevent|Facebook or Darkness to Light at D2L.org
Calling all men – it's time to be part of the solution
by Nicole Schiener
There is nothing more devastating than finding out a loved one has been sexually abused.
As a parent working in the counselling field for more than 10 years at the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries, I shudder to think one of my children might someday be subjected to the fear, humiliation and helplessness that I have heard dozens of abuse survivors describe.
Unfortunately, the statistics are scary. According to a 2006 Statistics Canada report, one in three women will experience some form of sexual assault during her lifetime.
A study from the 1990s, conducted by the Committee on Sexual Offences against Children and Youth, indicates that, among adult Canadians, 53 per cent of women and 31 per cent of men were sexually abused when they were children.
We know this is the least reported crime and thus the numbers are most likely higher.
Women have been drawing attention to this issue for decades. The first sexual support centres were formed at a grassroots level, much like abuse shelters by women, for women.
But the tide is turning and I'm thrilled to see more and more men taking up this cause. Wise men know abuse against women is not just a women's issue. It affects us all. Sexual assault is not about sex. It is about power and control, and it can have lifelong devastating impacts.
While men can also be victimized, often by other men, female survivors are your mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends, neighbours or co-workers. No doubt, as you read this, you will be able to relate on a personal level or remember the story of someone you've known.
It is no longer enough to be one of the “good guys”. So what can you do? Start off by teaching your children at a young age about boundaries. A great book I found at the local library is Because It's My Body, by Joanne Sherman.
Model gender equality in your relationship and challenge any sexist jokes or comments you hear. Empower daughters to say “no” and how to stand up to peer pressure and sexual objectification.
Teach your sons to respect women and challenge the inequality in our society. Invite critical review of stories, movies and songs that promote domination or disrespect for either gender. Consider joining the White Ribbon Campaign or participating in upcoming training for the Male Allies Against Sexual Violence (MAASV) program through the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault Support Centre.
There are some great resources on both websites for teaching boys about healthy relationships. Check out the agency's blog from March, The Gift of Engagement, for these resources and more.
Finally, be part of the movement to stand up against sexual violence and victim blaming. We have purple bracelets available at the agency and, if you or someone you know has been assaulted, we are here to help.
Nicole Schiener is a therapist with Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries.
Sovereign Grace Ministries, class-action civil lawsuit involving child sex abuse
by Greta Kreuz
Renee Palmer Gamby was just a toddler when she says she was molested by a male babysitter from her church. Covenant Life in Gaithersburg was the flagship church of the Sovereign Grace Ministries denomination until this past December, when it pulled out.
Renee's mother said that when she called their pastor about the abuse, he told her not to call police. Instead, Renee said she was required to meet with her alleged perpetrator and forgive him.
Renee and her mother said they thought they were the only victims. But years later, they found story after story on a blog. And now several are going public in what they hope will be a class-action civil lawsuit.
“We are alleging that a group of men, pastors, conspired together to cover up ongoing sexual abuse of children,” said Susan Burke, civil lawsuit attorney.
The suit alleges decades of brutal sexual and physical abuse of young children--boys and girls-- from the 1980s on, at both Covenant Life Church, and Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax.
The Covenant Life plaintiffs allege beatings, rapes, including a gang rape, and molestations at the church-run elementary school and at other church functions. During the abuse, the school was housed at the Frost Center in Aspen Hill, and Sunday services were then held at Magruder High School.
One alleged abuser is Stephen Griney, a former Bible studies teacher who also headed the children's ministry. The suit details a gang rape where adults wore masks and the victim was an 8-year-old girl.
The lawsuit also names four current officials of the Fairfax church, again, alleging an orchestrated cover-up of child sex abuse incidents and failure to report them to police.
The accusations also say children were forced to meet and forgive the accused, and pastors failed to notify other families-- so the perpetrators went on to prey on other children.
One of those alleged perpetrators is Nathaniel Morales, a Covenant Life member currently jailed on criminal child sex abuse charges in Montgomery County.
“The pastors were on notice. He had other victims,” explained Burke. “They had been told by the victims that Morales had molested them and they did nothing about it.”
Another of the accused predators was then-Covenant Life pastor and school principal John Loftness. The suit claims he repeatedly molested two young girls, one a 5-year-old. Loftness is now the pastor at Solid Rock Church in Riverdale, Maryland, which is not named in the suit.
ABC7 went to Solid Rock Church, but were told Loftness was out all week. Loftness did post a letter to church members, denying ever abusing a child, or shielding any pedophile.
Dara Sutherland said in 1987, when her then 14-year-old sister accused their father, David Adams, of having molested her for three years, their mother went to police. And she says the pastors punished the family instead.
“Basically threw us out of the church, supported the pedophile and provided him with an attorney,” said Sutherland.
Today, Sutherland says David Adams, who did serve jail time for child abuse, is still active at Covenant Life, and manages a children's music band.
'John Doe' child porn and sexual abuse suspect arrested
by Bob Barnard
WASHINGTON - The nationwide manhunt for a "John Doe" suspected child pornographer ended a little more than 24 hours after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) issued a public appeal for information about his identity and whereabouts.
John Doe was arrested Wednesday afternoon after a tip from the public was called in to the ICE tip line.
Additional details about the arrest and the identity of John Doe are being withheld pending his initial appearance in federal court.
Governor signs bill elevating civil protection and domestic relations orders
by Laura Gabbay
On May 14, 2013, Governor Hickenlooper signed HB13-1259 into a law, mandating comprehensive reform of current laws related to civil protection and domestic relations orders. This will translate to greater safety for children and adults and an enhanced response to abuse by Colorado's civil legal system in the future.
"HB1259 elevates the safety of children and domestic violence victims to a new level," said Colorado Senator Linda Newell yesterday, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation.
View slideshow: New civil protection and domestic relations orders reform law signed in Colorado
Yesterday I had the opportunity to have a conversation with another individual in our community instrumental in successful passage of HB1259, Amy Miller, MSW who is the Public Policy Director of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. I asked her the following questions:
Congratulations on the great news about HB13-1259 passing through the State Legislature this session! I know victims and survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and stalking, advocates, legal professionals, parents and community partners spoke up for greater safety and an enhanced response to abuse by Colorado's civil legal system and they were heard! The vast majority of legislators agreed, and thanks to the tireless dedication, passion and strong leadership of Representative Beth McCann and Senator Linda Newell, sponsors of the bill, Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law yesterday. When will its provisions go into effect?
The provisions go into effect July 1, 2013 and apply to domestic relations petitions or motions filed on or after the effective date and apply to civil protection orders entered on or after the effective date.
Acquainted with the measure as I am, I do know that it clarifies and reorganizes current domestic relations and protection order statutes. Can you describe how these changes will help Coloradans who have been abused and are facing challenges with domestic relations cases or with securing a protective order?
HB1259 is comprehensive set of revisions to the laws pertaining to civil protection and domestic relations orders. In essence, HB1259 requires civil courts in our state to prioritize the safety, above all else, of children and adults in abuse and domestic relations situations.
Who were the coalition community partners involved with developing and supporting this bill from its introduction to today?
HB1259 crossing the finish line and being signed by the Governor yesterday was the result of hours of hard work, energy and dedication of a 24-member Domestic Violence & Domestic Relations Task Force that worked for 18 months leading up to this session of the State Legislature to present HB1259 to the lawmakers. This task force was comprised of legal and domestic violence professionals, government organizations and nonprofits. I had the honor of leading this task force.
On behalf of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, I would be remiss if I did not thank our sister organization, the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, as well as the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) and Parents United for Change, for their contributions to the bill and for their support.
What can supporters of this bill do next, now that it is due to be signed into law, to advocate for the next wave of needed changes or reform? For instance, is it appropriate to send a thank you to Representative McCann and Senator Newell?
Yes, Representative Beth McCann ( email@example.com ) and Senator Linda Newell ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) can be thanked via email or to the Colorado State Capitol (Room 271 for the House or Room 346 for the Senate), 200 East Colfax, Denver, CO 80203 for sponsoring this bill.
Can you tell me more about the upcoming annual Colorado Advocacy in Action conference taking place this June?
Co-presented by the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA), the conference will be held in Vail, Colo. Regular registration is open until May 21, 2013 and the fee is $100 per person from CCADV/CCASA/DVP member programs. After May 21, the fee increases to $150 per person. This year, Single Day registration is also available and costs $75. The June 10 – 12, 2013 conference is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about domestic violence, sexual assault and domestic relations. If you are a professional or a volunteer, this is a great investment in your career development.
Growing trend of pro se representation
These changes in our civil legal system were needed in part because families have a right to a transparent, accessible and fair court process. As of July 2012, both parties in a domestic relations case represented themselves 62% of the time, an increasing trend for the past several years. Now families will benefit from an improved process.
Because all children deserve to be emotionally and physically safe every day, with both of their parents, this is a big win for them and families in our state. Thanks should not only go to Representative McCann and Senator Newell, but all of the members of the State Senate and House of Representatives that supported this important measure, with long overdue and comprehensive reform for our civil legal system.
To learn more about the activities of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, visit their website.
Sexual Assault, Child Advocacy Center Losing its Home in Duluth
City of Duluth officials said the center must leave by July 1.
by Joy L. Woodson
The deadline for a Gwinnett County sexual assault crisis center to find a new home is steadily approaching.
City of Duluth officials gave the Gwinnett Sexual Assault & Children's Advocacy Center a July 1 deadline to move out of its home on Main Street. The center has been there for more than two decades.
As of May 15, the center still did not have a place to relocate to, said Ann Burdges, chief executive officer and executive director.
Back in September, city officials notified the center's leadership that the building would be demolished because of persistent maintenance issues. And, most recently, officials denied a request for an extension, the AJC stated.
In an email to Patch, Burdges said this about the center's current predicament:
"No, we haven't yet identified our relocation space. Obviously our current center was custom designed by us and constructed to meet the specifications of our 24/7 services for victims and families.
That is difficult to replicate and especially within our time constraints. We are working on it diligently, and it is our intention to meet the city's request of vacating by July 1st."
To learn more about the center, and its work with families who are affected by sexual assault and child sexual abuse, click here.
We have to decide to listen to sexually abused children
The cost of ignoring the girls involved in the Oxford case is too high. Why weren't they given this basic human respect?
by Zoe Williams
The first question to ask about the Oxford child sex abuse ring has nothing to do with race or gender. To mire oneself, now, in an argument about whether Muslim men hate girls more than other men do or whether, conversely, all men hate women and, by extension, so does society, would be a diversion. Before anybody divides down conservative and liberal lines, first ask: why weren't these girls listened to? Why do they describe years of asking for help and being ignored? Why did seven years pass between the first complaint in 2004 and a major police investigation in 2011? Why is this the constant refrain, from Oxford to Rochdale to Edlington – that victims come forward and they are not heeded?
That is the only question of any urgency here. Some of the answers do lie in institutional misogyny, but clearly not all. Male victims of abuse aren't listened to either. If racial sensibilities were at play, that would be a horrifying indictment of our values; and yet it's hard to believe that these cases were ignored for fear of "culturally" offending the perpetrators, when very often the investigations never even got as far as asking the victim what the crime had been.
There are practical problems with disjointed systems, and services that are overstretched but also contemptuous. There are problems with the way we see older children, taking challenging behaviour as proof that they are no longer vulnerable in the way an infant is, when it is often proof of the opposite.
The orthodoxy around teenage sexuality – that it doesn't exist, that anybody under 16 is, by definition, pre-sexual – hamstrings proper interrogation. Distinctions are not drawn between underage sex with another teenager and groomed sex with a 38-year-old married man. The consequence of which is that all the screaming sirens of exploitation are ignored; girls who act out promiscuously in one situation are then considered to have flown the coop of legal protection when they say they've been gang-raped. Does that look like feminism? That is not feminism.
There is a problem of squeamishness; inhuman acts in your own society are hard to bear. When Girl C, in Oxford, tried to tell a care worker what was happening to her, she was told that the conversation was "inappropriate". What does that even mean? You see the same patterns emerging, that the more complaints a victim makes, the more her behaviour is characterised as "troublesome" or "inappropriate". It's very easy to blame the professional, but very difficult to conceive of this dilemma. Do I believe the girl and accept that the world is barbaric? Or write off the girl as histrionic and retain a sense of security?
It's come up repeatedly that the problem in Oxford was that "no one quite put the whole picture together". The subtext, here, echoed by Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley police, is that one of these girls' testimonies was not enough. To be taken seriously they didn't just have to be raped multiple times by multiple men, there also had to be a group of them to corroborate one another. It is interesting how much we criticise sharia law for holding a woman's testimony to be half that of a man's when our own legal system holds some women to be fractions of witnesses, and isn't even clear and consistent about what their fraction amounts to.
Victims were considered unreliable because they'd run away, because they were challenging, maybe they were drunk or on drugs when the rape occurred (by any reasonable measure this would strengthen their case that the rapist had drugged them, but if you're a girl in care or vulnerable in some other respect, this is yet another sign that you're beyond help).
The Howard League for Penal Reform has case studies of girls who'd ended up in prison for criminal damage before anyone had asked why they had caused the damage. (Bethany, 14, had smashed up a car; as it transpired, the car's owner, much older than her, had groomed her, had sex with her many times, then thrown her over for someone else. It takes an impunity bordering on sociopathy to then chase her for criminal damage, but it also shows how well-founded was the confidence this rapist had, that a court would find for him before they'd listen to his victim).
The National Bureau for Children has just published a report calling for an advocate to be a child's statutory right. Enver Solomon, their head of evidence and impact, explained: "What comes through in all these cases is that children are not listened to, services are not always putting children's experiences and voices at the heart of attempts to keep them safe. Children need a trained advocate who can build a relationship with them and represent their views to other professionals."
It's not a social worker's fault that a child might not confide in them. What looks to a professional like child protection, that is, being placed in care, might look to a child like punishment – being removed from their family. A child needs someone he or she can trust, and that costs money. Incidentally, nobody whose day job is hollowing out local authority budgets in the name of "localism" has any place to comment on this battleground except to apologise.
It will take new systems, and it will take more money, and it will take more sophisticated attitudes to childhood and vulnerability and sexuality, and it will take a lot more basic human respect for people who don't necessarily tick the boxes of respectability. But before we can do any of that we have to decide, collectively, to listen. The cost of not listening is too high; the crimes it allows are too repulsive.
Bravehearts welcomes the issue of child safety being brought out of the shadows
by Hetty Johnston
THANK you to Karen Brooks for a thought-provoking piece on Monday regarding society's reaction to child safety.
But in a week where we have seen in the US the good things that happen when community members intervene with the three abducted girls found in Cleveland, it is hardly reassuring that Brooks believes a member of the public "over-reacted" upon seeing a six-year-old girl swimming naked at Balmoral Beach, while her grandfather supervised.
Bravehearts wholeheartedly agrees a balanced approach to child protection is needed.
We certainly do not condone a moral panic approach. We know most adults are protective of children and do not pose any risk.
However research shows one in five Australian children will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
Regarding the grandfather and his granddaughter on the beach, I am not sure what the member of the public saw that caused them to feel concern. Thankfully there was nothing in it.
Just a few weeks ago we had the opposite experience.
Someone had seen a man sitting in a car near a park he was at with his boys. He observed the man just watching the children play.
Feeling uncomfortable, he noted down the number plate. It was passed on to the police who acted immediately as this man was a known child sex offender.
This concerned father could have ignored his instinct that something didn't feel right, but he didn't.
It happened at a well-known park, packed to the brim with families going about their business and enjoying the mid-morning sunshine.
We have seen what happens when people don't act, despite concerns "something just didn't seem right".
Think about Daniel Morcombe for a minute. We do need more education about the realities of child sexual assault and what people should do if they have concerns.
Doing nothing should not be an option. If only a small percentage of concerns are justified, isn't it worth asking the question?
The child sexual assault figures quoted by Brooks - from child protection bodies - were misleading.
These authorities only deal with abuse and sexual assault when it occurs in the child's home.
If the perpetrator is outside of the home, another relative, someone known to the family/child or someone unknown, these matters are not included in those statistics.
About 13.5 per cent of children are sexually harmed by a father or step-father and only 0.8 per cent by their mother or step-mother, so most matters (about 85 per cent) are not counted in the statistics quoted.
In respect to the number of offenders who are strangers, the statistics are mixed; however studies consistently debunk the myth that "strangers are the danger".
A 2005 Australian National Child Protection Clearinghouse publication suggests 10 to 30 per cent of offenders are strangers.
A 2001 Australian study found 94 per cent of offenders sexually harmed children they know; other research suggests about 11 per cent of sexual harm is perpetrated by a stranger.
This Balmoral Beach incident has divided opinion and is perhaps an unfortunate reflection of the society in which we live.
It has also sparked debate about the society we want to become.
This once taboo subject is emerging from the shadows and coming into the light. We now have a royal commission that is helping people break the silence and is also creating a bigger conversation in the community.
I don't propose to have all the answers but the world has changed and the age of innocence, perhaps, has too.
This week our counselling hotline responded to more than 300 calls from child sex assault survivors.
We at Bravehearts are not content to continue mopping up the carnage.
We need honest discussions about the reality of child sexual assault - not to scare and frighten or create paranoia but to educate and raise awareness.
I make no apology for putting kids first. On occasion my comments are going to alienate certain members of the community. I'm OK with that.
Because Bravehearts is on a mission to stop child sexual assault. Everyone has a role to play.
I choose to make it a priority.
Hetty Johnston is the founder and executive director of Bravehearts Inc.
Number of abused U.S. children unchanged since 2008
by Andrew M. Seaman
(Reuters Health) - The number of U.S. children who were exposed to violence, crime and abuse in 2011 was essentially unchanged from 2008, according to a new government survey.
Researchers who interviewed 4,503 children and teenagers in 2011 found that two in five children reported being physically assaulted in the previous year, and one in every 10 kids was injured by that abuse.
"The good news is that a lot of people expected things to get worse given the economy was doing so bad," said David Finkelhor, the study's lead author.
"That's the good news but the bad news is that... the level of exposure to violence, to crime and all that stuff is really enormous to kids," added Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center in Durham.
For the new study, which was supported by federal grants from agencies including the U.S. Department of Justice, interviewers called the homes of children between the ages of one month and 17 years old.
They interviewed an adult in the home and then a randomly selected child between 10 and 17 years old. If the child was younger than 10 years old, the caregiver who is most involved with the child was interviewed.
Finkelhor and his colleagues found that 40 percent of the children and teens reported being physically assaulted in the past year, and 10 percent said they suffered an injury from an assault.
Boys were more likely to be the victims of assault, and often brothers and sisters or other children were the perpetrators.
About 6 percent said they were the victims of sexual harassment, and about 2 percent said they were sexually assaulted.
Those at the highest risk for sexual assault were girls between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. About a quarter of girls in that age group experienced sexual harassment and about 8 percent reported a sexual assault.
The researchers also found that about 14 percent all the children and teens experienced maltreatment, which includes neglect, physical or emotional abuse, custodial interference or sexual abuse by a familiar adult.
About a quarter of the entire group also said their belongings were vandalized or stolen in the past year. About the same number of children reported seeing some sort of violence or crime in their homes or their community. That included domestic violence.
A previous study that surveyed children and their caregivers in 2008 found similar rates of violence and abuse, according to the researchers, who published the new findings in JAMA Pediatrics.
Finkelhor suggested that the rates may have remained steady, in part, because there are programs to help curb violence available to families.
"In spite of anxiety that people had about the recession or the Internet… I think something larger is at work," he said, adding that people still should not be afraid to get involved if they suspect abuse.
"I don't want anyone to get the impression that everything is hunky dory. We still have rates that are higher than in many other developed countries," Finkelhor said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/129iZaF JAMA Pediatrics, online May 13, 2013
Search for John Wayne Gacy victims solves decades-old missing person case
by Becky Bratu
A DNA test used by investigators to identify victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has helped solve a 41-year-old New Jersey missing persons case, officials announced Tuesday.
Sixteen-year-old Steven Soden went missing on April 3, 1972, but his remains were not identified until 2012, when authorities matched them with a DNA sample from his sister.
Soden's relatives contacted the Cook County Sheriff's Office in 2011 after hearing about Sheriff Thomas Dart's efforts to identify several of Gacy's victims. They believed Soden may be one of them, officials said.
"We always had hopes that we'd somehow find him alive," Steven's brother, Ron Soden, 73, told NBC 4 New York Tuesday from his home in Tacoma, Wash. "In this day and age, it's so much easier to find someone over the Internet."
The teen, who lived at an orphanage, was last seen alive on April 3, 1972, running away with 12-year-old Donald Caldwell, from the Bass River Camp Grounds in Burlington County, N.J., during a group camping trip, officials said. Neither boy was ever seen again.
Soden may have headed to Chicago, where his biological father lived, his relatives suggested — and there he may have come into contact with Gacy.
Gacy killed 33 teenage boys and young men in Chicago from 1972 to 1978. He was executed for his crimes in 1994. Seven of his victims remain unidentified.
At Dart's request, a DNA sample was taken from Soden's sister, but there was no match between her and any of the unidentified Gacy victims.
In December 2012, however, her profile matched that of unidentified human skeletal remains found 13 years earlier in New Jersey.
Over the next few months, the Cook County Sheriff's Office and New Jersey State Police conducted further investigation and obtained additional DNA samples from Soden's half siblings, including a paternal half sibling, to make an accurate identification.
Genetic testing was performed at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.
The remains were discovered in the woods in Burlington County in April 2000 — not far from where Soden was last seen.
New Jersey State Police say they're still searching for Caldwell as well as additional evidence in Soden's death, according to Philadelphia NBC affiliate WCAU. His exact cause of death is still unknown.
"You always hope for the best," Ron Soden told NBC 4 New York. "But when you finally get an answer, a partial answer…" He trailed off.
"It's sad," he continued. "The sense of him being so young, and the way it happened, and where it was. He probably ran away because he thought nobody cared about him. It's just not a good story."
Grave mistake: the controversial, high-tech search for John Wayne Gacy's lost victims
'The Killer Clown' may have murdered more people than anyone thought
by Matt Stroud
Executed by the State of Illinois in 1994 for murdering 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978, serial killer John Wayne Gacy is long gone.
But rumors about the possibility of more Gacy victims live on.
That's why a retired police detective, a filmmaker, and a veteran journalist are now fighting to reopen the Gacy investigation by searching a property where the notorious serial killer may have buried additional bodies. Their argument is not that anyone in law enforcement needs more murders to solve. Instead, they say, it may be possible to identify the remains of people who disappeared between 1972 and 1978. Those cases remain cold, and Gacy may have been responsible for more killings than anyone wants to admit.
At the heart of their fight is whether noninvasive, ground-penetrating radar can confirm or deny — without a shadow of doubt — the existence of a clandestine grave site. An infrared technician who recently surveyed the Chicago property told me it can't. “No technology is 100 percent,” he said. But there may be more at play here. Politicians and powerful governmental employees can confirm or deny, too. And, in this case, a sheriff's office may be pushing hard to keep any remaining evidence in the Gacy case underground forever.
Other people's property
Suspicions in the Gacy case focus on a five-unit apartment complex at 6114 W. Miami Ave. in Chicago. For years prior to Gacy's arrest for murder, he was a maintenance man there. He moved his mother in at one point. The property is about four miles from where most of Gacy's victims were found buried in shallow graves in the dirt-floor crawlspace beneath his suburban Chicago home.
Since Gacy's 1978 arrest, residents who lived near W. Miami have told anyone who cares to listen that Gacy's behavior there seemed suspicious in retrospect. One of those people is Bill Dorsch.
A former homicide detective with the Chicago Police Department (CPD), Dorsch lived a few doors away from the property in the mid- to late-'70s.
After Gacy — who later became known as "the Killer Clown," because he would occasionally dress up as "Pogo The Clown" for children's parties — was placed behind bars, Dorsch thought back to their interactions. He remembered, for example, one night in 1975 when he encountered Gacy alone at 3AM, near the W. Miami property. At the time, Gacy was casually holding a spade — a shovel for digging, not moving snow — in his hand.
Without being prompted, Gacy told him, laughing: "Bill, you know me, not enough hours in the day. You get it done when you can."
Only later did Dorsch think to ask a potentially disturbing question: Get what done?
After Gacy was arrested in 1978 and the bodies began piling up, that question emerged loudly to Dorsch. Dorsch made a call to the Cook County Sheriff's Office, the agency overseeing the Gacy investigation.
"I thought, ‘If there's something there to follow up, they'll follow up,'" Dorsch told me.
Not holes, trenches
No one in the sheriff's office followed up, and who could blame them?
The Gacy investigation was a long, involved process, to say the least.
When investigators first searched the crawlspace of Gacy's home in 1978, they suspected they might find the body of one missing teenager. Instead, they found the unthinkable.
"The odor, in that damp and confined area, was almost as unbearable as the thought of what the crawlspace contained," wrote Tim Cahill in Buried Dreams , one of many books eventually written about Gacy and his crimes. "In the northeast corner of the crawlspace under John Gacy's house, the officers found puddles, all swarming with thin red worms. There, two feet from the north wall, they uncovered what appeared to be a knee bone. The flesh was so desiccated that at first they thought is was blue-jean material."
The dig and subsequent investigation took months. The dismembered remains of teenagers and young men were scattered under the property. More bodies were later found discarded in the Des Plaines River. It's reasonable to assume that a vague hunch from Bill Dorsch might've gone overlooked while they unearthed the body parts of at least 33 murder victims.
Dorsch was sympathetic to that, so he left it alone.
In 1994, Dorsch retired from CPD detective work after 24 years of service. After some time off, he returned to work as a private investigator.
In a casual conversation among colleagues in 1998, someone asked him a question that many retired cops often hear and think about: "What are the cases that nag at you?"
Dorsch brought up Gacy, the incident in the middle of the night, his suspicions about W. Miami. He talked about conversations he had with neighbors in the intervening years. He mentioned that a neighbor once saw Gacy drag a heavy bag across W. Miami Ave. in the middle of the night. He mentioned that another neighbor had, like he, called police voicing suspicions about the building and heard nothing in return. Other residents told Dorsch that they'd seen Gacy digging trenches — "not holes," Dorsch repeated, "trenches" — in the W. Miami property's front yard. It was all just a little too much to dismiss, he thought. And Dorsch regretted doing nothing back in 1978.
One colleague at the 1998 meeting worked for the Better Government Association (BGA), a Chicago-based nonprofit watchdog group.
The BGA was interested in investigating the W. Miami property. What would it take to do a search?
One could dig, Dorsch said, but it seemed unlikely that a property owner would agree to have his land dug up without something more than a hunch. So Dorsch did some research.
it was clear to both Dorsch and LaBarca that the Sheriff's Office was not interested in opening any new Gacy cases
He found Ron LaBarca in New Jersey. LaBarca's company, US Radar, used infrared technology to scan surface areas for buried material. Mostly LaBarca used his scanning tools — particularly a proprietary device called Seeker SPR — to find underground utility lines and forgotten sewage pipes for construction companies looking to build.
But it could also be used to find less identifiable underground "anomalies" in long-packed soil. Such anomalies often lead to buried material and might, in this case, lead to more of John Wayne Gacy's murder victims.
At the BGA's behest, LaBarca was on scene at 6114 W. Miami Ave. by October 1998.
LaBarca scanned the premises for hours. Soon, he was convinced that Dorsch's suspicions were better than a hunch.
"We went out there and found as many as 20 spots that should have been further investigated," LaBarca told me.
Local media caught wind of the story. The BGA lobbied the police to get involved. And it's not like they could just ignore it.
But it was clear to both Dorsch and LaBarca that the sheriff's office was not interested in opening any new Gacy cases. Members of the media weren't allowed to be on the same side of the street as where the W. Miami dig took place. Dorsch was told not to show up.
A local resident, Mike Nelson, said the dig didn't seem genuine. Before it happened, police visited him for suggestions about where to search.
They "had a white tent ... right at the corner [of W. Miami and N. Elston Avenues; the property sits at an intersection] where they were doing their dig," Nelson later said. And it was "over the one spot I told them not to dig."
The sheriff's office found nothing. No new victims. And the W. Miami property again fell into obscurity.
That is, until Alison True heard about it.
Closing a chapter?
As editor of the Windy City's largest and oldest alternative newsweekly, the Chicago Reader , True received a submission from a local journalism student, Chris Maloney, in 2009, about Dorsch and his mysterious hunch about Gacy and the W. Miami property. True was intrigued. But the story was too long — she couldn't find space to publish it. Maloney published it himself instead.
In the spring of 2010, after 15 years as editor in chief, True was let go. She was still intrigued. She contacted Dorsch and introduced him to Tracy Ullman, a filmmaker and producer (not the British comedian) who had done some work in crime television. Together, in May 2012, True and Ullman began documenting the developing story on John Wayne Gacy's Other Victims, a website where she posted articles about evidence Dorsch had collected and new interviews she and Ullman conducted with witnesses.
Dorsch showed them a letter from Ron LaBarca, who was angry at what he perceived as a superficial search at W. Miami. The radar expert wrote that his data, "reveals some pretty compelling evidence that would send any investigation team to the hardware store for shovels."
True and Ullman even recorded an interview with Cook County sheriff Tom Dart, where they confronted him about the evidence he'd seen. He agreed on camera that further investigation was in order.
To this day, no one knows what's underground at W. Miami. But True and Ullman hoped to persuade the authorities to do another search. No media blackout, no secret meetings. Just a dig, in full view of the public, to answer, once and for all, whether John Wayne Gacy buried anyone there.
True also hoped the material would get others members of the media interested.
"The more officials feel they're being scrutinized, the more likely they are to do the right thing," True told me. Dart "must be weighing the political damage against the political benefits of continuing the investigation. If local authorities would rather not see a search at W. Miami, coverage in the media may tip him toward having to do something. No doubt that was what finally made him agree to file for a search warrant."
By January of this year, that warrant had been approved by the Cook County state's attorney. A sheriff's office spokesman told the Chicago Tribune: "Work at the site is likely weeks or even months away." He said the investigation would be thorough enough to "close a chapter" of the Gacy case.
It seemed as though True's site had done exactly what it set out to do — but again, things took an odd turn. On March 26th, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported that the search had taken place a week earlier, on March 20th.
"It's over," Sneed wrote. "There was no Geraldo moment. The search for victims of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy in the Northwest Side apartment building where Gacy's mother once lived turned up squat ... nothing. The elaborate, sophisticated search for more Gacy victims — conducted by Cook County sheriff Tom Dart's office, and exclusively reported by Sneed months ago — was for naught."
‘A bone or a skull'
"No technology is 100 percent."
I asked the technician who performed the search how elaborate and sophisticated it had been. His name is Rich Graf, and he runs a St. Louis firm called Infrared Diagnostics, Inc. that does underground land surveys, and also works with the FBI as well as local and state police across the country to locate clandestine grave sites. Their searches aren't necessarily done to locate bodies, he said, but rather to identify changes in the consistency of soil below the surface.
"If you you dig up a 6-foot by 3-foot pit, and then fill it back up, it doesn't take much for us to see that the soil has been disturbed," he said. "That ground will never be compacted the same way as it was before."
So on March 20th, he and his crew looked for underground anomalies that might indicate grave sites. The FBI provided dogs to sniff soil samples. According to a sheriff's department spokeswoman, the search lasted "from early afternoon to late evening."
Why that day? It was early spring and freezing: the high temperature was 26 degrees Fahrenheit, the low was 15. But Graf insisted that didn't matter.
"We were looking for sharp edges underground," he said. "When someone digs a grave, they're digging in the shape of what a body looks like. We can see that in the disturbed soil. We can characterize the size of what's down there. We can also see if there's a bone or a skull underground."
And though Graf wouldn't say much about the sheriff's department's investigation, he said he didn't think there was reason to believe Gacy had dug graves at the W. Miami property.
"I don't think that's a grave site," he said.
Ron LaBarca wasn't so sure. His company and Graf's do essentially the same kind of ground-penetrating radar scans; the technology both use is state-of-the art and, according to LaBarca, not much different today than it was back in 1998. Both have decades in the business. But when I told LaBarca that Graf used infrared technology to search for "sharp edges" dug underground, he audibly groaned.
"If you really want to know what's underground, you gotta dig."
"That's a perfect way to do things if you're looking for a body buried out in the middle of a field, where you have a lot of undisturbed ground," LaBarca said. "But not in this case. The difference is, [Gacy] was digging day and night out there, planting shrubs and trees, constantly moving dirt around."
Not holes, trenches.
The result, LaBarca said, is that "you're not going to find sharp corners. You've gotta look for other indications that the soil has been moved in an unusual way."
"Anomalies," he said. "You're looking for anomalies."
LaBarca stands by his findings in 1998, when he suggested that there were plenty of locations on the W. Miami property that should be dug up. He admitted, however, that it's tough to do Monday morning quarterbacking. He wasn't there with Graf, after all. So how can he definitively say Graf didn't do his job properly?
"I can't say that," La Barca said. "Maybe he did [do his job properly]. But that's why I always tell people: ‘the best locator in the world is made by John Deere or Caterpillar.' If you really want to know what's underground," he said, "you gotta dig."
Graf doesn't disagree. Even though his results were the ones that led the sheriff to assert that the investigation at W. Miami was over, Graf said no infrared scan is going to be conclusive without a shred of doubt. "No technology is 100 percent."
So why not just dig it up and be done with it?
The sheriff's office wouldn't say. Though a spokeswoman emphasized that the search for more Gacy victims will continue — mostly by testing DNA profiles of unidentified Gacy victims — she declined to comment about any future digs at W. Miami. A recent report in the Reader made it sound like the sheriff's office had given up on W. Miami completely. "The sheriff's office's campaign to find and identify more Gacy victims will go on," the Reader report read — "though not at 6114 W. Miami."
Bill Dorsch has a theory about why a dig likely won't happen. "This is a reputation ruiner," he said during an interview last week. "No one wants to go back to what happened in 1978. No one wants to revisit that. No one wants to admit that they stopped an investigation before it was finished."
But that hardly seems like reason enough to leave the property at W. Miami without an actual excavation.
"This is a reputation ruiner."
Sheriff Dart put it best in an interview with Ullman and True. Conducted in June 2012, the interview focused on the now-settled issue regarding why the state's attorney should approve a warrant to search the W. Miami site. The state's attorney did approve a search warrant. Now Sheriff Dart may as well be speaking to himself.
"The public will want to know if there are bodies there," he told Ullman and True. "Whereas if we were able to do it, we could put this to rest. We could say, ‘Listen, this has been thoroughly examined, there is nothing here.'"
Restore Hope to Victims of Human Trafficking
Made By Survivors -- Empowering Women to Design Their Own Bright Futures
Imagine you have just been rescued from a life of sexual and physical abuse. Your feeling of desperation slowly disappears as you begin to feel safe and trust those caring for you. Eventually you become full of hopes and dreams for the future. This is the reality for survivors of human trafficking we work with at Made By Survivors.
For a survivor of human trafficking to heal and move forward she needs:
Safe living arrangements
Regular appointments or group therapy with a mental health therapist
Providing opportunities and space for survivors to process things that happened to them
Physical and dental exams and corrective surgeries and procedures to heal
Formal education in reading, writing, and math
A job with a fair wage
In our experience, abject poverty is a common factor for victims of human trafficking. Made By Survivors provides the resources and tools to move a survivor and those at risk for human trafficking out of poverty, to an income way above the poverty line which will help to protect themselves and their families. Some of the ways Made By Survivors does this is by:
Financially supporting aftercare and rescue endeavors of our partners,
Educating children living in red light districts and children who were enslaved or parents are slaves
Building shelters, schools, and orphanages
Training survivors in jobs that provide wages well above average
Employing survivors as artisan goldsmiths and designers at 3 centers in India
Supporting survivor based businesses in India, Nepal, Cambodia, and Thailand
In Northern India, Made By Survivors is supporting the aftercare for 30 girls who have recently been rescued from sex and labor trafficking in partnership with a local agency, Women's Interlink Foundation. The girls are ages seven through early 20s. In 2013, Made By Survivors will build permanent housing and an employment center for these girls and 70 more. The project will be in Jalpaiguri, Northern India, a high trafficking area near the borders of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. The survivors there will benefit from secure housing, nourishment and medical care, trauma therapy including art therapy, formal education, vocational and business training, and employment with wages well above average.
"I visited the site of this project in March and go to know 30 of the 100 girls that will live in the new shelter. Many were very recently rescued and the trauma was some of the worst I have seen. Despite that there was a spark of hope and such huge potential in each girl. In their young lives they have experienced so much suffering - beyond my ability to even express. Now they deserve to be safe and loved and to be able to create a beautiful future. I feel we have to give them that. Please help." - Sarah Symons, Made By Survivors Founder and Executive Director
Made By Survivors is honored to be a part of Huffington Post, Skoll Foundation, Half The Sky Movement, and Crowdrise's RaiseForWomen Challenge. They have brought together amazing nonprofits to raise over $75,000 to empower women worldwide. Please be a part of transforming lives by women and girls by donating to our RaiseForWomen Challenge project Build a Home and Secure a Future for 100 Survivors of Human Trafficking in Northern India which will build the permanent shelter, provide aftercare services, send the children to school, and train and employ the teens and adults.
Man sought in connection with child's abuse in porn videos
(Photo on site)
WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations is seeking the arrest of an unidentified man for producing child pornography and the rescue of a 7- to 9-year-old victim of sexual exploitation.
A criminal complaint and arrest warrant for “John Doe” was signed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. HSI is seeking any tips about the possible identity or whereabouts of John Doe, who is believed to be located somewhere in the United States.
The images here have been cutout from the originals due to the nature of the content.
HSI is requesting that anyone with information about this person contact the agency immediately, in one of two ways:
Call the ICE Tip Line, which is staffed 24-hours a day: 1-866-347-2423 from the U.S. & Canada 1-802-872-6199 from anywhere in the world
Complete an online tip form at www.ICE.gov/tips
Duck Derby delivers
Local Child Advocacy Center serves the community's smallest victims
MURFREESBORO — Last year, close to 1,100 children were reported as victims of abuse or drug endangerment in Rutherford and Cannon counties. And those were just the cases that came to light.
“It is highly likely that you know a child who has been or is being abused,” says Sharon DeBoer, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford and Cannon Counties. “Experts estimate that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays. This means that in any classroom or neighborhood full of children, there are children who are silently bearing the burden of sexual abuse.”
But the Child Advocacy Center is there to pick up the pieces and you can help. The inaugural Duck-O-Lympics and Fun Fest, formerly known as the Duck Derby, is set for 1-4 p.m. Saturday at SportsCom, 2310 Memorial Blvd.
“The mission of the Child Advocacy Center is to serve victims of child abuse, child sexual abuse and drug-endangered children, along with their nonoffending family members,” says the longtime director.
Proceeds from the Duck-O-Lympics benefits the variety of programs offered at the CAC. Last year, 846 of those 1,100 local child victims were served. Nearly 320 of their family members received services, too.
“To me, it's such a needed service in our community. To know that kids have been physically harmed in this way, to me, is one of the saddest things I've ever heard. Although I can't do anything (on the professional end), I can be sure to help raise money for the center so these kids get services,” says Kristin Demos, self-avowed Queen of the Quackers and Duck Derby director.
Change in venue
This year's event no longer takes place on the Stones River due to safety reasons and the need to accommodate the growing number of participants and spectators, Demos says. Although she didn't want to change the venue, the new location at SportsCom “just made sense.”
“There's plenty of room for the fun fest, there's plenty of room for people to watch the ducks without cars zooming by,” Demos says. “And if it rains, we can take it inside.”
DeBoer says the CAC works with Department of Children's Services, law enforcement, mental health counselors and the Rutherford County District Attorney's Office.
“(The team works together) to investigate and prosecute child abuse cases and help children and their families heal from the trauma and victimization of the abuse,” DeBoer explains.
Although the numbers of cases reported seems high, those likely represent about 90 percent of the actual abuse that is going on, DeBoer says. About 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims never report abuse. Never. Some go on to get help later in life, but many suffer in silence, she says.
“Consequences to children and to our society begin immediately (after abuse occurs),” DeBoer says.
Between 70-80 percent of sexual abuse survivors report excessive alcohol and drug use. Among male survivors, 50 percent have suicidal thoughts and 20 percent attempt. Girls and boys who are sexually abused are at a greater risk for being involved in prostitution. And 60 percent of teen first pregnancies are preceded by sexual abuse.
Darkness to Light
To help lessen the instances of child abuse, the CAC recently began offering the Darkness to Light program.
“Darkness to Light is a nationwide training program designed to teach adults how to protect children by teaching them seven steps to protecting children from sexual abuse,” DeBoer says.
Civic groups, churches, parent groups and anyone else who wants to learn how to protect children from child abuse should take this class, DeBoer says. The CAC is partnering with the Rutherford County Child Abuse Coalition with a goal of training 10,000 people in Rutherford County and 500 in Cannon County over the next five years, DeBoer says.
“A child's safety is an adult's responsibility. We make our children wear seat belts, we walk them across busy streets, we store toxic cleaners out of their reach. We ask our teenagers where they are going, who they will be with, what time they will be home, all to keep our children safe,” DeBoer says. “Child abuse statistics show that adults do not adequately protect children from child sexual abuse. There are lots of reasons why, but the main reason is that they do not know how.”
Many times parents and grandparents don't know the signs of sexual abuse and don't know what to do if the child reports that it is happening. Darkness to Light program offers a one-hour class that covers basics, as well as a three-hour seminar that goes in-depth, she says.
Even more surprising to many is how rare child sexual abuse from a stranger occurs, she says. Anywhere from 30-40 percent of children are abused by family members, 60 percent are abused by a person the family trusts, and nearly 40 percent are abused by older children, she says.
“The greatest risk to children doesn't come from strangers, but from friends and family,” DeBoer says.
Program services include:
• Forensic interviews of child abuse and child sexual abuse victims in a child-friendly location
• Crisis intervention counseling
• Case management and referrals to community resources
• Safety planning
• Crisis telephone line
• Home visits
• Follow-up services
• Court-advocacy services
• Coordination of services to victims
• Children's groups for child abuse and sexual abuse victims
• Support groups for non-offending parents and grandparents
How you can help
Volunteers are always needed at the CAC, too, DeBoer says. There are many ways to help:
• Children's advocate
• Crisis line volunteer
• Court advocacy
• Support group facilitator
• Community educators
• Board of directors
• Fundraising committee
In the last decade, a rise in the manufacturing of methamphetamines has brought to light a whole new realm of child abuse.
As the meth is being made, a byproduct is a toxic substance that settles on everything in the home — food, counters, clothes, hair and anything lying on the ground. Exposure can be life-threatening and cause long-term damage, DeBoer says.
For more information about the Child Advocacy Center, call 615-867-9000.
I suffered sexual abuse. I refuse to be ashamed any more
In all the media stories about abuse, the voices of victims are notably absent. No one wants to be defined by a horrible crime
by Roshi Fernando
Notably absent from the discussions about the recent abuse cases has been the voices of the victims. There is a reason for this: it is because the "victim" is seen as such. It is a difficult role: identify yourself, and you are immediately associated with a crime of a sexual nature. No one wants this placed on their head. You don't want to be judged by something that happened to your body, sometimes decades ago.
Well, this victim would like to speak out. Not on behalf of other "victims", because each perpetration of sexual violence, fondling, verbal abuse, intent even, is different for each person. I want to speak out because I believe that the shame the victims of sexual abuse feel is one of the reasons sexual abuse continues to occur in our society. Victims hide the abuse so they are not branded either a "victim" or a "slut", or become known primarily for that act of violence, rather than for the many and multifarious good things they may have done since – raised a family, written a book, gained a PhD, in my case.
I was abused when I was 11, by a friend of my parents. Joe doesn't fit any of the stereotypes people are looking for in the media. He was married. He was an alcoholic. He had known me since I was in my mother's belly. He had once tried to date my Aunt. He had a nickname for me, "lucky devil", because I'd once used the phrase, when I was four, about my elder sister.
He abused me twice, two afternoons in the Easter holiday when my parents were out. I remember my vest, my favourite white and pink polka dot vest. I never wear anything with dots now. Avoid them. I remember climbing the wall away from his hands. I remember the second time, his wife coming in and saying "leave the child alone". I remember she bought me an Asterix book – hardback – Asterix and the Normans. His beautiful copperplate handwriting wrote in the front "To Lucky Devil – Happy Easter". I still won't have a copy of that book in the house.
He gave me an envelope with two one pound notes in it – ostensibly to pay for the telephone calls he made from my parents' phone. It was an envelope with a Mr Men character on it – Mr Blind (how ironic!) – with his handwriting on it. I took the two pounds and hid the envelope under a floorboard in the attic, and it remained there like a ticking heart, for my whole childhood, until we moved when I was 16. The night before we moved, I climbed up there and retrieved it and burned it outside my window with a cigarette lighter. My father asked me over and over again where the envelope was – Joe had told him he'd left it – but Dad came to the conclusion that the man was a drunk and a liar. I took the money because I suppose my 11-year-old self thought it was mine. I kept the secret and the envelope there, because it meant the secret was real.
I became unhappy. "You were always moody," my mother says. I cried a lot throughout my teenage years. I drank, from various bottles of spirits stored in my parents' cupboards. I cut myself with razorblades. I smoked from the age of 16, became anorexic, and most significantly slept with boys from a young age: because it was a choice I was making. Everything I did, said: I am choosing what I do with my body, but my mind doesn't know how to cope. At 11, I was a very quiet, studious child who read books fast – I was precociously bright. I wanted to be a "scientist", but from that age – the first Easter break in my first year at secondary school – my grades slipped and slipped. At 17, I was going toward a pretty terrible adulthood. And then two things happened. Joe wrote to tell my parents he was coming to England and could he come to stay? My younger sister was 11. I broke down – threw a huge, melodramatic fit. Told my mother that Joe couldn't come to stay. I still can't really talk about that moment – when Dad realised what had happened, and cried. When I was asked – what did you do?
The second thing that happened was I made a friend called Tom. He saved my life. He talked to me, was kind, affable, decent. We were friends who went to the theatre and wrote to each other and met in parks and laughed, though we had other boyfriends and girlfriends. And then we fell in love and that's that. We have four children, have been married 25 years. We're fine. I told him about Joe and he made me see counsellors at university about the anorexia and bulimia. He loves me without question. That's how I remain undamaged, not a victim, head held high in the world.
Sharing this is horrible – but you see, this is how it continues to be perpetrated. When I was 11, I had no language, despite having read most of the English canon of novels, to speak about the part of the body Joe touched. As I grew older, the pain of it grew with me and mutated me. How to explain that? And when we are adults, we don't want to talk about it because we've found ways to cope with it.
We don't say: look, I'm fine, despite you. We don't say: look, I'm no victim. We don't say: anyone touches my children and I'll kill them (not in public anyway). We don't want the pain of talking about it. And more importantly, we don't want to be judged for that significant act. The people who have come forward now, in their thousands, perhaps feel the same as me: why be defined by the Saviles, the Halls, the endless weird, isolated men who have been arrested recently?
The first to come forward and be identified in the media, have given others the confidence to do so, and this is a good thing. But it is noticeable that only a very few are giving their names to the media.
Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus will always be defined as kidnap victims, rather than the women they will become: people who I hope will grow, change, become better than what happened to them, and live fulfilling lives. Sufferers of abuse are not "victims", not even "survivors" – we're brilliant, wonderful human beings, out there in the world, avenging ourselves on a daily basis by living well.
Children put at risk by rise in images of abuse online, say investigators
Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre says proliferation of paedophile material on internet is major threat
by Sandra Laville
Investigators are warning that the proliferation of indecent images online and the spread of high-speed internet connections are putting more children at risk.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre in its annual report on Tuesday warns that there is a consequence to the proliferation of paedophile material on the internet.
Peter Davies from Ceop revealed it is one of four key threats to children the agency is tackling. Ceop released its annual report as Stuart Hazell, 37, was being sentenced for the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp in Croydon, south London. Hazell had accessed indecent images of children and incest websites before sexually assaulting and killing Sharp last August.
Ceop also revealed that the number of children rescued from sexual abusers had risen by 85% last year to 790. The figure is the highest since Ceop was launched in 2006. Some 2,255 children have been safeguarded since then.
The annual report revealed Ceop dealt with 18,887 reports of abuse from the public and industry – a 14% increase on the previous year with an average of 1,600 reports per month.
Davies said the four key threats to children in the coming year were:
• The proliferation of indecent images of children – particularly the production of still, moving and live-streaming of child abuse images.
• Online child sexual exploitation – with a focus on the systematic sexual exploitation of multiple child victims on the internet.
• Transnational child sexual abuse – including both transient and resident UK nationals and British citizens committing sexual offences abroad.
• Contact child sexual abuse – particularly the threat posed by organised crime-associated child sexual exploitation and the risks around missing children.
The latter threat relates to criminal gangs targeting children in cases such as the Rochdale grooming ring and Operation Revolver which uncovered gangs of men abusing girls they had met and groomed on the streets of Derby.
'Coerced abortion' would be child abuse under bill passed by Louisiana House
by Lauren McGaughy
"Coerced abortion" by parents or caretakers would be considered child abuse under a bill passed by the Louisiana House on Monday. The measure was approved 92-0 and now heads to the Senate for further debate.
House Bill 278 by Rep. Valerie Hodges , R-Denham Springs, would add "coerced abortions" to the list of acts that constitute child abuse. The bill defines it as the use of force, intimidation, threat of force or deprivation of food and shelter to require a child to undergo an abortion against her will.
The bill does not include an exemption for the health or life of the mother, except in cases of ectopic pregnancies. It would let parents pressure a child in cases in which the fetus had died or the woman was in the process of miscarrying or when an abortion procedure would be necessary to save the life or health of the fetus.
In an email sent Monday evening, Hodges said she was "pleased" with the bill's passage, giving details on why she brought the bill.
"I was saddened and shocked to learn that in a least one instance, parents drove their minor child from state to state, ending up here in Louisiana Â just to find a state where the parents could approve the abortion of their minor child, without the child's consent," she said.
"This bill will allow the Department of Children and Family Services to intervene to stop a coerced abortion in exactly the same way it can intervene to stop child abuse. Minor children Â those under 18 years old Â should not be subject to either forced or coerced abortion."
Hodge's legislation was earlier approved unanimously by House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice.
Registration opens for Child Abuse, Neglect Conference
Early registration is now open for the 2013 Arkansas Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect hosted by MidSOUTH, the community service unit of the UALR School of Social Work.
The conference will be held Sept. 11-13 at Embassy Suites in Little Rock. The theme of this year's conference is “Reaping the Harvest: Are We Making a Difference?”
In addition to encouraging participants from such areas as law enforcement, healthcare, social work, and education, conference coordinators are also seeking exhibitors and sponsors interested in setting up booths at the event.
Register for the conference at www.midsouth.ualr.edu
Potential sponsors or vendors may contact conference coordinator Robin Wilson at email@example.com .
The keynote address will be delivered by leaders of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, which uses canines to comfort sexually abused children undergoing forensic interviews and court testimonies. The dogs also visit juveniles in detention facilities and provide cheer for court jurors and staff who often conduct business in an adversarial setting.
The $170 early registration fee covers all workshops, handouts, welcome reception and certificate of attendance and transcript, if requested. Interested persons are encouraged to register by Aug. 9 to qualify for the early registration discount.
Conference coordinators are seeking approval for continuing education credits from the following organizations: National Association of Social Workers, Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling, Arkansas Psychology Board, Traveling Arkansas' Professional Pathways, Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas Continuing Legal Education Board, and Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training Standards Office.
Hotel conference rates are available, but reservations must be made by Aug. 13 to get the reduced rate. Call 501-312-9000 or 1-800-Embassy.
For more information or to register for the conference, visit www.midsouth.ualr.edu . Updates will also be available through the 2013 Arkansas Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect Facebook page.
With five training locations across the state, MidSOUTH provides leadership, training, and product support in the areas of addiction, child welfare, technology, distance learning, and organizational development.
British Attorney: Who Will Think of the Pedophiles?
by Jeff Fecke
If you don't live in England, you may not have been following it, but there's a roiling scandal over pedophilia in the media, entertainment industry and even the government. It began with the revelation that the late Jimmy Savile
, a beloved BBC television personality, had repeatedly raped and molested girls over the course of his life. That revelation — and the concurrent revelation that the media and police had chosen to ignore clear evidence of abuse for decades — led to outrage among the people of Britain and forced Scotland Yard to open Operation Yewtree
, to look into cases of sexual abuse that had been ignored.
The scandal has shown no sign of abating; indeed, a series of high-profile arrests have come out of the investigation, including that of publicist Max Clifford, who is accused of assaulting women between 1965 and 1985; Australian singer and entertainer Rolf Harris; and perhaps unsurprisingly, musician and previously-convicted pedophile Gary Glitter.
For people who view child rape as a serious problem — that is to say, pretty much everyone — the arrests have been welcomed. Certainly, attorneys for those charged have argued that the cases are old, and come from a time when they wouldn't have been charged. But the pursuit of justice, even years after the fact, has been seen as a welcome sign that British society is no longer going to turn a blind eye to abuse if it's committed by someone famous.
Fortunately for the pedophiles, there is one brave voice speaking out for them — Barbara Hewson, an abortion-rights attorney based in London, who argued Thursday that the men being charged are old now, that their victims successfully fought them off, and that really, 13-year-olds are totally ready for sex anyhow — so why not lower the age of consent?
In a column which seems like it should be parody, but isn't, Hewson makes a rambling and incoherent argument that the age of consent should be lowered, and everyone should leave the poor possibly-pedophiles alone. Hewson begins with a Reductio ad Hitlerium , by noting that hey, Victorians crusaded to raise the age of consent, and women are totally more mature now, so…something:
|In the 1880s, the Social Purity movement repeatedly tried to increase the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16, despite parliament's resistance. At that time, puberty for girls was at age 15 (now it is 10). The movement's supporters portrayed women as fragile creatures needing protection from men's animal impulses.
Perhaps they did; it would be par for the course in the West in 1880 — or indeed, in 2013. But Hewson rather ignores that a 13-year-old is not, in fact, a woman. In England, as in America, she is a child. And that hasn't changed because the average girl reaches menarche earlier now than in the 1800s; as anyone with an 11-year-old can tell you, they're not cognitively adults. Or even adolescents. They are still, as they have ever been, children.
After pausing to sneer at organizations dedicated to stopping child sexual abuse — because really, what kind of crazy moral scold thinks child rape is bad? — she then moves on to Reductio ad Stalinum , comparing the pursuit of justice with Soviet show-trials.
All of that is bad, yes, but perhaps the worst part of Hewson's argument is when she minimizes the crimes of Stuart Hall, a BBC personality who has pleaded guilty to 14 counts of indecent assault. Yes, that's right — he's now a convicted pedophile, who assaulted girls as young as 9.
But really, according to Hewson, Hall didn't do anything that bad.
[T]he low-level misdemeanours with which Stuart Hall was charged are nothing like serious crime.
Touching a 17-year-old's breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one's hand up a 16-year-old's skirt, are not remotely comparable to the horrors of the Ealing Vicarage assaults and gang rape, or the Fordingbridge gang rape and murders, both dating from 1986. Anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality.
Well, yes, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not nearly as bad as Osama bin Laden, and bin Laden pales in comparison to Hitler, but all three guys either did or allegedly did awful things. Is what Hall has admitted to as bad as a gang rape or a murder? No, but frankly, it's only a minor difference of degree.
Then again, according to Hewson, it isn't that bad, because the girls managed to stop some of the attacks. “It's interesting that two complainants who waived anonymity have told how they rebuffed Hall's advances,” she writes. “That is, they dealt with it at the time.” Well, yes. One supposes they did. But few people would view a 14-year-old managing to ward off an adult as reason not to prosecute, any more than escaping one's kidnappers undoes the kidnapping. A crime is a crime, even if the victim manages to survive it.
Which, of course, is why Hewson wants to make raping a 13-year-old okay.
|Adults and law-enforcement agencies must stop fetishising victimhood. Instead, we should focus on arming today's youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations, and prosecute modern crime. As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13.
If one can come up with a worse idea than this, good luck. It makes the Ryan budget look like a model of consistency and wisdom. Essentially, Hewson argues that we should simply make it open season on 13-year-olds. If their 43-year-old swimming coach wants to assault them, well, we'll just teach them to handle it politely but firmly! Frankly, if they've drifted into a compromising position, it's their own fault anyhow. Also, if there is a bit of sexual assault, those wanton 14-year-olds should have to come forward publicly. I'm sure lots of teenagers will gladly open themselves up for a national victim-blaming!
Hewson has made her career arguing in favor of abortion rights. I am amazed that anyone who claims to take the side of women could possibly advance the arguments she has. If she had her way, teenagers in Britain would be at the mercy of adults — and they would not just be girls, and they would not just be fending off men.
This is abhorrent. It is morally bankrupt. It is wrong. And Hewson should be ashamed of herself.
Bullying victims face many difficult obstacles
Those bullied often don't seek treatment
by Dr. Charles Stevens
Bullying has been a topic that is very much in the forefront of our sensibilities. There are movies, television shows and public service announcements which bombard us on a daily basis. However, the victims are still not seeking treatment.
The biggest factor is embarrassment. This ranges from a child who is being verbally and physically harmed on the playground to the husband who is being verbally abused by his wife. Bullying can occur in many different forms and have many different victims.
Victims feel that they have some deficit and do not assert themselves. They may also feel that if they reveal the bullying to others, they will be met with ridicule or be thought of as complainers.
Another effect of bullying is the concept of learned helplessness felt by the victim. They feel that they have no control over their environment. Victims never know when the bullying will occur and they feel powerless to stop it.
Bullying may lead to depression. The victims will withdrawal from daily activities. They feel angry at themselves for not being able to take a stand against the bully. This anger can turn inward and in some cases lead to self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting.
Bullying also will devastate the individual's sense of self. The victims' message to themselves is one of negativity. Sometimes it is a message that victims play over and over in their head like an audio-loop. One devastating outcome that the victim may choose to stop the loop is suicide.
A different outcome of bullying can be confusion and rage. The victim's ability to concentrate on work or school is impaired. The mind is clouded with the voice of self-doubt and negativity. Also, the rage is like a balloon filling with air until finally it explodes. Unfortunately, part of our popular vernacular has been filled with phases describing these outcomes.
When you hear the phase “going postal” you instantly have images of rage and carnage. It is too simplistic to say bullying causes carnage. However, if you examine the profiles of these individuals acting out in a violent and seemingly unprovoked manner, you will find being bullied as part of their profile.
Children who are victims of bullying grow up to be adults who are victims. These adults approach life in a fearful and timid manner. They are unsure of themselves and will not commit to making decisions or make commitments to others.
Therapy focuses on the victims of bullying becoming the survivor. These individuals are taught skills to gain control of their environment and overcome learned helplessness. The victim is taught to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. This helps the victims of bullying gain a sense of self-esteem; they no longer allow their self worth to be defined by others.
Bullying affects all individuals no matter what age or social status. It's not appropriate to react with remarks such as “boys will be boys.” That only promotes the behavior. It is only through awareness, action and treatment that we can start to eradicate this victimization.
Dr. Charles Stevens is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. He has been working in private practice for the past 23 years and has seen the profound effects that bullying can have on both children and adults.
Law & Order's Hargitay promotes Rockland's SVU in video
Video touts center that helps abuse victims
by Steve Lieberman
SUFFERN — Actress Mariska Hargitay talks about helping victims of sexual and domestic abuse on a video released Friday by the Rockland County District Attorney's Office promoting the county's “Spirit of Rockland Special Victims Unit.”
The 13-minute video talks about the center's work assisting children, adults and elderly people who survived sexual attacks, domestic violence and other crimes.
The video opens and closes with Hargitay, who portrays Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Hargitay also is founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, established in 2004 to support survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
She called the Rockland center, on the grounds of Good Samaritan Hospital, a model of compassion that offers a comprehensive system to help survivors. She got involved through Mark Alexander, a Rockland businessman who serves on the Joyful Heart Foundation's board of directors.
The center helps special victims of various ages and genders who have been assaulted or are a victim of other crimes. For example, a senior citizen cheated in a mortgage fraud would be considered a special victim.
Hargitay provides chilling statistics on the video: One in three women report being sexually abused during their lives, every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the United States and more than five children die in the U.S. daily from abuse or neglect.
“There is a beacon of hope and progress, a model of compassion and action,” Hargitay says on the video. “Rockland County … has developed an innovative system of comprehensive support that brings to an end the revictimization of survivors during the legal process.”
Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Friday that before agreeing to speak on the video, Hargitay sent representatives of her foundation to review the Rockland Special Victims Unit.
Hargitay and her foundation were impressed by the variety of people being helped and that the center was created through community donations of labor and furnishings, without the use of taxpayer money, Zugibe said.
The name “Spirit of Rockland” honors the contributions from the community.
“We didn't limit the victims to just children — and there are many excellent programs helping children — but all victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and other crimes,” Zugibe said. “All the labor and materials were donated, which also makes our center unique. When I pitched the center, people would say, ‘What do you want done?' ”
The center, with colorful rooms to work with children and other victims, medical areas and offices for police and social workers, opened in 2011 inside a nondescript 3,000-square-foot converted warehouse.
At times of great stress and anxiety for victims, the center aims to provide a friendly, non-intimidating place for police, prosecutors, child advocates, rape counselors and others to treat and interview crime victims.
And the center also features the therapy dog Lily, a yellow Labrador whose wagging tail and affectionate disposition comfort children who have recently undergone a traumatic event.
Detective Lt. Mary Murphy of the Rockland District Attorney's Office said on the video that to “keep our victims strong and together keeps our prosecution strong and together.”
“You can't change what happened to them but you can make sure they have everything they need to go forward,” Murphy said.
During the center's first two years, Murphy said Friday, the staff helped 98 people in 2011 — 72 children and 26 adults — and 155 people in 2012, 82 children and 73 adults.
So far this year, 49 adults and 33 children went through the center, Murphy said.
Four school districts to particpate in the Stewards of Children program to train staff on abuse
by Chip Minemyer
The Stewards of Children program soon will take a giant leap toward the goal of educating 5,000 Centre County residents to recognize and report child abuse.
Howard Long, president and CEO of the YMCA of Centre County, said four local school districts will train their entire staffs through the program during the 2013-14 school year.
The YMCA is offering the training in collaboration with the county's Youth Service Bureau, Women's Resource Center and United Way office.
The Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, Philipsburg-Osceola and Moshannon Valley school districts will have their employees at all levels take the 21/2-hour course, Long said.
“I commend the schools for acknowledging that this is an important training for their staffs,” Long said. “And it's not only teachers. It's going to be maintenance folks, cafeteria staff. It's going to be the entire school.”
“We're having everybody do this,” Bald Eagle Area Superintendent Jeff Miles said. “It will be bus drivers, cafeteria staff, custodial people, teachers, administrators.”
The training was developed as the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal was unfolding.
The organizers reported recently that more than 1,500 people had been trained either individually or through their work sites.
With the schools joining, the number of people served will essentially double. Miles said Bald Eagle Area staff will train in August.
“We'll have 300 to 400 people ourselves,” Miles said. “They'll be busy.”
The goal is to reach 5,000, called a “critical mass” for making significant changes in how the county reacts to child abuse incidents.
“It's not an ‘if,' it's a ‘when.' We want to make this happen,” Long said.
“We decided we wanted to be a partner in child abuse prevention with our Darkness to Light program,” he added. “We're well on our way.”
Participants in the program will better understand the signs of child abuse and get instruction on how to react to such situations.
To learn more or to sign up for training, contact Cameron Frantz, the YMCA's director of community outreach, at the county organization's State College branch (237-7717).
Central training sessions are scheduled, and instructors will also go into a business to train several people at once.
“You don't have to be a parent and have a child to benefit from this,” said Mary DeArmitt, the YMCA of Centre County's marketing and communications director.
OPINION: Paranoia clouds child sexual abuse fears
by Karen Brooks
A RECENT story about a 70-year-old man who, after watching his six-year-old granddaughter frolic naked in the waters of Sydney's Balmoral Beach, found himself questioned by police left me feeling deeply disturbed.
An anonymous caller contacted police expressing concern about an elderly bloke "sitting with a naked child at the beach".
Not only was the grandfather shocked and shaken to find himself the subject of official scrutiny, but the young girl, Emma, was reported to be very upset and, according to her mother Jessica, felt she'd done something wrong.
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston declared that "the member of the public did what, we hope, everyone now does in such situations".
Excuse me? What situation is that, exactly?
This was a grandfather spending precious time with a happy little girl - doing what not so long ago was considered normal.
Johnston believes it's a good result. I disagree. To me, this entire scenario is symptomatic of what's happening in our culture. Not only are we living with constant wariness about each other and our motives, we're assuming the worst.
When did we become so afraid? So paranoid?
When did a naked child, supervised, romping on a beach, become cause to call police?
Upset with what had happened, the child's grandfather, Leo, posed the questions: "Would this have happened if I was female? Would it have occurred had I been a younger man?"
The answer to both is, likely, no.
This points to another perhaps unintended but no less serious consequence of our aggressive vigilance around children: the effect this is having on men's relationships with their loved ones.
Increasingly men are not only cautious, even afraid, of showing affection or attention to young kids (even their own) in public, or of reaching out to a child in distress, but they are deserting careers such as teaching for fear of being regarded as a pervert, or worse.
But our mistrust and anxiety around (male) adult behaviour and children doesn't stop there. Photography is either banned or frowned upon in public places and children's sporting events. And let's not forget the policy of many airlines not to sit men next to unaccompanied minors.
In terms of young children, there's no doubt a great deal of our concern is driven by so-called "good intentions", but I would argue this extraordinary and negative scrutiny has to be balanced against potential long-term detriment.
Before I go any further, I have to make something clear - and I've mentioned this before - I'm a survivor of long-term child sexual abuse. I've no vested interest in this issue except, sadly, direct understanding.
When someone - child or adult - is abused, it's important they're not made to feel a victim for the rest of their lives; that their future public and private relationships don't suffer as a consequence. If that happens, then the abuser wins. They still wield their terrible power and ruin any goodness, love and trust a survivor might find.
Statistics show confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect are actually falling overall. And sexual abuse is the least common form of abuse. Of the 40,466 cases reported in 2010-11, 13 per cent were for sex abuse.
This is still unacceptable, clearly, but the reality is most people are not abusers and the majority of children are not abused. So why do we behave otherwise?
Kindness, generosity of spirit, trust and reaching out to strangers have all been eroded by a warped sense that those we don't know pose a potential threat.
According to Bravehearts' online booklet, about 95 per cent of victims know their perpetrators. Only 5 per cent of child sexual assaults are by strangers.
I don't want to sound cavalier about abuse, but we must take a good hard look at ourselves and the unrealistic paranoia gripping and changing us. Especially when innocent people such as Leo and Emma suffer the penalty.
A minority of evil people have made the majority of decent people modify and change their behaviours and, in doing so, have turned us all into victims.
Dr Karen Brooks is an associate professor at the UQ Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies.
Email Karen Brooks: firstname.lastname@example.org