Protect New York Children with Erin's Law
by Jerome Elam
DALLAS , Texas, June 29, 2013 — Twenty-eight year old Erin Merryn is in the fight of her life to protect the children of New York State from predators. She is armed with an unmatched courage and bottomless compassion in her effort to pass Erin's Law which provides child abuse education for grades pre-K thru eighth grade.
A survivor of child abuse, Erin Merryn battled the trauma of being molested by a friend's uncle and her cousin and fought back against the depression and pain of having her innocence stolen and hopes and dreams vandalized.
Trapped in a prison of silence, she searched for the strength to speak of her ordeal and clung to the hope of one day emerging from the darkness that had eclipsed all hope from her life. She sought solace in the pages of a small journal where she wrote of her daily struggle and prayed for it all to be just a bad dream and to wake up and be able to smile again.
Her journey would take a dramatic turn when Erin's sister told her the same relative was also molesting her. The need to protect her sister overcame the intense fear that had kept her silent for so long, and Erin confided in her parents the dark secret she had carried inside her for so long.
The friend's uncle and her cousin were arrested and brought to justice but Erin's fight to save her sister and reclaim her innocence turned into something bigger. The journal that had been Erin's only friend and confidant for so many years became the book, “Stolen Innocence,” published in 2005, and within its pages Erin shared her darkest hours and greatest triumphs in her struggle against the trauma of her abuse.
The publication of her first book was only a starting point for Erin Merryn as she began her new quest to protect all children from the stealth predators who seek out and entrap the innocent.
In 2010 Erin helped to create “Erin's law,” which educates children in grades pre-K through eighth grades about child abuse. She has traveled across the country promoting Erin's Law, and through her tireless efforts, seven states have now passed it.
This year, Glamour magazine voted Erin Merryn their woman of the year for her unrelenting advocacy on behalf of victims of child abuse.
New York State has previously failed to pass Erin's law and the battle this year has been stalled in the New York State Assembly. It has already cleared the New York State Senate by an overwhelming majority. However Erin's law has seen opposition in the State Assembly, which delayed a vote on Erin's law until the next Legislative session in January of 2014. Erin's law is critical to the protection of the children of New York State and while the bill to pass Erin's Law lies dormant the children of New York State lay vulnerable to predators.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reports there are currently 500,000-registered sex offenders in the United States and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. These are just the ones that we know about and Jerry Sandusky has taught us just how difficult these monsters are to spot as they camouflage themselves in a cloak of respect that society does not question nor look beyond. If we educate and empower children and parents with Erin's law on a national level we can take the first step to ending child abuse in our lifetime.
In 2010 the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment reported 79,668 children were victims of abuse or neglect in the State of New York, and 114 children died as the result of abuse. These numbers are misleading because one report could involve several children who were abused. They also indicate a 1.6% increase in reports of child abuse and a 4.4% increase in the number of deaths from child abuse. Of the children who died as a result of abuse almost 50% were younger than one year old, and 80% of the children who died were less than four years old. This is a tragedy that should haunt everyone's conscience.
Jerry Sandusky has shown us how vulnerable our children are and that predators are masters of deception, and the burden of reporting is placed in the arms of a traumatized young child victimized by an adult. The research tells us that every child molested by a pedophile has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed. Nationally one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child abuse and there are a total of forty-two million survivors of child abuse.
The Centers for Disease Control studied the lifetime costs for the victims of child abuse reported in one year and that cost is 124 billion dollars. That cost includes treatment and care for the increased rates of drug addiction, alcoholism and depression that victims of child abuse suffer. It also includes the cost of the increased rates of conviction for crime and the cost of the suicides that result from the trauma of child abuse.
Erin's law is the first line of defense in saving the innocence of the children of New York State and across America. It will empower parents and children with the knowledge they need in the fight against pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky. The costs of child abuse run deeper than the pockets of any state and of any country.
I know from personal experience.
When I was just five years old, my stepfather began to molest me sexually and that abuse lasted for nine years. I desperately tried to tell adults that I thought would save me from the hell I was trapped in, but like many victims, I was not believed. My mother was an alcoholic, and in her constant haze that kept her distant from reality, she never answered my pleas for help. She spent her life inside a bottle as I was being molested, sometimes in the next room. I tried to run so many times and succeeded for months at a time before the police handed me back into the arms of my abuser.
I have dedicated myself to fighting for those children who have no voice, and my one goal in this life is to save as many children as I can from the hell I endured.
Erin Merryn and I share that passion to protect the children of New York State and to continue that fight until all fifty states have passed Erin's law. Erin and I need your help to protect the children of New York State and to let the New York State Assembly know that there is nothing more important than the innocence of our children. They are our greatest treasure and we should protect them with every means at our disposal and stop the next Jerry Sandusky before it is too late.
You can contact New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at 212-312-1420 or 518-455-3791 and ask him to vote yes on Erin's law. You can also contact the other Assembly members by phone or e-mail by clicking on their name on the following list ( http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ ). Please let them know that no child should be left unprotected in New York State!
Brave kids take stand against abuse
by JANET FIFE-YEOMANS
CHILDREN as young as four are giving graphic evidence in the state's courts against the men who abuse them.
Detectives with the Child Abuse Squad are now getting more than 12 new investigations a day, most of them into the sexual abuse of children younger than 16.
Squad commander Detective Superintendent Maria Rustja yesterday labelled paedophiles "evil" and said she looked at them with disgust.
"They are the most calculating offenders," she said.
She praised the bravery of the children who, despite sweeping changes to the justice system to make it easier for them to tell their stories, still have to give evidence if their abuser pleads not guilty.
"They have more courage than a lot of adults to my mind," she said. "It takes a lot of courage to tell strangers about the most traumatic and intimate events that have happened in their life."
The government last week pledged another 30 officers to beef up the 141-strong squad as the number of reported cases has grown over the past five years to about 4500 a year.
One of the squad's high-profile investigations was revealed in the District Court earlier this month when Rodney Bauerhuit, 46, pleaded guilty to the repeated rape of his stepdaughter from the age of six. He was sentenced by Judge Paul Conlon to one of the state's toughest sentences for child sexual assault with a minimum of 12 years with a maximum term of 17 years.
The Daily Telegraph is campaigning for mandatory minimum sentences for child sex abusers.
Supt Rustja said that she could not comment on the length of sentences or The Daily Telegraph's campaign but did say that the sexual abuse of children knew no social boundaries - with victims from all backgrounds.
While the children's interviews are recorded so if the case gets to court, that recording can be used as their evidence, they are still required to be cross-examined by the defence.
This is done by CCTV with the child in a room separate to the courtroom so they do not have to face the offender.
"It's still traumatic for them but it is a lot less traumatic than it was," Supt Rustja said.
"But it is a really damaging offence and you know that whatever has happened to that child will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
"You can get some very competent young children."
She appealed to the community to help stop the sexual abuse of children.
"I certainly encourage people to report if they see something that is not quite right or they see children with marks on them or changes in their demeanour."
Man gets two years in prison for child abuse
by ED TRELEVEN
A DeForest man who pleaded guilty to child abuse after causing skull and rib fractures to his 6-week-old son was sentenced Friday to two years in prison.
Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese said what James Letcher Sr., 24, did was so serious and the injuries to the boy so significant that she could not place him on probation as asked by his lawyer, Assistant State Public Defender Dennis Burke.
“I just feel like this offense is too serious for me to do probation and no jail,” she said.
The sentence was less than half of that sought by Assistant District Attorney Thomas Fallon, who asked that Letcher serve a five- to six-year prison sentence.
Letcher, a recovering heroin addict, told investigators he was watching television and working around the house on Sept. 4 when he became angry that the boy was crying and picked him up “the wrong way,” a criminal complaint states.
The boy suffered eight fractured ribs, a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain and had seizures.
“I know what I did to my son was horrible, and I know there is no excuse for what I did,” Letcher told Genovese. But he said the incident made him focus on becoming a better person, a better parent and to remain drug-free.
“I really do think that, as odd as it sounds, this incident has saved my life, and that I wouldn't be where I am unless it had happened,” he said.
The boy has recovered from his injuries.
British man sentenced to 5 years for enticing 2 Louisiana girls to commit sex acts
LONDON – A 46 year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to five years in a United Kingdom prison for numerous sexual offenses against children, following a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Devon and Cornwall Police in the United Kingdom and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana.
Mark Noyes, of Beaworthy, United Kingdom, was sentenced to five years in prison and eight years' probation at Exeter Crown Court following his March 27 conviction for six counts of making indecent images of children, two counts of possession of indecent images of children and three counts of enticing a child to engage in sexual activity.
Noyes had deliberately accessed a social networking site from his home in order to befriend and groom two vulnerable 12-year-old American girls.
"This case shows that, wherever victims are, the police will actively collaborate with law enforcement anywhere in the world to ensure that offenders are brought to justice," said HSI London Attaché Matthew J. Etre. "Thanks to the excellent collaboration between Devon and Cornwall Police, HSI and law enforcement officers in the United States, justice has been served. Targeting individuals who sexually exploit and prey on our children is one of HSI's top priorities. Anyone who thinks that they can get away with the criminal exploitation of children is mistaken."
"Mark Noyes was a manipulator who persuaded young girls to carry out acts for his own sexual gratification," said Detective Constable Glenn Boniface from Devon and Cornwall Police's Public Protection Unit. "The extent of his grooming can be seen by the fact that, throughout their contact with Noyes and indeed after his arrest, both of these girls truly believed that they were in a loving relationship with him. This case involved collaboration between us and various law enforcement agencies in the United States over a two-year period and entailed detailed investigation by all of the agencies involved. We would particularly like to thank Lieutenant Broussard from the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana, HSI and officers from the Devon Child Exploitation Team, who led the investigation."
The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Mesa man sentenced to more than 14 years on child pornography charges
PHOENIX – A Mesa man has been sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Lee David Shropshire, 35, was sentenced June 24 to 170 months in prison by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow. In addition to the prison term, Shropshire will be subject to lifetime supervised release. Shropshire pleaded guilty March 20 to one count of distribution of child pornography.
"Each time an image of child pornography is distributed, that child is victimized again," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. "As a result of HSI's collaboration with our law enforcement partners in Australia, and the investigative work of our agents here at home, this child predator can no longer victimize innocent children. He will spend many years behind bars."
In January 2010, the ICE Cyber Crimes Center received information from Australian authorities that an individual in Arizona was distributing pornography using a peer-to-peer website. HSI investigators subsequently identified the individual as Shropshire. In September 2010, HSI agents interviewed Shropshire, who admitted to having child pornography on his computer and distributing the images on the peer-to-peer website. Investigators discovered more than 10,000 images and approximately 636 video files containing child pornography on Shropshire's computer.
The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Karlen of the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona.
Chicago-area man sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing child pornography
CHICAGO — A man formerly of a Chicago suburb was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.
This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Brian Perron, 41, formerly of Wood Dale, Ill., pleaded guilty in April 2012 and admitted that he had sexually molested two children when he was babysitting when he was 19 years old. He faced the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence because of his previous 2006 state conviction for possessing child pornography. He was attempting to obtain additional child pornography depicting sexual abuse when he was arrested on the federal charges.
Perron, who has been in federal custody almost four years, was sentenced June 27 by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, to 121 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. He must serve at least 85 percent of his federal sentence before he is eligible for release. There is no parole in the federal prison system.
Perron was arrested in July 2009 after HSI agents executed a search warrant at his home and seized an external computer hard drive that contained 97 images and 21 videos depicting child pornography. The search and arrest stemmed from an HSI investigation of a commercial website that advertised and sold videos of children being forced to perform sexual acts with adults.
Perron "not only collected images and videos of child pornography, but he was attempting to purchase a membership to a child pornography library to obtain more material," the government argued in a sentencing memo.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony U. Iweagwu, Jr., Northern District of Illinois, prosecuted this case.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Legislators tackle demand for sex trade
by Jessie Balmert
Three years ago, Ohio had no law against selling a human being like a piece of cattle. Even now, a 13-year-old girl can be convicted as a prostitute, and human traffickers can advertise exotic, erotic massages online and in print.
Advocates say Ohio has come a long way since 78 Toledo sex slaves were found at a Harrisburg, Pa., truck stop in December 2005. But the state's laws against human trafficking still lag federal regulations and warranted only a “C” on the 2012 report card of a national organization combating human trafficking.
Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, hopes to tackle the demand for sex trafficking and improve Ohio's grade with legislation that stiffens penalties for people who buy sex, prohibits advertising child sex services and terminates parental rights for mothers and fathers trafficking their children. House Bill 130, which passed out the House of Representatives 98-0 Wednesday, also would make it easier to prosecute people who sell children and developmentally disabled individuals as sex slaves.
Fedor had never heard of human trafficking until the 2005 bust revealed 78 of the 151 victims and all but one of the 18 traffickers were from Toledo.
“We didn't see it. It's in our own backyard, but we didn't see it,” she said. “I had a sense that laws needed to be changed, because I always heard pimps have a stable of women, and they can just do whatever they want with them. It's a pretty brutal world.”
At the time, Ohio had no law against selling another human even though federal law banned the activity in 2000 — a fact that pimps and johns exploited in the Buckeye State. It took another five years before legislators criminalized human trafficking, becoming the 45th state to do so.
“It's taken a long time, and we're starting to crack the egg of boys will be boys, rite of passage. I heard those terminologies — from my colleagues,” Fedor said.
Part of educating legislators involved collecting data about the problem. In 2010, Celia Williamson, a social work professor at the University of Toledo, spearheaded an effort to count human trafficking victims — a difficult task because victims rarely report the offense.
The researcher's focus became young, female victims because most people are more sympathetic to their plight than adult women, men or boys, who also are victims of sex and labor trafficking, Williamson said, adding that selling the plight is critical to getting support.
“If I'm talking to city council, I have to talk to them about how they could save money along with saving lives, because they really just want to save money, but they'll take the press on saving lives,” she said.
Researchers found that at least 1,078 Ohio children were trafficked into the sex trade each year. The data was released in February 2010, and 10 months later, Ohio's first law against human trafficking was enacted.
With that law on the books, Fedor embarked upon the next task: protecting child human trafficking victims from being treated as prostitutes under Ohio law. That provision of House Bill 262 didn't make the final cut, but the law signed last year did increase penalties for traffickers and required law enforcement officers to complete training on identifying human trafficking.
Fedor's most recent proposed legislation, House Bill 130, also known as the End Demand Bill, would increase the penalty for soliciting sex from a minor or developmentally disabled individual — the charge typically imposed on johns — from a third-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, punishable by multiple years in a state prison.
It's more challenging to prosecute johns than pimps because johns are relatives, businessmen, lawyers and government employees, said EleSandra De Romano, a human trafficking survivor.
“They always want to place judgment on us, but what about your husbands? What about your man? What about your dad or brother? You know? They're the ones buying it,” De Romano said.
Rep. Bill Hayes, R-Pataskala, said no one offered testimony opposing the bill in the House judiciary committee, of which he is a member.
“The whole world is for this,” Hayes said. “It's run under the radar for so many years.”
Fedor said she's also optimistic about proposed federal legislation to improve communication between state and federal agencies. This month, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act, which would require law enforcement agencies and child welfare agencies to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when children are reported missing.
Although missing children are frequently susceptible to human trafficking, only 41 Ohio children were reported missing on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website. The Ohio Attorney General's Office listed 106 missing children, showing information isn't always shared across agencies.
The proposal also would recognize human trafficking as child abuse, which would open up child welfare services to victims.
Lauren Book: Kids, parents need protection from predators
The death of any child brings a terrible sadness. But the recent tragic murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in Jacksonville has riveted all of Florida and turned America's attention to the very vulnerability that predators rely upon to commit their heinous acts.
Last Friday evening, according to documented police reports, Cherish disappeared into the night, apparently kidnapped by sex offender Donald Smith.
By 11 o'clock the next morning, the little girl's body had been discovered and Smith was taken into custody.
Based on police accounts, Cherish and her mother were targeted by a sex offender whose tactics were predictable.
Predators often exploit a family's vulnerabilities: lack of transportation, childcare, money or a place to stay.
Predators also frequently present themselves as friendly, warm and helpful. Far too often, families fail to recognize these predatory “grooming” tactics until it is too late.
That's why our Lauren's Kids foundation works with experts, law enforcement and Florida's political leaders to champion vital policy changes and produce public education tools and programs about preventing, recognizing, responding to and punishing the sexual abuse of children.
While not all tragedies like Cherish's murder can be prevented, many can. We know that 95 percent of childhood sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness.
In Florida, we have found strong and encouraging bi-partisan support for facing and fighting the issue of sexual predators of children.
This is why I am so grateful to Gov. Rick Scott, members of the Florida Cabinet and the vast majority of the Florida Legislature for their individual and collective support of Lauren's Kids' mission to prevent child sexual abuse by educating children, parents and caretakers.
Gov. Scott stood by my side on the steps of the Capitol at the conclusion of my 1,500-mile statewide walk of hope this past April, to offer unwavering support of our cause.
The record reflects that Gov. Scott has approved legislation to better aid child victims, including laws that eliminate the statute of limitations for sex crimes committed against children under 16, strengthen testimonies of child victims in trials against their alleged abusers and put into effect the nation's most comprehensive abuse reporting law.
In addition to funding education and prevention efforts, the governor has also provided vital funding to the state's Network of Child Advocacy Centers and Rape Crisis Centers to help survivors heal.
Gov. Scott and his executive and legislative branch colleagues have responded pro-actively to studies showing that one in three girls and one in five boys will be victimized before age 18.
That's why Florida is a recognized pacesetter nationally in its bold stand against the epidemic of child sexual abuse.
Through the support of the elected leadership in state government, we have developed and distributed our “Safer, Smarter Kids” abuse prevention curriculum tools to kindergarten and VPK classrooms throughout Florida.
In addition, our foundation intends to use the funding approved by the 2013 Legislature to extend the reach of these critical educational materials and continue to train parents, educators and youth-serving organizations across the state on essential prevention practices.
With the ongoing support of Gov. Scott and our state leaders, the Lauren's Kids foundation will continue to work to bring life-saving information to children and families throughout the state of Florida.
To honor the memory of Cherish, we will build on the strong foundation that Florida has constructed to create a culture of protection that helps all of us to develop “safer, smarter” kids, families and communities.
Woman's tale of child sex abuse spawns discussion in Alaska
When Alaska Dispatch published an account  of alleged sexual abuse that led to two sisters killing themselves, reaction from readers was swift. On Facebook alone, a preview of the story  -- along with a photo of the sisters  when they were children -- reached more than 80,000 people as of Friday afternoon. And the comments ran the gamut, from expressing anger at the alleged perpetrator -- 69-year-old Bethel resident Peter Tony -- to admiration for his stepdaughter, who shared her account with a reporter.
Kimberley Hahn Bruesch, 48, of Ketchikan, wanted her story told publicly, in part, to "inspire at least one other person to come forward." She accuses Tony of sexually assaulting her and two sisters when they were kids in the 1970s. Her sisters, scarred from the abuse, committed suicide in the 1990s. Bruesch began to speaking to Alaska Dispatch two days after Bethel Police said Tony had confessed and been charged with sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl.
After the story was published  Thursday evening, social media lit up and many readers reacted with an outpouring of thanks, sympathy and support for Bruesch. Bruesch herself has been responding online to those who have left comments, and that's emboldened other survivors of abuse to tell their own stories.
In a typical exchange between Bruesch and readers -- this one appearing on Tundra Telegraph's Facebook page  -- Linda Geren Jacquot wrote:
So sad. I hope that justice is reached and the abuser is locked away never to hurt another child again. Where were the authorities in 1982 when Bruesch first reported her stepfather? Why wasn't anything done then?
To which Bruesch responded:
That is what I want to know. At the time I was in an abusive marriage and my husband was so angry with me for reporting the abuse that he punched a hole in the wall. This effectively silenced me about the matter for years, and I was happy at the time that nothing came of it. I was also left with the feeling that the abuse we suffered was of a trivial nature, not worthy of a police investigation since no penetration had occurred. In retrospect, I see clearly that a police report should have been filed.
A family photo posted to Alaska Dispatch's Facebook page  shocked Bristan N. Bekki Keller, who wrote:
So here I am scrolling through my newsfeed, when I see this picture...a very familiar pic that I have still with me...my mother and her 2 sisters. This is just blowing my mind. My mother had a hard time dealing with the aftermath of the abuse she endured, and sadly in the end, she took her own life. The last thing she told me, was that she was molested from age 7 to 14...I still can barely wrap my brain around this.
Massa Morsell shared her own experiences on Facebook :
Thank you for posting this. Child sexual abuse is rampant in the native community. We victims are supposed to be quiet. The failure in protecting the children is not just the system but a failure of adults that don't believe children or do not value them as human beings. Getting these stories out is a start toward getting the truth out of how devastating and cruel child sex abuse is until it is finally viewed in our bush communities as WRONG and criminal. Keeping quiet both by the victim and the few people that become aware of the abuses is how child sex abuse continues. It is ugly and painful to expose it but worth it in the long run. Much respect and appreciation to you, Kimberly! God bless you abundantly and give you strength to continue to stand your ground.
Alyson Rowe wrote about her abuse, too, on Facebook:
My grandfather molested me also. What happened when we told the police, nothing! This state has a long disgusting history of allowing this to happen to children. I'm happy someone is finally being listened to.
Gina Michelle Peru-Friccero shared this story:
One of my foster kids was abused by her stepfather. She told us, the troopers and an advocate. The troopers believed him instead of her, until her mother caught him with her younger sister. Then he went to jail. Why don't people listen to kids? They don't make this up...its too humiliating. And to not listen or call them a liar is to do it to them all over again!
And Kellie Prather Robinson also experienced years of pain:
As someone who comes from a family with generations of abuse, and generations of hurt, I thank you for sharing your story. Kimberley is a survivor, and I am proud to say that finally, so am I.
Karen Eckman thanked Bruesch for her "bravery," adding that:
I went through a similar situation, and all of my "allegations" were never brought to the public light. The system is broken, and they continue to do nothing to protect the children. It is tragic that it takes so many little voices before something is done.
Mary Nell Thomas expressed frustration over how the system allegedly broke down, allowing Tony to continue to be around children as a foster care parent:
Such tragedy in so many lives that could have been prevented. It is time that people in authority started listening to children, believing them and protecting them. Too many times children are victims. I so admire your strength and courage, Kimberly! Praying for you all!!
Other readers expressed anger at Tony and his late wife, Marilyn Tony, who Bruesch said always had struggled to believe she'd been abused.
"There's a special place in hell reserved just for him," Nicole SueAnn Beaver wrote on Facebook. "I got violently sick when I first heard and again when I read."
"I am so enraged that nobody seems to hold her mother accountable!!" Debra Amos said. "She told her mom that her stepfather was molesting her, and then received NO help!! If any of the children that I love come to me with that allegation, there will be no need whatsoever for the authorities to assist. The end."
Bruesch responded to Amos:
When I was 15, I told my mother that I had been molested by him when I was 8. It was no longer going on. Both the manner in which I told my mother and my motive for doing so made it difficult for her to believe me at the time. My unwillingness to speak further about it or to face Peter with my allegations served to confound her efforts to respond appropriately. Two years later when my younger sister made similar allegations, it was my mother who took us to child protective services to report it. Please don't blame my poor mother. She didn't do this, Peter did. He lied to her about it and was able to deceive many for a long time. When she was asked to become a foster parent, my mother was concerned about the allegations against her husband and was told by OCS, 'Don't worry about that, that never happened.' I hold the state accountable for allowing this man to continue abusing children for so long.
Convicted sex offender gets sole custody of 6-year-old daughter
OKLAHOMA CITY — In California, just six years ago, Nicholas Elizondo was convicted for raping his then six-year-old daughter. He took a deal and served six years in jail. During that time his ex-wife, Lisa Knight, has been raising their daughter Sarah in Norman.
After six years of little contact with Sarah, he started fighting for sole custody. Yesterday, he won.
Little Sarah's family is shocked by the Oklahoma County judge's decision.
“Then he comes out with this solemn face and ‘Oh this is a really hard one for me',” said Sarah's cousin, Jodi Coomer. “And I`m thinking hard?”
They thought it was a no-brainer. Both Sarah's mother and cousin think there is more to Judge Howard Haralson's decision than what was presented in the courtroom.
“His attorney was in the chambers with the judge while he was deliberating his decision,” said Coomer. “There was laughter coming from the room. We waited for what seemed like hours but it was just minutes.”
She thinks the judge questioned her parenting when she couldn't name all of Sarah's doctors off of the top of her head. Born with a cleft lip and palette, Sarah has lots of specialists.
“There is no threat to her whatsoever here. Nothing`s happened to her. She`s made all of her appointments,” said Coomer. “Because mom can`t remember the doctor`s names then she`s a bad mom? I don`t think so.”
Now Sarah has to leave for California tonight to live with a father her family says she only knows as someone who brings gifts and leaves.
“I don`t understand how a sex offender can just walk in the courtroom and just take her after I've had her for six years,” said Sarah's mother Lisa Knight.
Right now, the family is frantic and wondering how to come up with the money to keep fighting for Sarah. They are hoping publicity may shine some light on what they consider an outrageous judicial decision.
Little Sarah came home from a trip, to see her father in California, with a story that, she says, she wasn't supposed to tell.
“While she was in the bathtub she said ‘Something really bad happened,'” said Coomer.
It took weeks for her to tell her mother and cousin that her half brother had touched her inappropriately. With Sarah's accusations incomplete she is headed to live with him too. Sarah's mother says her father hasn't had much interest in seeing Sarah until recently. She doesn't want to think about why he suddenly changed his mind.
“I just know that his victim was six-years-old at the time and Sarah is six-years-old right now,” said Knight.
She says she is at a loss and has no idea how to get Sarah back.
“I've been fighting him and I just don`t have any more money to fight him at all,” said Coomer.
Sarah's cousin Coomer says with a registered sexual predator as a father her childhood may not be much of a childhood.
“He can`t take her to Chuck E. Cheese. He can`t take her to a park,” said Coomer. “He can`t go to her school. He`s not allowed in school.”
With only hours left with Sarah they are both trying to keep a brave face. They say her father's past will haunt her future.
“When she`s old enough to Google it, that`s just going to be a sad day,” said Coomer.
Sarah's mother and cousin are still fighting to keep her half brother away from her while she is in California. After talking to Elizondo's attorney, he thinks Judge Haralson did what was in the best interest of Sarah.
Three arrested in the death of an 8-month-old child
by Douglas Fritz
The death of an infant at a Tazewell County hospital prompted an investigation by law enforcement agencies.
Deputies said that a 911 call on Wednesday indicated that the 8-month-old boy was not breathing. The infant was taken to Clinch Valley Medical Center, where it was determined that the child had already died. The medical center staff had concerns about what had happened and an investigation was opened because of those concerns and from what was said in the 911 call.
"The people that brought the child in they kept the child over night they mother had left the child and they had a story as what happened and what evidence we were looking at just didn't match the story we were being told," Sheriff Brian Hieatt said.
Search warrants were issued for law enforcement officers to go through two homes that are located in the Richlands and Road Ridge areas. The warrants also included a search of a vehicle. Officers arrested Monica Walker, 27, and William "Willie Hilbert, 45, were both charged with Causing Serious Injury to a Child Under the Age of 18. Star Adams, 20, was charges with Abandonment of a Child. Both charges fall under the same section of the Virginia Code section 18.2-371.1.
The three are being held without bond at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority in Tazewell County. Additional charges could be still be filed in the case. The case is under investigation by the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office, the Commonwealth Attorney, the Department of Social Services and the Virginia State Police. The Richlands Police Department also assisted investigators
Child Abuse Awareness
by Ashley Kohl
Children of all ages need to be educated and aware of how to keep themselves safe at all times. Child advocates Kathy Picard and Renee Chisholm joined us to share more.
About Just Tell:
The mission of Just Tell is to reach out to youth aged 8 to 17 who are being sexually abused in order to convey, in age-appropriate language, that: they are not alone, they are not to blame for the abuse and should feel no guilt or shame, and that they need to choose a trustworthy adult in their life and tell them about the sexual abuse. The secondary mission of JustTell is to educate and empower all youth around the issue of childhood sexual abuse.
Long term desired outcomes of Just Tell are to increase the percentage of sexually abused children who disclose their sexual abuse and to change the way this generation of youth perceive and respond to childhood sexual abuse. All initiatives are directed to generating awareness and education for youth age 8-17 with teenagers as the primary means of dissemination. We provide compassionate, reliable guidance to prepare sexually abused children with the means to disclose to a trustworthy adult.
Does new test prevent child sex abuse?
Makers of Diana Screen hope it will prevent child molestation
by Vic Micolucci
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- It's a topic many people don't want to talk about, but experts say all parents should be aware of -- child sexual abuse.
High-profile cases like that of Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State assistant football coach convicted of molesting at least 8 boys, have recently brought more attention to the problem. But experts say children are being molested right here in Jacksonville much more than most would think.
While the perpetrators are often relatives or close family friends, many times they're teachers, caregivers or counselors.
Kristina Hartless, Robert Luke, Christopher Bacca, Leonard Hoffman, Michael Worrell, Danielle Reed, Tracey Slamka; these are just some of the teachers arrested in the past couple years in North Florida, accused of sexually abusing their students. Many have already been convicted.
The cases have made the news and left local parents stricken with fear. But these are just the crimes that were reported. Experts say sexual abuse is swept under the rug way too many times.
The numbers are downright frightening; according to the Centers for Disease Control, 500,000 American children are molested each year and only about 5 percent of sexual abuse cases are ever brought to trial.
"You can't tell by looking at a person that that's somebody who has a inclination or a sexual attraction towards children," said forensic Psychologist William Meadows. "So we have to be careful, we can't judge just based on appearances."
Dr. Meadows says in almost every case the child knows the person who abuses them.
"Most times that I evaluate somebody on a criminal charge for a sex offense that is the first time that they've actually been charged with a sex offense."
So how are we working to protect our children? The state of Florida requires anyone who's going to spend 10 or more hours with kids, whether for work or volunteer purposes, to have a level 2 screening. It means they'll be finger printed and run through FBI databases to look for felony or sex convictions.
But what about all those people who haven't been caught or convicted before? How can we keep them away from our kids?
Donald Dymer thinks he has a solution. Dymer is president of Single Source, a Jacksonville Beach based company which offers background checks for businesses, schools and non-profits.
"5 percent of these people that molest children ever get arrested," said Dymer. "So it's critical that we've got to find a way of assessing the other 95 percent, to make sure that there's no one in there, that shouldn't be there. "
He believes traditional background checks aren't enough and uses a relatively new test called the Diana Screen. It was developed by Dr. Gene Abel, who spent 18 years studying the minds of convicted sex offenders, trying to unravel their tendencies.
"There is no perfect answer, I mean, I wouldn't want anyone to think if you do the background check, and you do the Diana Screenings," said Dymer. "You do the interviews, that you'll never fail, you'll never let someone in. But I think you're going to give yourself a much better shot at making sure those people don't get in."
Dymer said it's another line of defense for employers and parents. The Diana Screen gives test-takers a slew of questions; some as simple as 'do you like bargains and sales at auctions?' to serious ones like 'why do you enjoy being around children?' Those who administer it say even if you lie the test has a big chance of catching those who may overstep their boundaries with kids. While the computer-based test comes with an additional cost which can add up for larger organizations.
Dymer says it costs anywhere from $25 to $30 to take the assessment through his company.
It's catching on. The Boys and Girls Club of America and the Episcopal Church use it.
Locally, the Seamark Ranch in Clay County makes all it's prospective employees and volunteers who will work with kids take it, according to CEO Fred Meiners.
"We have staff members and we have a lot of employees and some of them are childcare employees," said Meiners. "And we are concerned that we provide the safest environment possible."
Meiners says the Diana Screen is especially important to the Seamark Ranch because students who've lost their family live on the property and are supervised by employees around the clock.
"We think that it (the Diana Screen) is mostly that we are doing the best that we can to protect the kids," said Meiners. "It's not perfect but it's a lot more accurate than a background check. So we are doing our diligent effort to protect the kids by offering that as a means of protecting them."
Psychologist Dr. Meadows says the Diana Screen certainly isn't going to solve all the problems with child sexual abuse, but it appears to be a step in the right direction. And if it even saves one child from being abused, it's worth it.
"Well it's something certainly to consider to add as an addition to looking at a sex offense arrest history, in addition to clinical interviews references, and examining someone's employment history it's one piece of the puzzle in making hiring decisions," said Meadows.
If you're looking to enroll your children in a school, summer camp or day care, experts say ask the hard questions. Questions like 'Do you use the Diana Screen? How can I know my kid is safe once I drop them off?' CLICK HERE for a free, downloadable child sexual abuse prevention checklist.
For more information on the Diana Screen and Single Source Services, visit the company's website at http://www.singlesourceservices.com or call 1-800-713-3412.
Victims of child sexual abuse heal with counseling and support
by Sasha Luevano
EL PASO – She fidgeted, playing with her hands and biting her nails, making very little eye contact as she sat on the sandy ground of the park piling the sand as if making a small castle. Before today, she had never told anyone what had happened so many years ago.
One in every six girls in the United States and one in four boys is molested during childhood, according to the National Institution of Justice Report. (©iStockphoto)
“Walking through the front door I knew it was going to happen again. I knew I had to stand there and feel his wrinkled cold hands with that one stiff finger, waiting for me.”
Catalina, now 23, was molested as a child starting at age seven by her grandfather. She asked that her real name not be published.
“I didn't know what was going on. I really didn't. All I knew is that I didn't want to go visit him because I dreaded the first few minutes when it all happened,” said Catalina. “I never told anyone because I was more afraid of my family not believing me than of him touching me.”
One in every six girls in the United States and one in four boys is molested during childhood, according to the National Institution of Justice Report. In addition, three out of four adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well, and one in 10 cases of child assault are unreported.
Catalina was raised in a Mexican household with parents who were very conservative. “My mom never even spoke to me about my period. When I got it she sent my older sister to help me and she couldn't look at me for days.”
Sitting there in an open space with the wind blowing and trees branches flowing, Catalina's eyes darted everywhere without finding a focus. She stood up suddenly and walked toward the swings. She swung back and forth for a few minutes and stopped abruptly remaining silent for a long time and then continued.
“I never knew it was wrong, but in my heart I knew it was. I never liked to go to his house. I loved my grandma dearly but as soon as I would think of stepping into the kitchen by myself I would throw a tantrum because I didn't want to go.
“One time, I remember, I forced my dad to go say ‘hi' to my grandpa with me. He didn't want to but I made him. That day I thought I had escaped from him. But I didn't. He called me into the kitchen later and the minutes of him touching…” she paused “…touching me began.“
Susan Olivas, head coordinator at the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso, said that her organization provides counseling and support to about 40 cases a month; 85 percent of the cases they handle each year involve sexually abused children between the ages 6 and 12.
“I believe we have that age range because it's the kids who are interacting in school and learning what's right and what's wrong and the teachers are paying attention and reporting any abnormalities with the kids,” said Olivas.
The center was established 16 years ago so that child victims of severe physical or sexual abuse don't have to repeat their stories over and over again, according to Olivas.
“There was a case not so long ago that really hit home for me. It was a case about a five-year-old girl. On a Monday morning she told her mom that her father was touching her. She didn't pay much attention to her daughter and sent her to school. The little girl told the teacher ‘well gosh my dad is touching me and it's making me uncomfortable' and the teacher called the counselor,” said Olivas.
“The five-year-old told the counselor her story again. The counselor brought in the nurse, and she had to explain the incident again. She was taken to see the vice principal, and again explained what had happened. Then she had to tell the principal. The school was obliged by law to report the case. So the police went to the school and picked up the girl and brought her to my front door. By the time she got here she refused to tell anyone what had happened.”
Olivas said that in this case and others the system inhibits a child victim of sexual abuse by having them repeat the story many times before they get help. “She told the story so many times before she got to the Advocacy Center that when asked, she refused to speak out,” said Olivas.
There are three facts people should know about sexual abuse, according to the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute: The first is that today, 95 percent of child molestation can be prevented. Most people now have the knowledge to stop it. Second, in the United States today there are 39 million adults who have survived child sexual abuse. And third is that more than 3 million American children are victims, most of them children struggling alone, believing there is no adult who can help them.
Catalina was one of the unreported cases of sexually abused children.
“I never held anything against him. I just knew I didn't like him,” she said, staring at the sand beneath her feet. “The minute I knew what was going on, the minute I was old enough to know the difference is the minute I stopped saying hi. I was 12 when I began to avoid him. I couldn't do anything for the previous five years, but I knew I didn't have to go through it anymore. Not one more day.”
Catalina graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso and is working with a law firm, planning to go to Law School.
Remembering her accomplishments, she looked straight at me and with confidence in her voice she said, “I forgave him. After everything, I forgave him. On his deathbed four years ago he looked at me and just said ‘I'm sorry.' I knew right away what he was talking about. And I forgave him.”
State senator in sex-abuse inquiry
Peoria police, CPS investigating claims by his ex-foster kids
by Mary K. Reinhart
Arizona Sen. Rick Murphy, a foster and adoptive parent who identifies himself as a leader on child-welfare issues, is under investigation by Peoria police and state Child Protective Services for allegations he sexually abused children in his care, according to police records.
Police said the investigation was launched Saturday, after an older teen reported repeated incidents of alleged abuse by Murphy going back at least six years. The teen also self-reported his own inappropriate sexual contact with another child in the home, the reports show.
CPS officials would not say whether they have removed any of the seven children living at the Peoria home of Murphy, 41, and his wife, Penny, 48.
The allegations prompted police to reopen an inactive 2011 case involving Murphy and a teenage foster child, Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp told The Arizona Republic . According to a Peoria police report obtained by The Republic , the teen accused Murphy of fondling him underneath his clothing every other day for more than a month and offering to buy him a bicycle if he kept quiet.
Murphy has not been arrested or charged in either case. Late Thursday, Murphy said in a statement, “As a family, we have decided we have no comment.”
In 2011, CPS and police removed all seven children living in the four-bedroom home — the alleged victim, two adopted teens and four other foster kids — the same day the boy told his caseworker Murphy had abused him, the 2011 police report states.
CPS and police investigated the teen's claims. Police concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Murphy, according to the report, and the state did not revoke the couple's foster-parent license. Police received conflicting stories from the foster child and his former foster father. There was concern that the boy, who had a history of violence, vandalism and school suspensions, might have concocted the allegations so he could return to his former foster home. Murphy denied the allegations, according to that report.
During his legislative career, Murphy has been an outspoken critic of CPS. He has introduced dozens of child-welfare-related bills, including 10 this past session, many of which could benefit him and other foster and adoptive parents. This year, he fought unsuccessfully to increase state payments to foster parents.
Kemp released four heavily redacted pages from the 2011 and 2013 reports in response to a public-records request from The Republic .
According to the 2013 report, the child in Murphy's home accused Murphy of touching the child's penis “over and under his clothes while at their residence.” The alleged molestation occurred between January 2007 and May 2013.
The Peoria police report states police are treating that individual as both a child-molestation victim and a suspect.
Kemp said investigators looking at the 2011 case are interviewing children who have lived with the Murphys.
“Upon completion of the reopened investigation, we will then make (a) decision as to submission to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office,” Kemp said in an e-mail. “I will be working with the department on (a) continuous basis to continue to release information as promptly as we can without impacting negatively our ability to investigate both these matters.”
Murphy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is now in his second Senate term following six years in the House. He has made CPS, foster care and adoption a centerpiece of his political career. In May, he told The Republic that he and his wife have cared for 38 children since they received their state license in 2005. They have adopted five children from CPS.
In campaign literature and in legislative debates, he cites his “daily personal experience” as a foster and adoptive father. He's railed against CPS for allegedly failing to take children from drug-abusing parents, argued that foster kids should be free for adoption sooner and vowed to make it easier to fire CPS workers.
He has long advocated easing regulations on foster parents and allowing them to take care of more children. This year, he pushed legislation, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed, to extend licenses to two years from one and allow foster families to take in siblings or children they've previously cared for, even if it pushed them above their licensing limit.
“Especially in this environment, we really need to take a look at whether we should have a hard and fast limit of five (children),” Murphy said in 2011. At that time, he said he and his wife were caring for nine children.
Families are paid just over $20 a day per child, and an additional $2 to $3 a day if they're caring for infants or teens.
Murphy, a Phoenix-area native, married Penny Raye Price in 2000. Both have been active in Republican politics for years, with Rick serving as a precinct committeeman before he was elected to the House in 2005 and Penny on the executive board of the Arrowhead Republican Women's Club.
Rick Murphy has volunteered as a camp counselor and youth leader with his church and the Hemophilia Association, according to his campaign website and his legislative page. He also lists outdoor activities including hiking and shooting as interests.
He lists community activities including serving as a junior-high youth leader and junior-high Bible study leader at Christ's Church of the Valley and a camp counselor and former youth mentor for the Hemophilia Association.
He attended community college in the early 1990s and earned his real-estate license in 1992.
Murphy lists his occupation as a real-estate agent on legislative and campaign materials, but state Department of Real Estate records show he let his license expire in November.
Female Genital Mutilation is Child Abuse and Must End, Says UK
by Kristina Chew
Every month, at least 70 girls and women in the U.K. seek treatment for health problems related to female genital mutilation (FGM). Some 23,000 girls under the age of 15 in England are believed to be at risk of undergoing FGM. The procedure must be unbearably painful: it is often carried out without an anesthetic and involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs using a knife, scalpel, scissors, a razor or a piece of glass.
About 140 million girls and women around the world are living with the consequences of FGM, according to the World Health Organization.
On Monday, the U.K. charity NSPCC launched a national helpline to protects girls at risk of FGM. Anyone — a teacher to a medical professional — who is concerned that a child might be at risk of FGM can contact the 24-hour helpline, which is run by NSPCC protection staff who have had training and experience with girls and women who have been subjected to FGM.
A traditional practice in some African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities, FGM has been illegal in the U.K. since 1985. In communities that practice FGM, it is thought that it reduces a woman's sex drive and can prevent her from having sex outside marriage.
According to the NSPCC, victims of FGM are usually between the ages of four and ten but some have had it done while they were babies. Indeed, Comfort Momoh, a midwife at Guys and St Thomas's Hospital in London, tells the BBC that some women do not realize they had been subjected to FGM, as it was performed on them while they were babies. They often have urinary tract infections and abdominal pain and are only identified as having undergone FGM when they become pregnant and are seen by medical staff.
Hawa Sesay was mutilated when she was 13 years old in native Sierra Leone. As she says in the Telegraph, she knew many girls who bled to death and almost did so herself. She has little patience to hear about the traditional reasons — “preservation of a girl's virginity, custom or tradition, or hygiene” — often used to support FGM.
The summer holidays can be the most perilous time for children, says Sesay, as parents “smuggle their daughters to Africa to have the procedure done on them.”
NSPCC staff are hopeful that relatives might come forward and use the helpline. Callers are anonymous; information about children at risk will be passed on to social services and law enforcement.
But the most important step is for change within communities. Girls and women who are victims of FGM are often “hidden behind a wall of silence” and of shame, Lisa Harker of the NSPCC says in the BBC. Observing that there has been “nervousness to tackle” the issue of FGM in the past, Cathy Newman says in the Telegraph that it is long past time to think that ending FGM might “be seen as patronising, an imperialistic attempt to put an end to centuries of African, Asian and Middle Eastern culture.”
Research by the WHO shows that “if practicing communities themselves decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly.” Plain and simple, FGM is child abuse and a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
While it is impossible not to applaud the creation of the helpline, much more remains to be done. Government officials in the U.K. have signed a declaration against FGM and devoted £50,000 to agencies fighting the practice but “it's not a lot,” as Newman writes in the Telegraph. The Department for International Development has provided £35 million in funding and called for ending FGM “in one generation.” It is such a sense of urgency that must direct all efforts to end FGM not simply soon, but as soon as possible.
CATCH Court Changing Way Law Looks At Sex Trade Business
by Glenn McEntyre
COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's Thursday afternoon in Courtroom 12-C. In the words of some, it is a place where miracles happen.
The honorable Paul Herbert is presiding, and CATCH Court is in session.
CATCH stands for “Changing Actions To Change Habits”.
On a recent Thursday, there were women new to the program, and there were those who've completed it, like Barbara Freeman.
"I graduated over two years ago, almost three years. You know what I'm saying? And I still come back because I need my sisters," said Freeman.
And there are many in between. They are sisters of the streets.
"No, y'all didn't sit there with me when I was going through it,” said Freeman to the other women in the courtroom. “But y'all my sisters, because we all linked together. You know what I'm saying? We all was prostitutes."
Prostitute is a word that conjures many images, none of them positive.
But the man running the courtroom says it is past time to change how we perceive prostitution in our city.
"Part of my mission is to change the culture," said Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Paul Herbert.
He admits he wasn't always so enlightened.
"I was the guy who used to say, ‘This is the world's oldest profession.' You would have heard those words come out of my mouth. I was the guy that would have said this is a victimless crime. Two consenting adults, change of money,” he explained.
Herbert recalls the day of his epiphany. His bench was buried under dozens of protection orders related to domestic violence cases.
"After seeing victim after victim, you know, you see the bright red marks from the choking, clumps of hair pulled out, black eyes, burns, broken bones, pictures from hospital rooms, I was getting overwhelmed with this sea of horrible things that people do to other people. And I actually was sitting there saying, ‘How can I not do this?' How can I pick another career? And then, the sheriff brought the next defendant out on the wall. And (I) looked over, and for a split second, a fraction of a second, I saw a domestic violence victim. But she was a defendant. And so I looked down at the file, and it said 'prostitute'."
It drove him to learn more.
"What influences, forces, and other things might impact a woman in order for her to take what's most personally precious, and sell it to vile strangers? And from there, that's when I learned the amazing statistics behind the truth."
Statistics like the fact that one-third of all prostitutes are first sold for sex before their 15th birthday, 62 percent before their 18th birthday.
"So you're dealing with young girls that aren't even of legal consent, getting involved in this," said Herbert.
Ninety-six percent of them are runaways.
Seventy-two percent of them are driven from home by physical or sexual abuse.
"So that's how they get out there and then someone's looking for them. Someone's willing to talk to them, someone's willing to be nice, someone's willing to take them in, treats them extremely well, and starts that process of grooming them. To first dance in a club, maybe take photographs, and then they introduce drugs, and maybe a child. They get them pregnant,” explained Herbert.
Desperate for shelter, protection, and now drugs, they are methodically broken down and turned out -- sold for sex.
"Little did I know, really I was ignorant, what was behind this: that there was this clandestine system of pimps and traffickers that are using these women for their own financial gain. And that there was this elaborate system to manipulate and control them and hold them down to be slaves to the drugs, slaves to their lies."
Today, Herbert's eyes are open to the brutal, sadistic world of human trafficking in central Ohio. And what he's seen is horrific.
"The human traffickers and pimps - they have a game they play. It's called a '150' and a ‘150' is where they take bets, and they see who can beat a woman to the closest point to where she needs 150 stitches worth of damage. It's just a game they play,” he said. "Broken bones, multiple rapes -- the pimps will slip them a ‘roofie' and they'll wake up in Akron at a bachelor party being raped by seven guys. This is a common sort of thing that happens. And that guy made a ton of money off that."
Who survives such horrors?
The women in this courtroom do.
Vannessa Cooper remembers her lowest point on the streets after a car accident that had broken her back in three places.
"Not even a month after I got out of the hospital, and I still have this big plastic back-brace, and I found myself on the corner of Main and Berkley in a back-brace, prostituting and getting in and out of cars. And people still picked me up. They didn't even care,” she said. "I found myself standing on the corner, praying to God, like how do I get out of this? How do I get away from this?"
For Cooper and dozens of other women, CATCH Court was that answer.
Instead of continually cycling soliciting defendants through the system as criminals who break the law willingly, CATCH Court recognizes them as victims in need of help.
"When I looked at the traumatic stress they've been through, the depression that they're in, the homelessness, job skills, the shame and guilt that comes along with our society placing on them, I thought it would be a great challenge to figure out a way to treat these folks differently,” explained Herbert.
As part of that different approach, instead of once a month probation meetings, for some, they are once a day. There are weekly court hearings, too.
There is gender-specific, trauma-based counseling, along with drug and alcohol treatment.
And there are rules: parts of town they can't go, people they can't see.
"And we have a set time for curfew. And I want everybody to tell you -- when's your curfew?” Herbert asks the women in his court.
In unison, the women answer, “Dark!”
“It's easy right?” said Herbert. “So when the sun comes down, Tiffany comes in, right? Or you have to be with someone safe because nothing good happens after dark."
Along with the restrictions comes support from those who have been there.
"I know I need the help,” said Nella, a CATCH Court participant, weeping. “It's tearing me up inside. There's so much inside me, it's tearing me up."
Barbara Freeman, who brought Nella into the program, asks her, "What do you need from your sisters?”
“Some love,” Nella quietly responds. “I need some love."
One by one, the women in the program, tears streaking their faces, approach Nella with a supportive hug.
They are treated with decency and simple dignity.
"God put a seed in your heart to look at women as women, and us as women, not as prostitutes and crackheads,” said Wendy Miller to Judge Herbert after she is recognized for more than 1,100 days clean and sober. "And that's a real, true honor, to be looked at as a woman today."
Two years removed from the darkness of the streets came the light of a new life.
No longer posing for mug shots, today's photos commemorate a day of achievement: graduation day.
"The women of the CATCH Court program, to know them will inspire you,” said Herbert to a crowd of dozens at the Governor's Mansion for the graduation ceremony. "These are amazing women."
They include women like Vannessa Cooper.
"I'm a fulltime student at Columbus State,” she announces to cheers and applause. “I've been on the Dean's List, and I was recently inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.”
And Jennifer Evans:
“I'm real proud of myself today. And I like myself today. And that's a huge thing,” says Evans. “Before, I was totally disgusted with myself. I prayed to God every day that he would take me. And even he didn't want me."
And Yevette Graham:
"I feel really privileged and blessed to be one of the few women who took the time to give herself another chance at life,” Graham says, choking back tears. “And it is worth living. We are worth living. We are worth fighting for."
And Vanessa Perkins:
"There are people here today who have saved my life," says Perkins. "Today I have a purpose, a reason to live. Today, I'm a graduate of CATCH!"
Along with a diploma and a photo album detailing their long journey, they are given something else.
"I hand them a piece of paper that dismisses and seals all of their convictions,” said Herbert. “It's like your debt's paid, you're free. And they love that."
Some of what they receive can't be quantified or spelled out on any piece of paper.
"When you see that woman who's almost dead, who's been taken advantage of since she was 14 years old, sold into a gang, and then she becomes that, that's amazing," said Herbert.
He is convinced that recognizing these women as victims, not criminals, providing support instead of just a jail sentence, is how you turn a victim into a survivor.
"They're going to college, they're getting valid driver's licenses, they're paying taxes, they're being reunited with their family, they're giving back to their community. That's what justice ought to be about."
There is also the financial aspect of this issue.
Franklin County taxpayers are currently paying $5.4 million a year to arrest and jail prostitutes.
That doesn't include costs associated with hospitalizations from beatings, care related to unwanted pregnancies and foster care for children born to these women.
In its first four years, CATCH Court has a graduation rate of just 12 percent.
But of the women who spend 90 days in the program, 60 percent do not recidivate.
Those who spend 180 days in the program, 72 percent have no new charges.
And among those who have graduated, more than 90 percent have successfully moved on with no new charges.
Man sues Duluth diocese under new abuse statute
by Mark Stodghill
Fifty-five-year-old Michael DeRoche stood on the steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse holding a photograph of a 9- or 10-year old boy standing obediently straight with his hands tucked to his sides and his heels together.
DeRoche said he was that “little guy,” and at the time of the photo he was being sexually abused by a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Duluth.
DeRoche said he wanted to put an adult face on that photo and keep any other children from being victimized by priests by bringing the first civil lawsuit filed in St. Louis County by a person alleging abuse under the Minnesota Child Victim's Act. A new Minnesota law signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last month eliminates the civil statute of limitations for children who were sexually abused and allows a three-year window for past victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits against their perpetrator and the institution that may have allowed the abuse.
“I was this little guy that was hurt for over a year by a priest,” DeRoche said of his boyhood photograph before going on to explain why he brought the civil lawsuit. “It's not to seek a vendetta or vengeance or hurt, but it is to find healing and hope for not only myself and closure, but for all the other kids out there.”
DeRoche's lawsuit asks for more than $50,000 and that the Diocese of Duluth publicly release the names of all “credibly accused child molesting priests (in the diocese), each priest's history of abuse, each priest's pattern of grooming and sexual behavior,” and his last known address.
DeRoche is represented by attorney Mike Finnegan, who works with Jeff Anderson and Associates, a St. Paul-based law firm that has represented hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by authority figures and clergy.
The lawsuit claims that the diocese publicly admitted in 2004 that there were 17 priests who worked in the diocese who had been accused of sexually molesting minors, but the names of those priests have not been made public. The lawsuit alleges that as a result, children are at risk of being molested by those priests.
DeRoche is a 1976 graduate of Proctor High School and attended St. Rose Catholic Church there. He now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and runs a consulting company.
He said his boyhood priest, the Rev. John Nicholson, told him he was a “special kid” and wanted to induct him into the Junior Legion of Mary.
“He had me come to his rectory on a weekly basis,” DeRoche remembered. “I lived three houses away. Every week for a summer, I was given private lessons, but the lessons were not about the Legion of Mary. It was about sexually molesting me or having me satisfy his needs. … I complained to my parents. I said, ‘I don't want to go anymore because it's too hard.' At that time, Catholics just did what we were supposed to do and we said, ‘Buck up, son.' It's not against my parents, but it was just one of those things. We lived in a different world then. So it was a period of over a year of being seriously hurt by the priest.”
Nicholson worked in the diocese as a priest from 1948 to 1988 at eight parishes. He also served as diocesan director of scouting. He died in 1988.
The Diocese of Duluth said it instituted a sexual misconduct policy in 1992. The initial lawsuit regarding Nicholson was filed in August 1993. It said that after meeting with pastors who had followed Nicholson as pastor, Bishop Roger Schwietz, then Bishop of Duluth, appealed through parish bulletins for any victims of sexual abuse to report it.
DeRoche said that he spoke to Schwietz 15 or 20 years ago. “I spoke to Bishop Schwietz and asked him to be clear with what happened and to protect the other children that had been abused, and at that time he decided not to come forward with helping us,” he said. “So I'm here for myself; I'm here for all the other survivors, and I'm here for the Catholic church so that they can come clean and be whole and be the kind of institution that they want to be.”
It its written response to the lawsuit, the Diocese of Duluth said that it “deeply regrets the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of the clergy and is completely committed to assisting its victims and preventing any recurrence of these crimes. The misconduct policy put in place has been strengthened and revised over time, including with reference to the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People' established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
The diocese said it urges “anyone who has been a victim of such despicable crimes” to report it to the civil authorities and to the diocese at 2830 E. Fourth St., Duluth, or call (218) 724-9111, or contact one of the diocesan assistance coordinators, whose contact information is available on the Diocese of Duluth's website, www.dioceseduluth.org.
Vern Wagner, Northern Minnesota director of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, attended the news conference. Wagner was also a member of St. Rose Catholic church and said he was abused by Nicholson as a boy.
Wagner said he, too, wants the diocese to release the names of the 17 priests who molested minors.
“This is not about protecting the church,” Wagner said. “This is about protecting children. Michael is three years younger than I am. If somebody would have stepped forward and said, ‘This man (Nicholson) is molesting children' and done something about it, perhaps this man (DeRoche) would not have been molested. How many other children would not have been molested if grownups, the bishop, would have done their job?”
An interview with Cecil Murphey, author of 'Not Quite Healed'
by Audra Jennings
Survivors of sexual abuse face a long road to recovery, a journey in which they often ask, “Shouldn't I be there by now?” Having faced the recovery process themselves, Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe, in Not Quite Healed: 40 Truths for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (Kregel Publications / March 8, 2013 / ISBN 978-0825442704 / $14.99), honestly and openly assure fellow survivors that healing is a process, which by definition means it doesn't happen quickly—but it will happen.
Q: What percentage of men has experienced some kind of sexual abuse?
No one knows because men don't readily open up. The conservative figure is 1 in 6; more likely, it's closer to 1 in 3.
Q: What are a few of the most common misconceptions about childhood sexual abuse?
• Those who have been abused will become abusers.
• Real men/boys don't get molested.
• Most sexual abuse of boys is done by homosexual males. Child molesters have gender and/or age preferences and those who seek out boys are generally not homosexual; they are pedophiles.
• If a boy experiences sexual arousal from abuse, it means he was a willing participant or enjoyed it.
• Boys are less traumatized by the abuse experience than girls. We may be more damaged by society's reluctance to accept our victimization and are unable to talk about it.
• If the perpetrator is female, the boy should consider himself fortunate to have been initiated into heterosexual activity.
Q: In the opening chapter, you write that healing is a process with a different timetable for each individual. Why do imply that survivors are not completely healed from childhood abuse?
Sexual experiences involve every part of our selves—body, mind, spirit. God created us that way.
Our abuse took place in secret while we were innocent and young. Because most of us suffered from it for such a long time, it affected us deeply, and we developed coping skills that, although helpful to survive, can hinder us today. For example, we hid our emotional pain to survive. As adults, we may have difficulty knowing how we feel. For instance, as an adult I know I was extremely angry at times, and until I began to deal with my abuse, I wasn't aware of that anger.
Q: Many survivors of abuse – men and women alike – often suffer in silence. Why is it even more difficult for boys and men to speak out about their experience?
Many of us were afraid that we'd be thought as un-masculine or we'd be ostracized or laughed at. Besides, who could we trust? The perpetrator was most likely a person of trust. We tend to blame ourselves and see ourselves as defective or worthless.
Q: Not Quite Healed gives 40 truths for male survivors – could you share a few of the most important ones?
• All of us need to be loved and respected. Few of us feel either.
• Flashback and recurring dreams are common.
• Most of us feel worthless and often that we're not real men.
• We don't like the pain of grief, but we need it to heal.
• Most of us don't know how to trust because our trust was violated.
• We need to learn to forgive ourselves for being imperfect; we also need to learn to forgive our perpetrators.
Q: How often are abusers someone a child actually knows and trusts?
Most of the time our perpetrators were people we knew and should've been able to trust: a family member, such as siblings or cousins; a neighbor; a teacher or church leader. Because we trusted them, our defenses were down. They were also authority figures and certainly older (and larger).
Q: What are the characteristics that child predators tend to target?
Predators sense the kids who are needy and gravitate toward them. Those are children who yearn for attention, affection and affirmation. For example, the man who abused me used to call me special and often said he loved me.
One man said, “I seemed to have an invisible tattoo on my forehead that attracted perpetrators.”
Q: What are signs of abuse that friends and family should be on the lookout for?
There are no five signs, because all of us are different. But if we have been abused, we change—and that's what parents need to watch for. We may become withdrawn or excessively angry. Feelings of worthlessness may be an issue and parents need to listen to what the kids are saying. Many of us have trouble with our emotions—we may be explosive at one point and stoic at another. Some tend to trust everyone or they trust no one.
Some kids show an inappropriate interest in sexuality. Others will suddenly refuse to be around Uncle Matt or Aunt Irene—someone to whom the child had been close. Other children refuse to change clothes in front of anyone, even their parents.
Q: As a survivor yourself, what words of encouragement would you like to leave with our audience today?
If you were molested , tell somebody. Something about the telling—and being believed—makes it easier to accept what happened to us and aids in our healing. You might see a therapist, counselor, or church leader you feel will listen to you. The first time you tell will be the most difficult, but do it. There is healing for you—although it won't be easy and the pain will be there a long time. Each time you deal with your abuse, you make it easier to take the next step.
If you love someone who was molested , assure them that you care and want to be there for them. Unless you're a professional, don't try to fix them. They need individuals who will love them, stay with them and not tell anyone else about their abuse.
Learn more about Cecil Murphey and his books at www.cecilmurphey.com. Readers can also follow Murphey on Twitter (@CecMurphey).
Child abuse hotline in Warren County criticized
QUEENSBURY, N.Y. - On the heels of a Queensbury man's 100 year sentence for sexually assaulting a 22-month-old boy, the New York Office of Children and Family Services is coming under fire in Warren County for allegedly dropping the ball on how they handle calls to their child abuse hotline.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan says two recent cases in the county are being questioned, causing major concern about the way Child Protective Service is handling their hotline calls.
On Tuesday, Michael Hagaman was sentenced to 100 years to life in prison for raping a young boy. Prior to that, Brandon Warrington was found guilty in the death of his ex-girlfriend's 5-year-old son Gary Carpenter after prolonged abuse. He has not been sentenced yet.
Hogan says both of these cases had been reported to the child abuse hotline. The exact nature of the cases and the people involved will remain confidential by CPS.
The Office of Child Protective Services registers statewide child abuse and runs a confidential 1-800 hotline for people to call and report suspected child abuse. The hotline is run by CPS and when suspected problems arise, it is CPS that does the investigating. Hogan says an outside entity should conduct those investigations to gain a system of checks and balances and to make sure no cases fall through the cracks.
"There are really big issues with this system, and it's not just with respect to the two cases in which there were hotline calls that ultimately resulted in the death of a child," Hogan says. "Even after raising those concerns with the office of children and family services that oversees the hotline calls, since I've raised those concerns with them, I've had two other incidents."
NY Office of Child Protective Services Abuse Hotline can be reached at 1-800-342-3720.
Congress, Reinstate Funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act: Support Abused Children Across the Country
by Teresa Huizar -- Executive Director, National Children's Alliance
More than twenty years later, I still remember the first child that disclosed to me she had been sexually abused. I was sitting in a fourth-grade classroom talking about body safety with a roomful of these kids sitting at my feet, when in front of the whole class Tiffany* told me her father had been sexually abusing her for years. My world stopped because Tiffany was asking for protection, and in that rural Colorado community so many years ago there was little to be had. I have never felt more helpless.
Thankfully, now, abused children have access to the care and protection of Children's Advocacy Centers. These child-focused, facility-based programs include representatives from many disciplines working together to effectively investigate, prosecute, and treat child sexual abuse and severe physical child abuse. Children's Advocacy Center locations are not only child-focused, but designed to create a sense of safety and security for child victims.
Before the creation of this effective model, a child victim would have to recount their experiences to authorities many times, a continued traumatic experience for the child. With the involvement of a Children's Advocacy Center, the child victim needs to recount their experience only once, and is assured of receiving needed medical care and mental health treatment needed to heal. The goal and mission of the Children's Advocacy Center network is to support the victims, their families and the larger community by providing a coordinated investigation and comprehensive response to each child victim.
Recognizing the value of these programs in preventing and intervening in child abuse, in 1990, The Victims of Child Abuse Act was authorized by Congress to provide funding to Children's Advocacy Centers, National Children's Alliance, and Regional Children's Advocacy Center programs for the development of new child abuse centers and the training of professionals specializing in the intervention and prevention of child abuse. Because of wide bipartisan support these critical supports for abused children have become a nationwide network of care.
Today, National Children's Alliance, and our nearly 800 individual Children's Advocacy Center members across the country, are a successful and critical part of our communities. In 2012, Children's Advocacy Centers helped more than 286,000 victims of child abuse. In addition, as a result of the coordinated response of Children's Advocacy Centers, communities with a center save on average $1,000 per child abuse case compared to those communities without a center.
Unfortunately, President Obama's Administration plans to cut the federal funding for this important program and its future is now in question. Given the history of strong success in helping the most vulnerable children and their cost-effectiveness, this is truly mystifying.
As this issue will affect not only child victims of abuse, but the economic vitality of our communities as a whole, I urge you to write to your Members of Congress urging them to keep the funding for the Children's Advocacy Center in your local community, and to support funding of the Victims of Child Abuse Act in the 2014 federal budget. To find out more about your community's local Children's Advocacy Center, visit http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org. Children's Advocacy Centers do incredible work on behalf of child victims every single day, and the services provided to those who need it the most are too important to leave on the line.
I often think of Tiffany and the turns her life may have taken with what little help could be provided to her so many years ago. Because of the work of Children's Advocacy Centers, when a child comes forward today and asks for help, I'm confident that child will be put on the path to hope and healing. And, I'm calling on Congress to continue their vital support of the Victims of Child Abuse Act funding so the estimated more than 250,000 children who will be abused in 2014, receive the help they deserve.
To learn more about Children's Advocacy Centers and how you can help, contact us at http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org
*'Tiffany's' name has been changed for privacy concerns.
Miramonte sex-abuse scandal sparks calls for tougher child protections
Attorneys representing alleged sex-abuse victims at Miramonte Elementary School called Wednesday on Los Angeles Unified officials to toughen policies to protect students and root out abusive teachers.
The demands came one day after the district introduced a website -- miramontesettlements.com -- detailing settlement offers made earlier this month to about 40 students and parents who have filed claims or lawsuits over alleged abuse. District officials said the website was aimed at providing "accurate information and details'' about the offers to students, families and taxpayers.
Lawyers for the students responded by making public their own list of demands.
"Compensation for these victims cannot be discussed until assurances for meaningful policies are in place at LAUSD to protect children now and in the future,'' attorney Vince Finaldi said during a news conference outside district headquarters. "The lack of appropriate response to the underlying institutional issues could cause the alleged abuse at Miramonte to happen again.''
Included in the attorneys' demands were calls for the district to:
• Publicly disclose all documents relating to molestation at Miramonte and other schools where abuse claims are pending.
• Forward a list of all teachers accused of sexual or other child abuse to the District Attorney's Office.
• Begin negotiations with attorneys and the teachers' union on a process for public disclosure of the names of teachers "credibly'' accused of abuse.
• Identify all administrators who have failed to comply with child abuse reporting requirements.
• Call on the District Attorney's Office and/or U.S. Attorney's Office to appoint a special counsel to investigate the district's handling of abuse cases.
• Establish a child safety office and ombudsman.
• Create a blue-ribbon commission to investigate "failings at the LAUSD'' and recommend changes.
In March, the LAUSD announced it would pay $30 million to settle 58 legal claims stemming from abuse allegations at Miramonte. Those settlements totaled roughly $470,000 per student.
Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt is accused of carrying out most of the abuse. He is awaiting a preliminary hearing on nearly two dozen counts of lewd acts with children. He allegedly took photos of children with semen-tainted spoons or cookies held to their mouths.
Another former Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, is awaiting trial on three felony counts of lewd acts with a child.
They have pleaded not guilty.
The $17 million in settlement offers made by the district earlier this month were estimated at about $425,000 per student, and they were quickly denounced by the attorneys.
District spokesman Sean Rossall called the offers "reasonable'' and "respectful'' to the students, while also taking into account the district's responsibility to protect taxpayer dollars and work within a limited budget.
The settlement offers are valid for only 30 days, and will expire July 5.
Sherwood teacher, cop husband embroiled in child sex abuse case
by KGW Staff
SHERWOOD, Ore. -- A former Sherwood student has sued a female teacher and the school district, alleging that she sexually abused him and then her policeman husband threatened him with a gun.
The $5.1 million lawsuit was filed against the Sherwood School District and former teacher Denise Keesee on behalf of a man who was a 15-year-old special ed student at the time.
Attorney Randall Vogt, who filed the suit, said the teacher made sexual contact with the boy, but the boy did not realize it was abuse until he spoke with someone in the Washington County district attorney's office last spring.
Keesee is facing six counts of second-degree sexual abuse for alleged abuse of two boys.
The suit was first reported by the Oregonian and claims Keesee, a special education and math teacher, groomed and then sexually abused the plaintiff, who thought he was having a romance with Keesee. He was placed in her class due to learning disabilities.
The defendant was at the school from fall 2006 until spring 2007, the suit said. He is dyslexic, with learning disabilities and a low IQ, which makes him vulnerable to manipulation, Vogt wrote.
Keesee gave the student inordinate attention and one day touched his thigh in class. This led soon to kissing and sexual contact on and off campus, according to the suit.
The suit also names the Sherwood School District, because Keesee allegedly abused the child while taking advantage of her position in the district. The student claims he reported the allegations to the district officials and Vogt said the officials took no action.
At the time, Keesee's husband was the Sherwood police department liaison at the school.
The suit alleges that Denise Keesee told her husband about the sexual contact. The officer then began harassing the student, allegedly pulling him over and pointing his firearm at the student. The student left the district out of fear of the policeman, the suit said.
Keesee's husband has not been accused of any crime. Tuesday afternoon, after the lawsuit was filed, the Sherwood Police Department placed him on administrative leave.
Vogt says the boy, now 21, suffers from the kinds of injuries that stem from being sexually abused by an older person in a position of trust.
House bill aims to deter sex trafficking
by JIM PROVANCE
House Bill 130 is the latest in a series of attempts by Ohio to legislate its way out from under its reputation as a hub for modern-day slavery, particularly for the sex trade. The measure now goes to the Senate, which isn't expected to take it up until after its summer recess which is set to begin later this week.
“The buying and selling of people is big business, folks…,” the bill's sponsor, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), told her colleagues. “Now we must finish what we started. Ending demand makes sense.”
The bill gets rid of a two-tier system of prosecutions created in Ohio's last human-trafficking law passed last year. That law created differing penalties for sex-for-hire customers based on the age of the trafficked victim.
Instead, those who solicit a minor for sex would be prosecuted with a third-degree felony, carrying jail time of up to five years, instead of a misdemeanor. They would also have to register as sex offenders regardless of whether they knew the minors they hired for sex were under the age of 18 or were developmentally disabled.
The bill no longer contains a provision that would have required the spouse of someone charged with soliciting to be notified of the arrest.
The so-called End Demand Act would also:
— Prohibit the purchase of any advertising of prostitution that depicts a minor, including Internet sites.
— Prohibit someone not licensed by government to advertise massage services, a move targeting the proliferation of massage parlors that front for prostitution.
— Authorize a court to allow a trafficking victim to testify via closed-circuit television from outside the courtroom.
“Whether you know it or not, this is happening in your community…,” Rep. Denise Driehaus (D., Cincinnati) said. “It's real, and there are real victims.”
The state has already passed laws toughening penalties against those who traffick in people for the sex trade, forced labor, or domestic servitude and to steer victims away from jail cells toward drug and alcohol treatment, counseling, and other services. Gov. John Kasich, who has used his clout to push legislation through, has hired Ohio's first full-time anti-human-trafficking coordinator.
Ohio's role as a crossroads in human-trafficking came to light in 2005 when a federal sting broke up a trafficking ring in Harrisburg, Pa. That ring involved 177 females, and 77 of them, including a 10-year-old girl, were from the Toledo area.
Highlighting the urgency placed on the problem, lawmakers unanimously supporting the attachment of an emergency clause to the bill. That will allow it to take effect immediately upon receiving the signature of the governor rather than have to wait the customary 90 days.
How the Supreme Court's decision about prostitution helps combat sex trafficking
by Sarah Porter
The Supreme Court has been making some big decisions lately, including last week's ruling which corrected a decade-long injustice regarding prostitution. The Court stated on Thursday that the US government cannot force organizations to oppose prostitution in order to receive federal funds. What stands out about this decision is that it may mean that more victims of sex trafficking can now receive assistance. The recent reporting has focused on how the anti-prostitution pledge constrained organizations working on HIV issues, without consideration in how it affected those who work with trafficking victims. La Strada, Ukraine's leading NGO that combats human trafficking, serves as a very clear example of how this policy was shortsighted. According to the International Organization for Migration, Ukraine is one of the largest source countries in Europe for victims of sex trafficking. La Strada's staff do the distressing and difficult work that no one else wants to do; meeting victims at the airport, reuniting them with their family, and finding them shelter. Despite this, all of La Strada's US funding was cut in 2004 due to the Bush-era policy. The justices ruled that the legislation, which withheld funds from organizations that did not explicitly oppose prostitution, violated free speech. This pledge banned US funding to any organization that was deemed a supporter of prostitution, even in places where sex trafficking flourishes most. Organizations who needed US funding, such as La Strada, must specifically state they are against prostitution by signing a promise to the US. If they didn't they were ineligible for any funds. USAID staff in Ukraine vocalized this frustration, as La Strada had been recognized as one of the best and most effective anti-trafficking NGOs in the region. But directives came from thousands of miles away in Washington, a place that would never see the women who their policy was hurting.
NGOs like La Strada had their hands tied by this policy. Organizations that work on anti-trafficking at times have interaction with sex workers and the policy forced them to come out as “anti-prostitute”, which can be very detrimental and alienating stance to take. Many of these organizations had no interest in trying to legalize prostitution; they just didn't want to actively take a stance against the people in prostitution. What is ironic about this policy is that it did nothing to eradicate the circumstances that allow prostitution and sex trafficking to flourish. If anything, it only led to preventative services being cut, services such as English classes and job training which are critical for helping poor women gain employment. NGOs like La Strada had to make already meager funds stretch even further, forcing them to choose which services and programs to keep.
When talking about the best way to fight trafficking, the debate about legalizing prostitution inevitably comes up. But prostitution itself is not necessarily the main problem. The problem is that women and children around the globe are being forced, coerced, and exploited for sex no matter how willing they may seem. Taking away critical funding because an organization refuses to parrot back US foreign policy in no way helps those being abused. It does not prevent young girls from being sold into the sex industry, nor does it increase the resources that would prevent her from being there in the first place. The Supreme Court took a crucial step in standing up for those being exploited, and for those working to end the exploitation. Let's hope this trend continues and it is people, not ideology, who always come first.
Porter is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and has worked on anti-trafficking initiatives for the past several years in New York and abroad.
Few help options for victims of Miami-Dade child-sex trade, grand jury says
by David Noriega And Melissa Sanchez
The members of a grand jury that investigated child sex trafficking in Miami-Dade County were surprised by something they found in their research: Nobody seems to know the best way to treat the victims.
The grand jury, which convened for about seven months starting last November, released a report Tuesday detailing its findings on the local human trafficking trade.
The report describes how many victims run away from shelters only to return to the men who enslaved them. Often the girls believe themselves to be in romantic relationships with their pimps. In some cases, they try to recruit new victims for their traffickers from among other shelter residents.
“It is time to commission a definitive study to determine once and for all what are the evidence-based best practices for the treatment and care of victims of domestic sex trafficking,” the report says. “It is, frankly, completely shameful that this has not been accomplished by now.”
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said that human trafficking has become a priority for her office. But the question still remains of what to do with victims once they are in state custody, given how many of them form “trauma bonds” with their victimizers.
“Sometimes the bond is so strong that the victim actually sees this sex trafficker as a savior,” Fernández Rundle said. “It takes a rewiring of their whole way of thinking.”
The in-depth study on victim treatment was one of 13 suggestions presented by the grand jury in its report. Among the others were establishing protections similar to those used for victims of domestic violence, such as issuing restraining orders against aggressors and setting up safe houses.
The 21 members of the grand jury were willing to acknowledge their initial ignorance on the subject of human trafficking in Miami-Dade.
“We thought human trafficking consisted of foreign-born persons brought under false pretenses to this country and put into forced labor, be it for sexual exploitation or otherwise,” the report says. “We were shocked and appalled to discover that, in what we thought was our modern, enlightened society, slavery still exists right under our noses”
That slavery begins when predators manipulate young girls, primarily ones from poor families, turning them into sex workers around the ages of 12 or 13. The grand jury was clear in stating that the real criminals are not the girls but the men who recruit them.
“Maybe he tells her he can get her a job ‘modeling.' Or maybe he throws out the bait, asking if she needs a place to live,” the jury wrote. “This may go on for a while, until one day the abuse begins. The manipulator might say to her, ‘Hey, did you really think you could live here for free? You can pay the rent by having sex with my buddy.'?”
The number of human trafficking victims in Miami-Dade is unknown, since the crime is very rarely reported. Nevertheless, experts call South Florida one of the three capitals of human trafficking, which at the national level is a $36 billion industry. The Miami metro area has also been ranked third in the nation in terms of the prevalence of child sex trafficking.
A History of Violence
The ugly truths of domestic violence are lost in Utah's bureaucratic squabbling and focus on the family
by Stephen Dark
In summer 2012, directors of Utah's domestic-violence shelters, desperate for money to keep their doors open, formed a committee that would represent them and the battered women and children who seek their help. They invited Peg Coleman, the recently appointed executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Council, to attend. When Coleman told the shelter directors that advocating for them “was what UDVC was supposed to be doing, people were pretty confused,” she says.
But it was Coleman, fresh from a nine-year stint running a shelter in Alaska, who was to end up the most perplexed. “It was heartbreaking to see so much struggle and suffering that doesn't have a voice,” she says. “The job of the coalition is to give power to that voice.” But when she tried to reposition her supposedly autonomous nonprofit to be the voice of shelter providers and domestic-violence victims, she encountered entrenched opposition from local government officials. She also found that Utah places an unusual emphasis on treating (typically male) domestic-violence offenders with funds that, advocates argue, should be dedicated to serving victims.
Utah's 16 shelters, three of which are managed by the Division of Child & Family Services, typically function in poverty, advocates complain. “It's a much better deal to work in McDonald's; it's often better pay, you get breaks and benefits, less heartbreak and, often, sadly, more respect,” Coleman e-mailed a state official.
Rural shelters, in particular, are often in dire straits, with one bed available per 348 square miles, compared with urban Utah, where it's one per .089 miles. The Richfield shelter, which covers five counties, can afford to have only half its lights on. The downtown Salt Lake City YWCA, the oldest and most powerful presence in domestic-violence services in Utah, has one of its four floors closed because of lack of funding.
In 2012, more than 4,099 people found protection from abuse in Utah's domestic-violence shelters, but more than 2,200 adults and children were turned away in the same period from the YWCA alone. YWCA CEO Anne Burkholder estimates that statewide in 2012, close to 2,000 households' requests for shelter were turned down due to lack of resources.
Logan-based shelter Community Abuse Prevention Services Agency [CAPSA] turned away 56 families in 2012. “We need more beds or the ability to get them into transitional housing,” says CAPSA Executive Director Jill Anderson, who says her resources are always stretched to breaking point.
She recalls one recent day when she had gone to Salt Lake City for meetings, stayed up till 2 a.m. writing grants, then, an hour after she went to sleep, received a call from local law enforcement that they could not reach the on-call staff at the shelter.
Anderson rushed over to the shelter to find that the one staff member she can afford to have working the night shift—at $7.25 an hour—was counseling a suicidal client and had forgotten her cell phone. Meanwhile, the police needed a trained sexual-assault worker from the shelter to be with a rape victim in a local hospital.
“We are so underfunded,” Anderson says.
That's an issue that the Utah Domestic Violence Council is supposed to address, at least according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which represents 50 state domestic-violence coalitions nationwide. State domestic-violence coalitions emerged from the grass-roots battered-women's movement of the 1960s, and in 1994 began receiving federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act. The nonprofit coalitions, federally required to be autonomous and nongovernmental, support organizations that provide “immediate, lifesaving services” for domestic-violence victims, namely shelter providers who are required to have the majority vote.
UDVC started in 1978 as an advisory council housed in the Department of Human Services. Although it was spun off as an independent agency in 1994 so it could apply for federal funds, local government involvement— or direct management, some would say—in domestic-violence nonprofits, both UDVC and private shelters, has continued. State meddling has long been a source of tension and frustration, and has resulted, advocates say, in a marginalization of their role and the people they serve.
“Part of our role as nonprofit advocates is to sometimes push back against the system, so if it isn't responding or providing to survivors in a helpful, healthy way, then [we can] say these policies need to change,” Anderson says. “If they are so involved in the nonprofits and governing them, then we can't play that role, and survivors aren't going to have their needs met.”
When New Jersey-raised Coleman was hired to run the UDVC in 2012, only eight shelter providers had votes on the up to 36-member UDVC council. But after 55-year-old Coleman and her board wrote new bylaws to align her nonprofit with the requirements of its federal funders by giving shelter providers control—and curtailing a block of six votes permanently held by domestic-violence-related state offices—she found her efforts the target of behind-the-scenes lobbying by state officials.
Utah's domestic violence community is awash with coalitions, councils and state offices all dedicated to helping victims, or at least their cause. But relationships between key members of the many acronymed organizations can be volatile, begging the question of how a system that fights so doggedly with itself can effectively fight for the victims they all serve.
For some, the power struggle between representatives of state offices and nonprofits involved in domestic-violence and sexual-assault work boils down to the ever-increasing need for shelters pitted against shrinking resources, but other longtime advocates and providers perceive a more nuanced fight being waged within the domestic violence community: a battle between Utah's patriarchal, family-driven values and the victim-centered standards of shelter providers who focus on protecting victims from their abusers and help victims build new lives for themselves.
“Utah obviously has very strong family values and a high regard for the authority of men in the household,” Coleman says. “That's why it's very important to have the separation of church and state, and to have different points of view to not allow our own hopes, dreams, biases and belief systems to compromise safety.”
THE RABBIT HOLE
On Coleman's downtown Salt Lake City office wall is a picture of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. That's how Coleman's felt since she arrived in Utah.
YWCA CEO Burkholder says previous executive director Judy Kasten Bell pursued a decades-long advocacy for domestic-violence victims and oversaw a complex evolution of UDVC from “a government-sponsored group to an independent nonprofit organization.” When Kasten Bell decided to leave after 10 years, Burkholder chaired the search committee for a new executive director. Among other qualifications, she says, the search committee was looking for someone committed to the critical role that frontline advocates play, “someone who was a strong leader, who would be fearless speaking out on strengthening Utah's response to domestic violence.”
In Coleman, they found someone with 35 years of frontline experience. Coleman took over UDVC in April 2012 following nine years of running a domestic-violence and sexual-assault shelter in Homer, Alaska.
Such was Utah's apparently progressive approach to domestic violence on its grant applications that “I thought I was coming to kumbaya land,” Coleman says. She anticipated using her experience working on domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness to focus on policy, and support people doing the work. But it took only a few months for her to realize that Utah was “a puzzling fire-walk.”
Shortly after taking over, Coleman drove around the state to visit shelters. The lengthy distances quickly made it apparent how thinly stretched rural service providers are in Utah. When Coleman arrived at the first shelter, her office called to say Ned Searle—Gov. Gary Herbert's point man on domestic violence, running the Office of Domestic & Sexual Violence out of the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice—was upset that she had gone by herself to see the shelters.
Searle declined to comment for this story.
“I was very surprised there was an expectation that I would go with a state official,” Coleman says. She didn't want to make the state angry, she says, but she wanted an unvarnished picture. “If their funder shows up, they're not going to say what they need.”
As she toured the shelters, she found that shelter directors, typically earning around $35,000 annually, were struggling with paltry resources. “Do I cut my salary in half or do I cut services?” was a common question, Coleman says.
“Karen” knows how it feels to call shelters for help, only to be told to look elsewhere. Her name has been changed for this story.
One late April night in 2013, her ex-husband was arrested for domestic violence in a front of a child after he assaulted their eldest son. He was released the same night and texted Karen about their son: “He's just like you, he doesn't want to hear what he needs to hear.” Frightened for her children, whose ages range from 9 to 19, Karen and her children sought shelter with little more than the clothes on their backs. “It's like your whole life drops from you, you're just skin and bones,” she says.
Karen called agencies and shelters from her car at rest stops, places “I felt would be peaceful. I tried to be inspired, tried to stay calm.” The Salt Lake Community Action Program told her she had to have a job to get assistance. The downtown Salt Lake City YWCA was full. The Road Home homeless shelter could not promise that her children would be kept with her. The Rescue Haven didn't have any beds. The Volunteers of America would only take her in if she had an addiction. Family Promise in Salt Lake City had a month-long waiting list. Logan-based Community Abuse Prevention Services Agency [CAPSA] couldn't take her, but it could take her children if the son who had been hurt became their guardian.
In the face of each rejection, Karen still clung to the belief she had done the right thing in leaving. But each “no,” she says, “breaks your spirit.” If worse comes to worse, she thought, they could sleep in the car at a rest stop. “I felt safe there. There were people there, truckers,” she says. “It was not in the middle of nowhere.”
While the police were initially supportive, she says, when her ex-husband filed a complaint that she wouldn't let him see the children, one officer interrogated her. When she complained to his captain, she says, he blamed her for her situation. When she told CAPSA of the cops' attitudes toward her, they said her ex-husband was harassing her through the police, rendering her a domestic-violence victim. They took her and her four children in.
The CAPSA shelter is set back from a road in a residential neighborhood in Logan. It's a large house with offices, a communal kitchen, counseling rooms and small bedrooms with bunk beds. “Compared to a rest stop, the shelter felt pretty good,” Karen says. “Now, I could walk through a room and nobody was going to come in and yell at you. You can finally breathe, you exhale.” The shelter gave each of them a gift bag with toiletries and a robe. “It made you feel like you were wanted.”
“WHO'S LISTENING TO US?”
On the surface, UDVC appeared to be an autonomous state domestic-violence coalition using federal funds—$230,000 annually—to advocate for domestic-violence victims like Karen and shelter providers like CAPSA. Those same providers are federally required to have a majority vote over UDVC's affairs. But, in addition to finding that only eight shelters were voting members of the 36-strong council, Coleman found that six government offices had permanent votes.
The governor's domestic-violence point man, Ned Searle, wrote in an e-mail to many in the community that Kasten Bell had tried repeatedly to bring the nonprofit into alignment, but “we never did quite make it.”
Both the Division of Child & Family Services and Utah's Commission of Criminal & Juvenile Justice have domestic-violence offices while doubling as granting agencies. Both offices also had a UDVC vote, meaning, YWCA's Burkholder says, that those who depend on the funding can find themselves in a relationship of unequal power with the funders, where “You're always dancing. What can you say, how can you say it?”
Burkholder says Coleman's predecessor, Kasten Bell, “navigated and strengthened” the relationships between UDVC's public partners and its coalition work. “I give her credit for nurturing relationships and keeping us talking together,” Burkholder says. But, she acknowledges, those very efforts to bring public and private stakeholders to the table “over time had some consequences that may have diminished the key role that victim service providers play.”
Family Violence Prevention & Services [FVPSA] is a key federal funder of Utah's domestic-violence services. FVPSA provided just over $1 million for Utah's shelters in 2012, with another $1.1 million coming from a federal social-services block grant. When FVPSA's Kenneth Noyes did a Utah site visit in March 2013, he told UDVC board members that, based on its voting structure, the nonprofit appeared to be an arm of the government. If that weren't changed, the nonprofit's funding could be jeopardized.
While some see Coleman and her attempts to draw boundary lines between her agency and the state as polarizing, other welcome her firebrand style.
“I think the questions she raises are good ones,” says DCFS division director Brent Platt. “They may be uncomfortable for some, but they are healthy.” He sees that shelter providers “feel that the need is always increasing, but the available funding stagnates. ‘Who's listening to us?' they ask.”
He acknowledges, “The reality is we depend on them, our communities depend on them. I just feel like we could do a better job supporting them and advocating for them.”
TWO TO TANGO
The more time Coleman spent in Utah's domestic-violence services community, the more she became concerned that behind Utah's focus on the family lay a disturbing pattern of victim-blaming.
She would hear local advocates opine that “it takes two to tango,” and when talking about batterer accountability, almost inevitably, she says, individuals would shift to talking about “pushing his buttons, how difficult she is, she is with one perpetrator after another, what does that say about her?”
Neither FVPSA's Kenneth Noyes, nor Coleman, had ever heard before of domestic-violence treatment as it is practiced in Utah. It's essentially clinical therapy for both victim and batterer, with little if any differentiation made between the two.
Because of the “lack of ongoing supervision for persons working with batterers and a lack of meaningful connection to DV advocates,” the approach, Coleman says, can “lead to minimization of the violence and colluding with the batterer.” She points out that in calls that have come in to UDVC's LINKLine, a federally funded anonymous hotline, victims have reported their therapists telling them that their batterer-partner was getting better, even as he continued to hit her at home.
When Coleman read UDVC's domestic-violence training manual, she found one section was dedicated to working with offenders, recommending that after 12 weeks of clinical treatment for the batterer, he and his victim could take “couples counseling” together if he had a “low” level of incidence. The Violence Against Women Act prohibits couples counseling for victims and perpetrators because research indicates it may impact victim safety.
As Coleman dug into the history of UDVC to try to understand its evolution, she was upset at both the dearth of information available about how many people had gone into perpetrator treatment and couples' therapy, and at how UDVC's lack of alignment with its federal mandate had created a vacuum into which others had stepped.
UDVC's subcommittee of treatment providers had used the agency to help promote a cottage industry of for-profit treatment providers specializing in various approaches to counseling domestic-violence offenders.
The UDVC subcommittee, working with DCFS, had also been actively setting practice guidelines for perpetrator treatment for providers and developing licensing protocols for perpetrator treatment.
In late 2012, out of concern their activities would jeopardize the agency's federal funding, Coleman told the treatment providers that the subcommittee could no longer use funding from her agency. “I'm not saying that perpetrators shouldn't have treatment, just that any use of VAWA or FVPSA funding should be grounded in victim safety,” she says.
DCFS contracts with numerous providers in the community for services for both perpetrators and victims.
For 2013, Utah budgeted spending $6 million on domestic violence, with $2.8 million going to shelters, and $3.2 million going to treatment contracts for victims and what DCFS calls “perpetrator intervention, workers and tracking services.”
“The consensus is that in order for families to heal, perpetrators need treatment as well,” DCFS director Platt says. DCFS is obligated to make sure that services are provided for all family members, he says. “If I have an adult victim who wants to reunify, a perpetrator who wants to reunify, it's their family, not ours. Our folks are going to help them, within the context of keeping the child safe.”
Utah spends between $1 and $2 million annually on batterer-intervention programs, but a more detailed accounting of where and to whom that money goes is not readily available. Platt says that three years ago he learned that contracts with treatment providers were “fairly vague, they needed tightening up.” He's requested that staff track how much money is spent on perpetrators, and how much on victims.
THE MAN IN CHARGE
By February 2013, UDVC's staff and board had gone through nine drafts of new bylaws. UDVC board chairman James Harper, a Brigham Young University professor, sent out an e-mail to members noting that the new bylaws to be voted on in March would “sharpen the focus of UDVC to more clearly represent victims, victim safety, support of victim services and promotion of national best practices for victim services.” That meant that only shelter providers could be voting members of the council, and that the board had to be majority controlled by shelter providers as well. State officials with influence over funding could not become board directors, as that was a conflict of interest.
The Office on Domestic & Sexual Violence's Searle e-mailed Harper on Feb. 26, criticizing the proposed bylaws as changing UDVC's identity and making it “just like every other state DV coalition.” He was upset that the bylaws referred to shelters providing sexual-assault crisis work. While shelters often provide that service, along with the Rape Recovery Center, Searle didn't want UDVC straying into territory that he felt belonged to another nonprofit, the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. He asked Harper for his support and further information, concluding, “I'm not asking Peg, because I want an answer from someone like you who has been involved but not so sensitively tied to all of these changes. After all, you are the man in charge.”
In early March 2013, Noyes, of the Family Violence Prevention & Services Act, came to Utah to check on how the federal funds were being spent. He visited shelters, state agencies and, on March 6, met with Coleman, Searle and a DCFS official. Noyes expressed discomfort with aspects of DCFS's involvement with shelters, particularly with regard to confidential personal information of individual shelter clients. Shelter providers are required to inform DCFS when they take in “children who have directly witnessed or experienced DV,” says Jenn Oxborrow, who became the agency's new domestic-violence program administrator in May 2013.
Coleman says DCFS is much more involved in Utah's shelters than is typical elsewhere in the country. “Some women will not come into a shelter, they would rather get beaten than risk kids coming into a state system. Part of our job is look at where the state, agencies or even ourselves cause barriers.”
Platt agrees that there are tensions between DCFS's primary concern of child welfare and domestic-violence services. “I want to reduce [the tension], I don't like it,” he says.
If Coleman had thought that Noyes' statement to UDVC board members that the state should support UDVC rather than dictate policy would be embraced, she learned otherwise from community members as word of a state-driven lobbying campaign against the vote reached her ear. Interviews and e-mails City Weekly accessed through records requests show that Searle lobbied council and board members to vote down Coleman's changes.
Coleman e-mailed Searle, “I have been maligned, misquoted, shunned and frankly treated very badly.”
On March 19, council members met at the Episcopal Church Center in downtown Salt Lake City to vote on the proposed bylaws.
Longstanding voting members expressed their displeasure at the idea of losing their vote. Shelter providers “talked about serving victims, the struggle they're having with no resources,” Coleman says. But some individuals City Weekly interviewed said they had been afraid to speak out in support of the pro-shelter bylaws, not wanting to antagonize those who controlled their funds.
Shelter providers and advocates “went in very hopeful that they would have a voice at the coalition table,” Coleman says. But it quickly became apparent that a power play was in process, Coleman says. When several shelter providers said they did sexual-assault crisis work, one of the key funders responded, “No, you don't.”
That, Coleman says, left many shelter providers who provide support to sexual-violence victims “raw. They had anticipated a collaborating relationship, but then they saw they had no power there,” she says.
One longtime advocate and domestic-violence survivor left the meeting in tears. “I felt as if I had a huge hole in my soul.”
The new bylaws were voted down.
The following day, barbed e-mails, typically copied to many in the domestic violence community, flew back and forth. They culminated in a public e-mail scolding of Coleman by Searle: “When are you going to work with and listen to those who want to support you and have UDVC be successful.”
Tension between Coleman and DCFS also simmered. When she asked for 2011 figures for money spent on perpetrator treatment in order to compile a Utah needs assessment required by FVPSA, DCFS's former domestic-violence program administrator Del Bircher wrote to division director Platt, “I don't trust how the information will be used.” Platt agreed: “Which is why I only want to give her very little info.”
Platt says the e-mail exchange was during the legislative session and he wanted to ensure the information given out to her was accurate, “that we were able to explain it. The reality is, facts are facts.”
The board and Coleman reworked the bylaws, simplifying the voting structure. While shelter providers were still in charge, state officials, among others, were once more eligible to be voting members. However, they could not be voted to the board if they had any influence over funding streams to shelters. Two months later, on May 21, the council voted to adopt the new bylaws version.
Coleman has mixed feelings. She now leads the UDVC—renamed as a coalition instead of a council—that, run by shelter providers, “is in minimum alignment” with federal regulations. But to get there, she also had to take out references to shelter providers doing sexual-assault work, the issue that had so irked Searle. “That doesn't make any sense to me that to please local government I can't have it in the bylaws,” she says.
JUMP INTO THE UNKNOWN
Coleman still has obstacles to negotiate, including a federal audit of her agency, which she fears will not go well because of its history of not being in compliance. But she also finds in the DCFS's Oxborrow someone who speaks her language. Platt gave Oxborrow a mandate to bring the shelters and DCFS closer together. “I told her go check on the shelters, make sure we are in line with them,” Platt says. “I want to renew our efforts, to make sure we are part of discussions, to be supportive of latest research, the latest trends in intimate-partner violence.”
Part of FVPSA's funding requirement is a state plan to end domestic violence. While many other states have active 10-year plans to reduce domestic violence, no one City Weekly asked could locate one for Utah. There is also no needs assessment as yet done to plot out how big Utah's domestic violence problem is, nor an effective tracking program in place to identify how the money is spent on treatment and how effective that treatment is.
Oxborrow says she and Coleman have already talked extensively about developing a needs assessment for Utah. “We need to organize ourselves and have a collective voice to seek funding,” Oxborrow says. “There's been so much chaos for so long” in Utah's domestic-violence-services community.
Coleman says she seeks “a strong partnership with the state, but one where our differences are respected.” She is determined to hold course. “Where I've gotten marginalized, my response is keep standing. That's really what we ask victims to do.”
Despite the painful rejection Karen encountered when she sought help from Utah's shelters, she agrees with Coleman. “I don't have the luxury to crawl under a rock and hide or have an emotional breakdown,” she says. “There has to be a comeback story, the Rocky music, whatever you want to call it. I have to show my kids you keep going and don't give up. Something will come of it.”
By early June, Karen and her children's time at the Logan shelter was up. The allotted time for victims is 30 to 45 days before moving to transitional housing. But Karen could not find somewhere to rent that was appropriate for her family. CAPSA gave her a two-week extension while she continued the search.
Despite the lingering uncertainty, Karen says that women who find themselves caught between an abusive partner and the underfunded shelters of Utah shouldn't think twice.
“Leap anyway,” she says.
The Anonymous Rape Kit Part III
Beginning in 2009, states will have to pay for Jane Doe rape kits to continue receiving funding under the federal Violence Against Women Act, which provides tax dollars for women's shelters and law enforcement training. States will decide how many locations will offer anonymous rape exams and how long the evidence should be kept.
Emergency rooms typically use a "rape kit" to collect evidence for use by police and prosecutors. It consists of microscope slides, boxes and plastic bags for storing skin, hair, blood, saliva or [filtered word] gathered by a specially trained nurse. The victim's injuries are also photographed. The new requirement applies only to adult victims. Hospitals and doctors must still report incest or abuse involving children to the police. What makes a Jane Doe rape kit different is that it is sealed with only a number on the outside of the envelope to identify the victim.
Police do not open the envelope unless the victim decides to press charges.
In Kansas, this legislature was pushed through in 2008 with the help of Erica Haas, of the Governor's Grants Program.
Despite the fact that legislators recently lengthened the statute of limitations on rape to ten years, these kits are stored for only 5 years and while Kansas statute 38-2223 requires mandatory reporting of abuse to minors, we're still not clear as to whether or not a sexually assaulted minor can use these kits as from the AP , 'for younger victims, prosecution would begin within one year of the date the suspect is identified through DNA testing, or within 10 years of the victim's 18th birthday, whichever is later'.
'Anonymous rape kit' DNA can not be put into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) as there was no crime committed and unless funding is used from elsewhere, Kansas counties are picking up the tab to the tune of $300- $1,000 per kit, whereas recovery of these fees only comes through prosecution, if 'anonymous' reports rape.
With somewhere around 60+ evidence 'anonymous rape kits' sitting in KBI storage, what happens if an 'anonymous' assailant rapes someone else?
Some of you may be familiar with the case of Kellie Greene, a rape survivor who has become a strong and articulate advocate for DNA testing. Kellie waited more than three years before the DNA evidence in her case was analyzed and matched with an offender who was, by that time, serving a 25-year sentence for beating and raping another woman. That other rape had occurred just weeks before his assault on Kellie. Had the rapist in the earlier attack been identified sooner, he might have been in jail, and Kellie might have been spared the terrible trauma of sexual assault altogether.
Northern Ireland's first Sexual Assault Referral Centre opens
Stormont Executive press release - Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Health Minister Edwin Poots and Justice Minister David Ford have welcomed Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall to the opening of Northern Ireland's first Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
Known as ‘The Rowan', the centre at Antrim Area Hospital will support all victims of sexual violence and provide victims of rape and serious sexual assaults with a safe, secure and confidential environment.
Speaking at the opening, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “This is the first facility of its kind in Northern Ireland and the first in the UK to offer such a comprehensive range of services under one roof. The Rowan is a significant step forward in supporting all victims of sexual violence, which has a devastating impact on victims and their families. The opening of this service is very much welcomed and I am pleased that the Duchess of Cornwall was able to join us for this important milestone.
“I am very much aware that sexual violence is a serious problem in Northern Ireland, and that it affects people from all cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds and across all age groups. The statistics show that for the 12 month period to end of February 2013, there were 1892 sexual offences recorded by PSNI. However as these are only the reported incidents, we know this is just the tip of the iceberg and that many incidents go unreported.
“Our collective aim should be to keep all children and adults safe from harm, to prevent them being abused. However, when it happens, and sadly we cannot prevent it all of the time, we need to have services in place to help them deal with, and hopefully overcome, their experiences.”
The Rowan delivers a 24/7 service 365 days per annum to victims of sexual crime by PSNI referral only. The clinic is open each week day (Monday to Friday) from 9.00am to 5.00pm, with an on-call response service from 5.00pm-9.00am and 24/7 at weekends and bank holidays. From September 2013, The Rowan will be available to those who wish to self refer.
Justice Minister David Ford said: “Northern Ireland's regional Sexual Assault Referral Centre, The Rowan, will provide victims with a safe, secure and confidential environment.
“My Department, working in partnership with other statutory service providers and the voluntary sector, remains absolutely committed to addressing the needs of all victims of sexual violence and abuse.
“I believe that through partnership working we will provide better support to victims and survivors of sexual crime and that the establishment of this very important facility will assist victims in achieving best evidence and bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.”
Notes to editors:
|1. The Rowan is a bespoke building on a brown field site which has been architecturally designed with the psychology of the victim in mind.
2. There are three self-contained forensic pods within The Rowan, one of which has been specifically designed for child victims and is also suitable for use by those with a disability.
3. Each pod also has a waiting room for friends and family providing seating and vending facilities and there is also a private garden area for each pod allowing the victim to take a break if required.
4. The Rowan offers a range of services including a comprehensive assessment of their needs and depending upon those assessed needs, various support/ agreed care pathways are followed. The emotional needs and psychological wellbeing of the victim is considered as part of the consultation.
Advocates push child abuse prevention after Jacksonville girl's death
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FORT LAUDERDALE - In the aftermath of an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl's abduction and slaying, Florida's child advocates are once again asking state leaders to support child abuse prevention programs - programs like a $3 million education effort that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed last month.
Cherish Perrywinkle, who police say was targeted by a registered sex offender, was killed Friday.
Child advocates said tragedies like her death dominate headlines for a few days, but often vanish without meaningful changes. Some are pushing to have more dollars funneled into prevention, which they say also saves lives and money in the long run.
One such program, "Safer, Smarter Families," would have educated school children from kindergarten through fifth grade on stranger danger and abuse prevention. Scott vetoed $3 million for the program last month, noting the curriculum could be developed in the private sector.
Scott's office did not directly comment on the veto Tuesday, but pointed to several other programs the governor had approved to keep families safe, including nearly $3 million to enhance child abuse investigative teams.
Earlier, Scott noted that the state made a $550,000 appropriation this year to Lauren's Kids, a child abuse prevention organization that has received state money in the past to bring that curriculum to kindergarteners statewide.
The organization said it would use this year's funds to "extend the reach of these critical educational materials," but it's unclear when and where the program will be expanded and whether it will be enough to cover all grade levels.
In a written statement Tuesday, the program's founder said, "Cherish and her mother were targeted by a sex offender whose tactics were predatory and sadly predictable." Lauren Book added that it's common for predators to exploit families' vulnerabilities, whether it be lack of transportation, child care, money or a place to stay, as was the case in Cherish's death.
Authorities said Donald James Smith, 56, befriended the girl and her mother while they were shopping Friday night. Smith later took them to a Wal-Mart, where he offered to buy them clothes and hamburgers, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
But instead of buying the snacks, Smith walked out of the store with the girl, the sheriff's office said. Cherish's mother called 911 when she noticed they were missing.
The child's body was found in the woods near a church Saturday morning. Police arrested Smith and charged him with murder and kidnapping.
Smith has been a registered sex offender since a 1993 conviction in Duval County for attempted kidnapping and selling obscene materials. He has been arrested several times since then.
Statewide, the Florida Department of Children and Families verified more than 53,000 victims of child abuse from 2011-2012.
Not only do those cases represent wrenching tragedies, advocates say they also represent huge social costs. The lifetime cost of caring for every surviving child victimized by physical, sexual, psychological abuse or neglect was $210,012, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And the cost recurs, meaning the next year another group of child victims will be abused and require lifetime care, said Roy Miller, CEO of the advocacy group the Children's Campaign.
"What are we doing in the state to empower children to know when they might be in danger?" Miller asked. "Children need the knowledge themselves. They just can't rely on their parents and other responsible adults at that moment in time when they are in most danger."
But it can be difficult to persuade lawmakers to fund prevention programs when other needs, like more beds for domestic violence victims, are often so acute that prevention programs get short changed, said DCF Secretary David Wilkins.
He has spent the past two years evaluating the effectiveness of a program that sends counselors into the homes of at-risk mothers and found it had a 94 percent success rate of keeping those kids out of foster care and their moms out of prison or substance abuse programs. He used those stats successfully to lobby the Legislature this year for an additional $5 million for that program.
DCF is currently testing a half-dozen other prevention programs, including one that teaches students about predators and sexual abuse, and will use those figures to ask for more money next year.
"We can sit here and look at our state budget and say we can't afford it but we're paying for it in all the parts of the budget, which is why we need to have the governor, the legislature and state agencies rethink their prevention strategy," Miller said. "They are still after-the-fact oriented and they'll never get ahead of the curve unless things change."
Pickett supports bills to further protect children
HARRISBURG - In an effort to prevent children from the horrors of abuse, Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) has endorsed several bills to improve the state's Child Protective Services Law.
"Sadly, as we have learned from cases locally and around the state, there are people in society who put children at harm, and it is our job to make sure that the laws in this state not only hold them accountable for their despicable actions, but also help to ensure that abuse is stopped in its tracks and children can be spared from further trauma," said Pickett.
The package of bills passed by the House on June 20 and 24 seek to strengthen the reporting system for suspected cases of abuse, lower the threshold to meet the criminal definition of abuse in the state's Child Protection Services Law and enhance criminal background checks.
The bills in the package include:
- House Bill 430 to establish procedures for reporting suspected child abuse through advanced communication technology. That legislation would improve the ability of reports to be made in a timely manner and for that information to be relayed to the proper investigative authorities. In addition, mandated reporters who are part of an organization are required to report to ChildLine and the person in charge of the organization. The person in charge of the organization then assumes responsibility for facilitating the organization's cooperation with the investigation.
- House Bill 726 to expand and enhance the definition of child abuse in the state's Child Protection Services Law. The legislation seeks to lower the injury threshold to mirror simple assault, expand the ability to substantiate serious emotional abuse, include grooming activities, broaden serious physical neglect and expand the definition of perpetrator.
- House Bill 433 to establish additional safeguards and due process with respect to the outcome of a child abuse investigation. This bill would require that the county Children and Youth Agency director and solicitor approve indicated reports of child abuse and provide a specific timeline for appeals of the outcome of a child abuse investigation.
- House Bill 434 to remove the separate standards and procedures that exist for school employees accused of abusing a student. This bill would ensure that school employees are subject to the same investigations and held to the same standards as parents, child care workers and other perpetrators of child abuse.
- House Bill 435 to enhance background clearance requirements for those who work with children or volunteer in a role where they supervise children. This bill would expand the scope of those required to receive background clearances, require that clearances be renewed every 24 months, and require employees and volunteers to disclose arrests and convictions that would affect their ability to work or volunteer with children.
- House Bill 436 to expand the list of mandated reporters of suspected child abuse, clarify a mandated reporter's basis to report child abuse and enhance penalties for failure to report.
The bills are based on recommendations from the Task Force on Child Protection, which was created last year in the wake of high-profile sexual abuse scandals in Pennsylvania. The package of bills passed in the past week are in addition to more than a dozen others endorsed earlier this spring to close many of the cracks in the child welfare system that have made it difficult for cases to be properly investigated and prosecuted.
"All of these bills are designed to ensure the overall well-being of children," Pickett said. "These proposals were all thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized as to minimize any sort of unintended consequences, while making sure that those who should never be alone with children are not put in the position of caring for them. These bills represent an ongoing effort to care for our children and to prevent them from needless suffering and pain."
All of the bills are now with the state Senate for consideration.
Anyone who suspects child abuse can make a report to the state's toll-free hotline for child abuse suspicions, called ChildLine, at 1-800-932-0313.
Stewards of Children program from the Monique Burr Foundation works to prevent child abuse, abduction
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There is a group on the First Coast that is trying to help keep your children safe. The key to the program is you, the parent.
The goal, according to program officials, is to teach parents seven steps to prevent and recognize child sexual abuse and abduction.
Tracy Bailey of Jacksonville said the recent death of Cherish Perrywinkle is something she has thought about.
"I actually told the children all weekend more about staying close, paying attention," Bailey said.
Diena Thompson, whose 7-year-old daughter Somer was abducted and killed nearly four years ago, said "Now is the time for education and prevention."
For months, Thompson and others at the Monique Burr Foundation have worked in conjunction with the organization Darkness to Light and Children's Safe Passage to offer the Stewards of Children Class.
"I teach parents 7 steps and tips on what to do to look for how to prevent ... at least help to prevent it," Thompson said as she described the program.
For example, having a plan and talking to your child about it to prevent sexual abuse including abduction.
"I don't know that I would personally take it," Bailey said. "Because I read a lot and I do a lot and I train my child a lot preventatively. But, it seems that locally there is a lot of parents that could utilize that knowledge."
The program costs $10 per person. More information about the program can be found here.
LAUSD launches website to explain Miramonte sex-abuse settlement offers
by Barbara Jones
Having already agreed to pay $30 million to settle about 60 claims related to the Miramonte Elementary sex-abuse scandal, Los Angeles Unified School District launched a website Tuesday detailing its efforts to resolve some three dozen other cases.
The website, miramontesettlements.com, is aimed at providing "factual information" about the $17 million the district offered earlier this month to settle 35 additional claims filed by students who say they were molested by former teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer at the school in the Florence-Firestone area.
The offer, which expires on July 5 after 30 days, would pay each youngster about $425,000. That compares to the deal announced in March that awards 61 other children about $470,000 each. Claims by about two dozen other students have not been part of the settlement talks.
L.A. Unified said the website, which is in English and Spanish, shows how the proposed settlements could be invested to generate income and provide for the plaintiffs' future needs. "We wanted to be sure there was a central clearinghouse for information about what the offers mean and how they would work," said spokesman Sean Rossall. "We wanted to provide the best factual information possible as the plaintiffs consider the offers. It's important not only for settling the Miramonte allegations but for protecting taxpayer resources."
It's the latest salvo in what has become a public campaign by both the district and plaintiffs' attorneys to resolve claims stemming from the sex-abuse scandal that erupted in February 2012, when the arrests of the two teachers were announced. The district called a news conference on June 5 to announce the $17 million proposal, which General Counsel David Holmquist called a "fair offer that will provide for the health and welfare of the students for the remainder of their lifetimes."
Attorneys Michael Carrillo, left, Luis Carrillo, middle, and John Henrichs, right, who represents 14 mothers of 22 children who were students at Miramonte Elementary School, announces the filing of a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District during a news conference at his offices in Pasadena on July 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Attorneys Luis Carrillo and Brian Claypool have held frequent news conferences outside LAUSD headquarters to levy allegations of negligence against LAUSD officials. They've scheduled another for Wednesday to release a letter to Superintendent John Deasy and school board President Monica Garcia demanding "sweeping policy changes "¦ to protect the safety of all children." The lawyers have previously said the $17 million offer would not cover the costs of mental-health therapy for their clients or the emotional pain and suffering caused by the alleged abuse.
Berndt, 62, has pleaded not guilty to charges of committing lewd acts against 23 children. He's accused of blindfolding students and leading them in a bizarre "tasting game" in which he fed them spoonfuls of his semen and semen-tainted cookies. He remains jailed in lieu of $23 million bail, pending a preliminary hearing.
Springer, 51, has been ordered to stand trial on charges of committing lewd acts against three Miramonte students. He has pleaded not guilty.
Disneyland worker charged with sexually assaulting girl, 11
by The Associated Press
SANTA ANA -- Investigators say a Disneyland worker charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl may have had additional victims.
The Orange County District Attorney's office says 45-year-old Bryan William Anast was arraigned Monday and is being held on $1 million bail. He is charged with five felony counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and possession of child pornography.
Anast was arrested last week at Disneyland, where he worked as a machinist who helped maintain rides.
The girl told sheriff's officials that Anast had assaulted her on four occasions.
If convicted, he faces 63 years to life in prison.
Investigators are asking the public to help to identify additional victims.
Dominick's Law Has the Toughest Penalties for Child Abuse and Abusers
Dolores M. Miller is a supporter of the toughest laws ever passed for those who abuse children. Pennsylvania law may soon follow the lead of Michigan for toughest penalties for crimes against children.
Dolores M. Miller, Poet and Author of the Beautiful Warrior writings is a survivor of child abuse. Ms. Miller is sharing her experience with the legislators of Pennsylvania. The trauma of child abuse can last a lifetime. In some cases of physical abuse the child leads to the death of the child.
Dominick's Law is a law proposed by Dominick's grandfather, Mr. Rick Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun and other supporters are demanding mandatory reporting laws on child abuse and stiffer penalties for child abusers.
This law is named after Dominick Calhoun, a 4 year old boy who brutally and grossly tortured over the course of three day's before coming to his death as a result of the abuse, torture and injuries.
In June 2012 "Dominick's Law " was unanimously passed in the House and In the Senate in the state of Michigan, and was signed into Law by Gov. Rick Snyder. Ms. Miller is taking on the challenge and working to have the law passed in PA.
The goal is to have the law passed across the nation. The law proposes penalties for witnesses, and bystanders with additional penalties if the abuse occurs in the presence of another child. The Michigan law is as follows:
AN ACT to amend 1931 PA 328, entitled “An act to revise, consolidate, codify, and add to the statutes relating to crimes; to define crimes and prescribe the penalties and remedies; to provide for restitution under certain circumstances; to provide for the competency of evidence at the trial of persons accused of crime; to provide immunity from prosecution for certain witnesses appearing at criminal trials; to provide for liability for damages; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts inconsistent with or contravening any of the provisions of this act,” by amending section 136b (MCL 750.136b), as amended by 2008 PA 577, and by adding section 136d.
The People of the State of Michigan enact:
(1) As used in this section:
|(a) “Child” means a person who is less than 18 years of age and is not emancipated by operation of law as provided in section 4 of 1968 PA 293, MCL 722.4.
(b) “Cruel” means brutal, inhuman, sadistic, or that which torments.
(c) “Omission” means a willful failure to provide food, clothing, or shelter necessary for a child's welfare or willful abandonment of a child.
(d) “Person” means a child's parent or guardian or any other person who cares for, has custody of, or has authority over a child regardless of the length of time that a child is cared for, in the custody of, or subject to the authority of that person.
(e) “Physical harm” means any injury to a child's physical condition.
(f) “Serious physical harm” means any physical injury to a child that seriously impairs the child's health or physical well-being, including, but not limited to, brain damage, a skull or bone fracture, subdural hemorrhage or hematoma, dislocation, sprain, internal injury, poisoning, burn or scald, or severe cut.
(g) “Serious mental harm” means an injury to a child's mental condition or welfare that is not necessarily permanent but results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.
(2) A person is guilty of child abuse in the first degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical or serious mental harm to a child. Child abuse in the first degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years.
(3) A person is guilty of child abuse in the second degree if any of the following apply:
|(a) The person's omission causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child or if the person's reckless act causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child.
(b) The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to a child regardless of whether harm results.
(c) The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that is cruel to a child regardless of whether harm results.
(4) Child abuse in the second degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment as follows:
|(a) For a first offense, not more than 10 years.
(b) For a second or subsequent offense, not more than 20 years.
(5) A person is guilty of child abuse in the third degree if any of the following apply:
|(a) The person knowingly or intentionally causes physical harm to a child.
(b) The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that under the circumstances poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, and the act results in physical harm to a child.
(6) Child abuse in the third degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years.
(7) A person is guilty of child abuse in the fourth degree if any of the following apply:
|(a) The person's omission or reckless act causes physical harm to a child.
(b) The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that under the circumstances poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, regardless of whether physical harm results.
(8) Child abuse in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year.
(9) This section does not prohibit a parent or guardian, or other person permitted by law or authorized by the parent or guardian, from taking steps to reasonably discipline a child, including the use of reasonable force.
(10) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the defendant's conduct involving the child was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence in light of all the facts and circumstances known to the defendant at that time. The defendant has the burden of establishing the affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence. As used in this subsection, “domestic violence” means that term as defined in section 1 of 1978 PA 389, MCL 400.1501.
(1) A person who violates section 136b in the presence of a child other than the child who is the victim of the violation is guilty of a felony punishable as follows:
|(a) If the person violates section 136b(2) in the presence of another child, by imprisonment for life or any term of years.
(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), if the person violates section 136b(4) in the presence of another child, by imprisonment for not more than 10 years.
(c) If the person violates section 136b(4) in the presence of another child on a second or subsequent occasion, by imprisonment for not more than 20 years.
(d) If the person violates section 136b(6) in the presence of another child, by imprisonment for not more than 2 years.
(2) A charge and conviction under this section do not prohibit a person from being charged with, convicted of, or sentenced for any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction as the violation of this section.
Enacting section 1. This amendatory act shall be known and may be cited as “Dominick's Law”.
Enacting section 2. This amendatory act takes effect July 1, 2012.
Dolores M. Miller is taking on the challenge! Dolores is advocating for the same laws to be passed in Pennsylvania. Working with the legislators in Pennsylvania, Dolores is the voice for those with no voice and will continue to fight for justice where there has been none.
Ms. Miller is back on the road and making sure her voice is heard. When not interacting with legislators, Ms. Miller is presenting healing workshops and lectures for survivors. Ms. Miller provides compassion and hope for those who need it most.
“If the Dominick's law was in effect when I was a child sixty years ago, I would not have been abused even after adults knew of the abuse, Dominck Calhourn and countless others would still be alive. We must do what we can to protect the children!” – Dolores M. Miller
Ms. Miller will be speaking at the South Florida Support Group Meeting for CSA - SNAP & Together We Heal at Broward Health Imperial Point in Early September. You are urged to join the informative and healing session. Additional presentations will be available in August in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in September 2013. While spreading the words of hope and healing, Ms. Miller will provide information on the laws and the reasons why it is so important to strengthen the laws now.
"Dolores is an inspiring poet with a message of hope and healing - please take a moment to go to her website and consider some of her writings. Maybe someone in your life has suffered from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse; or maybe someone you know is simply in need of a positive outlook on a negative life experience of another kind. No matter how bleak things may appear, as humans we have the fascinating ability to choose whether or not we believe in hope or remain in the vacuum of hurt. You will find the words of Dolores can help restore your hope." – David Pittman.
“I strive to reach out to all people, to inspire and provide health and spirituality… my healing words can touch deep inside to the fibers of the soul. If you keep believing – even in the most difficult of times, you will rise above." – Dolores M. Miller
Dolores M. Miller, Poet and Author of the Beautiful Warrior writings, is a proud supporter or organizations protecting our nation's children. As a survivor of child abuse, Dolores provides hope, courage and healing to the readers of her works. Dolores would like to offer more healing words and inspiration. “I believe in your compassion”, please visit http://www.beautifulwarrior.com to purchase the Beautiful Warrior books and please be sure to like DoloresMMiller on Facebook for daily inspirational messages. View the Facebook page for Dolores M. Miller for more details regarding additional speaking engagements for 2013.
Contact: Dolores Miller
To speak with Ms. Miller directly, please make contact through http://www.facebook.com/doloresmmiller
The allegation, not the victim, should be judged in child sexual abuse cases
New guidelines from the Crown Prosecution Service may help cases to get to court, but juries need to understand the nature of sexual exploitation and the impact that this has on children
by Carlene Firmin
Children who are sexually exploited have to endure months, sometimes years, of abuse, sometimes by multiple perpetrators, many of whom they cannot identify or do not know. They may be moved around the country or forced to take drugs or drink alcohol to ensure that they are compliant, often rendering them confused about what has been done to them, by whom, and at what time.
When I met Aisha in an offenders' institution for young women, she had been made to offend alongside those who were abusing her, by carrying drugs on their behalf. She was told that if she spoke to anyone about what was happening she'd be locked up because she was a criminal.
Some victims are so afraid of what their abusers will do to them or their families that they return repeatedly to their perpetrators, or as a result of the grooming process believe that the person who is hurting them is their friend.
The Office of the Children's Commissioner's inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups has demonstrated that these are the hallmarks of this type of abuse. And yet when children have mustered the courage to tell someone what is happening to them, they have often been considered too unreliable a witness to carry a case through court.
Earlier this month, the director of public prosecutions published interim guidelines for prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse. What is most significant about the guidelines is that they propose a shift from assessing the credibility of a child who has been abused to assessing the credibility of the allegation that they make. The document outlines that the very factors that may have undermined a child's account – the fact that they returned to their abuser, or had been under the influence of drink or drugs – may, in fact, be factors that support their allegation of abuse.
Professionals who work with sexually exploited children and young people, and who hear allegations from them on a regular basis, need to contribute ideas to the consultation about what else, besides the statement of a victim, builds a credible allegation. A young person may offer small, but significant, pieces of information not just through what they say but through their behaviours.
If they have gone missing, for example, where have they gone and who with? If they have been taken to another town to be sexually exploited, is there a way of tracking that journey through CCTV, mobile phone records and other sources of information?
Teachers, health workers or housing officers may all see or hear signs that, when put together, increase the credibility of the allegation made by a young person. So, this credibility rests not just on victims but on all agencies and individuals who hold information critical to building a case.
The changes being proposed by the Crown Prosecution Service may improve the likelihood of cases getting to court and being handled appropriately by prosecutors, yet juries still need to understand the nature of sexual exploitation and the impact that this has on children.
Further consideration needs to be given to the role of expert witnesses during trials and to raising awareness among the public to ensure that we all measure the credibility of the allegation and not of a child who has been brave enough to tell.
NJ Non-Profit Tackles Child Abuse
by Matthew White
Since 1979, Prevent Child Abuse has focused its efforts on an issue that affects so many children around the Garden State.
“Our mission is to end child abuse, in all its forms, throughout the state of New Jersey,” Executive Director Rush Russell said.
Russell says there are more than 9,000 confirmed cases of child abuse each year throughout the state, “but the reality is that there are far more cases that are never reported.”
The non-profit has identified overwhelming family stress as a major cause of child abuse. To address that issue, along with other causes, they offer a slew of programs and services including:
Working with teen parents in high schools
Child sexual abuse education initiative
Education to help end shaken baby syndrome
He estimates that over 30,000 New Jersey families reached through their various initiatives, with $0.91 of every dollar going directly to programs.
“Our job is to prevent child abuse before it ever happens,” Russell explained.
Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey holds their annual Freedom Run 5K, this Saturday, June 29th, at Johnson Park in Piscataway. The event starts at 8 a.m.
Russell says that events, such as the 5K, offer more opportunities to raise money and awareness for this important issue.
“It's somewhat of a silent epidemic in our state and something that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Learn more about this group by visiting their website and Facebook page.
Child Abuse Reporting Up State Wide
by Mallory Lane
STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - The numbers are in, and show child abuse reporting is up across the state.
The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's 2012 Annual Child Abuse Report shows a significant increase in the number of reports of suspected child abuse across the Commonwealth.
Reports are up 8.5% from 2011, and statistics show of the 67 counties in the state, 53 received more reports in 2012 than 2011.
Experts say those increases are thanks to an increased awareness of child sexual abuse after the Sandusky scandal.
It was a year ago Saturday, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual abuse.
Since then, Andrea Boyles says she's seen a big difference.
"People are more aware, people are paying more attention," Boyles said. "People are trusting their gut instincts and making those reports, again, letting the experts sort things out."
Boyles works with kids everyday in Centre County as the Director of the Youth Service Bureau. She says even they are learning to recognize the signs of abuse.
"We were looking at a mural and in that conversation, the staff were able to have kids talking about child abuse, getting hit, child sexual abuse, things that certainly, when I was a child, we weren't having conversation about," she said.
The numbers show it, too.
Total reports of child abuse in 2012 for Centre County are 218. That's up from 191 in 2011.
The number of substantiated reports are up nearly 4%, rising from 23 to 35 in 2012.
"I think what we've seen is that people are really interested in learning more about child sexual abuse and learning what they can do," Mary Faulkner said.
Faulkner is the Director of Advocacy and Counseling for the Centre County Women's Resource Center. She says over the past year, more people have reached out to learn what they can do to help increase awareness.
"I think a lot of people want programs in their schools, or for their community groups, or their sports teams, so we've been trying to meet those requests," she said.
"Talking about what's okay and what's not okay is important," Boyles said. "This isn't just about sexual abuse. It's not okay for somebody to hit you, it's not okay for somebody to kick you. Making sure those conversations are happening with children, our own children and children we care for."
Boyles says there are ways to spot child abuse. She says if you notice a child acting differently, that could be a sign something is wrong and to contact a local child advocacy center or the police if you have concerns.
Numbers of reports of child abuse are up across other local counties, too. The 2012 Child Abuse Statistics for other counties are as follows.
Bedford Total Reports -
Total Reports -
Blair Total Reports -
Total Reports -
Cambria Total Reports -
Total Reports -
Clearfield Total Reports -
Total Reports -
Huntingdon Total Reports -
Total Reports -
Somerset Total Reports -
Total Reports -
Abuse has costly effect on workplace
by Torrie Cope
Tardiness, absenteeism and difficulty performing a job are usually quick ways to be reprimanded by a boss or to lose a job.
They are also the effects of domestic violence on the workplace.
Victims of domestic violence lose almost 8 million paid workdays per year as a result of the abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And between 25 and 50 percent of survivors reported losing a job at least in part because of the domestic violence, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.
“If they lose their job, they're playing right into the hand of the abusive partner,” Bea Black, executive director of the Women's and Children's Alliance, said. “Abusive partners try to exert control and the more their partner or spouse is out of their reach … that's really insecure for them.”
A good job creates a place where victims of abuse can form relationships and alliances with coworkers that can diminish the control the abusive partner has, she said.
“That's one reason they (the abusive partner) will really do things to torpedo someone's opportunity to keep a job,” she said.
If a victim of domestic violence is fired from his or her job because of the effects of the domestic violence there is no recourse to get the job back.
Domestic violence is a tough topic and it's not easy for employers to discuss with their employees, Black said, even if they suspect something is going on.
The WCA works with businesses to let their management and staff know there is an organization to reach out to if they need it and how to help or get help in domestic violence situations.
“It's not the expertise of the company, so if we can be in partnership with them and create a healthy relationship both within the workplace and help ensure support outside of work then there's a connection there,” she said.
Black urges employers to contact the WCA at 343-3688 or call a local domestic violence hotline for advice if they suspect an employee is a victim of domestic abuse.
Domestic violence in the workplace
25 to 50 percent of domestic violence survivors report losing a job, at least in part due to the domestic violence.
Victims lose almost 8 million days of paid work each year because of the violence from current or former boyfriends, husbands and dates — the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity.
The annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence is $727.8 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The cost of intimate partner violence is more than $5.8 billion per year. $4.1 billion of that is for direct medical and mental health services.
A national survey in 2005 found 21 percent of full-time employed adults were victims of domestic violence.
A study found that 75 percent of domestic violence perpetrators used workplace resources to express remorse or anger toward a victim, check up on, pressure or threaten a victim.
A national survey in 2007 found 61 percent of American men think employers should do more to address domestic violence.
Sources: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; National Partnership for Women and Families
Surviving domestic violence; the road to recovery
(Editor's note: This is the first of a four part series on survivors of domestic violence.)
by bRachel Baldwin -- Staff Writer
“I couldn't breathe; his hands were around my throat. I felt myself drifting into unconsciousness and I remember all too well the last thought that went through my mind…who will stand as a buffer between my husband and my two sons after I'm dead?” said Colleen Wiley, a survivor of domestic violence who spoke to the Daily News about the years of physical abuse she endured at the hands of her ex-husband and of the long road to recovery that is truly, a never ending one.
“I so often recall the first time he ever struck me,” she said. “I was only 17 when I married him. I know now that I married him to get away from home, from a father who acted as if I was more of a burden than I was loved. I felt lost in that house…like I wasn't wanted or didn't belong. I was searching – searching for someone to love me the way I craved to be loved. I thought I found that with my ex-husband, and was too young and naïve to know the difference. In my mind, I thought my life would be wonderful. Although it began that way, it soon changed.”
“I was 19 when my first son was born,” stated Colleen. “He was premature and had a bad case of the colic. He cried 24/7. It put strain on our marriage, but he didn't help me take care of the baby at all. He became angry, yelling at me to shut the baby up. I tried everything, but nothing worked. My ex would go into the bedroom, turn the stereo on and lock the door while I walked the floor until I was ready to drop. Early one morning, I woke him up around 5 a.m. and begged him to take care of the baby for just a couple of hours so I could get some sleep…I was dead on my feet. Instead of the help I begged for, I was backhanded across the face and knocked into a wall.”
Colleen's story is sadly not unusual, but has been told over and over again by women across the nation and across the world. Although the circumstances may vary, they are in part, all the same.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, an average of three women a day lose their life every day at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. Every 5 minutes, a woman is injured by someone she loves or had loved. Many cases are reported to law enforcement while even more go unreported for fear of repercussion for their actions. They live in fear of losing their children or their homes. The men who abuse them mentally as well as physically and make them feel useless, defenseless, and they are fearful of being killed. They think they have no choice but to take whatever punishment he decides to dish-out. They see no light at the end of the tunnel. Some fool themselves in thinking that the abuse won't get any worse and sadly, most are wrong. The beatings increase in frequency and in intensity until they endure injuries that leave them with life-changing impairments and physical handicaps or worse, they lose their lives.
Colleen stated that after she was struck the first time, she was shocked beyond belief but received a bigger blow to her heart when she went to her parent's home to ask for help.
“When everyone else is against you, you're always supposed to be able to go home…count on your parents and family to support and help you. That didn't happen for me. I was crying my eyes out when I walked through their door. My dad was sitting in his chair in the living room and asked me what in the world was I blubbering about. I managed to speak enough words through the tears for him to understand what I was saying and instead of being enraged at the thought of someone harming his daughter, he told me I needed to get myself home - beg my husband for forgiveness and figure out what I had done wrong to deserve being hit and to never do it again,” said the victim. “I had never felt more alone or rejected in my whole, entire life. I felt numb. I got back in my car, went home, and apologized. I went from being the victim to feeling as though the whole situation was my fault.”
Through the years, which brought the birth of a second son, the violence continued. Sometimes months would pass with no physical contact and right when Colleen would begin to feel like she could relax and breathe, something would anger her ex and he would take it out on her.
“I can remember his parent's covering for him, telling our neighbors that I was clumsy…that I tripped on the cat coming through the door and struck my face. The excuses they came up with were believable, especially since they had reputations in the community as being church-going, upstanding people,” she said. “I know I should have left but every time I made plans to leave, I would have to step in-between he and my boys to keep him from beating them. I knew in my heart he would get visitation and I wouldn't be there to protect them. I was working, but I didn't make much. He parents had a lot of money and I knew they would hire him a ruthless divorce attorney to fight for full custody. I felt stuck.”
The 11-year marriage came to a screeching halt on a cool, spring day in 1994 when her enraged husband began yet another round of abuse so severe that Colleen suffered extensive, life-threatening injuries including a skull fracture that caused her to spend 18 days in a local hospital, 7 of those being in the intensive care unit. She feels confident in saying that had her 8 year old son not sneked and called the police, she would have been killed. True justice did not prevail, however. When “small-town” politics became involved and favors was called in, her husband was released from custody the next morning and never spent another night inside a jail cell.
After recovering from her multiple injuries, Colleen made a promise to herself to move forward. She realized after therapy and counseling that she had never deserved one day of the abuse she suffered over the years she was married to her ex, nor would she tolerate it in the future. She rented a home, got primary custody of her sons and worked 2 and 3 jobs at a time to support herself and her children.
“We never again had a fine home, or a new automobile and sometimes I had to get really creative to come up with a good meal out of the meager groceries in our pantry, but we were safe and that's what mattered,” explained Colleen. “The aggravation continued but I was able to retain EPO's against him and eventually he remarried and moved away. That was truly the happiest day of my life.”
Her ex slowly cut contact between himself and his sons and has not seen either of them more than 4-5 times in the last 6 years. The children have now became adults with children of their own, and have both remarked that they would never do to a woman what their father did to their mom.
During the wedding of her eldest son that was attended by her ex, Colleen remarked that when she made eye contact with him for the first time in my years, the first thought that crossed her mind was, “If I had killed you, I would be out by now.”
Time has healed most of Colleen's wounds, and she is now remarried to a man she describes as “the love of her life”, who shows her everyday what it's truly liked to be loved and considers herself blessed beyond measure to have him.
“There is a life out there and there is help for any woman who is in an abusive relationship,” said Colleen. “You don't have to stay, you deserve far better than that. I encourage anyone that is being abused to take the first step to a better life. The first one is always the hardest to take but it gets easier and easier as time goes on. It won't be a bed of roses and there will be days when you question every action you take but if you just hold on a little longer, I promise it will all be worth it in the end.”
“There's no price-tag that can ever be put on peace of mind and knowing that you're safe.”
PA Legislature readies big changes to child abuse law
by Kate Giammarise
HARRISBURG -- A single word would make a difference in whether some injured children in Pennsylvania are classified as abused. Because state law says that a child must suffer "serious" bodily injuries to be considered abused, cases have slipped through the cracks.
The state Legislature is poised to change that, drawing on a report submitted by a task force convened 18 months ago in the wake of child abuse scandals.
Major changes to Pennsylvania's child abuse laws were voted unanimously out of a House committee earlier this month and could be passed by the House before it wraps up for the summer at the end of June.
Child advocates are hopeful any differences with the Senate can be ironed out during the fall legislative session, and the bills -- to broaden the definition of what constitutes child abuse, who is considered a perpetrator of such abuse and how it is to be reported -- can become law by the end of the year.
"[The committee vote] moves Pennsylvania much closer to laws and practices that will be child-centered," said Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee, in a statement after a committee vote. "There is still some work to do, but this is a solid step forward."
The proposed laws mostly originated with a statewide panel of experts in December 2011, in the wake of child abuse within the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese and the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
While progress has been slow in terms of changing the law, most advocates say they are pleased that legislators are taking the proposals seriously and approaching the issue with thoughtfulness.
"Keep in mind, we have a 400-page report, and many, many, many levels of suggested change," said Jason Kutulakis, an attorney and task force member.
"We're making really significant changes to laws that have existed for a very long time," said Dr. Rachel Berger, a physician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh with expertise in child abuse who also served on the task force. "It takes a lot of thought. It takes a lot of discussion. We all would like it to go faster ... but I think these things take time."
So, what's actually going to change?
Most critical is the legal definition what actually constitutes child abuse.
Under current law, the level of injury and the degree of pain a child has to experience in order for the incident to be considered abuse is high, explained Ms. Palm.
The proposed changes would lower the threshold for abuse from "serious bodily injury" to "bodily injury."
"The good news is, this [changing the definition] is an area I believe, of consensus," said Joan Benso, president and CEO of PA Partnerships for Children.
"The goal is to put Pennsylvania more on par with every other state," said Dr. Berger.
The state is widely considered to be an outlier nationally in terms of its high bar for what it legally considers child abuse, advocates say.
Earlier this month, a Senate panel heard testimony on this same issue. A Senate bill still in committee would similarly lower the standard for abuse from "serious bodily injury" to "bodily injury."
Smaller bills have already been passed by the House, such as legislation to expand protections to any person who makes a good faith report of suspected child abuse; a bill that requires child abuse recognition and reporting training for professional licensees who are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse; and a bill requiring operators and employees of child care centers to receive child abuse recognition and reporting training.
Also passed by the House: bills requiring the Department of Public Welfare to establish procedures for electronic filing of reports of suspected abuse (expected to speed up response times to reports); a bill requiring a child abuse investigation include interviews with all subjects of the report, including the alleged perpetrator; and a bill intended to ensure all school employees are held to the same standard for the purpose of reporting suspected abuse.
Ms. Palm said while there is some concern among legislators about the bills not allowing corporal punishment by parents, she believes those concerns are unfounded.
"A parent will still have the prerogative to use reasonable corporal punishment," she said. "No one is going to be brought before anyone if you spanked your child."
She added, "We are talking about kids with broken bones, with burns, with lacerations, that were not falling within the definition of child abuse."
Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Delmont, who spoke against some of the legislation on the House floor on Thursday, said he does not want to be branded a supporter of child abuse but was concerned about parents' rights.
"Anymore, you can't discipline your child in public ... I just think we're making that problem worse and I just think we need to consider that."
A spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett said his office has been working with both the House and the Senate on their legislation.
"We've had a productive dialogue with both the House and Senate ... and we're hopeful that we'll be able to get legislation on the governor's desk shortly," said Christine Cronkright.
Child protection commission proposed by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
by Christina Villacorte
Following the shocking death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy allegedly tortured by his mother and her boyfriend, the Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection.
"We need to take a step back and do a rigorous analysis of the entire child protection system," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the motion, which calls for scrutinizing not just the county Department of Children and Family Services but several other agencies, including the Sheriff's Department.
"It is incumbent upon us also to pinpoint why past recommendations have not been implemented successfully so that we ensure that these children, the most vulnerable among us, are safe."
DCFS had received numerous complaints that Gabriel Fernandez was being abused, but its social workers dismissed them as unfounded.
The Sheriff's Department had also been aware of the allegations.
In their motion to create an independent commission with 10 board-appointed members by July 1, Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Ridley-Thomas described the child welfare system and its manner of investigating child abuse cases as "dysfunctional."
They said many reforms had been proposed over the years, but attempts to implement them were "unclear or arguably inadequate."
Under the plan, the commission would have access to the personnel records of county workers involved in the case "to the fullest extent allowed by law," and evaluate the cooperation among DCFS and the District Attorney's Office; the Sheriff's, Mental Health and Public Health departments; Dependency Court; and other agencies.
It is to submit recommendations by the end of the year.
DCFS Director Philip Browning would not comment on whether or not he supported the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Welfare, but listed a few of the reforms currently under way at the department.
"We are revising the training program for new social workers," he wrote in an email. "The new program will have a much larger experiential learning component, including having trainers work closely with new social workers in our regional officers, similar to a 'teaching hospital' model."
"We are taking increased advantage of available technology, such as providing iPhones to our emergency response social workers," he added. "One advantage with these phones is they have a 'talk to text' capability that assists the social workers with completing necessary documentation."
Browning said the department is also streamlining its policy manual and cutting back transfers in its high-turnover offices.
The last blue ribbon commission created by the board was the Citizen's Commission on Jail Violence, which investigated allegations of deputies beating inmates at county jails last year. It recommended such critical reforms as appointing an Inspector General to provide independent oversight of the Sheriff's Department, which is now in the process of being implemented.
In their motion to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, Ridley-Thomas and Antonovich criticized DCFS' handling of Fernandez' case.
The boy died in March after sustaining a fractured skull, broken ribs, burns and other injuries that the coroner's office suggested may have been caused by torture.
His mother, Pearl Fernandez, 29, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 32, have been charged with murder and a special circumstance of torture.
The supervisors also questioned DCFS' treatment of 6-year-old Dae'von Bailey, beaten to death in 2009 after a social worker dismissed allegations that the boy's mother's ex-boyfriend abused him, and of 2-year-old Erica Johnson, who was also beaten to death at home.
"When the lives of children are at stake, we simply cannot stand by and hope that reforms take hold," Ridley-Thomas said in a news release announcing the motion.
"The hope is that this commission will examine the actions, or inaction, that have led to the deaths of innocent children and develop a true action plan "" not a Band-Aid solution."
UK gets FGM hotline to tackle “barbaric child abuse”
by Emma Batha
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain's national children's charity has launched a hotline to help protect girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) - a life threatening initiation ritual, which it branded a “barbaric” form of child abuse.
The government says more than 20,000 girls in Britain could be at risk of FGM. But the practice is shrouded in secrecy and people have been threatened with violence if they speak out.
“The UK's child victims of female genital mutilation are hidden behind a wall of silence. Like other forms of abuse, if female genital mutilation is not exposed it will continue to thrive and more children will suffer,” said Lisa Harker, Head of Strategy at the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
The launch of the helpline comes amid a concerted effort by the British government, police and other professionals to tackle FGM – a ritual in which the external genitalia are partially or totally removed. In its most extreme form the vaginal opening is also stitched up.
“We hope that this (helpline) will prove to be the tipping point that will stop this barbaric abuse of children,” Harker added.
Britain's crime prevention minister, Jeremy Browne, welcomed the FGM helpline as "a vital step towards eradicating this horrendous crime".
More than 70 victims of FGM are seen by specialist clinics every month in England alone, according to figures released by the NSPCC on Monday. The youngest girl treated at the six clinics surveyed was just seven.
In Britain, FGM is practised by communities originating from countries including Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Sierra Leone.
The procedure, which was banned by Britain in 1985, is often performed between the ages of four and ten, but it is also carried out on babies and teenagers. In many cases, girls are sent abroad to be cut during school holidays.
FGM, which is found in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, is practiced by both Muslims and Christians. Supporters say the ritual purifies a girl, prevents promiscuity and is a gateway to marriage. Many also believe it is a religious duty even though it is not mentioned in the Koran or Bible.
But FGM can cause serious physical and psychological problems. Girls can die from haemorrhages or infections. It also increases later risks of childbirth complications.
The 24-hour helpline on 0800 028 3550 and at firstname.lastname@example.org will be staffed by specially trained advisors. Callers can remain anonymous, but information that could protect a child will be passed to the police or social services.
London's Metropolitan Police, which is supporting the hotline, said it was committed to bringing to justice those responsible.
“This practice cannot be disguised as being part of any culture, it is child abuse and offenders will be relentlessly pursued,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, head of child abuse investigations.
Girls often do not realise FGM is abusive or harmful because it is done at the request of their family.
“They are told they are unclean and immoral if they are not ‘cut' and that it is in their best interest,” said Harker, adding that there is also a huge pressure within practising communities to keep quiet about FGM.
The NSPCC said the helpline was primarily aimed at adults concerned about girls at risk, rather than at children who can use the charity's existing advice line, Childline.
The new hotline is expected to help families who do not want their daughter cut, but who feel powerless to stop it happening. It is also aimed at teachers, doctors and other professionals who work with children.
Chabad Rabbi Suggests Australian Child Victims Agreed to Sex Abuse
'You'd Be Surprised,' Lesches Says in Shocking Interview
A former senior Chabad leader in Sydney suggested that some of the Jewish victims of alleged child sex abuse in Australia may have consented.
Rabbi Boruch Lesches, who now heads the Lubavitch community in Monsey, N.Y., was a top leader at the Sydney Chabad for 20 years starting in the mid-1980s.
In recordings of a recent phone conversation with an individual familiar with child sex allegations against a man associated with Sydney's Chabad community in the 1980s, Lesches said, ”We are speaking about very young boys … everybody says about the other one that he agreed to this.”
When queried about young boys consenting, he said, “You would be surprised.”
The report in Fairfax Media Sunday also quoted Lesches as threatening to banish the alleged perpetrator and one of his victims from the community unless the abuser could refrain from molestation.
”If not, both of them would have to leave,” Lesches was quoted as saying on recordings given to police investigating the case.
Lesches failed to report the alleged child sex abuser, who allegedly committed more offenses, and dismissed reopening the case now as a “can of worms.”
“When it is such a long time ago, everybody suffers,” he said. “If you start to do something about it, it will not be productive.”
The Rabbinical Council of Victoria issued a statement Sunday saying it was “appalled” by the comments.
“It is deeply regrettable and shocking that there still do exist some individuals out there on the fringe in the religious leadership world who take positions contrary to the clear-cut contemporary halachic approach on the matter of child sexual abuse,” said Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, president of the council.
Manny Waks, a spokesman for Jewish child sex abuse victims, also said the comments were “absolutely shocking.”
“Unfortunately this attitude and some of the views are fairly prevalent within the fervently Orthodox community,” he said. “After so many exposes, surely this is now undeniable.”