From the FBI
When Custody Issues Lead to Violence
An analysis of recent FBI child abduction investigations has revealed a disturbing trend: Non-custodial parents are increasingly abducting and threatening to harm their own kids to retaliate against parents who were granted legal custody of the children. “Unfortunately, the threat of violence—and death—in these cases is all too real,” said Ashli-Jade Douglas, an FBI analyst in our Violent Crimes Against Children Intelligence Unit who specializes in child abduction matters. “Most non-custodial parental abductors want retaliation. They feel that if they can't have the child full time—or any amount of time—then the other parent shouldn't have the child, either.”
An analysis of all FBI child abduction cases where a motivation was known shows that custodial-motivated abductions—in which a son or daughter is taken against the will of the child and the custodial parent—have increased from 9 percent in fiscal year 2010 to 50 percent in fiscal year 2012. Sometimes the motivation is to convince the custodial parent to stay in a relationship; more often it is to harm the child in an act of retaliation. This trend appears to be on the rise, Douglas said. At least 25 instances of such abductions have been reported to the FBI since October.
“Our analysis indicates that children age 3 years and younger of unwed or divorced parents are most at risk of being abducted by their non-custodial parent,” Douglas added. “And the timely reporting of the abduction by the custodial parent to law enforcement is crucial in increasing the likelihood of recovering the child unharmed and apprehending the offender.”
Some recent cases include:
In 2009, a non-custodial mother abducted her 8-month-old son from his custodial father in Texas. She told the father she killed the boy to prevent the father from employing his custodial rights and in retaliation for his alleged involvement with other women.
In 2011, a 2-year-old girl was abducted by her non-custodial father in California. A week later, both were found dead. The father committed suicide after shooting his daughter.
In 2012, a non-custodial father in Utah abducted and killed his 7- and 5-year-old sons and then committed suicide. He was angry over not being afforded sole custody of the children.
“In contrast to international parental abductions, our analysis indicates that domestic custodial abductions are more likely to have violent outcomes for children,” Douglas explained, adding that a number of factors contribute to this trend. About 46 percent of American children are born to unwed parents, and 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. That usually leaves one parent with custody of the child.
Douglas offers a suggestion to help keep children safe: Custodial parents should inform schools, after-care facilities, babysitters, and others who may at times be responsible for their children about what custody agreements are in place so that kids are not mistakenly released to non-custodial parents.
“The other big takeaway from our analysis,” she added, “is that law enforcement must act quickly in non-custodial abductions to keep children from being harmed. It's mind-boggling to think that a parent would hurt their child to retaliate against the other parent,” Douglas said, “but in that moment, they make themselves believe that it's okay.”
Quick Reporting Key to Child Safety
There is a common misconception that domestic custodial child abductions are considered a family matter that should not be investigated by law enforcement. In fact, when such abductions are reported to law enforcement, the child should be considered to be in danger—especially in cases when the non-custodial parents have previously threatened to abduct or harm their children, are mentally disabled, or are unemployed or otherwise financially unstable.
“The timely reporting of the abduction by the custodial parent to law enforcement is critical,” said Ashli-Jade Douglas, an analyst in our Violent Crimes Against Children Intelligence Unit. “That greatly increases the chances of recovering the child unharmed.”
Link between early trauma, bad health
by Dr. Dan Taylor, For The Inquirer
What society does to its children, its children will do to society. - Cicero, 106 B.C.E.
A radical change in the underlying beliefs of what causes and accelerates adult diseases and childhood health is underway. It's a paradigm shift - a transformation in the practice of pediatrics.
On a recent Friday, I had a full panel of patients. A jumpy 7-year-old with ADHD. A 12-year-old weighing more than 150 pounds. A teenager with a flat affect.
More coverage Exploring the ACEs: How our adult bodies hold onto childhood pain
It was a typical day for a pediatrician, except that this diverse group most likely has one unifying factor that predisposes them to their health issues: ACEs.
Just as germ theory shifted our understanding of infectious disease in the late 19th century, ACEs are changing how we look at early traumatic experiences - and early disease and death.
ACE stands for adverse childhood experiences. A brief, and recent, history:
In 1995, researchers asked more than 17,000 middle-upper class adults in San Diego sensitive questions about their childhood exposure to events such as abuse (emotional and physical) and household dysfunction (domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, separation and divorce, incarceration). Each adverse experience equaled one ACE point, with a maximum of 10. Then things got interesting.
First, the prevalence of ACEs was high; more than two-thirds of respondents had at least one; more than 20 percent had three or more. (In Philadelphia, the most impoverished large city for children in America, 37 percent of residents have at least four ACEs, according to a study by the Institute for Safe Families released at a national ACEs summit here last month.)
Second, and even more fascinating, the original study and many that followed found the higher the ACE score based on childhood, the more likely you are to have diseases as an adult. These include the most common causes of death and disability: heart disease, stroke, suicide, HIV, diabetes.
One ACE is associated with a 20 percent greater risk of heart disease compared to no ACEs; four ACEs, 70 percent greater; more than six ACEs, 330 percent higher risk. A person with six or more ACEs is likely to die 20 years earlier than someone with none.
Why does this happen?
The more traumatized a child is, the more likely he or she is to adopt health-risk behaviors like smoking and overeating. That explains some of it, but not all.
So what is the cause?
Evolution has made us survivors. If we see a bear, our "fight or flight" mechanism goes into action and our bodies respond by secreting substances that make our hearts race faster, get more blood flow to our muscles and rev up the brain, which helps us focus on the here and now.
The bear passes and our bodies quickly recover. But if that bear comes home several nights a week in the form of a parent with alcohol on his breath and rage in his eyes, the child's body has no time to recover.
The resulting toxic stress affects the glandular system, raising children's risk of diabetes and obesity. Chronic stress taxes immune systems, so higher ACE scores lead to more infections, asthma, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus. Chronic stress can even affect how genes are turned on and off, passing down life's stressors to future generations.
The health effects of ACEs have been teased out in dozens of studies (posted at www.cdc.gov/ace). Newer research has linked ACEs to social effects such as divorce, sexual dissatisfaction, unemployment, housing instability, and homelessness. In pediatrics, we see more: developmental delays, bed wetting, school failure, poor impulse control.
For medical professionals, the ACE research has transformed our big questions from "what's wrong with an individual" to "what happened to them." We know we must take a dual generational approach - healing the trauma in the parent while trying to prevent more in the child.
We have a long way to go. An article in May's JAMA Pediatrics reported that 60 percent of U.S. children were exposed to some form of violence in the last year.
We must acknowledge that ACEs are all around us and take a more trauma-informed approach to care. The Philadelphia nonprofit Institute for Safe Families (www.instituteforsafefamilies.org) is the driving force here. And we can learn from clinics such as Drexel's 11th Street Family Health Services, where practitioners prescribe reflexology, yoga, Zumba, and mindfulness training, along with antibiotics and insulin.
As I prepare for my next day of patients, the ACEs research makes me more attuned to the complexities of health, more aware of the toxic effects of stress on families I serve, more conscious of the path we must take. I have become more awake as a pediatrician.
Daniel Taylor is an associate professor at Drexel College of Medicine and a pediatrician with St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. Contact him at Daniel.Taylor@DrexelMed.edu
Furyk foundation to fund child abuse prevention effort
by Garry Smits
The Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation is helping fund a program for St. Johns County elementary school students to learn about child abuse prevention, Internet safety and bullying.
The grant by the foundation, launched in 2010, will help train facilitators, implement and curriculum and supply materials for “Speak Up Be Safe,” which will attempt to reach 9,000 students in the county for the 2013-2014 school year.
The grant from the Furyk Foundation went to the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, which is providing financial support for “SUBS,” with the goal of expanding it statewide.
The Monique Burr Foundation has assisted in programs to help abused or abandoned children since it was formed in 1997.
Since starting three years ago, the Furyk Foundation has raised more than $800,000 for local charities.
USC Upstate proposes to expand program addressing child abuse
by Drew Brooks
University of South Carolina Upstate officials are proposing to expand a popular interdisciplinary program that recently was heralded by experts on child abuse prevention.
The school's child advocacy studies minor, a 21-credit interdisciplinary program, has quickly become one of the college's fastest-growing programs, said Jennifer Parker, professor of psychology and associate dean of the USC Upstate College of Arts & Sciences.
The program started in the fall of 2010 with just a handful of students. Now, more than 80 students are pursuing the minor, and almost 30 graduated with it this year, Parker said.
With all the interest, the school is looking to offer a similar program for working professionals.
Parker said USC Upstate is proposing the post-baccalaureate program to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, which must approve any new degree or certificate programs.
The proposal calls for an 18-credit hour graduate-level program that would be aimed at professionals who work in child advocacy or those hoping to enter a related field.
"We anticipate this will be very popular," Parker said.
USC Upstate's child advocacy studies minor is the only one of its kind in the state, Parker said, and one of only a few such programs across the country. The school also has a Child Advocacy Center on campus that is focused on community outreach.
Victor Vieth of the National Child Protection Training Center, told professionals at an Upstate symposium on child sexual abuse late last month that, other than the USC Upstate program, there is "little evidence that rigorous instruction on child maltreatment is being provided at the undergraduate level" in South Carolina.
Vieth also said the USC Upstate program was the only one of its kind in the Carolinas.
"It's extremely novel," he added. "It's one of only 24 schools in 15 states. USC Upstate is on the cutting edge."
Vieth's report, "The View from the Trenches: Recommendations for Improving South Carolina's Response to Child Sexual Abuse Based on Insights from Frontline Child Protection Professionals," found that most of those involved in handling child sexual abuse cases had no undergraduate or graduate training specific to child-related cases.
He called on colleges, seminaries, medical and law schools to develop or expand child protection curricula and said institutions should not go below the standard set by USC Upstate.
The program already has drawn attention from colleges outside of the state.
Parker said several out-of-state schools have inquired about the minor.
"There's a lot of collaboration," she said. "We hope to work with other institutions to create similar programs."
The USC Upstate minor provides intensive, hands-on learning that is applicable to future psychologists, nurses, law enforcement, educators and many others, Parker said. Students also are required to intern with local agencies who deal with the issue.
"It's multidisciplinary. It's not just a minor in one field," she said. "It's something they can really take out to the field. When they graduate, they're really well prepared to work in a variety of fields."
"There's nothing to compare at an undergraduate level," she added.
Parker said the program allows more students to be trained in preventing child abuse.
If approved, the post-baccalaureate program would be just as valuable, she said.
"You really have to stay current in the field," Parker said. "There are new initiatives, best practices and legal updates that you need. This would be for the professional who wanted to return and get graduate credit or come back and start a new career."
She also advocates on behalf of child abuse prevention training for anyone who works with children, saying that such training could end abuse and prevent scandals such as the one involving child sex abuse at Penn State, which broke in 2011.
"That's a perfect example of people not knowing what to do," Parker said. "We can't eliminate the perpetrators. But we can create an environment where it's not possible."
Bill targets those who buy sex from minors
Advocates had hoped the Oregon legislation would apply a felony to first-time offenders
by Lauren Gambino
SALEM — The Oregon Legislature is considering a bill that would toughen penalties for people who solicit sex from underage prostitutes as part of a broader push to crack down on child sex trafficking in the state.
The bill's provisions are still being hammered out, but the intent is to impose harsher punishments on people who seek sex with children.
A fierce disagreement has emerged, however, over just how harsh those punishments should be. Child safety advocates say johns should be charged with a felony on their first offense, but critics say that's too harsh.
The bill could come up for a vote in the House next week.
Quashing demand for child prostitutes would make the sex trafficking industry less profitable for pimps, resulting in fewer victims being brought into the sex trade, said Portland Police Officer Mike Gallagher, who has a long history of fighting prostitution.
Gallagher said in his experience going after johns, he's observed that they are more afraid of being charged with a felony and having to register as a sex offender than paying a steep fine, which they can typically afford.
“If it was public knowledge that they would get a prison sentence and have to be a registered sex offender, they would think twice,” Gallagher said.
“They are not afraid of the monetary value, but I do get asked if this is going to be a felony or if their picture is going to end up in the paper,” he said.
Anti-trafficking advocates took their case to the Legislature, proposing a bill that would have charged people caught patronizing an underage prostitute with a felony on their first offense, with a presumptive sentence of roughly three years in prison. The Senate Judiciary Committee changed the bill, making it a felony after a person is arrested a third time for soliciting sex with a minor.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Eugene Democrat who serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the original bill went too far.
For example, Prozanksi said, the original bill would have allowed felony charges against an 18-year-old senior in high school who had sexual contact with his 16- or 17-year-old girlfriend after taking her on a date and paying the bill.
The House sought a compromise, proposing a felony charge on a second offense. But anti-trafficking advocates aren't satisfied.
Liz Alston of Shared Hope International, an advocacy group that fights sex trafficking, said Oregon will become a magnet for sex trafficking if it doesn't make paying for sex with a minor a felony on the first offense.
“We might as well put a billboard up at our borders: Come shop Oregon,” Alston said.
The group's analysis of states' sex trafficking laws found that Oregon is one of only a handful of states that doesn't charge johns soliciting underage prostitutes with a felony the first time they're caught.
Under a law passed in 2011, soliciting sex from an underage prostitute carries a $10,000 fine on the first offense and a $20,000 fine on the second.
Gail Meyer, a lobbyist for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said making the crime a felony on the first offense is too harsh a penalty for people who inadvertently patronize a minor.
“Our laws don't differentiate between the person who knowingly purchases sex from a minor and the person who has every reason to believe that they are purchasing sex from a consenting adult,” Meyer said.
In the bill's current form, johns facing a first conviction would face a $10,000 fine, 30 days in jail and completion of a “john school” program that teaches them about the sex-trafficking industry. Students in john school are taught how the sex trade destroys lives.
“It gives the people an opportunity to correct their behavior,” Meyer said.
Lawmakers have proposed several other bills aimed at better protecting children from being lured or coerced into sex trafficking, including one that would allow minors charged with prostitution to use their age as a defense.
What Happens in Vegas… Could Get You 10 Years to Life
Unpacking the proposed Nevada sex trafficking legislation (Part 1)
Why is a 39-page bill that criminalizes a whole lot of normal people being sold as a way to save the child sex slaves?
Well, saving the (white female) child sex slaves has proven to be a powerful narrative. After all, who is actually for sex trafficking of a minor, right? Only the most depraved among us. So, we must support this tough on crimes legislation. It's a no-brainer to pass, no? NO. And herein lays the problem.
Is history repeating itself?
The historical link to the “white slavery” panic of the early 1900's is hard to ignore. Prostitution in the U.S. was largely legal until changing women's sexual norms led to a “white slavery” panic that resulted in the closing of brothels with the White-Slave Traffic Act, better known as the Mann Act in 1910. According to historian Mark Thomas Connelly, “a group of books and pamphlets appeared announcing a startling claim: a pervasive and depraved conspiracy was at large in the land, brutally trapping and seducing American girls into lives of enforced prostitution, or ‘white slavery.'” The reality was numerous young women were drawn into prostitution for “mundane” economic reasons. The ambiguous language of the Mann Act allowed selective prosecutions and was used to criminalize forms of consensual sexual behavior for many years.
Although human trafficking can be defined as being put in a situation of economic exploitation that you can't get out of; rather than focusing on forced labor, servitude and slavery-like conditions, the trafficking framework has been used in selective ways. The general conception in the U.S. is that all human trafficking is sex trafficking. This conception developed because a crusade against prostitution attempted to conflate sex work with human trafficking, a claim for which there is no evidence, even according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
An executive summary of human trafficking put forth by the non-profit Center for Health and Gender Equity concludes that “conflating human trafficking with prostitution results in ineffective anti-trafficking efforts and human rights violations because domestic policing efforts focus on shutting down brothels and arresting sex workers, rather than targeting the more elusive traffickers.”
Misconceptions about the problem are fueled by sensationalized stories that's simplicity in the child sex slave narrative makes them potent, haunting, and easy to mobilize around. Enforcement resources and investigations in the U.S. are going into a group of human trafficking task forces focusing almost entirely on commercial sex. It is a structure built on vice squads rather than labor investigators.
Some testimony to the legislature on sex trafficking bill AB67 (& related AB113) from the first hearing on Wednesday, February 20 th provides an enlightening perspective.
Issue #1: Vague and overly broad definitions—is our goal to put more people in prison?
From the Clark County Public Defender's Office:
“The substantially increased penalties in Section 42 of AB67, including life sentences in some cases, are particularly concerning given the vagueness of the law. While nobody disagrees that a violent child sex trafficker deserves a lengthy prison term, the concern is that individuals will receive substantial prison terms that are not merited by their conduct … making it more serious than an attempt(ed) murder charge.”
“AB67 likely runs afoul of the vagueness doctrine, which holds that ‘[a] conviction fails to comport with due process if the statute under which it is obtained fails to provide a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited, or is so standardless that it authorizes or encourages serious discriminatory enforcement.' U.S. v. Williams, 553 U.S. 285, 304 (2008). For example, the addition of the phrase ‘or other thing of value' to the definition of prostitution in Section 8 could criminalize innocent conduct between persons in a committed relationship.”
“Furthermore, because there is no carve out for the legal prostitution that exists in Nevada, Nevadans are left to wonder whether they would be prosecuted under this statute for engaging in otherwise legal conduct, such as driving a legal sex worker to her place of employment. In addition, discriminatory enforcement by law enforcement is a strong possibility, especially because the vast majority of the prosecutions in Clark County arise out of law enforcement undercover sting operations that seem to disproportionately target African-American males. Simply stated, it is insufficient to leave it up to prosecutors and/or judges to determine what the law means and how it is to be applied.”
FACT: United Nations member states have recently mandated a study on the use of the “trafficking” framework. The concern is that due to opportunities lent by vagueness of definitions; the issue of trafficking has been sidetracked and used to further particular political agendas that often have little to do with protecting people from exploitation and abuse.
Issue #2: Where is the data and evidence of this huge scary problem?
At the February 2nd “From Prosecution to Empowerment” human trafficking conference at USC , Attorney Martina Vandenberg, founder of the pro bono organization Civil Justice: The Human Trafficking Legal Resource Center expressed: “In the field of human trafficking, I detest data because most of it is made up and bogus. It is really an appalling area.”
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto testified at the hearing and stated in the media that the Polaris Project, a national human trafficking organization out of Washington, DC that sent their policy director here to help write our state legislation, has identified a huge sex trafficking ring between Nevada and California that presumably runs from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and Reno to Sacramento. Yet, when asked if there was evidence to back this claim Polaris Project's Policy Program Director, Mary Ellison submitted this:
“In 2012, the NHTRC (National Human Trafficking Resource Center) Hotline received 174 calls from Nevada. Out of these calls, twenty-one (21) of them were classified as crisis calls, and forty-eight (48) of them were classified as tips from community members reporting suspected trafficking. The NHTRC had fourteen (14) cases from Nevada in 2012 that involved minors and had a total of forty-one (41) cases that had ‘high' or ‘moderate' indicia of human trafficking situations.”
Where is the evidence of the mass human trafficking ring? What happened to these cases and how many people were rescued or arrested?
The reality is there is no systematic state or local data on human trafficking. Furthermore, the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) community project that began to collect data on youth engaging in the sex trades in Las Vegas a couple years ago has been suspended for the past year. Previous studies completed in NYC and Atlantic City painted a portrait of youth who were rarely forced into the sex trades by a pimp trafficker, but rather homeless due to lack of a social safety net and participating in an informal economy of sex exchange for financial reasons. Street youth commonly report being abused more by the police than by pimps.
Issue #3: Who stands to benefit? Or follow the money (and motives)…
There is a lot of federal money available for anti-trafficking efforts in a time of austerity and sequestration when many budgets are being slashed. A little known fact is that the Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA) that just passed had the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) added to it as an amendment reauthorizing funding though 2017 after expiring at the end of 2011. The U.S. State Department's definition of trafficking includes any person under 18 found to perform commercial sex and any commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion.
Law enforcement and non-profit service providers work together in a closed loop network of “rescue industry” funding. Where is the oversight and accountability for waste, fraud, or abuse to prevent corruption? According to a conversation with the Deputy Attorney General Michon Martin, oversight and accountability for the monetary beneficiaries of the sex trafficking legislation are “beyond the scope of this bill.” Hmmm….
Kids Caught in the Culture Wars: Is This Really about Protecting Youth?
Law Enforcement: Is this about Arrest Numbers?
Judge William Voy of Clark County District Court Family Division testified he would keep youth who were arrested for engaging in sex trades in a “controlled therapeutic setting where the children could not run from” or they would forcibly be returned by staff. It was unclear how long they would remain in the “safe house,” but he did indicate until prosecution and vice work with the child as a witness to develop testimony against their “perpetrators.” Does he realize the newly reauthorized TVPA “provides assurance that a minor victim of sex trafficking shall not be required to collaborate with law enforcement to have access to residential care or services provided with a grant under this section?”
The inclusion of all juvenile prostitutes as trafficked has presented obvious problems. U.S. research points out that only a minority fit the “forced by a third party” trafficking profile. There is a clear difference between juveniles who are forced into the sex industry by the sex slavery black market and juveniles who are homeless or living in abject poverty with no other recourse but to sell sexual services. Tying assistance to the identification of a pimp is often counterproductive and fails to help the victims who need it most.
Evangelical Non-Profits: Is this a Moral Crusade?
Lisa Thompson, liaison for the abolition of sexual trafficking for the Salvation Army, during a recent presentation at The Justice Conference stated: “Sex trafficking is a battle of ideas.” The Church in America too often does not do enough to address the ideology upon which sex trafficking is based – “an ideology that disassociates sex from love, responsibility and children.” Thompson explained: “One of the reasons sex trafficking is flourishing is that we, as a Church, do not do enough to address the ideology that disassociates sex from love.” She continued: ”Sex is not work. God did not create any woman for the purpose, excuse me, that she be a cum receptacle.”
In her testimony to the Nevada legislature, Melissa Holland said that her organization in Reno, Awaken INC (“In the Name of Christ”) was in the process of getting both a safe house and transitional housing in place for the victims of sex trafficking. If religious education and activities are a compulsory aspect of the services provided to clients, I hope she realizes that could be a human rights violation. It would also go against separation of church and state, disqualifying them from receipt of federal funds for trafficking services. I have to agree, “I don't think prayer is among the recognized best practices for fighting human trafficking.”
Where are the Real Solutions? Prevention Over Prison
Three simple steps to ending sex (and other labor) trafficking, exploitation, and abuse:
1) Stable sustainable wage income
2) A ffordable long-term housing
3) Eq uitable education opportunities
The major driver of human rights abuses, including trafficking is vast economic inequality. Only rights can stop the wrongs.
Nevada Sex Trafficking Bill AB67: The Final Showdown… Or Is It? (Part 2)
The final Nevada Senate Judiciary hearing of sex trafficking bill AB67 took place on May 28 th during the last full week of the regular 2013 legislative session. In contrast to the dominant media portrayal of the bill being a no-brainer to pass to protect women and children from violent pimps forcing them into sexual slavery, the original 39-page (!) bill drafted by the Washington, DC anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project contained numerous problematic sections. One major opposition raised was the potential to severely punish a lot of people consensually engaged in the sex industry who have no involvement in the sex slavery black market.
After extensive revisions from the bill as introduced into the Assembly on February 20th, the Senate hearing was a 3-hour showdown over additional revisions. While everyone agreed that real situations of sexual servitude must be seriously addressed (although there is no valid evidence on the extent of the problem in Nevada ), representatives from the Clark County Public Defender's Office, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada, Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice (NACJ), Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Las Vegas, and a major Las Vegas Gentlemen's Club voiced concerns about the potential for violating human rights and wasting limited resources ensnaring innocent people as sex traffickers given the bill's overly broad definitions and removal of certain defenses for the accused.
Nevada Attorney General (AG) Catherine Cortez Masto who sponsored the bill and Special Deputy AG Brett Kandt continually shot back at those who proposed further amendments saying that they were unnecessary as it was not “the intent” of the bill and to “trust prosecutorial discretion” not to use the law in whatever particular way the amendment aimed to remedy. A tense back and forth ensued with the ACLU of Nevada's Allen Lichtenstein arguing that the language in the bill should carefully reflect the stated intent as the law's language is what is used in court for prosecution . What about overzealous prosecutors? Although the legislative intent of AB67 was placed on record, lawyers contended that the courts rarely agree to go to legislative record to determine judicial interpretation when legislation is ambiguous.
While ultimately the committee voted to give the AG the tools provided in a 32-page version of AB67 to go after sex traffickers, serious reservations remained as to how these tools will be used on the ground and against whom. For example, the pandering statute states that it does not apply to the customer of a prostitute; however, the new sex trafficking statute does not include this provision. Tourists come to “Sin City” Las Vegas often thinking that prostitution is legal. (It was quickly pointed out that brothels are only legal in rural Nevada counties and “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”)
As anyone under the age of 18 who engages in prostitution is defined as a victim of sex trafficking under federal law and AB67 disallows the defenses of reasonable mistake of age or consent of a victim to an act of prostitution, what if a 17-year old actively acquires false identification that reads she is 21-years old so that she can work in a Vegas Gentlemen's Club? What if a tourist solicits a 17-year old for commercial sex in a Vegas club assuming she is 21-years old because she is being served alcohol based on her fake ID? Can the tourist be charged with sex trafficking and sentenced a 5-year minimum mandatory?
AG Masto and Kandt argued that these are far-fetched situations with Masto sharply retorting, “But it is a crime to solicit someone anyway!” First, are these far-fetched situations? Second, opponents responded that there are already laws on the books to address solicitation and pandering and that great care should be taken to make a marked distinction between those and the severity of the particular crime of sex trafficking with the intent of profiting from sex slavery, especially given the harsh penalties for conviction.
Senate Judicial Chair Tick Segerblom stated that the law will be watched closely for how it is used and revisited as needed next legislative session. NACJ and the ACLU indicated that a constitutional challenge is possible. Stay tuned!
About Jennifer Reed: I am a Sociology PhD student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. My areas of interest include gender, sexuality, and sex work; politics, social movements, and social change; and environment, health, and technology. I am a proud mom, grandma, and avid social justice activist.
Fight against human trafficking ramps up in Florida, Manatee County
by BRADENTON HERALD EDITORIAL
The insidious crime of human trafficking, long out of the public consciousness, has become the focus of new laws and increased law enforcement efforts. With Florida ranking as one of the nation's worst offenders as the No. 3 destination for traffickers, new developments lend hope that the nation and state will come to grips with this modern-day slavery.
The confluence of events in Manatee County are promising, too, with the formation of a task force from various agencies and greater public awareness through community activism and publicity campaigns.
Citizen vigilance and reporting of suspicious incidents is an essential aspect to rescuing victims.
Human trafficking -- now worth an estimated $35 billion in this country alone -- involves the commercial exploitation of people into forced prostitution, involuntary labor and debt bondage through force, coercion and threats.
Second only to drug trafficking in criminal activity, human trafficking involves a variety of victims -- including undocumented immigrants smuggled into the county on false promises only to become enslaved; runaways seeking acceptance but becoming ensnared in prostitution, and even children groomed into submission by predators.
Only weeks ago, law enforcement officers crippled a human trafficking and prostitution ring based in Clearwater.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi then announced a new state effort to combat the crime -- interactive video training program to educate law enforcement personnel about how to spot cases.
A new focus on victims
With victims intimidated by their captors and coerced into capitulation, the crime is difficult to detect. Victims also fear prosecution or deportation, though new laws assuage that apprehension. Undocumented victims are eligible for special visas depending on circumstances.
A new state law went into effect in July 2012 that expanded the definition of human trafficking to mirror federal law. After incarceration, sex traffickers could be subjected to lifelong monitoring and forfeiture of property connected to their crimes.
A key piece of legislation, the Safe Harbor Act, followed in January 2013. This game-changing law treats young victims of human trafficking as crime victims -- their true plight. Instead of juvenile detention, children who have been sexually exploited can be placed in safe houses and then secure shelters that offer counseling, life skills classes and other services.
Last month, Gov. Rick Scott signed two other laws that assist victims. One allows them to petition the court to clear their criminal record of arrests and convictions if they committed crimes under duress.
The second dovetails with the first by keeping such an expunged criminal history private, exempt from public records requirements.
These sensible laws free victims of a lifelong drag on their lives.
A rise in local efforts
At Thursday's Manatee Tiger Bay monthly forum, two representatives of Selah Freedom shed light on the problem in Manatee County -- likely shocking many. Elizabeth Melendez Fisher, president of the Sarasota-based organization, which is dedicated to fighting sex trafficking and exploitation, deemed Manatee the state's No. 1 county for prostitution.
Young girls, mostly white, are sold up to 15 times a day by their pimps, according to Kindsey Neeson, Selah Freedom's director of operations and strategic development. "Prostitution is the No. 1 way we see (human trafficking) happening on the streets of Bradenton," Neesen stated.
That's a call to arms, one the Bradenton Police Department is embracing by chasing down pimps. Another Tiger Bay panelist, BPD Sgt. William Knight, described the impact of the sea changes in Florida: "The prostitute usually has been the one held accountable. These new laws are changing so that the right person is held accountable."
This month, law enforcement, government agencies and community organizations in Manatee and Sarasota counties agreed to form a human trafficking task force to combat this scourge.
The public plays a pivotal role in this endeavor, too. In announcing new law enforcement training on spotting the crime, Bondi noted that people are more likely to encounter victims at convenience stores when traffickers fuel up their vehicles as we all must do at some point. Spotting distressed youth inside the car could be a sign.
Citizen tips to law enforcement are vital. Learning the many indicators of the crime would be helpful. Those can be found at www.humantrafficking.org
View the state's new "Introduction to Human Trafficking" training at www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/BPDtraining/HumanTrafficking/story.html
S.D. tries to crush shadowy sex trade
Efforts concentrate on targeting pimps, helping female victims escape
by John Hult
The first time Jessica met a man for sex in a hotel room, she wept.
He didn't seem to care. And by the time she walked out of the room, she didn't either.
“I was never the same after that first call,” Jessica says now. “That's when numb came. After that, I'd already done it.”
Jessica didn't set out to become a prostitute — but by the time she had turned a trick, it felt like her only choice. She thought she had found a new life after an abusive childhood and marriage. She was with a man who had given her a car and had helped her get into a house. She felt safe, and quit her two jobs, confident he would take care of her and her children.
Instead, Jessica found herself caught in a web of drug addiction, abuse and sex for hire. Trapped by intimidation, fear and addiction, she spent almost a year in the sex trade before finding a way out.
Jessica is not the woman's real name. The Argus Leader is not using her name because she is an abuse victim.
Jessica's boyfriend introduced her to hard drugs — and she became hooked. Then he began demanding payment for the life she was living.
If she couldn't pay, she'd be out on the street.
So Jessica asked a friend for help.
“I said, ‘How am I supposed to come up with money to pay $1,700 for bills right now?' ” she said. “He said, ‘You know what to do.' ”
Her friend offered to help her post an online ad for escort services. Soon she was being walked into the motel room on her first call. The next day, her boyfriend confronted her about the ad.
“He's got his hand around my neck, and he's saying, ‘You weren't supposed to be that kind of person.' I said, ‘I thought that's what you wanted.' ”
He said, “If you're gonna do this, you're gonna do it for me,' ” she said.
Later, Jessica learned the friend who suggested she go on her first call was in business with her boyfriend. Together, they had manipulated her.
“It wasn't a random situation,” she said. “It was a set-up situation, and I didn't realize it until it was too late.”
This is sex trafficking. The trafficker carefully identifies a victim, threatens and deceives to entrap her in the scheme. It is a crime, defined in federal law in 2000.
In 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, 42 Department of Justice cases involved human trafficking by force, and half involved sex trafficking. Ten of those cases were in South Dakota.
South Dakota's high share of sex trafficking cases reflects a priority for U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson. Last week, he announced the creation of a task force to crack down on the crime in this area.
Twin Cities, Sturgis rally, N.D. oil fields
Law enforcement officials say Sioux Falls' location makes it enticing to traffickers: Near the Twin Cities, close to hunting lodges, the Sturgis motorcycle rally and North Dakota's oil fields. The reach and sophistication of online sites makes it easier to market prostitutes now, too.
The first case Johnson's office prosecuted involved Brandon “Kadafi” Thompson, of Tea. He was charged for targeting more than a dozen victims, 10 of whom were minors.
Authorities said they wrongly considered it was an aberration.
“The debate is over about whether sex trafficking is happening in South Dakota,” Johnson said. “The only logical discussion to have is what to do about it.”
Attorney General Marty Jackley, who was U.S. attorney until 2009, prosecuted a case of human trafficking in Oacoma, where hotel owners had enslaved immigrant laborers, but didn't prosecute any cases of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion.
Jackley said his office hadn't seen evidence of sex trafficking while he was on the job. His resources were directed toward the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Sting operations through the ICAC resulted in two of the sex trafficking cases prosecuted by Johnson's office.
Jackley said state law provides effective avenues for prosecuting prostitution. Trafficking rings such as that run by Brandon Thompson still are rare here, he contends.
“We do have widespread escort services in South Dakota, and I think the way to deal with that is to go after sites like backpage.com,” Jackley said.
Neighboring states combat trafficking
North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon is concerned about sex trafficking in the Bakken Oil Field. Rapid development there has brought a population boom to Minot, Bismarck and Watford City.
“There's no question we've seen an increase in prostitution arrests around the oil patch,” Purdon said.
In Watford City, with a 2010 population less than 2,000, seven people were arrested in November on prostitution charges.
Purdon is particularly worried about Native American victims. The Bakken Fields extend into the Fort Berthold reservation. The only sex trafficking case to have moved through federal court in North Dakota in recent years involved a man who ran a gang on the reservation. But Purdy suspects that there are more cases.
Minnesota's Civil Society legal aid service intends to hold training sessions on human trafficking next month in Sioux Falls and in August in Custer. The latter session coincides with the Sturgis motorcycle rally, long seen by activists as a hotbed of trafficking.
Enticing victims to come forward
In Sioux Falls, Susan Omanson runs Be Free Ministries, which helps victims of sex trafficking. She has worked with 22 Sioux Falls-area victims since 2009.
She said traffickers seek out people who've never been taken care of, and take care of them long enough to make them dependent, Omanson said.
“That's kind of the ‘aha' moment,” Omanson said. “They realize that they have been used and abused and marginalized and everything that goes along with it.”
Johnson wants more victims to come forward. Prosecuting them for prostitution is not part of the agenda.
“If you feel like you can't get out, you are a victim,” Johnson said.
Recognizing the victims is a part of the federal law — the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. It says that those involved in sex trafficking — particularly underage victims — are not to be treated as criminals and charged as prostitutes.
Omanson and others agree and say the women need safe housing, away from their former life.
“That's why you see women going back into the most horrific situations, and you have people saying, ‘Look, she likes it,' ” Omanson said.
In Minnesota, Civil Society's legal team — consisting largely of volunteer lawyers — offers legal help to trafficking victims. They focus in large part on international victims who need specialty T-visas to stay in the U.S. after escaping from sex trafficking rings, said Linda Miller, Civil Society executive director.
About a month after taking her first call, Jessica went to jail for an old marijuana conviction. Detectives tried to warn her about her boyfriend. But when he visited her in jail, he convinced her otherwise.
“He'd say: ‘Baby, I love you. You know me. They don't know me. They're wrong.' ”
She believed him.
“Everything they could have warned me about … it was so much worse,” she said. “They couldn't even have begun to warn me.”
Soon she was taking an average of six calls a day. The phones used to set up dates rang at all hours, even when she was at the park with her daughters.
She was scared to duck too many calls.
“They let you see things that get you to believe that if you ever try and get away, they'll kill you,” she said.
To get out of the game, Jessica had to be away from it long enough. That happened when the Sioux Falls Police Department set up undercover dates at a motel and apprehended the girls as they arrived. Many of the women made bond, but Jessica had a probation hold and stayed in jail.
Reporters covered the arrests, which meant her family, even her 8-year-old daughter, now knew.
From immense shame to fresh start
In jail, other women told her stories about her boyfriend and informed her that she had been targeted from the start. She stopped taking his visits. She also stopped asking for an early release as she sorted out the details, telling a judge, “I'm exactly where I need to be,” she said.
When she got out, Omanson and Be Free Ministries helped her find a place to live and get into school.
She had a family that loved her and a work history good enough to quickly land a job, Omanson said. She could apply for federal financial aid — an option that isn't available for someone with a controlled-substance conviction.
One year removed from the jail stay that opened her eyes, Jessica is a graphic design student earning good grades. She's sober, reconnecting with the family and friends she had pushed aside.
She lives in a secure building and can focus on school and her children. She's moved on and she says she won't turn back.
Don't Turn Your Back on Victims of Child Abuse
by Bud Cramer
In America, nearly five children die every day from abuse and neglect. Even more frightening, every 13 seconds, a child is abused. The effect of this abuse is felt not only by the victims and their families, but also in the communities in which they live. I know this because, as an Alabama district attorney, I saw the fallout each and every day.
In the 1980s, I prosecuted thousands of cases as district attorney for Madison County, Ala. And while all crime is sad and unjust, the most troubling cases — cases I will never forget — are the cases involving child abuse victims. What made things worse was that instead of helping these victims, I found that our legal system retraumatized these children over and over again by requiring child abuse victims to recount and relive their abuse in multiple interviews, at every step in the process. And I, as D.A., was just one step in that process.
I remember prosecuting a child abuse case, and when it was my turn to interview the child, I had her once again retell her story. It was at this point that her grandmother explained that this was her 11th time recounting the abuse and asked me why I wasn't talking to my colleagues who had already heard the story. You know, it was a good question and one that stopped me in my tracks. I had to ask myself, why aren't we talking to each other — social workers, law enforcement, prosecutors and victims advocates? We all touched the case at some point, but had yet to coordinate any part of the investigation. So, I decided to change that. I gathered my colleagues and starting talking. And in 1985, I organized a multidisciplinary team system, one that talked to each other, to better help abused children. I involved Child Protective Services workers, law enforcement, detectives, mental-health advocates and medical practitioners with me.
Our first stab at this new approach was the creation of the National Children's Advocacy Center. Our vision was to provide a child-friendly place for these children and their families to feel safe and get help, a place where interviews could be coordinated. At the same time, I continued to gather a network of professionals to share experiences and learn from each other. The goal and mission of our network was to support the victims, their families and the larger community by providing a coordinated investigation and a more comprehensive response to child victims. A decade later, we formalized this network as the National Children's Alliance, with a goal to have a presence throughout the country in every state.
When I was elected to Congress in 1990, I was proud to continue my support of the program. The National Children's Advocacy Center, the National Children's Alliance, Regional Children's Advocacy Centers and the more than 800 individual Children's Advocacy Centers are excellent examples of dollars well spent through both public and private investment. Last year alone, CACs not only helped almost 280,000 child victims of abuse throughout the country but helped communities save an average of $1,000 per case compared to those communities without a CAC.
Unfortunately, the federal funding of this critical program, which has existed since my legislation in 1990, is now in jeopardy. For the second year in a row, the administration has eliminated funding for the program from its annual budget. While Congress has reinstated that funding in the past, eliminating critical resources for this proven-effective program would deliver a serious blow to the thousands of children who rely on CAC's services every year. The federal dollars are combined with private sector contributions.
So I talk about this program, and its beginning, to let people know about the amazing work being done on behalf of child abuse victims in our communities each and every day. While the experience of dealing with child abuse intervention is hopefully not something the majority of U.S. households will ever encounter, I am committed to helping the children who need the invaluable services provided by Children's Advocacy Centers.
About 400 Children's Advocacy Center representatives and multidisciplinary team members will be coming to the Capitol to meet with every member of Congress to tell them about the importance of CACs and the National Children's Alliance, and to advocate for funding provided through the Victims of Child Abuse Act.
I strongly urge my former colleagues in Congress and also the Obama administration to include funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act in the 2014 federal budget. Empowering state agencies to work together and align efforts has been a huge success and ultimately helped thousands of child abuse victims navigate an otherwise lengthy and complicated legal system.
Bud Cramer is a former Democratic congressman from Alabama who has joined Capitol Hill Consulting Group as vice chairman.
Child porn suspect in court; police say gangs turning to sex trafficking
by Ian Parker
PORTLAND, Ore. – One of the four men accused of making child pornography with local kids and putting it on YouTube faced a judge on Friday.
Terry Scott, 18, is charged with rape, sexual abuse and sodomy.
Investigators say there is a gang connection to the case. They're concerned that some gang members are ditching drug dealing in favor of human trafficking.
Law enforcement sources told KATU that Scott and three other suspects in the case had a party and recorded themselves having sex with two underage girls. Police said the suspects then felt safe enough to put the video on YouTube.
The police bureau is using this case as an example of how detectives have to adapt to catch criminals.
Antoinette Edwards, the city's director of youth violence prevention, said she is seeing more gang members move into human trafficking as a way to make money.
“It's less risky (for the gangs) because if you can get to someone and take advantage of their mind and their vulnerability, they're taking the risk and you're not going to be caught with the drugs,” Edwards said.
Mayor Charlie Hales, who earlier this week announced that he would be overseeing the police bureau, said the city's officers will be getting tough on sex traffickers.
“We will find and arrest and prosecute and imprison people who abuse kids,” Hales said.
Police aren't revealing many details about the sexual video in this latest case, although we know one of the victims was just 12 years old. The video was posted to YouTube in May and was eventually also linked on Facebook.
“I do know that it was viewed quite a few times,” said Capt. Kevin Modica with the Portland Police Bureau.
Eventually a staff member at Centennial Middle School saw the video on a student's Facebook page and recognized one of the victims as a student at the school.
Police worry there may be other victims they don't know about, as well.
“Many times there's additional information that is disclosed and/or there are victims that come forward themselves,” said Modica.
In this case , only one of the four suspects arrested has a gang connection, police said. Still, members of Portland's gang task force said at a meeting on Friday morning they are committed to fighting this problem in the gang community.
“I'd like to be able to get to that young man or young woman before they've been affected,” Edwards said, “before they become the perpetrator.”
Law enforcement sources told us it was Deshawn Rogers, 22, who recorded and posted the video. He has already been arrested and charged with a series of sex crimes.
Just one of the four suspects has yet to be arraigned. Nicholas Clisby, 23, is currently being held in a Washington jail for another crime. Prosecutors in Portland are waiting for him to be extradited back to Oregon.
Body likely is Kathlynn Shepard, police say
by Emily Schettler and Katherine Klingseis
BOONE, IA. — A body found in the Des Moines River on Friday evening is likely that of kidnapped 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard, state authorities said today.
An autopsy at 9 a.m. today in Ankeny is expected to confirm the body's identity.
Gerard Meyers of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said Boone County dispatchers received a call from people fishing at 6:59 p.m. about a body in the river underneath the Kate Shelley High Bridge near Boone.
“We believe it to be Kathlynn Shepard,” Meyers said at a news conference at the Boone Police Station just after midnight. He said the clothing was consistent with what Shepard was wearing when she was abducted, along with 12-year-old Dezi Hughes, while walking home from the school bus in Dayton in Webster County on May 20.
The younger girl escaped from the suspected kidnapper, Michael Klunder. Hughes was found wearing zip ties — and authorities found similar zip ties on the body located Friday night.
"I don't really have the words to say. It kind of came as a shock to me," said Dayton Police Chief Nick Dunbar, who has followed up on leads daily since Shepard went missing.
"It's going to be a rough road for Dayton. It's going to take a long time to get back to somewhat of a resemblance of what it used to be. Obviously it's never going to be the same and we don't expect it to be the same."
The body found Friday was 15 to 20 miles downriver from where the Des Moines runs east of Dayton, partially covered by logs and other debris. The river had been a focus for searchers, but heavy rain the past two weeks impaired that work. The area under the Shelley bridge had not been searched, Meyers said.
Officials would not comment on the cause of death or whether the person had been sexually assaulted. The investigation continues, Meyers said.
“In Webster County, in Dayton, we were robbed of some innocence in this whole thing. And we'll never be the same,” said Webster County Sheriff James Stubbs. “The outcome is not what we were looking for, but it brings closure.”
Klunder, a registered sex offender, committed suicide hours after the abduction, officials said.
An intensive search went on for about a week. Last week, Dayton Police Chief Nick Dunbar said investigators were trying to pin down the “definitive path” that Klunder traveled after he abducted Shepard and Hughes.
Police said Klunder lured the girls into his vehicle and took them to a hog confinement building where he worked, tying the girls' hands with zip ties. Hughes broke free and ran through the woods to safety when Klunder took Shepard to another part of the property.
Investigators said Shepard's blood was found on the grounds of the hog facility and on Klunder's truck.
Hundreds of police officers and volunteers covered 220 square miles in three counties for Shepard.
Klunder, 42, was released from prison in 2011 after serving nearly 20 years for the 1991 kidnappings of a 21-year-old woman he tried to assault and two 3-year-old girls who were left in a trash bin. He had recently been married and bought a house in Stratford.
Ariel Castro faces 329 charges for rape, kidnapping
The indictment charges Castro as a 'sexually violent predator' who committed the murder and rapes in the course of a kidnapping
Ariel Castro, 52, the former school bus driver accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for nearly a decade, was charged late Friday with murder and more than 300 counts of rape and kidnapping.
The Cuyahoga County grand jury's 329-count indictment charges Castro with one count of aggravated murder for allegedly terminating one of his captives' pregnancies, 139 counts of rape and 177 charges of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felony assault and one count of possession of criminal tools dating from the time of the first woman's disappearance until February of 2007.
County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement that the investigation is still underway. Additional charges could follow in a superseding indictment.
The indictment charges Castro as a "sexually violent predator" who committed the murder and rapes in the course of a kidnapping. Those charges are considered aggravating factors that call for stiffer penalties. The murder charge is tied to one victim's fourth pregnancy, the indictment said.
The County Prosecutor's Capital Review Committee will consider whether prosecutors should seek the death penalty if Castro is convicted. Castro, who was fired last year from his job as a school bus driver, is being held in the Cuyahoga County jail on $8 million bail. A judge will arraign Castro on the new charges next week, McGinty said.
Amanda Berry, one of the kidnapped women, broke free from Castro's home on the west side of Cleveland on May 6 and led police to Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Berry gave birth to a daughter while held captive. Berry, now 27, disappeared April 21, 2003, a day before her 17th birthday. Knight, now 32, disappeared Aug. 22, 2002, the day she was to appear at a custody hearing for her son. DeJesus, now 21, disappeared April 2, 2004.
Castro allegedly chained Knight to a pole in the basement and raped her the day after he took her captive, the indictment says. He allegedly taped Berry's legs and mouth, sexually assaulted her after she tried to escape, chained her to a pole in the basement with a motorcycle helmet on her head, chained her to a radiator in the bedroom, and attempted to strangle her with a vacuum cleaner cord, the indictment says. He also allegedly chained and assaulted DeJesus.
McGinty said after Castro's arrest last month that he would ask the grand jury to charge Castro for every day of the women's captivity and for every instance of sexual assault.
Castro, who was fired last year from his job as a school bus driver, is being in the Cuyahoga County Jail on $8 million bail.
7 Ways to Improve a Child's Life
As World Vision's Paul Stephenson tells us, children thrive with opportunities to pursue their passions, and voice their concerns.
Celebrating Father's Day reminds one that parenting a child is one of the greatest joys in life, as well as life's most daunting responsibility.
As father of two children, I not only want to ensure they are safe, have a secure home, enjoy nutritious food and receive excellent health care and education, I also want to guarantee their well-being. Some may believe that a child's well-being is an amorphous concept that cannot be defined, let alone studied and analysed.
They are wrong.
UNICEF recently published a score card on child well-being in nearly 30 of the world's most developed nations. It is sobering reading: Canada ranked 17th; the United States 26th. Both placed behind Slovenia (12th) and Czech Republic (14th).
The study focuses on five dimensions of children's lives:
health and safety
behavior and risks
housing and environment.
These categories rely on available data and convey a limited vision of child well-being. I prefer to characterize child well-being as including both the internal strengths that children have and develop, as well as the external resources and opportunities that nurture and protect them. Children's well-being depends on being well-fed, housed, educated and loved, together with the opportunity to pursue their passions and develop a sense of hope, purpose and positive identity.
Ideally, reports on children's well-being should stimulate debate on what can be done to improve children's lives from the standpoints of the family, the community, government policy and the need for higher standards of education programs and social services. But such debate rarely occurs, even when a report like UNICEF's raises serious issues. Imagine if one put as much effort into helping children to thrive as keeping up with Facebook accounts, professional or amateur sports, or the newest fad in reality television shows.
The media often portray young people as "troubled youth" or "children in danger." These descriptions can prejudice views and attitudes toward children. Adolescents in particular can become pathologised as "broken" and in need of "fixing," rather than seen as assets to a community.
Perhaps it is assumed that caring for children is a private matter. But the fact is that many children around the world fail to see their fifth birthdays, let alone grow into adulthood and thrive. As the UNICEF report indicates, this isn't a problem only in low and middle-income countries.
Comparatively, children in the developed world enjoy better health and education services, job prospects and material goods. Interestingly though, the report notes that well-being doesn't depend on per capita GDP. Children in the developing world, living in what one would call "poverty," often report higher levels of self-perceived well-being than children in developed countries.
So what is it that enables children to thrive? And what have studies told us about creating an environment in which children can flourish and where children's well-being can be sustained?
Research, practice and common sense suggest several key factors in improving child well-being. These are not exhaustive, but have a proven evidence base that parents and others caring for children can practice:
Nurture the whole child: Children need love, care and protection as well as basic education and health services, along with opportunities for physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual development.
Emphasize positive approaches: Researchers and practitioners increasingly recognize the power of promoting personal and collective strengths as key to helping young people overcome challenges and build resilience.
Power of relationships: Human beings are inherently relational, and much of healthy development and growth occurs through positive, life-giving relationships with peers, family members, and caring, responsible adults.
Early and sustained attention and investment: Early attention and investment in children's health, social development, learning, and other factors lay a critical foundation for growth and development throughout life.
Empower children and families: Every child has strengths, gifts, dignity, passions, and power not only for their own growth and well-being, but to contribute to their future families, communities, and nations.
Influence of environment: Young people shape their culture, just as they are shaped by it, so while it is important to give young people skills to deal with violence and discrimination, societies also must seek to address those problems.
Mutual accountability: No single approach or strategy can guide children and youth on a path to well-being. It requires each person involved in raising a child -- parents, teachers and others -- not only to do their part, but to align and link their efforts, building an environment where the child can thrive.
Children tell us something we know deep down -- that their well-being depends not on material comfort, but on a loving, supportive, safe family and community, with opportunities for them to pursue their passions and voice their concerns.
In developing nations, organisations such as World Vision work with local partners and government agencies to help build communities that value children and place their rights and well-being at the forefront. These efforts begin with a common vision for children and lead to collective action both in the home and community.
As they grow and mature, many young people assume active roles in shaping their lives and contributing to their societies. Many poor families obtain financial services and economic opportunities to provide for their children. Advocacy at local, national and global levels can influence legal and institutional reforms to create a just and level playing field for children and their families. And finally, World Vision monitors children's well-being together with community partners as a barometer for the health of the community.
My Father's Day admonition is as simple as it is complex: What is good for children, whether in Peru, Canada or the United States, is good for all of us.
Paul Stephenson is the Senior Director Child Development and Rights for World Vision International. Two others contributed to this article: Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Vice President, Research and Development for Search Institute, and Philip Cook, Executive Director for the International Institute of Child Rights and Development.
ChildSafe offers healing, variety of therapies for trauma victims
by Sarah Jane Kyle
It's hard to write about something you don't fully understand ... something that makes your blood boil just hearing about it. Sexual abuse to children, or to anyone for that matter, is one of those things for me.
As a child, how do you overcome having every sense of safety and privacy torn apart? As a parent, how do you overcome learning that your child has experienced something they're too young to fully understand, sometimes at the hands of people you knew, loved and trusted?
A Fort Collins nonprofit is trying to help victims and their families do just that, also working with adult survivors of sexual abuse to move beyond trauma, recently or long ago.
Due to the nature of their work, ChildSafe Colorado could not expose me to any actual clientele or allow me to observe cases in progress. While volunteers do help with special events, provide child care during family member sessions and offer translation services during therapy, it's understandable that allowing a reporter into that situation was not practical nor beneficial for clients working through varying stages of trauma.
All of that being said, this Causes column is a bit different from most in that almost every situation I experienced during my site visit was a mock case designed to be representative of a typical case seen by ChildSafe's trauma specialists.
Here's our sample: A single dad, Rick, has just been granted full custody of his three kids (Kendra, 15, Samantha, 11, and Jacob, 8) after their stepfather sexually abused both girls and physically abused their mother and the children. The stepfather is in jail, and their mom was taken to rehab for chronic substance abuse.
Rick has never had the kids 24/7 before this time and is overwhelmed just by being a dad, let alone understanding what has happened to his kids in their mother's care. Jacob doesn't know what happened, other than watching his stepdad beat his mother. Rick doesn't know how to tell him. The girls are terrified of what will happen when the case goes to court.
Sound extreme? Clinical Director Valerie Macri-Lind said that nearly all cases ChildSafe sees involve domestic violence, drug addiction and/or sexual abuse. Many involve all three.
Adult survivors, children and their nonoffending family members are never turned away from the organization because of an inability to pay. Each family member is given their own trauma specialist, who works with them and the entire of team of trauma specialists to provide the best possible outcome for each family member and the family as a whole.
The process is anything but easy, but it helps victims heal and prevent a further cycle of abuse, Macri-Lind said.
“On a daily basis, I witness our courageous clients confront the horrors they've lived through and work so hard to become whole again,” she said.
Some are too young to process the events verbally. In our mock scenario, Jacob has responded only to play therapy, a method used to help younger children to process their trauma by using a variety of props and a licensed trauma specialist. Trauma Specialist Lauren Molzer and Elli, daughter of ChildSafe staff member Erin Thomas, helped re-enact one of these sessions based on a typical response.
Many children tend to take the role of the aggressor in play therapy, Molzer said. Gradually, the therapy helps children communicate how they're feeling and garner a greater trust of their therapist that will allow them to verbally process a traumatic experience.
“They want me to know how it felt for them,” she said.
For many clients, ChildSafe has also begun using a form of biofeedback therapy known as neurofeedback. In neurofeedback, three electrodes are placed on the scalp depending on what a client may need help working on, whether it's a physical, psychological or emotional response to trauma.
To demonstrate how this therapy works, Lisa Pendleton, a trauma specialist who recently underwent training and bought neurofeedback equipment to offer the service, hooked me up and ran me through a typical 30-minute session. We decided to work on headaches, so she placed the electrodes according to my answers on a symptoms checklist.
Once the electrodes are placed, the patient sits back in a comfortable chair and watches a movie of their choice. The screen changes size or becomes fuzzy according to what's happening in the brain, retraining its responses. It's a rewiring of sorts.
For some patients, it helps them learn how to sleep regularly. For others, it helps calm a severe anxiety when discussing or reliving their trauma.
What's particularly appealing about this therapy for a trauma victim is that it involves zero talking about their experience. Pendleton recommends it to nearly all patients as a way to calm the psyche before launching into traditional talk therapy.
“The thought of facing their trauma is scary,” she said. “But with this, they just cozy up and watch a movie. They get what they need to calm down and then they can talk about what happened.”
Traveling exhibit brings to light reality of abuse
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
The desperate voice of a child calling for help sets the tone for a mobile exhibit on child abuse that opens Friday, June 7, outside the West Valley Mall.
The Lisa Project, a month-long exhibit in the mall parking lot at 3200 Naglee Road, consists of a series of rooms, each of which represents an abused child. It's free to the public.
Exhibit visitors are given iPods to hear an audio narration of each child's story that range in age, abusive situations and gender.
Tracy is the 15th city to host the exhibit, which started in 2010, according to Gene Hardin, project coordinator.
“We want to raise awareness where people realize they can act, at the very least make a phone call to let someone investigate (abuse),” Hardin said. “We believe it's everybody's job to help prevent child abuse.”
Although the audio was recorded by a child actor and the pictures on the walls show child models, the stories they are telling are true. All but one comes from a San Joaquin County child that lived through these horrors, Hardin said.
The first room represents 6-year-old Lisa, the narrator of the exhibit.
Lisa tells her own story of abuse in San Diego and then introduces each child, intertwining her words with their stories of abuse in San Joaquin County.
Rooms range from one with graffiti on the walls to one with posters and awards that could belong to a typical teenage girl.
Perhaps the most disturbing room is a bathroom that tells two intense stories of sexual abuse lived by a teenage girl and a toddler boy.
The exhibit takes 25 minutes to visit, and although it is designed to accommodate five people at a time, Hardin said organizers can arrange for larger groups and private tours.
Due to mature content, children under 13 will not be given an audio device, but they can view the exhibit with their parents or guardians, he said.
On Monday, June 3, three locals volunteering to work at the exhibit got a chance to walk through it for the first time.
“It's in your face and I'm glad they are showing it,” said Christine Warne, 31, of Tracy. “I feel it is important for those who don't think it's true.”
Melita Vellian, 15, of Mountain House, called it “intense and touching.”
“An eye-opening reality to what other people go through,” she said.
The Lisa Project is open 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through June 30. It will be closed June 16.
For information, call 644-5308 or visit www.thelisaproject.org
Governor signs sex trafficking bill aimed at pimps
by ED VOGEL
CARSON CITY — Any pimps out there? Keep your hands off young girls and boys or you might be sent to prison for a long time.
Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday signed Assembly Bill 67 to create the new crime of sex trafficking. The bill, championed by state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, is directed at pimps who take over the lives of young people, often homeless and runway children, and turn them into prostitutes.
“This bill will protect so many people for generations to come,” said Masto, adding it was one of the most important bills with which she has been associated in two terms as attorney general.
“It will help our young kids and young adults,” added Sandoval, who praised Masto for her passion and tenacity in fighting for the bill. “It will save lives in the future.”
About 40 people, including police, clergy, victims right group members and victims themselves, attended a signing ceremony in the Capitol.
One of them was Las Vegas businesswoman Amy Ayoub, who revealed at a legislative hearing that she had been a prostitute as a young woman. Ayoub was named to the National Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in March.
Officials from the Metropolitan Police Department testified during packed legislative hearings that they have arrested more than 2,100 underage prostitutes since 1994. Under the new law, approved unanimously by the Legislature, those who trick out children could be sentenced to life in prison.
Sex trafficking is defined an offense against anyone who “induces, causes, recruits, harbors, transports, provides or maintains a child to engage in prostitution.”
A convicted offender would be sentenced to a 15-year-to-life sentence if the prostitute were under age 14. The sentence would be 10 years to life if the child were 14 or 15 and at least five years if the child were 16 or 17.
Masto said in an interview Thursday that the bill is directed at pimps, not at customers who pay for sex in cases where they do not know the prostitute is a minor. But johns who sell children for sex still can be charged under “pandering” laws, she said.
Pandering is a felony crime that leads to at least one year in prison.
The new law stipulates that underage children cannot voluntarily consent to sex for pay, a clause that led to disputes in hearings by organizations that work with underage prostitutes. Testimony was that some children engage in prostitution for survival without the presence of pimps.
Sandoval also signed Assembly Bill 311, sought by Assembly members John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, and others. This law sets up a fund for victims of human trafficking. The director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services will seek grants and donations for the fund.
Traffickers selling victims in luxurious St. Louis hotels
by Farrah Fazal
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - The wrong kind of hotel guests are checking into luxury hotels across St. Louis. They are sex traffickers - selling girls, women and boys in one to five star hotels.
They're doing it in secret. Some hotel managers may not even know about it.
"If you're not looking for it, you won't see it. You can go online and you can order a girl to any hotel room you'd like in St. Louis" said Kimberly Ritter, an advocate for sex trafficking victims.
She said sex traffickers force, coerce and threaten girls, women and boys into selling sex. The youngest victim she's heard of was a year old. A trafficker tried to sell the baby to a man looking for sex. She says the average age for a child victim is 12 years old.
The traffickers have relationships with hotel staff that makes it easy for them to sell the children and women to hotel guests.
"They could have contact with the front desk agents, they could have contact with the housekeepers," said Ritter. Ritter worked in hotels for 20 years before she moved to a meeting management company called Nix.
Nix and Ritter found a way to educate hotel owners and managers about spotting trafficking that could be right under their noses.
"There are pictures of girls online and you can absolutely identify which hotel that is," she said.
She finds pictures on a website called Backpage that identify landmarks of local hotels. She takes those images to hotel owners so they know their hotel is a hot spot. She wants them to become part of the solution to fight trafficking. Ritter and her company are asking hotels in St. Louis and across the country to sign a code of conduct to end child pornography and trafficking. Hotels would commit to training hotel staff on how to identify trafficking victims and report them if they see them.
"The girls, a lot of times will not make eye contact if you ask them their name. They'll pause and hesitate because they're not sure which name to use," said Ritter.
Hotel workers need to know the red flags. "Just one person coming in no luggage paying for room in cash. Housekeeping will get a call for fresh towels or fresh sheets more than once, that's not normal," said Ritter.
The Milennium Hotel in St. Louis signed the code of conduct a few years ago. Ritter said traffickers don't use that hotel anymore for their criminal activities. She also said the traffickers are trying to stay one step ahead of her.
"The more I talk about what I can identify, the less I see in the pictures," she said of the pictures she finds on Backpage.
She won't stop watching them.
"I care because I've held these girls, I've held their babies," she said.
The FBI gave Ritter an award for her work to save trafficking victims. She and her company are trying to form a new network of law enforcement, private corporations, advocacy and religious agencies that can come up with a strategic plan together to fight sex trafficking.
The Fight Is on Against Child Sex Trafficking in New York State
by Kevin M. Ryan -- President and CEO, Covenant House
Child advocates and human trafficking activists across the country have all eyes turned to New York State, where a bill that includes protections for child victims of sex trafficking is plodding its way through the Legislature. The bill, known as the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, declares that 16- and 17-year-olds who are arrested for prostitution are victims in need of services, not criminals. Right now only youth through age 15 get that protection. Hitting your Sweet 16 birthday shouldn't mean that you no longer need justice.
Under federal law , children under the age of 18 who are found to be engaging in commercial sex are automatically considered trafficking victims. But New York's antiquated definition of a trafficking victim is unnecessarily stricter than federal law and requires that prosecutors prove that people who sell a child for sex use force, fraud or coercion to control them. Under current law, a New York prosecutor trying to convict a pimp or gang of trafficking a 15-year-old must prove that the trafficker used a method, such as physical violence, to force the child to engage in prostitution, which means the victim would most likely need to testify. How many 15-year-olds do you know who volunteer to stand on a dark street corner and sell their bodies?
The bill aligns statutory rape penalties with penalties for buying sex from a child. Right now, people face harsher penalties for statutory rape than for buying an underage prostituted person. Currently, if a john pays the underage girl, he gets a lesser penalty, even if the child is younger than 17, the age of consent. Meanwhile, trafficked kids who are under 17 can end up imprisoned for being statutory rape victims. It makes no sense.
Sanctuary for Families has written a useful fact sheet including other reasons that the law should be passed. But without enough public support, the bill runs the risk of languishing in Albany.
A recent study of homeless young people staying at Covenant House found that almost a quarter of them had been involved either in trafficking or survival sex, where sex is exchanged for something of value, often food or shelter. Half of those kids told us that if they had had a safe place to stay, they would not have had to give away their dignity and innocence to people who were all too ready to exploit them.
Clearly, if we provide safe shelter to more kids, there will be fewer kids for pimps, gangs and johns to use and abuse. And if our state laws can be improved, following the lead of recent victories in New Jersey and promising legislation in Louisiana , we can help protect countless young people from the scourge of sex slavery.
I urge you to contact your state legislators, urging them to pass this bill. Let's step up our fight to end child trafficking by claiming a victory on the war's next front -- New York.
BEWARE: Man Approaching Children Near School
Los Angeles: Police are warning children, parents and school officials to be on the lookout for a man in his early 20s who has approached at least three young girls this month in the vicinity of Dronfield Avenue and Tyler Street in Sylmar.
The man has been seen driving a black 1995 Toyota Camry with a partial license plate ending in 880. He is medium height and has a heavy build, while his is hair is short.
“We have a good idea who this person is, but we don't have enough to get a warrant yet,” explained Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Mission Detective Division. “In the meantime, we want the public to be aware of the incidents, and we encourage other victims to come forward with other incidents or sightings near the school.”
Detectives have confronted one possible suspect but are still building a criminal case. The man has approached young girls, one as young as 12, on three occasions since May 3, 2013, the last two incidents being one week ago. All the incidents have occurred in the afternoon after schools have dismissed.
“The school district and school police are aware of the situation, and we have sent officers to patrol near Sylmar High School and Olive Vista Middle School near where the incidents have occurred,” Lt. Vernon explained.
None of the girls accosted have been injured or touched by the suspect. In each case, the suspect circles the block looking for victims, then calls out to them from the car or approaches them on the sidewalk. In one case, he ordered a girl to get into his car. “What's saved these girls are their wits and walking in groups,” Lt. Vernon added.
Detectives do not believe this suspect is the same man who has been described in separate attempted kidnapping incidents in the Tujunga area over the weekend.
Detectives have purposely left part of the suspect's description unspoken to aid in tying the correct suspect to other incidents. “It's tough to balance identifying a suspect publically before a case is filed, protecting the public from a predator, or not saying anything at all,” Lt. Vernon added.
Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Detective Stephen Bell, Mission Sex Unit, at (818) 838-9971. Anonymous tips can be called into Crimestoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or by texting 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Online tips may be placed at www.LAPDOnline.org , click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.
NE Ga. Trauma Conference scheduled June 28 in Gainesville
GAINESVILLE - Tom Scales, co-founder of The Innocence Revolution and author of "Terrible Things Happened to Me: A True Story of Violence and Victory," will be the keynote speaker for the Northeast Georgia Trauma Conference which will be held in Gainesville later this month.
It is scheduled for June 28 at the Brenau Downtown Center (formerly the Georgia Mountains Center).
The conference, presented by Avita Community Partners, will be the 5th Annual Educational Conference hosted by the Children's Center for Hope and Healing. It is a one-day workshop designed for educators, child advocates, nurses, therapists, attorneys, mental health professionals, juvenile justice personnel, and others whose professions pertain to the protection and caring of children. Continuing education units (CEUs) are anticipated for licensed professional counselors, social workers, and psychologists.
Tom Scales is a certified trainer in workshops that educate adults on the dangers of child sexual abuse and safe practices to protect children and has written workshops to highlight the impact of divorce, grooming, boundaries and workplace challenges on children and survivors of child sexual abuse.
He is a survivor of child sexual abuse and was the recipient of the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award In the category for Inspirational Books presented by the Georgia Writers Association. He also was the recipient of the 2012 Unsung Hero Award, presented by Save Our Children and Families.
The theme of this year's conference is “After the Trauma: Picking up the Pieces,” and it will feature break-out sessions covering such topics as effective methods of trauma resolution, the ethics of testifying in court, survivor struggles in the workplace, and the issue of sex trafficking in our local area. Admission to the conference is $125, $95 for participants who do not seek CEUs, and $35 for students.
The Children's Center for Hope & Healing, a non-profit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Link: Avita Community Partners
Link: The Children's Center for Hope & Healing
Link: The Innocence Revolution
Pa. considers broadening definition of 'child abuse'
by Mary Wilson
In an effort to flag more incidents of suspected mistreatment, Pennsylvania lawmakers are getting ready to move forward with proposals to expand the state's definition of child abuse.
The changes come at the suggestion of a task force convened last year to study child-protection laws and issues.
He says the commonwealth's legal definition of child abuse must be expanded and made clearer, said attorney Jason Kutulakis, a member of the panel.
"It's not just prosecuting. It's identifying a child who's been harmed so they can be provided services – medical services, social services, mental health services where appropriate," he said.
An array of other child-protection measures has been proposed based on recommendations of the panel, but lawmakers say addressing the legal definition of child abuse is the most crucial of them.
Proposals to change the definition have been introduced in the House and Senate.
The House plan is scheduled for a committee vote next week.
No action is scheduled on the Senate proposal, but one senator says he thinks it will make it out of the full chamber in the fall.
Abused by a family member
by Benjamin Law
We know who to suspect. Or, at least, we think we do. It's why we teach kids about "stranger danger" and inappropriate touching, to be wary of the overly affectionate priest, the weirdo teacher, the touchy-feely coach. Still, we're not that naive. Solemnly, we acknowledge sexual abuse happens in families, too - all those nightmare horror-stories of older relatives and parents sneaking into kids' bedrooms at night. Yet there's another form of sexual abuse, one that only seems to be discussed in inverse proportion to how often it happens. Greatly under-reported, sibling sex abuse, researchers agree, is the most common form of intra-familial sexual abuse, a scenario far more common than fathers abusing daughters.
Carmen Burnet was four when her brother Samuel,* eight years her senior, started molesting her. Samuel, as the eldest of the five siblings raised by their mother (their father left when Carmen was two), was the only one to have a bedroom to himself. "If he invited one of the younger kids to his bedroom, that was like you were the special one," Carmen says. "Occasionally, he would let one of us go into his room and look at his toy soldiers or whatever, things we couldn't normally touch or look at. What I remember happening was me going into his room on that sort of pretext. Then it turned into something different: him getting me to take my underpants off and looking at me, and maybe touching me a bit. Then the day just went on as normal, as if nothing had happened."
We'd get a certain distance from home, then he'd give me a belting and leave me to walk home crying. Looking back on it now, Carmen says that it started out as "not a very bad thing". The sort of thing, she says, that was hard to pin down as definitely being wrong or weird. When the family moved from Sydney to Canberra in 1987, what Samuel did escalated in frequency and intensity. Samuel openly loathed having to move to Canberra, and Carmen now looks back and suspects she became an outlet for his frustration, adding that he was abusing the other siblings verbally and physically, too. "He got more forceful," she says. "The sorts of things he was doing definitely felt much more full-on." Quietly, she explains the abuse began to involve full penetration.
Carmen was 12 when she finally told her mother that Samuel had repeatedly abused and raped her between the ages of seven and 10. Unlike many other parents who are told one of their children is sexually abusing another, Carmen's mother believed her immediately. After all, Samuel had been six-foot tall for as long as anyone could remember, with muscles and a tremendous capacity for violence. "The times that police got called to our house for domestic violence were because he'd beaten up our mum so badly that she was unconscious," Carmen says. "He was a pretty dangerous sort of person."
Carmen's mother responded to the news the only way she knew how: she went out and confronted Samuel about the sexual abuse. "She came back with him, we all went inside and she then immediately wanted everything to be all right," Carmen says. "She didn't want there to be 'any dramas' and she wanted us to be friends. Immediately, there was this pressure on me to be fine and conciliatory and not be mad at him." The message was clear: it was up to Carmen whether this family could move forward or not. Carmen now sees her mother's strategy as completely inappropriate, but adds that "I think she felt out of her depth".
Afterwards, Carmen's mother booked the two siblings into counselling at a family health centre in Canberra. "Which was not what I wanted," Carmen says. Here she was, trapped in a room with a complete stranger and the brother who had sexually abused her so violently that on one occasion she had to see a doctor to ensure permanent damage hadn't been done to her genitals and internal organs. "It just made me feel worse," she says of counselling with Samuel. "I was speechless. I couldn't manage to say anything. I was totally intimidated by him. He was really smarmy and wanting me to forgive and forget, be friends, leave all that in the past. Mum thought it was fine for him to try to hug me, try to talk to me. I wanted to avoid him as much as possible."
Dr Gary Foster from Living Well - a Queensland-based organisation that supports male survivors of sexual abuse - points out that young people who experience sibling sexual abuse often don't know how they want their parents or guardians to respond. When considering disclosure, ghastly possibilities and questions race through their minds. "For instance, 'Are they going to kick him out?' 'What's going to change?' Or, 'They might never kick him out, so then I have to live in the same family.'" Often, Foster says, abuse victims opt to keep the peace instead. "They think, 'It would be too distressing and upsetting for my parents. And I'm kind of managing it. Maybe I can just push through, block it out.'"
It's the attitude and approach adopted by Zach, another victim of sibling child abuse. For Zach, however, it meant he found himself being forced to invite his older brother Billy - who groomed Zach to repeatedly masturbate and perform oral sex and analingus on him - to be groomsman at his wedding. To this day, Zach, now 25, still hasn't told a single member of his family what Billy did to him. By the time Zach's wedding came around, no one except Zach and his fiancée knew his brother had molested him. His fiancée was horrified by the prospect of Billy even attending the wedding and implored Zach to confront his brother.
"But I was uncomfortable doing that," Zach says. "I guess I came to a place where I thought, 'My life has really turned out all right.' I was almost halfway through my uni degree, I was moving towards a pretty great career, and I was getting married to someone I loved deeply. In that respect, I thought, 'Well, this hasn't screwed me up too much; I've overcome it. We can move forward, he can be a groomsman and we don't have to worry about what happened in the past - we can have a great future."
When he reflects on the wedding itself now, Zach struggles to find the words. "It was the best day of my life, but it was also ..." He trails off. This is the thing about sibling sexual abuse: as much as you want it all to remain in the past, it's impossible to shake off. And as much as you might want these people out of your orbit, family is still family.
Jack lives just outside Sydney. He's 51, but good skin and a lean body means he looks a decade younger. Wearing a black muscle shirt and metal scorpion pendant, Jack also looks tough, like someone who could beat the living snot out of you if it came to that. But it's clear that Jack is gentle: a husband who married his childhood sweetheart; a dad who still kisses his adult kids goodbye. In his spare time, he writes poetry. The only time Jack seems to get angry or upset is when he talks about his childhood - in particular, his older brother Dennis. "Forgiveness didn't work for me," he says.
Of the sprawling bunch of kids who grew together in Sydney's west, Jack was the youngest. Dennis was six years older. Jack was intelligent and bookish, while Dennis was the family's golden-haired child and clearly their dad's favourite. Dennis was also - in Jack's words - a bastard. "He'd tie grasshoppers to skyrockets; crucify lizards on the back fence. He used to take me for a ride on a billy cart or pushbike and we'd get a certain distance from home, then he'd give me a belting and leave me to walk home crying."
Every night around 5pm, their dad would call Jack for his bath. One evening, Dennis came in the bathroom while Jack was getting dressed and produced a $1 note. To a kid in 1968, that represented a lot of money. If Jack wanted the money, all he had to do was what Dennis asked. "What he did," Jack says, staring dead ahead, "was he sat down on the chair that was in the bathroom and got me to sit on his lap. He proceeded to stick his penis up my backside, which hurt and felt very wrong. I cried. He was hissing at me: 'Shut the f... up', 'Open up your arse' - that type of thing." Jack was seven; Dennis was 13.
This happened four or five times - Jack can't be sure - except that on subsequent occasions Dennis no longer bribed Jack with money. If Jack didn't co-operate, Dennis belted him hard instead: bit him, punched him, slapped him around. Jack only escaped his brother's rapes once, when he reached between his legs, twisted Dennis's balls with a clamp-like fist and refused to let go until Dennis released him. Jack shakes his head thinking about it now. "With me crying and trying to basically fight Dennis off, I look back now and I wonder why nobody heard, why nobody intervened. The only thing I can think of is they were just used to him being a prick to me."
When Jack started waking up with Dennis in bed beside him - either raping him or attempting to - he demanded to know how Dennis even got there. Dennis said their father put him in the same bed so the brothers could share warmth on cold nights; Jack confronted their father and told him to stop it. When their father asked why, Jack came out with it: that Dennis was "doing things to my bottom". Jack says he will never forget the expression on his father's face when he told him. "He looked at me with utter disgust. It could be argued that he was disgusted with my brother, but I felt then, and I still feel now, that his disgust and contempt was for me. His reaction was, 'What do you want me to do? Beat him up?' I was lost for words. Of course I wanted him beaten up; of course I wanted him punished. But it never happened."
For a while though, the abuse stopped. Eight years later, Jack was 15 and had just met the girl whom he'd eventually marry. Out of nowhere, Dennis - still living at home - started raping Jack again. "I had no chance fighting against him," Jack says. "A 15-year-old against a 22-year-old? It's not going to happen. To my eternal shame I got to the point where I thought, 'Let him get on with it.' I didn't see any point in going to Dad."
To Jack, it seemed no one would ever believe him, anyway. It would be years later - decades, in fact - when he figured maybe the police would.
How frequently sex abuse occurs between siblings in Australia is impossible to gauge. Dr Daryl Higgins, a child-abuse expert from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, says the statistics just aren't available. One 2011 US study, however, estimated half of all adolescent-perpetrated sexual offences involved a sibling, while a 2012 UK study concluded sibling incest was the most common form of family sex abuse - at least five times more common than parent-child incest. In Australia, the New Street Adolescent Service - a NSW program addressing under-18s who have sexually abused people - consistently finds that roughly 50 per cent of their clients' victims are siblings. Still, Higgins says it's difficult to get exact numbers or estimates in this country. "Small-scale studies tell us what issues [victims] face," he says, "but it doesn't tell us about how prevalent it is."
Complicating matters is the question of how to define sibling sexual abuse. At what point does normal childhood sexual experimentation become molestation and rape? Do kids and teenagers even know what they're doing is wrong? In the 1980s, researchers defined sexual behaviour between siblings as abuse when there was an age gap of five years or more. While most cases of sibling sexual abuse do fall into that range (a 2010 study of 17 female victim-survivors showed a median age gap of 4.18 years), many researchers nowadays point out that using age as a criteria ignores cases involving slightly older siblings, twins, and younger siblings who might be physically stronger or use coercion.
Helen Kambouridis, a senior psychologist at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital who has worked with young victims of sexual abuse for 15 years, says because there are so many grey zones, it is also unhelpful to label minors who abuse their siblings as "perpetrators" or "offenders". "We don't use that language," she says. "Effectively, they're kids. And they're kids who - for the most part - have been victims of some sort of trauma of their own, possibly sexual abuse. Part of the difficulty we face is [asking], 'What's underneath this? What's motivating a kid to engage in behaviour like this?' What we do find is kids who have been exposed to a sort of trauma that has basically screwed with their template for relating with people."
This isn't always the case, however. Talia looks back on her childhood and says she can't explain what she did to her two younger sisters. The eldest of three girls, Talia - now 25 - is five years older than her middle sister and six years older than the youngest. When Talia was nine, she would play games with them, usually one at a time, re-enacting scenes from the film Grease . "It started as just childish games," she says, "like playing doctors and nurses. Then it ... stopped being games." Soon, their play involved genital touching and coerced oral sex. "There was trickery involved. I never threatened them but it was, 'Make sure Mum doesn't find out. Make sure we don't tell her.'"
Talia visibly shakes talking about it now, looking ashen with regret. "If it had ended at doctors and nurses - being naked around each other, looking and touching at bits and pieces - I think I could justify that and be okay. And while I've got all the symptoms of someone who has been sexually abused - highly sexualised behaviours; abusing others - I'm pretty sure that never happened. I kind of wish it had, because then I could explain my behaviour. Not to get excused, but there would be a reason as to why I did it."
Strangely, neither of Talia's sisters seems to recall any of this happening. Talia has never broached it directly with them, but says that whenever sexual jokes or stories come up, she watches them closely for anything in their response to confirm they know what Talia knows. They've never reacted. It is possible they were too young, or simply don't regard the incidents in the same way Talia does. Either way, Talia has decided never to broach the subject with them. In fact, she's never told anyone what she did between the ages of nine and 11, except for her psychologist and Good Weekend. Not even her husband knows. "The thing that hurts me the most is they're the two people I love most in the world, and they're the ones I've hurt most."
In early 2012, Talia had a nervous breakdown, set off by work pressures but fuelled by the roaring tide of guilt over what she did to her younger sisters years ago. Drinking heavily, Talia violently cut herself repeatedly and had to be admitted to emergency. Later, her psychologist suggested to Talia that what happened with her sisters wasn't abuse, but "sexual play that went too far". Talia disagrees. "I've decided to see it as abuse and deal with it that way." After all, Talia works in psychology herself and has read the literature. She can't let herself off the hook. "My main reason for thinking it's abuse is because there's a five-year age gap," she says. "I should have known better."
"I should have known better." it's a thought that ricochets in parents' minds, too, after they discover one child has been abusing another. "I don't think people, one, think it's possible, and two, would even want to think it was possible," Kambouridis says. "I can't think of a worse position for a parent to be in. You've raised two kids in the same way, and one of them did this to the other? How did that happen?"
Often, parents respond with blanket denial or they downplay its severity. When Sofia emails Good Weekend , she says her story seems minor compared to other stories she's heard. "In the scheme of things, I'm not terribly damaged by it," she writes. When she later tells her story to me in person though, it's clear what happened to her in childhood still deeply affects her. "My cousin and my brother ..." she begins, then catches herself, gulping. "Sorry," she says, blinking tears. She tries to start again. Much of the pain Sofia now feels, she explains, is that her mother didn't believe that what her cousin and brother did was sexual abuse.
Sofia was seven when her mother, older brother and extended family all stayed together in a beach house one summer. A male cousin - five years her senior - and Sofia's brother told her they wanted to show her "what grown-ups did". They took her into a private room, started kissing her on the mouth, then undressed her and touched her with their genitals. Sofia had no vocabulary to express what was going on. "I was seven," she says. "I had no idea of sexuality." The incident repeated itself several times over the summer. School reports from before that summer described Sofia as outgoing, happy and confident. Afterwards, she was described as quiet, shy and not interacting so much with the class.
Some years later, while still in primary school, Sofia's friend Raelene confided to her that her father had sexually molested her. Horrified, Sofia told her mother, who responded by saying, "That can't be right. She must be lying. Kids lie." After counselling in her 20s, Sofia understood that what her brother and cousin did to her was sexual abuse, too. She rang her mother. All she wanted, looking back, was recognition and acknowledgement that it happened. "They were just experimenting," her mother said. "They didn't mean any harm." Just like that, the conversation was over. "I was extremely disappointed," Sofia says. (Later, when Sofia told an online friend that her brother had molested her, she went outside, bent over and nearly threw up.)
"How would anyone react?" Kambouridis says of parents being told of sibling sexual abuse. "There's clearly no kind of guidebook - not least because there's not a lot of awareness of this sort of stuff. I don't know that there could be anything more difficult than to open yourself up to that."
Jack was 21 when he realised he could kill his brother. Both Jack and Dennis had children by now. They were at their mother's place, horsing around with their kids under the garden hose, when Jack lifted Dennis right off the ground. For the first time, Jack realised he was now the stronger brother. It would take nothing, he thought, to smash open his brother's skull and spill his brains all over the cement. A quiet, tense moment of shared understanding passed between them as Jack put Dennis down. "It was a huge moment," Jack says now. "It made me think I wouldn't have any problems with this ever again, that I was finally strong enough to defend myself."
Still, Jack couldn't shake his bedtime ritual of thinking about all the times Dennis had raped him. "There was a voice in my head, saying to me, 'When are you going to do something about this?'”Another voice would talk back, "I don't want to hurt my mother. I'll do it in 10 years' time, or 20 years' time." Decades passed. By the time Jack was 45, he was close to losing it. He'd developed intense anger-management problems and had volcanic road rage. His entire family noticed it. What they didn't know was that Jack was also regularly contemplating suicide. "It was like a monster," he says of his rage towards his brother. "It just got bigger and bigger and it was dominating my whole life." One day, he finally told his wife by saying, "You know I've never really liked my brother. Here's why." That first revelation was like a crack in the dam. From there, Jack told his adult sons and his GP, who referred him to a counsellor. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Against the advice of his counsellor, Jack decided to confront Dennis in person. When Dennis - now deeply Christian - admitted to the abuse and asked Jack to forgive him, Jack left feeling stronger and happier. "But it only lasted a few weeks," he says. "Then I started to think, 'Hang on, I let him get away with too much.' ”In 2010 Jack spoke to police, who eventually arranged for him to wear a wire tap while talking to Dennis. That evidence propelled Dennis to plead guilty to three acts of buggery that had occurred in 1976. Sentenced to a year for each crime, to be served concurrently, Dennis is still in prison. Jack says he sleeps much better nowadays.
Carmen Burnet, however, has mixed feelings about taking Samuel to court. When she took him to trial in 1993, when she was 17, it was one of the ACT's first incest trials. "The catalyst for deciding to go to the police was that he was trying to get custody of his daughter, who by then was 2 1/2," she says. "I just thought, 'No, I've got to do something to protect her. I am not going to just stand by and let him potentially do the same thing to her.' I don't know that he would have, but the fact that he'd been so lacking in remorse or guilt or anything in relation to me made me feel pretty frightened."
Carmen describes the court experience as "nasty", adding that she wasn't allowed to give evidence via video link but instead was forced to give evidence in person, with dozens of journalists and complete strangers staring at her and listening to her testimony. Of the six charges - including carnal knowledge, sexual intercourse without consent, and acts of indecency - Samuel pleaded guilty to only one minor charge of "committing an act of indecency", and a jury found him not guilty of all the others. Samuel was given a good-behaviour bond and ordered to pay Carmen $500 in compensation.
"I felt [like] I hadn't been believed," Carmen says. "Of course, I knew rationally that there was always the risk of an acquittal, but I wanted to believe that if I did the hard thing - of going through the courts - that would be worth it. That people would see and understand and that he would get convicted. When that didn't happen, I was left with this huge void of disbelief. I hadn't prepared myself for that possibility at all. It was total shock. The only way I'd been able to go through with it was with the belief he'd be convicted."
Carmen says the one thing that made it worthwhile was that Samuel was prevented from gaining custody of his daughter. In the scheme of things, though, it was a small victory.
Carmen spoke to Good Weekend immediately after an appointment with her psychologist. Right now, Carmen has intensive psychotherapy three times a week to address the complex PTSD she developed as a result of her sexual abuse and the resulting court case. "That's been an ongoing thing that, periodically, totally disables me," she says, adding she has received the disability pension since 1998. "Most of the time I can function to some degree, but I haven't had the sort of stability that you'd need to be reliable for a job."
Two-and-a-half years ago, Carmen's PTSD got so bad that she started a new regimen of medication and underwent intensive psychotherapy three times a week. When asked how she is now, Carmen smiles a little. "I've only been in hospital twice in the last two-and-a-half years," she says, "so that's not too bad." Now, Carmen has non-existent or patchy relationships with her remaining siblings, though is close to some of her nieces and nephews. She has no contact with either parent. In all of this, though, she's also been able to find love: she's been married for the past four years.
But, she says, "It's always going to be an aspect about myself and about my past that I somehow have to navigate or deal with. It doesn't go away. It still really hurts to have had trust betrayed so badly ... by someone who was a brother. And to have not been safe and protected in a situation where that's what we should have had: safety and protection."
Living Well's Gary Foster says all those feelings sexual-abuse survivors experience - shame, confusion, self-blame - are only amplified when the abuser is a sibling. "Say there's an uncle who's 25 years older," he says. "There's the sense that, 'This was an abusive relationship and there's not much I can do.' Or if you're attacked out of the blue, it's like, 'What more could I have done?'"
Sibling-abuse victims, on the other hand, are often initially invited into the behaviour from someone with whom they already have an intimate bond. "It can mess with your mind so much more," says Foster. "Abuse might happen at night, yet they'll go down to breakfast and everybody's behaving normally. They go on holidays with the family [together]. In front of everybody, it's all fun. You become trained very quickly in pretending and covering this up, even though you've got this incredible emotional turmoil happening. It's hard enough for adults to get their heads around the issue. Imagine what it's like for a 10-year old."
For Sofia, her confusion over what her cousin and brother did to her was that it didn't fit the classic narrative of sexual abuse. But one thing that has changed since undergoing counselling as an adult is she no longer carries any shame over what her brother did. "I'm not ashamed for myself," she says. "But I'm ashamed I'm related to him."
* Except for Carmen Burnet, all names of victims, perpetrators and family members have been changed.
Lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.
Myths about male childhood sexual assault survivors
by Gwen KitsonMSW, Client Services Director, Quin Rivers, Inc.
Many of us have accepted the myth that males cannot be victims of sexual assault. Even in our enlightened age, society still dictates that boys and men need to be tough, that to be considered "weak" is a disgrace and to have been let themselves be put in a powerless position is shameful. It is what boys are taught about being "real men "and boys are taught very young that they are expected to be able to protect themselves. The fact is men and boys can be victims of sexual assault. Research shows that 1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before they reached age 18. Males, like females, experience lasting effects and emotional pain as a result of being victimized. Yet, male survivors of sexual abuse rarely receive the attention that females do. While we understand that any kind of victimization is traumatic and life changing, survivors of male childhood sexual abuse may face the greatest challenges. Boys often continue to blame themselves long into adulthood but the burden of being that "real man" often prevents them from seeking help.
Whether you agree with that definition of masculinity or not, we can all agree that boys are not men. They are children. They are weaker and more vulnerable than those who sexually abuse or exploit them, the perpetrators who use their greater size, strength and knowledge to manipulate or coerce boys into unwanted sexual experiences and staying silent. Usually this is done from a position of authority such as a coach, teacher, or religious leader or status such as an older cousin, admired athlete, or social leader. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse use whatever means are available to reduce resistance from young boys and teens such as attention, special privileges, money or other gifts, promises or bribes, even outright threats; whatever advantage can be taken to use a child for sexual purposes. Sexual abuse is never the child's fault.
In addition to the myth that males cannot be victims, there are also myths accepted by many about who perpetrates sexual assault on young boys and male teen-agers. Many accept without question the myth that men who victimize boys are homosexual. Studies about this suggest quite the opposite, finding that men who have sexually abused a boy most often identify as heterosexual and often are involved in adult heterosexual relationships at the time of abusive interaction. The important thing to remember is that the sexual abuse of children is not a sexual "relationship," - it is an assault. The perpetrator is most often someone with power or authority over the child, someone the child knows and trusts.
Another commonly accepted myth is that if the perpetrator is female, the boy or adolescent should consider himself to have been fortunate to be initiated into the world of sex by a female. In reality, premature or coerced sex, whether by a mother, aunt, older sister, baby-sitter or other female in a position of power over a boy, causes confusion at best, and rage, depression or other problems in more negative circumstances. This is especially true if the abuser was a woman and he was an adolescent. In this case, the recognition of victimization may not come from the abuse experience itself but from the other ways this experience may have affected his life. Signs of this can be difficulty sustaining intimate relationships, sexual dysfunction, compulsive behaviors, feeling continually victimized by women, self-worth tied to sexual functioning, and anger at women in general. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is always abusive and often damaging.
Believing these myths is dangerous and damaging for many reasons. So long as society believes these myths, and teaches them to children from their earliest years, sexually abused males will be unlikely to get the recognition and help they need. When boys or men who have been sexually abused believe these myths, they will feel ashamed and angry. Finally, so long as sexually abused males believe these myths they reinforce the power of another devastating myth that all abused children struggle with: that it was their fault. It is never the fault of the child in a sexual situation - though perpetrators can be quite skilled at getting their victims to believe these myths and take on responsibility that is always and only their own.
Being sexually abused can be one of the most painful and potentially damaging experiences that a person may suffer in childhood. Unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood can have many effects, well into adulthood and the long-term effects of sexual abuse can be quite damaging for both males and females. The harm caused by depends primarily on things not determined by gender of the victim, including: the abuser's identity, the age of the child, the duration of the abuse, whether the child told anyone at the time, and if so, whether the child was believed and helped. Many boys suffer harm because adults who could believe them and help are reluctant, or refuse, to acknowledge what happened and the harm it caused. This increases the harm, especially the shame felt by boys and men, and leads many to believe they must "tough it out" on their own. This not only makes it harder to seek needed help when the abuse is occurring but also years later when the help is still needed. Other factors that may impact the effects of victimization include whether the experiences involved deliberate humiliation; how "normal" such experiences were in the extended family and local culture; whether the boy had loving family members, and/or knew that someone loved him; whether the boy had some good relationships - with siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, coaches, etc.; and whether the boy had relationships in which difficult and "vulnerable" feelings were acceptable, and could be expressed and managed in safe and healthy ways.
Every person who has experienced childhood sexual abuse is unique. And every person who has experienced abuse has a unique combination of risk and protective factors that have influenced, and continue to influence, the effects in his or her life. Many men develop coping strategies that may seem to work in some ways but often have negative consequences. Some of the more common ones include:
•Ignoring painful feelings may reduce one's conscious experience of them. But it also prevents one from learning how to manage them in smaller doses, let alone larger ones - which makes one vulnerable to alternating between feeling little or no emotions and being overwhelmed and unable to cope with them.
•Avoiding getting close to people and trying to hide all of one's pain and vulnerabilities may create a sense of safety. But this approach to relationships leads to a great deal of loneliness, prevents experiences and learning about developing true intimacy and trust, and makes one vulnerable to desperately and naively putting trust in the wrong people and being betrayed again.
•The use of drugs and alcohol can block out painful memories and feelings, including the feeling of being disconnected from others - but cause lots of other problems and disconnections from people.
Many things can inspire a man to want to make changes and improve his life. If you or someone you know has had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood that might be related to current problems, please call the Project Hope Hotline at 877.966.4357.
Child sexual abuse advocacy group launches in Sydney
Tzedek has announced its inaugural NSW event, an information session on ‘Child Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community'
The event will be chaired by Amelia Frid, an experienced psychologist and Tzedek Board member, and feature two speakers: Dr Cathy Kezelman, president of Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse and Manny Waks, founder and CEO of Tzedek.
Tzedek (Hebrew for Justice) is Australia's only dedicated advocacy group for Jewish victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.
Ms Frid says: “Having worked with clients who have victimisation issues across a range of settings, I understand how endemic the issue of abuse is, and how far reaching its effects. Tzedek, a not for profit organization, aims to advocate for victim survivors of child sexual abuse and educate the broader Jewish community on matters concerning child safety, the importance of maintaining accountability, and broaching the matter with sensitivity and integrity.”
The event, on Wednesday 12 June, 7.30-9pm at 3 Saber Street Woolhara (JewishCare), is free but places are limited and bookings are essential. Light food and beverages will be provided. Please
RSVP to: email@example.com or Amelia Frid – 0411 746 322.
Sexual and Emotional Abuse Scar the Brain In Specific Ways
by Maia Szalavitz
Childhood emotional and sexual abuse mark women's brains in distinct patterns — with emotional abuse affecting regions involved in self-awareness and sexual abuse affecting areas involved in genital sensation, according to new research. The study links specific types of abuse with symptoms experienced by many survivors later in life.
The research, which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry , imaged the brains of 51 women in Atlanta who were taking part in a larger project on the effects of early trauma. Twenty-eight of the participants had been seriously maltreated as children, suffering from various combinations of neglect and emotional, physical and sexual abuse. The other 23 experienced either no maltreatment or next to nothing. The women ranged in age from 18 to 45, but the average age was 27.
A standard questionnaire on childhood trauma was used to assess the women's early childhood experiences, and their brains were scanned to measure the thickness of various regions of the cortex. Cortical thickness is linked to brain development, with thicker regions generally suggesting healthier growth. Brains, like muscles, develop through use — so regions that have been “exercised” more tend to be bigger.
But abuse can interfere with development. To cope with overwhelming experiences of distress, the brain can alter patterns of signaling from the pathways involved, which can ultimately leave those regions underdeveloped from reduced input. The brain of a child who is raped, for example, may react by reducing the connectivity of the regions that were hurt.
“If abuse was of a sexual type, we saw changes in the somatosensory cortex, the area that processes input from the body to create sensations and perceptions,” says Jens Pruessner, associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal. Somatosensory areas create a map of the body on the brain, with each region processing sensation from specific body parts. As compared to non-abused women, “women who were sexually abused had thinning in the area where the genitalia were located,” he says.
Although the prevalence varies depending on the severity and the amount of abuse, many sexual abuse survivors report sexual problems in adulthood, including reductions in desire and sensation; sometimes they suffer from chronic genital pain. “There are some studies suggesting that thinning of the cortex [in these regions] would be associated with a lowered pain threshold, so you would more easily perceive pain instead of touch from that area,” says Pruessner. Some of the women showed cortical thinning in regions associated with the face and mouth, which could result from abuse to those areas.
Emotional abuse left a different type of scar. Here, the changes were seen in regions associated with understanding and controlling emotions and recognizing and responding to the feelings of others. “We [saw thinning] in areas that have to do with self-awareness and emotional regulation, areas in the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe which typically show activation when people are asked to think about themselves or reflect on their emotions,” Pruessner says.
Emotional abuse can leave its victims prone to depression, moodiness and extreme or dulled emotional responsiveness, depending on the person and the particular circumstances. “As adults, [they have difficulty] reflecting on themselves and finding the right way to deal with emotions,” says Pruessner.
“[I]f replicated, these data provide compelling evidence about the enduring structural effects on the brain as a function of early life experience,” Dr. Maria Oquendo, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, and her colleagues, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.
This study didn't follow the women from childhood, so it can't prove that the abuse caused the changes in these regions. It's possible, for example, that thinning in these brain regions results from later avoidance of healthy experience — abstaining from sex even in a good relationship, for example — rather than from the initial abuse.
In both emotional and sexual abuse, a decrease in connectivity of regions that are overwhelmed by maltreatment may be interpreted as a self-protective response. But it can ultimately prove harmful because it interferes with subsequent healthy sensation and experience.
The changes seen were not small: Pruessner says that if a region typically was 5 millimeters thick on average, in abuse survivors it was just 3 to 4 millimeters. “The effect size was quite significant,” he adds.
But that doesn't mean that recovery is impossible. Most abuse survivors do not develop symptoms, in fact, and research shows increasingly that the brain can change dramatically when provided with the right type of support and emotional nourishment. Understanding what goes wrong during and after abuse, the researchers believe, will help them figure out how to make it right. “That is our long term hope,” Pruessner says.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America And Sprint Test Parents' Cyber Smarts For Internet Safety Month
"Cyber Safe Futures" Campaign Raises Awareness of Youth's Online Behavior to Parents
by Boys & Girls Clubs of America
ATLANTA, June 4, 2013 -- /PRNewswire/ -- Are today's parents cyber savvy? Research points to a disconnect between kids and parents when it comes to young people's online behavior. In light of Internet Safety Month in June, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and Sprint (NYSE:S) are giving parents an opportunity to test their cyber smarts through Cyber Safe Futures, a campaign aimed to raise Internet safety awareness among parents.
To view the multimedia assets associated with this release, please click http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/boys--girls-clubs-of-america-and-sprint-test-parents-cyber-smarts-for-internet-safety-month-210013471.html
One in three parents believes their teens to be much more tech-savvy than they are, leaving them to feel helpless to keep up with their teen's online behavior.* To test their cyber smarts, BGCA and Sprint are inviting parents to take the Cyber Survivor Challenge on CyberSafeFutures.org. The interactive quiz assesses parents' cyber savviness and gives tips on key Internet safety issues when it comes to their children.
"BGCA is committed to keeping kids safe, and in today's world that means being safe online," said Dan Rauzi, senior director, good character & citizenship at BGCA. "The way we communicate is going to continue to change in an ever-evolving online world, and parents need to be aware of what it takes to give their kids a cyber safe future."
Cyber Survivor videos focus on relevant issues like cyberbullying, social networking, online privacy and mobile safety. The site provides tools and resources to educate parents on current trends and how to have an open dialog with their children when it comes to staying safe online.
BGCA is also using Facebook to fuel the conversation during Internet Safety Month, providing an avenue for parents to talk about important safety topics that could potentially impact their children's lives.
"At Sprint, we are in the business of connecting people, providing the tools and services they need to communicate," said Ralph Reid, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Sprint. "In this important partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Sprint is proud to help provide tools parents need, help families stay connected and help young people stay safe when communicating online. Getting potentially life-saving information into the hands of families across the country is absolutely the right thing to do."
Since 2007, Sprint has donated more than $5 million to Internet safety initiatives. In addition to this year's Cyber Safe Futures campaign, Sprint is supporting 40 local Boys & Girls Clubs in their efforts to provide a cyber safe future to youth through Internet and Media Safety awareness events.
To join the conversation and see what parents are saying, visit CyberSafeFutures.org. Additional Sprint Internet-safety resources can be found at www.4NetSafety.com.
*Source: "The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents," McAfee, 6/2012. Visit CyberSafeFuture.org to see all our Internet Safety statistics.
Law: More time to pursue child-sex crimes
by MIKE FAHER
BRATTLEBORO -- As an experienced prosecutor of sex-abuse crimes, David Gartenstein knows that some child victims may never disclose what happened to them.
And others may wait years -- or, perhaps, decades -- before detailing allegations of abuse.
Now, a new Vermont law will make it easier for prosecutors like Gartenstein -- a deputy Windham County state's attorney -- to pursue charges against some alleged abusers by extending the statute of limitations to 40 years after certain crimes occurred.
"We do, at the Windham County State's Attorney's Office from time to time, receive reports of sexual abuse that occurred a long time ago but were not previously reported," Gartenstein said. "I've gotten cases that were a decade or two old.
"This law will allow a longer period within which those matters will be prosecuted," he added.
The legislation, approved last month by the Legislature and signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Peter Shumlin, extends the statute of limitations to 40 years for four crimes committed against victims who are under age 18: Sexual assault, lewd and lascivious conduct, sexual exploitation of a minor and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child.
Previously, prosecution of those crimes had to commence before a victim's 24th birthday or within 10 years of the incident -- whichever came first.
Shumlin's office, in announcing his signature, released a statement saying the extended statute of limitations "will help ensure that justice is served in more cases" involving child victims.
"We know that kids are often fearful of reporting these terrible crimes, sometimes waiting well into their adult years," Shumlin said. "This law gives victims without a legal voice the opportunity to right an awful wrong."
The governor's office said a recent Bennington case highlighted the need for a longer statute of limitations "when two adults who had been child-victims discovered that their abusers were still working with children."
However, Gartenstein pointed out that the new law doesn't apply to all sex-abuse crimes against children that may have happened over the past four decades. In cases where the statute of limitations already has expired, no prosecution can occur, he said.
"As a general matter, if the limitations period for a crime has already passed, the criminal charge can't be reinstated by a change in the law," Gartenstein said. "But if the charge remains viable when the limitations period is amended, the new limitations period generally will control."
In other words, he said, "any crimes that were already time-barred remain time-barred."
Gartenstein said he has encountered cases that could not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. In some instances, prosecutors can pursue some charges and not others due to expired statutory deadlines.
Such issues may be more common in Gartenstein's line of work. The nine-year veteran of the state's attorney's office specializes in cases of child sex abuse and said research has shown that "most children who were sexually abused don't tell, and many delay disclosure."
Common reasons for that lack of disclosure include shame, fear and self-blame.
"Children feel threatened or may be expressly threatened and therefore don't report," Gartenstein said. "Children in households where the mother is not supportive, as a group, statistically either delay or do not disclose."
Gartenstein added that "many victims of sexual abuse that occurs within a family feel loyalty to the abuser or believe the abuser somehow protects them."
He acknowledged that the newly extended statute of limitations could lead defense attorneys to question the reliability of victim or witness recollections from a crime that may have happened several decades prior.
"The decision about the length of the limitations period is for the Legislature to make," Gartenstein said. "What I know is that people often don't report what happens to them and, oftentimes when they report, they come forward many years after the offense occurred.
"The defendant has an absolute right to challenge the reliability of the report based upon the fact that the report was delayed," he added.
Windham County Sen. Jeanette White, a Putney Democrat who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers did not rely on any formula to set the new statute of limitations for child-sex crimes.
"There was no magic number -- we just came to a compromise at 40 years," White said.
She acknowledged concerns expressed by some defense attorneys who argued that "the longer out it goes, the more iffy it becomes because evidence fades and people's memories fade."
At the other end of the spectrum, there was a suggestion that there should be no statute of limitations for such crimes.
"We decided that was going too far," White said.
But she said there was a general consensus that Vermont's previous statute of limitations for child-sex crimes was far too brief.
"Everybody felt that was too short a period of time," White said. "If somebody has been a victim of abuse, really, at (age) 24, they're probably still fragile and dealing with it."
Penn State schedules second child abuse awareness conference for fall
by Mike Dawson
UNIVERSITY PARK — This fall, investigative officials from across the state will come to Penn State to hear about improving the way they collect evidence after child abuse reports so prosecutors have stronger cases to take to court.
The gathering on Sept. 25 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel will be for the university's next conference on child abuse, officials announced Tuesday. The conference is the second one the university has organized as a way of advancing child abuse awareness in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and the theme is evidenced by its title, “Protecting children through building multidisciplinary investigation teams/child advocacy centers.”
“The goal is to talk about how can we make these teams work to collect solid evidence to substantiate these cases and prosecute them effectively while taking into account the well-being and protection of the child and her or his connection to the family,” said Penn State psychology professor Susan McHale, one of the organizers. “This conference will be about making strides to find new ways to work together.”
McHale said the hope is to have the different investigators attend so they can relay the information to the others to develop resources such as the children's advocacy centers, which serve as places where child abuse victims are interviewed by trained professional so they do not have to repeat their accounts to police, case workers, prosecutors and others who might be involved in the investigation.
“Unless you understand the other members of the team ... what their goals are, what they need to help children in the way they do, people can crash into each other,” said McHale, who is also the director of the university's Social Science Research Institute.
The topics of the panel discussions are in the works, but officials said the participants will be experts on investigation standards and developing those multidisciplinary investigative teams.
The conference will come almost a year after the one in October that saw Olympic boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart speak about being sexually abused. The theme was broad — it covered topics on the clinical and research side of child abuse, and the two-day event drew nearly 500 attendees despite the driving rains of Hurricane Sandy. Penn State contributed $280,000 of the overall conference cost of $325,000, too.
For the second conference, the focus has been narrowed and it will be invitation-only. On the guest list will be district attorneys, law enforcement officials and child welfare workers from each of the state's 67 counties as well as Penn State faculty.
Penn State is budgeting $43,000 for the conference, said spokeswoman Jill Shockey.
The keynote speaker will be Teresa Huizar, the executive director of the National Children's Alliance, which is an advocacy group that provides training, support and leadership to children's advocacy centers.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is one of the co-sponsors of the conference, and its chairman, Mark Zimmer, said the event dovetails with a recommendation his group received from the special task force charged by the state General Assembly. Zimmer said his group was called upon to train and support law enforcement and child welfare workers to improve the response to child abuse, which is the theme of the conference.
“We're going to use the people who do it well and put them in panels with people who are trying to do it well,” said Zimmer, a lawyer from Honesdale, Wayne County, who previously was a prosecutor for 21 years.
Officials at the conference also will announce a grant program with funding available for counties to develop or improve the investigative teams for responding to child abuse reports.
The conference's announcement comes as law enforcement officials in Centre County are close to launching a children's advocacy center in Bellefonte. The momentum for a center here coalesced after the Sandusky case got advocates talking about ways to better protect children.
After the Sandusky scandal broke in November 2011, Penn State President Rodney Erickson commissioned a task force to study how the university could respond on the academic side.
The task force recommended building on the long-standing strengths in children, youth and family research by creating a network through which the experts would be able to work together. McHale is the coordinator of that enterprise, called the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being.
The academic response also includes the planned hiring of 12 new faculty members over several years to work in those research centers that are part of the network.
A third conference, though a year away, is planned for May 4-5, 2014.
Minn. cheerleader accused of prostituting girl
A suburban Minneapolis high school cheerleader is accused of prostituting a younger student by creating an online ad and taking her to see potential customers, pocketing $60 in one case.
Montia Marie Parker, 18, of Maple Grove, faces felony charges of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution. She is scheduled to appear in court June 12.
Parker was a senior at Hopkins High School when she allegedly set up a Backpage.com ad for a 16-year-old, driving her to an apartment to have oral sex with a man, and taking the $60 the girl made. Authorities allege Parker and the girl drove to another home the next day, but left after the man refused oral sex.
The girl's mother called police after reading text messages between her daughter and Parker on the girl's cellphone, the Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/18M0InW) reported.
Parker's attorney did not immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press on Tuesday evening. A home phone listing for Parker could not be found.
The 16-year-old had mentioned to others that she was trying to make some money. Parker sent the girl a Facebook message and text message about how she could make money having sex, requesting that the girl send her photos of herself, the charges allege.
Parker posted the photos on Backpage.com, listing her phone number as the contact, the charges said. On March 5, the girls left school and went to an apartment building. When the younger girl returned to the car, she gave Parker the $60 and Parker deposited it into her own bank account, according to the complaint.
The next day, Parker pretended to be the girl's mother and called the school to get her excused, the charges said. The girls left school and went to a home where the girl was directed to have sex with a man. She refused.
"You'll be fine _ I didn't drive up here for nothing, and eventually you will need to have sex," Parker told the girl, according to the complaint. The girl told the man she wouldn't have intercourse with him but would give him oral sex. The man refused and Parker drove the girl back to Hopkins High School, according to the complaint.
The girl's mother checked her daughter's cellphone after noticing changes in her daughter's behavior and hearing that she had an unexcused absence from school.
Minneapolis Lt. Kim Lund, president of the Minnesota Juvenile Officers' Association, said authorities have noticed more cases within the last five years involving teen girls using Backpage.com. However, Lund said, it's unusual to have a case involving a teen prostituting a fellow teen; most human trafficking cases involve adult men or women contacting teens.
Parker admitted to police that she had created the ad and told them she received "a lot of calls" related to it, according to the complaint. She's free on $50,000 bond.
Hopkins High School's last day of classes is Thursday, but school officials said they acted immediately after learning of the charges. The school has about 1,800 students.
"In responding to this incident, we followed our discipline and safety policy, which includes permanently removing a student from campus," the district said in a statement.
Northern Ireland probe seeks testimony from child abuse victims in North America, Australia
by Associated Press
DUBLIN — Experts investigating abuse within Northern Ireland children's homes appealed Monday for victims living abroad, chiefly in North America and Australia, to provide testimony so that the full scope of trauma can be documented.
Northern Ireland's Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry said it already has received abuse complaints from 271 former residents of about 35 orphanages and state-funded homes where children allegedly suffered sexual or physical harm. The investigation started this year and is supposed to publish findings and recommend compensation for victims by January 2016. It seeks evidence of abuse from 1922, the year of Northern Ireland's foundation, to 1995.
Virtually all testimony so far has come from people living in Britain or Ireland. But investigators believe many hundreds of former residents have made their homes in the United States, Canada and Australia and want to hear their stories. They particularly suspect Western Australia could be a venue for much testimony, because scores of boys and girls in Northern Ireland state care were resettled there while they were still children.
The lead investigator, Sir Anthony Hart, said his fact-finding team was willing to travel overseas to collect testimony or cover witnesses' travel expenses to come to Belfast.
Hart said the probe would respect witnesses' right to privacy and would offer both public and closed-door options for telling their stories.
“We recognize that, for many potential witnesses, reliving their experiences will be very painful and traumatic,” said Hart, a retired Northern Ireland judge. “Indeed, some will not have told their closest relatives or friends about the abuse they suffered. If they now live overseas, the thought of contacting the inquiry may seem especially daunting.”
Northern Ireland's government authorized the investigation following similar work in the neighboring Republic of Ireland, where four state-funded investigations from 2004 to 2011 concluded that the Catholic Church engaged in systematic cover-up of child abuse by its officials for decades.
Those reports documented how tens of thousands of children suffered sexual, physical and psychological harm at the hands of parish priests and in Catholic-run residential schools, orphanages and workhouses. They documented how government and police authorities repeatedly deferred to Catholic authority, giving that church effective impunity from prosecution for child rape until the first cases became public in the mid-1990s. A state-funded compensation board over the past decade has provided payments to 14,400 abuse claimants totaling more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
But in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom with complex British Protestant and Irish Catholic divisions, no one church was given primary responsibility for care of the young. The investigators say complaints already received cover 19 facilities run by the government, 13 by Catholic religious orders, and three by Protestant churches or secular organizations.
Australia also has launched its own fact-finding hearings this year into the extent of rape and molestation in all state-regulated facilities for children, including schools, nurseries and sports clubs. Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse expects to gather oral testimony from around 5,000 witnesses by 2016.
Northern Ireland probe, www.hiainquiry.org
Australian probe, www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au
BACA fights child abuse
by Rachel Petersen
McALESTER — Local members of Biker's Against Child Abuse are working to fight child abuse. Sandy “Ninny” Hamilton, public relations coordinator for the Southeast Oklahoma Chapter of BACA, said, “We want to raise awareness and let people know we're still here and they can come to us for help in the fight against child abuse.”
BACA is a nonprofit organization that focuses on abused children up to their 18th birthday, Hamilton said. “To become a member, you must have access to a motorcycle and be dedicated to helping kids,” she said. Before being considered for membership, BACA requires people to ride with the local chapter for one year, pass a background check and have an 80 percent participation rate.
The Southeast Oklahoma Chapter, based out of McAlester, has been around for 11 years, Hamilton said. BACA has empowered numerous children, she said. “The abuse is here and it happens more often then most people realize,” Hamilton said. “Our mission is to stop abuse.”
“If you are a parent or guardian of a child (who) may benefit from BACA,” Hamilton said, “call our Southeast Oklahoma Chapter's hotline at 918-297-5100.” The toll free Oklahoma state help line is 877-422-2286.
When coaching Lolita becomes child abuse
by Suzanne Fields
Lolita was 12 years old when Humbert Humbert first saw her with an obsession that could fill a book. "Lolita" became a best-selling novel about a perverted older man, a pubescent girl and a tragic tale of sexual abuse, dissected with the insights and illuminations of a brilliant writer.
But Lolita was a novel.
When such things happen in real life, we try to align the law with the act. The sports world was roiled by a similar scandal at Penn State. A coach was sent to prison for abusing boys, and one of the legends of college football was tarnished, probably permanently.
Dealing with such scandals isn't easy. It took Kelley Davies Currin, once one of the top swimmers in her sport, almost 30 years to summon the courage to tell authorities how Richard J. Curl, her coach on a suburban Washington team and a trainer of gold-medal athletes, began a sexual relationship with her when she was 13 years old. He was 33. The relationship continued for four years, until she was about to leave home for college. That was in 1987.
The lurid facts cover a multitude of sins, perpetuated by a man who had the responsibility of a child in his care. His task was to help a young woman reach for her dream, to become an Olympic competitor. Unlike the fictional Humbert Humbert, Curl was a real-life hero loved by the child he abused.
"I loved, trusted and cherished him as much as a young girl's heart and mind could," says Kelley, now 43, who has finally spoken out in newspapers and radio interviews, and in a Maryland courtroom.
As a girl, Currin pursued her dream at the Curl-Burke Swim Club in Washington, one of the largest amateur clubs in the nation, where many Olympic athletes have trained. The coach took her under his wing, and she says, "He had my ticket to being the swimmer that I wanted to be."
She enjoyed the attention he gave her in front of her teammates, the public hugs and kisses on the cheek that made the other girls watch with envy. But this didn't arouse her suspicions that it would lead to anything more. Suddenly, one of the hallway kisses turned passionate; he called her at home that night to tell her he was on "cloud nine." After the call, she "would have done anything he told me to do." And so she did.
He took her out for lobster at a chic Washington club and stayed overnight at her house -- he was often a guest of her parents -- and summoned her into his bed in the middle of the night. She learned "what it meant to be sexual with a man." Frequent sexual adventures followed, at her house, in his private school office, in hotel rooms when they were on the road to swimming meets.
When Michel Martin of NPR asked her whether she thought it was "right," she said it wouldn't have been "right" with boys. "But as a child, when you love somebody, when someone is so connected to you ... as in the coach-athlete relationship ... there were no boundaries. I just trusted him. ... If I ever had a problem at school, he would fix it. If I were late for this or that or the other, he would write a note. In a sense, he was God to me."
Her parents weren't suspicious, and she wasn't about to tell them. She thrived on the attention and power she enjoyed in competition with the other girls on the team. She didn't want it to end.
Then Mom and Dad read her diary. Soon, the coach once more sat at their kitchen table, and they confronted him. He confessed, but they didn't press criminal charges. The sexual relationship was over, and the coach paid them $150,000 and signed a letter testifying to what he did. Nobody seemed to worry that he would continue as a predator.
Kelley Currin says her parents were "naive" and rationalized the money. The media attention exposing him might harm their daughter, and the money would pay for therapy.
Last week, Curl pleaded guilty to child sex abuse in a Maryland courtroom and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Now Kelley, married and the mother of four, wants others to pay. She wants further scrutiny of USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming. Congress created it, she says, and Congress should look more closely at the "culture that protects predator coaches." There have been several lawsuits against coaches and their behavior toward underage female swimmers.
Parents could pay closer attention, too. And the rest of us could look to the idolatry of sports heroes. It's not healthy.
Law will help prosecute those who sexually abuse children
BENNINGTON — Under new legislation, which Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law in Bennington on Monday, the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes committed against children has been extended so the crimes can be reported up to 40 years after they were committed. Shumlin, who signed the bill at the Bennington County Child Advocacy Center, thanked the legislators and prosecutors who “saw a wrong and chose to right it.”
“We all know that with a crime like this … it often takes years and years and years and years before the victim is able or ready or willing to talk about their trauma and ensure that justice is served,” he said.
Among those who attended the signing of the bill were Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage, Bennington County House representatives Ann Mook, Mary Morrissey and Alice Miller and Detective Anthony Silvestro of the Bennington Police Department, who is assigned to investigate sexual crimes in Bennington.
However, Shumlin said special thanks should go to Christina Rainville, Bennington County's chief deputy state's attorney, and Sen. Richard “Dick” Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Rainville had suggested the law to Sears and advocated strongly for its passage.
As an example of the importance of the change in the law, Rainville pointed to the prosecution of Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky. Charges brought against Sandusky were based on the accusations of eight men who came forward years after the abuse. Rainville pointed out that under Vermont law, as it existed until Monday, the state would have been able to prosecute Sandusky on only two of those eight cases.
Sears, who represents Bennington County in the Vermont Senate, said he introduced the legislation after realizing that the previous law “didn't make sense.” The law that was changed Monday said charges must be brought either within 10 years after the sexual abuse or before the victim turns 24.
Rainville said she thought the new law was “phenomenal.”
“We're now going to be able to better protect today's children because when we have someone who committed crimes 40 years ago, still having contact with children today, we can't protect today's children. This eliminates that huge problem with our law,” she said.
Rainville said that reporting a sexual assault that happened in childhood may be even more difficult than the general public believes.
“Studies show that 90 percent of children who are sexually assaulted develop post-traumatic stress disorder which is the same thing our soldiers get. It's a completely disabling neurological condition. For most of them, they're spending most of their energy not to be remembering (the assault), not to be triggering and trying to return their life to normalcy,” she said.
Marthage added that because of the efforts to repress those memories, family members frequently don't know that the child was sexually abused.
Both Rainville and Marthage said victims sometimes need to become adults before they can disclose the abuse because they are intimidated by their older attacker.
Others don't disclose until their own children reach a certain age and the protective instincts of a parent toward his or her children kick in or until the victim thinks another loved one, like a sibling, is being abused by the same person.
The bill has changed as it passed through the Legislature. In the Senate, the crime could be reported anytime until the victim reached the age of 40.
When the House Judiciary Committee took up the bill, they removed the statute of limitations entirely. The bill passed with the compromise that the crime must be reported within 40 years of the time it occurred.
Rainville said that people should note that the law is not retroactive so the state still wouldn't be able to prosecute an unreported sexual assault on a child that had taken place more than 10 years ago if the victim is older than 24.
Child awarded $9k after sexual abuse by child
A 5-year-old girl has been awarded $9,000 and a right to ongoing counselling after she was sexually abused by another child at a Victorian day care centre.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) heard that between the ages of two and four the girl was bullied by another girl only several months older than her.
The girl was reportedly hit, kicked and strangled and forced to undress before being sexually abused with foreign objects and licked by the older girl.
It is reported that the older girl threatened to kill the victim if she told anyone of the abuse.
Both children will turn five this year.
The victim's mother reported the abuse to police, but it was not initially investigated because of the children's age.
The tribunal, sitting last month, heard the victim needs counselling for anxiety and she now fears going to day care.
Her mother testified that she wasn't sleeping and had difficulties learning and concentrating.
A child psychologist classified the victim's anxiety as the most severe distress seen in children.
VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick awarded the victim a $9000 payment after ruling that she had suffered a "significant adverse effect" from the abuse.
Te victim was also granted 15 counselling sessions, at the cost of $2220. Further counselling sessions can be requested if required by the victim as she grows older.
"It's (Just) the Way That I Love You," Part Two
by Wyatt O'Brian Evans -- Journalist, instructor, motivational speaker and author, 'Nothing Can Tear Us Apart -- Uncensored'
In Part One of "It's (Just) the Way that I Love You," I gave you an overview, a "broad brush" of Intimate Partner Violence/Abuse (IPV/A), defining and explaining this horrific, demoralizing, and potentially life-threatening behavior. Now, I'm drilling down on it -- focusing on the abuser's behavior.
So, can an abuser really control his or her behavior? Without a doubt! Actually, they do it all the time. But before going further, let's recap what IPV/A is all about.
According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, IPV/A is the "pattern of behavior used to establish power and control through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence, when on e person believes that they are entitled to control another." The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines it as "a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship."
Statistics show that this form of abuse occurs with similar frequency as in heterosexual relationships. Additionally, new research suggests that a greater percentage of LGBTI individuals are living in fear of an abusive partner than previously thought. And each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay men are battered, and about one in four LGBTI relationships/partnerships are abusive in some way.
According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, "Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn't 'play fair.' Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and
intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her 'thumb.' Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you."
Segal and Smith add, "The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it's coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe."
So again, can abusers really control their behavior? Segal and Smith state:
|· Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don't insult, threaten, or physically attack everyone who gives them grief. Typically, they save their abuse for those they claim to love.
· Abusers carefully choose when and where to strike. They control themselves until no one else is present to witness their abusive behavior.
· Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are NOT out of control. When it's to their advantage, they're able to immediately end their abusive behavior (for example, when the police arrive or the boss calls).
· Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won't be seen. Instead of acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their blows where the bruises and marks won't show.
Segal and Smith write that abusers employ a variety of methods and schemes to manipulate you and wield their power. These include:
|· Dominance. Abusers need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you, tell you what to do--and expect you to obey without question. He/she may treat you like a child, slave, or even as a possession.
· Humiliation. Abusers will do everything to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to eat away at your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
· Isolation. In efforts to increase your dependence, abusers will cut you off from the outside world by stopping you from seeing family and friends, or even preventing you from going to work or school.
· Intimidation. Your abuser may use a number of tactics designed to frighten you into submission. These include making threatening looks/gestures, displaying weapons, destroying property, etc. The clear message is that if you do not do as you're told, there will be violent consequences.
· Threats. Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving, or to scare them into dropping criminal charges. Such tactics include threatening to hurt/kill you, family members, and even pets.
Part three of "It's (Just) the Way that I Love You," my next column, will detail the complete cycle of IPV/A. If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901). And always remember: it ain't (just) the way that he/she loves you.
Wyatt O'Brian Evans is a journalist, instructor, motivational speaker and author of "Nothing Can Tear Us Apart--Uncensored" (gay/ethnic), and "RAGE!", its upcoming sequel. You may visit Wyatt at: www.wyattobrianevans.com, and follow him on Face Book at the Wyatt OBrian Evans Official Fan Club.
Area Residents Learn How To Prevent, Respond To Child Abuse
by Liz Skoczylas
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old.
That statistic is the reason six people gathered at the Child Advocacy Program's sexual abuse training Wednesday. For two-and-a-half hours, the adults joined CAP Instructor Jana McDermott in learning how to prevent child abuse.
"Given the statistics, it's very likely that you know someone or have been connected to someone who has experienced child sexual abuse," McDermott said.
Participants watched a three-part Darkness to Light video entitled "Stewards of Children: A Prevention and Response Program for Adults." At the end of each portion, they consulted an interactive workbook, which followed the video and presented questions encouraging the adults to think about their current situation. Many of the adults present had children or worked closely with children.
The video had testimonies from several former child sexual abuse survivors, as well as specialists in the field. The survivors had been molested by a priest, stepfather, father, teacher and other family members.
As child sexual abuse is a difficult topic, McDermott had provided Play-Doh to participants as a way to keep their stress levels low.
"I want you to be aware of yourself and your stress level," McDermott said. "I know from watching people that their eyes get squinty when they get stressed, so I want to give everyone permission to breathe and sigh. Take a deep breath, and let it out. That's why we provide the Play-Doh, for something for your hands to do as well."
The film discussed, and the group emphasized, four tools to protecting children, including consciousness, choice, personal power and relentless compassion. Additionally, the film and group discussed the seven steps to protecting children, including learning the facts and understanding risks; minimizing opportunities; talking about it; staying alert; making a plan; acting on suspicions; and getting involved.
The program was hosted by Chautauqua County Legislator Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown. Cornell said during the training she was surprised to realize she is not only responsible for her own children, but for looking out for every child.
"To hear that it is my responsibility that the boy down the street is safe - even though I don't know him, I don't know his parents - it is important that all children are everyone's children," Cornell said.
According to McDermott, Chautauqua County alone spends $1 million a year for the direct cost of child sexual abuse.
"When you look at CPS, when you look at family court, mental health cost, suicide, all of those things, we end up paying for that as a community," McDermott said. "The consequences are huge."
Additionally, she said Chautauqua County ranks in the top 25 percent of rural counties for reported cases of child sexual abuse, with the highest number of reported cases coming from Jamestown.
"If we look at our county, and we look at the population under (age) 18, there is somewhere around 29,000," McDermott said. "Even a conservative estimate - not one in four or one in six - just take one in 10. That's 2,900 kids. That would fill 41 school buses. Imagine that on Main Street, lined up. That's how many kids who will be sexually abused in Chautauqua County before their 18th birthday."
The next Stewards of Children sexual abuse training will be held Thursday from 6-8:30 p.m. A training will also be held June 18 from 8:30-11 a.m. Both trainings will be held at the CAP Office, 405 W. Third St. in Jamestown. The cost is $10, with scholarships available. Additional information about the trainings can be obtained by calling 338-9844 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Child abuse doesn't stop when school's out
Abused children are in additional danger during summer breaks from school and it's up to friends, neighbors, and relatives to keep their eyes and ears open to rescue kids from danger.
When school's in session, teachers, and other professionals, see children regularly. They can spot a problem, hopefully, early on.
But during the summer these professionals lose contact with the child who may keep quiet and continue to be abused out of fear that his or her plight might be discovered and face retribution from their abuser.
Reports of abuse usually fall during the summer, but experts with Prevent Child Abuse America, a national advocacy group based in Chicago, emphasize the abuse doesn't stop.
That means the burden falls to everyone in our community. If you suspect something is happening, report it, experts emphasize.
Child abuse suspicions can be reported 24 hours a day to the child abuse hotline, (800) 25-ABUSE. Trained staff members answer all hotline calls and assess the level of abuse or neglect
Locally, the number for Washington County Children Services is 373-3485.
Here are some signs of child abuse, from Prevent Child Abuse America:
- Unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones or black eyes.
- Seems frightened of parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home.
- Shrinks at the approach of adults.
- Has poor relationship with other children.
- Verbally abuses other children.
- Exhibits irrational fears.
- Is hyper vigilant.
- Daydreams excessively.
- Has eating problems.
- Exhibits extremely low self-esteem.
- Constantly over-active.
Each of us may hold the key, especially this summer.
China child sex abuse: Sleep with me, not kids say outraged citizens
Suddenly all kinds of people in China are offering to sleep with the headmaster. The unusual outpouring is in response to a recent spate of sex abuse cases, including that of a school principal who spent the night in a hotel room with four underage girls. Artists, activists, university students and police officers are photographing themselves, some nude and provocatively posed, some angry and menacing with the message: "Principal, get a room with me. Leave the young students alone.'' The online campaign mixing performance art, satire and outrage has tapped into public anger over sexual abuse against children. It's a problem in China partly because of lack of sex education and partly because Chinese society has become unmoored from traditional strictures after decades of rapid economic change and social change.
Attitudes toward sex have become more lax, especially noticeable among powerful officials, often found to be cavorting with very young mistresses and prostitutes. Children are prone to the abuse because they have not been adequately prepared, and can be easily intimidated by teachers and other authority figures.
"Schools and parents have failed to instill in our children the sense of rights and to teach them how to protect themselves,'' Xiong Bingqi, a deputy director of the Beijing-based education think tank 21st Century Education Research Institute. "If the children know about their rights, know they can call police if they are sexually assaulted and have the assaulters punished, it will sure deter the criminals.''
Recent sex abuse cases against children that have become public should be a wake-up call for Chinese families and schools, Xiong said, noting they may only be a tip of the iceberg.
"The students may not know they have been sexually abused,'' Xiong said. "Or if they know, they don't tell their parents. Sometimes, schools settle those cases without telling the police.''
In a recent survey by Beijing News, 37.4 percent of the respondents said they do not know how to teach their children to protect themselves from sexual abuse.
The national debate on the problem began in early May, when a primary school principal was caught spending a night with four schoolgirls all under the age of 14 in a hotel room in southern China's Hainan province. Chen Zaipeng, the principal, has been fired and charged with rape.
Members of the public reacted with astonishment to the high-profile case, and have been reading with fury as at least seven more cases of sexual abuse by school teachers or employees against young girls have come to light over the past three weeks from different parts of China. Some victims were as young as 8.
In the past several years, there have been occasional reports of government officials hiring young girls as prostitutes. The cases are typically handled as prostitution, even when the girls are underage. Critics have demanded such culprits be prosecuted with the crime of raping children, which can carry harsher punishments.
China's Supreme People's Court this week vowed to crack down on crimes against children. The Education Ministry has demanded that sex criminals must be "firmly'' cleaned out from the teaching staff and that those who help with cover-ups must be prosecuted. And the All-China Women's Federation has called for severe punishment in all crimes against girls.
The public, however, has found an unconventional way of speaking up. Late last month, Ye Haiyan, a feminist and advocate for the rights of sex workers, went to Chen's former elementary school to lend support to his alleged victims. There, she held up a large piece of paper offering to "get a room'' with Chen and telling him to leave the students alone, and gave a contact number, which was for China's rights hotline for women and children.
Her offer prompted many others to follow suit. One is Beijing-based poet Wang Zang, who last Wednesday uploaded naked photos of himself with his back scribbled with the offer. In one photo, Wang holds a children's toy in one hand and a liquor bottle in the other.
"I am protesting the frequent criminal acts of school sex abuse against young students,'' Wang said. "And I also want to raise the public awareness in protecting the girls.''
Wang said he believes the recent cases are only a small part of the problem because many cases have been covered up by powerful people. Corruption in the education system has put unfit teachers in classrooms, and China's laws have failed to adequately prosecute sexual crimes against children, Wang said.
Sociologist Li Yinhe sees the offers as a public statement. "I think it's a way for people to express their anger,'' she said. "It is also a kind of black humor.''
An editorial in Beijing News said the ridicule has a serious message: "In each and every `get a room with me' call, you should hear the public anxiety of saving our children.''
Florida governor signs laws to help sex trafficking victims
by JOSH BOATWRIGHT
ST. PETERSBURG - Those caught up in sex trafficking now have a path to be recognized as victims in the eyes of the law rather than criminals.
Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott signed two bills aimed at helping victims clear their names after arrests for crimes such as prostitution or drug use tied to their forced servitude.
Scott called trafficking a “modern-day slavery” that's becoming pervasive across the state at an event at the Drug Free America Foundation offices in St. Petersburg.
The problem has been highlighted in Pinellas County this past month as investigators made arrests in several sex trafficking cases.
State Rep. Ross Spano, a sponsor of the legislation, said children and teens forced into prostitution often end up with a criminal record that bars them from jobs or even volunteering with organizations that help other victims.
“That follows them around their entire life,” he said. “What could be more horrible than that, to be victimized once but to have that victimization continue to follow you the rest of your life?”
The new law allows victims to petition the court to have their criminal history vacated, or completely erased, if they can show they were forced into sex trafficking.
A second bill makes victims' records confidential and exempt from public records.
Many victims arrested on prostitution charges may fall back into trafficking because their criminal history prevents them from being employed, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The sheriff's office plans to add more resources in the near future to investigate trafficking cases, which have been steadily growing.
This month, authorities uncovered a human trafficking ring in the Tampa Bay area involving 16 women who were hooked on drugs, beaten and forced into prostitution.
In a separate case, Pinellas deputies arrested three St. Petersburg residents on charges of arranging sexual encounters with underage girls up and down the 34th Street corridor.
“It's very concerning to me especially with these young girls – 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds who are being forced into prostitution,” said Gualtieri, who is part of the multiagency Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking.
The governor also highlighted legislation in recent years that's created harsher penalties for traffickers and the state's financial support of several safe houses for victims.
Several groups have formed across the Tampa Bay area and in neighboring Manatee County to create homes for local victims.
Laurie Swink, the founder of Selah Freedom in Manatee, says the area is known for its strip clubs and large convention centers, making it a hub for people seeking sex.
She works with survivors, some of whom have hundreds of arrests on their records and little opportunity.
The new law will help some of them, although many of them have been moved from state to state and their criminal history outside of Florida will remain unless similar legislation is passed nationwide, she said.
“This is a beginning. It's a starting point,” she said.
One trafficking survivor, Telisia Espinosa, said she hasn't been able to officially volunteer with her church in Tampa to help others because of her criminal record.
“I can't even volunteer right now with them,” she said.
“That's an injustice because to really tell you the truth they need survivors to be able to help these victims.”
Survivor of Sex Trafficking Speaks Out as Battle Against Crimes Continues
Midkiff is among the 1 percent of the 300,000 U.S. victims of sex trafficking who are rescued
(photos on site)
by Hetty Chang
An attention-grabbing mural on the side of an auto body repair shop on the edge of downtown Los Angeles has an surprising message: it depicts a young woman and states "I am a survivor of sex trafficking."
The mural, put up in April on the corner of Sixth Street and Ceres Avenue, shows the face of 28-year old Jessica Midkiff, who spoke with NBC4 about being forced into the sex trade as a child.
"At 11, I worked at home, out of the house," she said. "Little by little, guys started coming around. Older guys wanting sexual favors in exchange for food, clothes and money."
What followed was more than a decade of life as a prostitute, forced to perform sex acts by a pimp, who used sexual assault, manipulation and threats to Midkiff and her family to make her obey. Like many victims, Midkiff, pictured below at right, said her pimp led her to believe the two could be in a relationship.
"He crept up anytime he could," she said. "Told me he could treat me better, take care of me, we could be a family and he would marry me one day."
What he did instead, according to Midkiff, was force her into prostitution. She describes one night, when she was kidnapped.
"A few guys kinda rushed up on the car, by gunpoint, pulled me out of the car, blindfolded me and laid me down in the back," she said. "Then I experienced a lot of different traumas, abuse. I wasn't able to get away from them for at least a month, almost."
Midkiff's chance to escape came as police arrived at her trafficker's door.
"My pimp at the time sodomized a young lady and did lots of other things to her," she said. "She was able to get away and get to the police."
She now works as a mentor for some of the nonprofit groups that are helping her recover.
Midkiff is among the 1 percent of the 300,000 victims of sex trafficking in the United States who are actually rescued. That means 99 percent are never found.
Last week, two Long Beach men were arrested on suspicion of forcing a teenage girl and two women into prostitution. Police believe there may be more victims.
The child sex trade is a specific target of a Los Angeles County's program focused on such crimes. The county's Probation Department's Domestic Sex Trafficking Unit is the only such unit in the world targeting the trafficking and sexual exploitation of youth.
"I always thought human trafficking had everything to do with things that happen overseas, not things that happen in this country," said Michelle Guymon, the county's sex trafficking unit project manager.
Guymon said she looked at young girls like Midkiff in probation in a different light -- before she understood what sex trafficking was.
"For me, it was really personal when I found out that the girls I kind of had judgement about -- teenage prostitutes -- were actually victims of sexual exploitation," she said. "How did we miss that for so long?"
The unit sees victims as young as 10 years old.
"I think what really changed it for me, was that first 12-year-old and that first 10-year-old," Guymon said.
The cases are difficult to enforce and prosecute without the testimony of the victims, according to Guymon.
"The only way that you have an arrest or case is if a young girl testifies," she said. "And most likely they're not going to do that because they're afraid."
Guymon became emotional when we asked her about the road to recovery for girls who are rescued.
"They're amazing resilient young women," she said, crying. "They've really risen above some really tough odds."
Lawmakers approve tougher human, sex trafficking penalties
HARTFORD — A bill designed to strengthen penalties for human and sex trafficking received unanimous support in the legislature this week.
“We took a historic step and passed strong legislation to protect vulnerable, innocent women from sex trafficking by removing the financial gain aspect for those who perpetrate such horrendous crimes whether it's for labor purposes or the sex industry,” state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) said in a press release. “This legislation strengthens and expands the offenses of human and sex trafficking and prostitution, hits criminals in the wallet where they fear it most, and sets a precedent for the rest of the country to follow.”
H.B. 5666, An Act Concerning the Forfeiture of Moneys and Property Derived from Human or Sex Trafficking, is a combination of three separate bills.
The bill closes a loophole in current law that establishes a civil forfeiture procedure to seize tainted funds and property from sexual offenses. The law currently does not include prostitution and promoting prostitution on the list of offenses that would trigger a forfeiture of funds or property.
The legislation also increases criminal penalties for anyone hiring anyone under the age of 18 for sex, makes it easier to convict the perpetrators of human trafficking and allows the courts to vacate criminal convictions involving victims of trafficking, according to a press release issued by the office of state Rep. Theresa Conroy (D-105).
“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” Conroy said in the release. “Every year women and children are forced into the meat grinder that is the sex industry. This legislation targets those that profit from prostitution and hits them in the wallet.”
According to the state's Permanent Commission of the Status of Women, the state identified 100 human trafficking victims between 2008 and 2011 — 82 were children and all were female.
During the committee process all 55 of Connecticut's female legislators co-sponsored the initiatives passed in the bill.
“Once again Connecticut chose to stand up to criminals and protect the vulnerable and innocent victims in our society by passing important legislation and I am honored to be a part of it,” Rebimbas said. “I want to make it clear that the sex trafficking business in Connecticut is closed for good.”