Advocates: Reporting suspected child abuse difficult, but vital
Many people said they would step in if they saw a child being abused -- like the 2-year-old in the Newberry Township Walmart -- but it's not always an easy or clear-cut decision.
by BRANDIE KESSLER
York, PA -- Most people would like to be the hero.
Many who heard about a Fairview Township man charged for allegedly inappropriately touching a 2-year-old girl at the Newberry Township Walmart while her mother's back was turned said they would have taken action.
"Swift and direct physical intervention," one person wrote on the York Daily Record's Facebook page. Other people said they would have spoken up, just as one person did.
The woman who witnessed the alleged assault in Walmart told police she saw a man assault the girl, and she shouted at him. Her concern prompted the man to leave the store. He was later identified and arrested.
Police and several local children's advocates agree the witness in this case did the right thing.
But they also said it's not always that easy or obvious.
"There might be someone in that woman's shoes who might be so horrified or so unsure, and might have walked away, not because they don't care about the kid, but because they don't know what to do," said Angela Liddle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. The alliance sponsors the Front Porch Project, a training program that helps people learn how best to respond when they believe children are being abused.
Liddle said most people, despite saying they would intervene, "don't know what to do when they see children mistreated or maltreated."
That is especially true when the abuse is not as obvious. Like when "a child is being grabbed by the arm, or not being spoken to with the best language," Liddle said.
There are gray areas
For scenarios that fall in the "gray area," Deborah Harrison suggests people trust their gut.
What often happens, she said, is people will ask themselves: What if I'm wrong?
"We automatically assume we probably don't have the whole picture," said Harrison, executive director of the York County Children's Advocacy Center. "But my gut tells me something's wrong. What I tell people is you might be the only person to speak out for that child."
Liddle said the fear of wrongly accusing someone of abuse or an inappropriate action is among the primary reasons people don't speak out.
She explained that people like doctors, teachers and police, who are required by law to report suspected child abuse of any kind, have some reasons that are barriers for reporting suspected abuse.
"One of them is that the Child Protective Services law is very complicated," Liddle said. "For someone who thinks they know what child abuse is, read Pennsylvania's law."
Mandated reporters have other concerns, too, she said: "... what if I make things worse for the child? What if I make things worse for the family? What if I make things bad at my own job? What if I put myself at risk?'
"I think it's like that for the average citizen, too."
That's why training programs, like the Front Porch Project, are important, Liddle said.
David Finkelhor, a sociologist and the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said research indicates "the willingness of people to intervene does vary considerably" depending on their perception of who is engaging in the abusive behavior and that person's perceived relationship to the victim.
In the Walmart case, he said, it appears the witness believed the accused was not a family member; the alleged action was obviously inappropriate; and the child could not have protected herself.
Finkelhor said it becomes more difficult for someone to get involved if it appears there is a relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Also, the type of abuse is a factor. Generally, sexual abuse is easier to take action on than physical, and physical is easier than verbal.
"If you have a family member berating a child, that's much more difficult than the sexual contact" for someone to intervene, Finkelhor said.
The age of the child is also a factor. A young child is seen as in need of more protection than, for example, a teenager.
Sociologist: It's everyone's job
Liddle and Finkelhor said Pennsylvania's list of mandated reporters is not comprehensive. In about a dozen states, including New Hampshire where he works, "every single person is under a legal mandate to report even a suspicion of child maltreatment," he said.
He said research has shown that the public environment can affect whether someone makes a report.
"If there are a lot of people that see something, many people will say, 'I'll let somebody else deal with this,'" he said.
In smaller groups, a witness may feel they have to speak up if they see something, lest they look scared or weak.
In either case, a person's belief about whether they can be effective plays a role.
Liddle said the Jerry Sandusky case woke a lot of people up, and emphasized the idea that "every single citizen in this state has a role to play in keeping kids safe," and ignorance is not an excuse for not taking action or speaking up.
Harrison said her office interviewed 387 children in 2012 who were victims of alleged sexual or extreme physical abuse. But, she said, an unknown number don't talk about it. Sometimes, the person who sees something is the only chance that child has to escape the abuse, Harrison said.
"That's really the heart of the message we tell people, pay attention to the kids around you, even if they're not your kids. You may be their hero."
Newberry Township Police Chief John Snyder said his recommendation for anyone who thinks what they're observing is abuse or inappropriate conduct, but isn't quite sure, "is to just be a good witness."
Good witnesses "identify the actor, write down any details they remember, and report them to law enforcement," he said. Try to pick out details like clothing, height, or other physical descriptors. Also, if they go to a vehicle, try to get the registration, he said.
Snyder said that even police officers are trained to be good witnesses. Some training he's familiar with focuses on how off-duty police officers should handle a crime they encounter.
"A lot of time, if you take action, you could end up creating more danger than you could just being a witness... It might not be a good idea to pull out a firearm and try to make an apprehension," he said. "Just like it wouldn't always be a good idea for (an average person) to try to use force" if they observe child abuse in a public place.
Snyder said it is crucial that people who believe they've witnessed an act of child abuse report it to police so they can check it out.
Like Harrison, Snyder said he trusts his intuition.
"If you see something and think, 'Wow, that is just wrong,' and you do nothing, there's a failure somewhere."
What intervention does the law allow?
Many people who commented on the York Daily Record's Facebook page and on ydr.com said they not only would have spoken up about the alleged inappropriate conduct at the Walmart Monday, but they would have taken physical action.
York County District Attorney Tom Kearney did not return a call for comment about the use of force for protection of others. Rather, through his office's spokesman, Kyle King, he suggested looking at the Pennsylvania Criminal Code.
The law, title 18, subsection 506, states:
(a) General rule.--The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable to protect a third person when: (1) the actor would be justified under section 505 (relating to use of force in self-protection) in using such force to protect himself against the injury he believes to be threatened to the person whom he seeks to protect; (2) under the circumstances as the actor believes them to be, the person whom he seeks to protect would be justified in using such protective force; and (3) the actor believes that his intervention is necessary for the protection of such other person. (b) Exception.--Notwithstanding subsection (a), the actor is not obliged to retreat to any greater extent than the person whom he seeks to protect.
Front Porch Project
Here are details on the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance's Front Porch project.
Federal judge blocks N.J. human trafficking law targeting underage sex advertisements
by Christopher Baxter
TRENTON — A new state law intended to root out online advertisements for underage sex has been blocked by a federal judge, fueling a growing national debate over whether internet companies should be forced to police what users post.
The law — signed by Gov. Chris Christie in May and slated to go into effect at the beginning of this month — is part of a crackdown on human trafficking. It makes it a first-degree crime to knowingly publish, disseminate or display an advertisement and any photographs promoting sex with a minor.
Backers of the measure said during legislative hearings it was needed to hold websites, particularly those that offer classified advertisements, responsible for perpetuating child sex abuse and underage prostitution.
But there's a hitch: The entire effort might be illegal.
Two web companies sued last month claiming the state law, while well-intentioned, violates a long-standing federal law that grants websites sweeping immunity from being held liable for the material people post online.
U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh temporarily blocked New Jersey's law June 28, and the state faces a steep legal climb when oral arguments begin in Newark on Aug. 9.
An identical law in Washington state was struck down last year and eventually repealed, costing taxpayers $200,000 in legal bills. Another attempt in Tennessee was struck down in January. Even some New Jersey legislators who voted for the bill acknowledged during hearings it might not be legal.
"I totally think it's a waste of time," said Matthew Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing one of the companies. "It should never have been passed in the first place."
Supporters of the law, including Christie, defended it as being worthy of a fight.
"We didn't go into it concerned about how the law might be challenged," said
Colin Reed, a spokesman for the governor, whose office reviews the legality of bills, "but rather how children could be protected from dangerous predators."
The conflict dates to the dawn of the internet. Fearing a proliferation of pornography, Congress in 1996 passed the Communications Decency Act to criminalize making obscene or indecent material available to people younger than 18.
But not wanting to limit the growth of the web, lawmakers made a major concession to online companies: They would not be held responsible for any controversial or illegal content posted by independent people who visit their sites.
"We couldn't have Twitter if Twitter was responsible for user content because they would probably want to pre-screen it," said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California. "If they pre-screen it, we don't have Twitter."
He said the provision, known as Section 230, is "what's enabled people to talk to each other freely online."
But state authorities across the country say that with this provision, the Communications Decency Act is harming the very children it intended to protect by allowing companies — some of which make big profits — to claim ignorance and avoid any responsibility.
A group of state attorneys general plans to ask Congress to amend the act, and Republican U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa — who as New Jersey attorney general made targeting human trafficking a priority — said he supports that effort.
"I've seen these ads," Chiesa said in an interview. "Ads of obviously physically abused underage children being promoted for sex. If your business model is designed to promote sex trafficking, that's not something we should countenance."
He said the arguments that stricter policing would limit free speech online are "hollow."
But Goldman and other communications law experts said amending Section 230 for one particular cause could be dangerous.
They acknowledged the need to combat human trafficking, but pointed out that the advertisements provide authorities with a starting point for investigations and that there was little evidence that removing them would help cure the problem.
In the decision striking down the law in Tennessee, the federal judge wrote the state had "shown no evidence that criminalizing the sale of certain advertisements would have any effect on child sex trafficking."
"Do you go after the criminals or do you try to target the people who provide services because they're really visible and easy to target and potentially have money, and at the same time cut down on large swaths of free speech?" Zimmerman said.
In the New Jersey case, Zimmerman represents the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco known for its popular Way Back Machine, a free service that allows visitors to search and view historical images of websites.
Zimmerman said the group maintains more than 300 billion web pages, which would be impossible to screen.
"They're able to exist and able to take on that kind of monumental task because they are not legally responsible for any kind of illegal activity that takes place on the websites they archive," he said.
The other company challenging the law, Backpage.com, an online classifieds website, said New Jersey's actions were "antithetical to free speech" and "would require online service providers to become the government's censors of the internet."
The same concerns were raised by two New Jersey lawmakers during an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing last year.
"I just think you're running a very close constitutional question on trying to punish people who provide the medium which other people then abuse," Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris) said at the time.
He said last week he eventually voted for the bill out of fear of being portrayed as "pro-human- trafficking."
"There are a lot of problems with this bill," Carroll said. "I should have stuck by my principle and voted against it."
The bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, said she was confident of a court victory.
"The Office of Legislative Services said it was constitutional," Huttle (D-Bergen) said. "We knew we may have challenges but in our opinion, the burden was miniscule in relation to eliminating child trafficking on the internet."
Freedom Walk to fight sex trafficking
by Tiffany Todd
SEATTLE — Hundreds of people are expected to converge near Seattle on Saturday, July 20 to show support for local victims of sex trafficking.
For the second year, The Genesis Project will host The Freedom Walk.
The Freedom Walk is a fundraising event to raise money and awareness about the issue of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the greater Puget Sound region.
King and Pierce Counties are estimated to be in the top 3 places in the US where “Johns” go to exploit young boys and girls, and there are approximately 500 underage victims being sold for sex in the Seattle/King county area alone at any given time.
The idea behind the ‘Freedom Walk' is to walk the same streets hundreds of women and children are forced to walk every day, according to Andy Connor of the Genesis Project.
“What it's like for them and the dangers they face on a day-to-day basis,” Connor said. “And, what they have to go through while they're walking this walk.”
To learn more about the Genesis Project, or the Freedom Walk click here.
Tim Roth on Tarantino, Altman, 'Broken' and his own broken childhood
by Stephen Whitty
Modern performance is all about emotional access and personal exorcism. Presented with a role, the Method actor reaches deep into his or her past, focuses on an appropriate and often painfully real memory and uses that to bring honesty to the part.
Since the time of Clift and Brando in Hollywood — since the time of Stanislavski in Russia — that's been the model.
But for Tim Roth — the slyly brilliant performer whose 30 years of work ranges from “Reservoir Dogs” to TV's “Lie to Me” — acting began not with revelation but concealment, not with uncovering a truth but with carefully preserving a lie.
“I was an abused kid,” he says matter-of-factly, during a long, frank phone interview. “Not by my immediate family, but yeah. And if you're an abused kid, and you hold that inside — that's your first acting gig, you know, and a pretty tough one. You can't be a crap actor, because you have to deceive a whole slew of people who are very close to you.”
Getting past the pain
In a world where the word “survivor” has become practically meaningless — used for everyone from reality game-show winners to actresses on their second comebacks — Roth deserves the title. Married 20 years, with children, he moved past that awful time to build a life that happily shuttles him between LA and London, movies and TV.
But it's also brought him to “Broken,” an indie English film about bullying and victims and dysfunctional families. And also about the willful blindness that can temporarily make things seem normal — while allowing ugly violence to continue.
“I don't think there's any more bullies today than there were when we were kids,” says the 52-year-old-actor. “But it's easier for them to do what they do. In the old days, you know, Dad would simply go down and find the little bastard and say, ‘Oi, leave my kid alone!' you know? Or your parents would say `We'll move.' But now that everyone's online, there's no place you can go. And some of the stuff, the anti-gay bullying — that's become really nasty… People say, ‘Oh, kids will be kids.' But now some of the kids are armed, and dangerous.”
For American audiences, 'Reservoir Dogs' was the one that put Tim Roth on the map
Roth grew up in South London, and remembers “being bullied a lot in school,” he says — a problem he avoided by simply skipping classes and roaming around the city instead. “I grew to recognize bullies really quickly,” he says. “I can smell them when they're in the room. I think that's why I'm quite good at playing them.”
Roth's mother was a teacher and artist, his father a lefty journalist, and both encouraged their son's growing interest in fine arts. Roth particularly liked sculpting, and had even enrolled in art school, when a drama coach grabbed hold of him.
“She saw something very damaged in me, and talked me into doing this play,” he says. “It turned my life around, and it was the result of an encounter with a really fine teacher — but also of that really horrible aspect of my childhood... It was only years later that I put two and two together, actually, and thought, ah, right, this is where the acting bug came from. I'd been acting all that time.”
A new wave
By 21, Roth was getting small good parts, doing Shakespeare and Kafka on stage, playing skinheads, gangsters and other assorted lowlifes in TV dramas and low-budget films.
“I went into this whole thing blind and I think that was a good thing,” he says of his early career. “If anyone said `No' to me, I thought, Well, you're wrong! and I'd just barge ahead. You have to be that belligerent when you're starting off.”
His arrival happily coincided with a new burst of British cinema, as liberal English filmmakers reacted to the Thatcher `80s much as American ones had to the Nixon `70s — with edgy, pessimistic and often brilliant dramas. Directors like Peter Greenaway, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach gained new prominence. Actors like Roth and Gary Oldman began to emerge. Headline writers dubbed them the Brit Pack.
“There was a whole new young mob,” Roth remembers. “Me and Gary. Daniel Day-Lewis. And then, on the posh front, Colin Firth, and Rupert Everett. We were all doing very different things -- although people tended to bundle me and Gary together — but it was very exciting. We hit British films at just the right time... And then Gary came over here, and I sort of came over on his coattails and the whole American independent world started up. We couldn't believe our luck.”
Playing the loathsome, foppish villain of 'Rob Roy' won Roth an Oscar nomination
Roth's luck expanded with “Reservoir Dogs,” a picture the novice Quentin Tarantino was expecting to shoot with amateurs — but which turned into a real movie once Harvey Keitel saw a script and signed on. Tarantino thought of Roth for Mr. Pink, but Roth pushed for, and got, the gory central part of Mr. Orange.
“That ended up being a huge turning point for me, opening up a lot of doors,” Roth says. “But we all loved that picture. We made it in about five weeks for no money, all because of the script, and Quentin. I've worked with a lot of first-time directors, but just because you've never done it before doesn't mean you can't do it; I've worked with a lot of people who have directed for years and they're still awful! And Quentin just kicked it out of the park, right from the first day. I think he was a filmmaker before he even knew what film was.”
Tarantino also cast Roth as Pumpkin in “Pulp Fiction” — and Roth soon added to his dangerous repertoire with parts in “Little Odessa” and “Rob Roy” (which won him an Oscar nomination). He also continued notching credits with particularly interesting directors — eventually adding to his work with Robert Altman (“Vincent & Theo”) stints with Woody Allen (“Everyone Says I Love You”) and Francis Ford Coppola (“Youth Without Youth”).
“Each film is a separate adventure, some happy, some sad,” Roth says. “But one thing I always do with every director is watch them, watch them like a hawk. Coppola, for example, I loved watching him prepare images with the camera. Altman was this outrageous collaborator — once you gained his trust, and he gained yours, you could try anything. That was a wonderful experience, one of my favorites. I love that kind of collaboration. It wouldn't be a very good day at the office for me if I didn't feel I had something to contribute.”
Making 'Funny Games,' Roth admits, was probably his toughest experience as an actor
There have been some challenges. As an actor, perhaps Roth's biggest one was co-starring in 2007's brutal “Funny Games,” Michael Haneke's English-language remake of his own, fiercely transgressive 1997 arthouse shocker.
“That's a film we almost shouldn't have done,” Roth admits. “It had already been done, by Michael, and I turned (the remake) down a couple of times. I understand what it's about — violence, and audiences becoming immune to violence — but, blimey!”
In the second version, Roth and Naomi Watts play the picture-perfect upper-class victims of a senseless home invasion. The brutality is unremitting. The film is unforgiving.
“There were some serious problems with the movie,” Roth says. “For example, Michael had a really tough time understanding the nuances of English. And for the actors, you know, we shot it all in sequence — so you would go to work, spend the day being tortured, go back to the hotel, and then start all over the next morning… Michael is one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet, he's a man I would do just anything with but, yeah, that one was a tough ride.”
The unblinking horror
Even tougher still was “The War Zone,” a 1999 film and — so far — Roth's only attempt at directing. Set in a bleak, windswept corner of England, it's a devastating story of abuse, and includes a horrifying scene of a father raping his daughter — all the more horrifying because the camera simply sits still, watching, refusing to look away. At its first festival screenings, angry audience members yelled at the screen and walked out — or stayed, just to yell at Roth afterward.
“Some people could not literally sit there and watch it,” he remembers. “And my feeling was always, if you want to walk out, feel free, just try not to be noisy about it. But I know it was very, very hard to watch. And as a director, I don't think you do scenes like that willy-nilly, you can't just do them to shock, you have to earn the right to inflict something like that on an audience. I felt we had… But, obviously, that was a film that was very, very important to me, because it was an experience that I'd been through. And I thought that scene was necessary, to really put people into the shoes of those children.”
Ironically, it was that film — about one of the most monstrous of movie fathers — that eventually resulted in Roth now playing one of the kindest, in “Broken.”
“Dixie Linder, who helped me get ‘The War Zone' made, we've remained very, very close friends, and I'm always interested in what she's up to,” Roth says. “So she sent me this script, just to look at, and I thought it was just lovely. And later she came back around and asked if I'd be interested in doing a part.”
The role she offered, though, was that of an adult bully who's raising a daughter just like him — and Roth passed, saying it was “a little close to stuff I'd done before.” But then the role of the other father, the good father, opened up. And Roth jumped.
“I thought, oh well, lovely, that's a fascinating road to go down,” he said. “The big, screaming, tearing-up-the-scenery stuff — those parts are fun to do. But playing a very ordinary man, and making him simple, clear — that's a lot harder to achieve than you might think, especially when, as an actor, you carry a certain amount of baggage.”
It's finding challenges like that, in unexpected places, that still keeps Roth's career interesting — and healthy.
“There are some jobs where it's just a stroll, you do them and OK; and then there are those when it's a real risk,” he says. “Most actors only get one shot at something like that during their time, and I've had many — many — so I've been very lucky. I remember, ages ago, Gary and I had a conversation, and I said, `You know, there seems to be a hole in the market for some tasty London boys. If we can just hang on, we might actually do all right!' And 30 years on, we're still at it.”
Talking to Your Child About Sexual Abuse: When Do You Do It and What Do You Say?
by Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D. -- Executive Director, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
A reporter recently interviewed me about this topic. She wanted to know at what age parents should have this conversation with their kids, and whether parents should use the anatomically correct language for body parts.
My advice is that parents discuss this issue with their children as soon as they believe they can grasp the concepts. While this can be an uncomfortable subject, particularly if they think their child is too young, children in pre-kindergarten have shown the capability to grasp these concepts if age-appropriate language is used. Parents need to use their discretion depending on the child's age, but the important thing is to have the conversation. Children of all ages are in danger of being targeted for abuse. It's more common as children reach the ages of 8 to 12, but younger children are easy prey for perpetrators, too.
So, how do you start? I recommend that the parent frame the discussion around "safety" rather than "abuse," as it's less scary for the child. Parents might start by discussing "private parts." These conversations can be integrated into the child's daily routine, such as bath time or when changing clothes. Make it an on-going topic of conversation. I recommend that the anatomically correct names for body parts should be used such as penis, vagina, buttocks and breasts. That is the ideal. Children should learn the names of their private parts at an early age. But if the parent isn't comfortable using those terms, they could use the term "private parts." The important thing is that the parent and child are referring to the correct places on the body. I don't recommend making up a name, for example, choo-choo for penis or cookie for vagina. It's confusing for the child and if they are ever abused, adults may not understand their disclosure. Parents may want to ask their pediatricians for guidance, as they can be a great resource.
Here's a brief script for parents: "I want to have a special talk with you about safety regarding your body. You have 'private parts' on your body. They are the parts that are covered by your swimsuit or underwear. Only certain adults are allowed to touch your private parts." Then, let the child know that there are two kinds of touches, safe and not safe touches. The NYSPCC uses the terms "safe/not safe" instead of "good/bad" as it makes it clearer for the child. For example, sometimes a good touch (e.g., vaccination in the doctor's office) can feel bad to the child's body, and a bad touch (e.g., inappropriate tickling/fondling) can feel good to the child's body. The terms "safe/not safe" eliminate this confusion. The parent should give examples of safe touches, such as a doctor or nurse during an exam with Mom or Dad in the room, Mom changing the baby's diaper or giving the toddler sister a bath. "These are safe touches and are OK." You may ask the child to give you an example of a safe touch so that you are sure they understand the concept.
Then you explain about not safe touches. "Sometimes there are people, and they could be people that you know and like, that may try to touch your private parts in ways that make you feel sad, mad, confused or uncomfortable. These are not safe touches." Give an example of someone putting their hand under a girl's shirt or down a boy's pants to touch their private parts. "The person may tell you that it's a game, or that you will like these touches." Again, ask the child to give you an example of a not safe touch.
Then, focus the conversation on the fact that they must tell you right away if this ever happens to them. "What's important is that you tell me or Dad (or whomever the child trusts) right away, so we can keep you safe." Work with the child to identify several key adults that they trust and could go to if something happens. Ask them, "So, who would you tell if this happened to you?" The NYSPCC recommends a list of three to four adults in case the parents are not available or in case the parents are preoccupied and not clearly interpreting the child's cues on the matter. What's important is that the child keeps telling until someone believes them and takes action.
The parent should also address the issue of secrecy or threat that some perpetrators use with children to keep them quiet about the abuse. "Even if the person who is touching you makes you promise not to tell, or tells you that they will be mad at you or they may hurt you, or someone you love, if you tell, that does not matter. What they are doing is bad and not your fault. You must not keep it a secret, you must tell me right away. Then, I promise that I will take the steps needed to keep you safe."
It is very important to reinforce with the child that it's never their fault if they were touched in an not safe way. It's always the adult's fault. And the parent's job is to protect them.
For more child safety tips visit www.nyspcc.org.
W.Va. Legislature: Panel will study child abuse and neglect
by Mannix Porterfield
CHARLESTON — For a variety of reasons, abused and neglected children fear blowing the whistle on their parents.
Retaliation by the guilty, lack of awareness of just what abuse means, or the genuine sense of dread that their names could surface on cell phone texts or social media posts by their peers — all that plays in the silence.
So says Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, who has embarked on a six-month crusade to deal with abuse and neglect which she feels is rampant across West Virginia.
“It is, very much,” says Phillips.
“A lot of times, they just don't tell it. They suffer it and just don't tell because they're protecting Mom and Dad. Or, if they tell, they don't know where they're going to go. Or, if somebody doesn't believe them, and sends them back, it's going to be worse than what it was before they told. There are some big issues with that.”
No small matter is the potential for taunts hurled directly, or indirectly via technology, by their contemporaries.
“Even though the Department of Health and Human Services tries to keep everything confidential, when you move the child out of the school, or out of a family, and the child is no longer in the school, it's like, where are they?” Phillips said.
“Where did Joe go? That type of thing.”
Before long, word gets around, she said.
“Kids know kids, and they're going to know,” she said.
Often, the delegate said, the abused or neglected child is so innocent that he or she accepts mistreatment as normal.
“They don't know that's not what other kids go through, that this is not normal,” Phillips said.
“Because they think it's normal for them to get beaten or normal for them to get sexually abused. So, they don't know, until they might go to somebody else's home, which is rare, because the parent won't let them. And then they see that other kid doesn't get yelled at, or that kid never has bruises on him. They just don't realize that isn't a normal thing.”
New Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, gave his blessing to a new panel, known as the Select Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Making up the membership are the 21 women in the House, and the lone female in the Senate — Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants.
There was some good-natured kidding about excluding male lawmakers, but Phillips got a laugh out of it. Besides, she emphasized, the top matter is no laughing matter. When the panel holds its first meeting this month, all the kidding stays at the door.
Since the idea was generated by the Women's Caucus in the House, membership is limited to them.
Right out of the chute, the panel expects to hear a lengthy report outlined by State Police Lt. Reggie Patterson, spelling out what has been done and what authorities feel needs to be accomplished to protect children.
One matter likely to be taken up is what Phillips sees as a problem with state law in prosecuting cases of child abuse and neglect.
The committee is of six-months duration, with its final meeting set in December. In advance of the 2014 legislative session, Phillips says she expects to see some legislation proposed.
“I think we will have some changes in child neglect,” she said.
Another matter is the lack of manpower within the Department of Public Safety to adequately address issues involving children, the delegate said.
“I know money is tight, but we only have approximately 600 State Police officers now, and that's just not enough for this state,” Phillips said.
Especially, she said, when only a few troopers specialize in crimes against children, including those involving sexual predators who prey on children via the Internet.
“I'm hoping we will be able to work some way with the governor's office that we can come up with some money to have another (trooper) class,” Phillips said.
Protecting Your Child from Sexual Abuse
by J. L. Graham
KENTUCKY (7/12/13) – The state of Kentucky has seen many cases that have erupted regarding sexual abuse of children over the last year.
Statistics put forth by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, state the following statistics on sexual abuse involving minors.
|• 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
• Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
• During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
• Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
• Children are most vulnerable to child sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.
Armed with this knowledge, one must take proper precautions to keep the children safe.
Initially, keep in mind that a very large majority of sexual crimes can originate from communications on the internet. With this in mind, children should be closely monitored if allowed access to the internet. Parents should constantly watch what websites their children are on and make certain that they are family friendly. Quite often sexual criminals will start out finding their prey on social networking sites. It is a good idea to not allow children to have access to social networking, or any site that allows contact with other individuals.
Many cases of child sexual abuse are related to non-family/friends, such as child care. If you are going to hire a babysitter, it is best to hire someone that you already know, such as a family member. If you don't have anyone you are familiar with to take on this responsibility, do some research. When hiring a babysitter, always do a background check. Get references, preferably with a mutual contact that you already know. Some parents will, wisely, go so far as to put cameras in their home to monitor the entire household while they are away and the child is with a babysitter. This may seem a bit paranoid, but a child's safety comes first to a responsible parent/guardian.
Next up, be watchful. You may think you know your neighbors and/or local citizens well. Nevertheless, it is not wise to let a minor walk around a neighborhood, city park, or even sidewalks by themselves. It is not unheard of for a child to be abducted or sexually abused while a parent is inside cleaning house, or just not actively monitoring their child.
Inform your child of the necessity to avoid strangers, and to be defensive when approached by a stranger. Any stranger should realize that you do not approach a child without approaching a parent or guardian first.
Don't automatically expect that your child will tell you if he/she has been sexually abused. Statistics show that many children will not admit that they were sexually abused until they are grown, and some will not ever admit it.
Lastly, use instincts. If you have a bad feeling about something or someone, avoid it.
Local law enforcement goes the distance to protect our children, but we, as parents/guardians, must realize that we are the first line of defense for our children. It is not necessary to be paranoid constantly, suspecting everyone as a child abuser, but it is necessary to be vigilant and to know that you are your children's initial safety factor.
Sex abuse in schools: the parents who want a change to the law
Plenty of people knew teacher Jeremy Forrest was involved with a pupil; nobody went to the police. Why? Because there's no law to say a school must. We meet parents campaigning for action
by Louise Tickle
"Oh, he was lovely. He was probably the best teacher she's ever had, even now," Vivien says as we drink tea in her kitchen. "He was always laughing and joking, very friendly. He'd tell me all the time how wonderful and well-behaved she was, which every parent wants."
Appointed in 1995 to work at Hillside First School in Weston-super-Mare, Nigel Leat was a well-established member of school staff, popular not just with children but with parents, too. And so Vivien was pleased when her daughter, Elinor, started in his class, and delighted when he took an enthusiastic interest in her progress.
Elinor was just six when Leat began to sexually abuse her in his classroom, during school hours, in the presence of her fellow pupils. She wasn't the first or the last child he preyed upon; in 2011, Leat was convicted of 36 sexual offences against five children. It's likely that he molested many more. For Vivien, the horror of discovering that her daughter had been abused unfolded in a very public way. "I found out on Facebook," Vivien says today. "I logged on, and one of my friends had put, 'Oh my God, I can't believe a teacher from Weston has been arrested for child abuse.'"
Vivien says she knew then that her daughter had been involved. The police investigation proved her right, uncovering 147 films recorded on Leat's laptop that showed Elinor being subjected to sexual abuse over a six-month period. "The police could track the dates; sometimes there was no filming for weeks, and then there would be six on one day," Vivien says.
I ask how it could happen that this teacher was able to molest children during school hours, over a number of years. "He designed the classroom in such a way that he could abuse these children behind a piano; if someone walked in, the door would hit the piano, alerting him.
"He also did it around a table, where he would have a group of children reading and a girl sat next to him. Her hand would automatically go towards his penis. He wouldn't even have to say a word to any of these girls – it would automatically be done. He would have the laptop on a chair, directed towards where he was sitting, filming it."
Vivien is remarkably matter-of-fact: the only way to cope, she says, has been to block out the shock, anger and guilt that engulfed her when she was told of the abuse. Nevertheless, it's clear that she feels fury at the school's management for failing to protect her daughter, and at the loophole in government guidance that she believes allowed Leat to abuse children for more than a decade.
It was only after the publication last year of the serious case review into what happened at Hillside, Vivien says, that she grasped the shocking fact that a number of staff had, over the years, recorded 30 separate concerns regarding Leat's behaviour with the children in his care.
No fewer than 11 of those were reported to the school's headteacher, Christopher Hood. They varied in apparent seriousness, but one person had seen Leat with an erection while sitting with a child on cushions in the library. On another occasion, a staff member observed Vivien's daughter with her hand up his trouser leg. At no point did the headteacher inform any child's parents, the local authority or indeed the police – although on one occasion he regarded the matter as serious enough to issue Leat with a verbal warning.
Leat has now been dealt with by the courts – he was jailed indefinitely two years ago. But a criminal investigation began only when one child told her mother she was being indecently touched, and the mother informed police.
It is very unusual for child victims to disclose sexual abuse at the time it is happening. The shame about their own apparent acquiescence, risk of losing the approval of their abuser and guilt at the devastation it will wreak on their parents and school community are very effective gags. Many wait for years, even decades, often until their parents are dead; some never report it at all.
Although Elinor was "the worst abused of the lot of them", Vivien says (the only charge Leat initially pleaded not guilty to was her attempted rape), "she never said anything at all and never showed any sign. When we asked her, she burst into tears, but she said nothing happened. And we know it has, because Nigel Leat filmed it."
While everyone accepts that child abuse is a crime, Vivien points out that whether or not to report suspected – or even known – abuse to an authority outside the school is discretionary. There is currently no law in this country to say that staff with responsibility for children must report alleged or suspected abuse to the council's child protection expert, who is trained to advise on what should happen next. Government guidance strongly encourages headteachers to pick up the phone, but there is no legal sanction if they do not.
Depending on headteachers to make the right call can undoubtedly put children at risk, says Richard Bird, legal consultant for the Association of School and College Leaders. "When we're talking about child sexual abuse situations, many heads will never come across a case in their whole careers," he says. "So they simply don't have the experience to make that judgment." Bird points to a case he knows of "where a headteacher was dithering. They rang up the child protection expert, and in 20 minutes the member of staff was suspended – and rightly so. I think there should be a presumption for consultation."
Hillside's headteacher may have exercised deplorable judgment in failing to report Leat's behaviour, as statutory guidance says he should. But some members of staff reported their concerns to him. It's easy to see how this doesn't always happen in time to save children from harm. Having the courage to speak up when you may be putting a well-liked colleague's career in jeopardy is an agonising dilemma, as Anna Smith, a former teacher at another school, explains. "I was newish, effectively still on probation. The last thing I wanted was to be accused of spreading rumours. All the time, at the back of my mind was, 'You're reading too much into this – he's a teacher, for God's sake.'"
Anna was teaching at a large comprehensive when she overheard pupils chatting about a department head. "I had noticed he always had a gaggle of kids around him, but just thought he was popular," she says. "Then I heard two kids talking about a school trip and one saying to the other, 'I wonder if he'll give me a camera, too.' And I thought, 'Uh-oh, that's a bit odd.'"
She dismissed it, but it niggled. Then she heard other teachers mention in passing that they, too, knew the teacher was giving away cameras, but "none of us really discussed it, because to voice a suspicion like that just felt like it made something small into too big a thing".
After a different school trip arrived back, Smith says she was told by a teacher who had been on it that, "rather than bunking up with the other teachers, this head of department had slept with the boys in their dorm". She was also told of an incident on the trip "where one boy took off, ran away, and the police were called to find him. And he really, really didn't want to go back there. His mother had to come and pick him up."
How was she feeling at this point? "I was uncomfortable being around him. I would find myself watching him on playground duty. I spoke to people outside school, but there wasn't anyone really I could go to."
What about the head? Smith laughs. "Well, yes, but the school, like all schools, was very hierarchical. To get to the head, you had to go through the senior management team. And he was on it." And, as she points out, she had no proof. "I was shocked at what I'd heard, but the other half of me was saying, 'Maybe you've misinterpreted things.' And, as other teachers were talking about it, I suppose I hoped it would become known that way."
Someone else must have overcome similar qualms about "ratting" on a colleague because one day, abruptly and with no explanation, the teacher was gone. "I do know he was taken to court, and I believe he's had his permission to teach children taken away," Smith says. But several years on, she is still ashamed. "I wish I'd been brave enough to voice my concerns," she says quietly. "It's very hard when you're at the start of your career, because you don't want to be seen as a troublemaker."
Girls at Stanbridge Earls school were sexually assaulted and raped by male pupils. Staff logged instances of abuse – including one girl's genital injury – yet failed to report what was happening to police or social services
Such paralysis when faced with the unthinkable prospect of a colleague being a paedophile is what drives the current campaign to make it a legal requirement to inform an outside, independent authority of all allegations or suspicions of abuse. Paedophiles don't just groom children, points out Bridget Day, the child protection officer at Buckinghamshire council. They groom colleagues and parents, too. "I can't count the times someone has said to me, 'I feel a bit awkward about this – they're a wonderful teacher.'?" She sighs.
Vivien, too, gives a hollow laugh as she remembers how much she liked Nigel Leat. "I don't think I wanted to believe that he was able to do this, because he was such a nice person. And he was a teacher – the next person you trust with your children apart from family."
Although the Department for Education (DfE) is currently resisting mandatory reporting of abuse allegations, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and a House of Commons home affairs select committee recently strongly recommended that it should reconsider its position. The UK would not be going out on a limb by bringing it in: mandatory reporting is already enshrined in law in Canada, Australia, Ireland and many US states. Such a law would mean that Hillside's Christopher Hood wouldn't merely have been sacked for dereliction of duty and then professionally disciplined; failing to report what he had been told would have meant he was liable to answer criminal charges.
This may seem an extreme sanction for a failure to act. For campaigners, however, it's not about encouraging a flood of prosecutions; it's about offering professionals clarity. When compelled to report, you are no longer a whistleblower, you are abiding by the law. This, they argue, is the only way to cut across social niceties, professional loyalty and personal friendships in the interest of protecting children from damage that steals their childhoods and, sometimes, their futures.
This is certainly true of three girls with special educational needs who were serially abused by male pupils at the £39,000-a-year Stanbridge Earls boarding school in Hampshire. When we meet, on a damp day in June, the girls' mothers are ferocious in their condemnation of a system that, they say, allowed their daughters to be stripped, publicly humiliated, sexually assaulted and raped without any legal sanction for the teaching, pastoral and nursing staff who logged various instances of abuse (including one girl's genital injury that required medical attention), yet failed to report what was happening to police or social services.
The mothers tell me that all three young women have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Laura hallucinates. Sarah has gained four stone and can't leave the house without her mother. Gemma became so vulnerable following her abrupt expulsion after one known instance of sexual abuse that her self-esteem imploded and she was trafficked into prostitution.
"They have destroyed her, and I think the other parents can say the same," Sarah's mother says. "They have destroyed our children. They have absolutely just cold-heartedly allowed our children to be abused and covered it up." Suddenly she can't speak through tears and gasps for breath. "She just is a… a shadow of her former self."
Sarah's parents were in a financial position to take the school to a special educational needs and disability tribunal, which ruled in January that headteacher Peter Trythall's conduct "borders on contempt" for statutory duties. Astonishingly, Trythall remained in post, and thus in overall charge of pupils' safety, for several months following the tribunal's decision, despite being unwilling to acknowledge in his evidence that non-consensual sex is rape. House parent and safeguarding officer Frances Callendar, also criticised by the tribunal, is still there, although the school is due to close in December.
These mothers have just come out of a meeting with Ofsted that promised an overhaul of the way that safeguarding is inspected, but all three are determined that there must be legal repercussions for staff who don't report abuse. "You can't rely on the children to report," Gemma's mother says. "If there were a law that said any paediatrician, teacher, nurse, coach, child counsellor – anybody with responsibility for children – who had a suspicion of abuse and didn't report it was criminally liable, I think that would go a long way."
One person saw Nigel Leat with an erection while sitting with a child. Another observed a different pupil with her hand up his trouser leg. Police knew nothing until the mother of a third child got in touch
They are also demanding new powers for councils. "We want the right for heads of safeguarding to enter any school attended by a child for which they have a duty of care, and to have access to all those files," Sarah's mother says. "At the moment, it depends on whether the headteacher lets them."
Not everyone thinks mandatory reporting is a good idea. The NSPCC, perhaps surprisingly, is against it, saying it sees no evidence from other countries that it has been effective in better protecting children. "We then have concerns that resources needed for intervention where there are known problems will be directed into investigations into nonevents," says David Tucker, the charity's head of policy.
Others worry that the sheer volume of allegations would be unmanageable. "The big concern," child protection officer Bridget Day says, "is that if mandatory reporting came in, we'd be flooded with referrals, many of a very minimal nature."
At the frontline of safeguarding pupils, one comprehensive school headteacher who has dealt with two serious cases of sexual abuse is unsure; he also has a responsibility to protect staff. "If you have a mandatory system, without any scope for judgment, would it really stop abuse happening?" he wonders. He's also worried that even if the council's child protection officer is simply informed and gives advice on how to deal with a trivial allegation that's later shown to be unfounded, teachers will end up with a record of the allegation on their file, which could blight their career.
Campaigners counter that headteachers should already be reporting all allegations that meet criteria set out in statutory guidance. The problem is that heads aren't always able to cut through the competing issues that arise when faced with an allegation against a member of staff – for instance, they might have appointed that person. They might be worried about the reputation of the school. They might not believe that this particular teacher could possibly have done that particular thing.
All this means that, whether or not the guidance should work, in practice it doesn't, according to Anne Lawrence, a barrister with expertise in education and child protection law. "In a country where more than 50,000 children are estimated to be abused every year, the detection rate for child abuse runs at just 5%, the conviction rate for reported cases runs at less than 5% and serious case review after serious case review has found that professionals with a duty to protect children continue to fail to respond appropriately – or at all – to very serious and repeated concerns," Lawrence says.
It's estimated, she adds, that only around 10% of sex offenders are on the sex offenders register. "When will ministers understand that the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is endemic in our society, and that sex offenders are working within all institutions where they can access children: churches, schools, youth organisations, hospitals, care homes and social services? The current procedures are wholly inadequate to match the cunning of sexual predators, who will continue to groom and manipulate colleagues."
Lawrence is adamant that new legislation is urgently needed "that reflects the reality of our society, rather than the make-believe world where professionals know best, most people act correctly and everyone would protect a child at risk of harm, regardless of the cost to themselves".
The government's own figures show that only 2% of all allegations of abuse in schools are malicious, and in any case, abuse survivor Alastair Rolfe says, making the reporting of abuse obligatory is ultimately about stopping it from happening, rather than catching paedophiles after the event.
I know Rolfe's story from a Bafta award-winning 2008 film, Chosen; he is one of three men who courageously went public on the sustained sexual abuse to which they were subjected as 11- and 12-year-old boys at Caldicott school in Buckinghamshire. Alastair's abuser, his teacher Martin Carson, was convicted thanks to him making a complaint to police 30 years after leaving the school; he is now presenting a follow-up documentary for Channel 4, and we meet in a house in west London where he has just been filming. "The real issue in my mind is prevention," Rolfe says. "I think mandatory reporting would improve prevention – and the connection has to be seen between the two."
It has been an emotional morning: Rolfe has been interviewing a man who suffered multiple violent rapes at the hands of a teacher, so although he speaks in considered language, anger burns through his words. "Mandatory reporting is essential. What we want to do is make sure that schools wouldn't even think of not investigating every allegation in the appropriate way," Rolfe says. "What that means is that, if you don't report, there are legal repercussions. You personally, and you the institution, will be held liable in a court of law for not doing it. That is the only way you can make people do the right thing in every case."
Rolfe has, in career and personal terms, done far more than survive his abuse. Married for more than 20 years, he has two children and works in senior management for a global company. But the fact is that his first experience of sex, with a man 20 years his senior, has had a toxic influence on his life. "I often wonder how life would be different, not just for me but for everybody around me, if I had been allowed to develop from an innocent 11-year-old boy who hadn't a clue about what sex was, to suddenly knowing an awful lot about it. I remember the boy who was 11 and I was utterly carefree. I was confident, just without any worries, really. Full of excitement about the present, not worrying about the future, just happy and fulfilled."
Why didn't he tell? The answer, it turns out, is complicated, and part of it touches on one of the most sensitive issues around child abuse: that there is something in it for the child. Abuser and abusee are in a relationship, albeit one in which the child is exploited and damaged in a way that is beyond their comprehension at the time.
"The adult uses their power and authority to convince you that not only are you special to them, but that you are actually someone they want to spend time with, and that you yourself will get benefits from spending time with them," Rolfe explains. "That's a relationship… Because, although what happened was, to any adult looking at it in their right mind, completely unacceptable and highly damaging, at the time, everything that happened felt like the next natural thing. I wasn't old enough to put up any resistance, because I had no compass, really. I was prepubescent. I had no sex education, I didn't have any awareness of my own sexuality – so my first exposure to anything sexual was this gradual physical touching, which then became kissing, which then became being in bed with the man, which then led to everything you can imagine. It wasn't comfortable, I can tell you that. It wasn't comfortable, but it seemed to me that this was the price I had to pay."
During the filming of Chosen, Rolfe was asked by director Brian Woods why he had finally come forward so many years after the event. Clearly, it's a painful question for him to answer. He feels huge guilt for having stayed silent: the awareness that this would have allowed his abuser to continue hurting children for many years afterwards is excruciating.
"It's a story that contains an unpalatable truth about the ubiquitousness of child sexual abuse," he begins. "Parents… they need to understand that children are much more vulnerable than they realise, much less capable of making decisions, reporting abuse, coping with abuse, than perhaps adults think they are. And [they are] much more likely to encounter it than adults think they are. And therefore adults need to be much more careful about people who care for their children, much less trusting and much less complacent."
We've been talking for an hour and Rolfe is looking exhausted. It's time to stop. But before we do, I ask if he is aware that the Department for Education is now consulting on removing the need for there to be at least one person on every teacher recruitment panel who is specifically trained in safeguarding. Despite the fact that school leaders have repeatedly failed when it comes to reporting abuse, the DfE states: "We want headteachers and other professionals to be more confident in their ability to use their common sense and professional judgment when dealing with safer recruitment and safeguarding."
Rolfe looks staggered. "It is impossible to imagine how that could be a good idea," he manages, eventually. "What are they thinking? This fetish with deregulation. There are certain things that are just too important to leave to the discretion of people who are not trained, and child protection is one of them."
• Some names have been changed.
Cleveland kidnapping suspect now faces 977 counts
by CNN Staff
A grand jury has issued a fresh indictment charging Ariel Castro with 977 counts relating to allegations that he held three women captive for about a decade in his Cleveland home, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office said Friday.
The new indictment -- which adds 648 counts to the 329 on which he was indicted last month -- encompasses all the years of the women's captivity, whereas the previous indictment covered only the first four and a half years, the prosecutor's office said.
Authorities said Castro abducted Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002.
The women, as well as Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who authorities say was fathered by Castro, were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away from his 1,400-square-foot home.
Among the charges are two counts of aggravated murder, in which Castro is accused of intentionally causing the termination of a pregnancy.
Castro also faces 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.
He will be arraigned July 17.
Norristown brothers to trek across country to bring attention to human trafficking
by GARY PULEO
NORRISTOWN — When you spot her on the street you may feel uneasy.
Fearful about making accidental eye contact, you just look away and drive on.
It's easier to simply believe that it's her choice to stroll around in a short skirt and high heels, hoping to drum up some business.
After all, in this day and age, all females should be empowered enough to make their own career decisions.
Nobody is forcing her into this lifestyle, because sex enslavement is something that only happens overseas, right?
According to the End It Movement, there are 27 million men, women and children who are victims of human trafficking, working in brothels, factories and quarries in 161 countries, including the U.S., but most Americans don't have a clue about what's going on in the shadows.
Two Norristown brothers are setting out on foot across the country to raise awareness about sex trafficking and child laborers because, as one of them explained, somebody has to do it.
“We decided this summer a walk was something nobody else was doing and that we could do it because we won't have this chance again,” said 23-year-old Jay Atlas, who will begin the walk with his brother, Shannon Sprowal, 21, in Atlantic City on Monday morning.
With basic supplies and tents, Atlas said their goal is to walk 3,000 miles to Los Angeles by way of Chicago.
“Walking was always our typical means of transportation,” Atlas said. “We walked everywhere. We've already done local walks talking to people about what we're doing, and most of them aren't aware of the problem.”
The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs indicates that most suspected incidents of human trafficking investigated between January 2008 and June 2010 involved allegations of adult prostitution (48 percent) or the prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child (40 percent.)
“If you were to abduct someone and force them to sell themselves, then it could be (prosecuted), but many times (victims) will be told they can leave whenever they want, they just have to pay their (abductor) back,” Atlas said. “And that makes it legal because you're not holding a person against their will, so they're still bonded, essentially by fear. It happens overseas, but it does happen here, too. A man will knock on the door and say, ‘We understand you have a young child … you're impoverished, we will provide a job for your young child as a live-in nanny or some other position.'
“Typically they'll take the child and send the parents money every month and the parents never see their child again. The parents aren't aware of what's actually going to happen. Because there aren't people speaking publicly, there isn't enough awareness yet and nationally there just are not enough people speaking out.”
In spite of federal and state laws criminalizing human trafficking, labor and sex trafficking cases are rarely prosecuted, according to an Urban Institute-Northeastern University study.
According to a recent release on prweb.com, Kentucky saw its first conviction for federal sex trafficking last year. The conviction led to a 15-year sentence for Marco Antonio Flores-Benitez, who was part of an interstate prostitution ring in Lexington. Along with this sentence, Kentucky has been recognizing a rise in human trafficking in the last few years, with Louisville going on alert at the 2013 Kentucky Derby. The release indicated that traffickers make an effort to take advantage of large events like the Derby, which bring many potential men to town seeking prostitutes. “We have high rates. We have a serious problem,” Gretchen Hunt, of the Louisville Metro Police Division of Child Abuse/Domestic Violence Services, noted in the release.
As a result of the state recognizing the issue, 2013 HB 3 Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act was passed unanimously by the Kentucky General Assembly and became effective in June. The bill, which covers many aspects connected to the issues surrounding human trafficking, including support for victims, will change the course of anti-trafficking work in the state of Kentucky.
Atlas, who will be filming his interactions with the people he talks to along the way for a documentary he's planning to make, said the key to stopping human trafficking is education.
“Getting kids to finish high school and learn a trade or get a college degree or enter the military is important, “ he said. “My parents always raised us to know the value of education.”
Donations will benefit the End It Movement (www.enditmovement.org), a task force group that spearheads efforts to end human trafficking.
“Anything we make on this walk will go directly to the End It Movement,” Atlas said. “We're not keeping anything for ourselves.”
Sex trafficking flourishes in the Internet age
Commercial sex will never go away — let's admit it. But why is it proliferating?
The Internet, unfortunately, provides an almost unfettered platform for commercial sex hookups. It also allows pimps to find, track and enslave girls and women in sex trafficking.
With deploring regularity, prosecutors in medium-size and major cities are announcing stings busting large-scale prostitution rings. In early June, 104 johns were arrested in Operation Flush, a sting operation on Long Island, N.Y. The johns were caught in the act on videotape, and Nassau County prosecutors publicized their photographs, names and occupations.
A month earlier, an FBI sting in Detroit led authorities to a former Eastern Michigan University student. She became addicted to pain-killers, heroin and crack cocaine after losing several fingers. She turned to prostitution because she believed she had “no place to go and no one to turn to for help,” according to court records. A pimp enslaved her as a commercial sex worker, she told authorities; on the day of the sting, she had “serviced” 10 johns.
What do these situations have in common? Customers, prostitutes and pimps are finding each other through the Internet. And so far, local and federal authorities seem powerless to ban the sale of commercial sex online. Nor do they seem able to keep up with and control the horrendous amount of trafficking the Internet generates.
Technology is a wondrous thing and it has made life so much sweeter in so many ways. But technology has its pernicious aspects, too. Perhaps most pernicious is its use as a tool to promote prostitution and sex trafficking.
Why do authorities seem powerless to prevent this?
There are many reasons. But experts point mainly to laws that predate the Internet and define places where criminal commercial sex acts take places as “houses of prostitution” or “brothels.” Today, no such places exist. Pimps — mainly men — find customers online and direct them to meet prostitutes, who work out of different motels or apartments or sometimes even their own homes. Technology has circumvented the need for a particular building as a location where the sex takes place.
A HuffingtonPost.com article of last August described a New Mexico case in which two men, a retired professor and former college administrator, were charged with running “an extensive multistate, online prostitution ring.” They were cleared after a judge ruled that under state law their website did not constitute a house of prostitution, though it was used to recruit prostitutes and promote prostitution.
“The problem, legal experts say, stemmed from law enforcement officials trying to apply old prostitution laws in a high-tech world,” the HuffingtonPost.com reported. “And they say it happens in many states, with authorities struggling to prosecute websites as ‘brothels' or pinpoint where free speech ends and the facilitation of a crime begins. Further, the National Conference of State Legislatures says state legislatures aren't actively working to update prostitution laws.”
Therein lies the problem. It would seem easy to amend anti-prostitution laws to include a ban on websites for procuring commercial sex.
My first thought is that the religious right should be championing this cause. Many anti-abortion rights groups try to portray themselves as players in the fight against sex trafficking.
Yet they spend tens of millions of dollars and thousands of hours lobbying state legislators to pass anti-abortion laws. Why not instead devote their time and attention to updating anti-trafficking laws, so there would be many fewer female victims of sex trafficking?
Pope Francis targets child abuse, leaks in Vatican legal reform
by Catherine Hornby, Reuters
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, acting to end years of scandals damaging the Catholic Church, overhauled Vatican law on Thursday to specify sexual violence against children as a crime and impose tough penalties for staff who leak confidential Vatican information.
Issuing a "Motu Proprio," a decree of his own initiative, Francis also said he would renew the Holy See's commitment to international conventions against organized crime and terrorism.
Under the changes, sexual violence and sexual acts with children, child prostitution and child pornography are cited in a broader definition of crimes against minors and punishable by up to 12 years in prison, a Vatican document showed.
Francis, who succeeded Pope Benedict in March, inherited a Church struggling to restore its credibility after a spate of scandals including the molestation of children by priests in a number of countries and an investigation into suspected money-laundering at the Vatican's bank.
The legal changes apply only within the Vatican City state but are meant to demonstrate that Francis is taking the various scandals seriously and aims to align Church policy with international legal standards.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was unimpressed, saying his initiative might burnish the Vatican's image but "in the real world this changes virtually nothing (as it affects only) the 0.2 square miles of Vatican property."
SNAP urged the Church hierarchy to focus on having its personnel abide by long-established secular laws on sexual abuse and rooting out bishops who failed to protect children.
The Vatican was also shaken last year by the "Vatileaks" affair in which Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was convicted for stealing personal papal documents and leaking them to the media. He was pardoned by Benedict after being briefly jailed.
Litany of graft, mismanagement
Before abdicating in February, Benedict left Francis a top-secret report about leaks of the internal documents that alleged corruption, mismanagement and infighting in the Vatican administration.
Francis's decree includes stricter rules governing the disclosure of secret information or documents and stipulates a punishment of up to eight years in prison if they concern the "fundamental interests" of the Holy See, or Church government.
Pope Francis also said United Nations conventions on transnational organized crime, illegal drug trafficking and terrorism financing would be implemented as part of the changes.
Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of Vatican City tribunal, said the state's penal system, based on Italian penal codes from 1889 and 1913, had been updated to deal with more modern crimes.
"The evolution of society and the economy, and the phenomenon of globalization have shown that there is a need to provide for new situations," he told a news conference.
"The problem of laundering dirty money is evidently a problem linked on one side with the globalization of the economy and on the other side to the expansion of a certain type of financial economy," he said.
The Vatican's bank, a byword for opaque and secretive dealings for decades, is at the center of an investigation by Italian prosecutors looking into money laundering.
A report by Moneyval, a department of the Council of Europe, last year identified failings in the bank and gave the Holy See a negative rating in several transparency-related criteria.
In June Francis set up a special commission of inquiry to reform the bank, seeking to get to grips with an institution that has embarrassed the church. The group held its first meeting on Thursday with the pope attending, according to the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano.
Effects Of Child Sexual Abuse: Depression And Other Mental Health Conditions
Victims of child sexual abuse can develop depression and other mental health conditions that follow them well into adulthood.
By Lizette Borreli
A total of 500,000 babies born in the United States this year will be sexually abused before they become of legal age. This rate of incidence is alarmingly high, ranging from eight to 20 percent, reports The Children's Assessment Center. More than two-thirds of childhood sexual abuse survivors do not report the abuse to the authorities within the first year of the occurrence, while less than half choose not to tell anyone for a minimum of five years. The silence that child victims keep is due to the psychological effects brought on by the experience — especially when the crime was committed by someone the child knows. The perpetrator often develops a trust with the child first before they engage in the act, telling the child simply that "it is okay." The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that it does not support the normalization or decriminalization of any form of sexual relations between adults and children, and that adults who practice sexual activity with children are criminals.
Child victims of sexual abuse have a 1,000-percent increased risk of being abused again, with 60 percent experiencing post-sexual abuse symptoms. "Many perpetrators do indeed threaten the victim that if he or she tells, they might kill someone in the family," said Dr. David M. Allen, according to Psychology Today. "Sometimes they say that the authorities will come in and break up the family - not an unlikely scenario if the child is believed and the parent who is told actually reports the perpetrator." The offenders also manipulate their victims into thinking that if they do speak out, no one will believe them. This can become too much of a mental and physical burden for the child to handle, and thus cause the development of mental health issues.
The psychological effects of child sexual abuse can either be short-term or long-term. The ramifications of abuse are not common and a serious issue in the U.S. It is important to be aware of depression and other mental health conditions that victims of child sexual abuse can carry over their lifetime.
Women who were sexually abused during their childhood are prone to adulthood depression. In a study published in the British Medical Journal , researchers examined the link between sexual abuse in childhood and the rate of depression in adult women. Researchers screened 1,189 women and interviewed 237 using a 30-item general health questionnaire. The results of the study showed that there was a strong correlation between women who were severely sexually abused — attempted or actual penetration by a perpetrator — and women who were depressed. Thirty-seven percent of those who had depression experienced sexual abuse when they were under 16 years old.
Bulimia and anorexia nervosa — two eating disorders — are found to be common in women who experienced childhood sexual abuse. In a study conducted at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australian researchers evaluated the association between childhood sexual abuse before the age of 16 and the onset of the two eating disorders in women. As part of a longitudinal study of 11 years, there were 1,936 participants who were originally in the study — with follow-ups starting at the mean age of 15 up to the mean age of 24. Researchers found that those that were sexually abused twice or more had a 4.9 times higher rate of bulimic syndrome than those who were abused once at a 2.5 times rate
Type 2 Diabetes
Adults who were sexually abused when they were children are at greater risk for developing serious medical conditions. In a study published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine , researchers investigated the association between adolescent sexual abuse and type 2 diabetes. Data findings on lifetime sexual abuse in 2001 and the risk of diabetes from 1989 to 2005 from the Nurses' Health Study II were used for the study. The results of the study showed that 34 percent of the 67,853 women participants reported childhood sexual abuse. Thus, moderate to severe physical and sexual abuse in adolescence was associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among women.
Dracut latest community to join YMCA's battle against child sex abuse
by John Collins
DRACUT -- A community effort to protect local children from what statistics show is the alarmingly common occurrence of childhood sexual abuse has taken big strides forward in 2013, the Greater Lowell Family YMCA reported.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before age 18 -- not just in Dracut, Chelmsford or Lowell, but nationwide -- according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This shocking statistic is the reason the Dracut Public School District asked the Greater Lowell Family YMCA to host a training seminar to recognize the warning signs of child sexual abuse, said Steven Stone, superintendent of schools in Dracut. The training was held in May at all Dracut schools for administration, faculty and staff.
As a result, 333 individuals in Dracut received certification for participating in one of the four 2 1/2-hour sessions, Stone reported.
Stewards of Children, a nationally recognized program created by the nonprofit organization, Darkness to Light, teaches day-care providers, teachers, parents, sports and recreation coaches and directors and concerned citizens how to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, Stone said.
"It is vitally important that all school employees be aware of the issue of child sexual abuse and be sensitive to its effects on our children," Stone said. "The YMCA's willingness to provide this invaluable educational training to the Dracut Public Schools is a wonderful example of community organizations effectively working together on behalf of children and adolescents."
Dracut's educational personnel took part in the second of two Stewards of Children held in town in 2013, with Dracut Recreation Department personnel having undergone training in March, certifying nine people.
Speaking about the Stewards program in December to state legislators, Greater Lowell municipal and school officials, and members of the YMCA board of directors, trustees and leadership staff who had gathered for a YMCA-hosted legislative breakfast, Ray Adams, CEO of the Greater Lowell Family YMCA, reported that Chelmsford was the first area community to sign up for the Stewards program. Chelmsford's town manager, police chief and various other officials also watched the video, Adams said. The Lowell City Council also voted to adopt the program.
Citing more frightening statistics on childhood sexual abuse that were supplied by the CDC, Adams noted that 20 percent of sexually-abused children are under the age of 8, and more than 90 percent of children who've been sexually-abused know their abusers.
"It's very startling when you look at the statistics and what that math says about just your piece of the world," Adams said. "At the Y, we are committed to protecting the innocence of children. We are glad to be part of the solution by educating responsible adults, and we're grateful to the school department for supporting this important community effort."
According to Elizabeth Warren, National Prevention Program Manager at Darkness to Light, the organization's ultimate mission is to bring an end to childhood sexual abuse.
"That can only be accomplished by sharing the solution of prevention, awareness and education with more and more people," Warren said. "This, in turn, builds momentum over time, and changes the way our nation and culture cares for, protects and nurtures our children."
Adams, as well as Christopher Dick, president of the YMCA 's board of directors, thanked legislators and local officials for supporting the Stewards program, and urged other Greater Lowell communities to join.
"The Greater Lowell Family YMCA is delighted to bring this important training to Dracut," said Kevin Morrissey, director of operations at the Y. "We're confident it will positively affect the lives of children and their families."
Morrissey urged anyone interested in obtaining more information on Stewards of Children training to contact him at: 978-454-7825, ext. 22.
Convicted child sex abusers sue for $10M, claim NY state program violated their rights
by Eric Shawn
They are some of the most sexually violent predators, convicted of hideous crimes, such as sexually abusing a five-year-old.
Now they want $10 million.
The civil case in Manhattan's federal court pits half a dozen child sex offenders against the former governor of New York, George Pataki, and a slew of former state prison and health officials. The six are suing the officials over a 2005 state government program that was designed to keep child sex offenders off the streets, but was disbanded a year later after a New York court ruled against it.
The plaintiffs were serving their prison sentences for their crimes. But they claim that the program, "The Sexually Violent Predator Initiative," violated their rights by confining them to psychiatric hospitals without a court hearing, just before their sentences were scheduled to be completed.
The lawsuit of lead plaintiff Kenneth Bailey says that "after twelve years behind bars, in the final days of his sentence, [he] was deprived of his freedom and civilly committed to an indefinite sentence in a state-run psychiatric facility. Although the New York State Corrections Law requires that a specific procedure be followed when an inmate is to be confined in a psychiatric facility, those responsible for putting plaintiff there blatantly and deliberately ignored the prescriptions of that law."
Lawyers for Pataki and the other defendants say the sex offenders were treated properly under the state's health law, and given the treatment they needed.
The 55-year-old Bailey "was committed by means of the procedure set out in...the New York Mental Hygiene law...for involuntary care and treatment," says the defendant's response in legal papers. "Certain SVP prisoners were found after examination to meet the standard for involuntary civil commitment."
Bailey was finishing up his time behind bars for his conviction for sodomizing a nine-year-old girl, and court papers say he admitted molesting 23 other young girls and repeatedly sexually abusing his own daughter.
The other plaintiffs were serving time for similar crimes.
Charles Brooks, 42, was convicted of sexually abusing a five-year-old girl. Prosecutors said he used a knife and choked the child, who was "immediately and physically overpowered."
Louis Massei, 52, was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and sodomy of a 16-year-old girl.
Robert Warren, 49, was convicted of sexually abusing an eight-old girl.
Robert Trocchio, 50, was convicted of "deviate sexual intercourse" involving sodomy.
Jorge Burgos, Jr., who died in 2011, was convicted of sodomy, burglary, assault, and sexual abuse. His estate is a party to the lawsuit.
The men's lawyers say that not only were their clients illegally deprived of their freedom through the state program, but in court papers they also accuse officials of acting "maliciously," by "inflicting humiliation, emotional distress and pain and suffering."
The lawyers for the defendants deny those charges, saying in court papers that the officials "acted reasonably'" because the correction law could not "protect the public safety and welfare from the danger posed by a prisoner who is mentally ill and in need of care and treatment and who is nearing an anticipated release from a correctional facility."
Fox News requested interviews with Pataki and the lawyers for both sides, but U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff asked that they not talk to the media at this time.
Others say the case could set a dangerous precedent for the release of child sex offenders.
"This has an incredibly chilling effect on a Governor's ability to exercise a criminal justice and a mental health policy to protect the people of his or her state," cautions Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr, who is also a former Pataki adviser and appointee.
He fears that it will harm "a state's ability to regulate how defendants are released, to regulate violent sexual predators and to regulate criminal justice matters in their own states."
Johnson also says the case is notable because a previous federal court ruling found the defendants do not have legal immunity, as is usually routine for public officials acting in their governmental capacity. The court found that the plaintiffs did not pose "an immediate danger to society" and that "due process" was not followed.
"It is kind of a nightmare come true for any public official. It appears that the people in the asylum now have the keys," he said.
Since May, three of the plaintiffs have been charged with new crimes. Two were accused of burglarizing a home in upstate New York, and another is charged with stabbing a man in a fight on Long Island.
What should I do if I suspect child abuse?
by Anita Kulick
Today's guest blogger is Anita Kulick, President & CEO of Educating Communities for Parenting in Philadelphia. ECP offers a variety of programs and services for teen and adult parents, adjudicated delinquent youth, young adults aging out of the foster care system, preschoolers, and children at grave risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.
Child abuse isn't new, but it's not something most people talk about. That all changed with the Jerry Sandusky case. When the story became headline news for months, child abuse was impossible to ignore any longer. Everyone had an opinion about it. The discussions weren't about Sandusky's guilt or innocence, but about who was responsible for reporting suspicions to the authorities. The questions many people began asking themselves were, “What would I have done? What should I have done?”
The law is clear when it comes to professionals who are mandated to report concerns, but for average citizens the answer is far more difficult and a lot more personal.
Professional or not, if you witness or strongly suspect that a child is in real danger, you should report it. If there is fear of immediate harm to the child, call 911. In instances that are not as time sensitive, you can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is staffed with professional crisis counselors. All calls are anonymous.
Your course of action is far less clear when it comes to everyday situations that happen at the mall or even when visiting a friend or relative. You may sense the parent is overwhelmed emotionally, and it's affecting his or her ability to parent effectively.
It's times like these, when “your danger antennal goes up,” says Beth Bitler, program director at the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance . You feel compelled to do something, but you're torn between taking action to protect the child and violating the parent's authority; or even worst, escalating the situation.
What, if anything, can you do? Bitler wants us to know that any action taken, no matter how small, can help protect a child. It's also critical that you don't embarrass the parent, and just as important, the action taken must be something you feel comfortable doing.
Bitler describes a typical situation. You're waiting in a supermarket checkout line, and the three year old in front of you grabs a candy bar from the display. The mother tells the child, “No” and puts it back. In frustration, the little boy begins crying at the top of his lungs. With each passing second, the mother becomes more humiliated which turns into anger. She begins berating the child by threating to beat him. The situation has turned volatile. You want to react, but what are your options?
Bitler has several suggestions based on your personal style.
If you're comfortable with a more direct approach:
Smile at the parent; give an understanding nod; and comment that you know how he or she feels.
Talk to the child in an effort to refocus his or her energy.
If you're more comfortable with an indirect approach you can:
Make a comment to a store security guard
Go to store management and suggest that they have at least one candy-free checkout lane to help avoid the situation in the first place.
Whichever intervention you choose, the most important thing is that you've decided to take action. The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance knows that these everyday interventions can have a tremendous community-wide impact in curbing child abuse. In their mission to educate the general public in what to do and when to do it, they've developed the Front Porch Project.
The FPP is a prevention initiative based on the belief that everyone can and should become more aware of how to help protect fragile and at-risk children in their communities. It provides ordinary citizens with the knowledge, training, and encouragement they need to become involved and effective. By attending the training, participants will learn:
How and when to safely respond when worried about a child in your neighborhood or public space
How to make decisions to help and what stops us from helping when we are concerned about a family
The many ways we can all help to protect children and prevent child abuse.
If you would like to attend Front Porch training, the Pennsylvania Parenting Coalition is hosting the next one in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 31 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 919 Walnut Street. To register for this training or for more information about hosting your own community Front Porch Project, contact Beth Bitler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-448-4906.
Texas / Sweden
SMU and Sweden government launch “Project Support” program to reduce child abuse and neglect
The government of Sweden is partnering with psychologists at Southern Methodist University (SMU) to launch a parenting program shown to reduce child abuse.
A two-year study funded by the Swedish government will look at the feasibility of implementing the program nationwide in that country.
The program, "Project Support," was created by SMU psychologists Renee McDonald and Ernest Jouriles. Research has shown it reduces child abuse and neglect in severely violent families.
McDonald and Jouriles are partnering with Kjerstin Almqvist, a psychologist at Karlstad University in Sweden who specializes in the treatment of children suffering domestic violence, under a $730,000 grant from Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare. The grant was awarded to Swedish researchers investigating best practices for children exposed to domestic violence and child abuse.
McDonald and Jouriles were in Sweden recently to train social services agency staff on how to implement Project Support.
The parenting program will be rolled out initially to 100 families in the four Swedish cities of Stockholm, Trollh-ttan, Ronneby and -rebro. Social workers from the nation's social service agencies in those cities will take Project Support into homes in which children have been exposed to severe family violence.
At the end of the two-year study, Swedish officials will determine if Project Support is to be endorsed for routine use in Swedish social service agencies for families in which the children have been exposed to family violence.
"This project is a great example of how science can be brought to bear to help alleviate real human suffering," McDonald said. "Our Swedish colleagues are committed to ensuring that their country's social services are demonstrably effective in reducing child maltreatment and improving the mental health of children in violent families."
Project Support provides families with parenting help, emotional support
Project Support is an intensive, one-on-one program in which mental health service providers meet with families weekly in their homes for up to 6 months. During that time, parents are taught specific skills, including how to pay attention and play with their children, how to listen and comfort them, how to offer praise and positive attention, how to give appropriate instructions, and how to respond to misbehavior. Service providers also provide mothers with emotional support and help them access needed materials and resources through community agencies, such as food banks and Medicaid.
"Although the Swedish government makes sure every citizen can provide for their physical needs, many women who are victims of domestic violence need additional supports to help them leave a violent relationship and begin to live with their children on their own," Almqvist said. "Swedish programs that provide support for mothers are successful helping them become independent and autonomous. However, such programs are not sufficient to help the children in the families overcome the adverse effects of the violence. Project Support has shown substantial positive effects for mothers as well as children in the U.S., and we hope it will be equally successful in Sweden."
McDonald is an associate professor in the SMU Department of Psychology and is Associate Dean for Research in SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Jouriles is a professor and chairman of the SMU Psychology Department.
Almqvist is Professor in Medical Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Karlstad University.
Project Support decreased reports of abuse, improved family functioning
McDonald and Jouriles launched Project Support in the United States in 1996 to address the mental health problems of maltreated children and children exposed to domestic violence and child abuse. Those factors in childhood often lead to considerable problems for children later in life, such as substance abuse, interpersonal violence and criminal activity, say the SMU psychologists.
Project Support is listed on federal and state databases as an intervention for children in violent families that is supported by research evidence.
Peer-reviewed research in Texas found previously that the program reduced abusive parenting among mothers who live in poverty and whose families have a history of domestic violence or child abuse. Mothers reduced their use of harsh discipline and physical aggression toward their children and were much less likely to be referred to Texas Child Protective Services for child abuse. Project Support also improved children's psychological adjustment, especially conduct problems, the researchers found.
That study was funded jointly by the federal Interagency Consortium on Violence Against Women and Violence Within the Family and the Texas-based Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. The research was published in the quarterly Journal of Family Psychology, "Improving Parenting in Families Referred for Child Maltreatment: A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining Effects of Project Support." The study is at http://1.usa.gov/12hFzxr.
Most recently, use of Project Support was expanded in Dallas to serve some families who were previously homeless. The oldest child abuse and prevention agency in Dallas, Family Compass, is supplying Project Support services to families served by the Housing Crisis Center, whose mission is to combat homelessness. Read more about that at http://bit.ly/Wve3Po.
"Professor Almqvist approached us over a year ago about adapting Project Support for use in Sweden and conducting an evaluation of it in Sweden," said McDonald. "We recently conducted an intensive training class for the staff members of the agencies who will be providing Project Support services. The next phase begins in September, when families begin to receive the services."
Every year U.S. child welfare agencies receive more than 3 million reports of child abuse and neglect involving nearly 6 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 13 percent of children in the U.S. are exposed to severe acts of inter-parent violence.
No Place to Grow Up
What homelessness looks like in Fort Worth: a young kid, an abused mom.
by EDWARD BROWN
As the school bus pulls up at its regular stop on East Lancaster Avenue, not just a handful but a whole crowd of elementary students pile in. When the bus pulls away, it reveals a sign that had been hidden by the kids. It says “Presbyterian Night Shelter.”
These kids are the face of Fort Worth's newest homeless population, and they are giving city officials and community leaders a renewed sense of urgency in the fight against homelessness.
In 2008, long after many major cities enacted 10-year plans to combat the problem, Fort Worth joined in with Directions Home, a program aimed at “ending chronic homelessness in Fort Worth.” Halfway through the 10-year plan, there have been some victories: About 1,200 formerly homeless people have been moved into stable housing and provided with the kinds of job training and other support to give them a good chance of staying there.
While that was happening, however, a very different trend was being noticed — the growing number of homeless mothers and children.
Over the past two years, according to the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, the number of homeless children has risen by 52 percent. They now make up almost a third of the homeless population in Tarrant County. And they are arriving at shelters for battered women and the homeless at younger and younger ages. The coalition is a government agency that coordinates resources and develops strategies to end homelessness.
The youngest children — including newborns — are arriving with their mothers, who represent the other fast-growing segment of homelessness in North Texas. Shelter and city officials said most of the increase is due to record levels of domestic abuse and to recession-related economics.
“Seventy percent of the mothers [we see] are domestic violence survivors,” said Macie Hill, director of development for the Presbyterian Night Shelter, Fort Worth's largest provider of both traditional shelter and supportive housing. Other sources put the percentage as high as 92 percent.
But not all homeless children go through that experience with a parent. And many of them, including hundreds of runaways, don't make it into the shelters. This population of “couch hoppers” blends into the Fort Worth student population by day. By night they sleep on a friend's couch or in parks or in their cars.
A team of workers from ACH Child and Family Services (formerly the All Church Home for Children) spends most of its time combing the streets, especially in the environs of East Lancaster, where most of the city's shelters are located. They also talk to school officials, all in an effort to find these kids and get services to them.
The array of organizations involved in helping these women and children demonstrates both the community's recognition of the situation and its seriousness. New groups such as Care Closet, a nonprofit clothing source for homeless kids, have sprung up, and established groups have added new services.
The downtown YWCA, for instance, added a child and family advocate to its staff to help meet the needs of the parents as well as children.
“Research shows that the most effective way to increase positive academic results for children is to increase the income of their parents,” said YWCA director Carol Klocek. “So now we're doing both.”
But agencies that help the homeless are being hit from both sides — with a greater demand for services but also, thanks to government budget cuts, the prospect of serious reductions in their funding. Particularly worrisome for many agencies is the federal sequester, which mandates funding cuts at almost every level of government.
At the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, executive director Cindy Crain is already preparing for the impact. She expects the coalition to lose as much as 8 percent of its funds.
“We will have to make hard decisions,” she said.
Several weeks ago, SafeHaven, Tarrant County's domestic violence agency, registered a first: a baby born in one of its two emergency shelters for battered women.
The birth is part of a broader and worrying trend that shelter workers are seeing.
CEO Mary Lee Hafley said SafeHaven has seen an alarming increase in homeless women with children asking for help. Not only are more and more women in need of shelter and other services, but more of them are arriving with children, particularly with infants.
“It's not unusual for us to have multiple families with newborns [and] 6- month-olds,” she said. “Some [mothers] are in the shelter, leave to give birth, and then return to the shelter.
The recession has been driving up occupancy rates at SafeHaven and other shelters for some time now . “Across the state and nation, shelters are running out of room, and calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline have increased significantly since the recession started in 2008,” said Angela Hale, spokesperson for the Texas Council on Family Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Shelter directors and police can pinpoint some of the factors causing the influx. Domestic violence rates increase when times get hard.
Women are also staying longer at SafeHaven than in the past, as the recession complicates the task of helping them find jobs and long-term housing.
“The term ‘emergency' is being redefined,” Hafley said. “Emergency used to mean a few days up to four weeks. With more obstacles to remove to achieve independent living, clients stay six weeks or more. Last year, our average length of stay was 22 days, more than double the previous year.”
Longer stays and full shelters mean that the numbers of women and their children served haven't increased, even though demand is up.
“We were full three out of every four days,” Hafley said. “Fewer turnovers normally means a lower number served per year.”
According to Lena Zettler, director of psychology at Cook Children's Health Care System, the average age of children with single homeless mothers is under six years. And since children often witness domestic abuse, a staggering 83 percent of homeless children have been exposed to violence before entering a shelter.
Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, one of Fort Worth's largest homeless shelters, is building a new addition called the Scott Walker Women and Families Service Building, to provide additional housing for families, single women, and men with children.
“We receive more than 200 calls a month from women seeking safety and shelter,” said Don Shisler, president and chief executive of Union Gospel. “The women urgently need help and hope, and as a result, we must make more room.”
Union Gospel offers kids who stay there daily chapel services and onsite medical attention, plus a program that includes two hours of tutoring four days a week.
The shelters on East Lancaster work hard not to overlap their services any more than necessary. The Salvation Army runs the Mabee Social Services Center, which provides services similar to Presbyterian and Union Gospel, but with the addition of a unique program called First Choice.
First Choice is a drug rehabilitation program designed specifically for chemically dependent women with children. To quality for treatment, women must either be homeless or indigent. Once a client is admitted, First Choice offers individualized rooms, off-site child care, chemical dependency education, random drug screenings, parenting classes, and various types of counseling.
With a capacity of only four families, the Salvation Army refers women it can't help to the other Fort Worth shelters or to the organization's own Arlington branch.
“We have seen an increase in the number of families with children coming and calling,” said operations director Beckie Wach. “There has been an increase in single-father families as well as two-parent families. I have also had a family composed of a pregnant lady who is raising her daughter and 15-year-old sister because her parents were illegal and had to return to their country.”
At the YWCA, a 2009 federal law called the HEARTH Act (Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing) has helped the agency extend its services to more women with children. “Prior to the HEARTH act, only those individuals who were not accompanied by children were eligible for long-term supportive housing,” explained Klocek. “The HEARTH act allowed the YWCA to expand housing services to women and children who have the greatest need.” Supportive housing refers to the combination of housing subsidies and services that help people stabilize their living situations.
Rosie Mackey never thought she'd be in a homeless shelter. At 48, she is raising four grandchildren ages five to 13.
She lost her job and then, eventually, her car, because she couldn't afford to keep it. “Once I lost my transportation, I couldn't continue looking for work,” she said.
After living a few weeks with her grandkids in a friend's one-bedroom apartment, Mackey made the difficult decision to move the family into Presbyterian last December.
She refers to the grandchildren as her kids; she is in the process of adopting them. Their mother, Rosie's daughter, has been in and out of shelters on East Lancaster herself.
Families live in close quarters at Presbyterian, and even small incidents can quickly escalate into more serious altercations. Mackey doesn't allow her children to play games such as tag, in an effort to avoid fights.
“Other people's children, they like to play tag, and when you hit someone too hard, then the other kid wants to fight,” Mackey said. “My kids don't play tag.”
The pressures of shelter life reach the adults as well. If kids fight, that “leads the mothers into it,” Mackey said. “We've all got different stories. You got different personalities, a lot of different attitudes, and some jealousy, some selfishness, some envy.”
She does her bit for keeping the peace by encouraging her kids to spend their time reading books, watching television, or participating in free summer camps.
While her grandkids are off at summer camp, Mackey is working weekend shifts at a local nursing home. Her eagerness to work with the system to get back on her feet is evident.
“You have to think,” she said. “You're in this situation. You're not going to be here long. You do what you have to do to get out.”
The city's latest tally of homeless kids was 739 — enough to fill an elementary school. But the city counts only children who enter a shelter and meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development definition for homelessness. The Fort Worth school district count of homeless kids is 1,943. And even that is probably low, some officials said.
Each year students in the district are required to fill out a residency questionnaire. The data help the district determine who is eligible for homeless assistance
“The questionnaire is part of the student information packet that is sent home with all students at the beginning of the year,” said June Davis, homeless liaison for the district. Since being homeless is an embarrassing admission, she figures actual numbers are considerably higher.
Shelters like Union Gospel and Presbyterian provide services for the kids who stay there. Presbyterian is the only “no turn-away shelter” on East Lancaster, meaning that individuals of any religious affiliation, age, or pre-existing condition are admitted (except those who are obviously intoxicated). Both shelters offer a wide array of help such as counseling, education, case management, and life-skills training.
The school district provides a full-time teacher at ACH, as well as clothing, school uniforms, school supplies, tutoring, assistance with school fees, transportation, and help with vision and medical needs.
For homeless kids who live totally outside the system, the first contact with Fort Worth's safety net usually begins with the Street Outreach Team from ACH.
“The street outreach team finds youths [through] direct contact on the street, in malls, parks, and other public areas,” said Carla Storey, director of residential services for ACH.
“There are plenty of kids on the street who aren't ready to come into a shelter necessarily,” said Jessica Sorenson, leader of the team. “So we provide services for them while they're in transition on the street.” She sees the team's work as crucial to that segment of homeless kids.
These services include a possibly life-saving contact information badge, which provides instructions on how teens can text their current location to a listed number for immediate help, a toll-free help hotline, and the address of ACH's 24-hour youth shelter.
“We spend a whole lot of time in the East Lancaster area,” Sorenson said. “We also spend a lot of time networking with schools.”
ACH manages the only shelter in the county exclusively for runaway and homeless youth. Some of the children they help are rescued by the street team; others are dropped off by overwhelmed parents who can no longer afford to provide for them or, in some cases, deal with their problems.
Because couch-hopper kids technically have places to stay, they are ineligible for certain homeless benefits under HUD guidelines.
Regardless, their needs are still dire. That reality has led to a number of collaborations among Fort Worth organizations, particularly the school district and Fort Worth police.
“There are many dangers [for such kids], from being approached by drug dealers to turning to a life of prostitution to survive,” said Fort Worth Police Officer Julie Cox, the department's homeless liaison officer. “For these youth, there are no legitimate ways to make money.”
In March, Cox got her department and the school district to collaborate on the opening of Care Closet, a nonprofit store at Arlington Heights High School that provides free clothing to homeless and at-risk youth.
“The police department works closely with the [district's] homeless liaison in an effort to get in front of the issues that arise in these young kids' lives,” she said. “These students have a difficult enough situation. A set of clean clothes, toiletries, a backpack — things other kids take for granted — can mean so much.
“Our goal is to give these kids what they need to survive and to help them reach the goals they have in life. All we are trying to do is give them a chance, and they deserve that.”
The school district provides identified homeless students with school supplies, transportation assistance, and medical help.
Clint Bond, the school district's director of communications, said the district is trying to respond to an alarming increase in the number of homeless students.
One tool that helps disadvantaged students is summer school. Those classes offer homeless kids — whose living situation often causes them to fall behind — a way to make up for lost time in the classroom.
Because summer school requires tuition, Gill Children's Services steps in. The Gill organization helps pay tuition for kids who need the summer classes to advance to the next grade. Beyond that, the group serves as a safety net for homeless children who have medical, dental, social, or emotional needs that are not being addressed by their family or caregiver or another agency.
“When a child is homeless or the family moves often, this presents its own challenges for children and inhibits their ability to learn,” said Gill executive director Amanda Stallings.
Former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief made a real impact in the fight to shrink Fort Worth's homeless population. According to the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, between 2007 and 2011 his administration oversaw a decrease in Fort Worth's homeless population by 23 percent.
In an attempt to keep up the momentum begun with Directions Home, the city's homeless advisory group in May launched another effort, called The Shortest Way Home. It's designed to get everyday residents involved. One event, Clean for a Cause, encourages residents to host garage sales on Aug. 10 to benefit agencies involved in serving the homeless.
Less widely known than Directions Home is Moncrief's involvement in getting Cook Children's to become community leaders in helping Fort Worth's homeless child population. In the fall of 2007 Moncrief led several senior executives of the healthcare system to East Lancaster so they could see the needs of Fort Worth's homeless child population firsthand.
At that time, as is still often the case, impoverished mothers and children were resorting to emergency rooms for basic medical care. To everyone's surprise, a great amount of attention was being paid to parents and little to the needs of children in the shelters. Homeless kids, not surprisingly, are far more susceptible to illness than other children. Asthma, respiratory infections, and stomach problems are among the most common ailments.
One Cook director took the lesson to heart.
“The staff from the shelters said that the health needs of the children were not consistently being met,” said Ginny Hickman, assistant vice president for community health outreach. “That's why we created a ‘medical home' for these children at the Cook Children's neighborhood clinics while they were living in the shelters, with a goal of the families using that same medical home for their children when they moved out of the shelters.”
A comprehensive program called Cook Children's Homeless Initiative was developed. The following year, Cook Children's added a nurse case manager and social worker case manager to directly serve Fort Worth's homeless kids.
The goal of the initiative is to build connections among homeless families and the five neighborhood clinics. Cook Children's system serves an average of 805 homeless children per year.
Physical ailments aren't the only health problems facing homeless children. Sexual exploitation and illicit drug use are ever-present dangers. Those problems, plus the psychic toll of homelessness itself, can affect their mental health.
“Being homeless is in itself a form of trauma,” said Zettler, the Cook director of psychology. Homeless kids are much more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems than children with stable homes, she said.
But it's hard to address mental health problems until a child's more basic needs are being met.
“If a kid is hungry, then play therapy isn't going to take root,” she said.
Cook Children's has provided training for staffers at Presbyterian, Union Gospel, and other shelters in the basics of “trauma-informed care,” which is based on an understanding of the biological, psychological, neurological, and social effects of trauma.
“Just because you experience trauma does not mean you will be [affected] forever,” Zettler said. “There is a large proportion of traumatized kids who are resilient. Those kids do very well.
“As great as Cook Children's is, we can't do everything,” she added. “Schools help by giving goals, increasing resiliency. Churches, clubs, mentoring –– all increase resiliency.”
Leaders of such programs are worried that their recent steps forward in dealing with homelessness may be erased by a giant step back in funding, caused mostly by the federal across-the-board cuts known as the sequester.
The housing choice voucher program, for example, probably will be able to help 90 fewer households this year than last, due to sequestration cuts. That's a smaller cutback than expected, only about 2 percent; HUD expects housing authorities to use reserve funds to cushion the blow. The program helps qualified families with rent: The families pay 30 percent of their adjusted income toward rent, and the Fort Worth Housing Authority pays the rest.
Another program under the knife is called Shelter Plus Care. Similar to the rent voucher program, Shelter Plus Care is exclusively for the homeless and disabled.
“Because of a reduction in funding to the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, there was a reduction to the FWHA Shelter Plus Care program. Consequently, [that program] will serve approximately 120 fewer households,” said Selarstean Mitchell, the housing authority's vice president for assisted housing. And the homeless aren't the only ones feeling the effects: FWHA staffers are dealing with furloughs and pay cuts.
“Effective May 2013, staff went to a four-day work week,” Mitchell said. “This is resulting in a 20 percent reduction in pay for employees. The offices are closed every Friday.”
The network of support services for the homeless in Fort Worth isn't seamless, but it's much more extensive than it was a decade ago, thanks to the broad range of agencies that have combined their efforts.
People like Klocek, at the YMCA, worry that the high proportion of children among the homeless is becoming the norm. National statistics show how easy it is for homelessness to get passed down: 44 percent of homeless mothers experienced homelessness or foster home situations as children.
Poor and homeless kids “lead very different lives from the more fortunate children in our society,” said Justin Dyniewski, psychiatrist with Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County. “They are exposed to numerous stressors that put them at increased risk of developing mental health disorders.”
“Homelessness is no place to grow up,” Klocek said.
Civil Tort Actions: Childhood Sexual Abuse and Women's Substance Abuse
by Susan B. Ramsey
Tort actions seek financial compensation for wrongs that have caused injury to the person bringing the suit. These wrongs may include intended harms, as in the case of a perpetrator who touches a victim in a harmful or offensive way against her wishes. The wrongs may also include negligent harms, as when a person or entity fails to use reasonable care for the victim's safety. In this latter category of cases, a negligent harm might include cases in which an employer fails to conduct a proper background check or to adequately investigate prior complaints of sexual harassment or assault. Claims of intentional or negligent harm can be pursued by both adult and child victims of sexual assault. There are a number of medical – legal issues that arise during the course of litigation of these types of cases. One such issue is the relationship between child sexual abuse and substance abuse later in life.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may turn to alcohol or other substances in an attempt to relieve their emotional suffering, in other words to “self medicate”. More and more clinical studies support what many working in the fields of substance abuse treatment and working with child abuse survivors have long been aware of that many women seeking substance abuse treatment report histories of childhood sexual abuse. A report was authored by members of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, based on a survey of about 1,100 women that compared women who reported sexual experiences that were classified as abusive to women without histories of child sexual abuse. The results of this analysis indicated that women with histories of childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely than women without childhood sexual abuse histories to report recent alcohol use, intoxication, drinking related problems and alcohol dependent symptoms or use of prescribed psychoactive drugs and illicit drugs, and depression and anxiety. Findings from this United States National Sample support those of previous clinical studies and suggest that women's experience of sexual abuse in childhood may be an important risk factor for later substance abuse, psychopathology and sexual dysfunction.
Further studies such as reported by the Department of Psychology Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington and Seattle draw the apparent connection between child sexual abuse or physical abuse and later substance abuse problems among adolescence and adults. The rates of child sexual abuse reports among women with substance abuse problems were found to be on average nearly two times higher than those found in the general population and the rates of substance use abuse problems among women with child sexual abuse histories were found to be similarly elevated. Interestingly enough the rates of child sexual abuse were not found to be increased substantially among males with substance abuse problems – but men with histories of childhood sexual abuse were found to be at greater risk for substance abuse problems issues than men in the general population. Women, girls and boys with substance abuse problems were found to have elevated rates of childhood physical abuse relative to the general population while adult males with substance use problems were not found to have elevated rates of childhood physical abuse.
Survivors of sexual assault or sexual abuse in childhood may abuse drugs to help them “numb out” and push away the painful memories of sexual violence. Victims may also turn to drugs instead of true recovery resources, such as counseling; they may not think that friends or family will understand them, they may not know where to access recovery resources, or they may be embarrassed to talk about what happened.
Friends and family of sexual assault survivors may be among the first to recognize the signs of substance abuse. Early recognition increases chances for successful treatment.
Warning signs include:
|• Giving up past activities or hobbies
• Spending time with new friends who may be a negative influence
• Declining grades or performance at work
• Aggressiveness, irritability
• Disappearing money or valuables from family and friends
• Depression or hopelessness
• Avoiding friends and family
• Drinking and driving or getting in trouble with the law
• Suspension from school or work
If you have a friend or family member there is help available.
Resources for survivors of child sexual assault and abuse.
There are many national and local organizations which provide resources for adult survivors of sexual abuse as well as family members or parents of children who have been sexually abused.
RAINN – Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has a website (http://www.rainn.org) and a hotline number of 1-800-656-HOPE. The website provides much information about where to get help, how to get additional information and a newsroom which provides help information about recent cases in the media.
ASCA – Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse is an international self help support group designed specifically for adult's survivors of neglect, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse. This program offers community based self help support groups; web based self help support groups, survivor to thrive work box. It has a website (http://www.ascasupport.org).
The National Crime Victim Bar Association is an affiliate and program of the National Center for Victims of Crime. It was founded in April 1999, creating the nation's first professional association of attorneys and expert witnesses dedicated to helping victims seek justice through the civil system. The National Crime Victim Bar Association continues the pioneering work of Frank Carrington and is a testament to the National Center for Victims of Crime's long-standing commitment to civil justice for victims. Crime victims deserve compensation for the harms they have suffered, and third parties are increasingly held accountable through the civil justice system. (http://www.victimsofcrime.org)
Orthodox families in NYC and Rockland shunned for reporting sexual abuse
by MICHAEL RICONDA
Brooklyn – Child sexual abuse is an infrequent but unfortunate and tragic occurrence in any community, but adding insult to injury by purposely ostracizing a child's family almost seems too cruel to comprehend.
Still, for reporting sexual abuse of children, Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish families, also known as Haredi or ritually observant, often report strong ostracism from their community members up to and including exclusion from housing and having children booted from private schools.
“There is no nice way of saying it: Our community protects molesters,” Pearl Engelman, whose son reported he was fondled by a United Talmudical Academy teacher in Williamsburg, explained to the New York Times. “Other than that, we are wonderful.”
Such communities often prefer to handle problems internally through rabbinic authorities. According to the interpretation of many rabbis, informing on other Jews, or “mesirah,” is forbidden under Jewish law.
“The work we do is perceived by the rabbinic leadership as a direct challenge to their authority and control over the community and they react accordingly,” Survivors for Justice President Ben Hirsch explained.
In total, 51 cases impacted the Brooklyn community as of late, nine of which ended with victim dropping out. All others ended with plea deals due to families' fears of reprisal.
The most recent case was that of the Jungreis family of Brooklyn, whose teenage son was abused by Meir Dascalowitz, 29. Dascalowitz pled guilty to sexual abuse in April and received five years in prison and ten of probation.
The boy's father, Mordecai Jungreis, explained to the New York Times that on the advice of a rabbi, the family reported the crime to a psychologist. Other rabbis they consulted prior to the last were reportedly unhelpful. In response, the family was scorned by their community, intimidated with the hope they would drop their case against Dascalowitz and even kicked out of their apartment.
The issue allegedly reaches into legal responses as well. Blogger and victims' rights activist Yerachmiel Lopin explained no indication was given that Dascalowitz's video confession was disqualified from evidence and the DA's office was merely playing politics by failing to pursue a harsher sentence.
The governor of New York looks the other way as politically favored rabbis cover-up sexual abuse
“So, while it is always good to have a serial rapist convicted, I am not yet convinced this case was handled nearly as well as it could have been by a DA who was less beholden to Hasidic power brokers,” Lopin explained.
Recently in Rockland, Dovid Kohn, 60 of Monsey, was sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2013 for abusing one of his daughter's female friends. If she had testified, Kohn could have faced 25 years on 35 charges.
Local victims right and pro-decency activist Rabbi Noson Leiter lauded the case as progress. “Sometimes, a strong victim can actually force a plea with incarceration,” Leiter said.
In another instance of local sex abuse, Shmuel M. Dym, 31 of Monsey, pled guilty to molesting two brothers age seven and nine in June 2012 and was sentenced to 10 years probation. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe explained Dym could have served up to eight years if not for local Haredi leaders' pressure on the victim's family.
“In the end, we went with the family's wishes,” Zugibe said.
In spite of community opposition and unhelpful leaders, reporting has been advocated by a small but growing minority of Orthodox Jews, including Leiter and Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg of Brooklyn, who runs a phone line imploring victims to contact police for which he himself has been demonized by his community.
The politicians of New York, such as Governor Andrew Cuomo, do business with powerful rabbis who control blocs of votes and money even if they systematically cover up sex abuse, but activists like Rabbi Rosenberg and Rabbi Leiter who stick up for children get no political support. In Leiter's case, he's been the subject of political attacks.
In 2012, Leiter publicly stated a very common view among Haredi Jews that societal acceptance of homosexuality leads to natural disasters, and was immediately confronted in the press by Governor Cuomo for his views. However, Cuomo has never used his influence to confront the many rabbis that cover up actual sex crimes and hold the same exact view as Leiter on the subject of homosexuality. Leiter's sin to politicians such as Cuomo, evidently, is not his view on human sexuality, but his lack of political influence.
Survivors for Justice comprises another group advocating for abuse survivors and their families by sponsoring research, reaching out and connecting victims to legal and mental health services, and educating rabbis, healthcare professionals, law enforcement and elected officials on the issue. However, their president, Ben Hirsch, argued prosecution of offenders is not enough.
“The reality is that absent aggressive criminal prosecutions of rabbinic leaders for obstruction of justice-a politically difficult task-this will not end and thousands of children will continue to suffer the unspeakable consequences,” Hirsch argued. “Survivors will be persuaded to stand up to bullying rabbis when they see their elected law enforcement officials placing justice ahead of politics.”
Childhelp, Erin Merryn and Michael Reagan team up to protect children
by Jerome Elam
WASHINGTON — There is a coalition of heroes who have dedicated their lives to protecting the innocence of children and to rescuing the vulnerable from predators like Jerry Sandusky. That coalition includes the organization Childhelp, the son of former president Ronald Reagan and child abuse survivor Michael Reagan, and the author, child abuse survivor and advocate Erin Merryn.
Childhelp (http://www.childhelp.org) is an organization that was created by two women whose boundless compassion could not ignore the tragedy that unfolded around them.
Sara Buckner (O'Meara) and Yvonne Lime (Fedderson) were Hollywood actresses who met on the set of Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.
In 1959 during a goodwill tour visiting U.S. troops in Japan, the two young women happened upon a group of eleven young children wandering the streets after a typhoon. The women quickly learned that the children were those of American troops who had fought during the Korean War. They also learned that the children had been turned away from every orphanage due to their mixed heritage.
Sara and Yvonne, led by their hearts, had no choice and led the beleaguered children back to their hotel room where they fed and sheltered them. They began a relentless search to find a place for these young orphans, and when word finally reached them of one woman who was caring for mixed heritage orphans, they immediately sought her out. What they found was a one-room shack overflowing with those who had been cast aside by society. The woman, Kin Horuchi, agreed to take the eleven orphans in and as the word spread she was soon caring for one hundred Japanese-American children.
Sara and Yvonne could have returned to their lives as Hollywood actresses, but at this point they did something extraordinary. They returned home and began raising money to build the orphanages needed to care for these forgotten children, eventually building four that changed the lives of countless children.
Japan had been a life changing experience for Sara and Yvonne, and since that day in 1959, they have come to symbolize everything that is good in this world and defined the phrase “selfless dedication to a cause.”
In 1959 Sara and Yvonne founded International Orphans, an organization dedicated to finding homes for the lost and forgotten. They have been tireless advocates for children, building orphanages in Vietnam during the brutal war in that country in the 1960s, They took part in the airlift to transport children from Vietnam to adoptive homes in America after the war ended. After hearing a speech by Sara and Yvonne, First Lady Nancy Reagan enlisted their help to combat an epidemic that was sweeping the United States.
A study by the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Youth reported the rising incidence of child abuse in the United States. Nancy Reagan, a woman of great compassion and stature, immediately leapt into action. After she approached Sara and Yvonne the two quickly took up the fight to save America's children from the tragedy of child abuse. They have been boundless advocates for victims and survivors of child abuse and were instrumental in the education and prevention of the stolen innocence and vandalized hopes and dreams of our children.
Michael Reagan (http://www.michaelereagan.com) has spent the last 25 years of his life raising awareness about the scourge of child abuse.
The son of former president Ronald Reagan and Actress Jane Wyman, he is the founder and chairman of Reagan Legacy Foundation, a New York Times bestselling author, Townhall columnist and former talk radio host.
In his book, “Twice Adopted,” Reagan courageously shares his struggle to overcome his trauma as a victim of child abuse and child pornography. He has used his experience to help educate and empower parents and children so that no child has to suffer as he did. It is through his courage and that of Sara and Yvonne that they have teamed up to protect our children from predators through the 1-2-3 formula. The first component of this is the implementation of Erin's law created from the courage and determination of author and advocate Erin Merryn.
Erin Merryn was a young girl when her innocence was stolen after being molested by her cousin and a friend's uncle.
Trapped in a prison of silence, Erin dealt with her pain by writing in a small journal she was given as a present. One day her sister confided in Erin that the same cousin had molested her. Erin's need to protect her sister eclipsed the pain she felt over her own abuse and she immediately confided in her parents. The friend's uncle and her cousin were arrested and brought to justice, but like Sara, Yvonne and Michael Reagan, her life embarked on a new course with a determination to save all children from the trauma she endured.
In 2005 her diary was turned into the book, “Stolen Innocence,” and its pages have inspired countless victims and survivors to break their silence and that even on their worst days it would eventually get better.
In 2010 Erin Merryn helped craft “ Erin's law,” which implements child abuse education in grades Pre-K through eighth grade. She is tireless in her quest to have Erin's law passed by every state. Erin is currently fighting to protect the children of New York State and is awaiting a vote by the New York State Assembly in January 2014.
The second component of the 1-2-3 formula is the implementation of Childhelp's Speak Up Be SafeTM (SUBS) premier curriculum for grades one thru six.
Through education and empowerment of parents and children, the program combats the ever-growing threat to our children from cyberbullying, Internet predators and “sexting.” The final component is the utilization of technology such as smart phones as aids in the education and prevention of child abuse.
It has been a year this month that Jerry Sandusky was convicted of molesting young boys. Many thought that when Sandusky was locked away we had eliminated the threat to our children from sexual predators. Sandusky was only one of thousands that roam our streets today. Cloaked in the disguise of respectability, these stealth predators are sharks on land searching 24/7 for the next innocent and vulnerable child to target.
The conviction of Jerry Sandusky was not an end but a beginning, a beginning to a war that has been hidden for many years. His conviction is the Pearl Harbor in the war against child abuse that has been raging all around us, fought by brave heroes like Sara, Yvonne, Michael and Erin.
Nationally, one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child abuse. There are over forty-two million survivors of child abuse in the world today.
According to a Centers for Disease Control study, the lifetime costs for the victims of child abuse reported in one year is $124 billion. 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.
Other pedophiles are not on records or in databases. Pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky walk silently among us, and Sandusky showed us just how well they can disguise themselves.
The United States Government Accountability Office reports that, “More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children's Bureau estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
Research has also shown that each victim of child abuse has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed, and those who make it to the seventh adult are few in number.
As a young boy I prayed every day for help in escaping the child abuse I endured. Today I wake up each day and fight to educate and empower parents and children so that not one more child suffers the hell I had to endure. I am honored to work alongside Sara, Yvonne, Michael, Erin and everyone at Childhelp to stop this scourge. If I can save just one child from a lifetime of suffering my purpose in this life will have been fulfilled.
Please join Sara, Yvonne, Michael, Erin and me as we fight to save the most precious treasure we have, our children. To report child abuse or if you are a victim or survivor of child abuse and need help call Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800- 4-A-CHILD. You can also find more information and how you can help by going to the Childhelp website.
For more information about Erin's law click here and for more information on Michael Reagan you can go to his website here.
Efforts to Reduce Abuse in Adulthood Should Begin in Childhood
by Jen Wilson
There are numerous studies on childhood abuse and the negative outcomes of such events. Childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, maltreatment, neglect, and other forms of trauma have dramatic negative effects on a child's development. Survivors of these types of abuse are more likely than children who have not experienced abuse to engage in risky behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual risk taking, and criminal acts. They are also at greater risk for physical health problems from these behaviors including injury, HIV/AIDs and heart disease.
Although the relationship between childhood abuse and adult maladjustment has been well established, what is not as clear is how childhood abuse relates to adult abuse. In an attempt to determine exactly what types of abuse predict future abuse, and what other factors influence risk for abuse in adulthood, Gretchen R. Chiu of the New England Research Institutes in Massachusetts recently led a study involving community-dwelling adults between the ages of 30 and 80.
Chiu focused on a culturally and economically diverse sample of participants to further identify abuse patterns. She also looked at how abuses overlapped and how any overlap might have predictive value. The results of her analysis revealed that abuse occurred in 15% to 27% of the participants studied.
Women were more likely to experience sexual and emotional abuse than men in the study and low socioeconomic status and minority race increased this risk, especially in women. Another key finding was that childhood sexual abuse was a strong predictor of various forms of abuse in adulthood for both men and women. Additionally, the more types of abuse experienced in childhood, the more likely the survivor was to be revictimized in adulthood. This finding was constant across all participants, regardless of race or income status.
Overall, the results of this study underscore the lifelong impact of childhood abuse. Chiu added, “Therefore, prevention of childhood abuse and appropriately timed interventions may help to lower both the prevalence of all types of abuse in adulthood, as well as numerous negative mental and physical health outcomes.”
Child abuse victims suffer greater long term health costs: study
Adults who were abused in childhood suffer from more chronic health conditions and put far greater pressure on the health system than those who were not abused, according to new research from the University of Technology, Sydney.
The new research, conducted by by Rebecca Reeve and Kees van Gool from the University of Technology, Sydney and published in the journal Economic Record, highlight that long-term consequences of abuse should be considered when investing in health services to prevent abuse or assist survivors of child abuse.
The authors analysed data on 8,841 people aged 16 to 85, who were interviewed in private dwellings in all Australian states and territories as part of the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
The data showed that 15.5% of Australians aged 16 to 85 were physically and/or sexually abused as children, with the mean age of first abuse falling between eight and 11 years of age. In Australia, there are 17,000 substantial cases of physical and sexual child abuse each year, according to a 2010 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Throughout the two-year project, the researchers modelled the relationship between childhood abuse and long-term health problems including mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, and self-harm.
People who were both physically and sexually abused suffered the worst long term health outcomes, the study showed. On average, people in this group have $1,856 greater annual health care costs, the researchers said in their paper.
However, even that figure may underestimate the true scale of the problem because it is based on people living in private dwellings only, said co-author Rebecca Reeve, a Research Fellow, Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation at the University of Technology, Sydney.
“If the long-term affects of abuse are not taken into consideration there is likely to be under-investment in policy and programs. After we control for other factors, in people who were physically or sexually abused in childhood we see much higher rates of physical and mental health problems, attempted suicide and drug and alcohol abuse and dependence. Those are all highest for people who suffered from combined physical and sexual abuse,” Dr Reeve said.
“The research highlights the magnitude and persistence of the impact of abuse. We have to weigh up the costs of providing services for intervention and prevention against the long-term cost savings in the health care system.”
Short term measures, long term problems
Judy Courtin, a PhD student in the Faculty of Law at Monash University researching sexual assault and the Catholic Church said “the new study provided sound evidence for the Victorian Inquiry and the Royal Commission to recommend that ongoing, or lifelong, counselling and health costs be made available to survivors of clergy sex crimes, with the Catholic Church, though, shouldering the full burden of the costs.”
“The church, or our governments for that matter, may well try to argue that costs for something like counselling should only be for six or 12 months for example. This study would help underpin arguments against these sorts of silly notions,” Ms Courtin said.
Underestimating the problem
Leonie Segal, Professor of Health Economics at the University of South Australia said the research was valuable but noted that the sample study did not include people who were homeless, in prisons, those so disabled that they are unable to respond, or those who have already committed suicide.
Thus the study may be excluding those who have suffered from the most extreme impacts of childhood mistreatment, she said.
“The biggest problem of the research is the survey they use to inform the study. The problem is they define abuse as physical and sexual, whereas you normally use emotional abuse and neglect too,” said Professor Segal, who was not involved in the study.
“This study confirms the existence of a relationship between child abuse and health and gives us a minimum estimate of the size of that relationship but this will be an underestimate of that relationship,” she said.
“We know that children with maltreatment will do worse in education and that will have implications for employment and health. This study is just capturing a part, albeit important, of the total impact.”
Dr Reeve said her study “focussed on particular types of abuse, not including emotional abuse or neglect, which are much harder to measure.”
Study: At Least 100,000 Children Being Used in U.S. Sex Trade
by Emily Stanton
Sexual trafficking is largely seen as something that happens abroad, but the underground sex trade is very much alive in the United States – especially for minors, according to a new report from the National Colloquium on Shelter and Services for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims.
Human trafficking is a $9.8 billion domestic industry, with at least 100,000 children being used as prostitutes in America each year, according to the report from Shared Hope International, an organization working to eradicate sex trading. Shared Hope presented its findings in a congressional briefing Monday attended by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., co-chairs of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking and Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Jim Costa, D-Calif., co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Victims' Rights.
To help minors recover from the trauma experienced through sex trafficking, Shared Hope International recommended specialized treatment for each victim and coordination between victim service providers.
A uniform method of treatment is not applicable to every victim, according to the report, and the required treatment environment should change to the extent the survivor embraces the healing process.
Panelist Dale Alton, Executive Director of Georgia Care Connection Office, experienced this first-hand working with survivors of child sex trafficking.
"Every child's need is different," she said.
Also advocating for a variety of treatments was Wilthelma Tiora Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, Human Rights Project for Girls board member and sex trafficking victim. Pettigrew says with multiple therapy options, survivors must learn empowerment on multiple levels.
Acknowledging accomplishments is also key, Pettigrew said. Small victories, like passing a test or deciding to visit a doctor, should be celebrated. For Pettigrew, she felt she achieved success was when she stayed in a treatment facility for more than two days without fleeing.
"When we talk about empowerment, we need to talk about the small accomplishments," Pettigrew said.
Every aspect of a child's life is controlled when they are in the sex trade, so exercising autonomy is critical to recovery.
Another survivor advocate, Marq Taylor, discussed the lack of services for male victims.
In its survey, Shared Hope International found that of the 43 organizations that responded, none provide specialized services exclusively for male victims.
Males won't talk about their abuse, Taylor said, so specialized, gender-specific treatment is important.
Transgender youth are also under provided for, according to the report. The survey results did not reveal exactly how many programs offer residential services for males and transgender youth.
Residential Programs for America's Child Sex Trafficking Victims Secure or Non-Secure Facilities?
by Dr. Lois Lee -- Founder and President, Children of the Night
The arguments supporting secure residential facilities for America' child sex trafficking victims parallel the same arguments for "locking up" teen girls in the '60s -- "they will be sexually exploited if we don't secure them -- we are doing it for their own good." In the '60s, teen girls were locked in juvenile facilities as "incorrigibles" -- incorrigible for a girl translated to "sexually active."
In the '80s, traditional social service agencies and their social workers refused to accept prostituted children in their system of care -- even 12-year-olds were denied access to foster homes and group homes.
Analogous to the child welfare system was the juvenile justice system and their courts who refused to accept jurisdiction of prostituted children. They too denied these children residential placements provided by probation because the prostituted child's behavior did not warrant the expenditure of taxpaying dollars -- they were not committing crimes against property but only hurting themselves.
Some of the first children to "hit the streets" in the late '70s were 11-, 12- and 13-year-old transgender from male to female. The social workers responsible for these children labeled these children as fire starters because placements for fire starters were non-existent and the social worker was relieved from the duty of placing teen and preteen transgender children in foster homes or group homes.
Today, county social service agencies across our nation are scrambling to identify children in their care, "dependents of the court," who have fled foster homes and group homes. Some of these agencies have innovative programs tracking these children through Facebook and other social media only to hear that these children are not willing to return to residential care.
In California, children who have aged out of foster care are now offered monthly stipends to practically care for themselves until they are 21 or 22 years of age.
Life with a pimp/trafficker for many children is better than "life at home," foster care or residential group homes.
To address this problem, some child sex trafficking advocates have suggested secure facilities for America's child sex trafficking victims. Often times these advocates lack skills, credentials or experience in operating licensed residential programs for children. Because they are unable to design, operate and supervise good residential care and are challenged by non-compliant teens who will challenge their quality of service, they seek policies requiring "secure facilities" so they can force their "treatment modalities" on these desperate children. And in some instances forcing inferior standards of care on the child victim of sex trafficking.
Secure facilities for America's child sex trafficking victims force troubled children into a system of care that may be just as exploited as with a pimp/trafficker. There are countless women in America who continue to seek restitution from detention facilities for the sexual abuse by employees assigned to supervise them while in detention in the '60s and '70s -- some of these women were impregnated and have children fathered by detention employees.
Children forced into secure facilities stop growing and developing and when released they run from trauma of being "locked up" and rarely seek residential care again. When released from secure facilities the child assumes the stage of development at the time of initial detention and frequently runs to another pimp/trafficker.
While the do-gooder may feel good about the fact that the child attends school and receives medical care while in detention they ignore the running that occurs "after detention or secure placement." In fact, this phenomenon is rarely mentioned in their arguments for "secure facilities."
Law enforcement, both local and federal, have held up their end of the bargain in addressing America's child sex trafficking victim. Their frustration with social services has led them to rely on "material witness holds" to secure children for testimony against a pimp/trafficker because social service providers have failed the child sex trafficking victim.
Federal funding to rescue children from sex trafficking is primarily dedicated to law enforcement, investigative support and/or support of the prosecution. Rarely is there enough funds to pay for the critical long term treatment of the child sex trafficking victim; consequently, the child returns to a pimp/trafficker who pays more attention to them than any responsible adult caregiver. As a result, the child victim is blamed for their victimization and secure facilities are offered as a solution.
It is incomprehensible to "lock up" or provide "secure facilities" for victims of domestic violence although many of the victims are children and often victims of incest.
So then why do we talk about secure facilities for children who are victims of sex trafficking?
Because "sex is at issue" in their victimization -- the same reason teen girls were "locked up" in the '60s and denied services in the '80s.
Child sex trafficking is not the first social issue to create moral panic around physical and sexual abuse. In the '80s, hysteria about Satanic Ritual Abuse garnered self-proclaimed experts, national media attention, law enforcement mobilizations, federal funding, excitement and hysteria. By the '90s official investigations produced no evidence of widespread conspiracies and only a small number of crimes were verified.
Secure residential programs for children who have not committed a crime and are victims of sex trafficking is a violation of a child's civil rights and it is a battle that should not have to be fought on behalf of any group of children in America.
The civil rights of America's children who have been sex trafficked has largely been unchecked because government, law enforcement and self-proclaimed sex trafficking experts have largely ignored boys and transgender youth in their vigilance to rescue America's children who are sex trafficked.
Antioch abuse victim awarded $530,000 decades after she says she was assaulted as child
by Matthias Gafni
ANTIOCH -- Patricia Rhyne walked through the front door and handed Dale Christiansen the letter she had waited more than four decades to write -- a four-page, handwritten letter detailing her claims of years of childhood molestation. Read it, she told him.
Instead, Christiansen -- then 81 -- reached over and fondled Rhyne's breasts for several seconds before whispering how he would prefer to perform oral sex on her, Rhyne said.
Shaken, she said she told him, "You'll never do that to me again."
In May, a civil jury ordered Christiansen, of Martinez, to pay Rhyne $530,000 for the February 2011 fondling.
In a strange twist of fate, the accusation of re-victimization provided Rhyne a legal window to seek justice for years of abuse. Under California law, too many years had passed for any criminal prosecution of childhood abuse, and the 2011 incident likely was only a misdemeanor. But with the help of an attorney, Rhyne found a way to tell her story to a jury -- and to win a decision that, yes, Christiansen had assaulted her.
"In a weird way, it was almost like a blessing," Rhyne said of the 2011 incident. "It seems weird to say it like that, but it's like it happened for a reason."
Christiansen, who has no criminal record in Contra Costa County, was unavailable for comment because of failing health, his attorney said. That also was why he did not attend the civil trial.
While the May 6 verdict was a triumph for Rhyne, much is still unresolved for her.
"Who I am today, is it because of him? Everything I am is because of him to a certain point, and that's hard," said Rhyne, wiping away tears with a napkin as she sat in her sister's Antioch living room. At 48, Rhyne still struggles with her identity.
Rhyne -- broke, between jobs and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder -- agreed to tell her story to help child abuse victims come forward. Speaking with her "victim advocate" from a Contra Costa nonprofit at her side, Rhyne said she also hopes to end the criminal statute of limitations for child molestation and to become a children's abuse counselor.
In California, sex abuse cases must be pursued within a certain length of time after the offense, a statute of limitations that may vary depending on the severity of the abuse. In contrast, nine states have no such restrictions, while an additional 26 have adjusted deadlines for victims of a certain age or crime. Most California victims of childhood molestation have until they turn 28 to pursue criminal options, and 26 for civil cases.
"I want it to change; I want the next person in line who's ready to do this not to have any barrier," Rhyne said.
Rhyne's mother worked as a cocktail waitress in a Concord bar frequented by Christiansen, and he became a family friend. Her first memory of Christiansen, she said, was when he showed her a pair of panties and a bra. She was 4.
"He was seeing if I would go and tell," Rhyne said.
The youngest of eight half-brothers and sisters, Rhyne grew up poor.
The first abuse, she said, came when Christiansen drove her to his house, promising her food and a chance to play with his horses. He would continue sexually abusing her -- doing everything from kissing to intercourse -- in his car, house, even while he flew with her in his four-seater airplane, she asserted.
Finally, at age 12, her family moved to Iowa. She thought the abuse would stop.
However, Rhyne celebrated her 14th birthday -- with Christiansen -- in the back seat of her mother's car in an Iowa mall parking lot, she said. He had flown out to see her for the occasion.
As he molested her, she said, a nearby tornado warning siren began blaring.
"I just remember wanting him to take me home so I can get in the basement like everyone else," she said.
She ran away and eventually found herself back in Antioch, married with two kids. She divorced her husband in 1983 and, acknowledging to herself that she was a lesbian, met a woman and moved to Susanville. In a class at Lassen Community College, she was assigned to write a journal.
"Is it my fault did I make him want to do this?" she wrote in a 1991 entry.
Her alarming journal posts led her teacher to recommend she tell police, but she said she would have killed herself first. "I just wasn't strong enough," she said.
Like many victims of childhood abuse, Rhyne spent years developing the courage to stand up for herself. It was a difficult process, with many false starts.
"Barbara I love you so very much, and I am sorry, Dale molested me for many years ... these last few years I've been trying to deal with this!" Rhyne wrote to Christiansen's wife on March 15, 1995. "I am sorry I betrayed you all these years, but at first I was (too) young and afraid (and) as time went on ... I became dependent, (and the) more time went on I felt ashamed."
She never mailed the letter.
"For a long time, I protected him," Rhyne said. "For 44 years I didn't want to hurt his family, his kids."
Almost a decade ago, she moved back to Antioch from Washington state. She said she began obsessing about confronting Christiansen, even driving to his house several times, honking her horn, throwing rocks, hoping someone would come outside. No one ever did.
Finally, a girlfriend persuaded Rhyne to write a letter to Christiansen and deliver it, which she did Feb. 2, 2011. In the rambling letter, she demanded $392,375 -- $25 a day since the alleged abuse began.
"Next thing I knew I was no longer that little child who played with her brothers & sisters," she wrote, "who curled up on the couch with her Mommy, not knowing any meaning of sex, but now sitting (there) waiting, for you to pick me up ... "
Christiansen did not read the letter during the confrontation.
"He treated me like he always had," Rhyne said. "Instantly, I just went right back to being a little girl."
But this time, she did something.
After years, a verdict
"I just tried to take control of my life," Rhyne said of her call to attorney Dana Scruggs a few months after the alleged 2011 assault.
"She was believable from the first moment," said Scruggs, who represents many child molestation survivors, but called Rhyne's experience "unique."
"The psychology of child sex abuse and the law have an unequal marriage," Scruggs said. "It's a rare occasion that a child or young adult is prepared to confront their perpetrator."
Rhyne said she mentioned the 2011 fondling incident to her attorney as an afterthought, but it soon became the crux of the case.
She was anxious for most of the monthlong civil trial. It was the first time the public was hearing her deepest secrets.
Christiansen's attorney argued that her letter demanding money was an extortion attempt. Rhyne denied that, but she said she wanted Christiansen to hurt like she did.
On May 6, after deliberating a little more than a day, the jury returned a verdict. Rhyne stared at an electrical outlet on a courtroom wall as 12 Contra Costa County jurors each told the judge they believed Rhyne's story. Christiansen's daughter stormed out of the courtroom, Rhyne said, while his wife sobbed in her seat.
"I felt bad," Rhyne said through tears. "I still feel bad for them.
"They say there comes a point to where you're angry at the person, and I haven't gotten there yet. I've gotten mad, but not enough to hate him."
In response to a request for comment, Christiansen's attorney Jesse Adams released a brief statement saying he has filed a motion for a new trial.
Two days after the verdict, the jury tacked on punitive damages, and Rhyne walked down the long courthouse steps with her attorney. At the bottom, all 12 jurors and the alternates waited for her, applauding.
The foreman, a tall man with a Texas drawl, grabbed her hand, looked her in the eye and said, "We've been waiting for you to show us that smile."
Women's caucus focuses on child abuse, neglect
by Mannix Porterfield
CHARLESTON — In her career as a middle school counselor, Delegate Linda Phillips learned of many a depressing account of a child mired in an environment of neglect or outright abuse that manifested itself in many ugly forms, at times so poignant that discussing it was out of the question.
Phillips suspects there were far more instances of such mean-spirited maltreatment than some students were willing to share.
Adding fuel to the fires of abuse has come word that some prosecutors cannot go to the mat with the guilty in a courtroom because of a loophole in state law, Phillips said Monday.
And for that reason, and a host of others, Phillips wants a special committee organized for this year's interims to examine child abuse and neglect, as well as possible expansion of the Crimes Against Children Unit of the State Police.
As the study progresses, provided new Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, extends his blessings on forming the proposed panel, Phillips says the 21 members of the Women's Caucus — the force behind the study — hope to ride with a state trooper to see what a day in their life comprises.
“Evidently, there is a loophole in our statute, particularly with neglect,” Phillips, D-Wyoming, said.
“The perpetrator is kind of falling through the cracks. And the prosecutors are having a hard time deciding exactly what is neglect. Was it really neglect, or was it just a lackadaisical parenting type of thing?”
Phillips said the Women's Caucus then decided it perhaps wants to further work on the Crimes Against Children Unit, one that not only investigates abuse and neglect, but the matter of sexual predators preying on minors via the Internet.
“We would like to have more officers in that Crimes Against Children Unit,” she said.
“And that's going to be a domino effect. We're going to have to try to recruit more officers to do our regular patrols. They just need more manpower. With the crimes that they deal with, obviously it takes a special kind of person to do that. They get burned out. It's a hard task to deal with that day after day in a variety of cases.”
Perhaps, she suggested, a rotation could be devised so that officers in the special unit could be assigned other duties after five years in that special unit.
Phillips says the women don't want the issues taken up by the established Committee on Children and Other Issues, because it is concerned with the entire gamut, and a new one the caucus has in mind that would be focused on abuse, neglect and crimes against children.
Often, in her erstwhile role as a middle school counselor, Phillips had to notify the Department of Health and Human Resources of a troubled youngster in a bad home environment.
“I knew they were abused,” the delegate said.
“I would fish for information that they might tell me but they were just so protective of whoever that was and would not share with me. As they got into high school, they did. So, maybe I just planted the seed that, ‘yes, it's OK to talk about it.' I've seen so many of these children. I don't know that I've seen the really bad cases, but I may have and just not realized it.”
Phillips says the caucus wants the special panel to only delve into the targeted issues for this year's interims with an eye toward potential corrective legislation in 2014.
As for another project in mind, Phillips said the idea is for all 21 women in the House to take one day and accompany troopers on their rounds, except in matters where an arrest is to be made.
If real trouble is imminent, such as the violent standoff last weekend in Nicholas County, she said the participating officers wouldn't take the delegates with them.
“I'm assuming if that happened, they would probably say, ‘I'm dropping you off at this packette. I'll call someone else to pick you up. You're not going with us.'”
Phillips emphasized the Women's Caucus is a bipartisan one.
“We work very well together,” she said.
“If there's an issue, it doesn't matter if it's Democrat or Republican. We work very well on this.”
School officials accused of not reporting child abuse in Danville
A school superintendent and principal have both been ordered into criminal court on charges of failing to report an alleged case of child abuse at Danville High School, Vermont State Police said.
Martha Tucker, superintendent of Caledonia Central Supervisory Union, and Noah Noyes, principal of grades 7-12 at the Danville School, received court citations listing failure to report child abuse and neglect of duty by a public officer, state police said.
Both are due to enter pleas in Vermont Superior Court in St. Johnsbury on Aug. 12.
The case comes a couple of months after a Danville teacher — in an unrelated case — was sentenced to prison for having sex with a student.
In the latest case, State Police Detective Lyle Decker said police were notified May 8 by the Department of Children and Families that a student at the high school had reported being inappropriately touched twice by an unnamed Danville School teacher.
The initial report to the department came from the student's parents on May 8, and the department immediately informed police. The alleged incident had occurred April 29, according to police.
An investigation by detectives showed the incident had been reported to Noyes and that Noyes later notified Tucker, police said.
Neither Noyes nor Tucker reported the incident to the Department of Children and Families within 24 hours as mandated by law because of their positions, according to the news release from state police.
Police said the alleged inappropriate contact between teacher and student remains under investigation.
In April a former music teacher at Danville High School pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student.
Abby M. Shocik, 25, of South Burlington was sentenced in Vermont Superior Court to 3 to 8 years in prison, with all but 12 months suspended.
Shocik pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault as part of the plea agreement. She had initially pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault on a minor. She had faced up to 20 years on each count.
Shocik had already served nearly 15 months in prison since her arrest in December 2011. She had worked at the school for about three months.
Shocik was a graduate of the University of Vermont and did her student teaching at Mount Mansfield Union High School.
The Caledonian Record newspaper reported the male student told police he and Shocik had sex in a car and in two rooms at the school.
Investigators said the sex was consensual and there was no evidence of coercion.
The state of Vermont revoked her teaching license in November, 11 months after she was charged with sexually assaulting the male student.
Andy Murray's Resilience: From Dunblane Shootings to Wimbledon
by SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
Andy Murray, the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, has, at least until now, talked little about the trauma he suffered as an 8-year-old child -- hiding under a desk and sheltering his brother as a gunman slaughtered 16 children and one teacher at his elementary school in Scotland.
Sunday's men's singles tennis victory was a step toward healing, according to the celebratory reaction in his small hometown of Dunblane, which suffered the horrific shooting massacre on March 13, 1996.
"It's just nice being able to do something the town is proud of," Murray, already the reigning Olympic and U.S. Open champion, told the BBC just before winning the sport's top prize.
Just last night the BBC aired, "Andy Murray: Behind the Racket," which included interviews with Murray and his mother. In it, the tennis star broke down in tears as he cuddled his dog in his lap. "You have no idea how tough something like that is," he said in the documentary.
Psychologists say that winning the Wimbledon title is remarkable, but surviving trauma is not an anomaly, rather it is more the norm.
"There are some folks who can compartmentalize it and box everything up and put it on a shelf and move on," said George Everly, associate professor of psychology and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore, a leading expert in post-traumatic stress disorder and disasters.
"It's not to say they forget it -- they do not. But they have a unique gift to put it on the shelf and move on.
"They have something else to focus on--a laser-like focus that can be a very healing experience. Some call it compensation. They take the energy and the bad things that happened and focus on making a goal or making life as good as possible. If you have a gift and focus that energy you would have spent mourning and being anxious … you focus on a mission and a goal and it actually can a be a productive way of channeling it."
In a scene that echoed in Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School, shooter, Thomas Hamilton, a 43-year-old store owner and former youth club leader, entered the school's gymnasium with four handguns and fired at a class of 5- and 6-year olds. He later killed himself.
"It wasn't until a few years ago that I started to actually research it and look into it," Murray said in the film. His older brother Jamie, 27, is also a tennis player.
His mother, Judy Murray, struggling to keep her composure, recalled the day, saying she knew the shooter.
"Andy's class were on their way to the gym, his class were the next ones in the gym," she told the BBC filmmakers. "His class was stopped when somebody went up, when they heard the noise and discovered what had happened."
"I was one of hundreds of mums that were queuing up at the school gates waiting to find out what had happened, not knowing if your children were alive or not."
Judy Murray said she still has difficulty visiting the school.
"I actually don't go near that part of the building," she said. "When I go up to school now, if I'm doing something, I'll do it in the playground or I do it in the new gym."
She said both her sons had many questions after the shooting, but later, particularly Jamie, had trouble talking about it.
Years later the British press painted Murray as a stoic figure, but in the film, he grips his dog for support trying to contain his emotions. But after Sunday's stunning victory, one Dunblane resident told the Guardian newspaper, "Andy's exorcised a ghost in Dunblane."
Psychologist Everly said that the most powerful tool in healing is "understanding" a tragedy. "Those things we fear, we try to understand," he said. "Sadly, many children who are survivors of trauma, especially abuse, blame themselves. Not just children, but adults do, too. Those who move forward do so either in spite of the trauma or because of the trauma."
Everly, who has never treated Murray, said that those who have special talent often use them to move forward. "To be good at what you do, you have to be able to reprioritize not only your behavior, but your thoughts and return to focus," he said.
"It seems to me, regardless of the trauma, to be that good at anything you have to focus with one mind set and practice, practice," said Everly. "The family not only had the genetics to be good, but it probably helped them deal with the trauma more constructively."
About 15 percent of all those who experience trauma go on to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), according to Paul Greene, a professor of psychology at Iona College in New York, who specializes in trauma.
"Why can't a person go on to be a success?" he said. "Witnessing trauma isn't some kind of fatal sentence that dooms you. Not at all. Most people go through trauma and don't develop PTSD. … The default position is recovery."
Other celebrities who have experienced similar trauma are actress Charleze Theron, whose mother murdered her father, and pop singer Shelby Lynne, whose father murdered her mother, then killed himself. Television psychiatrist Kelsey Grammer of "Fraser," experienced multiple tragedies: His father was shot dead; his sister was abducted, raped, and murdered; his twin half-brothers died in a scuba diving accident; and he lost a close friend in 9/11.
"Human beings' ability to survive traumatic events you can call remarkable, but not unusual," said George Bonanno, professor of clinical psychology with a specialty in trauma at Columbia University's Teachers College. "It's remarkable to win at tennis, but it's not an unusual thing that most people go on to live happy and healthy lives."
The human body has a "natural-born ability" to deal well with adversity, according to Bonanno. "We have a highly adaptive stress response system that kicks in."
"In the past, we have kind of been asking the wrong question," he said. "There was a resistance to acknowledging psychological trauma. Once we did, we focused exclusively on trauma and got ourselves wondering, why would anyone not be traumatized? But that is the wrong question--why isn't everybody resilient?"
As photos of Andy Murray and his brother Jamie and mother Judy cover the walls of a tennis clubhouse in Dunblane, they are celebrities who have taken some of the scars away from a town still grieving 17 years after it lost its children to a mass shooting. Murray's success seems intertwined with that past.
"Did Andy Murray achieve great things in spite of Dunblane or did he do great things because of it?" said Johns' Hopkins Everly. "Only Andy Murray knows."
I Am A Survivor of Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking In The US, And I Co-Founded A Foundation To Fight It
by Jaime Walton
Until recently, the average person did not know human trafficking occurred within the United States. Those who did realize this fact mostly assumed that human trafficking victims were from other countries, poor wretches tricked into a life of slavery.
Last week the U.S. Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report for 2013. This report is used by the U.S. government to engage other countries on human trafficking. According to state.gov TIP ‘ is the world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts and reflects the U.S. Government's commitment to global leadership on this key human rights and law enforcement issue. '
An expansive report, it is presented through country narratives in alphabetical order. Each country is rated on a tier system. There are four tiers, one being the highest (best) ranking, four being the lowest (worst) ranking. These rankings are based on a variety of assessments such as the examination of current laws, implementation of those laws, penalties for human trafficking offenders, victim identification, and government funding.
The United States ranks itself as a tier 1 country. This review can be found on page 381 of the Trafficking in Persons report. In the first paragraph, in the last sentence, you will find a very important statement. ‘ During this reporting period, a policy change at the Department of Justice (DOJ) allowed federal funding for victim services to support U.S. citizen victims of human trafficking as well as foreign national victims. '
For the first time our government has acknowledged that U.S. citizens can be victims of human trafficking. Until recently, the average person did not know human trafficking occurred within the United States. Those who did realize this fact mostly assumed that human trafficking victims were from other countries, poor wretches tricked into a life of slavery. Today, the idea that an American citizen could be victimized by other American citizens is becoming all too apparent. The Trafficking in Persons report for 2013 proves this.
My name is Jamie Walton, and I am a survivor of domestic minor sexual trafficking. For the past three years I have advocated for victims by lecturing on human trafficking issues and by sharing my experiences in vivid detail. In 2010 I co-founded The Wayne Foundation, an anti-sex trafficking nonprofit organization, with filmmaker and entrepreneur Kevin Smith.
Our mission has been to develop a survivor centered rehabilitation program, spearheaded through survivor leadership that will provide services to girls 12-18 years old. It has been a long road thus far, but I find as an organization we are making strides every single day.
To get to the nitty gritty, I was sexually trafficked in 1999 while attending my freshman year of high school. I was 14 years old. I met a man on AOL who ‘fell in love with me' and transported me to and from Florida and Atlanta, GA for one year. During this time I engaged in sexual activity with many partners who were found on websites used for dating and sexual encounters.
Because I was from a broken home that had been abusive on many levels, my experiences that year were not shocking or distressing. It wasn't until a caring person explained to me that love shouldn't come with a price tag that I was able to decide for myself, just shy of my 15th birthday, not to fly back to Atlanta.
It saddens me that in almost 15 years the internet has become a free for all for the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. Child porn, sexual trafficking, it seems that a day does not go by without hearing horrifying accounts of sexual abuse that seems to be reaching an epidemic level. Unless our country continues to further acknowledge that our own children are being victimized and sold in to sexual slavery the problem will only become worse as time goes on.
Domestic minor sexual trafficking is not restricted to urban areas and major cities. Law enforcement records show that arrests are made in all 50 states in relation to sexual trafficking. No area, and no person is immune.
I consider myself very lucky, as most children who fall prey to sexual exploitation are not provided with the resources needed to overcome such a trauma. Though sex trafficking victims can be adults, or children, male or female, it is my belief that victims of domestic minor sexual trafficking are the easiest for predators to target.
Sexual trafficking can occur through force, fraud, or coercion. Children who become victims of sexual trafficking commonly come from broken homes, abusive backgrounds, and live in impoverished lifestyles. The easiest person to manipulate is the person who has no other alternatives. That is what makes a child an easy target.
For many years I struggled to cope with my victimization. In my mind, I had been a willing participant, who never said no, and never complained of mistreatment. It was not until ten years later, while in therapy, that I was able to accept that I was not complicit in my own victimization. I was asked by my doctor, “Jamie, if you had to make the same choices now, would they be the same? Would you willingly have participated in those sexual acts?”
Of course, my answer was an adamant “No!” The difference was that I was an adult, capable of understanding the consequences of my actions. As a 14 year old I was incapable of making such a decision, which made me an easy target, ripe for manipulation. Just like the thousands of kids today at risk for sexual trafficking in the United States, I walked with a target on my back.
I have hope that we, as a nation, can come together to fight for victims of this terrible injustice. These children cannot fight for themselves, which I can assure you is a life filled with hopelessness. Awareness is the number one tool against the predators who would victimize our kids.
Without the public's education on the subject we will never be able to enact the changes that will make victims safe. I encourage everyone to learn more about domestic minor sexual trafficking, starting with Trafficking in Persons report 2013. To directly help support The Wayne Foundation's goal of building a rehabilitation home, I encourage you to visit my organization's website.
Ohio kidnap victims say thank you
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight break their silence in a YouTube video
by Doug Stanglin
The three young women held captive in a Cleveland home for almost a decade are thanking the public for their support in their first public statements since their rescue in May.
Smiling and appear upbeat, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus speak separately in a three-minute, 30-second video released on YouTube.
"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high," Knight says, reading from a statement. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."
Knight says she is building a "brand new life."
The video was filmed July 2 and released by a public relations agency on the women's behalf with the cooperation of their lawyers.
The three were still in their teens when they disappeared at different times between 2002 and 2004.
Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, has been charged with kidnapping the girls off the streets of the city and holding them captive in his two-story home. He has pleaded not guilty.
The young women have not appeared in public since Berry broke through a door at the home while Castro was briefly away and shouted to neighbors for help. Police quickly freed the women, along with Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was fathered by Castro.
"I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family and friends," says Berry, who sports glasses and short hair with a blond streak. "It has been unbelievable."
"I am getting stronger each day and I having my privacy has helped immensely," she says.
Berry, whose face as a missing teen was plastered on Cleveland streets after her disappearance, calls on the public to "give us time to have a normal life."
DeJesus briefly offered thanks to the public. Her mother, Nancy Ruiz, also appears on the video and urges anyone with a missing child to "please count on your neighbors. Don't be afraid to ask for their help, because help is available."
Kathy Joseph, Knight's attorney, says in a statement that the three women wanted to "say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed."
Joseph says the women aree being recognized in public and "decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages."
Redlands teacher charged with 41 counts of committing sex acts with students
by Greg Cappis
REDLANDS -- Prosecutors charged former Citrus Valley High School teacher Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst on Monday with 41 felony counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor.
Whitehurst is accused of having sexual relationships with three students in the Redlands Unified School District, one of whom is believed to have fathered her baby, born June 18.
If convicted, she could face up to 29 years in state prison.
"Students represent the future of our communities and protecting them will continue to be my No. 1 priority," said District Attorney Michael A. Ramos, a former member of the Redlands School Board, in a news release Monday afternoon.
Whitehurst was arrested again Monday morning, a week after her first arrest on which she paid bail for release.
She was first arrested July 1 on suspicion of unlawful sex with a student at Citrus Valley High School. Subsequently, two more former students came forward, claiming they had sexual relationships with her while they were students at Redlands High School.
At the time the alleged relationships took place, the boys ranged in age from 14 to 17, according to the Redlands Police Department.
Whitehurst's bail, originally set at $25,000, was raised to $750,000 on Monday.
Whitehurst's attorney, James Gass, said Monday afternoon that he doubted if she had posted bail.
Whitehurst has been charged with 30 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with the now-17-year-old who allegedly fathered her child. She faces 11 felony counts of oral copulation of a person under 18, one count of which is alleged to have taken place in 2007 and involved a now-21-year-old, according to the court file. The remaining 10 counts are from 2007 to 2008 and involve a now-22-year-old, the charges state.
Gass said he has advised Whitehurst not to talk to the press. She nor her family could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Adding that he had not seen any of the paperwork as of Monday afternoon, Gass declined further comment.
Brad Mason, assistant superintendent of Redlands Unified School District -- where Whitehurst was employed from 2007 until last week -- released a statement from Superintendent Lori Rhodes.
"Even though today's developments were not unexpected, they nevertheless mark a sad day for our school district," Rhodes said in the statement. "Our faculty and staff are made up of caring professionals who have chosen careers as educators because they want what is best for young people. Anything that harms a student harms us all."
A video arraignment hearing was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.
Fall 2007-Spring 2008: Laura Whitehurst begins her teaching career in Redlands Unified School District as an English teacher at Redlands High School.
No more than two months into the school year Whitehurst allegedly begins a relationship with a 16-year-old junior. He alleges their relationship began in the classroom with kissing and moved to her residence where it became sexual during multiple visits. The alleged victim, now 22, says he broke it off with Whitehurst during the spring semester in 2008.
Also in the fall 2007, Whitehurst allegedly begins a relationship with a 14-year-old Redlands High student. They had sex in the classroom before school, in her car and at her residence, police say the now 20-year-old man told them. Their alleged relationship ended in early 2008.
2008-2009 school year: Whitehurst continues teaching at Redlands High.
Whitehurst is laid off at end of school year due to budget cuts.
2009-2010 school year: Whitehurst is brought back to the district to teach at Orangewood High School.
2010-2011 school year: Whitehurst transfers to Citrus Valley High School.
July 2012: Whitehurst allegedly begins a relationship with a 16-year-old Citrus Valley High student she advised after they met at a school-sponsored trip to Disneyland. The alleged relationship lasts nearly a year.
September 2012: Whitehurst became pregnant with a child, she told police was fathered by the teen. The couple continue sexual relationship during pregnancy.
May 16-17, 2013: Whitehurst questioned by CVHS Principal Bernard Cavanagh and RUSD assistant superintendent Sabine Robertson-Phillips about relationship with teen. No report filed to Child Protective Services or law enforcement.
June 18: Whitehurst gives birth. Teen attended delivery and birth and shortly after told his mom of relationship. She then notified Cavanagh who relayed information to Robertson-Phillips and Child Protective Services.
July 1: Robertson-Phillips notifies police of relationship between Whitehurst and minor student.
Redlands police arrest Whitehurst on suspicion of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor at her home after questioning her. Police say the teen's mother reported the alleged relationship between Whitehurst and her son -- who graduated from Citrus Valley High in June and is now 17 -- to school officials, who relayed the information to police.
July 2: Police announce arrest. A now-22-year-old claiming to be a former victim contacts newspaper and police to share his story.
July 3: Police say their investigation has found another alleged victim -- a now-20-year-old man who says he was 14 when his alleged relationship with Whitehurst began.
Police officer Dominick Povero files affidavit in San Bernardino County Superior Court. It says Whitehurst confirmed ongoing relationship, the child's birth and the teen being the father.
Monday: District attorney files charges against Whitehurst -- 30 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with the teen and alleged father of her baby; 11 counts of oral copulation with a minor -- one with a now 21-year-old and 10 with a now 22-year-old.
Redlands teacher's arrest for sex with student shows educators aren't cops: Opinion
Los Angeles News Group
It's worth noting that the Redlands Unified School District looked into former teacher Laura Whitehurst's inappropriate relationship with a male student some six weeks before reporting it to authorities.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed by a Redlands police detective, school officials first investigated a relationship between Whitehurst and a 16-year-old student on May 16-17, about a month before Whitehurst gave birth to a child she has since told police was fathered by the teen. But it wasn't until July 1 that the district notified authorities of the situation.
In RUSD's defense, Superintendent Lori Rhodes said the district reported the relationship once it had a "credible" report from the student's mother. State law, however, mandates that educators report abuse or neglect of a minor where there is a "reasonable suspicion" of misconduct.
Although Whitehurst, who is unmarried and reportedly single, was nine months pregnant when the district received information that she and the student may have been involved, school officials apparently determined there was no evidence to support allegations of an affair.
It's understandable that RUSD would want to tread carefully where a teacher's and a student's reputations are concerned. But this wasn't just any allegation -- a teacher bullying a classroom, say, or a student cheating on exams. Whitehurst was being accused of sexually abusing an underage student. This deserved more than an in-house interview with Whitehurst and the teenage boy -- a point underscored by the fact that Whitehurst faces sex charges in the case and now stands accused of engaging in sexual relationships with other students.
Teachers aren't cops, and a charge as grave as the sexual abuse of a student deserved the attention of police, who are the true experts at determining whether an allegation is "credible."
Facebook, Google, and Microsoft Have A Secret Plan For A Massive Database Of Every Illegal Child Porn Photo On The Web
Major companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Twitter, are in secret discussions to create a system that could banish child abuse images from the web.
The plan would be the first collaborative effort across the industry to block pedophiles from sharing images online, and would involve a single database of the worst child abuse images.
At the moment, each company has its own process for removing abusive photos but does not share details of the images for legal and technical reasons.
According to The Times, internet giants including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter and at least three other major companies have been in negotiations for about nine months to work together on combating the explicit images.
The database would be maintained by a Los Angeles charity Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, which was founded in 2009 by the actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.
To take part in Thorn's project, each company would use Microsoft's PhotoDNA software to create a "hash" or digital signature for each abusive image. The companies could then use the hashes to easily identify and remove pictures from their own sites.
Julie Cordua, executive director of Thorn, told The Times: “This has the goal of cleaning this horrific content off platforms ... with the goal of the identification of victims.”
Sources told the newspaper that some companies had signed legal agreements not to discuss the project in public, and that secrecy was required to allow frank discussions.
Facebook is believed to be the first company to begin testing the system and Google will begin using it this month.
All images will be sent to the US police and Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has also reportedly been informed.
Google has confirmed that it is part of the Thorn database project. Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo! did not confirm involvement but said that they were participants in the charity's task force, which discusses online protection. According to Thorn's website, 18 compaines are part of the task force. Facebook told The Times: “We are committed to using technology as a force to protect children.”
'Half of parents have never spoken to their children about sexual abuse'
Half of parents have never spoken to their sons and daughters about sexual abuse, a study has found as the NSPCC launches a new campaign to help tackle the problem.
by Emma Barnett
And of those who have, 43 per cent said it was a “difficult conversation”.
The YouGov poll, which was commissioned by the children's charity, NSPCC, also found that the majority of those questioned believe it is the parents' responsibility to explain the risks of sexual abuse to their children.
According to the charity, awareness of sexual abuse has risen dramatically since the extent of Jimmy Savile's crimes were revealed last year. NSPCC's helpine has experienced a “huge rise in calls”.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “The shocking case of Savile has horrified many parents and understandably it has heightened concerns around sexual abuse. But most abuse is closer to home and if we are to tackle this issue we must prevent it before it even starts.
“To do this we must educate our children about staying safe and speaking out. Parents have told us they lack confidence in approaching this difficult but important issue. We've worked with parent groups to devise a simple, age appropriate way of making sure children speak up if something happens. It's a quick conversation but could make a big difference.”
Eleven per cent of those UK adults surveyed said primary school children faced the biggest risk of being sexually exploited by someone they didn't known. However, previous NSPCC research has shown that in at least 90 per cent of cases the offender was known to the child.
The children's charity today launches a new campaign to help parents protect their children from sexual abuse. It has come up with the acronym ‘PANTS' as a way of helping children remember the key points of how to look after themselves should a situation arise.
P rivates are private.
A lways remember your body belongs to you
N o means no
T alk about secrets that upset you
S peak up, someone can help
In order to promote the campaign, the NSPCC will run a six-week advertising campaign, airing on nearly 60 local radio stations throughout the UK.
Wanless explained: “It's really easier than you may think and you don't have to mention abuse or sex at all. Just ask them [children] to remember the ‘Underwear Rule'.
“Of course telling kids about crossing the road, stranger danger and bullying are really important but this should be discussed as well. Most parents still think that stranger danger is a threat facing children from the adult world but most abuse is committed by someone known to the child with stranger abuse being very rare. This means traditional messages like ‘don't take sweets from strangers' are important but don't work for much of the abuse that is occurring.”
Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums, added: "It's every parents' worst nightmare to find their child has been touched inappropriately - and no family wants to think it will ever happen to them.
“But as the statistics show it does happen to one in 20 kids, and nine times out of 10 by someone known to the child. So by talking about it, you are taking the first steps to keeping your children safe.
“No one can deny it's a tough conversation to have. As a mum I can talk openly to my children about stranger-danger. I can talk easily about bullying and how to always tell an adult. But talking about them being touched intimately feels much more difficult.
“As parents we need to find a way to make our kids aware of the danger without scaring them, and that's exactly why the NSPCC is promoting the Underwear Rule. It's clear, simple and easy for even young kids to understand.
“Think of it as a green cross code against sexual abuse. That is why I am encouraging parents to learn the underwear rule and talk PANTS with their children.”
YouGov polled more than 2,000 adults, 1,204 of which were parents.
You can find out more about 'The Underwear Rule' here.
Victim of assault by Wisconsin priest lauds release of abuse files
Newly published documents troubling, yet vindicating
by Annysa Johnson
John Pilmaier was 7, a second-grader at St. John Vianney School in 1977, when Father David Hanser walked into his classroom and asked for a volunteer to help him with a project.
Several children raised their hands, Pilmaier says, but he was chosen.
And so they walked, Father Dave and John, to the rectory that the priest called home. Once there, Hanser sexually assaulted the boy, then warned him not to tell anyone, saying his parents would be angry with him.
John Pilmaier is the final entry, just three lines, in the history of the now-defrocked Hanser, which was released Monday with thousands of pages of documents as part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy proceeding.
Hanser's file recounts what Pilmaier and his parents had already come to suspect: that their once-trusted parish priest may have sexually assaulted numerous children over the years, dating at least to the 1960s.
Still, reading the documents — the litany of allegations, how bishops moved Hanser to parishes and later to a hospital after he was first accused — was devastating and yet also a relief.
"It's hard, even though you know it, when you see it in print," said Lynn Pilmaier of Brookfield, who for years blamed herself for not protecting her son.
But for John, it was a comfort, in a way, to finally learn the truth.
"A lot of survivors, myself included, you want to know what happened to you," said Pilmaier, who was 36 when he first told his parents of the abuse. "These documents are really the closest to the truth any of us will get because the church leadership seems incapable of dealing honestly with people," he said.
Pilmaier, 42, is among 575 men and women who have filed claims in the archdiocese's bankruptcy alleging they were sexually assaulted by priests or others associated with the church. About 90 of those claims, including Pilmaier's, involve victims who had signed prior settlements with the archdiocese but are now asking those to be set aside.
Pilmaier, who received a $100,000 settlement from the archdiocese, alleges that Chancellor Barbara Anne Cusack misled him before he signed the settlement agreement, by telling him the church had not known of earlier complaints about Hanser or about other students assaulted at St. John Vianney in Brookfield.According to the documents released last week, a complaint had been made against Hanser in 1975 while he was working at St. John Vianney, and some church leaders — including Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now cardinal of New York, and retired Bishop Richard Sklba — knew about the earlier complaint by the time of Pilmaier's 2007 mediation.
Cusack issued a statement Friday saying that as chancellor she sat in more than 100 mediation sessions and that she was truthful to Pilmaier during his.
"In each of them, including with John Pilmaier, I told the truth and I was always forthcoming in sharing information with abuse survivors," she said. "I am sorry that John was hurt by this process. I know from my personal experience that it was helpful to many others, and I am saddened that it did not always work for some."
Pilmaier filed a claim in the bankruptcy case, he says, not to get more money. He suspects he might actually get less by ceding his settlement when it all shakes out, especially if the courts rule the archdiocese cannot tap its insurance policies to pay victims. But the social worker who once studied for the priesthood and sat on the board that advised Dolan on sex abuse issues said he joined the bankruptcy as a way to hold the archdiocese accountable for its actions.
"When you've carried this poison in you for 30 years, with all of the damage it's done to you and your family, you want to be treated with dignity as a person," said Pilmaier. "You want to be dealt with honestly."
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley dismissed Pilmaier's claim, saying he failed to show why the settlement contract, in which he absolved the archdiocese of future liability, was not valid.
Her decision was affirmed in the U.S. District Court and is now at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A history of abuse
According to the records released last week, Hanser was accused of molesting more than a dozen boys, ages 7 to 18, from the early 1960s to 1985, though only one of those cases was actually reported to the archdiocese before 1988.
Ordained in 1958, Hanser, who was independently wealthy, would often ingratiate himself with large families, according to the records, then invite their boys to his Moose Lake cottage, where he would assault them.
Most of the incidents appear to have occurred while Hanser was at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, from 1961-'70; St. John Vianney, 1970-'78; and St. Mary's Parish in Pewaukee, 1982-'88.
The archdiocese received the earliest recorded complaint in November 1975, according to a handwritten note released as part of Hanser's file. It says: "Informed that D.H. had taken teen age boy...to his cottage at the lake to help him etc — but while there went to bed with the boy and touched him indecently. Called in D.H. to discuss the matter — gave rather evasive answers."
It's not clear who wrote it. But Sklba found it in a locked drawer belonging to then Bishop Leo Brust in 1998.
After the 1975 complaint, Hanser was assigned to at least two other parishes — Holy Family in Whitefish Bay and the former St. Mary's in Pewaukee — and St. Joseph Hospital in Milwaukee, though he was ordered not to have contact with children there. Later, some of those restrictions were lifted so he could minister to children if no one else were available, or to offer them the Sacrament of Penance.
Hanser underwent intensive therapy beginning in the late 1980s. His ministry was restricted to varying degrees beginning in 1988. He was fully restricted in 2002, and laicized, or defrocked, in 2005.
At least one other student at St. John Vianney accused Hanser of molesting him, saying the assault occurred in about 1972, according to the documents. The victim did not report it to the archdiocese until 2002, which was 30 years after the assault, but before Pilmaier's mediation.
John Pilmaier struggled in the years after his assault by Hanser. Even today, he has trouble putting into words what happened in the rectory; the humiliation is still so raw.
Shortly after the incident, Pilmaier developed a severe stutter that dogged him until high school. His parents knew something was wrong, so they took him to a therapist, but he would never say what was troubling him.
A devout Catholic at the time, he began thinking about the priesthood as a high-schooler, and spent nearly two years in the college seminary before deciding against it.
His life seemed on track professionally. He finished college, worked at banks in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, volunteered at the White House. But he says a pall hung over it all.
As an adult, Pilmaier says, he struggled with depression and forging relationships, with trust and intimacy. Always, he said, the experience at St. John's lurked just beneath the surface.
Pilmaier finally told his parents in 2006, after an unrelated health crisis in which he was hospitalized and feared he might die.
"I started to think seriously about the state of my life and where I was headed," he said. "It caused me to confront what happened to me as a child."
It was life-shattering for his parents, who thought they'd done everything right, moving to the suburbs to put their children in a good school and giving them a foundation in their faith.
"I believed not only that you gave the church your money, but you gave your time and talent," said Lynn Pilmaier, who volunteered each week at St. John's and on the school playground.
She remembers in hindsight that Hanser always seemed to have children around him.
"I just thought that was nice," she said. "I had no idea."
When he reported the abuse to the archdiocese, Pilmaier was encouraged to participate in its voluntary mediation program, set up by the church at at a time when victims had no recourse in the courts due to statutes of limitations and other past rulings that favored the archdiocese.
Dolan started the mediation program with the expectation of paying victims on average $30,000, according to court records.
Pilmaier at the time saw it as an exercise in restorative justice.
"I went into that meeting with the chancellor in the hopes that she, that they would hear me and do everything in their power to make sure it never happened again to someone else," he said. "It was a very emotional meeting ... as I tried to explain the impact this had on my life."
Pilmaier says he had two questions: When did the archdiocese first receive a report that Hanser had sexually assaulted a child? And had anyone else from St. John Vianney School accused the priest of assault?
Pilmaier said Cusack left the room to check. When she returned, he said, she told him the first complaint against Hanser came in the 1980s, after Pilmaier's assault. And, he says, she told him no other boys from St. John's had complained.
"So it was a relief to me that they didn't know," before he was assaulted, Pilmaier said.
Archdiocese attorney Frank LoCoco objects to criticism of Cusack. "Mistakes were made over the years," he said. "But Barbara Anne Cusack is one of the great people who has worked hard for many years for abuse survivors and their healing."
Pilmaier's contract with the archdiocese clearly states that he could consult an attorney, but he says he did not.
"I was still a practicing Catholic, and I believed they had my best interests at heart," he said.
Within a few years after signing, Pilmaier says, he began to suspect otherwise.
He was sitting on the advisory board and had begun meeting other victims. He attended his first national conference of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests in Washington, D.C., where he met Milwaukee survivor and activist Peter Isely. And he began to hear other survivors' stories with their recurrent themes of abuse and coverup by church authorities. He became more active in SNAP, now serving as its Wisconsin director.
Over time, Pilmaier says, he began to suspect that he may have been lied to. He became convinced, he said, after watching the video deposition of retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland on the Journal Sentinel website in 2008. In it, Weakland admitted moving sex abusers from parish to parish without divulging their histories to the next parishioners. The only way Pilmaier would ever know for certain, the only way he would ever see Hanser's file, would be to sue the archdiocese or file a claim in the bankruptcy.
A crisis of faith
The Pilmaiers' experience has taken a toll on their faith. John Pilmaier, who once loved to going to Mass, was the last to leave the church. It was a gradual process, he says, "as I began to realize the betrayal, the lies, I just couldn't reconcile it anymore."
His parents, too, felt betrayed. Friends in their church walked away from them, Lynn Pilmaier said, because they didn't want to hear about the sexual abuse of children. "Who would?" she said.
"My faith is gone. ... I don't even know what I believe anymore," said Lynn Pilmaier, with no hint of anger.
"I think, if there's a god, then God carries me. And if there isn't, I'm working alone."
She does, though, believe in her son, who now advocates for other victims and policies needed to keep other children safe.
"When I look at the pain my son has had to go through...he is such a hero," she said. "He's not an angry person; he's a very peace-filled person. He wants children to be safe, and keeps going patiently. I don't know how he does that," she said. "But I am just so proud of him."
Increased number of kids comitting sexual abuse
Easy access to increasingly hardcore pornography and the sexualisation of childhood are being blamed for a rise in the number of children sexually abusing each other.
Growing numbers of children and teenagers are committing acts of sexual abuse against other children every year, with some as young as 11 being prosecuted for sexual offences.
Experts are calling for compulsory cyber-education programmes in all schools from primary level to stem the impact of explicit material.
Ministry of Justice figures received under the Official Information Act show that, since 2008, there have been 1299 prosecutions for sexual offences brought against young people under the age of 18.
This has risen steadily over the past five years, with 314 prosecutions last year compared to 204 in 2008. These are for offences ranging from rape to indecent assault and sexual grooming, with victims, both male and female, under the age of 16.
The youngest offender was 11. Only one of the offenders was a girl. Police say the jump in prosecutions was due to better knowledge and increased reporting of sexual abuse, rather than a rise in incidents.
Police child protection co-ordinator Detective Sergeant Fleur de Bes said police worked much more closely with agencies such as Child, Youth and Family, social workers and schools to identify and address risky behaviour.
But the availability of explicit images online for young children to access undoubtedly had some impact, with the growth of "sexting" a real concern, she said.
Child Matters chief executive Anthea Simcock said the findings were in line with overseas research, which showed an increasing number of young people abusing others.
A lot of the young abusers were victims themselves, often came from broken homes, and had an unstable and often "heartbreaking" upbringing. But the way sex was depicted on television and on the internet was a real problem, with sexualised music videos and easy access to online porn making images easy to find and share, she said.
"Children don't think about their bodies the way adults do, so someone has had to have put that idea in their head. This online porn can make some children think it's just the way you behave."
Netsafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons said parents could put filters on their home computers or children's smartphones, but access could never be completely restricted. Not all searches were sinister, with porn fairly easy to come across accidentally.
"You type 'kiwi chicks' into Google and the images that come back won't be small feathered birds."
It was important to speak to children about the possibility of coming across these images and their meaning.
In May, a British study found a clear link between exposure to extreme images at a young age and a rise in "risky behaviours". Auckland University expert in clinical and forensic psychology Ian Lambie said more research was needed on the impact on Kiwi children.
New DA unit to specialize in child abuse
by MARK REAGAN
After a 12-year-old girl miscarried a baby and Harlingen police found the fetus' bones buried in a backyard, events were set in motion that would lead to Rafael Coronado Jr. being sentenced to seven life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Through a series of coincidences, the case also eventually led to a new approach recently implemented by the Cameron County District Attorney's Office to better deal with child abuse cases — especially more efficient communication with victims and their families.
Coronado, 43, faced three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, three counts of indecency with a child and also a law that was new in 2008 — one count of continuous sexual assault of a child.
Coronado's case was tried in 2010 by state prosecutors Brandy Bailey and Stephanie Rollins, who got a guilty conviction on the case. The Harlingen man was found guilty of sexually assaulting the young girl from the time she was 3 until 12.
Bailey and Rollins didn't know it at the time, but the case they prosecuted against Coronado was the beginning of a relationship that would grow into the women running the newly created Cameron County District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit that became official July 1.
The unit has two prosecutors — and another team member — that will specifically investigate and prosecute the child abuse cases.
“We went and met with the family and met with this little girl, who you could imagine was completely a mess,” said Bailey, a prosecutor with the new Cameron County District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit, as she talked about the Coronado case. “At that point, I was the second or third prosecutor to come across this case and she didn't want to talk to me or speak to me because she was let down by so many of the adults in her life and didn't know that I was going to be any different.”
Bailey prosecuted the case, but she was left alone to try it after the first chair prosecutor had to leave the case to work on a bigger case, she said.
That's where Bailey and Rollins, who was also named as a prosecutor to the Child Abuse Unit that formed this month, first teamed up.
“I went looking for someone to try it with and thankfully Stephanie doesn't know how to say no,” Bailey said with a laugh.
Both women said they'd never forget the Coronado case, and it also set the tone for their work and mission with the Child Abuse Unit.
“From the way I understand it, before this it was sort of a crap shoot as far as what case ended up where,” Rollins said. “An abuse case would be filed in one of the district courts and then whatever prosecutor was assigned to that court — and on duty — got that case.”
But under Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz's direction, that will no longer be the case for multiple reasons that culminate in the well-being of young victims of abuse.
“What Mr. Saenz has done is he realized the child abuse case is a little bit different because you have a more sensitive victim. You have a minor who may or may not be comfortable testifying. You have to take into account their potential future mental health as well as their current mental state,” Rollins said. “These cases are also often difficult to investigate and prove. They do require special attention.
“Now, two prosecutors can focus exclusively on that.”
Aside from Rollins and Bailey, the unit also has an investigator, Victor Cortez, who like them has specialized training in child abuse cases. Rollins and Bailey are also board members at the Cameron County Children's Advocacy Center, Monica's House and Maggie's House. The center is a non-profit agency serving abuse victims and their families.
And in addition to providing special, immediate and consistent attention to these cases, it will provide county-wide training to law enforcement and school districts, which will encourage a streamlined, sensitive process that aims to minimize the emotional impact on a victim, particularly the trauma of having to relive abuse.
“It's difficult enough for a child to work up the courage to talk about abuse,” Saenz said. “We have an extremely vulnerable victim having to repeatedly share some very private information with numerous strangers.”
Both Rollins and Bailey said the new unit will also be more upfront with victims and their families about how the process works.
“The goal is to help break the gap between the District Attorney's Office and the advocacy center because it can take months for police to investigate these crimes and eventually send them to the grand jury before a case ever reaches the District Attorney's Office,” Rollins said. “That's not anybody's fault. That's just the criminal justice process.”
Even after a case makes it to the hands of a prosecutor, child abuse cases make up roughly 20 percent of court dockets, she said, adding that in 2012 there were 589 cases of abandoning or endangering children and physical or sexual abuse of children — an increase from 248 in 2010.
“The number of child abuse cases that reach our office continues to dramatically increase,” she said, adding that statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused in some way by the time they reach 18 years old.
And victims of abuse and their families often don't know what they're in for when it comes to the criminal justice system.
“What we're hoping to do is to not only reduce that amount of time by making the different agencies work more efficiently together, but to also bridge the gap to where they are being contacted more consistently along the way, where they have access to our phone numbers from the beginning so they are not caught off guard three months later,” Rollins said.
The immediate reaction, though, she said, is to immediately comfort a child by telling them everything will get better right away because a child made an outcry and an alleged abuser was arrested.
“Our goal is to not lie to them through it (the criminal justice process) but to be upfront with them all of the time in any way we physically can to make the process as comfortable as we can, to make sure that they are being offered every service our state and county can provide to them,” Rollins said.
Executive Director of the Cameron County Child Advocacy Center Anna de la Cruz said the new unit will play a positive and crucial role across Cameron County.
“I think it's really, really important to have prosecutors or people inside the District Attorney's Office that will specialize in these types of cases because they do involve children,” she said. “In order for somebody to do this type of work there has to be compassion. Their heart has to be in healing child victims of any sort of crime.”
And that's why one of the most important aspects of the new unit will be to reduce the amount of time a child has to re-tell the story of abuse against them.
“One of the things we are trying to eliminate is re-victimizing the child,” said Rollins, adding that she, Bailey and Cortez will foster an environment that teaches victims that they were right to say something and that they never did anything wrong.
“We want the community to be able to say (to the victims): You did the right thing. You're not in trouble,” Rollins said.
Background checks must be thorough to prevent child abuse
Youth organizations can best protect themselves and the children they serve by conducting thorough background checks of the adults hired to coach, teach and mentor.
by Mike Creger and Jana Hollingsworth
Youth organizations can best protect themselves and the children they serve by conducting thorough background checks of the adults hired to coach, teach and mentor.
That's according to Beth Olson, executive director of First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth.
But the cost of thorough checks — $50 to $100 — can add up for groups already strapped for money, Olson said, and some checks provide only limited information. For example, a criminal background check lists only convictions, and may provide information from only one state.
“That's not very thorough,” Olson said.
She said a better practice would be to go through a national database of convictions and social service agencies that can list investigations and charges where there is no conviction. “That would be the ideal,” she said.
The Duluth Salvation Army, which has had two former coaches charged with sexual assault in the last 13 months, declined to answer questions from the News Tribune about how it conducts background checks of its coaches.
One of the former coaches, Peter Jay Olson (not related to Beth Olson), also coached for Lake Park Little League in eastern Duluth. Each spring, when coaches submit new applications, the Little League group checks the National Sex Offender Public Registry to see if the applicant's name is on it.
Even though Peter Olson was under investigation for possession of child pornography, and later for sexual assault of a preteen boy, nothing showed up on the registry because it lists only convicted, registered sex offenders.
Youth organizations can protect children without spending money, Beth Olson said. They should have firm policies written out for staff, parents and children — an example being a “no alone time with kids” policy. Under that policy, a child waiting for a ride home couldn't get a lift from a staffer.
“It's best to have some sort of separation,” Olson said. “That's the biggest thing groups can do; eliminate that one-to-one.”
The Boy Scouts of America conducts a national criminal background check administered by LexisNexis, which Voyageurs Area Council Scout Executive and CEO David Nolle said is “a nationally respected third party that also provides this service to local, state and federal governments; educational institutions; and other nonprofits.”
Nolle said the Voyageurs Area Council also follows a “barriers to abuse” policy that mirrors the one described by First Witness' Beth Olson.
“We never have an adult solo with youth,” Nolle said. “It's a long-standing practice to combat the societal problem of child abuse.”
Just checking national databases for criminal records of candidates isn't enough, Nolle said.
“The one thing experts tell us that we continue to see is there is no profile. You can't say, ‘A-ha. He has purple hair so he must be a child abuser,'” he said. “They, many times, have no criminal record.”
Nolle said his organization works to educate kids that there isn't a fail-safe method to screen out abusers. It focuses on “three R's”: to recognize that anyone can be a child molester, to resist advances and to report abuse to trusted adults.
Clergy, employees and volunteers for the Catholic Diocese of Duluth undergo background checks and complete youth protection training before beginning with the organization and have it repeated every five years. They also must read and agree to a sexual misconduct policy and code of pastoral conduct policy.
Debbie Caron's 11-year-old son played for Peter Olson on a Duluth Salvation Army basketball team for three years, and her 24-year-old son had him as a coach when he was younger. Caron said she expects more thorough vetting of coaches in the future, but “when they have (no prior records), how do you know?”
To get help
First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center: (218) 727-8353
St. Louis County Public Health & Human Services Initial Intervention Unit: (218) 726-2012
ICE arrests 67 child predators in New York operation
Operation SOAR nets 93 convicted sex offenders overall
NEW YORK – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrested 93 foreign-born convicted sex offenders in June in New York through a targeted enforcement initiative known as Operation SOAR (Sex Offender Alien Removal).
Of the 93 people arrested, 67 were child predators convicted of sex offenses involving minors. The remaining offenders were convicted of victimizing adults. Operation SOAR began June 17 and ended June 28 and was conducted by ERO Fugitive Operations teams based in New York with support from the U.S. Marshals Service.
"This operation was specifically designed to target and arrest criminal aliens who have been convicted of sex crimes," said Christopher Shanahan, field office director for ERO New York. "By removing these criminal aliens from our streets and our country, we immediately improve public safety in these communities."
With the exception of one woman from Ecuador convicted of sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl, all of those arrested were men. Those arrested were from more than 20 countries ranging from Afghanistan to Yugoslavia. The majority, 29, were from El Salvador.
Of the 93 arrested, 76 were classified as Level 1 offenders, ICE's highest threat classification. Fifteen arrestees were Level 2 offenders, and two were Level 3. Convictions include:
A 58-year-old man from the Dominican Republic convicted of sexually assaulting his 9-year-old child.
A 36-year-old man from Grenada convicted of statutory rape after he engaged in intercourse with a female less than 14 years of age.
A 23-year-old man from Honduras convicted of unlawful surveillance for installing a hidden camera in a girl's bathroom.
These arrests were coordinated with ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives – aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by federal immigration courts. ICE's Fugitive Operations teams give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.
ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.
ICE encourages the public to report suspicious criminal activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE and its online tip form. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Synod offers apology to abuse victims
by Madeleine Davies and Gavin Drake and Ed Thornton
THE General Synod has apologised for the failure of the Church of England's systems to protect children, young people, and vulnerable adults from physical and sexual abuse, and to listen properly to those abused. The apology has been received as potentially "meaningless" by a group of abuse survivors.
On Sunday afternoon, members of the Synod voted unanimously in favour of a motion endorsing the "unreserved" apology written by the Archbishops, and inviting the Business Committee to draft legislation toughening up the Church's safeguarding procedures.
Before introducing the motion, the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler ( above ), who co-chairs the Safeguarding Liaison Group, read out a statement from the Stop Church Child Abuse Group, some of whose members were present in the public gallery. The statement criticised the Church for not permitting survivors to "speak for themselves" and for failing to consult survivors on the motion. It suggested that an apology made "without the costly engagement of reaching out to the victims" was "meaningless". It questioned whether the apology was the "first step to something more" or "a game . . . to present a Church responsive to its past failings . . . until the next time". It called for an independent public inquiry.
Bishop Butler did not respond to the request for a public inquiry, but said that the motion was "only one first step on the way. I understand why survivors will struggle to trust us that the journey will continue; you have been let down so often. I hope, however, you will be able to recognise that this is a significant point in our journey." He concluded: "We failed, big time. We can do nothing other than confess our sin, repent, and commit ourselves to being different in the years ahead."
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the statement read out from survivors of abuse at the start of the debate had been "absolutely agonising. . . What it says, above all, is that, for us, what we're looking at today is far from enough." Archbishop Welby said that there would always be dangerous people in congregations: "This is not an issue we can deal with: it is something we will live with, and must live in the reality of, day in, day out, for as long as the Church exists, and seek to get it right."
While processes had to be dealt with, "culture change is by far the hardest one to do." It would require "enormous determination" to produce "a culture that looks first to justice for survivors, to justice, transparency, admission of where we have failed". This change "must be done . . . with the survivors, not to them. We have spent very many years doing things to them; we must only act with them. That will mean much more than we imagine as we sit here listening . . . and reflecting on dark and desperate acts in the past."
Members of the Synod spoke of a need to consider how to support those accused of or guilty of perpetrating abuse. Canon Simon Butler of Southwark diocese recounted the story of somebody in a former parish who was accused of abuse, remanded in custody, and, after being released on bail, committed suicide. "That moment has been the most painful, unresolved failure in my pastoral ministry," he said.
The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, spoke as a bishop who had inherited a diocese where "failures, cover-ups, lies and deceit" had taken place. Bishops had a part to play in engaging with survivors and nurturing a Church that was more humble, compassionate, and humane. He paid tribute to the survivors whom he had met and to the "tenacious and fearless" journalist Colin Campbell. Some survivors had told him that what they had missed most was "access to the practice of their faith". He concluded: "I would hope and pray that our intentions and demonstration of a different future will enable them to return joyfully to that."
Los Angeles-area teacher indicted for child exploitation offenses
LOS ANGELES - A teacher at Royal Oak Middle School in Covina, who was arrested last month by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) following an undercover sting in his classroom, was indicted Tuesday for child exploitation offenses.
John David Boyle, 49, of Glendora, who is detained pending trial based upon a court finding that he is a danger to the community, has been charged in a six-count indictment. The indictment charges Boyle with enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity over the Internet, which allegedly resulted in the molestation of a 14-year-old boy. Boyle has also been charged with advertisement of child pornography on the Internet, as well as distribution, receipt, attempted receipt and possession of child pornography.
"Crimes against children violate the most vulnerable among us," said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. "This case demonstrates the need for constant vigilance – both online and in our schools – to protect our children and preserve our future generations."
After communicating with an HSI special agent in an Internet chat room, the teacher invited the investigator – who had been acting in an undercover capacity – to meet on school premises to view and trade child pornography.
According to the court documents, during the course of HSI's investigation, Boyle allegedly engaged in online chats with an undercover investigator, believing the special agent shared his sexual interest in young boys. Boyle then set up an in-person meeting in his middle school classroom on Sunday, June 2, for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity while watching child pornography. When the undercover investigator arrived for the meeting and presented Boyle with what he believed was a thumb drive containing child pornography, Boyle took possession of it. At that time, additional HSI special agents entered the classroom, interviewed Boyle, and seized his digital devices containing alleged child pornography. Shortly thereafter, Boyle was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint with distributing child pornography. Upon further investigation, HSI special agents were able to identify a 14-year-old boy who was a victim of unlawful sexual contact with the defendant.
"We entrust teachers to serve as role models for our children and safeguard their welfare," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "HSI is particularly vigorous in pursuing these kinds of cases because our experience has shown that, in many instances, those who collect and distribute child pornography are also hands-on offenders."
Boyle is due in court July 11 for his post-indictment arraignment. If convicted of all of the charges in the indictment, he faces a maximum possible penalty of life in prison.
Anyone with information about this matter is encouraged to call HSI's toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or submit information using HSI's online tip form at http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp
A criminal complaint and indictment contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The ongoing investigation into Boyle is being conducted by HSI and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The probe is 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 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.
Cleric who ran Rosemead orphanage was suspected of molestation
Molestation allegations against Lawrence Sandstrom go back to the 1960s. His file will be among those released this summer by a host of independent Catholic orders.
by Victoria Kim and Harriet Ryan
The preschooler's hair was falling out in clumps. He had stopped playing with other children and barely spoke to his teachers. He woke screaming each night, and during the day clung to his mother.
What's wrong, she asked again and again. Finally, he told her: His big brother, adopted seven years earlier from the Maryvale Catholic orphanage in Rosemead, was molesting him. Devastated, she rushed the older boy to a therapist's office, where he offered a harrowing explanation.
"He said that Brother Larry had done it to him at Maryvale — him and other children," his mother recalled years later.
The man he named was Lawrence Sandstrom, a brother of the Holy Cross religious order and the subject of molestation allegations in Los Angeles stretching back to the 1960s. Over the years, claims against Sandstrom have cost the Catholic Church more than $3 million in civil settlements. But unlike in the L.A. Archdiocese, which released 12,000 pages of internal records on abusive priests in January, there has yet to be a full accounting of the church's handling of Sandstrom.
That will change this summer when the Holy Cross brothers and a host of other Catholic orders make public the personnel files of as many as 139 priests, brothers and nuns accused of abusing children in the Los Angeles area.
Although the failings of the archdiocese in dealing with abuse have been well documented, the response of independent religious orders, who minister around the world, is less known. Orders such as the Jesuits, Salesians and Carmelites had more clergy working in the region than the archdiocese itself when some of the worst molestation occurred. Oversight of those priests rested not with the archbishop but with the superiors of some 50 far-flung orders headquartered across the country.
Among those whose files will be made public are a Piarist father who was prosecuted in both Los Angeles and Texas for sexual assault of teenagers and a Dominican priest who fled to his native Philippines after another priest discovered a 17-year-old in his bed.
The contents of Sandstrom's confidential file hold particular interest because what is known publicly about his case is conflicting. The young and psychologically troubled children at the orphanage in 1983 made for less than reliable witnesses, and authorities were divided about the validity of their claims. Prosecutors said they didn't have enough evidence to file criminal charges against Sandstrom, but a judge overseeing foster children found that he had sodomized 4-year-olds. Sandstrom insisted on his innocence, and his superiors in the order and at the orphanage backed him up, writing glowing letters of recommendation to help him get teaching jobs at Catholic high schools.
A lawyer for the Holy Cross brothers said the order's file on Sandstrom runs hundreds of pages and could become public as early as this month. Sandstrom, 73, resigned from the order in 1997 for reasons the order said were unrelated to abuse allegations. He now sells kitchen countertops in New Orleans and did not return messages seeking comment.
Chief among the long-unanswered questions is what the order knew about Sandstrom when he was sent to be executive director of Maryvale, an orphanage for especially vulnerable children run by an order of nuns.
Elizabeth Gori, who became the guardian of a second boy allegedly molested by Sandstrom, said she hoped the files might "uncover all this stuff the church has been hiding for all those years."
"I only had bits and pieces at the time, and I was trying to focus on what would help" the boy, she said.
Court filings, archdiocese records and interviews provide a partial picture of Sandstrom's troubles in Los Angeles. The boy Gori cared for was one of several Maryvale children who returned from an outing with Sandstrom in the San Bernardino Mountains displaying behavior one orphanage social worker described as "unusually sexual."
"They kept referring to a secret," social worker Mary Jane Landrock wrote at the time. She called a child abuse hotline. In interviews with detectives, one boy described in detail how "Brother Larry" sodomized him, but the other children's statements were less clear.
"One of the children only talks in riddles & another is called a liar by the other children," a prosecutor wrote of the boy later cared for by Gori and a girl who went on the outing. Two boys ultimately accused Sandstrom of molesting them.
Sandstrom denied harming the children but declined to be interviewed by investigators or take a polygraph test. Ultimately sheriff's detectives and county social services workers said they could not substantiate the claims. When Landrock kept voicing her suspicions, Sandstrom fired her. The orphanage later paid her $25,000 as part of a settlement in which she agreed never to disparage Maryvale employees.
In the weeks after the allegations surfaced, the boy who talked in riddles was moved to another group home where his sexual acting out again drew attention and led a judge to convene a hearing. After listening to testimony from Landrock and others — but not from Sandstrom — the judge ruled that he had sexually abused the children and banished him from Maryvale.
Sandstrom left but maintained his innocence, hiring a lawyer to challenge the judge's order. A different judge tossed out parts of the previous judge's order, including the finding that Sandstrom had abused children. With recommendation letters from the orphanage, he went on to work at La Salle High School in Pasadena and other Catholic schools in Hayward and New Orleans.
Meanwhile, the two boys he was accused of abusing struggled. Gori decided against adopting the boy she cared for because his 12-hour tantrums were too much for her.
"There was so much anger, and he was too little to explain," she recalled. He was admitted to a state psychiatric hospital, where he remained until he turned 18.
The other boy, the one who detailed being sodomized by Sandstrom, was adopted by a young, devoutly Catholic couple from the San Gabriel Valley. In a lawsuit filed in 1994, the couple said they were never informed of the suspected molestation. They said they learned of the allegations only after their adopted son abused both of their biological children.
"It was a living hell," the mother recalled in a deposition. "There was no joy, no laughter in the household."
The boy in the psychiatric hospital joined their lawsuit against the order and Maryvale. In the litigation, it emerged that officials at Maryvale were aware of rumors that Sandstrom may have abused children before he was hired. His order, however, denied the rumors and said the first and only accusation was at Maryvale and that it was false.
The orphanage settled the claims with both boys in 1996, reaching an undisclosed financial agreement with the San Gabriel Valley family and paying the other nearly $100,000. Despite the payouts, the order never wavered in its defense of Sandstrom. When the San Gabriel Valley mother wrote a letter expressing worry that Sandstrom might harm other children, a Holy Cross leader responded by offering "as much assurance as life affords" that he posed no danger.
"Neither before nor since he held his position at Maryvale has there been any reason to suspect sexual misconduct," Brother Donald Blauvelt wrote.
In 2003, however, a man named Rick Adair stepped forward with an account that raised questions about Blauvelt's assertion. In a lawsuit, Adair said Sandstrom had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with juvenile delinquents at Rancho San Antonio, a Holy Cross-run group home in Chatsworth, in the late 1960s. The headmaster, a Holy Cross brother, was told of Sandstrom's alleged behavior at the time, he claimed.
Adair and another man said that Sandstrom made them and other boys strip naked for group therapy. The second man said Sandstrom sometimes masturbated in the back of the room. Adair recalled this week that when one boy complained that Sandstrom had forced him to perform a naked massage, the headmaster called a meeting and "told us in no uncertain terms that we would not discuss [the boy's] accusations with anyone."
Adair said that in 1993, he phoned the order's Texas headquarters and told Blauvelt, the top official there, of Sandstrom's alleged misconduct. He said Blauvelt didn't seem surprised and simply asked how much money he wanted. Adair said $50,000; Blauvelt offered to get on a plane to personally deliver a check, he said. Ultimately, Adair backed out. An attorney for the Holy Cross brothers disputed that account this week, saying the order never promised Adair compensation, let alone a hand-delivered check.
Over the next decade and a half, the legal landscape changed dramatically, with thousands suing the church across the country. By 2007, the payouts were averaging in the seven figures. Although neither of the Rancho San Antonio students alleged that Sandstrom ever touched them, both received $1.5 million as part of a 2007 settlement. That agreement also provided for the upcoming release of clergy personnel files.
The boy who spent most of his childhood in a psychiatric hospital has had a rocky adulthood, with a string of criminal convictions and stints behind bars. Now 35, he said he couldn't talk about Sandstrom because of a confidentiality clause in his settlement. He became a father last year and recently reconnected with Gori, his onetime guardian.
"He said, 'There wasn't anything else you could have done.' I was so grateful for that," Gori said.
The San Gabriel Valley family also said they were barred from speaking by the terms of their settlement. The family spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on treatment for their children, according to court documents. Their adopted son, 35, is now married with children, owns his own business and boasts on its website of his supportive and loving family.