Google must pay taxes to fund internet police and rid web of child abuse... April deserves that
by Dr SARA PAYNE and SHY KEENAN
When will we all stand up and demand that enough is enough?
Enough of internet service providers (ISPs) saying they are taking action to stop vile, indecent images of children when we know they are still available to monsters like Mark Bridger.
Enough of countries such as the UK and the USA saying they cannot prevent disgusting creatures like him getting access to material that drives them to commit terrible crimes.
They have the resources and the technology to put an end to this madness.
Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it's a long, hard slog. Yes, these monsters are elusive — but they are not unbeatable.
We have worked with Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), now CEO of Ineqe Safe and Secure, on five initiatives that search engines and ISPs could adopt to help protect children online.
Search engine giants such as Google and Bing should build on their early work to support agencies such as Ceop and invest in making their services safer.
They could fund law enforcement activity aimed at safeguarding children on the internet. The British Transport Police are funded by businesses and in turn make things safer for customers, so a similar model already exists.
People need to understand the difference between adult pornography and child abuse images. All the big companies block known child abuse image websites.They can do more. If someone searches for an illegal site they should get a message from the search provider warning them of that, and that further attempts will be reported. That will give a real deterrent.
When it comes to adult pornography, we want to see the “safe search” option set as default. You should have to prove you are an adult before adult sites show up. The mobile phone companies do this — so can internet search providers.
Search engines must embrace science, which can identify and intercept the images by recognising their digital fingerprint — photo DNA and hash code technology. This would allow search engines to automatically seek out, identify, locate and clock known child abuse images.
If it says or suggests it is child abuse on the tin then block it. They must use their expertise to identify the search terms that indicate an unlawful intent.
Finally, the Government and others need to think about how public money is spent — Ceop receives just £6.4million per year from the Government.
The Government must step away from spouting rhetoric and put money into funding victim, police and support services to match the scale of the challenge they face.
One way to raise money is through taxation of internet giants — who currently pay very little in the UK.
Jim Gamble makes a good point, with which we agree. The Government must use their authority to deliver change — not just hand out loose change.
The time has come to harness everything we can to reclaim the web from the perverts and rescue the children they prey on. April Jones and her parents deserve that.
As does Tia Sharp and every other child who has died, or suffered, because of a failure to realise just how deadly the availability of indecent images can be.
It has been proven again and again that paedophiles such as Mark Bridger feast on these images until finally they go out and act on their revolting desires.
In fact, Ceop has identified a link between paedophiles viewing child abuse images online and then committing “contact” sexual offences. That is why we must make ISPs sit up and listen — if only for the sake of our innocent children.
We also need Prime Minister David Cameron and his government to put this issue right at the top of their agenda.
It is not acceptable that successive governments have not driven this vile material out of existence.
Nor is it acceptable that the term “child porn” has been bandied around by politicians, TV news presenters and even at Bridger's trial itself by the prosecutor.
The term should never be used to describe what is a crime in progress against a child. Those who view these images are looking at a CRIME scene.
1. On-screen warnings for people who view child abuse images
2. ‘Safe search' option as default setting to protect kids from pornography
3. Search engines and ISPS should fund policing of internet
4. Embrace ‘photo DNA' technology to track child abuse images
5. Use technical expertise to identify people searching for illegal content
They are looking at children suffering a painful, terrifying assault — the stuff of nightmares and horror films.
To name it “child porn” makes it seem less of a crime and implies the victim has willingly taken part.
Police forces and Ceop have, for years, asked for this term not to be used.
That has largely been ignored. Why?
April's shocking death must change the way we deal with these inhuman child murderers once and for all. It would be easy right now to get lost in completely justifiable anger that we all feel at the loss of another innocent child. But we need to get to the root of this problem, find the right ways to deal with it — and take a complete ZERO-tolerance stance to the crime.
What we need is for every single one of you to get behind us.
We want everyone to spend some time thinking about what happened to April — what happened to other children like her, murdered by beasts like Bridger — and what we can do about it.
Together we can fight this terrible evil and we can beat it.
Doing so will honour April's memory and protect children like her in the future. In the weeks to come we will be asking you to help and support us.
We will be asking you to back our campaign and our fight.
We owe it to April, and her fellow victims of terrible child abuse, to act.
Life must mean life
IMAGES of sadistic child sex abuse were found on Mark Bridger's computer and phone.
He had searched the internet using the terms “naked five-year-olds” and “pictures of naked virgin teens”. But he was not charged with any crimes in relation to this.
Yet the images found were enough to convince the court of his motive to kill April. Even the judge called Bridger a paedophile. But the fact that he was not convicted of any paedophilic crimes means that if he is ever released he will not go on the sex offenders register. Why should that matter, you may ask, if he has been given a whole life tariff? Well it is our fear that he won't actually die in prison as he should. That, despite the sentence, Bridger will find a way to get his sentence reduced – as others have.
For one, the judge calling him a paedophile has, according to some legal experts, already given Bridger grounds to appeal.And sadly in our experience a whole life tariff does not always mean what it says. Roy Whiting, who killed Sara's eight- year-old daughter, was given a whole life tariff.
But after a court battle lasting years Whiting got his sentence reduced from a minimum of 50 years to 40. As a result he is highly likely to live long enough to be released. Bridger could follow his path. There is already speculation he will launch some sort of appeal. If Bridger does not die in jail he will not be properly monitored once he comes out of prison because he will not be on the sex offenders register. That is worrying and wrong.
When it comes to monsters such as Bridger, the UK should follow the example of US judges who dish out sentences of hundreds of years to killers like these. That is when life really means life.
Google donates just 90 seconds' profit to charity policing child abuse
Internet giant pledged only £20,000 to Internet Watch Foundation last year, despite multibillion-dollar turnover
by Josh Halliday and Alexandra Topping
Google donated little more than £20,000 last year to the charity responsible for policing child abuse images online – the equivalent of 90 seconds' profit for the internet firm.
The search giant was one of a number of firms, including Facebook and Microsoft, that pledged relatively small amounts to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in 2012, despite their multibillion-dollar turnovers.
Facebook made a baseline donation of around £10,000 and Microsoft's Bing search engine gave about £20,000, according to the IWF's own records.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, said internet companies needed to ensure the IWF was properly resourced to tackle urgently the proliferation of child abuse images online following the murder of five-year-old April Jones.
"I am shocked that, despite the importance they have said they place on its role in keeping our children safe, they have donated such paltry amounts to it, which for them represent a drop in the ocean. As it stands, it is difficult to take their commitment to protecting our children seriously," Vaz said.
Google, Facebook and Microsoft insisted they had a strong relationship with the IWF and other child protection bodies. Facebook sponsored an event hosted by the IWF last year and made donations to agencies in other countries, it said.
Sir Richard Tilt, the IWF's chair of the board of trustees, said it would welcome more money from members. "There's certainly scope for increasing our number of analysts and we know if we had more analysts we could do better. If we could get more money that would enable us to do more," he said.
The scrutiny came after Mark Bridger was jailed for life for the sexually-motivated murder of April Jones, having earlier looked at child abuse images online. The biggest web companies – apart from Twitter and Amazon – are members of the IWF and block about 1,000 illegal sites at any one time.
But the IWF's five-strong team of analysts has become overwhelmed as reports of child abuse sites soared by 40% compared with last year, to 40,000, or 150 a day. The body is pushing companies to introduce new measures in the next 12 months including a "splash page", which would warn visitors to websites showing unlawful abuse images.
Tilt, a former director of the prison service, believes the setting will be a strong deterrent and potentially prevent further attacks. "Most of us who work in this area feel it will make a difference. There probably is a link that [online abuse images] make people more likely to commit dreadful offences, but the trouble is there isn't any clear evidence," he said.
Deborah Denis of the Lucy Faithful Foundation, a children's charity dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse, called on search engines to become more involved. But she said more stringent measures for those caught with indecent images would be "unacceptable and unrealistic", and instead there should be better sex and relationship education in schools.
Denis said: "If we attempted to lock up everybody who looked at indecent images of children, we simply wouldn't have enough space in prison. The police already do excellent work in this area, but it is a problem that is just too big for them to tackle alone."
Google was singled out for criticism by Liz Longhurst, whose daughter Jane was murdered by extreme pornography user Graham Coutts in 2003, prompting her to campaign for internet firms to ban such images. She said internet firms must "get their act together" and start tackling violent online imagery. "What annoys me immensely is that Google won't block these sites. They say we've got to have freedom. All I ask them is where was my daughter's freedom – tell me that."
There have been calls for Google to enforce its "safe search" option as the default setting, which would block pornographic material in search results. However, insiders insisted the move would be ineffectual as the stricter setting operates as an algorithm for legal content – and child abuse imagery is illegal, so is covered by extra blocking measures.
Scott Rubin, Google's director of communications outside America, said the company has a "zero-tolerance approach" on child abuse images and added: "The SafeSearch filter, which is designed to prevent sexually explicit material of all kinds from showing up in your search results, should not be conflated or confused with our dedication to keeping illegal abuse imagery out of our products. We don't rely simply on filtering technology to block child abuse images; we go beyond that.
"We are very proactive and work with the right people, including the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the US and the IWF, to keep child abuse content off all of our sites. Any implication we aren't doing anything or we refuse to be part of removing this material is wrong."
A spokeswoman for Microsoft said: ""When we are made aware of any illegal content, we remove it from our services, including our search engine and report it to the police."
Facebook said it has technology that scans for child exploitative content and automatically flags images to law enforcement. It added: "Facebook works closely with CEOP [the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre] in the UK to help bring offenders to justice."
Open letter to my priest abuser: ‘I thought it was my fault and I never told my mam'
A survivor of abuse tells a priest it is time he comes forward and tells the truth.
A FORMAL INQUIRY into child sex abuse by clergy of the Catholic Church in Australia heard from a number of survivors this week who say their lives have been blighted by the offences against them and the organisation's response to it. The following letter was written and sent to a Catholic priest earlier this year. The writer is a woman pleading with the recipient to tell the truth about an alleged historic rape. She outlines the difficulties she has had in later life. She has granted TheJournal.ie permission to reproduce it here, with some details changed and omitted to ensure anonymity.
Dear Fr. X,
As I write this I wonder if you remember me. My father befriended you while you were visiting our parish.
My family invited you into our home; you played sport with my dad. You swam with my sister and brothers. My sister remembers your car fondly.
Let me try to help you remember me. My dad got very ill…I believe he went to the hospital on a Sunday. Monday, I came home to find no one home. I called the hospital and they said he was “still in surgery” and that made me very upset. I knew my mother would call for a priest so I ran to the rectory hoping to get a ride to the hospital and see my dad. The monsignor was surprised to see me when he answered the door.
Another priest was there and you were wearing vestments for the Last Rites. I was poured a glass of wine, which I thought was weird, but also made me feel as though I was an adult, and made me very frightened for my father.
I asked to go to the hospital and we climbed into your car. You stopped at the store, gave me some money and told me to buy cigarettes for you and a pack for me because “I was going to need them.” Again, I thought it was weird, made me feel like a grownup and made me terrified for my dad.
My dad died on the Wednesday.
I remember you next at my dad's funeral. You were my dad's friend and I found comfort in that. We all trusted you.
I remember you looking ta me and I thought it was because you cared about my family.
I was home one afternoon and you molested me. I have the memory of you sticking your hands in my vagina frozen in my mind. It won't go away. I remember hiding in the closet. I have another memory of you on top of me, you were so big and I felt so small. I hope you remember everything you did to me.
How long did that go on? How many times? How many months? My memory does not serve me well for that time. Did you molest my little brother? We have both had problems consistent with child sexual abuse. I throw up thinking about it. Indeed, I threw up when I saw a picture of you.
I thought it was my fault and I never told my mom, I spent the next thirty-two years blaming myself for causing you to break your vows.
Years later, I read a magazine article about a priest in Boston who preyed on a family whose father had just died. Had you changed the name it was nearly identical to what happened in my family. I was stunned. I had been teaching in a Catholic school and I told the deacon what happened to me. He told me that it happened a long time ago and to forget about it. I couldn't forget about it and I felt betrayed. I made an obscene gesture at a priest while he was auctioning a golf game. I told the priest and my principal about my molestation and they did nothing. I recently learned, my priest didn't think he had to report it because I was not a child at the time I reported it. They don't understand. I am still a sixteen year old child in a woman's body. I have to stand with other victims of priest abuse.
I have PTSD, I have suffered a stress related heart attack, t have cyclic vomiting syndrome, kidney failure and have been harassed because you raped me. I feel that I am not welcome in my church and … [have been] a victim of gossip. I feel that I have lost my culture, as I always identified myself as Irish Catholic.
I beg you to identify any other victims and to cooperate in any investigation. This happened to me years ago and you have haunted me every day. I was shocked to see that you are still a priest. I wonder do you think that you walk the path of Jesus? I am a very private person and I do not enjoy having this publicity. I tried to reach out for help within the church but was rebuffed and made a pariah. But I could not stay silent when the church is telling the public they are addressing the problem of priest sexual abuse and reaching out to victims. That has not been my experience.
I worry about my children; this has been very hard on my family. Please make this easier on all of us and do the right thing.
Please … walk in the path of Jesus and come forward and tell the truth.
Tell the truth about everything. Publicly.
The time has come.
The identity of the author is known to TheJournal.ie.
Superheroes run through Glassboro to fight against child abuse
by Phil Davis
GLASSBORO — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman! These superheroes and more had dopplegangers of various shapes and sizes at Court Appointed Special Advocates' (CASA) annual Superhero 5K Run/Walk and Family Fun Day at Rowan University on Saturday.
The event is run by CASA to bring in both donations and awareness toward fighting against child abuse.
According to Melissa Hembrecht, the executive director for the Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties branch of CASA, the event drew in 250 participants from all over New Jersey.
Hembrecht said that the superhero theme is meant to show the extra importance and care that adults should take when dealing with a child that has been abused.
“Every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes,” she added.
Heather Roberts was at the event dressed as Wonder Woman on Saturday with the rest of her family helping out with the cause.
The Bridgeton resident said her sister's friend helped her get involved with the organization and Heather has been pledging her time to CASA to help speak out against child abuse.
Her first time participating in the annual run, Heather came in first among the women running on Saturday.
“It's just fun to come out here with the family and run,” said Roberts about her day.
Her mother Kim was also running for what she called “just a good cause” and the whole Roberts family said they would be participating in more CASA events in the future to help fight against child abuse in the area.
Joanna Nichols is an advocate that works with CASA in assimilating children in the foster care system back into permanent homes.
Nichols, an Elmer resident who decided to become an advocate six months ago after retiring, said that the day isn't necessarily just about preventing child abuse.
“It's more than just about child abuse. It's about getting those kids permanent homes,” said Nichols. “I think this is a great even to show people that there is an organization that advocates for the kids.”
With only six months in the field, she has only worked with one child but has an extensive list of ways she helps children through the foster system process.
The court-appointed advocate prepares reports for court hearings as to the child's well-being, write recommendations for judges presiding over those cases to read and even makes sure that the child is fulfilling any and all court orders
“I'm really there for anything the kid needs or wants,” added Nichols.
For someone with a relatively small period of time in the field, she said that while she's not a personalized case worker that the work she does still can have an effect.
“But you do form a relationship with them,” said Nichols. “Hopefully she's gaining confidence through me.”
“I guess kids can really have a hard life so parents should do whatever they can to help,” added Nichols.
Reporting level of suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania at highest
State officials say awareness better
by Kate Giammarise
HARRISBURG -- An annual report on child abuse says Pennsylvania received more reports of suspected child abuse in 2012 than in any other year since the department began reporting such statistics in 1973.
The state's child abuse hotline registered 26,664 reports of suspected abuse and/or neglect last year, 2,286 more reports than in 2011, an increase of 9.4 percent.
"We cannot say for sure why there is a large increase, but what we do know is that in Pennsylvania there has been a surge in awareness of and conversations about child abuse," says a statement in the report from Beverly Mackereth, acting secretary of the state's Department of Public Welfare.
The department issued the report earlier this week with little fanfare.
Of the 26,664 reports of suspected child abuse statewide in 2012, 3,565 cases, or 13.4 percent, were substantiated, state officials said. That number of substantiated reports was slightly greater than it was in 2011, when 3,408 cases were substantiated out of 24,378 reports of suspected abuse. But the percentage of cases that were substantiated was higher in 2011, at 13.9 percent.
There was some good news in the report, said Joan Benso, president and CEO of PA Partnerships for Children: The rate of repeat child abuse is not increasing.
"That tells us the broader child protective system is working," she said.
Increased mindfulness of the issue of child abuse in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal could be responsible for some of the increase in suspected abuse cases, according to child welfare groups.
"We think there is a heightened sense of the need to protect children in Pennsylvania due to the horrible crimes committed by [former Penn State assistant football] coach Sandusky and the media coverage surrounding that," said Ms. Benso.
But that increased recognition of the issue is only part of the story, said Cathleen Palm, executive director of The Protect Our Children Committee.
"Everywhere you look, the numbers were up. Clearly, the consciousness of the public seems raised ... But it's not artificial. There are other numbers that tell a story that children were at greater risk," she said, citing increased numbers of cases requiring law enforcement involvement.
Allegheny County had 1,705 reports of suspected abuse in 2012, up from 1,504 the prior year. Of the 2012 reports, 75, or 4.4 percent, were substantiated.
There were 33 substantiated child fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2012 and 48 near-fatalities. One of the fatalities was in Allegheny County; 11-year-old Donovan McKee died Feb. 11, 2012, after having been beaten with barbells, boards and belts by his mother's boyfriend over a period of several hours. There were four near-fatalities for children due to abuse in Allegheny County last year.
Most reports of abuse come from so-called "mandated reporters," such as school employees, day care workers and health-care professionals, whose jobs bring them into contact with children and who are required by law to report child abuse when they suspect it.
The annual report is required under Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law.
Two major changes to state law that were recommended by a task force convened in the wake of the Sandusky scandal have not yet become law. One proposal would broaden the definition of what can constitute child abuse, and a second would broaden the definition of who can be considered a perpetrator of child abuse.
"We think it's critically important" to see those changes become law, said Ms. Benso.
Steve Miskin, a spokesman for state Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods and the Republican majority caucus, said those issues are still being worked on in the House children and youth committee.
"We haven't finished, by any means, on child protection," said Mr. Miskin.
On Wednesday, the Senate aging and youth committee will have a hearing on the child abuse definition issue.
"It is certainly an issue we are interested in addressing," said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County.
Ms. Palm is hopeful that legislation can be passed in the fall.
"There's a lot of talk about protecting kids, but the real test will be the content of the law, how protective the law is and whether we make smart investments," said Ms. Palm.
Anti-child abuse program developed in county is going national
by JOAN KERN
When the Rev. Deb Helt's granddaughter was born 26 months ago, the pastor vowed that little Emma would be safe -- and know about her body.
So two years ago she helped lead the yearlong Safe Church Project: Protection of Children and Youth from Sexual Abuse at Hosanna! A Fellowship of Christians, in Lititz, where she serves as pastor of congregational life. Hosanna was among nine congregations in that first Safe Church Project.
Last year Helt shadowed Linda Crockett, director of education and consultation at the Samaritan Counseling Center, who developed and designed the project, as Crockett led nine more congregations and the Warwick Released Time Program through the project. In those two years, Safe Church reached 3,000 children and 3,800 adults.
Now this year, Helt will take over for Crockett locally while Crockett takes the project on the road to three locations across the country.
From Aug. 28-30, Crockett and Helt will attend a national sexual abuse conference in Hollywood, Calif., where they will lead a workshop on the project.
"It started as a tiny project in Lancaster. Now it's national," Crockett says.
"It's God's work," Helt adds. "It's vital work. I felt called to do it."
This year's local project will begin at the Parish Resource Center, 633 Community Way, from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 15. Five churches are enrolled, with room for three more.
For more information, call Crockett at 560-9991 or go to: scclanc.org/safechurch.htm
(Although the website lists the deadline as May 31, Crockett said applications will be accepted until enrollment is full.)
The project began with a $20,000 grant from the Ms. Foundation for Women, Minneapolis.
Recently the secular foundation awarded another grant, this one for $105,500, for Crockett to lead three-day workshops in New York, Oregon and North Carolina this year, with more locations next year.
Also, Elizabeth Soto, a professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary, and Crockett will teach a five-day course on the project at the seminary next June.
According to the Safe Church brochure, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before age 18. Eighty-five percent of the abusers are not strangers.
"They are Sunday school teachers, Scout leaders, relatives and neighbors," Crockett says.
"To sexually harm a child is an abuse of power. To hold power as an adult and not use it to protect children is also an abuse of power," the brochure states.
Crockett first got involved with congregations after an abuse occurred. By then, she said, the congregation was in turmoil, and she realized she needed to get involved before an incident occurred. That's how Safe Church came about.
It offers support for pastors.
"We're here for them in a very difficult situation. They must report it," she says, explaining that according to Pennsylvania law, any suspicion of physical or sexual abuse to children must be reported to Childline: (800) 932-0313.
It includes a session on the five phases of grooming.
"People are shocked and horrified," Crockett says. "People want to believe in the goodness of everyone who attends their church. ... The education is painful."
Helt says after the session at Hosanna, people were speechless.
"And they were already pretty aware," Helt says. "I asked a leader to pray, and he couldn't, because, he said, he has kids, and he never understood."
"You can't protect your children from something you don't understand," Crockett adds.
The project also teaches children and youth how to recognize and respond to abusers.
"We tell children no one should ever touch anything that's covered by a bathing suit," Crockett says. "We talk about private parts. We tell them a doctor or nurse may need to touch them because they are sick. But it's never a secret and it's never a game."
And children of any age should tell someone immediately if someone tries to touch them.
"They have the right to say no," Crockett says.
Crockett has heard story after story after story of abuse.
"It's heartbreaking," she says.
A mother whose daughter was abused in the church nursery talked about how her daughter's behavior changed.
"She didn't want her diaper changed. She didn't want her photograph taken because he had taken photos for pornography. The mother never thought anyone would do that it her church.
"Having a policy isn't enough," Crockett explains. "You have to enact it. It has to be a living policy. You have to invest your heart and soul in it."
Kindergartener interrogated over cap gun until he pees his pants, then suspended 10 days
by Eric Owens -- Education Editor
In the latest incident of anti-gun hysteria to erupt in a school setting, a kindergarten boy has been suspended from school for 10 days because he showed a friend his cowboy-style cap gun on the way to school.
The incident happened on Wednesday morning at about 8:30 a.m. on a school bus in Calvert County, Maryland, reports The Washington Post.
The kindergartener had brought the toy gun because his friend had brought a water gun the previous day. He later told his mother than he “really, really” wanted his friend to see it.
The suspended boy had acquired the menacing, plastic, orange-tipped weapon at Frontier Town, a western-themed campground with a water park, mini golf and the like.
School officials at Dowell Elementary School in the town of Lusby proceeded to question the five-year-old for over two hours before finally calling his mother, whom The Post also does not name.
The principal eventually called the boy's mother at 10:50 a.m. By that time, the five-year-old had wet his pants (which the mother called highly unusual).
The principal told the boy's mother that the boy had simulated shooting someone on the bus with the offending novelty. However, both the boy and his older sister, a first-grader, say the principal is not telling the truth.
The Post explains that the principal — Jennifer L. Young, according to Dowell Elementary's website — told the kindergartener's mother that things would have been even worse had the toy gun been loaded with caps. In that case, the school would have regarded the plaything as an explosive and called the police.
Volunteers needed for Child Abuse Council Lifesaver Day
by Child Abuse Council
Rock Island, IL, May 30, 2013 - On June 15 the Child Abuse Council will hold its Annual Lifesaver Day. Volunteers are needed to staff thirty Iowa and Illinois retail sites and exchange Lifesaver candy for monetary donations.
Two-hour shifts run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. All volunteers receive a t-shirt.
For more information about volunteering, call at 309-786-1466, or firstname.lastname@example.org
That's Not Coaching. It's Child Abuse.
by Harlan Coben
The coach called one player a “f*****g retard” in front of his teammates. He told others that they shouldn't enjoy themselves after a game because they played like, well, a compound obscenity sometimes used as a derogatory term for the female anatomy.
In the coach's attempt to motivate his boys during one halftime, he gathered them around him and told them that they were playing as though they were (pardon the shock value) undertaking a sexual act with, yes, their own grandmothers. It seems kind of small by comparison, but he also threw clipboards and kicked equipment, insulted the players' families, cursed out coaches and referees, and humiliated and berated and singled out several players to the point of tears.
In the coach's attempt to motivate his boys during one halftime, he gathered them around him and told them that they were playing as though they were (pardon the shock value) undertaking a sexual act with, yes, their own grandmothers. It seems kind of small by comparison, but he also threw clipboards and kicked equipment, insulted the players' families, cursed out coaches and referees, and humiliated and berated and singled out several players to the point of tears.
No, this isn't Rutgers University or the latest collegiate scandal. This is a volunteer father coaching my son's grade-school lacrosse team in my New Jersey hometown.
Why are we still allowing this?
The above story isn't unique. We've all seen these guys on the sidelines. We parents may not condone it, but we've learned to accept it. We put up with this behavior because we worry that if we question it, there will be repercussions for our kid. He'll get less playing time, we fear. She will be moved down from the A to the B team. He will be the brunt of even more abuse. We see our choices as putting up with it or denying our kid the sports experience. We start to justify it in our minds. “Hey,” we tell ourselves, “this is how Woody Hayes coached. The guy really knows the game. Maybe it's a good thing.”
I, too, was guilty of thinking like this.
But we know better. And it has to stop.
Maybe the screaming and shouting worked for another generation. It doesn't work now. And even if it did, even if your sixth-grade program ended up with a record of 11-2 with abuse when it would have been 9-4 without (and the evidence strongly suggests that the opposite is true), so what?
New Jersey has just adopted some of the toughest anti-bullying legislation to which our own children are accountable. Shouldn't we demand the same from our coaches? Could you ever imagine a schoolteacher or debate coach behaving in such a manner?
What I've noticed -- and yes, this is anecdotal -- is that the best teams with the best coaches seem to be have the calmest sidelines. Rather than shouting specific instructions at players -- and chastising them for every mistake -- these coaches have already taught their players what to do. They trust these kids to take responsibility. Sure, the kids mess up, but there is a lot to be said for playing without fear. They play better, learn to be instinctive, and -- gasp -- have more fun.
The bullying has to stop. Not a little. Not with some wiggle room. Completely. OK, in the heat of the moment, a coach might accidentally drop an F-bomb. That isn't what I mean. I'm also not a huge fan of the namby-pamby New Age coaching. If a kid hits a weak grounder and doesn't run it out, don't yell, “Good hustle!” But still, that overcompensation is preferable to ones on the other side. There can be nothing approaching abuse directed at a kid.
Zero tolerance. None.
When you call a kid a name or belittle him, that's abuse. Plain and simple. It should be treated as such. If you cannot coach without screaming, don't coach. I appreciate how much time and effort it takes. I've coached kids, too. But if you can't do it without tantrums, find something else to do. This is abuse. Parents may not be aware of the long-term effect coaches like these have on their child. Study after study has shown that verbally aggressive language doesn't motivate. In fact, it harms.
I love sports. As a kid I played Little League baseball, tennis, basketball, the usual potpourri of youth sports programs. What I remember best was the fun I had with teammates, the joy of sweating, of competing, of having a mutual goal, of shaking hands afterward. I remember fondly those coaches who demonstrated balance, who tried to teach us skills, rules and sportsmanship, who instilled confidence in us, who encouraged us when we made mistakes, who never tore us down. When a coach did correct or criticize (confession: I find it hard to believe praise if I never hear criticism), it was done without malice or histrionics or fear.
I also recall my friends who unfortunately got the angry, live-through-my-kid coaches and how miserable they were, how these kids ended up quitting before their time. I talk to high school and college coaches now. They have seen the results of crazed youth coaches. They talk about trying to get kids involved again -- after coaches like this make them lose their love of the game.
There are other problems -- huge, enormous problems -- with sports in our society and the ridiculous importance we place on them. I say this as someone who started on my college basketball team and knows that my athletic abilities helped me tremendously in the admissions process. But with all the news coming out in my home state right now, let's start here today. Let's make this a hard, firm policy in all our sports programs on every level. Let's put these coaches on notice with zero tolerance for any type of ridicule, humiliation or abuse.
The coach I mentioned earlier was finally removed. There are many parents who still back and excuse him. Some simply don't know better because their child doesn't share or has become immune to the bullying. Worse, many shrug it off. “There are a lot of parents who coach like that,” they say. Wow.
But last week, at my son's game, under the eyes of a calmer coach, I watched one of his teammates throw a really bad pass that led to a goal for the other team. I was so accustomed to the abuse that I actually winced, waiting for the eruption. But there was none. No parent on the sideline groaned. No coach pulled the kid out of the game or shouted at him. The kid knew. The game continued. The kid ended up scoring a goal a few minutes later.
(Harlan Coben is the author, most recently, of “Six Years.” The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this article: Harlan Coben at email@example.com.
Another child sex abuse case tossed using 2009 Oregon Supreme Court ruling
by Maxine Bernstein
The Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday threw out sex abuse convictions against a former Portland girls track coach, the latest of dozens of child abuse convictions overturned in recent years because of a 2009 state Supreme Court decision.
The high court ruled that medical experts can't testify at trial about their diagnoses of child sex abuse if no physical evidence exists. The finding has had significant ramifications, reversing at least 36 other child abuse convictions in the state so far.
Prosecutors have had to retry the cases, often calling the young witnesses back to the stand to testify years after the alleged abuse.
"The last thing anyone wants to do is put child abuse victims through another trial and make them come back years later to relive a very difficult part of their lives," said Anna M. Joyce, solicitor general with the Oregon Department of Justice's Appellate Division, who had argued the Supreme Court case.
Thursday's appeals ruling threw out the conviction of Askia Brown, who was sentenced in 2009 to 20 months in prison and five years of probation after a jury found him guilty of molesting two teenage girls he privately trained in August 2008.
Brown had been a girls track coach for Central Catholic High School in Southeast Portland, but the abuse occurred at his private studio, according to trial testimony.
Two girls, ages 14 and 15 at the time, said during the trial in Multnomah County Circuit Court that Brown had inappropriately touched them while giving them sports massages. The girls said Brown used massage lotion to rub them under their shorts and touch intimate parts of their body.
The state appeals court ruled that Multnomah County Judge John Wittmayer erred in admitting diagnoses from child abuse experts that one of the girls was sexually abused and that the second girl's case was "highly concerning for sexual abuse."
The diagnoses were from CARES Northwest, a child abuse assessment center that conducted a forensic exam of the two teenagers.
In his appeal, Brown's attorney, Oregon deputy public defender Kristin A. Carveth, cited the state Supreme Court's ruling in State v. Southard, which threw out the Deschutes County conviction of Kermit Eugene Southard. Southard had been convicted of sodomizing his girlfriend's 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
The Supreme Court said it considers three criteria to determine if medical diagnoses are admissible at trial: They must be relevant, possess sufficient scientific validity to be helpful to the jury and their prejudicial effect must not outweigh their evidentiary value. In Southard, the Supreme Court found the prejudicial effect was too much.
A diagnosis like the one in the Southard case uses videotaped interviews of the alleged victims and considers their history, reported behaviors and credibility to make a medical finding of child sex abuse.
"Because the doctor's diagnosis in this case did not tell the jury anything that it was not equally capable of determining, the marginal value of the diagnosis was slight. The risk of prejudice, however, was great," the state Supreme Court ruled.
The court held that a medical diagnosis of sex abuse isn't admissible when no physical evidence exists because a jury is more apt to defer to an expert's conclusion that an accuser is credible instead of making its own determination.
The Supreme Court's ruling came Oct. 1, 2009. Brown's trial occurred just beforehand, in August and September 2009, but the court's decision applied retroactively.
In the Brown case, lawyers from Oregon's Department of Justice conceded that the trial court made a mistake in admitting the diagnosis for both girls. But they countered that in one of the girl's cases, the diagnosis likely didn't unduly influence the jury because other physical evidence was presented at trial. The DNA collected from one girl matched Brown's male chromosome, according to trial testimony.
The Oregon Court of Appeals disagreed.
"Even though there was other evidence of sexual abuse, we cannot say that there is little likelihood that the diagnosis affected the verdict," it ruled. "Given the nature of the errors and the record as a whole, we cannot say that it was harmless error."
Brown, now 38, already has served his sentence, but the appeals decision wipes out his convictions and sex offender status. Multnomah County prosecutors said they'll examine whether to retry Brown.
"We're reviewing our options," said Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Don Rees. Neither Brown nor his attorneys could be reached for comment.
State prosecutors have bemoaned the Southard ruling. Medical diagnoses of sex abuse have helped bolster their prosecutions in difficult child abuse cases when there's no physical evidence, and it's the word of a child against an adult.
"It's been devastating," said Josh Marquis, Clatsop County district attorney and a former president of the Oregon District Attorney's Association. He estimated that at least three to four child abuse convictions have been sent back to trial court in his county.
"These cases are horrible to handle the first-time around," Marquis said. "It's been devastating, particularly when you have to make phone calls to victims where you've already told the family that everything was over with."
In November 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned a Tualatin man's conviction based on the same case law. The charges stemmed from an 8-year-old girl's allegation that Vladyslav Volynets-Vasylchenko had sexually abused her at a Beaverton in-home day care over three years. A new trial is set for this November.
In 2011 , an Astoria man successfully appealed his sex abuse convictions based on the same case law. A jury in 2008 had convicted Thomas Michael Kelly, 61, of 12 counts of first-degree sodomy and 12 counts of first-degree sexual abuse, based in part on the testimony of Dr. Roy Little, who was present when the 9-year-old girl reported the alleged abuse. At the trial, Little testified that the girl suffered from symptoms of sexual abuse, though there was no physical evidence to support the claim. Kelly was retried this year and convicted of 24 counts of sexual abuse and sodomy. He was sentenced to 33 1/4 years in prison.
Study will help sex abuse victims
A comprehensive review of how South Carolina responds to cases of child sexual abuse recognizes that this state already does a good job, but sets a goal of vastly improving how the state and the rest of the nation treat these heinous crimes against our most vulnerable citizens.
The review, titled Silent Tears: Giving a Voice to Child Sexual Abuse, was made possible through a grant by Bob Castellani who, with his wife Lisa, provided $250,000 to conduct the assessment. He said the effort was guided by a spiritual imperative to get involved.
Bob and Lisa Castellani deserve the thanks of our community, the entire state and children across the nation for taking the lead on this important issue. Children should never be subjected to these types of crimes, but the unfortunate reality is that they are and that sometimes the investigations and trials that follow add to the victims' pain. Training the people who report, investigate and prosecute these crimes, as well as those who help the child victims, will be a dramatic step forward in transforming these children from victims to survivors, as S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said in the news conference announcing the report.
The report outlined a series of recommendations to improve the state's response to child sexual abuse, crimes that a video presentation shown at the news conference said is 10 times more common than cancer. Among the recommendations:
• Encouraging all colleges and universities in the state to improve their instruction on “child maltreatment” and setting a 21-credit minor offered at USC Upstate called Child Advocacy Studies as a minimum bar for college-level training.
• Urging seminaries, law schools and medical schools to develop or expand child protection instruction. These institutions are training workers who are at the vanguard of reporting child sexual abuse and treating the victims, they should have the best training possible.
• Advising child protection employers to actively recruit candidates with adequate training.
• Setting a base of at least 40 hours of training on child maltreatment for people on the teams, called multi-disciplinary teams or MDTs, that investigate abuse.
• Emphasizing “in-the-trench” training that is based on experiences rather than classroom work. This training could take place in a dedicated training facility that includes mock homes, courtrooms, medical facilities and interview rooms to provide an element of realism to training.
• Developing an online training portal that would make certain core training available all the time to child-protection professionals. Such training could include how to cross-examine a suspect, how to prepare a child for court or how to deliver an effective closing argument.
• Improving evidence collection to help improve the chances of convictions or, better yet, a confession that eliminates the need for a trial.
• Speeding up the resolution of child sexual abuse cases. Right now, some of these cases can take two years or longer to bring to trial. Silent Tears suggests a goal of six months or less to resolve all child sexual abuse cases.
After the introduction of the report, Wilson said that the ideas presented in it could be used to improve the way sexual abuse cases are handled across the nation. He intends to present the study to the National Association of Attorneys General so the findings can be shared in all 50 states. Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center that conducted the study, said the report could help “turn a very good child protection system in this state into the envy of the world.”
When a child is a victim of sexual abuse, the case should be reported quickly and investigated in a way that presents the best possible chance at convicting the offender and helping the victim to heal. If possible, children should be spared the difficult experience of testifying in court, but when necessary they should be empowered to tell their story with the confidence that they have done nothing wrong and that our society supports them through their ordeal.
Anyone who is in a position to work closely with children should know how to respond when they suspect abuse. Churches need to be better not only at reporting abuse, but also at helping children to recover from abuse. Faith often is vital to recovering from these crimes, but church leaders have to know how to lead the children down the healing path.
If one overarching theme can be taken from this report it is that these cases need to be handled with compassion for the victim. That compassion begins with everyone involved understanding how to relate to the victims, how to process crime scenes effectively and how to put offenders behind bars without further damaging the innocents involved in these heinous acts. This study presents a road map to that end.
Those involved in Silent Tears need to follow the report with robust action that will result in clear, measurable results that should be assessed on a regular basis.
Reports of Pa. child abuse rise in 2012
by Megan Rogers
HARRISBURG - Reports of suspected child abuse rose 9 percent last year in Pennsylvania, reaching the highest number since the state began collecting such reports a decade ago.
The percentage of child abuse reports that were substantiated fell slightly - from 14 percent in 2011 to 13.4 percent in 2012, according to a newly released annual report by the state Department of Public Welfare.
Reports increased across the state, with upticks noted in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. Philadelphia, the report said, saw a decrease.
"This marks 2012 as the year Pennsylvania received more reports of suspected child abuse than any other year on record," Beverly Mackereth, the acting welfare secretary, said in the report.
Mackereth called the numbers an "unprecedented increase" and said it stems from a "surge in awareness" of child abuse issues in the state.
Advocates and experts said a combination of greater awareness and better training contributed to the trends cited in the report.
The increase in reporting - there were 2,286 more reports of suspected child abuse in 2012 than 2011 - came as a number of high-profile cases were unfolding in Pennsylvania, including the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, the onetime assistant Pennsylvania State University football coach now imprisoned for molesting boys.
Leslie Slingsby, director of the Bucks County Children's Advocacy Center, said increased training of so-called mandated reporters - people who are required to report suspected cases of child abuse - helped explain the higher numbers.
Mandated reporters accounted for 78 percent of reports of suspected abuse last year, the report found. Under state law, mandated reporters include physicians, school teachers and administrators, social-services workers, and child-care workers.
Slingsby said further prevention cannot take place without revamping state laws.
Legislators are considering a proposal to expand the definition of child abuse. State Rep. Kathy Watson (R., Bucks), who heads the Children and Youth Committee, said she hoped to get the bill voted on by the House before the chamber breaks for the summer.
Watson said the bill would remove some words - such as "severe" pain and "serious" injury - from the definition of suspected abuse that must be reported, and would include sexually explicit conversations with children as well as engaging in crimes involving drugs or alcohol in children's presence. "Everything is geared to look at the world through the eyes of the child," she said.
Under existing law, said Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee, "the threshold in terms of injury and of pain is pretty significant to be considered child abuse."
SNAP leader shames Mahaney supporters
A leading advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse says it is hurtful and irresponsible for evangelical leaders to rally around an accused colleague before all the facts are known.
by Bob Allen
An activist who advocated for victims during the Roman Catholic sexual-abuse scandal in the United States in 2002 says evangelical leaders publicly rallying behind a minister accused in a lawsuit of covering up sex crimes against children sends the wrong message to abuse victims everywhere.
David Clohessy, national director of SNAP -- the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – said May 28 that religious leaders voicing support for embattled Pastor C.J. Mahaney, named in a lawsuit recently thrown out of a Maryland court for legal reasons, ought to be ashamed.
“It's dreadfully hurtful to child sex-abuse victims when people in authority publicly back accused wrongdoers,” said Clohessy, one of just four abuse survivors to testify before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their historic meeting in Dallas in 2002. “And it hinders criminal investigations, because it intimidates victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into staying silent.”
Clohessy weighed in after public statements by friends of Mahaney, including Southern Baptist seminary president Albert Mohler and Washington pastor Mark Dever, vouching for the former Sovereign Grace Ministries president's personal integrity.
“Support Rev. Mahaney if you must,” Clohessy pleaded. “But do so privately in ways that don't further harm, depress and scare other child sex-abuse victims into keeping silent and thus helping child predators escape detection and prosecution.”
“It's always heartbreaking to us to see congregants immediately and publicly rally for an accused child molester instead of keeping an open mind and urging anyone with information to come forward,” he said.
Clohessy said at best it's “disingenuous” for ministers to take sides while at least two remaining victims' abuse and cover-up suits are pending and “at worst, it's mean-spirited.”
“As responsible adults, we must make it less hard, not more hard, for victims of these heinous crimes and cover ups to step forward, get help, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing.”
Clohessy acknowledged that legally speaking Mahaney and the other defendants are innocent until proven guilty, but public support in the meantime sends the message that alleged victims are either wrong or lying. “That, in turn, frightens other victims into staying trapped in frustration,” he said.
Clohessy, who lives in St. Louis, has served as the national director of SNAP, billed as the nation's largest and oldest self-help group for clergy molestation victims, since 1991. He has traveled around the country, appeared on programs including Sixty Minutes , the Oprah Winfrey Show , the Phil Donahue Show , Good Morning America and been featured or quoted in newspapers around the world.
Started with a focus on Catholic priests in 1988 by founder and President Barbara Blaine, SNAP today boasts more than 9,000 members in multiple denominations, including Baptists.
Clohessy, who in 1991 filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., for the abuse he claimed he suffered between 1969 and 1973, from the ages of 12 to 16, at the hands of a parish priest, said in a 2008 interview that in some respects, those abused by Baptists face an even tougher road than those molested by Catholics.
“I just can't imagine a more recalcitrant church hierarchy than the Southern Baptists,” Clohessy commented to the Healing and Spirituality blog after witnessing interactions between Southern Baptist Convention leaders and SNAP's then-Baptist representative Christa Brown.
“I've seen Baptist officials be stunningly cruel to her -- in person and in print,” he said.
Child Sexual Abuse Survivor Karlyn Percil Shares her Story
by Samuel Getachew
(Video on site)
May was Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Ontario. Earlier this month, the Toronto Police teamed up with the Government of Ontario, as well as Seneca Collage's Graphic Design program, to encourage sexual abuse survivors to tell their story.
Ontario Women's Minister Laurel Broten attended the kickoff event, saying, "No one deserves to suffer in silence and up to 25 per cent of college women experience some form of sexual assault during their academic career."
Noted Bay Street banker, Karlyn Percil was also in attendance. Percil had teamed up with the Toronto Police, sharing her personal story of child abuse via a powerful public video.
"As a society, we need to fulfill children's right to be free from violence and sexual abuse. Silence is saying we deserve what happened and we don't deserve it," she said.
I recently spoke to Percil about the challenges she has faced, as well as her personal reasons for going public with her story.
Karlyn, I really admire your story. Tell me about yourself.
"I am originally from St. Lucia. I migrated to Toronto in 2003 and have been working in the financial district since I moved here. I am also an advocate for women and Girls, an extreme encourager, author, speaker and self-love advocate -- yes, it's a lot of titles! I believe that greatness lies within every woman and my goal is to provide the tools and platform to encourage every woman to tap into their inner greatness.
Women will change the world but we often hold ourselves back, we self-sabotage and we don't raise our hands. And as Sheryl Sandberg noted in her new book, Lean In , We don't 'lean in.' But until we start talking about the real reason why we don't 'lean in,' we women cannot change the world. We won't go after our dreams. We won't live a life full of love and happiness. We won't be able shift the statistics for the generation coming behind us."
Earlier this month, at the launch of the Sexual Assault Awareness Month, you spoke of your experience of being a childhood survivor of sexual abuse. Please reflect on your experience and why was it important for you to go public.
"I know first-hand about the reasons why we self-sabotage and why we don't 'lean in.' Because I did it. I held myself back. I didn't manage my career effectively. While I am successful at my job, I didn't raise my hand, or oftentimes I would but I'd put it down. I didn't sit at the table, I didn't maximise my full potential and I knew why -- I was afraid to face my own truth.
Child sexual abuse is very taboo, not only in the Caribbean where I grew up, but since moving here to Canada I have learned that the shame and stigma is here as well. We all feel it. People are still afraid to talk about it. We, the victims, suffer in silence for years; we blame ourselves and we let shame tell us who we are. But learning to forgive myself and loving myself again allowed me to see that I am not what happened to me.
I decided to go public because I don't want another young girl to go through what I have been through. And I didn't want to miss any other opportunities to go after my dreams in life. I allowed fear to dictate a lot of my steps in the past. The side effects of sexual abuse in childhood can result in suicide and physiological distress to. I had anxiety attacks but tried to convince myself that I didn't have them for fear of being labelled. But as an adult, I believe that my duty is to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Children should grow up happy, free to enjoy life and reach their full potential.
We cannot stay silent about something that can destroy lives. We cannot continue to tell young girls and boys to be all that they can be and ignore something that can take away that right to be ALL that they can be. Child sexual abuse affects over 150 million girls worldwide and 72 million boys.
It is important to talk about the things that get in the way of loving ourselves and going after our dreams. If we want girls and women to play a more active role in society, then it's time to talk about the reasons why -- at least let's talk about one of the reasons why -- they may hold ourselves back. Let's talk about shame and where it comes from."
This year's theme is was "Report Support." What would be some of the objectives to take from the theme?
"The objectives are to get victims to report any sexual assault crimes to the police and to get victims the support they need to help them through what is undoubtedly a difficult time. The Toronto Police Service works with a number of organisations, which provide support and guidance for the victims. So it's not simply about reporting it but also about getting victims the help they need, which I believe is so important; it is the only way we shift from victim to survivor."
You have been working with the Toronto Police on a video message that was launched earlier this month. Tell me about the video.
"Yes I've been working with Toronto Police Services since last year on this. My work first started with UNICEF -- they are taking a multi-pronged approach to this issue, having discussions at a regional level with Caribbean officials and partners. The video was, in some ways, to show other victims who may want to come out that the Toronto Police have trained officers who can and will help them. My role is also to share my story and to let them know that they are not alone. We often feel like we are alone when we go through these horrible experiences.
The message is also a plea to society and the communities we live in. They can help end child sexual abuse by breaking the silence by having the conversation about sexual assault with their children. It's important we let them know what it is: sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act. We need to create a culture of breaking the silence and to know that we are all part of the solution; child sexual abuse affects not only the child or the families involved, it also affects society in general."
There are many young girls and boys that may go through the experience that you went through at such a young age. What advice do you have for them?
"That it is not their fault. And if there is an adult that that they can trust, to share their story with them. There are agencies and organisations that can help them through this. The Toronto Police is committed to helping and supporting them through this as well.
And to survivors who are ok with sharing their story, I need your help. We need to protect the children. Speak out. Don't let shame tell you who you are. We are NOT what happened to us. We are survivors. We are beautiful warriors who deserve love, happiness and peace in our lives."
Rape victim: Retaliation prevalent in military
by JULIE WATSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Stacey Thompson had just been stationed at Marine base in Japan when she said her sergeant laced her drinks with drugs, raped her in his barracks and then dumped her onto a street outside a nightclub at 4 a.m.
The 19-year-old lance corporal was not afraid to speak up.
She reported it to her superiors but little happened. She said she discovered her perpetrator was allowed to leave the Marine Corps and she found herself, instead, at the center of a separate investigation for drug use stemming from that night. Six months later, she was kicked out with an other-than-honorable discharge - one step below honorable discharge - which means she lost her benefits.
Now, 14 years later, she has decided to speak out again, emboldened by the mounting pressure on the Pentagon to resolve its growing sexual assault epidemic.
She went public with her story Thursday in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. She is among the scores of service members who have lived in silence for decades and are now stepping forward to fight for an overhaul of the military's justice system and demand their own cases be re-examined.
"To see that what happened to me 14 years ago is still continuing to happen now, for me that was a big reason why I felt the need to come forward," she said. "I can finally say I have the strength."
Marine Corps and Navy officials declined to comment, saying they do not discuss specific cases. The Marine Corps has said it takes sexual assault allegations seriously and continues to improve in responding to and preventing rapes within the ranks. All branches have been implementing sexual assault prevention programs in the past year.
Retaliation is part of a military-wide pattern that has prevented countless cases from being reported and investigated, exacerbating the epidemic, according to victims' advocates. A Pentagon report released earlier this month found 62 percent of sexual assault victims in the military who reported being attacked say they faced some kind of retaliation afterward.
"It's an ongoing problem that is not getting better, it's getting worse, as the latest statistics out of the Pentagon show," said Brian Purchia, spokesman for Protect Our Defenders, which has been helping Thompson. "Unfortunately commanders are conflicted: When a sexual assault occurs on their watch, it reflects poorly on them and that's why it's shoved under the rug. The perpetrators frequently out rank the victims, which is also why there is this bias. They're going to trust people they've known - not an 18 or 19-year-old just new to the service."
Thompson said military culture will not change until the system changes. She will speak Friday at a news conference in Los Angeles with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to show her support for her bipartisan bill that would put the cases in the hands of military trained prosecutors.
Service members now must report any crimes to the chain of command, even when their superiors have been involved.
"Too many survivors of military sexual assault are afraid to report these crimes because they fear retaliation, and they don't believe they will get justice," Boxer said. "They deserve a system that encourages victims to come forward knowing that the perpetrators will be brought to justice."
Thompson said she was not afraid to report the crime but paid heavily for doing so.
The investigator called her a liar, and military authorities checked her hands for needle pricks after accusing her of using drugs. She said she never used drugs. She was reassigned to another unit, removed from her job and told to report to an office, where she had nothing to do for months.
Then she was kicked out. She continues to suffer from her other-than-honorable discharge, which stripped her of her benefits and she believes has led to her missing out on Defense Department jobs.
"I felt the Marine Corps re-victimized me again after getting raped," said the 32-year-old mother of three.
Thompson said she shut down after getting out, refusing to talk about her rape. She was afraid of men, especially Marines. To this day, she keeps her dog nearby when she showers and sleeps with lights on in her house, even when her combat Marine husband is home.
"That fear is still with me 14 years later," she said.
But the fight is there too. Thompson requested her records in December. She said they showed the drug use allegations against her came from her perpetrator's friends.
She is now appealing her case to the Department of Veterans Affairs and is seeking compensation related to military sexual trauma. After that, she plans to also appeal her discharge status to get it upgraded to honorable.
Several service members have filed lawsuits in the past two years, alleging retaliation after they reported being raped. Among them was another former Marine, Elle Helmer, who said in her lawsuit that after reporting her sexual assault in 2006, the military investigated her for public intoxication and unbecoming conduct. She left the military soon after.
The extent of the assaults came to light when the Pentagon released a report earlier this month estimating that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year and that thousands of victims are unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs. That figure is an increase over the 19,000 estimated assaults in 2011.
Only 3,374 of these crimes were reported, resulting in just 238 convictions. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing next week on legislation to combat military sexual assault, including the bill sponsored by Boxer and other lawmakers.
Los Angeles County
Signs of boy's abuse missed by L.A. County social workers
Palmdale child, 8, died last week. His mother was the focus of multiple inquiries by social workers.
by Garrett Therolf
When paramedics arrived at his Palmdale home last week, 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez's skull was cracked, three ribs were broken and his skin was bruised and burned. He had BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Two teeth were knocked out of his mouth.
His mother's boyfriend allegedly told authorities that he beat Gabriel repeatedly for lying and "being dirty," according to confidential county documents reviewed by The Times.
Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services left Gabriel in the home despite six investigations into abuse allegations involving the mother over the last decade.
He died Friday of his injuries. His mother and her boyfriend were charged with murder and torture. They have not entered pleas, but records show Gabriel's mother told paramedics that the boy's injuries were a result of self-mutilation.
Social workers appeared to miss numerous warning signs at the home, according to the county documents.
Gabriel had previously written a note saying he was contemplating suicide, records show. His teacher told authorities he often appeared bruised and battered at school. BB pellets left bruises across his face. For reasons that are not clear, all but one investigation was determined to be "unfounded."
At the time of Gabriel's death, there was yet another, unresolved allegation of child abuse in his file. That referral has lingered two months past a legally mandated deadline for completing an investigation, records show.
The social worker assigned to that case did not make first contact with the family until 20 days after the complaint was received, and then "made minimal attempts to investigate," according to an internal county report.
"The red flags were all over the place. They were ignored. It is just inexplicable to me," said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, noting that the Sheriff's Department was also aware of the abuse allegations.
Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip Browning acknowledged in an interview that the system failed Gabriel.
The case illustrates a need for more "critical thinking and common sense" in evaluating cases, he said.
Four social workers have been placed on desk duty pending possible disciplinary action.
But Gabriel's death sent fresh shock waves through the county's child protection bureaucracy, still struggling to implement reforms after dozens of abuse and neglect deaths in recent years involving children who had been under the system's supervision.
The department has been criticized for lenient treatment of workers who fail to properly protect children in cases such as Gabriel's. One recent internal agency review found no workers had been fired in 15 instances where children died, even when their errors were deemed "egregious."
"I feel like they all should be fired," said Elizabeth Carranza, Gabriel's aunt. "They didn't listen to my nephew. They were completely deaf and blind."
Gabriel's relatives and friends have mobilized to put pressure on the department to hold workers accountable and take evidence of child abuse more seriously. Several protests have been staged, and a Facebook page has gathered over 20,000 supporters.
"We are protesting their handling of this case 300% because we want to make sure this never happens again," Carranza said.
Browning said Gabriel's case is complex and defies "simple solutions," but he encouraged people who know about child abuse to contact department managers if they encounter non-responsive workers.
"If all else fails," he said, "I want them to contact me. I answer calls from foster children, staff, foster parents, anyone."
A decade ago, Gabriel's mother, Pearl Fernandez, came to the attention of county social workers when her oldest son suffered a head injury during a car accident. He was wearing no seat belt, prompting an allegation of severe neglect, according to county records.
A year later, a relative reported that Pearl beat the same son and did not want him, but social workers decided the complaint was unfounded.
Gabriel was born in 2005 and went to live with relatives soon thereafter. He had little interaction with his mother for years, relatives said, and the two barely acknowledged each other at family gatherings.
Pearl later told social workers that she had a history of gang involvement, drug use and mental health problems.
In 2007, social workers received a complaint that Pearl did not feed one of her daughters and threatened to break her jaw when she cried.
The following year, Pearl was convicted of using a weapon in a reckless manner in Texas and was sentenced to two weeks behind bars, according to court records.
In October, relatives said Pearl suddenly reclaimed Gabriel and two siblings from her parents. Emily Carranza, Gabriel's cousin, alleged "it was for the welfare money." Pearl told social workers she was concerned about the treatment of her son by relatives.
Within days, a call came to the child abuse hotline alleging that she was physically abusing the children. Social workers substantiated neglect but allowed her to keep her children and enter counseling.
Another call in October from Gabriel's teacher said he was bruised on his face and hands and the boy reported he was hit with a belt buckle that caused bleeding.
The following month, the teacher said he had scratches and a "busted lip," which the boy attributed to being punched by his mother, records show.
In January, the teacher said his face was swollen and he had bruised dots all over his face. She said Gabriel told her his mother shot him in the face with a BB gun, according to county records.
At one point, his mother sent Gabriel to school in girl's clothing to humiliate him, relatives said.
During the investigations, Gabriel often recanted his stories of abuse. An internal county review criticized social workers for failing to interview Gabriel in a neutral setting away from his mother.
In March, Gabriel's therapist called 911 after discovering a suicide note by Gabriel. Authorities dismissed the complaint without removing him or hospitalizing him because he had no specific plan to carry out a suicide, records show.
The same month, Gabriel's mother ended contact with county social workers, saying she did not need their help.
A new complaint was submitted by Gabriel's therapist on March 26 saying the boy reported once being forced to perform oral sex on an older relative, according to county records.
Gabriel later withdrew the allegation when interviewed by a social worker at his home. The investigation of the complaint remains open.
On May 22, firefighters were summoned when Gabriel stopped breathing. Two days later, he died. His siblings told investigators they heard "something" happen to Gabriel, but declined to elaborate, according to the county reports.
The county has been battling a backlog of child abuse investigations for years. The problem has been especially acute in the Antelope Valley, where Gabriel lived, because some of the department's least experienced social workers work there with the highest caseloads.
Only South Los Angeles and Compton receive lower levels of service, according to a 2010 report.
Although significant progress has been made in reducing the backlog, 3,450 children are currently subject to overdue investigations. County officials noted that 37 of California's 58 counties have a poorer record of meeting mandated investigation deadlines.
Autism specialist: Child abuse claims went unanswered for 10 years
Lee County autism specialist reported abuse suspicions 10 years before neglect arrest.
A specialist with Lee County Public Schools said she suspected abuse and called the authorities as soon as she met the dirty 12-year-old girl who hid behind her hands and was too afraid to speak.
But it took 10 years before the girl, now 22, and her 7-year-old sister were removed from the Cape Coral home where police said they were living among garbage, roaches, animal carcasses, vomit and feces.
On Sunday, Cape Coral police arrested 46-year-old Lisa Velez on charges of neglecting a child and a disabled adult. They said she allowed her two autistic daughters to live in deplorable conditions in their SE 16th Place home. Animal Control officers also gave Velez eight citations for neglecting her cats.
Terri Myles, autism program specialist for Lee County Public Schools, saw the oldest daughter a few times a month until Velez pulled her out of school about six years ago.
“We started calling (the Department of Children and Families) right away,” Myles said. “We've called every year since she's been in the school district.”
Such complaints are not public record.
Myles saw the same signs of abuse when the youngest daughter started school. She watched, angry and impotent, as her calls to DCF brought no results.
The DCF caseworker told Myles the department was working with the mother to clean up the house.
DCF has been involved with the Velez family in the past, but it is prohibited by law from providing additional details about the investigations, according to spokeswoman Terri Durdaller.
“I saw those pictures, and I, too, was horrified,” Mike Carroll, DCF regional managing director, said of pictures recently taken inside the home. “And based on those pictures, those children should have been removed.”
But the house may not have been so bad when DCF caseworkers visited in the past, Carroll said.
If someone reports hazardous conditions in a home, DCF works with the family to clean, Carroll said. Sometimes the home is cleaned and DCF closes the case, only to come back later and find it worse than ever.
Often an unsafe home stems from an underlying mental health or substance abuse issue. If that's the case, DCF sets the family up with a treatment or therapy program.
“For us to remove a child,” Carroll said, “that's the last possible thing we want to do, and we only do it when it's absolutely necessary.”
DCF cannot remove a child unless it can prove in court the child is in immediate danger and the parent cannot fix the situation, Carroll said.
Myles said the problems on SE 16th Place extended beyond the physical condition of the home. When officers arrested Velez on Sunday, they found one of her daughters locked in a room, according to the Cape Coral Police Department report.
Myles said she recently asked the youngest daughter how her sister was doing.
“She's in the closet,” Myles said. “That's what she used to tell me.”
On Thursday, a Lee County judge awarded temporary custody of Velez's youngest daughter to a woman who has worked with her in the Lee County school system. Her father, Jose Velez, was granted supervised visitation. Lisa Velez's criminal charges prevent her from having contact with the girl.
The 7-year-old, grinning and clutching a stuffed dog, said “hello, Mommy” as Lisa Velez entered the courtroom. Sitting before the judge in a red jumpsuit, Velez gave her daughter a small smile.
Ruth DeCamp, the girl's maternal grandmother, led her out of the courtroom by the hand during the proceedings.
“We love her very much, and we want her to be protected and cared for,” DeCamp said. “She should be able to be a little girl and have a good life.”
Jose Velez said he is happy to place his daughter in the hands of her new temporary guardian, saying the woman is a close friend of the family.
Myles said the 7-year-old is happy and seems oblivious to the situation around her.
“I think we were able to get her in time,” Myles said.
The 22-year-old daughter was sent to a home for adults with disabilities. Myles, who wants to visit but hasn't been able to find out where she is, is worried about what her future will hold.
Investigators focus on the use of online child abuse images by killers
Experts relate April Jones and Tia Sharp murders to proliferation of pictures and 'spiral of abuse' theory
by Sandra Laville, Jemima Kiss and Steven Morris
Mark Bridger, April Jones's killer, and Stuart Hazell, the killer of Tia Sharp, killed young girls in sexually motivated murders within weeks of each other. Neither had previous convictions for sexual offences, both exhibited similar leaps from petty criminals to child sex killers, and in each case online child abuse images played a part.
The two men accessed online images of child sex abuse, behaviour that escalated shortly before they carried out the killings. As a consequence, investigators have focused on the danger posed to children from the explosion of indecent images of young people online and whether there is a causal link between the viewing of such images and an individual going on to sexually assault a child, as in the cases of Bridger and Hazell.
For the likes of Google and Facebook, the accessibility of child abuse images online is a toxic issue for consumer internet giants who are legally, ethically and reputationally obliged to make it as difficult as possible for material to be distributed. Yet while the internet giants and major web publishers work to ban indecent images of children through the Internet Watch Foundation, critics are warning that the situation is getting worse.
The Child Sexual Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (Ceop) says the proliferation of indecent images online and the spread of high-speed internet connections is putting more children at risk. It says this issue is a key threat that the agency is working to tackle. According to Ceop, the number of unique child abuse images in circulation on the internet now runs into millions.
Jim Gamble, the founding head of Ceop, said: "One of the problems with the internet is that people who harbour a deviant sexual desire for children are secretive by nature and the internet allows them a good way to initially satisfy that desire by viewing images. But there is this spiral of abuse theory: they begin to want more, they want access not to still images but to video images, and then they want to get more real experience."
Hazell sought out indecent images of prepubescent girls – in many cases searching for children who wore glasses, like Tia Sharp. He viewed mainstream fashion sites such as fashionmag.com, which police say paedophiles are known to visit, and accessed images of sex including bestiality and incest.
Bridger had a library of between 100 and 150 graphic images, some depicting very young girls suffering sadistic sexual abuse by adults, on his laptop, and searched online using terms such as "naked young five-year-old girls" and "Michael Jackson daughter naked".
These are compelling cases for the spiral of abuse theory, but Dr Elena Martellozzo, a criminologist who works with the Metropolitan police and specialises in sex offenders' use of the internet, said there was a difficulty in being certain about any causal links.
"I have spent 10 years looking at online child abuse and the relationship between viewing indecent images and hands-on abusers," she said. "It is very difficult to be able to say that viewing indecent images can lead to sexual abuse. But what we can definitely say is that, in the great majority of cases, when someone has indecently assaulted a child they are then found with indecent images on their computers as well."
Google, in particular, is reluctant to be publicly drawn into the debate in the wake of the Bridger and Hazell verdicts. The Internet Service Providers Association would say suggestions to block internet access completely from convicted abusers would be unworkable because of cheap, internet-ready mobile devices, and more granular monitoring of the billions of pieces of material online would be impossible, logistically and financially.
But there are examples when the major US social networks do act: Facebook is still smarting from a campaign led by women's groups who demanded — successfully — that the site remove offensive and hateful material that appeared to celebrate violence against women, including a photograph of a woman in a pool of blood with the caption "I like her for her brains".
And for investigators and analysts, these two men provide powerful patterns to examine. Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, the recently retired head of homicide at Scotland Yard, said: "These cases exhibited such similarities that they give police officers who normally work on discrete cases the ability to see human behaviour repeating itself in incidents which follow sharply on each other."
Google urged to do more to block access to child abuse images
Government's child internet safety adviser wants firm to change default safety setting to force users seeking hardcore porn sites to register
by Alexandra Topping
Google has been urged by a government adviser to do more to restrict access to child abuse images, after paedophile Mark Bridger was jailed for life for the murder of April Jones.
John Carr, a government adviser on child internet safety, said making it more difficult to access hardcore pornography sites, which were often the gateway to illegal child abuse images, would prevent many men accessing such images.
Carr added that he would be urging Google to take measures in a meeting with the company next week.
Carr's remarks come after the sentencing of Bridger, who murdered the five-year-old in a sexually-motivated attack after looking at pictures of child abuse online.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Carr acknowledged that Google, like all search engines, blocked access to websites they knew contained images of child abuse. "That is them being reactive, they can and should be proactive," he said.
Currently there are three safety settings on Google, which can be adjusted by the user. Carr argued that Google should turn on its "safe search" function by default, and block access to hardcore pornography sites. "They are one of the key routes that guys get to child pornography in the first place," he said.
If users wanted to change their settings to access hardcore pornography sites, they would have to register with Google and would have to verify they were 18, said Carr. "That would be a huge deterrent for many of these guys that would stop them from getting on the pathway that lead to the child abuse images."
He added: "Putting any types of barriers to things like that would in my opinion, and the opinion of many others, help reduce the numbers of guys who got involved with this stuff in the first place, and that would be a big step forward."
He called on Google to show "moral leadership" on the issue. "They are the biggest player in this space in the world. If they did it then others would follow … If Google did it everyone would have to do it."
Google has said it is committed to ending access to illegal internet sites. The company was "unable or unwilling to do an interview" on Today, according to presenter Sarah Montague.
State-by-State Changes Sought in Limits on Sexual-Abuse Lawsuits
Church leaders are concerned about efforts to allow new civil claims in cases involving decades-old allegations.
by SUE ELLEN BROWDER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sexual-abuse “window” legislation, similar to the law that led to diocesan payouts of over $1 billion in California in 2003, is snaking its way through state legislatures across the nation.
Senate Bill 131, which may go to the floor of the California Senate as early as today, could put the Catholic Church again in financial jeopardy by opening up yet another year in which civil cases alleging sexual abuse that happened decades ago could be filed in court.
“Our chief concern with this bill is that it goes backwards, that it opens up the statute of limitations all over again for one year in 2014,” said Kevin Eckery, spokesman for the California Catholic Conference.
When California passed the 2002 law that opened up a one-year “window” into the legal system in 2003 for anyone to sue the Church for past alleged sexual abuse, assurances were made that this “one time” legal initiative would allow the Church to address past sex scandals and then move forward, a promise that seems to be forgotten.
But there's a new twist to the legislation this time around: The 2014 legal “window” would apply not only to the Catholic Church, but to all private and nonprofit organizations, such as the YMCA/YWCA, private schools, private businesses, Protestant churches and Little League.
Meanwhile, public schools, juvenile-detention centers, foster-care services and other state-run agencies, where most child sexual abuse actually occurs , would be immune to any alleged acts of abuse before 2009.
Further, if at any time in the future a physician or mental-health professional tells a client that his or her problems were caused by childhood sexual abuse, the person has five years from the revelation to sue for monetary damages.
“In 2003, we said that, in order to do the right thing and settle all these claims, we're just going to surrender our insurance policies, and then if anything else happens, we're not covered,” Eckery said. As a result of the 2003 settlements, the Church's insurance policies were forfeited and no longer exist.
He said 2003 was about “making things right.”
“While it was certainly expensive, you couldn't quibble with the justice of it all,” Eckery observed. “But now, when we've exhausted our insurance and sold property, it's, like, wait. Three bites of the apple?”
According to Eckery, 55% of the $1.2 billion paid out to more than 1,000 plaintiffs in the 2003 settlements went to the plaintiffs' attorneys.
An Opportunity — for Whom?
“With S.B. 131, we have an opportunity to turn the tide of violence in California by taking a stand for the humane treatment of children,” said California state Sen. Jim Beall, the bill's author.
“S.B. 131 is about justice for the victims of abuse, period,” Beall said at an April 16 news conference .
But others suggest bills like this are springing up in one state after another not so much as a matter of justice, but as part of a coordinated national effort spearheaded by attorneys with the less honorable intention of making money.
“Is this bill really supposed to be helping to protect kids and prevent abuse?” Eckley asks. “Well, yes, that's what the author says. Then why doesn't it do anything on the criminal side? Nothing.”
“This bill,” he added, “seems to be more about lawyers than about victims.”
“One of the basic concerns about ‘window' bills is that they're contrary to the fundamental reasons why we have statutes of limitation,” said L. Martin Nussbaum, a Colorado Springs, Colo., attorney whose firm has been involved in thousands of claims on behalf of more than 15 dioceses and religious orders.
“We have statutes of limitation to encourage prompt claim-making, so if there's a problem, corrective actions can be quickly taken,” Nussbaum explained. “These statutes also improve the quality of evidence, so that courts may try cases when memories are fresh, when documents exist, and when insurance was purchased in light of the legal standards at the time, not standards developed 40 years earlier.”
The State-by-State Push
Since California passed the nation's first “window” law in 2002, similar bills have sprung up in one state after another. Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota have already passed such bills, and at least 12 other states are considering similar legislation.
In some states, such as Colorado and New York, these laws have been defeated. But at least in New York, a new legislative session brings yet another “windows” bill to the floor.
“The primary ‘window' bill in New York, like so many around the country, is fundamentally flawed and unjust,” said Dennis Poust of the New York State Catholic Conference. “This is because the bill [like the one in California] effectively discriminates against victims based solely on where the abuse occurs.”
“If this bill were to pass, someone could bring a lawsuit against the Catholic Church charging sexual abuse going back 50, 60 or 70 years,” Poust said. “But if the same abuse occurred in a public institution just a few years ago, that victim would not be allowed to sue.”
Such laws create what Poust called “two classes of victims — one who can bring a lawsuit for a claim of abuse from, say, 1940, and another who would be time-barred from pursing a lawsuit for abuse that occurred in 2005.”
The New York State Catholic Conference supports legislation that does not have a one-year “window” but would extend both civil and criminal statutes of limitations going forward, giving today's victims more time to sue and applying the same rules to both public and private institutions. “This, we believe, is the best and most just way of addressing this difficult issue,” Poust said.
‘Forever Liability' in Minnesota
In Minnesota, newly passed child-abuse “window” legislation does apply to all organizations, public and private.
The Minnesota bill, which passed the legislature earlier this month and which Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to sign into law, will retroactively open up a three-year window for abuse allegations on which the statute of limitations has long expired.
“One of our biggest problems with this bill is that our institutions could be sued on the basis of ‘you should have known' something was going on,'” said retired Lutheran pastor Karen Bockelman, chair of the Minnesota Religious Council, which opposed the bill.
In cases where virtually everybody involved is now dead, Bockelman said, “trying to prove that you didn't know what somebody claims you should have known will be exceedingly difficult.”
Not only are 40-year-old insurance policies “woefully inadequate” for the hefty settlements being offered today, Bockelman noted, but “for some churches, the company that insured them 40 years ago has gone broke.”
Institutions in Minnesota are now stuck with what Bockelman called “forever liability.”
Battles in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania
According to an Associated Press article, an attorney who helped lead an $85-million abuse settlement against the Archdiocese of Boston is helping to spearhead the battle to raise the statute of limitations on sexual-abuse lawsuits in Massachusetts. The bill would give plaintiffs, who now have until age 21 to bring civil lawsuits against alleged offenders, up to age 55 to file.
Another legislative battle is going on in Pennsylvania. Last year, the state Legislature decided that before they reacted to the Pennsylvania State University and Philadelphia Archdiocese sex scandals they would have a bipartisan commission study the issue.
The upshot was a report, commonly called the “Heckler Report,” after the commission's chairman, David Heckler, the Bucks County district attorney.
The report recommended an overhaul of Pennsylvania's child-abuse laws. The report called for, among other measures, doing a better job of defining “sexual abuse” and “perpetrator,” lengthening the list of persons required to report child abuse and increasing the penalties for not reporting.
However, the commission concluded they could not recommend “window” legislation on the grounds that the potential for “staleness of evidence” was too great and such laws were probably unconstitutional.
Nevertheless, advocates continue to push for these laws with great zeal.
Yeshiva University law professor Marci Hamilton wrote in a 2009 opinion piece in the New York Daily News that the claim the Catholic Church could be destroyed financially should “window” legislation be enacted “is fearmongering, plain and simple. The interests — indeed, the rights — of victims to seek justice do not threaten the survival of the church.”
“It's true,” Hamilton wrote, “that the San Diego Diocese tried to file for federal bankruptcy to protect its assets, but this was not a real financial crisis. In fact, due to its wealth and efforts to hide these assets, the diocese settled to avoid being thrown out of court.”
Speaking of what she perceives as dioceses' deep pockets, Hamilton said that “the big irony should be lost on no one: Even as it claims that dioceses are strapped for cash, the Catholic Conference is spending a significant amount of money to keep window legislation from passing — not only in New York, but in states across the country.”
Other lawyers agree money is, indeed, the issue at stake, but they say it's the plaintiffs' lawyers who are after more of it.
Now that the Catholic Church has many effective child-protective measures in place and the number of new claims against the Church has significantly plunged, attorneys who specialize in suing the Church “seek to mine old claims,” attorney Nussbaum observed.
Said Nussbaum, “That's the economic dynamic that's driving this 'windows' legislation movement.”
HSI and law enforcement partners in Delaware protect children from child predators
WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – working collaboratively with law enforcement partners including the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware – have successfully prosecuted a number of child exploitation cases targeting the most dangerous offenders. Some of the recent cases since April 1 are included in this fact sheet.
Each year, millions of children fall prey to sexual predators. These young victims are left with permanent psychological, physical and emotional scars. HSI targets sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. Seeking to end this criminal activity and protect children worldwide, HSI developed Operation Predator, an initiative to identify, investigate and arrest child predators and sexual offenders. Operation Predator draws on HSI's unique investigative and enforcement authorities to safeguard children. Coordinated nationally and internationally, Operation Predator brings together an array of HSI disciplines and resources to target these child sex abusers.
HSI special agents continue to target individuals who: commit acts of physical sexual abuse of children; use the Internet to meet or to attempt to meet children for sexual purposes; produce or attempt to produce pornography featuring children; distribute large quantities of child pornography; or are repeat offenders who have previously been convicted of such crimes.
U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III, District of Delaware, and Special Agent in Charge John P. Kelleghan, HSI Philadelphia, discussed some of these cases that have been investigated and prosecuted – or are in the process of prosecution – in Delaware since April 1 at a press conference today in Wilmington. The HSI office in Philadelphia oversees HSI activities throughout Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online TIP FORM. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Sen. Jim Beall's Statute of Limitations Bill to Sue Child Molesters Makes Progress
Legislation to overhaul the statute of limitations so adult survivors of child molestation can seek justice in civil courts against their abusers approved by Senate Judiciary Committee.
by Sheila Sanchez
Legislation by state Sen. Jim Beall to overhaul the statute of limitations so adult survivors of child molestation can seek justice in civil courts against their abusers was passed earlier this month by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Senate Bill 131 changes California's antiquated statute of limitations on civil claims brought forward for childhood sexual abuse,'' said Beall, whose District 15 includes Los Gatos.
“The bill gives victims more time to recognize the psychological trauma that is linked to their childhood abuse and take action to gain a measure of justice,'' he added.
Victim rights advocate Kim Goldman told the Judiciary Committee that addictions and suicides have been linked to adults who suffered sexual abuse as children.
“The resulting harms are latent injuries that do not manifest themselves until later in life,'' said Goldman, who argued for allowing victims more time to sue their abusers.
Goldman also said the bill does not make it easier for victims to win their court cases because the burden of proof still rests on them to convince a judge or jury that they were harmed.
Existing law prevents victims of child sex abuse who are 26 years or older from suing their abusers. Research shows the psychological trauma from child abuse can surface well beyond the 26-year-old ceiling, Beall said in a news release.
Beall's bill calls for extending the statute of limitation to age 43 for a victim to sue the person who abused them.
To sue the abuser's employer, victims would have to file before they turn 31 years old, under the bill.
In either category, victims whose ages are higher than the statute of limitations will be permitted a one-year window to seek civil damages after the bill becomes law, according to the measure.
SB 131 also gives victims a causal connection window of five years as opposed to the existing three-year period to file a lawsuit after the date of discovery by a mental health professional that their psychological trauma is indeed linked to their childhood sexual abuse, Beall explained in a the release.
Beall's legislation grants victims who were previously barred by law from filing civil actions a one-year window to seek justice against their perpetrators. If approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, SB 131 would go into effect on Jan. 1, the release stated.
The bill was headed for the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Joelle Casteix, western regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, explained Beall's measure was proposed due to Quarry California Supreme Court decision last year.
In that case, brothers who were sexually abused lost the right to use the civil system for justice, due to a different reading of the statute of limitations.
Casteix said the National Center for Victims of Crime, SNAP, victims from U.S. Gymnastics and Swimming, and other victims groups have been supportive of the bill.
'You can't get a prescription for child sexual abuse'
by Suzanne Mason
Former National Hockey League star Theo Fleury had an inspiring message for a large crowd gathered at Parliament Hill last week.
"We are at the beginning of something that can change the world," he said at the end of his walk from Toronto to Ottawa to raise awareness about what he called "the biggest epidemic on the planet" -- sexual abuse of children.
Eleven representatives of the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre joined Fleury and his group at the Supreme Court of Canada for the final steps of his journey.
He was greeted with tears and hugs by several survivors and family members who were among the approximately 150 people from Victoria to Nunavut who travelled to the nation's capital for the event.
Fleury, who was molested in his early teens for two years by junior hockey league coach Graham James, has become an outspoken advocate for victims of child sexual abuse and for tougher sentences for pedophiles since he told his story four years ago in his book Playing with Fire.
"Eight years ago, I had a fully loaded pistol, ready to pull the trigger," he said.
But then he said he told himself, " 'You've never quit anything in your life. Why are you quitting now?' "
Fleury said he did not know how to live -- only how to cope with the use of drugs and alcohol -- before seeking help and speaking out about the trauma he has suffered from the abuse.
"You can't go to the doctor and get a prescription for child sexual abuse," he said. "Too many of us have lived half-lives.
"We can certainly make the second half of our journey more meaningful by having more conversations (like this)."
Fleury, who talked with hundreds of people along the route during his 10-day walk, urged all survivors to tell their "deepest, darkest secrets" to heal their minds, bodies and souls.
During the next federal election campaign in 2015, he said, he plans to follow Prime Minister Stephen Harper around to ensure the voices of the estimated eight million child sexual-abuse survivors are heard regarding making the justice system being tougher on those who target children.
"The more advocates we create, the louder our voices get," Fleury said.
"And the louder it gets, the more likely that change will happen."
At a reception held later for Fleury and some of his supporters, St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra said the Victor Walk was effective in raising awareness of child sexual abuse.
He said the government has passed several bills over the past few years to strengthen the criminal justice system to protect children from sexual predators, "but there is room for more."
He pointed to legislation like the elimination of house arrest for sexual assault convictions and pardons being granted to offenders for serious crimes including sexual assault.
Dykstra suggested Fleury meet with members of Parliament so the government can continue moving forward with changes to the justice system regarding crimes against children.
He noted the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre has been working with survivors for close to 37 years and most of them are victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Kim Charlebois, executive director of the sexual-assault centre in Belleville, was one of the seven members of the group who accompanied Fleury on the walk.
"It was a life-changing experience," she said of the survivors who shared their stories with them along the way.
"I've been doing this work for many years. A lot of these people have never made it to our doors."
Cheryl Huys, volunteer co-ordinator of the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre, called it imperative that adults be open to discussing the uncomfortable subject of child sexual abuse.
"We can't leave the responsibility of prevention of sexual abuse to children," she said.
Huys said adults need to ask questions if they see any red flags when observing interaction between a child and an adult, and then report it to an agency like the police or Family and Children's Services if they suspect abuse.
She said there is information on many websites that address potential signs of abuse, such as a sudden change in the personality of a child.
Fleury described himself as a "polite, respectful, loving kid" before James began abusing him at the age of 14. He said he was left with "guilt, shame and anger" afterward.
Now, he said, he is happy and back to his former self. He has hopes, goals and dreams.
"I'm not angry, just passionate," Fleury said, adding those who don't acknowledge what is happening to a child "are part of the shame."
There were 26 Victor Walks held in communities across the country during Sexual Assault Awareness Month last week. Fleury said he hopes the walks will become an annual event.
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Suzanne Mason is a public education co-ordinator for the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, go to www.victorwalk.com. If you are seeking help, there is a 24-hour crisis line and counselling available at the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre at 905-682-4584.
Childhood Abuse Linked To Food Addiction In Adults
Child abuse survivors have a greater risk of food addiction than women who didn't experience sexual or physical abuse in childhood. That's the result of a new study carried out on over 57,000 adults in the Nurses' Health Study II by Dr. Susan Mason and colleagues from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.
The researchers published their results in the journal Obesity. As you might expect, the women in the study who had a food addiction were also heavier on average than other women.
The researchers defined food addiction as “three or more addiction-like eating behaviors severe enough to cause significant distress or loss of function.” They noted in their statement that binging on foods high in fat and/or sugar is one way that women often cope with severe stress, which is why they wanted to see if there was a link between childhood abuse and adult food addiction in the first place.
The numbers uncovered by Mason and her team were shocking. Eight percent of the women in the study had food addictions, making it an extremely common problem among all women.
However, women who had undergone physical or sexual abuse as children under age 18 had almost double the risk of a developing a food addiction. Women who experienced both forms of abuse had the highest risk of food addiction of all. The researcher's statement summed up:
“The food addiction prevalence varied from six percent among women without a history of physical or sexual abuse to 16 percent among women with a history of both severe physical and sexual abuse.”
Dr. Mason said that, in an ideal world, of course, we would prevent the problem by preventing all abuse of children. However, in an imperfect world, childhood abuse survivors may need extra help to fight food addictions and unhealthy binges.
First lawsuit filed under new sex abuse law
by Madeleine Baran
ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson has filed the first lawsuit under a new Minnesota law that allows victims of child sexual abuse to bring claims decades later.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court on behalf of an unnamed 51-year-old man, accuses the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona of negligence for allowing a known pedophile to continue working with children for years.
The plaintiff, identified as "Doe 1," seeks a court order to force the church to release an internal list of "credibly accused child molesting priests," and accuses the church of creating a public nuisance by keeping the names secret.
The man also seeks more than $50,000 from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the Diocese of Winona and former priest and alleged abuser Thomas Adamson.
The lawsuit accuses church authorities of covering up allegations of sexual abuse by Adamson as far back as 1964.
In some cases, Adamson admitted to the abuse but was allowed to continue working with children, the lawsuit said. The abuse of "Doe 1" allegedly took place in 1976 and 1977 while Adamson served as a priest at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Paul Park.
"Children, including Plaintiff, and their families were not told what Defendants knew or should have known -- that Adamson had sexually molested dozens of boys, admitted to molesting boys, that he committed offenses at almost every parish he served, and that Adamson was a danger to them," the lawsuit says.
Adamson, who has been the focus of several past lawsuits for alleged abuse but has never faced criminal charges, could not be reached for an interview. The lawsuit claims Adamson avoided criminal charges because the Catholic Church failed to report the abuse to police.
The Diocese of Winona and the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis declined to comment on the lawsuit. Both groups released statements highlighting current church efforts to keep children safe.
"The Diocese of Winona works vigorously and has taken extraordinary measures to ensure that all of the schools, parishes and programs administered in the Diocese adhere to the Charter to ensure that those entrusted to our care are safe," the diocese statement said.
Anderson said the Catholic Church needs to release the names of abusive priests if it wants to protect children. The list includes at least 46 priests who worked in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona in the past 50 years, he said.
Anderson requested the same list in 2009, as part of a similar lawsuit brought on behalf of Jim Keenan, another Minnesota man who said he was sexually abused by Adamson as a child. The request was rejected by a Ramsey County judge who expressed concern about damage to priests who have not been charged or convicted. The case reached the Minnesota Supreme Court last year, where it was thrown out because Keenan was too old to sue.
At the time, state law required child sexual abuse victims file lawsuits by age 24. The Child Victims Act, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last week, gives older victims of child sexual abuse three years to sue their abusers and any institutions that failed to protect them. It removes all time limits for new victims to file lawsuits.
Keenan, who is now 45 years old, attended the news conference at Anderson's law firm Wednesday. He said he hopes the new lawsuit will force the church to release the names of abusive priests. In his own case, Keenan said, he refused to accept a monetary settlement with the Catholic Church unless it released the names.
"I don't understand why an institution that prides itself on morality, that teaches right and wrong, continues to operate wrong, and they do it with, apparently, gusto," Keenan said. "They spend a lot of time and effort to protect this list."
CHILD SEX ABUSE: New law exempts statute of limitations for victims
by Tom Lyden
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota may be on the verge of a big game change when it comes to lawsuits brought forward by those who were sexually abused as children thanks to a recent exemption to the statute of limitations.
"Give this kid and his family a trial," urged attorney Jeff Anderson.
From his ornate office in St. Paul, Anderson has been taking on the nation's most-respected institutions over allegations of sexual abuse of children. On Tuesday, he was focused on the Boy Scouts of America.
Anderson is currently trying to convince a judge that the Boy Scouts should be held civilly liable for Peter Stibal, who is serving 14 years in prison for molesting boys. Anderson discovered the organization even kept a file on Stibal and 1,400 other scout leaders -- the so-called "perversion files."
"They clearly had red flags that Stibal was an offender before he abused this child," Anderson said.
On Wednesday, Anderson will take on the Catholic Church yet again, including Father Thomas Adamson. The archdiocese admits the priest abused children, but many of the cases were outside the statute of limitations -- until last Friday, that is.
When Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Child Victims Act into law, it erased the time limit to sue in such cases. That's why Jim Keenan's case against Adamson was dismissed two years ago, and the diocese even tried to recover the legal fees.
"I feel like the bully was let out on the field and he got to beat me again when I found out about that," Keenan told FOX 9 News.
Now, he'll get another chance -- and so will the victims of Lynn Seibel, the former drama teacher at Shattuck St. Mary's. The victims of Bill Jacobs, who taught at Breck and a YMCA camp, will also be able to bring forth their cases.
Anderson says it's important for the victims to come forward, especially since respected institutions are fallible.
"They are making choices -- choices to protect their brand and the reputation, to preserve that at the peril of the children," he said. "It really is a form of denial."
While the case against the Boy Scouts is not affected by the new law -- and in a statement, the scouts said they're one of the safest places for children and lead in youth protection -- Anderson was instrumental in getting the so-called perversion files released. Now, he's after something similar from the Catholic archdiocese -- the names of 47 priests suspected of sexual misconduct. In light of the new law, he believes he has another chance on making those names public.
Minnesota's new law allows a three-year, retroactive exemption from the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse. Going forward, there will be no statute of limitations for victims of new cases.
Report aims to make SC national model in child sex abuse cases
by Felicia Kitzmiller
SPARTANBURG — Training and coordination are the keys to eradicating child sexual abuse, according to a report aimed at making South Carolina a leader in successfully resolving the thorny and difficult cases.
Victor Vieth of the National Child Protection Training Center conducted a year of research on child sexual abuse in South Carolina. He interviewed more than 160 people associated with child welfare and issued surveys based on interview information to an additional 400 professionals.
The resulting report is called “The View from the Trenches: Recommendations for Improving South Carolina's Response to Child Sexual Abuse Based on Insights from Frontline Child Protection Professionals.”
“Our report proposes concrete steps to help those who help children,” Vieth said. “It turns out South Carolina's front line of child protectors know what they are talking about. They are worth listening to.”
The report was released Tuesday in Greenville County Council Chambers. Vieth was joined by Lisa and Bob Castellani — research funders and founding members of the nonprofit Silent Tears: Giving a Voice to Child Sexual Abuse — and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston; U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg; and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington.
The study found most of those directly involved in handling child sexual abuse cases have no undergraduate or graduate training specific to child-related cases. The report calls on colleges, seminaries, medical and law schools to develop or expand child protection curricula. Continuing “trench training” to hone daily skills and an online portal, available 24-7, for standardized text-based learning, should be mandatory, according to the report.
Gowdy, a former prosecutor, said child sexual abuse cases are “the most difficult in all the criminal justice system.”
“They are extraordinarily difficult, and they take highly trained individuals,” he said.
The report outlines investigative goals for child sexual abuse cases, including photographing every crime scene, gathering five pieces of corroborating evidence and conducting forensic interviews within two hours of the abuse being reported.
The report also calls for speeding up the trial process and forging alliances with community agencies to enhance reporting of crimes.
In 2011, more than 3,000 victims younger than 18 years old reported being raped, sodomized, sexually assaulted with an object, forcibly fondled, or were the victims of incest or statutory rape in South Carolina, according to information from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division.
Officials said they hope Tuesday's report will guide the overhaul of South Carolina's system for addressing sex crimes against children and create a model for other states to follow.
Wilson said he plans to bring the report to the National Association of Attorneys General.
Scott said he is looking forward to presenting the plan to his colleagues in the Senate with the hope of providing relief for victims across the country.
“This gives us the opportunity to be hopeful South Carolina will be a beacon of light for those children,” he said.
Gender identity-'tomgirl' in school
by Martha Irvine
CHICAGO - From the time they are born, we put our boys in blue beanies and our girls in pink ones. It's a societal norm, an expectation even, that you just are what you are born - a boy or a girl.
From early on, we divide toys and activities by very distinct gender lines, with superheroes and trucks and muck on one side and princesses and dolls and all things frilly on the other.
Many children land, enthusiastically, on the expected side. Others dabble in both "girl" and "boy" things. But what if your kid, even from an early age, mostly showed interest in doing opposite-gender things? More importantly, what if they wanted to BE the opposite gender - or a less-defined mix of both? And what if they wanted to test those limits in public places, like school?
Would you let them?
It's not, of course, that pat of a process. Parents don't just decide to let their kids switch genders. But, whether parents are dragged through the process, or if they decide to work it through more openly, more kids are challenging the boundaries of traditional gender, and going public at younger ages.
And they are doing so with the guidance of a growing faction of medical experts who no longer see this as something to be fixed. Last year, the American Psychiatric Association removed "gender identity disorder" from its list of mental health ailments.
Some experts predict that views on gender will evolve in much the same way they have for sexual orientation, since homosexuality was removed as a mental illness nearly four decades ago. Today, the gender spectrum includes those who are transgender, who see themselves as the opposite gender, and those who are gender variant, or gender nonconforming, whose gender is more "fluid." For kids, it means they identify part of themselves as boy and part as girl.
"Now these kids . are beginning to have a voice . and I think that's what's been making things interesting and challenging - and difficult, sometimes - depending on the family, the kid, or the school," says Dr. Robert Garofalo, director of the Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
While the numbers are relatively small, it means that, increasingly, schools are having to figure out how to accommodate them, some more successfully than others.
The questions often start with the basics: Which bathroom do they use? Where do they change for gym class? What if teachers or students don't want to use the pronoun, "he" or "she," or a new name the student prefers?
It can be difficult, and uncomfortable. In Colorado, for instance, the parents of a 6-year-old transgender girl are suing their school district for trying to make her use a separate bathroom.
The center at Lurie opened recently, in part, to meet the demand from parents seeking guidance for children who are questioning their gender identity and to provide support to older transgender youth who sometimes struggle more in adolescence, even facing a greater suicide risk, especially if they have no backing from family and others around them.
The center also serves as a resource for schools with transgender and gender variant students.
Increasingly, those students are making the transition as early as elementary school, if not before.
Ryan, a fourth-grader in suburban Chicago, is one of those kids.
Most people, upon seeing her big blue eyes, long lashes and flowing blond hair, would never know she's anything but a girl. But underneath, she is still physically a boy.
Doctors call that gender variant, though Ryan prefers to call herself a "tomgirl."
"I feel that I'm a girl in my heart," she says, "and a boy in my brain."
Her parents allowed her to be interviewed and also agreed to speak to The Associated Press on the condition that the family's last name, the name of the town where they live and the school Ryan attends not be used in the story.
Though the decision to publicly express publicly as a girl happened at the end of kindergarten, Ryan had slowly been becoming "she" at home for a long time, even when she still had a crew cut.
Six months after her second birthday, her parents say Ryan was drawn to all things pink and sparkly. Ryan, the boy, wore pajama pants on his head, pretending it was long hair, or acted out girl roles from movies.
"I'm wishing . for the one I love . to find me!" the preschooler would enthusiastically sing into the toilet, copying Snow White, who sings into the echoing wishing well in the animated Disney movie.
By kindergarten, Ryan would bolt through the door of the family's suburban Chicago home, leaving a trail of boy clothes up the stairway - then quickly changing into a skirt and matching T-shirt.
Ryan's parents, initially told that Ryan had gender identity disorder, tried to get their child more interested in traditional boy things. But Ryan preferred chasing butterflies instead of footballs. Her dad scheduled extra "father-son" time, thinking that might have an influence. But nothing changed.
"The next step was to eliminate all girl things - can't write about girl things, can't draw girl things, can't talk about girly things ... and that just didn't feel right," says Sabrina, Ryan's mom.
They decided to stop resisting and allowed Ryan to start taking small steps into the outside world, at a nearby park, for instance, where she wore her girl clothes.
For her kindergarten Halloween party, Ryan dressed as a princess and, shortly after, asked her parents to refer to her as "she," a request to which they agreed, though it took a few months to adjust.
Their first support came from a pediatrician who specialized in gender, as well as other parents with children like Ryan, many whom they met through an online listerv. They are, as they call themselves, "affirming parents."
"There's a realization that it's not a phase or something that's ending when the preschooler gets to kindergarten," says Kevin Gogin, the program manager for school health programs at the San Francisco Unified School District, which recently added a transgender category in student health surveys. The survey found that 1.6 percent of high school students and 1 percent of middle school students identified as transgender or gender variant. Elementary students weren't in the survey, but Gogin says the district has seen more young transgender and gender variant students, too.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have transgender rights laws, according to Michael Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City. He is representing the family of Coy Mathis, the 6-year-old transgender girl in Colorado.
But even in states that don't have laws, he says districts are often open to guidance.
"By and large, most educators want to do the right thing and want to know how to treat all of their children equally," Silverman says. But often, they don't know how.
In California, which has had protections for transgender people for some time, a new law requires schools to provide transgender and gender variant students with "equal and full access to programs and facilities," such as gender-neutral bathrooms, if need be, and private changing areas for gym and sports.
There can be resistance, of course - even in families and friends, as Ryan's parents discovered.
Neighbors in the Chicago suburb where the family lived when Ryan was born stopped asking about or acknowledging her when she started dressing in girl clothes. "It was as if she no longer existed," Sabrina recalls.
Early on, people in their own extended family also struggled with their decision to let Ryan live outwardly as a girl. Some said: "I think what you're doing is wrong" or "Ryan's too young to know."
Cousins made fun of her, too, and once shut her in a dryer to taunt her.
Sabrina and husband Chris sat their family members down to talk and, over time, they say they came to an understanding.
"Our commitment is that our children are in an accepting, loving environment - and if someone's not on board with that, then they're not going to be around," Chris says, calmly but firmly.
They also moved to a neighboring suburb, where some said a particular elementary school would be more open to Ryan.
They still fear a harsh reaction from people outside their community. But they say most people locally have been accepting.
And she notes how well the staff at Ryan's school has handled things. She remembers meeting with the principal and teachers at the end of Ryan's kindergarten year. She told them that Ryan would likely enter first grade as a girl, then came home to find that Ryan was ready to make the transition - right then.
"I don't want to do this anymore," Ryan told her parents, referring to what she now calls the "revolving door" of changing her appearance from boy at school to girl at home.
Her mom alerted the school. "You know how we spoke about, that it might happen next year?" she said. "Well, it's happening tomorrow."
They were ready, and allowed Sabrina to explain things to Ryan's classmates - that Ryan liked to dress in girl clothes and liked girl things.
One of Ryan's friends also stood up: "I want everyone to know this is Ryan's first day as a girl, and everyone better be nice."
One boy talked about how he'd once worn his sister's shirt when his own got wet. A girl said she'd worn her brother's boots. And then the kindergarteners moved on, Sabrina says.
Of course, how a school staff and a community react still varies widely from place to place. But overall, attitudes about differences in gender identity have been changing, even in the last decade, says Eli Erlick, a transgender student and graduating high school senior in Willits, Calif., a small town in the northern part of the state.
When Erlick began her transition from boy to girl at age 8, she says that even she didn't know what the word "transgender" meant. She just knew that she wanted to live life as a girl. "I thought I was the only person like this," she says.
School was difficult. Some teachers made fun of her in front of the class, she says. To avoid dealing with which bathroom to use, she would pretend to be sick, so she could go home and use the facilities there.
Now Erlick is the director of an organization called Trans Student Equality Resources, which provides schools with training and information about students like her. Erlick also has helped her school district and others in California develop transgender policies.
Some schools in other states are doing the same.
"There is definitely more awareness," says Kristyn Westphal, vice principal at Grant High School in Portland, Ore.
There, they've established a student support team to determine how well the school is meeting the needs of transgender and other students. Earlier this year, the school also created individual gender-neutral bathrooms that any student can use.
Bathrooms often become a focal point because, when children are young, the transition is often more "social," a change in clothing and hairstyle.
As some kids move into puberty, they might use hormone blockers and, eventually, start hormone therapy to help their bodies transform from male to female, or vice versa. But any kind of surgery, experts say, is still relatively rare, even in adolescence.
Ryan's parents will consider these options later. But for now, Ryan sees no reason to choose one gender over the other - "at least until I get married or something," she says. So she uses a separate bathroom at school, as the principal has arranged with her parents.
A separate bathroom was not, however, a workable solution for the parents of Coy Mathis, who are suing their school district in Fountain, Colo. Kathryn Mathis, Coy's mother, says it's about more than that.
"If it were just a toilet, then just having the gender-neutral option would be fine. But it's really about being accepted," Mathis says.
"What's happening now - they will call you a girl but you're not really a girl, so you don't get to act like one. And that's incredibly damaging."
The school district has declined to comment on an ongoing case.
Mathis says she's heard from several parents who've made the decision for their transgender children to go "stealth." In other words, they make the transition - from boy to girl or girl to boy - and then move, so no one knows.
"That's how they're doing it ... because there aren't laws to protect them," Mathis says.
Even in Ryan's case, the initial transition at school wasn't always smooth.
While her own younger classmates were accepting, older kids called her "gay" and a "fag." Early on, a few followed Ryan around on the playground. "Are you a boy or a girl?" they'd ask repeatedly.
Her parents had prepared her for this type of reaction as best they could. Ryan, who her parents say is a strong-willed, independent kid, was mostly just annoyed. Still, she was relieved when her principal quickly stepped in to enforce the school's anti-bullying policy.
One mother also recalls how, early on, a few other parents worried about their boys being around Ryan - that it might cause them to be confused about their own gender. But that talk eventually dissipated, she says.
Sabrina took it upon herself to speak about Ryan at school curriculum nights, to answer parents' questions. And now, the principal says, it as a non-issue. "Ryan is Ryan," she says.
It's not been as easy at other nearby elementary schools, where there's been more friction over the few other transgender students. Some administrators have come to Ryan's principal for advice - and she's already been in contact with her counterparts at the middle school Ryan will eventually attend.
No one expects that adolescence will be easy.
"The more challenging times are up ahead, and we're clear about that," Sabrina says.
But Scott Morrison, a transgender student at Grant High School in Oregon, says having support at home and at school, as he did, will make a big difference for kids like Ryan.
Morrison, a graduating senior, moved to Oregon from Virginia three years ago.
"Gender identity is probably the most important part of me," Morrison says. "It's the most important discovery I've made about myself."
He transitioned from female to male a year later and says support from his mom, his friends and his new school - and help from a counselor - likely prevented him from committing suicide.
According to a 2010 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41 percent of transgender people surveyed said they had attempted suicide. That figure rose to 51 percent for those who said they'd also been bullied, harassed, assaulted or expelled because they were transgender or gender nonconforming at school. The survey was a joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
With more support and an ability to live more openly, however, some wonder if it will be better for Ryan and this up-and-coming group of transgender and gender variant kids.
"I'll be really curious to see what this next generation looks like," says Masen Davis, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, a civil rights and advocacy organization based in San Francisco. "I'm hopeful."
Ryan is, too. "It's just made me feel more strong and confident," she says of the support she's gotten from her parents and her school.
People who know her say that's true. She is a bubbly kid, they note. She loves to draw, sing and write poetry, loves sports and running. On the school playground, she can be found in the middle of a group of girls, doing cartwheels and playing tag.
"Most people forgot that she was ever a boy," says one of her girlfriends, a fellow fourth-grader.
If her parents ever question their decision to let Ryan go public at school, they say they pull out her first-grade photo and compare it with the one from kindergarten, taken when Ryan was still hiding her girl self.
"There is a light and a twinkle in her eye that's unmistakable," Sabrina says of the first-grade photo. "And if nothing else, just looking at that picture, we're clear we made the right choice."
Beating-torture death of 8-year-old Palmdale boy leads to capital murder charges for mom, her boyfriend
City News Service
LANCASTER - A Palmdale couple were charged on Tuesday with capital murder in the beating of the woman's 8-year-old son, who died last week.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 29, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 32, were ordered to be held without bail while they await arraignment June 11 in Lancaster Superior Court.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of torture. The District Attorney's Office will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against the pair.
Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were sent around 11 p.m. Wednesday to a residence in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a report that the boy, Gabriel, was not breathing, according to sheriff's Sgt. Brian Hudson.
The boy -- who had been hospitalized in critical condition since Wednesday night -- died Friday.
Investigators said he suffered a fractured skull, several broken ribs and burns.
Aguirre was questioned by detectives and allegedly "admitted to causing the injuries to the victim," Hudson said, adding two other children in the residence were taken into protective custody by the county Department of Children and Family Services.
The boy's mother allegedly admitted to being present during the assault and not doing anything to stop it, Hudson said.
Officials have said that authorities had previous contact with Fernandez over treatment of the boy. The boy's grandfather told reporters that neighbors contacted DCFS to report abuse in the home, but nothing was done.
County Supervisor Michael Antonovich has called for an investigation of all county social workers and supervisors involved in the boy's case.
"We need to know where the breakdown was in the services recommended and why this child was not removed from those living conditions," Antonovich said.
Sheriff's officials have also said they plan to investigate any contacts deputies may have had with the family.
Earliest Case of Child Abuse Discovered in Egyptian Cemetery
by Joseph Castro
A 2- to 3-year-old child from a Romano-Christian-period cemetery in Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, shows evidence of physical child abuse, archaeologists have found. The child, who lived around 2,000 years ago, represents the earliest documented case of child abuse in the archaeological record, and the first case ever found in Egypt, researchers say.
The Dakhleh Oasis is one of seven oases in Egypt's Western Desert. The site has seen continuous human occupation since the Neolithic period, making it the focus of several archaeological investigations, said lead researcher Sandra Wheeler, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Central Florida. Moreover, the cemeteries in the oasis allow scientists to take a unique look at the beginnings of Christianity in Egypt.
In particular, the so-called Kellis 2 cemetery, which is located in the Dakhleh Oasis town of Kellis (southwest of Cairo), reflects Christian mortuary practices. For example, "instead of having children in different places, everyone is put in one place, which is an unusual practice at this time," Wheeler told LiveScience. Dating methods using radioactive carbon from skeletons suggest the cemetery was used between A.D. 50 and A.D. 450.
When the researchers came across the abused toddler — labeled "Burial 519" — in Kellis 2, nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. But when Wheeler's colleague Tosha Duprasbegan brushing the sand away, she noticed prominent fractures on the child's arms. [See Photos of Kellis 2 Cemetery & Skeleton]
"She thought, 'Whoa, this was weird,' and then she found another fracture on the collarbone," Wheeler said. "We have some other kids that show evidence of skeletal trauma, but this is the only one that had these really extreme fracture patterns."
Signs of abuse
The researchers decided to conduct a series of tests on Burial 519, including X-ray work, histology (microscopic study of tissues) and isotopic analyses, which pinpoint metabolic changes that show when the body tried to repair itself. They found a number of bone fractures throughout the body, on places like the humerus (forearm), ribs, pelvis and back.
Whereas no particular fracture is diagnostic of child abuse, the pattern of trauma suggests it occurred. Additionally, the injuries were all in different stages of healing, which further signifies repeated nonaccidental trauma.
One of the more interesting fractures was located on the child's upper arms, in the same spot on each arm, Wheeler said. The fractures were complete, broken all the way through the bone — given that children are more flexible than adults, a complete break like that would have taken a lot of force.
After comparing the injury with the clinical literature, the researchers deduced that someone grabbed the child's arms and used them as handles to shake the child violently. Other fractures were also likely caused by shaking, but some injuries, including those on the ribs and vertebrae, probably came from direct blows.
The archaeologists aren't sure what ultimately killed the toddler. "It could be that last fracture, which is the clavicle fracture," Wheeler said, referring to the collarbone. "Maybe it wasn't a survivable event."
A unique case
Child abuse in the archaeological record is rare. One possible reason, Wheeler said, is that archaeologists didn't really pay much attention to child remains until about 20 years ago, believing that children couldn't tell them much about the past.
A few cases of possible child abuse have since come out of France, Peru and the United Kingdom, all of which date back to medieval times or later. "Certainly, our case has the best context in terms of the archaeology and skeletal analysis," Wheeler said.
Of the 158 juveniles excavated from the Kellis 2 cemetery, Burial 519 is the only one showing signs of repeated nonaccidental trauma, suggesting child abuse wasn't something that occurred throughout the community. The uniqueness of the case supports the general belief that children were a valued part of ancient Egyptian society.
By contrast, though Romans loved their kids immensely, they believed children were born soft and weak, so it was the parents' duty to mold them into adults. They often engaged in such practices as corporal punishment, immobilizing newborn infants on wooden planks to ensure proper growth and routinely bathing the young in cold water as to not soften them with the feel of warm water.
"We know that the ancient Egyptians really revered children," Wheeler said. "But we don't know how much Roman ideas filtered into Egyptian society," she added, suggesting that the unique child abuse case may have been the result of Roman influence.
The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Paleopathology.
Child abuse measure OK'd
Coercion of a female child to undergo an abortion will soon be able to be treated as child abuse under Louisiana law, after the Senate gave final passage to the bill with a 32-3 vote Tuesday.
The bill (House Bill 278) by Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, heads to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who supports the proposal.
All Houma-Thibodaux senators voted for the measure.
Investigators say Boise couple used belt, isolation room in child abuse case
by Steve Bertel
Tim A. Kackley, 30, and Danielle L. Ho , 39, are currently in the Ada County Jail, facing felony injury to child charges.
According to the Ada County Sheriff's Office, the couple turned themselves in on arrest warrants early Tuesday morning.
“The investigation began May 3rd when a school nurse from a south Boise-area elementary school called deputies to report that an 8-year-old girl had multiple bruises on her legs, which the girl later said were from being hit by a belt at home,” said Ada County Sheriff's Office spokesman Patrick Orr.
“Deputies later determined that both Ho and Kackley used a belt and their hands to hit the girl and her two siblings, ages 6 and 9, as punishment, at a home in the 11200 block of West La Grange Street,” he added.
Deputies also determined the couple was making the 8-year-old girl stay by herself in a room with a concrete floor and carpet, with no bed, where she wasn't allowed to use the bathroom or play with her siblings, according to Orr.
“If the girl wanted to go to the bathroom, Kackley would take her to a local gas station – if he was home. If not, she had to wait and was made to wear a pull-up diaper. She also had to eat all her meals in the room,” he added.
The girl reportedly also told deputies she had to sleep on the floor, even though there were couches in the room, since April 1 -- because she was being punished.
Deputies declared the children to be in imminent danger and released them into the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Ada County prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for both Ho and Kackley on May 24.
Kackley and Ho, who are being held on $10,000 bonds each, have a preliminary hearing set for June 18.
Nova Scotia, Canada
The inner child still weeps
Accounts of sexual abuse at the Home for Colored Children echo with the sting of anguish
by EVA HOARE
Tessie Brooks is 14.
She's just run away from home, and been lured into sleeping with an older man.
Soon, the authorities come calling and she lands in the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children on the outskirts of Dartmouth.
In the two years that follow, she'll become a “lover” of a worker there, having sex with him up to five times a week in the back of his car, or in the locked third-floor “sick room” at the home, or behind Graham Creighton Junior High School just down the road.
She'll be brought from the orphanage to his house and meet his girlfriend, his mother, his grandmother and his friends.
She'll be coached how to tell other staffers at the home that she's going to a friend's house or to see another worker at her place.
But really she's meeting the man, who is in his mid- to late 20s, to have sex.
She'll learn to lie for him, and for herself, and to pick on another girl who said he'd raped her.
And when the time comes, he'll drive her to the nearby gas station, where she'll just happen to run into her previous boyfriend, who has since become a pimp.
Not long after, at 16, she's told she has to leave the orphanage. With no skills or education, there's nowhere to go but back to the boyfriend, to work for him as a prostitute in Montreal.
Ten years pass. She runs drugs for dealers, and sells them. On the streets, she asks men if they want “some company.”
Her pimp butts out his cigarettes on her chest. In a small Montreal apartment, she watches as he takes a searing hot coat hanger to another one of his “girls,” and listens to her screams.
Now 45 and living in Ottawa, Brooks wonders how society can gasp at the thought of children being abused but fail to honour her story now that she's an adult — a story that is hauntingly similar to those told by scores of young people who have passed through the doors of the Dartmouth orphanage.
Brooks says she'll have no peace until someone believes her. She's been praying for a public inquiry so she and all the others who allege they've been assaulted at the home can have their say.
But that's not going to happen. The Nova Scotia government is instead forming an independent panel to look into the claims of former residents. The province recently appointed a social worker to come up with the terms of reference for the panel.
That's not what Brooks and other former residents have been fighting for, they say. They fear their stories of what happened to them won't ever make it into Nova Scotia's public fabric.
Brooks trusts few people and has been feeling tortured since learning that the RCMP decided not to charge the home staffer she claims destroyed her childhood. (The Mounties have said they didn't have enough evidence to lay charges in her case and more than 40 others involving alleged abuse at the home.)
“I'm mad at the home, I'm mad at Children's Aid,” she says of the organization that was supposed to help protect her.
Brooks is doing this interview at a Halifax hotel, having travelled here to tell her story. Her voice often trembles, and tears sporadically stream down her face.
She can't understand why other orphanage staffers who knew about her abuse — and she can name names — didn't tell the authorities.
And last year when it looked like the home worker who raped her might face criminal charges, he phoned her, threatening suicide.
His crimes had now somehow become her problem, Brooks remembers.
“He called me. He said he's choosing clothes for his funeral. I could hear the trembling in his voice. It's a tremble of guilt.”
Brooks says she struggles to be a good mother to her three children because she's had no role models.
“How the hell can I teach my children? My life is shattered,” she says.
“I want my kids to live a normal life. I want to be at the table with them and have ice cream.”
And when it looked like her story would finally come to light, she sat her teenagers down and told them the truth.
“My kids didn't want me to expose that I'd been a prostitute,” she says. “(But) they believe in me.”
And then it was time to tell her grandmother, who is in her 90s. It was a disturbing conversation, as Brooks had always been the sun in her grandmother's eyes.
Roselyn Borden thinks she knows why some people won't believe Brooks or other child survivors of sexual abuse.
“It doesn't surprise me at all,” says Borden, a counsellor at the Gatehouse, a Toronto non-profit for adult victims of child abuse.
Borden, too, suffered because no one would believe that her foster father had molested her.
“You can tell the world your story, and people just won't believe,” says Borden, a black woman originally from New Glasgow who was brought up in a white foster home in Peggys Cove.
She has worked at the Gatehouse on contract since November.
Borden says her foster mother didn't take her seriously when she revealed that her foster father had been raping her for five years, starting when she was about eight.
Both her foster parents are now dead.
“The ones close to you don't believe you,” she says during a telephone interview from Toronto. “I think that's their own guilt.
“As survivors, you look for belief from our families. You're not going to get that. In order for them to believe you, they're going to have to admit they did something wrong.”
Society appears more than willing to believe that a child relating such a story is telling the truth, Borden says.
“I think it's because adults think (adults) have had time to … make up stories. Kids can't make this up. There are certain things that they can't make up because of their innocence.”
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse may have had their innocence torn from them, but they're still children underneath.
“They're robbed,” Borden says.
She tells those she counsels to write a letter to their “inner child.”
She was surprised at what she wrote herself, learning that her own childhood lay just beneath the surface.
“I could actually see my little … head, walking around happy,” she remembers, reflecting on days before she was abused.
“It's amazing that little child is still in there.”
But that's not what society sees when it hears adult survivors of childhood abuse reveal their truth, Borden says.
“That's why we need more awareness and education,” she says. “Back in the day, (abuse) was so hidden.” You're a “liar or a mental case” if you allege abuse.
“(Victims) need a voice. If they don't have that same voice that was taken from them as a kid, and it's been taken from them as an adult, they're not going to really heal.”
If no one listens, survivors question themselves, Borden says.
“They start thinking, was it a dream? That's when you have your mental health issues.”
Sybil Power is chairwoman of the Nova Scotia group Survivors of Abuse Recovering.
“There is a disconnect for society when they see an adult who is speaking of the abuse they suffered as a child,” Power says.
“Because what they see is the adult, not the child, in front of them.
“That makes it more difficult to access that compassion they might otherwise have if they were looking at a child.”
Power, whose group has been counselling adult victims of child abuse for 20 years and now helps 40 to 50 people a year, thinks the public doesn't want to address “the enormity of the issue.”
“If society were to have to process the scope of this epidemic, that (roughly) one in three girls and about one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, then we would have to look at our neighbours, friends, organizations, and within our own homes, for the perpetrators.”
Research suggests that up to 60 per cent of victims repress or have a “delayed recall of abuse,” Power says.
Dr. Vicky Wolfe, psychologist in the child welfare mental health clinic at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, says that when children or adults finally tell their story, it can be very damaging if the people they confide in don't believe them.
“That belief is so important for children,” Wolfe says.
Often, they are already experiencing other problems as a result, and therefore their loved ones might be reticent to acknowledge it actually happened, she says.
“Perhaps when they tell when they're teenagers, they may have already started with some emotional reactions that are troublesome, and people might think this person is not trustworthy because they have a number of emotional problems,” she says.
“Sometimes in that situation, you will have people question (the victim).”
Wolfe says predators can be very convincing, so a parent or caregiver might have trouble believing a child or teenager's claims.
The perpetrator has usually taken his or her time “grooming” the child for future abuse, she says, so a parent only sees a caring coach, teacher, friend or relative who's just helping out.
The victim may then be seen as having a “character flaw,” says Power, who agrees with Wolfe.
With no support or acknowledgement, adult victims of child abuse almost always turn to self-medication to dull the pain, experts say.
They have trouble sustaining intimate and/or close relationships and turn to alcohol or substance abuse to quell their troubled minds and retreat, Power says.
They become drug addicts, alcoholics or, like Brooks, walk the streets because that's all they know.
The latter is the route Harriet Johnson took for a time, after being raped twice at the home by the same staffer who'd assaulted Brooks.
Johnson's allegations, contained in affidavits that are part of a proposed class action against the province that goes to court next month for certification, accuse that same staffer of luring her into prostitution for him.
She still shudders at the memory of her early days at the orphanage.
“I do go back to that child. I still shake, I'm scared,” she says in an interview from her home in Montreal.
“Harriet is that same scared little girl,” she says, reading from a letter she wrote to herself. “Harriet feels no one's going to believe her. Harriet is just one black child that lived in misery, filth and hell.”
Like Brooks, Johnson suffered when she learned that police wouldn't be laying charges of abuse against her attacker or other former staffers at the home.
Some forward steps were taken when the home settled its part of the class action with the former residents, but that's not enough, Brooks and Johnson contend.
They're seeking vindication in order to move on.
Some have tried reinventing themselves.
“I decided to change the spelling of my name, but I never, ever knew why until I was almost 40,” Borden says.
Formerly Rosalind, she became Roselyn.
“I started fresh with a new one, with a name for a child that wasn't abused,” she says. “To step away from that person … to a new person.”
Johnson's path is under construction, but her quest for people to believe her builds with every day.
The apparent lack of belief “makes us look like lying black children,” she says, adding that she has felt “useless” for most of her life because no one would take her stories seriously.
Her “inner child” is still suffering. “Harriet is only 44,” she says, again reading from her letter. “But Harriet is only eight. Harriet will never grow up.”
A fear that no one will ever believe them keeps many victims from ever telling their story, Borden says.
Statistics show that only about 30 per cent of abused children ever come forward, Wolfe says. But even that percentage is a vast improvement over the past, she says.
“Even today, with all the work that's been done, still kids don't disclose.”
And that means little chance of healing and moving on, Wolfe says.
Brooks, Borden and Johnson can attest to the fallout. Only now they're raising themselves up.
Johnson is still reeling from her past. Many days, the sorrow in her voice is marked, and she also took her pain out on herself. She once poured bleach in her bath to wash the “black” off her skin.
“That's how scarred I am,” she says.
Borden, now steaming ahead, still has flashbacks and trust issues. Helping others who've gone through similar troubles is cathartic, she says.
Brooks laments the loss of her childhood. She never got to further her education. Even today, she still struggles, having only recently attained papers to become a health-care worker.
“That's what upsets me the most,” she says, her voice quavering. “I know I could do much better.”
She is out to erase the “raw reality” of her former life.
Brooks hopes for a good future for that 14-year-old little girl she once knew — and atonement for her perceived sins.
“The road is so shattered.”
A statewide helpline for child abuse prevention is being revived.
Prevent Child Abuse Georgia aims to re-establish a 1-800 helpline by the end of the year, thanks to a grant.
The helpline went out of service in 2011, when PCA Georgia itself was closed down for financial reasons. The helpline had handled more than 10,000 calls in the first four years of its operation, GHN reported in 2011. It provided Georgians concerned about the welfare of a child with access to information, support and links to community resources.
The Prevent Child Abuse organization reopened several months after closing, and is now housed at the Center for Healthy Development in Georgia State's Institute of Public Health.
A $165,000 challenge grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation will put the helpline back in business, said Julia Neighbors, director of PCA Georgia.
The helpline “was an important and valuable resource,” Neighbors said Wednesday. “This was a gap we want to close.”
PCA Georgia says the leading request the organization received from professionals working with children and families is to re-establish 1-800-CHILDREN.
The Blank Foundation's president, Penelope McPhee, said in a statement, “With the support of Georgia State University, PCA Georgia ensures that the community's highest priority needs are met. The 1-800-CHILDREN helpline is a critical resource for children and families across the state.”
Child abuse and neglect can decrease victims' levels of self-esteem, potential lifetime earnings, and positive social functioning while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, mental health diagnosis, criminal behavior and physical injuries.
In 2011, Georgia had 21,205 substantiated cases of abuse or neglect, and 76 children died.
A 1-800 information line would be helpful for people to know the signs of child abuse and how to report possible cases, said Dr. Lee Heery, a pediatrician in the St. Simons/Brunswick area. She chairs the committee on child abuse and neglect for the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Ultimately, a physician suspecting abuse or neglect should call local law enforcement or local office of the Division of Family and Children's Services, she noted.
Educating communities about child abuse is important.
“In certain places, there's more awareness of it, and more cases are reported,” said Heery.
Georgia Health News (http://www.georgiahealthnews.com/) is an independent news organization devoted to covering health care in the state.
We must protect our kids from the evil of sex abuse
by David Coleman -- David Coleman shares story of one woman who was molested from the age of four
LASTING EFFECTS: A child who is abused can suffer mental health problems later in life as a result (picture posed)
Our newspapers and televisions are filled with images and tales of abuse and violence. In the last two weeks we have heard about three women, abducted as teenagers and subjected to rape and confinement for 10 years.
We have heard about children as young as 11 stolen into horrific sexual abuse and forced prostitution.
Unfortunately, we can easily become inured to the real horror of those experiences. We can block off the feelings that they bring up. At best, they may serve to fuel our anxieties about so-called stranger-danger for our own children and teenagers.
But rarely do we think about the hurt, pain, betrayal, isolation, confusion and self-loathing that children are subjected to by family, friends and acquaintances who are the typical perpetrators of sexual abuse against them.
One woman that I met in my practice has kindly shared her story with me and allowed me to share it with you. She isn't sharing it for pity, praise or reward. She is sharing it to increase your understanding of the reality of child sexual abuse in Ireland and the lasting damage and hurt that it brings.
'I WAS four when I was first sexually abused. My abuser was a family friend who was respected in the community. I vividly recall sitting underneath our kitchen sink playing. He sat beside me and placed his hand in my pants and rubbed me. I remember liking it but then immediately feeling bad, like I had done something wrong.
"Even now I can recall feeling so different to everyone else afterwards, even though I didn't understand my body's response.
"When I was a bit older, maybe about seven or eight, if I went to social events in pubs with my family, other men used to call me over and promise me a bar of Cadbury's chocolate and a Club Orange if I sat up on their laps.
"Then, once I was on their laps, they rubbed themselves up against my back and put their hands inside my pants. I can still smell one man and the feel of his tweed coat.
"I was plagued by guilt and shame that I was taking the chocolate and orange, it made it seem like it was my own fault. I tried to get away, but I couldn't. I kept looking at people around me, willing them to intervene to stop it but also fearing that they would actually see what was happening.
"I remember preparing for my first confession and thinking I was beyond penance. I knew I was just bad and didn't know how I could tell the priest what I had done. So at my first confession I told the priest two silly sins to check out how he would respond.
"He laughed. He then came out of the confession box and was speaking with parents. I thought he was telling them what I had said. I remember being devastated because I had been told that no matter what you say in confession, even murder, the priest cannot tell.
"So I felt then that I had nowhere to go and nobody that I could tell anything to because I didn't think they would believe me.
"I began hating my body at that time and not knowing what to do with the feelings. I used to pare the tops of my fingers and nails with a silver pencil parer. I remember sitting in school and feeling all pent up and uncomfortable on the inside. I needed to get that feeling out by cutting at my fingers and nails.
"It never seemed to stop. When I approached puberty, a family member took his turn to abuse me, regularly, for years. He used to often visit our house. When I went into the kitchen he followed me out.
"He used to come behind me and pin me and rub himself up and down on my back, groaning, telling me how beautiful I was. Then he used to maul me all over on my chest and putting his hand up under my top and trying to get his hand in my pants and inside me.
"I tried to get away but he was too strong. He would then finish groaning, go still and head back into the sitting room. I was left with the yuckiness. I hated myself. The feel of him on me was just awful. The changes in my body were coming fast and unknown and the horror of him touching me during a period was especially traumatic.
"As the time went on, with this happening, I think I just gave up to be honest. I let him do what he needed to do and I stopped caring.
"I see my experiences like a snowball rolling wildly down a hill; more snow got stuck every time I got hurt and abused and the heavier and more out of control I felt.
"In my mid-teens I decided that losing weight was the magic solution to all of my out-of-control feelings. If I lost weight and got thin then I would be in control, and pretty. I got down to five stone and felt finally like I had control over something. I studied day and night and cut myself off from the world. But I believed I was in control.
"In the midst of my anorexia I could control and numb my feelings in ritual, numbers, hunger and isolation. I could tidy the feelings away in my bones. When I was at my lowest weight I felt comfort and calmness in counting my ribs and feeling my hip bones and being able to put my fist in my pelvis.
"I became filled with self-hatred and anger at myself for what I perceived to be my laziness, my eating and not being in control. I got my compass from my pencil case and scraped and cut the places where I felt 'fat' – my hips and bum. It was about hurting and punishing myself. I felt worthless.
"All through secondary school I never felt like others and couldn't be in intimate relationships with boys. Even the thought of it totally spun me out. I never experienced the pleasure of intimacy for myself.
"I am pretty sensitive to smells and people. The smell of sweat or the feeling of sweat or 'dirtiness' can send me into a panic. In the past this caused me to avoid some public places like concerts or queues of any kind. Just to avoid anyone being 'too close' from behind.
"When I left university I became very successful in my career. I could always give my employers what they needed. But always in my work I doubted myself and had that feeling 'any minute now, I'm going to get found out'. This put a lot of strain on me emotionally, mentally and physically.
"But the biggest thing? The biggest thing was the loneliness and shame I felt as a child. I felt I totally alone and that I was so bad, bad to my core. And that hurts so deeply."
I hear stories, like this, in my clinical practice. I see the hurt at first hand. It is a huge struggle for many teenagers, young adults or even parents just to talk to me, or someone like me, about their experiences.
The shame and guilt that they typically still carry is often the most significant block. They fear that they will further be rejected, scorned or dismissed.
When I hear these stories I never fail to feel like we, as a society, still ignore the elephant in the room regarding abuse; our children are most at risk from those that know them.
The betrayal of a child's trust is especially damaging. These children can grow up trusting nobody, leaving them vulnerable and unable to maintain long-term relationships.
As I have found repeatedly, parents' own abuse experiences as a child can leave them terrified about their ability, or perceived lack of ability, to safely parent their own children.
The experience of sexual activity that is unwanted, forced or not understood brings its own complications to developing a healthy sexuality in early adulthood. Sex or sexual intimacy can end up associated with pain, fear, revulsion, guilt and shame.
What we also know is that we continue to allow this to be the experience for one-in-four children in Ireland. That is the real shame.
UNC graduate from Thomasville targets sex trafficking with honors project
Lindsay Larison's honors project shows how nurses can take an active role in combating sex trafficking.
by Jimmy Tomlin
THOMASVILLE — The specter of human trafficking haunted Lindsay Larison until she had to do something about it.
“You can't learn about a topic like that and then just not do anything about it,” says Larison, 22, of Thomasville. “I was really moved and wanted to do something.”
So Larison, who just received her nursing degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, embarked on an honors project in which she created an online education module that addresses how nurses can play a role in combating sex trafficking.
Her website, titled “Sex Trafficking and the Nursing Role: An Online Educational Module for Nurses,” is applicable for nursing educators, practicing nurses, and nursing students, according to Larison.
“I'm also working with the faculty at Carolina to get it published in some nursing journals, and I'm working with various organizations to see if they'll offer it as a continuing education credit,” Larison says.
According to Larison, nurses have a unique opportunity to connect with sex-trafficking victims in health-care settings. The keys, though, are understanding what signs to look for and knowing how to reach out, she adds.
“This teaching module will give nurses a firsthand look at sex trafficking in the United States, and put them in a position to make a real, positive intervention,” Larison says.
Larison, a 2009 graduate of East Davidson High School, became aware of human trafficking when she was a student at UNC. She learned about it from a friend who works for a human rights organization called the International Justice Mission.
“She told me all about human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking and labor trafficking,” Larison recalls. “Then I found out more from the Polaris Project, which is an international organization that's focused on ending trafficking worldwide. They're kind of the resident experts on trafficking.”
That's when she decided to focus her honors project on nurses and the role they can play in putting an end to human trafficking.
“I wanted it to be concise, but still be extensive enough to where people have a better idea of what sex trafficking is and know what the next step is that they can do,” Larison says.
The module includes a PowerPoint presentation, lectures and slide shows, as well as quizzes and a simulation that nurse educators can use.
“It's an all-inclusive educational module,” she says, “and everything is downloadable straight from the website, so educators can take whichever part they want.”
According to Larison, nurses who encounter a victim or suspected victim of sex trafficking should contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which has a hotline established for that very purpose.
“It's really all about getting people to know this is a problem so they can recognize it and begin to talk about it,” she says. “And the more people talk about it, the faster we can find solutions.”
To access “Sex Trafficking and the Nursing Role: An Online Educational Module for Nurses,” visit http://nursingstrafficking.web.unc.edu/
For more information about human trafficking, visit the Polaris Project website at www.polarisproject.org
Nevada movement draws the line on human trafficking
by TOM RAGAN -- LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
There was a time when the term “human trafficking” stirred images of Third World immigrants working their fingers to the bone in sweat shops, sewing the latest fashions at a warehouse in the garment district of some major American city.
They worked in cramped, deplorable conditions, for hours on end, for little or no pay, and were kept beyond their will.
Over the past decade or so, however, the definition of human trafficking has been evolving to include the women working the bars, strip joints, dance clubs, outcall or escort services, massage parlors and street corners in search of tricks or johns.
And now a modern-day abolitionist movement that includes Las Vegas law enforcement officials, the state attorney general's office, legislators and grass-roots activists — supported in many cases from local pulpits — wants to reclassify the pimps who dominate the world's oldest profession as modern-day slave traders.
Their efforts have resulted in Assembly Bill 67, now pending in Carson City. The proposed law would make pimps liable for longer sentences if they force or coerce anyone into prostitution. If the prostitute is younger than 14, the pimp could be sentenced to life in prison.
“The heat is on the pimps; they're just users and abusers,” said Alexis Kennedy, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas criminal justice professor and member of a local human trafficking task force. “And it's important to address them first and foremost. When you reduce the supply, you reduce the business. The places that have been most successful are the ones who go after the customers and the pimps, not the prostitutes.”
The legislation, which has been heavily amended since its introduction, does some of that. It generally casts prostitutes — especially minors — as victims in need of social services, and adult prostitutes would still face only misdemeanor solicitation charges. Their customers' punishment wouldn't change.
The bill has encountered opposition from sex workers, who say it discounts their ability to willingly work in the sex industry, and from the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The law, as it's written, makes the assumption that nobody would possibly ever get into the line of work unless they were brainwashed or forced into it, or they were simply out of control and could not control their bodies,” said Allen Lichtenstein, the ACLU's legal counsel. “Sex trafficking and involuntary servitude are serious problems. On this we can all agree, but there needs to be some safeguards to create a balance so if some woman gets mad, she can't just later on say, ‘Oh, I've been trafficked. He made me do it.'?”
Other critics say the legislation, and the movement behind it, blur the difference between human trafficking and simple prostitution.
Michael Horowitz, the conservative think tank fellow considered the father of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, has even harsher words for what has become of his progeny.
The anti-trafficking movement has changed, he says: “Now it's just one big federal entitlement program, and everybody is more worried about where they're going to get their next grant and whether they are going to get it.”
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who has lobbied hard for AB67, said Nevada has a significant problem with sex trafficking.
“The youngest child sex-trafficked in Las Vegas was 13 years old and the youngest in Reno was 12 years old,'' she told the Review-Journal. “AB67 establishes the crime of sex trafficking in Nevada, provides harsh penalties against the convicted perpetrator, and focuses on the protection of our victims — to restore them and restore their dignity by building the infrastructure to support their recovery.”
Few would argue that prostitution is a pretty business. And most would agree that no state is as conflicted about it as Nevada.
Silver State residents, political and business leaders are properly outraged by child prostitutes, hookers hassling tourists and locals on the Strip and elsewhere, and abusive, outrageous pimps. They are much less so when it comes to legal brothels in rural counties, women quietly working casino bars and clubs, prostitutes dispatched to hotel rooms, or those working in massage parlors.
For the most part, if it is out of sight, it is out of mind.
Against that backdrop, the Metropolitan Police Department last year painted a grim picture of Las Vegas in a pitch for a federal grant to combat human trafficking:
|“Trafficking of minor girls to Las Vegas from other states for the purposes of prostitution, has and continues to be a highly desired destination for pimps,” the grant application reads. “Las Vegas has become a prime target state for sex trafficking due to the highly sexualized Las Vegas landscape catering to tourists hoping to partake in some of ‘Sin City's' lifestyle.”
The grant singled out the city's 30 Gentleman's Clubs, “where pimps/traffickers lure young women from across the country and around the world to be groomed as ‘Exotic dancers.' These pimps look to ‘Turn them out' into a life of prostitution after exposing them to ways to sexualize their interaction with men through exotic dance.”
After describing the “robust advertising campaign for adult entertainment, escort services and massage establishments,'' the grant writer states, “these images dot the landscape in a city where sex trafficking is widespread. ...”
But is Sin City the center of human trafficking and a growing global flesh trade? Even the grant application indicates that much of the underage prostitution is homegrown.
The Metropolitan Police Department's vice unit reported that 2,144 sex-trafficking victims under age 18 have been “rescued” in Las Vegas since 1994, an average of 126 per year, according to the application. More than half (1,080) were from Nevada; 542 were from California and the rest came from other states.
In 2011, the only year broken out individually, the unit reported 131 minors were “recovered,” and 74 percent of them were from Southern Nevada.
The report offered little about the people behind the numbers. No information was presented on their ages, circumstances of their arrests, or whether the total reflects multiple arrests of the same person.
While not specifically talking about child prostitutes, police spokesman Bill Cassell said the multiple-arrest factor is a common problem in compiling statistics.
The grant application touches briefly on adult prostitution, noting that “in 2011 alone, the PIT (Pandering Investigation Team) handled 95 adult sex-trafficking cases, many involving multiple victims of brutal pimps. Of these, 34 arrests were made with a 30 percent conviction rate.”
But a police spokesman said the department does not keep statistics on the total number of prostitution arrests each year.
“It's hard to put a number on it,” said Lawrence Hadfield, speaking on behalf of Lt. Karen Hughes, the vice unit commander.
He said prostitution arrests aren't tracked the same way as crimes such as armed robbery or assault. They're recorded as “detaining a person,” a broad category for many minor offenses cited hundreds, if not thousands, of times each month.
While those arrests seldom get much notice, the city's sex trade was laid bare by a Feb. 21 altercation between two self-proclaimed pimps that killed three people.
Ammar Harris, 27, who authorities allege ran a high-end prostitution ring that moved women between Miami and Las Vegas, is accused of shooting and killing another reputed pimp, Kenneth Cherry Jr., as the two were driving on the Strip. Cherry's sports car crashed into a taxi, killing the driver and his passenger, a woman from the Seattle area.
Harris faces multiple felony charges, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Two months later, Arman Izadi, 28, was arrested in a raid of his Strip luxury high-rise apartment after a woman told police he was her pimp, and that he had subjected her to beatings, waterboarding, forced tattooing and death threats — dangling her off the apartment balcony among them — when she told him she wanted to quit selling herself. He faces 15 felony charges.
The woman, a law student, told police she met Izadi at a Las Vegas nightclub and willingly went to work for him, but had tired of the trade.
Those high-profile incidents aside, it's impossible to quantify the sex-for-pay industry in Las Vegas.
Hadfield said asking how many pimps and prostitutes work the city “is like saying, ‘How many drug dealers are there in the city?'”
HUMAN TRAFFICKING COMPLICATED
Hughes declined multiple requests for interviews for this story. She also denied requests for a copy of the federal grant application, which the Review-Journal obtained from the U.S. Department of Justice through the federal Freedom of Information Act.
In a brief conversation last fall, she said human trafficking is a complicated subject, and compared it to global warming.
“You need to do research on the Internet for its definitions,” she said.
And while she often appears in churches and at other public gatherings to recount horrific stories of abuse by pimps, Hughes offers few details.
Asked about instances where people have been trafficked into or out of Las Vegas, their bodies exploited and sold for sex, she said there are traffickers who shuttle children through Las Vegas on their way to the Pacific Northwest.
“There are different circuits that the pimps run,” she said. “And the Pacific Northwest is one of them.”
The Metropolitan Police Department's grant application was convincing: The Justice Department awarded Las Vegas police nearly $500,000 over two years to combat human trafficking. Most of the money will cover overtime pay for vice officers, and $143,000 for the two-year salary of Lou Pascoe, a former Las Vegas police officer who is director of the newly formed Southern Nevada Human Trafficking Task Force. It is the second such grant the department has received.
The Salvation Army's Seeds of Hope program, administered by Stacey Cramer, also received a $500,000 grant to provide services to victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
At public forums, Cramer points out that sex trafficking is only part of the picture, and that labor exploitation does exist.
Yet, little labor exploitation has been found in Las Vegas.
“Information received from the U.S. Attorney General's Office show there were two incidents considered to be foreign labor trafficking cases between 2009 and 2010 with 10 total victims,” the police department's grant application reads. “These cases were prosecuted using statutes outside of human-trafficking laws but resulted in the successful prosecution of eight traffickers. Victims in both these cases were served by the Salvation Army.”
Conversely, in 2008, a total of 69 sex-trafficking victims were identified, of which 68 were female and 62 were minors.
“We have seen a lot of younger girls who've gotten involved in gangs,” Cramer said, adding that 75 of the victims her program helped last year were in that category, and 65 were children.
Cramer's program itself represents the shift to considering prostitutes as victims, not willing criminals.
“It's psychological abuse,” she said of the methods used by pimps. “It's similar to domestic violence. Sometimes it's just a perceived threat, and we are now paying close attention to it. Before we couldn't, because there wasn't money for them. The money was only set aside for foreign victims.
“The (Department of Justice) is realizing how many young children are being forced into prostitution, and now we're able to serve our own children.”
PROSTITUTES COMPARED TO SLAVES
In addition to the money, the federal grant provisions require local law enforcement officials to work with their state's attorney general to press for stronger laws against sex trafficking, and to help build community support for their passage.
Las Vegas vice cops have found receptive audiences in some local churches.
In March, Pastor Drew Moore worked the crowd at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in North Las Vegas, where Hughes has long been a member.
“What would it look like,” Moore challenged about a hundred people in the audience, “if the church went to battle in the name of Jesus? What would it look like if the church cared more about the children than the pimps? What would it look like? I ask you in the name of Jesus.”
So moved were some in the pews that they rose to their feet, their arms reaching for the ceiling, their palms open. Swaying ensued, followed by a few soft “Amens.”
Hughes, task force director Pascoe and Michon Martin, then a chief deputy attorney general, all bowed their heads in prayer. Moments earlier, all three had admonished parents to stay alert, lest their children fall prey to human traffickers.
Pascoe cited the Bible, comparing prostitutes to slaves: “The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, making them build cities against their will, killing them if they did not.”
Martin called sex trafficking “a sad marriage between domestic abuse and child abuse.”
Hughes ticked off a list of clues that the children might already be turning tricks: “A form of branding” with tattooed names of pimps; unexplained access to fancy cars and erotic clothing; use of slang associated with prostitution such as “wifey,” “daddy,” “family” or “bottom.”
She had unadulterated scorn for pimps.
“They're not men,” Hughes exhorted the crowd. “They dangle wealth in front of the girls like a carrot in front of their faces.”
PENALTIES FOR PANDERERS
Nevada is just one of many states re-examining crimes related to prostitution, generally known as pandering, and ordering harsh new penalties for the panderers, commonly called pimps.
A dozen states, from Arkansas to Hawaii, have already overhauled their prostitution statutes with language modeled on a federal sex-trafficking law. Many of those state laws were written by the same man, James Dold, 29, a Las Vegas native who is legal counsel for the Polaris Project, a nonprofit anti-trafficking group based in Washington, D.C.
The Polaris Project also wrote the initial version of Assembly Bill 67. Introduced on the behalf of Cortez Masto, it broadly redefines pimps as sex traffickers, dramatically increases prison sentences and narrows their ability to avoid conviction. An accused trafficker, for example, would not be able to argue that the prostitute was a willing partner in crime or plead ignorance if the prostitute is found to be a minor.
While there's no question that prostitutes often suffer physical and mental torture by pimps, some critics of AB67 say the debate on the bill's merits often cedes to just one side of the story.
“It's like when you hear about the welfare cheats, and the ones who are telling the awful stories work within the Welfare Department,” said Barbara Brents, a UNLV sociology professor and author of a book whose premise is that legal brothels are much safer than the streets.
“You never hear about the good stories, the success stories, the stories where prostitution helped someone feed her family; and it never dawns on anybody to invest in more social services and help the victims instead of tougher laws to put away the pimps.”
FORMER PROSTITUTES SPEAK OUT
Warnings and horror stories about abuse of young women by their pimps and clients are regularly heard from pulpits around the Las Vegas Valley. Often they come from women who identify themselves as former prostitutes, or the relatives of prostitutes.
Andrea Swanson regularly appears to tell the story of her daughter, Hanna, who at age 18 was forced to walk the Strip and turn tricks by a much older boyfriend-turned-pimp.
The pimp was eventually convicted of attempted pandering and sent to prison for less than two years, but her daughter visited him in jail and went to live with him after his release.
“If this can attack our family, it can attack any family,” Swanson warns.
Her daughter's boyfriend is often cited as an example of a sex trafficker, though the circumstances of Hanna's story don't quite fit. The man would be liable as a pimp under current law, but because Hanna was of legal age and he wasn't accused of coercion or use of force, Assembly Bill 67's enhanced penalties wouldn't seem to apply.
Amy Ayoub, a close friend of Cortez Masto, has also spoken in favor of the pending legislation, and testified on its behalf in Carson City.
Ayoub, who trains people in public speaking, told lawmakers in January that she was forced into prostitution in Nevada for six years, starting when she was a teenager.
She said not much has changed in the world of prostitution since then, based on the stories she hears.
“I spoke to a group of teenage girls last year, and our stories were the same,” Ayoub said in a telephone interview. “If there's any difference, I'd say that today there is more structured gang activity around the pimps than back then.”
She said that when she tried to run away from her pimp, he held her at knifepoint and beat her: “He knocked me down, stood on my hair and kicked me.”
Eventually she escaped.
Now in her 60s, Ayoub is on the National Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities and is an ambassador for St. Jude's Ranch for Children.
Annie Lobert, who founded Hookers for Jesus, a nonprofit that helps both prostitutes and pimps, said she would be glad to speak on behalf of the attorney general or work alongside police and the task force, if asked.
The 46-year-old former Minnesota prostitute said she always thought of herself as a sex-trafficking victim, long before the term was commonly used:
“I knew I was a victim out of the bad choices I made and my circumstances, but when I woke up one day with a gun to my head, and (her pimp) said, ‘You'd better work, bitch,' I knew that wasn't right.”
Lobert met her former pimp at a Twin Cities strip club.
“And you don't have to be physically forced,” she adamantly explained. “They can brainwash you to the point where you don't know what to do next, and you end up with this certain mentality, and it's the only thing you know in life.”
Still, as much as Lobert bashes pimps, she says not all of them are bad.
“We help some when they're down and out and don't have a place to turn,” she said.
LAW'S INTENT EVOLVES
The state-level movement to rebrand pandering as human trafficking has roots in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a federal law that has been reauthorized three times.
In the 1990s, Michael Horowitz was a fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., when he became interested in persecution of Christians in Africa. Working with religious groups, Horowitz won passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which among other provisions allows the United States to sanction nations that persecute anyone based on their religion.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was a natural follow-up, aimed at giving the government authority to act against the international slave trade and money to finance the battle.
The original intent of the law was to withhold foreign aid from governments that either turn a blind eye to human trafficking or are complicit in it, Horowitz said from Washington, where he runs 21st Century Initiatives, an international policy think tank.
Horowitz said the anti-trafficking movement has changed into one big federal entitlement program. Congress now appropriates about $10 million per year for anti-trafficking efforts, most going to police agencies in major cities.
As the act was being written, liberal academics and feminists took pains to distinguish between sex trafficking — a form of labor exploitation — and prostitution, which many considered a right-to-work issue for those who willingly trade sex for money.
Nicole Bromfield, an assistant professor of sociology at United Arab Emirates University, has studied the trafficking law and has interviewed dozens of congressional staffers in an attempt to explain its roots.
She said few people are aware of the history behind the drafting of the act, which saw social conservatives and pro-choice liberals battling over the distinct differences between prostitution and sex trafficking.
Since then, Bromfield said, sensational, unverified stories have dominated the narrative and have replaced the reality that prostitution often can be an act of free will.
“It's the story that's never told,” Bromfield said. “The story isn't as sexy as rescuing trafficking victims, especially considering the way human trafficking has been portrayed in the media in the United States.”
Bromfield's study exposes the ideological differences that unfolded as the law was being written.
“There was a lot of squabbling,'' one participant told Bromfield. “Was it going to be prostitution or was it going to be labor and prostitution? This is where the crack in the wall started. ... Some people just wanted it to be about sex trafficking. ... (But) you've got to have a balanced reflection of what modern-day slavery looks like.”
Some thought equating prostitution in all forms with slavery went too far.
“I despise prostitution. I don't support it as a right-to-work issue,” another participant told Bromfield. “I think it's inherently harmful, but I cannot, in good conscience, equate it with slavery. I can't. It doesn't have the same coercive quality. Not when somebody can ultimately walk away. And in slavery, by definition, you cannot.”
Yvonne Zimmerman, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at the Methodist Theological Union in Delaware, Ohio, took the analysis a step further.
“It's important to note that not all prostitution is sex trafficking and not all sex trafficking is human trafficking,” she said.
“That's a big distinction to make.”
Human trafficking on the rise in Oakland, and across U.S.
by MEGAN SEMERAZ
In 1996, a 14-year-old girl from Cameroon was brought into the United States under a fake name, using a fake passport with a promise that she would be able to go to school.
In exchange for education, the girl was expected to do housekeeping tasks, but when she arrived at the Farmington Hills home of Joseph and Evelyn Djoumessi, she never got to go to school. Instead, she was kept as a slave — beaten, sexually assaulted, threatened and forced to work long hours taking care of the couple's two children and doing chores.
For the next three years, the girl worked every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for no compensation. Her housing consisted of a dilapidated, dark and sometimes flooded space in the Djoumessis' basement. The couple did not allow her to use any of the working showers in the home, so she collected hot water from the basement sink into a bucket to clean herself, according to court documents.
Jane White, director for the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, says this is human trafficking, and it's happening in every community across Michigan — including in Oakland County.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world and third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. It is a $32 billion global industry, with 17,500 foreign nationals trafficked into the U.S. every year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Force, fraud and coercion are the three main elements of trafficking, White said. She said that trafficking is often times looked at as just sex, but half of all cases are labor-related such as agricultural, massage parlors, nail salons, hair braiding salons and domestic servitude single enterprises — including nannies and maids.
“It's what we call 'under the surface' crimes, it's there, we see it, but we don't recognize it often,” White said.
According to the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report in 2006, there was an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people annually, mostly women and children, trafficked to the United States. In addition, 25 percent of cases involve children.
White said statistics on the crimes are difficult because they have typically been labeled as other things by the FBI, and also because victims do not report it.
Situations like the one in Farmington Hills are common, and yet 80 percent of Michigan police officers are not trained in dealing with human trafficking, White said.
The Oakland County Sheriff's Office is currently in the process of training deputies on how to spot human trafficking. Sheriff's Lt. Wendy Reyes has been on Michigan's Human Trafficking Task Force for four years, and she will be assisting with training beginning this fall.
“Yes, we have seen human trafficking (in Oakland County)... one (of the cases) was in Pontiac where the guy was arrested for trafficking a young lady for prostitution ... so it's happening, but citizens don't know what to look for and law enforcement is just now starting to be trained on trafficking cases,” Reyes said. “Previously, we didn't have laws against trafficking, so we would charge them for other types of crimes such as kidnapping or assault or criminal sexual conduct of some kind — but now we're looking at it with a different set of eyes.”
The Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, which operates at Michigan State University, is made up of more than 100 member agencies that work to identify and rescue victims, prosecute offenders, restore victims and educate those in Michigan of human trafficking, in both sexual and labor exploitation.
Rev. Dr. Bonita F. Laudeman currently works at Clarkston Community Church and is an active member of the task force.
Her participation on the task force has included helping several individuals that were being prostituted in the local area, along with raising awareness in Oakland County.
Laudeman is also part of a subcommittee that is helping bring awareness to the tourist industry. The subcommittee has recently worked with hotel and motel owners, along with transportation companies to help them identify human trafficking.
“The problem is here, the problem is in Michigan,” Laudeman said. “It is in our backyard, we know that despite those we've had the opportunity to help.”
Earlier this month, authorities from the Michigan State Police and Southfield Police Department were narrowing in on a sex trafficking ring. A female victim told Southfield police that she had been held against her will and said she was forced to perform sex acts.
The man who was suspected of being a pimp in the case shot and killed himself in Southfield when officers who were executing an FBI task force search warrant heard a single gunshot from the bedroom.
Laudeman said she has been working closely with the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic, which represents cases from across the globe. The program is only funded for education, so she has helped with raising money for plane tickets, passports and visas for victims.
The Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been leading the effort to combat human trafficking in Michigan, said Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.
“The attorney general is leading a statewide commission on human trafficking,” Yearout said. “He's bringing together law enforcement, policy makers, anti-trafficking advocates and people at the highest levels of state government to come together to come up with a comprehensive plan to combat human trafficking in Michigan.”
The committee, which is the first statewide forum targeting the crime, formed in March and will have a formal report of recommendations for the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder in six months.
Yearout said that there has been five convictions for human trafficking since 2011, and there are several ongoing cases. Schuette prosecuted the first case of human trafficking in the state.
“We're really on the cutting edge to putting a stop to this,” Yearout said. “This was the first human trafficking unit in the state.”
The best thing that people can do is be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking since community members account for 50 percent of reporting the crimes, White said.
“Basically, initially what we (the Oakland County Sheriff's Office) are trying to do is getting the information out to the public that human trafficking is happening and not only to people from out of the country, but to our own citizens,” Reyes said.
Yearout said another element that makes identifying these crimes difficult is the Internet because traffickers use it to stay anonymous — making it difficult to uncover abuses.
“Traffickers count on the fact that we don't see them ... they're out there. They know how to find their predators, they know how to find their victims,” Laudeman said.
The Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been leading the effort to combat human trafficking in Michigan, said Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.
“The attorney general is leading a statewide commission on human trafficking,” Yearout said. “He's bringing together law enforcement, policy makers, anti-trafficking advocates and people at the highest levels of state government to come together to come up with a comprehensive plan to combat human trafficking in Michigan.”
The committee, which is the first statewide forum targeting the crime, formed in March and will have a formal report of recommendations for the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder in six months.
Yearout said that there has been five convictions for human trafficking since 2011, and there are several ongoing cases. Schuette prosecuted the first case of human trafficking in the state.
“We're really on the cutting edge to putting a stop to this,” Yearout said. “This was the first human trafficking unit in the state.”
The best thing that people can do is be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking since community members account for 50 percent of reporting the crimes, White said.
“Basically, initially what we (the Oakland County Sheriff's Office) are trying to do is getting the information out to the public that human trafficking is happening and not only to people from out of the country, but to our own citizens,” Reyes said.
Yearout said another element that makes identifying these crimes difficult is the Internet because traffickers use it to stay anonymous — making it difficult to uncover abuses.
“Traffickers count on the fact that we don't see them ... they're out there. They know how to find their predators, they know how to find their victims,” Laudeman said.
Group to protest Richmond church
It's urging other alleged abuse victims of pastor to tell police
by LOUIS LLOVIO
An activist organization created by victims of childhood sexual abuse will protest the Richmond Outreach Center today outside Richmond police headquarters on Grace Street.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is protesting the South Richmond megachurch's decision to stand by its pastor, Geronimo Aguilar, as he faces charges in Texas for the alleged sexual abuse of two children in 1996.
The group also is urging other alleged victims to come forward to local police.
“Frankly, it's always heartbreaking to us to see congregants immediately and publicly rally for an accused child molester instead of keeping an open mind and urging anyone with information to come forward,” said David Clohessy, a spokesman for the organization.
Clohessy said the church's decision to stand by Aguilar sends the wrong message to victims of sexual abuse — whether inside the church or watching the case from afar — who already find it extremely difficult to come forward and discuss what happened to them as children.
The church's board of directors voted last week to pay Aguilar as he took a leave of absence while dealing with the legal issues.
In a statement sent to the congregation, the board said it “believes the accusations against him to be completely untrue and unfounded.”
The ROC, as the church is known, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
By standing by Aguilar and proclaiming its belief that he is innocent, the church is hurting and intimidating other victims of sexual abuse, Clohessy said.
Aguilar is “innocent until proven guilty, of course,” but the public support sends the message to others that “the alleged victims are either wrong or lying,” he said.
That message is especially troubling for sexual abuse victims who are considering coming forward years after the abuse happened, said Clohessy, who added that the majority of abuse victims don't reach out to the authorities until they are adults and can fully understand what happened to them.
“A 7-year-old girl doesn't get out of school and jump on a bus to the DA's office, and an 11-year old boy doesn't just walk to the police station,” he said. “It's very rare for kids to disclose (they've been abused) while kids.”
Aguilar, who remained in a Fort Worth, Texas, jail as of Monday evening, has been charged by the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in two cases with four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 14, which are first-degree felonies that carry a sentence of up to life in prison.
He also has been charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child, which are second-degree felonies that carry up to 20 years in prison, and one charge of indecency with a child, also a second-degree felony.
His bail in Texas has been set at $200,000.
Sheriff: Father put his baby girl in freezer because she was crying
The Associated Press
TACOMA, Wash. - Pierce County authorities say a 25-year-old father placed his six-week old baby in a freezer for about an hour because she was crying.
KOMO News reports that the man was arrested near the town of Roy on suspicion of attempted murder.
Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer says the baby girl was taken to a local hospital with a temperature of 84 degrees, but is expected to recover.
The girl's mother called police after she saw her boyfriend taking the baby out of the freezer.
Schools working on program to stop child sex abuse
by STEPHEN RICKERL
School districts statewide will have until the fall to incorporate expanded curriculum aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.
In January, Gov. Pat Quinn signed Erin's Law; the measure builds on middle and high school sexual assault and abuse education and requires age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention education for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
Erin's Law was named after Erin Merryn, a Cook County woman, who was abused as a child. Merryn has become a national advocate in preventing child sexual abuse; her work has resulted in similar laws being passed in seven states. An additional 14 states are taking up Erin's Law in 2012-13.
In Feb. 2011 Gov. Quinn signed Public Act 96-1524 creating Erin's Law Task Force, which focused on the prevention of child sex-ual abuse within the Department of Children and Family Services.
According to the task force, there are more than 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S., three million of them are still children. Child sexual abuse is referred to as the “silent epidemic;” most Illinoisans do not know it is a major issue in our state and country.
Child advocacy centers in Illinois in 2011 served 9,850 victims of child sexual and serious physical abuse, the task force reported. A National Institute of Justice study states child sexual abuse costs $35 billion a year annually.
The task force report stated, “while that number is staggering, it pales in comparison to the human casualties. Children who experience CSA have a multitude of adverse outcomes. They include: poor academic performance, dropping out of high school, self mutilation, persistent post traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol abuse, a ‘markedly' increased risk for abuse in subsequent relationships, difficulty in forming meaningful and trusting relationships, cognitive deficits, depression, dissociative symptoms, and suicide. Early identification of victims and strong maternal support can significantly reduce the likelihood of the aforementioned human costs.”
Although aimed at protecting children, Quinn's signing of the law created an unfunded mandate for school districts to implement the curriculum. With general state aid to school districts being cut my $861 million since 2009, superintendents and school boards were already scrambling to keep up.
Greg Goins, superintendent of Frankfort 168, said like other districts are doing their best to keep up with what resources they have available.
“We want to try to cover all the mandates, but it's challenging at times,” said Goins.
Goins said he will meet with district principals to see what curriculum is in place and work on expanding that. He also plans to look to the Regional Office of Education as a resource.
“We are having ongoing discussions and will have a plan in place by the time school starts,” he said. “But who knows what will happen between now and the end of this legislative session. We're just tying to keep up.”
Meghan Row, national prevention education representative for Childhelp, said her organization is getting creative in helping bring child abuse prevention curriculum to Illinois.
Row said although many schools are interested in providing their students with the knowledge to prevent abuse, schools do not have money in their budgets to do provide it.
Childhelp is trying to overcome the funding obstacle through Razoo, an online crowd funding platform for non-profit or-ganizations. The platform allows concerned community members the opportunity to donate funds that will go toward educating children in their school district on the prevention and intervention of child abuse.
Row said the cost of the curriculum, facilitator training and take home materials for the “Speak Up be Safe” program are $5 per student. Childhelp's goal is to raise $50,000 in the next three weeks to bring the “Speak Up Be Safe” curriculum to Illinois schools. Funds generated in that timeframe will be matched, bringing a total of $100,000 in funding to provide child abuse prevention edu-cation.
The Speak Up Be Safe curriculum is a research-based, developmentally and culturally appropriate child abuse and bullying pre-vention program that provides children with the knowledge needed to intervene and ultimately prevent child abuse and bullying from happening, said Row.
“It really doesn't sound like a whole lot of money in the grand scheme of things,” Row said. “With the match, it's basically the opportunity for the community to double their money and help twice as many students in the state.”
Program costs include facilitator training, the curriculum and take home materials for the students. Among the take home materials are bookmarks that student give to someone in their life that they identify as a “safe adult.” Receiving the bookmark means that the student has identified that person as someone they will turn to in order to talk about any form of abuse. In turn, adults are provided with information on what to do if a child indicates they have been abused and how to talk to students about abuse.
Row said statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be abused before they turn 18.
“For school districts and school officials to be able to provide a program like this to their students it will ultimately provide the students with the knowledge they need to interrupt it (abuse) if its happening to them and to be able to eventually prevent it happening in the future,” she said. “Ultimately it's providing students with the knowledge they need in order to be safe.”
Boy Scouts and Sexual Abuse: What Will Happen to 'It happened to me'?
by Kurt Wayne
There are some things a parent doesn't want to think, let alone talk, about. For many, chief among those would be sexual assault and abuse of his or her own children. Yet evil far too frequently flourishes in silence. That's why there are times when some individual or group has to be brave enough not just to speak out, but to genuinely try to protect the vulnerable when far too many either are silent or simply don't care.
That's exactly what the Boy Scouts of America tried to do about the problem of juvenile sexual abuse of boys years ago when they created the original video " It happened to me," in age-appropriate versions for both Cub and Boy Scouts. The videos are designed both to educate and to protect against situations when a boy can be in danger from sexually predatory behavior. And given that this campaign (like the organization which started it) has long been quite problematic to liberals, the direction of this video will be telltale as to where the now gay-affirming Boy Scouts of America goes, or perhaps more appropriately, how it ends.
First, off YouTube (unfortunately, in not ideal quality), here are excerpts from the more recent version of "It happened to me," broken into four approximately six-minute modules:
1. "Check first"
2. "Go with a friend"
3. "It's your body and you can say No!"
4. "Tell your parents or another adult you can trust!"
Also, here is a 3-minute excerpt from the original 1990s video, Cub scout version. It's half-corny/half-creepy (more of the latter), but honestly, I don't know how they could have done any better with the subject matter.
When I was a co-scoutmaster of my son's group back in the late '90s and early 2000s, my wife learned that two of her best adult female friends had been sexually abused as girls by family members. Visiting the local scout store in Lawrenceville, GA, I learned that this video was among the thousands of clothing, merit badge study, community service, and personal growth products the BSA offered both scouts and their den leaders. Concerned for our then-nearly 9-year-old son's protection, I rented it, and we watched it once together after he and I had a talk in advance. More on that in a minute.
Two years earlier, another Atlanta resident, Salon magazine contributor Susan Brenna, also watched this with her 9 year old son. Bear in mind two things: first, this is something meant to be shown only with parental permission (ideally with a parent or adult caregiver present), and second, the young actors in this video weren't trying to earn any critic's awards. Here was Ms. Brenna's experience:
But it has been unpleasantly jarring, almost paranoia inducing, to witness the emphasis that scouting places on the dangers of childhood sexual molestation. Even ahead of the Cub Scout Promise in the Webelos handbook comes a primer on sexual abuse, which boys are required to read and discuss with their parents.
At the first pack meeting of the year, Cubs are supposed to watch the videotape 'It Happened to Me,' which features boys describing situations in which they were abused. And at camp-outs, they can't share tents with unrelated men, even their den leaders.
Considering how some pedophiles have used organizations like the Boy Scouts to get close to children, there's certainly good reason for the leadership to be scrupulously careful. And the video does prompt the intended results. A very young Scout I know was flashed by a teenager in a public bathroom. It became, as they say, a teachable moment when he came out of the bathroom and proclaimed to the adult who was with him, 'I've been sexually abused.'
Note: to a child, perception is everything . I once knew a fellow churchgoer whose son was as "he-manly" as God could make. Yet when he was younger, some kids called him "gay" at some point. Wisely, the young man was able to talk about it as soon as it happened, but the father was amazed that for a period of time later, the son would still ask him, "Dad, why did they call me 'gay'?" Dr. James Dobson once said the very first unwritten rule of boys is "Don't be a girl." If a child has insecurities -- not that he's "gay," but that he just isn't enough of a "boy" -- events like being visually assaulted by a teenager can make him question why he was the one the abuser chose to exploit.
But as with so many progressives, protection of the innocent comes with a price they're uneasy to see paid. Ms. Brenna went on:
And yet, considering how my son already equates scouting with these lessons, I worry that he's going to confuse his pack's warnings about sexually predatory adults with the Boy Scouts' ban on gays. A 9-year-old is just beginning to comprehend sexuality. It's a lot to ask him to sort through the nuances: what's criminal, what's moral or immoral and what any of it has to do with the law of the pack. No matter what distinctions I try to draw between our beliefs and those of the Boy Scouts national leadership, Jonathan may infer from all this alarm that homosexuals are the people who do bad things to little boys. Isn't that what some grown-up Scouts fear?
Gay-bashing wasn't the point of "It happened to me." Rather, it was about personal protection . In fact, both in the version my son and I saw (made in the early '90s) and the later edition, both boys and girls were portrayed as potential perpetrators. Now, I have examined years of evidence and know that GLBT people are not "born that way." I wasn't afraid to talk with my son, when the proper time came, about who gay people really are and what "gayness" really is, and to tell my son the truth without demonizing fellow human beings who are just as precious to God as he is.
It's not been proven and likely isn't true that sexual abuse alone contributes solely to the complex state that is one's sexuality, even though a significant number of people identifying as "gay" have been molested. More important, though, is the fact that a majority of sex offenders, up to 80% in some studies, have indeed themselves been victims of sexual abuse, even as it must be declared that most abuse victims do not go on to abuse others.
Given all the above in this age of "drawing awareness to causes," the Boy Scouts should have been celebrated for attempting to educate boys, their natural clientele, about the dangers of sexual abuse and how to protect themselves. Yet when looking at these videos, the phrase George H.W. Bush once said of Saddam Hussein's actions -- "This cannot stand" -- comes to mind as I try to surmise what today's promoters of unbridled sexuality must think when seeing "It happened to me." And that's why I'm guessing that this video's days are numbered.
And my young son? It turned out that we too had a close family friend (we thought) who later tried to abuse my son. My son told me about it, exactly as the video suggested. And as I watch the young man my son has become, I've made it a point to praise God that he was protected -- through my and my wife's loving advice, and possibly through a video from the Boy Scouts as well.
Yet why should I be concerned a decade later, since my son left the scouts when we moved to a different state and got involved in other things? For starters, there's this story on May 24th about UK "experts" advising educational institutions in that nation to teach children "the proper way to view porn." Or the "Focus on the family" broadcasts from this week about a young American girl named "Lacey" who didn't know the warning signs of predators and became a victim of trafficking. Or this USA Today article from May 17th about how kids are, en masse, accessing porn at age 6 and flirting online at age 8. Then there's the ever-increasing eroticization of kids of ever younger age by advertisers.
This is a hyper-sexualized culture for many reasons, none of them remotely noble, and largely at the behest of the progressives who simultaneously worry that "anti-sexual abuse" means "anti-gay." And the constant bombardment of sexual imagery to would-be predators of kids must be like the sight of rows of beer and liquor bottles at a large package store to an alcoholic. In the face of all this, The Boy Scouts of America, for whatever reason (likely because they encouraged their charges to be "morally straight," given that they're much more apt to have a better life that way ), has tried to stand in the breach in favor of their boys the past few decades.
With that in mind, "It happened to me," and what is done with that program (one among several abuse protection resources the Boy Scouts have had), will likely be a barometer of that organization's future. Let's hope the barometric pressure doesn't drop at all, let alone rapidly.
Kurt Wayne is married with two children and lives in Bella Vista, AR, where he is a web developer and works with Brazilian online evangelical Christian ministries.
Six commissioners to run inquiry into 'hideous' child sexual abuse
JULIA Gillard says six "very eminent" Australians conducting the royal commission into child sexual abuse will ensure victims will no longer be ignored.
by Rick Morton
Julia Gillard today announced the terms of reference for the inquiry, to be led by senior NSW judge Peter McClellan, and which will be expected to provide an interim report by the end of June 2014. It is scheduled to wind up in December 2015.
As well as the appointment of six royal commissioners, the inquiry will include a special unit to investigate cases of sexual assault and organisational cover-up to ensure the inquiry does not get bogged down by thousands of individual claims.
Ms Gillard said the nation needed the royal commission because child sexual abuse in institutions was a “hideous, shocking and vile crime” and victims needed to be heard.
“It is clear from what is already in the public domain that too many children were the subject of child sexual abuse in institutions,” the Prime Minister said.
“And that too many adults who could have assisted them turned a blind eye so that they didn't get the help that they needed.”
Ms Gillard said the royal commission would focus only on child sex abuse in institutional contexts.
“It will not deal with child sexual abuse in the family, it will also not deal with abuse of children which is not associated with child sexual abuse.”
As well as the Justice McClellan, who is chief judge at common law of the NSW Supreme Court, the royal commissioners are former Queensland police commissioner Bob Atkinson, Family Court judge Jennifer Coate, Productivity Commission commissioner Robert Fitzgerald, academic Professor Helen Milroy and former Australian Democrats senator Andrew Murray.
“(Mr Atkinson) brings over 40 years of policing experience to the royal commission, including 12 years as Police Commissioner,” Ms Gillard said.
“Justice Jennifer Coate served for 20 years as a magistrate and county court judge in Victoria, including for five years as the President of the Children's Court.
“(Mr Fitzgerald) has experience in commerce, law, public policy and community services, including as Community and Disability Services Commissioner and Deputy Ombudsman in New South Wales.”
Ms Gillard said Ms Milroy would provide extensive experience in child and adolescent health, including the mental health impacts of child sexual assault.
“Andrew Murray brings tremendous experience as a legislator and member of landmark Senate inquiries into children's experiences in institutional care,” she added.
Ms Gillard said the way in which evidence was collected and when and where hearings would be held would be determined by the commissioners.
She expected there would be arrangements for the collection of evidence from people who had lived in Australia as children but had since moved overseas.
“I would anticipate they would put in place mechanisms so people can tell their story no matter where they are,” Ms Gillard said.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the government planned to introduce legislation into parliament when it resumed in February to allow for the six commissioners to hear evidence separately.
Under existing laws, all commissioners would have to be present to hear evidence.
“We expect very large numbers of people who want to give evidence, to present evidence to the commission and obviously we don't expect all evidence to be presented to every one of the six commissioners,” Ms Roxon said.
“We have spoken to the opposition about this change and we do hope to have the enthusiastic support of the parliament.”
Ms Gillard said the inquiry would send a clear message to child sexual abuse survivors.
“For too many, the trauma of that abuse has been compounded by the sense that they had, that their nation doesn't understand or doesn't care about what they've suffered.
“To those survivors of child sex abuse, today we are able to say we want your voice to be heard, even if you've felt for all of your life that no one's listened to you, that no one has taken you seriously, that no one has really cared.”
Ms Roxon conceded the commission would “require significant resources”.
“We will need significant resources to establish this commission as a whole, you can clearly see by the appointment of six commissioners it will be a far-reaching inquiry,” she said.
“The way the resources are divided between legal assistance and support, for research teams for the commissioner will be a matter for the commission.”
Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said funding would be made available to organisations that abuse survivors “know and trust” but would not elaborate on how much or whether any of it would be new funding.
“We are working through funding arrangements right now, we realise there will be increased demands on organisations who have been advocates and supporters of child sexual abuse survivors.”
Ms Gillard said other procedural issues, notably whether the royal commission will compel Catholic priests to break the “inviolable seal of confession” or whether previously signed confidentiality agreements will be a concern, will be a “matter for the commission itself”.
Child protection advocacy group Bravehearts said it was thrilled about the terms of reference for the royal commission.
“We couldn't be happier, we're absolutely ecstatic,” said Bravehearts director Hetty Johnston, as she welcomed the inclusion of the group's submission in the terms of reference.
“It's absolutely everything we hoped it would be, we're absolutely thrilled with the outcome.”
Senior Catholic figures say they are “ready and willing” to assist with the royal commission.
The six royal commissioners have yet to determine a list of witnesses but the chief executive of the Catholic church's newly-formed Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, says the church is committed to “fully cooperate and engage” with the commission.
NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith said Justice McClellan was an “excellent choice” to head the inquiry.
“His extensive experience appearing in and running complex inquiries, his ability for hard work and his compassion make him an ideal candidate,” Mr Smith said.
“I am confident he will give all parties a full and fair hearing and guide the commission well.”
Child abuse victims' forum needs emphasis on justice
A plan to offer child abuse victims a forum to tell of their experiences must be accompanied by an emphasis on achieving justice for survivors, a committee of MSPs has concluded.
The Scottish Government wants to establish a national confidential forum (NCF) to "provide an opportunity for adults who were placed in institutional care as children to recount their experiences in a confidential, non-judgmental and supportive setting".
However, Holyrood's Health Committee has previously heard the NCF "does not go far enough" and could make matters worse if witnesses are asked to relive traumatic experiences without any offer of justice or compensation.
In its final report released today, the committee has signalled its support for the NCF but advised it must not be seen as a "panacea" for victims.
The committee acknowledged the frustrations of people who have heard promises of support in the past and feel as if they have been passing through "revolving doors" since leaving care.
While the NCF could meet the needs of some people, the committee said a broader approach was required too.
The committee has welcomed Scottish Government efforts to reform time-bar laws, which limit the time in which proceedings can be brought, and work undertaken on restorative justice.
Convener Duncan McNeil said: "It was clear from evidence we heard that the creation of this forum will not right the many wrongs of those that suffered.
"However, it is hoped that the forum may give some adults the opportunity to be heard in a safe and confidential setting."
Deputy convener Bob Doris MSP said: "The creation of the NCF was supported by many individuals and organisations. However it was also clear that we need to get the detail right to ensure that the forum meets the needs of survivors that will use it."
Man charged with killing elderly couple, assaulting toddler in random attack
by MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Police say a registered sex offender entered a Mountain View apartment through an unlocked window, killed an elderly couple and sexually assaulted their 2-year-old great-granddaughter in an apparently random attack Saturday.
The man, identified in court documents as 24-year-old Jerry Andrew Active, was taken into custody blocks away from the North Bragaw Street scene after a fight with the victims' family members, who came home from taking their son to a movie to find their child assaulted and Touch Chea, 73, and Sorn Sreap, 71, dead .
Active was arraigned on charges of murder, sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor and burglary at the Anchorage Jail courtroom Sunday.
A judge set his bail at $1.5 million after prosecutors called his alleged crimes chilling “beyond words” in their violence and random nature.
The father and grandson of the victims says he is left raw and reeling with anger.
“He took the old, the innocent,” said Von Seng. “Come face me.”
Seng and his wife had taken their 4-year-old son to see a movie at the Century 16 theater Saturday evening, he said Sunday.
When the family returned to the ground-level apartment they shared with Seng's grandparents and great-grandmother at the Labnongsang Apartments just before 8 p.m. the door chain was locked. It would only open a few inches, enough for Seng to see a glimpse of his grandfather Touch Chea, 73, and grandmother Sorn Sreap, 71, on the floor.
For a moment he thought he was seeing some kind of a bad joke.
“I wanted to have hope and faith,” he said.
But Sreap was nude from the waist down, Seng said.
He screamed at his wife to call police and broke the large window facing the alleyway to get inside.
Accounts of what happened next are imprecise.
Seng says he stormed through the house in a panic, finding his 2-year-old daughter and his 90-year-old great-grandmother, who has dementia.
There was also a partially clothed man in the house. He was trying to run out the front door.
“I said, motherf---er, did you murder my motherf-----g family?” Seng said.
The two men fought. Both threw punches. A neighbor who heard the screams arrived to help but the man escaped.
Police arrested Active a block away moments later. He was wearing boxer shorts, said Anchorage Police Department detective Slawomir Markiewicz.
Chea and Sreap were killed by “blunt force trauma,” and had injuries to their faces, police said, though an autopsy to formally determine a cause of death hasn't been completed.
Detectives say the 2-year-old girl and Sorn Sreap had both been sexually assaulted. The toddler was taken to an area hospital where she underwent surgery for her injuries.
The 90-year-old great-grandmother in the apartment was apparently unharmed, Seng said.
She hasn't been able to communicate with police due to her dementia, said Markiewicz.
It appears that Active entered the apartment through a window left unlocked, he said.
On Sunday, Seng stood near the boarded-up window of the apartment.
His knuckles were bloodied from the fight and he wore a parent visitor badge for the pediatric unit of a local hospital.
His grandparents were loving people who happily put up with his “hard-head self” as a child and teenager, he said.
Sreap and Chea, who are Cambodian, mostly raised him. They lived between Tacoma, Wash. and Anchorage.
They loved to play bingo and often babysat their great-grandchildren, he said.
The apartment on North Bragaw Street was home to not only his immediate family but members of the couple's extended family.
It felt safe, Seng said.
“I know everyone around here,” he said. “Everyone knows me.”
But Seng did not know Jerry Andrew Active.
Active is a registered sex offender who listed his residence as the Anchorage Correctional Complex as recently as February.
A 2009 Alaska State Trooper dispatch says Active was arrested on suspicion of entering a Togiak home and sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl while the family slept, then assaulting all three members of the household.
He served time in jail for attempted sexual abuse of a minor and trespassing in 2010 and 2011, court records show.
Court records show Active was charged with violating his probation this spring but it's not clear how recently he was incarcerated or what kind of correctional supervision he was on at the time of the alleged crime.
Documents show that he was supposed to be on probation until at least 2014.
On Sunday, Active appeared in court with a black eye. He tried to cover his face from news cameras with papers.
Active had initially refused to give his name to police — he was first identified as “John Doe” — but prosecutors said they were now certain of his identity, which was revealed in charging documents.
Active said he needed a lawyer and was assigned one from the state Public Defender Agency.
Prosecutor Jenna Gruenstein said the charges against Active and his criminal history made him an “extraordinary danger to the community, to a degree that we rarely see in Anchorage or Alaska.”
Most chilling, she said, was the fact that it appears that the suspect targeted his victims at random.
Such crimes are unusual, said Markiewicz.
“Between 80-90 percent of homicide victims know the suspects,” he said. “Random homicides are very rare.”
Now detectives are focused on finding out more about the circumstances surrounding the killings.
Some questions will be answerable in time, the detective said: where Active was in the hours and days before his alleged crime, and whether he was drunk or on any drugs at the time.