Silent Tears: Guiding child abuse victims down a healing path
by SHAUNA Galloway-Williams
When a family is faced with an allegation of child abuse, they are confronted with what some families call a "natural disaster." Their "normal" lives are shattered and turned upside down.
For those of us who work as front-line child protection professionals, we face this struggle with children and families to regain control of their lives each day. Thanks to the Silent Tears report, we now have a road map to assist us with guiding families along this path to healing and recovery.
In 2011, the Silent Tears task force joined forces with Victor Vieth of the National Child Protection Training Center and the Child Advocacy Studies program of the University of South Carolina Upstate to launch a statewide needs assessment of South Carolina's response to child sexual abuse. This study — the first of its kind — has collected data regarding the strengths, weaknesses and needs of our state from more than 600 professionals who work directly in the field of child sexual abuse in South Carolina.
These professionals have spoken and their voices have now been heard.
The findings of the assessment were formally announced in May. Gov. Nikki Haley, a childhood survivor of physical abuse at the hands of a child-care provider, issued an emotional call to action this month and announced her support of the recommendations of the Silent Tears report.
In many respects, South Carolina's child protection system is one of the best in the nation, and the recommendations of the report reflect these strengths.
For example, the report recommends improvement and reform at the undergraduate and graduate levels for child protection professionals.
South Carolina is one of only 15 states that have implemented formalized improvements in undergraduate education for child protection professionals through USC Upstate's Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) program.
The CAST program has graduated more than 35 students and has a current enrollment of more than 85. The program, established in the fall of 2010, is currently developing a post-baccalaureate certificate program for professionals already working in the field. The program hosts an annual conference sponsored by Greenville Health System and attended by more than 300 professionals each year.
In Greenville, the USC School of Medicine Greenville will now include additional training for first-year students on recognizing and responding to child maltreatment. Additionally, pediatric and internal medicine pediatric residents at Greenville Health System will complete a one-week rotation in forensic pediatrics.
At the heart of the success of South Carolina's child protection system are the state's children's advocacy centers and the use of the multidisciplinary team approach to responding to child abuse. In 2006, our Legislature recognized the value of this model and passed a law supporting it.
The state is home to 17 children's advocacy centers, 13 accredited by the National Children's Alliance, that provided services to more than 7,000 children in 2012. As members of the S.C. Network of Children's Advocacy Centers, an accredited member of the National Children's Alliance, the centers receive training, support, technical assistance and leadership at a statewide level.
The Upstate is home to three children's advocacy centers: Julie Valentine Center serving Greenville and Pickens; Spartanburg Children's Advocacy Center serving Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union; and Foothills Alliance serving Anderson and Oconee.
The centers work to minimize the trauma and create safety for a child and family while navigating the system of child protection.
Working as a multidisciplinary team with DSS, law enforcement, guardians ad litem, the Solicitor's Office, medical providers and other community partners, the centers provide services such as forensic interviews, medical exams, case management and counseling with the goal of providing many services under one roof in a child- and family-friendly environment.
Each member of the team provides a unique service with the ultimate goal of protecting children. Each center coordinates the multidisciplinary team to ensure that services are delivered effectively and efficiently to each child.
The Silent Tears report challenges us to take the children's advocacy center model of multidisciplinary team collaboration and apply it to our state as a whole.
South Carolina is well on its way to creating such a system as illustrated by the coordination and completion of a study initiated and supported by front-line professionals from all disciplines of the team. It was the unified passion, dedication and willingness of these teams to partner together that led to the success of the Silent Tears report and will ultimately lead to the successful implementation of its recommendations.
As Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center, states in the Silent Tears report, "The child protection train that runs throughout South Carolina is fueled with faith, labored with love and carries the hope and dreams of millions of children."
With the support of Gov. Haley, House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, Attorney General Alan Wilson and under the leadership of the S.C. Network of Children's Advocacy Centers, the Children's Law Center, USC Upstate's Child Advocacy Studies Program and the 17 children's advocacy centers, South Carolina is on the right track to becoming the envy of the nation for child protection.
Shauna Galloway-Williams is board president of the S.C. Network of Children's Advocacy Centers and is executive director of the Greenville-based Julie Valentine Center. She is also an adjunct faculty member of the University of South Carolina Upstate CAST program and a member of the Silent Tears Task Force.
What the church documents reveal
by Karen Herzog
When the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese recently released secret documents linked to how the church dealt with sexual abuse of children by priests, the headlines focused on former Archbishop Timothy Dolan's plans to pay abusers to leave the priesthood and to move $57 million into cemetery funds to protect the money "from any legal claim or liability."
But those aren't the only stories revealed in some 6,000 pages of documents the church had kept confidential for decades. The documents also shed light on issues pedophile priests were dealing with both before and after they abused children. They include letters to priests from archbishops who failed to face the issue of child abuse head on. And they reveal the anguish of the victims and the victims' parents.
The documents, which were released July 1 as part of the church's bankruptcy case, reveal the human side of the scandal.
Some of the priests said they had been sexually abused as children. The victims were often insecure and searching for guidance. And archbishops, in addition to trying to protect the church, felt a pastoral responsibility to priests who were abusers.
Only a few of the accused priests were criminally charged; many denied they did anything wrong. Most left the priesthood with severance pay or were allowed to retire with a pension, health benefits and a place to live. Of the dozen priests included in this story, three are still alive but have been stripped of their priestly ministry: Franklyn Becker, Michael Krejci and Thomas Trepanier, according to archdiocese records.
This story is based on a close review of the pedophile priest files, which include candid letters exchanged between accused priests and archbishops; sexual abuse intake reports; psychological assessments; letters from archbishops to the Vatican seeking counsel or formal action against priests; and letters from victims and their parents.
The pedophile priests
The documents show that many of the priests did not consider themselves criminals, but victims. Some were addicted to alcohol or pornography. They did good work in the church and helped many people. But they also had a dark side they either struggled to control or did not acknowledge.
Many did not express guilt or remorse; they couldn't understand why they were treated severely after they had accepted counseling and done everything the archdiocese asked of them. Some acknowledged conflicted sexual orientation, loneliness, self-loathing, an inability to form healthy adult relationships. Psychologists concluded that at least one priest's emotional development was stunted.
Father Eugene Kreuzer confessed to members of an unidentified parish in an undated letter:
|"...There were allegations of my sexual abuse of minors some 30 years ago in a different parish. I express remorse and repent of these actions. However, for the good of thecommunity I have decided that my continued presence at the parish is not helpful. I have been fully cooperative with the restrictions placed upon me. I do not exercise anyministry and am living out my life in a spirit of prayer and penance.This is a strong and loving parish community and I know you will respond to thisannouncement in the manner that is most appropriate, by praying for all those involved...."
Father Andrew Doyle sought a financial settlement in a letter to then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland:
|" ...you had indicated that you would grant me an unspecified amount of money as a severance. Because I have regular bills and a house payment, I ask that if it becomes necessary for a release from my orders, at that time you would consider an amount of $30,000 ... I have tried to cooperate with the Archdiocese...I regret any pain I have caused you; I also have been in much myself."
A letter from then-Archbishop Dolan to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican offered his impressions of Father Franklyn Becker, who Dolan said refused to voluntarily give up his ministry rights as a sign of repentance:
|"Father Becker has admitted that a number of these acts of sexual assault occurred... While he attempts to present a defense based on cooperation and need for sustenance, in interviews with him, there is little display of repentance. His sorrow is not over what effect his immoral and abusive behaviors had on others, so much as it is remorse that he has lost a sense of status..."
Several priests were referred for intensive treatment of alcoholism and psycho-sexual issues. A treatment progress report for Father Michael Krejci concluded, among other things:
|" ...Normal inhibiting mechanisms, such as guilt or remorse, do not appear to impede Michael's problematic sexual behavior ... "
Each archbishop had his own way of addressing accused priests.
Archbishop William Cousins wrote terse, formal letters to inform priests they were being transferred, which occurred frequently and quietly during his tenure from 1959 to 1977. Cousins did not document much, reflecting a time when sex abuse accusations against priests were not openly discussed.
Weakland, archbishop from 1977 to 2002, consistently expressed concern for the priests' well-being and told them he was doing what was best for them and the church. He also exchanged letters with victims, acknowledging the bad effects of what had happened and encouraging them to forgive because "forgiveness brings spiritual growth."
Weakland resigned in 2002 amid revelations that he had used church money to pay a $450,000 settlement to a man with whom he had had a sexual relationship years earlier.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose tenure from 2002 to 2007 coincided with a change in direction by the Vatican in dealing with sex abuse cases, wrote stern letters to priests about their actions, while expressing concern for their well-being. In his letters to victims, Dolan apologized for their pain and offered them counseling services.
One internal exchange at the archdiocese was especially frank. This excerpt of a 2006 letter from Archdiocese Chancellor Barbara Anne Cusack to Dolan was about Father Michael Benham:
|"Although Michael has apparently expressed remorse to you, I have not seen that remorse translate into action. The victim in this case requested a token amount of money as a gesture of recognition of the harm he had caused; Michael has consistently and adamantly refused to do so...This was not a one-time incident of indiscretion.
"There have to be consequences to actions. I do not doubt that an all-merciful God has forgiven Michael but an all-just God will also probably require some purgation for these actions...Michael's life of solitude is made possible because we are paying his subsidy and could be doing so for the next 10 years until he is eligible for pension...I am not sure how we can justify this as 'good stewardship' of the resources people have entrusted to us... How do I honestly look a victim-survivor in the face in mediation and say we are acting consistently with Pope John Paul II's statement that 'there is no place in the priesthood for those who would harm a child?'"
A letter Dolan wrote in December 2002 to parishioners at an unspecified church about Father Thomas Trepanier acknowledged the need for accountability.
"We forgive those priests who have been guilty of this crime and sin, once they admit it — as most do, painfully and admirably — ask for mercy and repent. We know God forgives them; we must forgive them too; and I hope they can forgive themselves.
"Forgiveness, however, does not eliminate the need for those accused to take responsibility, to be held accountable for their behavior."
One month before Dolan wrote to parishioners about forgiveness for Trepanier, he wrote to Trepanier:
|"...While we await clearer resolution from the Holy See and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, I just wanted you to know that I have not forgotten about you, and that you have my love, concern, and prayerful solidarity..."
Dolan added a handwritten note in the margin:
|"Thanks for the green tea! I'll be in touch soon."
Seven years earlier, in 1995, a letter from Weakland to Father Eldred Lesniewski reflected a much different tone:
|"...Every time you appear in public this way at the altar, Eldred, you risk stirring up people who have brought allegations. The network of such victims is enormous and very aggressive. You risk much unfortunate bad publicity against yourself, the priesthood and the Diocese..."
They were altar boys. Kids in need of a friend or a counselor. Boys and girls who for whatever reason caught the eye of the priest at school or in church. Perhaps the priest initially made them feel special with gifts or extra attention — a sleepover or a vacation on a Caribbean cruise. One priest invited boys to go up north on a camping trip in a hearse.
A man who said he was molested as a boy by Father Lawrence Murphy at St. John's School for the Deaf finally confronted the priest decades later in a letter copied to Archbishop Weakland and Pope John Paul II:
"...I cannot keep our secret about your life as a terrible molester at our school...You made us hate the Catholic church because we couldn't understand how you could be such a hypocrite of a priest who taught us about God while you were the secret molester...
"I would lie awake every night shaking in fear that this would be a night you would touch me ...Jesus on the cross on the wall saw you coming every night to molest us. He must have been shocked and grieved every time. I hope he cried like we did, because we were innocent children... The depth of your destruction is like a deep, dark, bottomless pit that has no end ... The very least you could do is be sorry, but you aren't...
"God lets no one into heaven who is not deeply, truly, and shamefully sorry for his sins — in your case, atrocities...My shame and my dirty secret are back where they belong, with you, their creator."
The mother of one of Father Franklyn Becker's victims wrote to Weakland in 1994, after accusations about pedophile priests began being reported by newspapers. Her son was abused by Becker at the Holy Family parish in Whitefish Bay in the 1970s, she said.
" As I later found out, this priest had a record in his previous parish and after leaving Whitefish Bay, continued on his merry way in parish after parish, both here and out of state....
"At the time that his offense against my son occurred, I was (redacted) very vulnerable and very committed to seeing that my children be educated in Catholic schools. That's how he came to know my sons; we took him into our hearts and into our family...
"At no time did it ever occur to me to sue the Archdiocese or the priest... Money could never heal the scars left by one priest's indiscretion. However, Archbishop Weakland, don't for a minute smugly think that the only cases of clergy abuse out there are the ones that sue/or run to the media. All I really wanted over the past years was an acknowledgment by you and the Archdiocese that this problem existed and the seriousness of it....
"In addition to a deep sense of guilt for allowing, or even encouraging this to happen to my son some years ago, I have in the past few years experienced a loss of faith, an indifference to the church I was brought up in and now a real bitterness that this particular priest had been 'rewarded' with early retirement for a lifetime of botched assignments due to his fondness for the altar boys."
Father George Nuedling gained sympathy from in-the-dark parishioners one day for an injury he sustained after molesting a victim, according to this letter the victim wrote to the archdiocese:
"...I fought as hard as I could for what seemed an eternity, and fortunately when he lost his grip on me I was able to run away. He tried to give chase but must have pulled something in his calf or hamstring area and fell to the ground (Jesus must have been with me).
"The next day in church it just galled me to hear other parishioners express their concern over Father Nuedling's 'bad limp' and how it must have hurt...I just wonder how many other little boys this evil man harmed?"
Father George Etzel sent a Christmas card in 1992 to a victim, who by then was an adult.
|"I'm sad and sorry, and I wonder why," he wrote.
The victim responded:
"Thank you for the card and thoughts at Christmas... By the tone of your note...I see that you are also reflecting on your past life...and you know exactly what I am talking about.As I stated earlier, it is a time for forgiveness and hope. I forgive you for the things you have done to me. I hope you can make peace with your god..."
When it was time for his first confession, a 9-year-old victim thought he could anonymously tell a trusted adult about Father Siegfried Widera. But something stopped him, according to a letter he wrote as an adult on Aug. 1, 2002:
"...As I entered that booth, I was determined to end this. It was only to my horror that I entered the confessional and heard that voice that could belong to only one man. I can still to this day feel the devastation that entered me that day and the thought that it was a sign from God to keep my mouth shut. I went home that night and cried. A memory that burns in me to this day.
"A sense of relief only came after I found out he was gone. No explanation to the students and none that I can remember hearing about to the adults... I already know that this man was transferred to another church and he did it again. I live with the thought that I could have stopped this if only I had come forward sooner. And now I know that this man is on the run...
"I only wish I believed enough in prayer to pray for any child he comes across."
Less than a year after the letter was written, Widera leaped to his death from a hotel balcony in Mexico as officials closed in to arrest him. He had been on the run for more than a year, and authorities considered him one of the most wanted sex-crime fugitives in the Western Hemisphere.
Cameron Wants Access to ‘Depraved' Child Abuse Websites Blocked
Internet companies need to act to block access to “depraved and disgusting” child abuse images or face legal controls, British Prime Minister David Cameron will say.
“We need to have very, very strong conversations with those companies about saying ‘No, you shouldn't provide results for some terms that are so depraved and disgusting,'” Cameron will say in an interview to be broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corp. today “I think there's going to be a big argument there, and if we don't get what we need we'll have to look at legislation.”
He said the extra steps he favors represents “an argument on behalf of Britain's parents and children I'm prepared to have.”
During his interview on the “Andrew Marr” program, Cameron also said he would like to see more restrictions on access to legal pornography that can be seen online by children.
“There are rules about what films you can see in a cinema, what age you have to be to buy alcohol or cigarettes,” Cameron will say, according to a transcript of the interview provided by the BBC. “But on the internet, there aren't those rules, so we need to help parents with control.”
Human trafficking should not be a business matter: Opinion
by Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Human trafficking is happening right here in New Jersey and we must stop it. Just days ago we learned that an international trafficking ring has been operating brothels in Lakewood, subjecting women to horrific sexual exploitation and degradation.
This modern-day slavery is perpetuated by modern-day technology. The internet allows traffickers to sell children into sexual servitude with the click of a button. Traffickers are criminally liable for their postings and the websites that enable them must be as well.
New Jersey recently took bold action to combat trafficking when the Legislature unanimously passed and Gov. Chris Christie signed into law the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act. A provision of the law makes it a first-degree crime to knowingly publish, disseminate or display an advertisement or photo promoting sex with a minor. A violation is punishable by a $25,000 fine that would be used to support survivors of trafficking.
I sponsored the law to help victims become survivors and to give law enforcement the tools they need to prosecute traffickers and prevent future exploitation. This provision is one of those critical tools.
Citing the burdens of complying with the law, Backpage.com and Internet Archive were recently granted a temporary injunction to shield themselves and similar companies from liability when ads for sex with children are posted on their websites.
This lawsuit is motivated by profit. Backpage.com is the top provider of “adult services” advertisements, which is estimated to generate about $22.7 million in annual revenue for the company.
How we address the child sex trade speaks volumes about our values and priorities.
In 2011, the National Association of Attorneys General called on Backpage.com to shut down its adult services section because of the blatant role it plays in the promotion of sex trafficking. Backpage.com refused.
Online publications claim to be cracking down on illegal advertisements of sex with minors, yet they continue to feature victims who are unable to consent to sex or protect themselves from predators.
Turning a blind eye and shrugging off any responsibility for the atrocities of child sex trafficking is criminal and the law must treat it as such.
How we address the child sex trade speaks volumes about our values and priorities. Do we want to be known as a society that cares more about the financial burden of monitoring content than we do about child welfare? The cost of saving children from sexual, emotional and psychological trauma is a small price to pay.
The time for self-policing is over. New Jersey must be able to hold online publications accountable for the sex slavery of minors.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) represents the 37th Legislative District.
Cyber-sex trafficking: A 21st century scourge
by Sunshine de Leon
Negros Oriental, Philippines (CNN) -- Andrea was 14 years old the first time a voice over the Internet told her to take off her clothes.
"I was so embarrassed because I don't want others to see my private parts," she said. "The customer told me to remove my blouse and to show him my breasts."
She was in a home in Negros Oriental, a province known for its scenic beaches, tourism and diving. But she would know none of that beauty. Nor would she know the life she'd been promised.
Andrea, which is not her real name, said she had been lured away from her rural, mountain village in the Philippines by a cousin who said he would give her a well-paid job as a babysitter in the city. She thought she was leaving her impoverished life for an opportunity to earn money to finish high school. Instead, she became another victim caught up in the newest but no less sinister world of sexual exploitation -- cyber-sex trafficking.
After arriving at the two-story house in Negros Oriental -- located in the central Visayas region of the Philippines -- Andrea found that her new home would become both workplace and prison. She was shocked by what she saw.
"The windows were covered so it was dark. There was a computer and a camera where naked girls would say words to seduce their mainly foreign customers."
She said customers would ask the girls to perform sexually with each other.
For the next few months, Andrea said she was one of seven girls, between age 13 and 18, who spent day and night satisfying the sexual fantasies of men around the world. Paying $56 per minute, male customers typed their instructions onto a computer and then watched via a live camera as the girls performed sexual acts. She said the girls were often forced to watch the men they served on screens.
Andrea dreamed of returning home but her employer, an uncle, slept downstairs and kept the front door locked. "I was told if I tried to escape, the police would put me in jail. I believed it. I was very innocent -- I grew up without TV and had never left my village before," she explained.
Convinced that earning enough money to finish her education was the only way to help her family out of poverty, Andrea forced herself to work. But "doing whatever the customer asked" eventually took its toll. "I wanted to cry but I could not. I wanted to cover myself with a blanket. I had goose bumps because of the shame. I would feel like I was floating," she recalled.
Andrea's story is only one of many playing out every day in a nation where the conditions -- widespread poverty, an established sex trade, a predominantly English-speaking, technically-literate population and widespread Internet access -- have made it easy for crimes like this to flourish.
Difficult to stop
Jo Alforque, Advocacy Officer with End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT Philippines), an NGO working to combat child sexual exploitation, explained that because cyber-sex dens can be located anywhere -- from Internet cafes to private homes and offices -- they are extremely difficult to identify. Anyone who has a computer, internet and a Web cam can be in business.
Whether part of large international criminal syndicates or smaller operations, their independent nature and lack of coordinated structure make it easy for cyber-sex operations to remain hidden, she said.
According to Andrey Sawchenko, National Director at the International Justice Mission Philippines, the private nature of the technology allows the crime to take place in a venue that law enforcement can't easily access -- and that makes it harder to gather evidence against perpetrators.
Although no official statistics exist, Ruby Ramores, a former Executive at the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), believes tens of thousands of women are involved in the industry and that most of the girls are recruited by friends, family -- sometimes even by their parents. Poverty can often drive parents to sell the services of their children, she said.
I was told if I tried to escape, the police would put me in jail. I believed it. I was very innocent -- I grew up without TV and had never left my village before.
Delia (not her real name) now aged nine, said she was just 7 years old when her mother made her undress in front of their computer at home. "I stood there naked. That's all I wanted to do, not the other things, like when mama said to spread my legs, I didn't want to," she recalled. "I would be scared of my mother. Because before I didn't know what she was doing was bad, I only knew later on."
Rescued after three years when her father found out about her mother's cyber-sex operation, Delia is now under the care of a government-run temporary shelter for abused young girls and spoke to CNN in the company of her social worker.
According to Ramores, parents who submit their children to cyber-sex -- especially the ones from rural areas -- think this is something that won't violate their children in the way that traditional sex crimes do because it is just a camera and just the body being shown, and there is no touching with anyone else. "So, it's a better option than being pushed to prostitution which has physical interaction," she said.
Social workers say the families don't understand the effect of the work on their children. They are thinking, instead, about money and survival.
Cyber-sex trafficking may have largely operated under the radar in the past, but there are signs that the Philippines government is focusing more on the issue.
In 2011, the Philippines successfully prosecuted its first case of cyber-sex trafficking against two Swedish nationals and three Filipinos. Although there have been more than 100 convictions under the country's Anti-Trafficking in Persons law of 2003, this was the first case that specifically punished someone for cyber-sex operations.
"It gives a strong message to the traffickers: 'We know you are out there now and we are going to get you,'" said Ramores. It also serves as a wake-up call for Filipinos in a country where law enforcement and the public have been largely unaware of the problem.
The government has initiated a nationwide advocacy and media campaign that focuses on awareness of this new face of commercial sexual exploitation. This includes training seminars held to teach those on the front lines -- law enforcement, prosecutors, government agencies, and NGOs -- to combat these crimes.
The Philippines Congress has also passed the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which increases funding to government agencies, provides greater protection to victims and is designed to strengthen the prosecution of those engaged in human trafficking.
Ramores says it's essential for the public to have a new context in which to interpret any suspicious behavior: "Unless there will be whistle-blowers, we won't be able to catch them. We need people to be aware and to cooperate with us in order for us to track these kinds of crimes."
Andrea was rescued after being held for three months, when one of the other girls escaped and told the authorities. She is now a star witness in a case against her abusers, but she said she has received death threats and that has prevented the case from progressing. "I want them to be punished but I have moved far away to Manila because I am scared for my life," she said.
Scars of abuse
Milet Paguio, a social worker working with commercially exploited children in the Philippines, said that many rescued girls, who have often spent years in the cyber-dens, are often uncooperative with rescuers and confused at first. They fear they will be the ones punished, and in the cases when family members are being accused, the girls often want to protect them. The crime may be a virtual one but the emotional scars are very real.
I would be scared of my mother. Because before I didn't know what she was doing was bad, I only knew later on.
"They have low self-esteem, don't respect themselves, and for those who spent a long time in the dens -- they often behave in a way that is very flirty ... when they see men, they sometimes cannot control themselves," she said.
In many ways, cyber-sex trafficking appears to be the perfect 21st century crime. Technology has made it easier to access and exploit the vulnerable, operate illegal activities across borders and more difficult to discover the identities of those who are behind the crime.
Information technology evolves quickly and in the Philippines, perpetrators often have more financial and technological resources than those trying to catch them.
According to Sawchenko, close cooperation with international law enforcement authorities -- providing training to local police and working together to catch those involved in both countries -- has made a vital difference.
Sawchenko points to an increase in the number of victims being rescued and an increase in the number of cases being filed against perpetrators in recent years, as an example.
Eric Mcloughlin, Deputy Attache at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Homeland Security Investigations agency (HSI), is among those working with authorities in the Philippines to fight cyber-crimes. "Because of the nature of the Internet and cyber-crimes, criminals feel it's easier to operate with anonymity behind these virtual barriers," he said. "It's a challenge for law enforcement to identify them and make sure they are held accountable.
"In addition to cyber-operations being more complex criminal syndicates, there are also many mom and pop shops -- if you take one down there could be several on the same street who are doing the same acts that might not have connections to each other."
Even customers abroad are not safe -- officials in the Philippines are working with U.S. domestic agencies to identify offenders.
Recently, CNN reported that the testimony of three girls in the Philippines helped convict a Pennsylvania man who had been involved in a cyber-den. He has been sentenced to 12 years in a U.S. federal prison for child pornography.
"Rescuing victims is a priority but if we don't continue to investigate the ones purchasing their services, we are only doing half the job," said McLaughlin.
"Catching those running the cyber-dens is the first step of what could be a big domino effect with lots of challenges. If we go to digital analysis and the forensics of hard drives, we can find that they were communicating with thousands of customers around the world -- this involves different jurisdictions and we need evidence to go after all those individuals."
Andrea, now 20 and in college, hopes to become a social worker so she can help victims. She offered advice from her own experience: "If you want to find a job, know everything about the recruiter, the kind of job and the payment. Don't be blinded by the money. You can find a decent job, just don't give up. And do not trust people so easily -- just because someone is your family it does not mean they are good."
Heber Springs Kids Take A Stand Against Sex Trafficking
by Melissa Schroeder
HEBER SPRINGS, AR -- A woman's personal story -- as a sex slave -- inspires a group of Heber Springs teens to join in the fight against sex trafficking.
The group of teens is working on a community event to raise awareness and money.
The kids -- with Teen Recruiters -- are skating for freedom, freedom for people like Kathy Bryan.
At just 15-years-old she became a victim of sex trafficking.
She said, "There was another man there and the two of them brutalized me for several hours."
Kathy waited 28 years to tell her story and now that it's out there, she's talking to anyone who will listen.
She said, "When you see these teens in the street and school, they're walking around with a bulls eye on their head and no one told them."
17-year-old Andrew Skinner is just one of the teens in the group touched by Kathy's story.
He said, "I was thinking, wow that's just terrible!"
16-year-old Shelby Burrow said, "It was surprising to think someone could go through that. So, it shocked me and it made me want to learn more about it."
These teens want everyone to learn more about sex trafficking, which they say can happen anywhere, anytime.
So next month, they'll host an event to let predators know, like their t-shirts read, they're not for sale.
The kids are calling the event Skating for Freedom.
As the name implies, skateboarders will show off their fancy moves and there will be music from the youth too.
Kathy will be there as well telling her story especially focusing on children, the prime targets of sex traffickers.
You can help these kids out by going to their event on Saturday, August 10th at Spring Park in Heber Springs.
It starts at 7:00 p.m.
The event is free but donations will be accepted.
All the money goes to a non-profit organization raising awareness about sex trafficking.
Sponsors from the event include GhettyWorks, Shuttered Image, Swiss BMX and Parker Heating and Air.
Wichita Church Joining Fight Against Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking is not a new problem in the Wichita area, but a local church is joining the fight against it.
Victory Church is not the only local organization involved in that fight. However, the church offers a unique way to help victims of that crime.
A dining room in the church at 812 S. Oliver assumes a lounge-like atmosphere on Friday and Saturday evenings. The atmosphere is complete with live smooth jazz music, mood lighting and people out for a leisurely dinner.
It is more than just a desire for a relaxing evening out that brought a crowd to Victory Church Saturday.
"We host an event here every Friday and Saturday night to bring awareness to the epidemic of modern day sex trafficking going on right here in the Wichita area," said Misty Miller, a member of Victory Church.
The events, which feature a variety of bands and speakers, began about a year ago. Profits from dinner sales and other donations have piled up enough that the church will open The Overcomers House in September. It will be able to house six girls rescued from human traffickers.
"Our goal is to, as we bring awareness and people begin providing monetary support and voluntary support, our houses will grow and we'll be able to house more girls," Miller said.
Randall Fritzler and his wife heard about the church's Jehovah Java House from a friend and thought they'd try it out while supporting the mission.
"We've enjoyed it so far," he said. "It's kind of a relaxed atmosphere."
Miller said there is still a lot of work to do to combat human trafficking, as shown by the arrests this week of a 23-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man who are accused of pimping out three runaway teens at a north Wichita motel.
"A lot of times, people close their eyes to it," she said. "They don't believe it's happening right here, but it is."
WSU setting up center to aid youths ensnared in human trafficking
by ROY WENZL
The day after Valentine's Day in 1994, a Wichita woman named Karen Countryman shot herself to death at her home, leaving a suicide note for her 13-year-old daughter.
Her look-alike daughter, also named Karen Countryman, ran away from foster care the next year and spent two years eluding police and social workers trying to rescue her.
She saw sex traffickers abusing children on the streets. She made rescue her life's work.
Now Wichita State University is establishing a Center for Combating Human Trafficking, with Karen Countryman-Roswurm, 32, as the executive director. The center will train police, prosecutors, medical providers, faith groups and others in how to combat trafficking. It will be an advocate for victims. It will try to reshape public policy on a national scale.
By building the center entirely around Countryman-Roswurm's expertise, WSU leaders think they can become not only a regional center to combat trafficking but eventually the strongest voice in the nation to fight the crime. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the center on Feb. 13. The start-up cost is estimated at $50,000 a year from the university, with the center also applying for grants.
“She's already one of the leading experts on human trafficking in the nation,” WSU's Keith Pickus said of Countryman-Roswurm. Pickus will step down as the university's provost in July and serve as the center's director of operations. “Not only does she have the theoretical and academic background, but her personal story is unique. No one in the country combines what she has.”
Countryman-Roswurm, who has a doctorate in psychology, said human trafficking earns billions annually for pimps and other criminals. It victimizes an estimated 100,000 children in the United States and possibly hundreds of children in Sedgwick County, she said.
“These people we've called prostitutes – many of them are children,” she said. “Most of them were sexually abused, including in their own homes, from the time they were small.”
In Topeka, state legislators are debating an anti-human-trafficking bill. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who wrote much of it, said it was inspired and shaped in part by Countryman-Roswurm. She came to him as early as 2007, he said, when he was the Republican majority leader in the Kansas Senate, asking that he help change state law regarding trafficking.
“Hers is a remarkable American story of a person who was dealt a difficult hand and turned it into an inspiration for anyone who's seen it,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said Senate Bill 61, if approved, will dramatically change how police, courts and social workers treat the victims of trafficking.
Schmidt was instrumental in creating the state's first human trafficking law in 2007.
But where that law defines child sex workers as “prostitutes,” they will now be defined as victims, he said.
“So much of the conversation we've had about these victims for many years is just wrong,” Schmidt said.
“These are human beings,” Countryman-Roswurm said. “They are victims, they are survivors.”
She said a study she completed last year involving 258 child victims interviewed at the Wichita Children's Home showed that 70 percent had been victims of physical violence, 68 percent had been sexually assaulted and 40 percent were forced, coerced or “frauded” into being exploited in sexual trafficking.
Most runaways stay homeless only a few days or weeks before they get into sex trafficking, go home or are arrested. As a teen, Karen Countryman's experience was different. She stayed homeless two years, in 1995 and 1996.
She slept on the couches of strangers and friends, completed her GED – and after she saw human trafficking on Wichita's streets, she became what Schmidt called a relentless advocate for human trafficking victims.
She ran away from the Wichita Children's Home during her homeless years, resentful at how social workers such as Sarah Robinson, the director, curtailed her street freedom. She startled Robinson and other social workers by reappearing in 1996, in court, with a thick, detailed portfolio of her job and academic history. That made her the first teen to be court-emancipated from state care, Sedgwick County judges said at the time. She was 16.
In 1997, Robinson hired Countryman, while she was only 17, to be a Street Outreach worker, driving through Wichita neighborhoods, including in the most dangerous areas at night, finding and rescuing runaways. Robinson sent along an experienced Street Outreach worker to help and protect her. That was Will Ellis, the father of University of Kansas freshman basketball player Perry Ellis. Robinson hoped the elder Ellis, with his perpetual serious look and 6-foot-8 height, would intimidate anyone who might want to bother Countryman on the street. But Ellis always said Countryman was the intimidating half of their team.
Robinson said Countryman and Ellis saved several lives. Robinson now regrets that she sent a slightly-built teen girl into dangerous streets at night. “We'd not do that now.”
“But she has what our Street Outreach director, Risa Rehmert, calls the three-second rule,” Robinson said. “Risa said in three seconds, Karen could step out of the Street Outreach van and engage a runaway or anyone else so compellingly that they don't turn and walk away. Now she does the same thing with people in Washington, D.C.”
As early as 1998, she walked right up to gang members at night, befriending them, petting their pit bulls, asking their help in finding troubled teens. She got in the faces of belligerent teens or talked them into letting her help them. She saw how police treated trafficking victims.
From WSU, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in social work in 2005, a master's degree in 2006 (4.0 grade-point average) and a doctorate last year. Countryman-Roswurm now frequently flies across the country to teach, including as the keynote speaker, at national conventions of police, prosecutors, social workers and federal investigators. She has spoken to such groups in Washington, D.C.; New Orleans; Indianapolis; and other cities.
Coming face to face
Marc Bennett, the Sedgwick County district attorney, said Senate Bill 61 was written mostly by Schmidt. But Bennett said he wrote the first draft, inspired in part by conversations organized in 2006 by Countryman-Roswurm. She had been fuming for years that the justice system wrongly treated child trafficking victims. In 2006, she formed a roundtable group that put police, prosecutors and social workers face to face with each other.
Month after month, in sometimes fiery talks drawn from her street rescues, she challenged them to change their language, their thinking, their policies and state law. Bennett, an assistant district attorney then, attended some of those meetings.
“She opened everybody's eyes,” Bennett said.
‘Nobody did anything'
What got her started was a beating that took place in her car while she sat in the driver's seat dialing 911.
“I was tracking homeless and runaway youth to see how they were progressing into adulthood, and one of the young ladies participating in the study was living on North Broadway,” she said.
This was 1998, she said. She was 18. The young woman she was picking up was 16 or 17.
“She was living in an apartment complex on North Broadway. Next thing I know, she's arguing with her boyfriend, who was acting as her pimp.
“She started running toward my car. And time kind of stood still. I attempted to reach into my back seat to get my cellphone out of my purse, and … she had opened up my car door. She was in my car, five months' pregnant, (her) top ripped off. Her pimp-boyfriend was on top of her, hitting, biting, scratching, cursing.
“A law enforcement officer came. There were cars that had slowed down or stopped. … There were people crowding into the parking lot. Nobody did anything. This police officer came, got the perpetrator, put him in his car.
“This young lady was absolutely seen as a prostitute. … They did not view this as a domestic violence situation.
“And so this young lady was told …‘this guy is going to be released within 24 hours if you don't come to the courthouse. And you need to file a restraining order. … You need to testify in court.'
“(She) said, ‘Karen, I can't do that.'
“I said, ‘Why not? You need to get out of this situation.'?”
The young woman said she feared she'd be killed if she testified.
She said Countryman did not understand her life.
“?‘My Dad had sex with me,'?” Countryman-Roswurm recalled her saying. “?‘My Dad let my brothers have sex with me. My Dad let my uncles have sex with me. He invited all his friends to have sex with me so that he could get his drugs, so that he could get his alcohol. So that he could get his cigarettes. And this is the most control I've ever had.'
“She had been treated as a commodity from the day she was born. She had been stolen. So it wasn't a stretch that she could be sold.”
Not really a choice
Lt. Jeff Weible, who commands Sedgwick County's Exploited and Missing Child Unit, said police work on trafficking and victim rescue has improved in recent years. Some, but not all, of those improvements came because of Countryman-Roswurm, he said.
Human trafficking cases are harder to investigate than nearly any other crime, Weible and Bennett said.
Nearly all the child victims, most of them girls, were sexually abused from the time they were babies or pre-schoolers, they said.
“They think this life they are in, as bad as it is, is not nearly as bad as what they had before,” Bennett said.
Weible said his unit has investigated 125 human trafficking situations since 2006.
But he said, “We have a lot of activity we don't know about, and the perpetrators are getting more sophisticated. They are advertising online in various places, for example.”
Bennett said the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office has brought charges in about 25 sex-trafficking cases in the past seven years.
“But of those 25 cases, which involved 25 separate children, I know that every one of those 25 children ran away from protective custody at least once, some of them multiple times,” Bennett said.
They try to avoid testifying even though they live in dangerous and demeaning situations, he said.
“Right now we have a victim who we put in placement, with relatives out of state, and she's on the run again, in the wind,” Weible said.
Everything happening now is long overdue, Countryman-Roswurm said.
“I think it's so easy for the general public to look at these circumstances that aren't necessarily abduction and kidnapping cases and say, ‘Well, why are you in this situation, why don't you leave?' It's because, what did I see on the streets? What did I see in street outreach? People are doing what they think they need to do to survive. They are acting out of hopelessness. Desperation. They are utterly alone. Choice? There never really is one.”
How to help
Give to or contact the Wichita Children's Home's Anti-sexual Exploitation Roundtable for Community Action. The Wichita Children's Home can be reached at 316-684-6581. Street Outreach, which operates out of the home and tries to bring help to runaways and homeless young people 21 or younger, can be reached at 316-262-4663.
ICT S.O.S. is an organization created in Wichita in 2011 to stop human trafficking, partnering with the home, the Wichita Police Department, the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, Youthville, YWCA Wichita, the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center and other organizations. Reach the organization at www.ictsos.org or 316-993-1551.
If someone needs help immediately, call 911.
How to contact WSU's center
Phone: 316- 978-5061
Help stop human trafficking in North Dakota
by Tom Freier
FARGO — Sex trafficking is here.
If Herald readers think we are somehow insulated from human/sex trafficking in North Dakota, they should think again. While it is hard to get concrete numbers on the underground world of human trafficking, it is accurate to say there is no community in the state that is safe from it.
And as such, young teen girls are the primary target. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 missing children have been forced into prostitution each year in the US.
Check Internet sites, and readers will find 30 to 50 new postings a day offering services of prostitution — and that's just for one city in North Dakota. And while we may think the prostitution business may be thriving only in and around the Oil Patch, it covers the entire state.
And with the huge influence of the multi-billion dollar pornography industry on the Internet, the U.S. trafficking industry has grown to $9.8 billion.
Why should we be surprised that the high demand for these young girls would result in the highly competitive, illegal, solicit-at-any-cost practice of acquiring a stable of captives? And they are captives.
Federal law criminalizes human trafficking, and in 2009, North Dakota added language to the North Dakota Century Code. But since then, the prevalence of sex trafficking has increased — and we need to respond.
The North Dakota Family Alliance is partnering with the newly formed Voice for the Captives and other Christian groups to fight this inhuman atrocity.
Trafficking involves force, fraud, coercion, enticement, harboring, transporting and promotion of these held captives. It is a dark industry affecting the most vulnerable among us.
Small-time pimps dominate the trafficking industry, and it is important to be able to identify who they are. It may be that smooth-talking young man who shows up in the community one day. It may be a friend or even a family member.
A 15-year old girl working as a waitress is promised 10 times her wages and tips; and in the beginning, it all seems innocent enough. But before she knows it, she is full of guilt and shame and is beholden emotionally, financially and sometimes even physically.
It seems impossible to break free. It seems as if there is nowhere to turn. Ironically, her only security seems to rest in the person holding her captive.
We need to step up. We need to be that security that restores the hope.
What can we do?
• First, we need to raise the level of awareness, then train teachers, law enforcement, counselors, parents, church staff and children how to recognize the tactics of the trafficker. We need to prevent trafficking.
• Next we need to rescue those held in captivity. We need to provide a safe transition out of their bondage, addressing their needs emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually.
Some of this may need legislative action, but much can be addressed by our churches and civic organizations.
• Last but not least, we need to prosecute those guilty of these barbaric actions. We need to provide law enforcement with the resources to identify the traffickers and bring them to justice.
The North Dakota Family Alliance and other coalition members including Voice for the Captives will meet with the state superintendent of public instruction to discuss informing parents and students. We'll also meet with the North Dakota attorney general regarding enforcement.
For more information or the chance to get involved, readers are welcome to contact Voice for the Captives at (701) 237-9651 or the North Dakota Family Alliance at (701) 364-0676.
Freier is executive director of the North Dakota Family Alliance.
Male survivors of sexual assault break silence, combat stigma
Recent cases like Maine West hazing allegations show a shift in attitudes about bringing the crime into the light
by Naomi Nix
Gabe Wright stood rooted in one spot near a North Carolina lake wondering what to do. Earlier that night, he had been fishing when three guys he didn't know chatted him up about racing and their girlfriends. Then, he says, they raped him at gunpoint.
He thought about telling someone, but he feared the questions. What were you doing fishing late at night? Were you drinking? Did you try to fight them off?
"Would they believe me?" he wondered.
Deciding whether to talk about sexual violence is often fraught with internal conflict, as people fear the reactions of friends and families and grapple with insecurities about the abuse. Male victims in particular, experts say, feel pressure to keep silent.
But in the wake of high-profile abuse cases, such as the allegations of hazing at Maine West High School, Jerry Sandusky's conviction on child molestation charges and the long-unfolding Catholic Church scandal, a cultural shift is happening, experts say. From appearing on talk shows to writing blogs and books and going to support groups, male survivors of sexual assault are finding ways to share their stories.
In May, Anthony Collaro spoke publicly about alleged sexual abuse at the hands of his former baseball coach at Concordia University, after he filed a lawsuit against the university and the coach. His lawyer, Antonio Romanucci, said Collaro was inspired to come forward after seeing current and former Maine West students near his age take similar steps. The Maine West incident is still being litigated.
"Maine West has been a protagonist," said Romanucci, who is also representing students in the Maine West lawsuit. "People are realizing that it's not a crime for the victim to come forward and talk about what happened to them."
As stories like these continue to get attention, survivors say they will make it easier for others to get the help and justice they seek.
"There is a growing sign that this is what's going to change the face of sexual violence, whether it is child sexual assault or adult crimes," said David Lisak, a founding board member of 1in6, a nonprofit serving male sexual assault victims. "As more victims come forward, they will change how we deal with sexual violence."
The nonprofit's name is derived from a 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says 1 in 6 men in the sample group had been sexually abused before they turned 18.
But experts say sexual abuse is often perceived as a women's issue. Rape crisis programming is often housed in women's centers on college campuses. Rape prevention awareness campaigns often represent women as potential victims or men as potential aggressors. Last year, the FBI expanded its 83-year-old definition of rape to include male victims and other forms of sexual assault.
"Male survivors are not what people think of when they think of rape victims," said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates, a rape crisis center in Chicago.
Sometimes male survivors feel they should have been able to defend themselves. And straight men may worry that they will be perceived as gay because they were forced to have sex with a man.
"All of these are complete misconceptions, but they are widely believed," Lisak said. "It becomes a powerful mechanism for silencing these young boys because they are terrified that that's how they will be looked at."
Gabe Wright didn't tell anyone about the assault until around 2003, about six years later. Instead, he turned to alcohol and sex to cope.
"I pretty much had to take back what I felt like I lost as a man," he said.
Though Wright eventually found support from his friends, he still felt alone. That started to change when he became a master's student at Northern Illinois University, studying crime and sexual assault.
Wright got involved with the student-led group Men Against Sexual Interpersonal Violence, and about 2005, he shared his experience at the university's Take Back The Night event.
As the years went by, his college activities snowballed into other anti-violence initiatives, and he began talking about his experience at events across the country.
"Meeting people just like me, that became therapy for me," said Wright, who is hoping to start a nonprofit that would engage allies for male survivors.
There are signs that more attention is being paid to male sexual assault victims, giving more men opportunities to talk about their experiences. Many point to a two-part "Oprah" show from 2010, when 200 male survivors of sexual abuse were featured holding photos of themselves at the age they were abused.
"For male survivors from around the country (the show) was a major opening, acknowledging that there are a lot of us, and we're all over the country," said Lisak, who started a Web-based project this year featuring the stories of men who have been sexually abused.
For the last few years, Rape Victim Advocates has been conducting men-only round tables each April, for survivors to share their experiences with one another.
Survivors say that as more stories are shared in these emerging outlets, others will find it easier to get help.
Consider the story of Patrick Dati and Dawn Smith.
About two years ago, Smith was looking for ways to help her preteen son, who recently had tried to commit suicide after suffering years of sexual abuse, she said.
She stumbled across Dati's website, where he shared his story of being raped by serial killer John Wayne Gacy when he was 9 years old.
The two began to talk, and last spring Smith said her son reached a turning point when he heard Dati talk on a radio show about his transformation from a suicidal young man to anti-violence activist.
"You could just see the expression on his face like maybe there is hope," Smith said.
Smith said her son's emotional health has come a long way. He has even begun to do his own activist work, appearing on a couple radio shows and talking with New York legislators about the physical and sexual abuse of children.
"I am hoping that the things he's doing will help other kids so they can get help sooner," Smith said. "I am hoping it will be like a small window of hope for some of these kids who are stuck in a really bad situation."
Visalia child sexual abuse victim stays silent no more
Three years have passed since her grandfather was convicted of molesting her and her cousin.
Now, as an 18-year-old college student, Alexis Gonzalez of Visalia said she feels empowered to speak out about the taboo subject — child sexual abuse.
“If someone had talked about it when I was younger, I would have opened up sooner,” she said. “Communication is the key.”
Her grandfather, Luis Aldana Gonzalez, was convicted of sexually molesting two of his granddaughters, who were 8 and 11 when the abuse began. He is serving 13 consecutive sentences — 195 years to life in prison.
Alexis and her cousin were not the only victims. At her grandfather's trial, one of his own daughters testified that he molested her when she was a girl.
“It was a family cycle that nobody talked about,” Alexis said.
Some secrets should be told, said Billie Shawl, coordinator for the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council. She helped bring the Lisa Project, a mobile exhibit about child abuse, to Visalia twice.
One in six boys and one in four girls will be sexually molested before they are 18, she said.
“It's not their fault,” she said. “Sexual abuse is trauma, it changes kids.”
She said Alexis is courageous for speaking out.
“We need to give people opportunities to heal from that,” she said. “Sexual abuse is getting a lot of attention because it was kept under wraps for so long.”
Most victims know their molesters well. In about 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases, the predator is a cousin, a brother, a father, uncle or grandfather.
“It plays havoc on families,” Shawl said. “They tend to pick sides. It's very divisive.”
Alexis' mother, Nilsa Gonzalez, 36, advises other parents to be aware of signs and to not feel automatically secure because it's a family gathering. Sexual predators groom the child from a young age and teach them its OK to act that way.
“As parents, we should not be so trusting,” she said.
After years of therapy and support from her immediate family, Alexis sat down with a Times-Delta/Advance-Register reporter in order to get the word out that even though sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic, it should still be discussed.
“It should be uncomfortable to talk about it, but it should still be talked about,” she said. “Otherwise secrets would be kept forever.”
She was a shy 8-year-old girl when the abuse started. It happened during large family gatherings at her paternal grandparents' house in Ivanhoe.
“We were always at their house,” she said.
Her grandfather led her upstairs to a spare bedroom. She remembers hearing music and laughter below. He fondled her and told her it was a tickling, like a game, according to court records.
Afterward she went downstairs and glued herself to her mother's hip, she recalled.
“What's wrong?” her mother asked her.
The scared 8-year-old girl only shook her head.
“I didn't know how, but it could have stopped,” Alexis said. “My mom is like a mama bear. She doesn't take it from anyone.”
But Alexis kept quiet. Her grandfather was well-liked. He was religious. No one would believe her, she said.
The sexual abuse became routine and moved into intercourse. It happened a few times a week for one year.
“It was expected,” she said. “If I was there it was going to happen.”
Afterward she would go downstairs and pretend nothing happened. Her grandfather acted like everything was fine, she said.
“It was all pretend all the time,” she said.
After a while, she blocked it out in her mind.
“I took myself away from the moment in my mind,” she said.
She said she was waiting for someone to save her.
“OK, is anyone going to hear this time?” she thought to herself, she said. “Will anyone go upstairs this time?”
At home, she started writing in journals to get her feelings out. She said she felt worthless, dirty and abused.
“I didn't know how to express myself and that was the way,” she said. “I was always kind of a writer.”
Her parents found out
When Alexis was a freshman in high school, Nilsa Gonzalez found her daughter's earlier journal and read it. Nilsa called her husband, Israel Gonzalez, and the two of them took Alexis out of school to talk about it.
Alexis saw her journal in plain sight and realized they knew she was molested.
“I started crying,” Alexis said.
Her parents told her they needed to know who it was who molested her so they could keep her safe, Nilsa said. Her husband started naming her uncles. When he said her grandfather's name, his own father, Alexis nodded.
It was devastating, Nilsa said.
“We felt like we didn't protect her,” she said. “We failed basically. It was really, really hard.”
The first thing they did was find Alexis a therapist so she could learn how to deal with it. At first, Alexis wouldn't say a word during therapy, she said.
“I wouldn't talk,” she said. “You can't make me budge.”
So her therapist sat in silence with her for her 45-minute weekly sessions. After three months, Alexis opened up. She continues therapy today once every two weeks.
“It's constant healing,” Alexis said.
Triggers such as cold hands or the touch of a gate can send her into a panic attack, she said. She ran away from home several times, but only for a few hours at a time until someone found her, she said.
“My parents were strong for me when I wasn't able to be strong for myself,” she said.
And she threatened suicide. A psychiatrist diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
When another niece confided in them that the grandfather was molesting her, she reported what she knew to the Sheriff's Department, Nilsa said.
“This is too much,” she said. “I need to report it.”
The case went to trial in early 2010. Both sides of her family filled the courtroom. Her father's side of the family had looks on their faces like they couldn't believe she was doing this, as if to say, “How dare you accuse him?” she said.
Alexis' journal was read in court and she had to testify, as well as her parents. Alexis said she already felt uncomfortable and embarrassed, but on the witness stand she had to say the words and not just point to parts of her body.
“It was very embarrassing for me,” she said.
The legal system
During the trial, her grandfather showed no remorse, Alexis said. When the verdict was read, he looked tired and old, which is how she felt growing up, she said.
“I feel like I didn't have a childhood,” she said.
She doesn't feel embarrassed by it anymore, she said. As far as her grandfather is concerned, she said the abuse is something he was molded into or taught.
“He needs help,” she said. “[Now] he's not able to hurt anyone else.”
Speaking out about sexual abuse is part of Alexis' transition from victim to survivor, her mother said.
She tells Alexis, “One day, you're gonna do a lot of good for a lot of people. Your time will come.”
Alexis begins her second year at College of the Sequoias in August. She is majoring in clinical psychology and would like to work on a psychiatric ward of a large hospital, she said.
Her advice for parents is to keep the door of communication open with their children. Although her parents supported her, she knows many times that is not the case with child sexual abuse victims.
“Don't disregard anything your kids say,” she said. “The worst thing you can do is not support them whether you believe them or not.”
Child sex abuse online: the people who watch it to remove it
The Internet Watch Foundation charity recruits and trains staff to analyse and report abusive images to the police
by Amelia Gentleman
Behind the locked doors in a side office at the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), half a dozen analysts are finishing lunch at their desks. Emma Thomas scrapes from a bowl the last of her tomato and pasta soup, sitting in front of her computer, where she has spent the morning watching 30 videos of child sexual abuse.
What she has seen so far has been disturbing, she says, but she adds that "every day is disturbing". At the desk behind her, a colleague prepares to spend the afternoon trawling through websites known to attract paedophiles, searching for and removing links to illegal content. As they police the internet, analysts listen to BBC Radio 6 Music. When they need a break from the relentless flow of images they are required to view, they pause and play Super Mario or ten-pin bowling on the Nintendo Wii.
Staff at the IWF have a uniquely difficult job, charged with watching, classifying and removing images of child sexual abuse from the web, working from a secure office just outside Cambridge, where police have given special dispensation for employees to search for this material.
In the past 12 months there has been a 40% rise in reports made to the IWF of potentially illegal content. Staff link the increase to a surge of public unease about the presence of this material online. Detectives investigating the sexually motivated murders of two young girls, Tia Sharp and April Jones , revealed that both murderers had accessed online images of child sex abuse before the killings. The police department responsible for internet safety, the Child Sexual Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), estimates that there are now millions of sexual abuse images in circulation on the internet.
Within the UK, responsibility for removing them has been outsourced by the big internet providers to the tiny, little-known IWF charity with a staff of fewer than 20, based in a nondescript business park. Employees are divided into two groups, those with administrative roles, and a team of eight people who have received specialist training to equip them to watch the illegal content. The two groups sit in separate rooms, and administrative staff are not allowed to enter the hotline room, where online images are assessed, until analysts have removed illegal content from their screens.
Analysts work their way through between 100 and 200 new notifications of online child sexual abuse imagery every day, sent in by the police, or the public, who can make anonymised reports about illegal content via the charity's website. Employees will not use the word pornography in this context, because they believe it does not "accurately reflect the gravity of images" they deal with.
Web analysts have to enter the website address and study the content to assess whether the images or film contain inappropriate shots of children; then they have to grade the severity of the material, according to UK sentencing guidelines, on a scale of one to five (from one, erotic posing with no sexual activity, to five, sadism).
If the image is classified as illegal, and is hosted in the UK, the analyst will alert the police at Ceop and contact the server to request that it is removed. Usually this can be done within an hour.
In 1996, the UK hosted about 18% of child sexual abuse images globally; since 2003, that figure has dropped below 1%, largely thanks to the work of the IWF. If the image is hosted on a server in another country, staff contact partner helplines in that country, and pass on the request for the page to be removed. Twice a day, the charity sends companies such as Google and BT updated lists of sites which show illegal content, and they block them.
Working for the IWF is stressful, and staff are given mandatory monthly counselling sessions and quarterly group counselling to help minimise the scarring effects of spending all day looking at images of children being abused. Before they are employed, they go through a rigorous selection process, which uses specialist interviewing techniques (Warner interviews) to ensure that unsuitable applicants are not employed.
Potential recruits are shown images of child abuse, of gradually increasing severity, to establish how they respond, and are given time to decide whether to accept the post. Some decide, after discussion with close family members, that it is not something they can pursue. Recently an ex-army officer, who had seen extensive service in Iraq, decided not to accept a job as a monitor.
Peter Burness spent four years as a computer games tester ("It got very monotonous," he says) before joining the charity this year. "They tell you what it will entail. I am quite a calm person," he says, but he was nevertheless shocked by the images he saw during his interview process. "One of the main reasons was how happy the children looked. It was very strange."
The charity's work is mainly funded by internet service providers, and it acts as a self-regulatory body. Recently, after criticism over the relatively small donation made by Google, the company announced a £1m donation, to be spread over the next four years, allowing the IWF to employ another five analysts.
Although IT expertise helps, no particular qualifications are needed. Currently the charity employs an ex-chef, a former IT trainer, someone who was a complementary therapist and an ex-mobile phone salesperson.
"It's about personal qualities," explains Chris Barker, the hotline manager, in charge of eight members of staff who come in for two seven-and-a-half-hour shifts, and responsible for making sure they are managing to handle the strain.
"There are different techniques for coping. For myself, I concentrate on assessing the images from a legal perspective, and on the fact that I am working on getting it removed – I view that as the motivation for what I'm doing," he says. Most of his team take a daily 20-minute walk by the lake just beyond the business park at lunchtime to switch off from their work.
They try to limit their own exposure to the material to the bare minimum. "We try not to watch the video in its entirety; where possible, we just scroll through frame by frame. Unless there's a particular reason to listen, we don't put the headphones on. You would only listen if you were searching for clues – maybe a regional accent that could help Ceop locate the abuser."
Staff also do victim identification work. Many of the images that are reported are historical, and are pictures that they have seen repeatedly, rehosted on different sites, but when they come across previously unseen images, they search for clues about where they may have been filmed – looking at the language of the books on the shelves, the style of the plug socket, the shop fronts that may be visible through the window, the logos on the school uniform.
Occasionally they are able to give Ceop enough information for them to identify the victim, ensure that the child is protected and make an arrest.
Barker has been working here for more than a year, but still occasionally finds the material he encounters profoundly shocking.
"It might be that you see something that is particularly violent or where there is a particularly young victim – a baby or a newborn. The next time you see an image like that you are better able to assimilate it. The first time you see an image you are thinking about the victim, what's going on in their lives, in their families. It is true to say that you build up resilience – if you were shocked every time you see an image that would be hard. But when you become an analyst, you are making an assessment – is this a level one image? How many victims are there? What gender and race are they?" he says.
He compares himself to a member of a fire or ambulance crew. "You show up and you see something quite horrific, but you are there to do a job, you are not thinking 'that poor person, lying on the road', you are thinking, 'I need a tourniquet, blood.'"
People often fail to understand the very specific remit of the IWF – which is responsible only for identifying and removing images of child sexual abuse (including non-photographic, computer-generated images of abuse) and a much smaller quantity of criminally obscene adult content – and send very violent bits of footage instead, hoping that the charity can help to remove it.
"I've seen things that have distressed me in the past year. It might be a beheading or something graphically violent. People report a broad range of material; your mind is perhaps not prepared for it. That can throw you a little bit," Barker says. "I do occasionally still see an image that upsets me."
Last week someone reported an image of a man who put his camera on a tripod, picked up a shovel, and in view of the camera, beat a dog to death. "I thought about that dog when I got home. Your mind will force you to deal with that," he says. The content of the video, however, was not something that the IWF is set up to deal with.
He was reduced to tears recently by a woman beating a baby (another video beyond the charity's remit, since there was no sexual abuse). "That really upset me. Now I've seen it lots of times. It doesn't register any more," he says.
"It certainly changes your perspective on life. My background was in IT training – I had no preparation for this. I genuinely cannot believe, having seen the things I've seen that humans can do that to other people, particularly to children. Most people don't have that in their consciousness. Hearing about it on the news is different from seeing it. Hurting a newborn – it is beyond comprehension. These thoughts were not on my radar before," he says. "The rewards are that we are getting this kind of material removed from the web."
Staff who work here are not modern Mary Whitehouse figures with an agenda to censor adult content. On the contrary, the interview process has to ensure that new employees have no strong feelings about pornography on the web in general.
"I wouldn't recruit anyone who had a Mary Whitehouse attitude," Barker says. "If you are so opposed to pornography on the web, you wouldn't put yourself in a position where you'd be looking at porn all day long. We need people to make balanced judgments. That would be hard if you were of the mindset that pornography should not be allowed on the web."
The charity works to target known consumers of pornography, because these are the people most likely to "stumble" across illegal content, and able to report it. Stumble is the charity's preferred word, because it is neutral. "No one can ever really know what an individual was looking for when they report content. Stumble is a helpful word because it is not accusatory," Barker says. They are anxious to target young men, because this is the group most likely to be exploring areas of the internet, and legal adult pornography, that could lead them to child sexual abuse.
"They are the ones we want to get the message out to. They look at pornography. They are vulnerable to something that perhaps they never expected to find. They need to do the right thing and report it," says Emma Lowther, the charity's director of communications. "We don't want to make that group of people feel that they are doing something wrong. We have no opinion whatsoever on legal pornography." About 80% of people make anonymous reports, but a few leave their details and want to be informed that positive action has been taken to remove the images.
Only about a quarter of the content they remove is classified as commercial – posted online in order to generate money for the people who uploaded it, and hidden behind paywalls that demand credit card details before access is granted. The rest is placed there by individuals who want to share their collection of photographs in much the same way, Lowther says, that a Ferrari enthusiast shares a collection of car images.
Websites used by paedophiles circulate codewords which included jumbled numbers and letters to help people access the sites; the IWF also sends out a daily list of these passwords to internet service providers to help them alter the search results. The charity does not investigate the people who post the images, because its remit is simply to remove the pictures.
About 70% of the content that the IWF processes involves children under the age of 10, but staff are encountering a growing quantity of self-generated footage made by teenagers using cameras on their mobiles, and uploading it to the web – a process known as sexting.
Research last year found 12,224 images and videos which were self-generated, 88% of which had been removed from their original sites and put in a collection of similar content – folders made up of 15-year-old girls topless, for example.
Despite the proliferation of this kind of material, it is much harder for staff to take action because they can only request that a page be removed if they can be sure that the image is of a child under 18 (indecent images of anyone under 18 are a criminal offence), and often that is hard to judge definitively.
Sarah Smith, a technical researcher who works for the hotline, analysing the content of the material, researching trends within child abuse content, says she could not imagine a job she would rather have. "I love my job. It is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Most people here say that," she says.
She finds the quantity of abuse carried out by parents disturbing. "I thought I would be upset when I first saw the images. I was shocked, but not upset. The physical abuse is bad enough but the incredible abuse of trust is what I found most shocking. Most of the content is inter-familial. The conversation on the video will let you know; the child will say 'Should I do that, dad?' It helps when we know that a child has been rescued."
When she finds the nature of her job draining, she goes home and plays the violin. "I don't play well, but I find it relaxing; you have to clear everything out of your head," she says.
Surviving domestic violence; the road to recovery
(Editor's note: This is the first of a four part series on survivors of domestic violence.)
by Rachel Baldwin
“I couldn't breathe; his hands were around my throat. I felt myself drifting into unconsciousness and I remember all too well the last thought that went through my mind…who will stand as a buffer between my husband and my two sons after I'm dead?” said Colleen Wiley, a survivor of domestic violence who spoke to the Daily News about the years of physical abuse she endured at the hands of her ex-husband and of the long road to recovery that is truly, a never ending one.
“I so often recall the first time he ever struck me,” she said. “I was only 17 when I married him. I know now that I married him to get away from home, from a father who acted as if I was more of a burden than I was loved. I felt lost in that house…like I wasn't wanted or didn't belong. I was searching – searching for someone to love me the way I craved to be loved. I thought I found that with my ex-husband, and was too young and naïve to know the difference. In my mind, I thought my life would be wonderful. Although it began that way, it soon changed.”
“I was 19 when my first son was born,” stated Colleen. “He was premature and had a bad case of the colic. He cried 24/7. It put strain on our marriage, but he didn't help me take care of the baby at all. He became angry, yelling at me to shut the baby up. I tried everything, but nothing worked. My ex would go into the bedroom, turn the stereo on and lock the door while I walked the floor until I was ready to drop. Early one morning, I woke him up around 5 a.m. and begged him to take care of the baby for just a couple of hours so I could get some sleep…I was dead on my feet. Instead of the help I begged for, I was backhanded across the face and knocked into a wall.”
Colleen's story is sadly not unusual, but has been told over and over again by women across the nation and across the world. Although the circumstances may vary, they are in part, all the same.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, an average of three women a day lose their life every day at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. Every 5 minutes, a woman is injured by someone she loves or had loved. Many cases are reported to law enforcement while even more go unreported for fear of repercussion for their actions. They live in fear of losing their children or their homes. The men who abuse them mentally as well as physically and make them feel useless, defenseless, and they are fearful of being killed. They think they have no choice but to take whatever punishment he decides to dish-out. They see no light at the end of the tunnel. Some fool themselves in thinking that the abuse won't get any worse and sadly, most are wrong. The beatings increase in frequency and in intensity until they endure injuries that leave them with life-changing impairments and physical handicaps or worse, they lose their lives.
Colleen stated that after she was struck the first time, she was shocked beyond belief but received a bigger blow to her heart when she went to her parent's home to ask for help.
“When everyone else is against you, you're always supposed to be able to go home…count on your parents and family to support and help you. That didn't happen for me. I was crying my eyes out when I walked through their door. My dad was sitting in his chair in the living room and asked me what in the world was I blubbering about. I managed to speak enough words through the tears for him to understand what I was saying and instead of being enraged at the thought of someone harming his daughter, he told me I needed to get myself home - beg my husband for forgiveness and figure out what I had done wrong to deserve being hit and to never do it again,” said the victim. “I had never felt more alone or rejected in my whole, entire life. I felt numb. I got back in my car, went home, and apologized. I went from being the victim to feeling as though the whole situation was my fault.”
Through the years, which brought the birth of a second son, the violence continued. Sometimes months would pass with no physical contact and right when Colleen would begin to feel like she could relax and breathe, something would anger her ex and he would take it out on her.
“I can remember his parent's covering for him, telling our neighbors that I was clumsy…that I tripped on the cat coming through the door and struck my face. The excuses they came up with were believable, especially since they had reputations in the community as being church-going, upstanding people,” she said. “I know I should have left but every time I made plans to leave, I would have to step in-between he and my boys to keep him from beating them. I knew in my heart he would get visitation and I wouldn't be there to protect them. I was working, but I didn't make much. He parents had a lot of money and I knew they would hire him a ruthless divorce attorney to fight for full custody. I felt stuck.”
The 11-year marriage came to a screeching halt on a cool, spring day in 1994 when her enraged husband began yet another round of abuse so severe that Colleen suffered extensive, life-threatening injuries including a skull fracture that caused her to spend 18 days in a local hospital, 7 of those being in the intensive care unit. She feels confident in saying that had her 8 year old son not sneked and called the police, she would have been killed. True justice did not prevail, however. When “small-town” politics became involved and favors was called in, her husband was released from custody the next morning and never spent another night inside a jail cell.
After recovering from her multiple injuries, Colleen made a promise to herself to move forward. She realized after therapy and counseling that she had never deserved one day of the abuse she suffered over the years she was married to her ex, nor would she tolerate it in the future. She rented a home, got primary custody of her sons and worked 2 and 3 jobs at a time to support herself and her children.
“We never again had a fine home, or a new automobile and sometimes I had to get really creative to come up with a good meal out of the meager groceries in our pantry, but we were safe and that's what mattered,” explained Colleen. “The aggravation continued but I was able to retain EPO's against him and eventually he remarried and moved away. That was truly the happiest day of my life.”
Her ex slowly cut contact between himself and his sons and has not seen either of them more than 4-5 times in the last 6 years. The children have now became adults with children of their own, and have both remarked that they would never do to a woman what their father did to their mom.
During the wedding of her eldest son that was attended by her ex, Colleen remarked that when she made eye contact with him for the first time in my years, the first thought that crossed her mind was, “If I had killed you, I would be out by now.”
Time has healed most of Colleen's wounds, and she is now remarried to a man she describes as “the love of her life”, who shows her everyday what it's truly liked to be loved and considers herself blessed beyond measure to have him.
“There is a life out there and there is help for any woman who is in an abusive relationship,” said Colleen. “You don't have to stay, you deserve far better than that. I encourage anyone that is being abused to take the first step to a better life. The first one is always the hardest to take but it gets easier and easier as time goes on. It won't be a bed of roses and there will be days when you question every action you take but if you just hold on a little longer, I promise it will all be worth it in the end.”
“There's no price-tag that can ever be put on peace of mind and knowing that you're safe.”
Working to Stop the State from Releasing Violent Mentally Ill Serial Rapist to Los Angeles County
Hospital Medical Director, Psychologist & Attorney Say He's Not A Public Safety Risk Because He'll Have To Wear An Electronic Monitoring Ankle Bracelet
by LA County Supervisor Micael D. Antonovich
A Superior County judge has announced that Christopher Evans Hubbart, a violent sex predator believed to have raped as many as 50 women over 20 years, will be released to Los Angeles County.
“Based on his criminal history, the state's planned release of this predator into our communities will create a very serious public safety threat,” said Supervisor Antonovich. “Obviously, the prison sentence for this criminal failed to match his crimes – a predator of this nature deserves life without parole.”
In 1982, Hubbard was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being convicted of rape with force, oral copulation and five counts of burglary in Santa Clara County. In 1983, he was convicted of a 1972 rape in Los Angeles County and sentenced to nine years, which he served concurrently. In 1973, was served seven years in a state mental hospital.
Four months after paroled in April, 1990, Hubbart was convicted of a new crime and sentenced to five years in prison for falsely imprisoning a woman.
Paroled again in 1993, his parole agent decided to return him to custody after two months based upon his mental condition.
“How does an ankle bracelet prevent rape? It doesn't,” said Supervisor Antonovich. “It doesn't incapacitate them or prevent one from committing crimes.”
According to a recent Los Angeles Times story on the failure of ankle bracelets (Parolee GPS ankle monitors: Major flaws found in vendor's system, March 31, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/mar/31/local/la-me-ln-major-flaws-found-in-parolee-gps-monitoring-devices-20130331).
“Officials found that batteries died early, cases cracked and reported locations were off by as much as three miles. They also found that tampering alerts failed and offenders were able to disappear by covering the devices with foil, deploying illegal GPS jammers or ducking into cars or buildings.”
“Adding another serial rapist to our streets on top of the thousands of felons the state has already dumped on our counties' probation departments and our overcrowded county jails is a recipe for disaster,” Antonovich added.
As of June 28, 43,000 prisoners are now serving time in local jails instead of state prisons, of which 14,337 were sentenced to Los Angeles County jails. Some are serving 8 to 40 year sentences in facilities built to house inmates for up to one year. Of the 16,162 state parolees dumped in Los Angeles County for probation supervision, there have been 17,082 new arrests – due to multiple rearrests.
“The Governor has the ability to immediately expand existing contracts with in and out-of-state detention facilities in order to stop the increased crime in California which began after the Governor's shift of state felons from state parole to county probation and state prisons to county jails,” said Supervisor Antonovich. “The 58 counties will be severely impacted – operationally and fiscally – if the Governor does not use available cost-effective solutions that also protect public safety.”
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich
500 West Temple Street, Room 869, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 974-5555 | Fax: (213) 974-1010
Recent child abuse volunteer initiate arrested for touching toddler
by Andrew Carr
A recently appointed Cumberland County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program volunteer was arrested for allegedly inappropriately touching a toddler in York County last week.
Robert R. Alfrey, 69, of Lewisberry, was charged with felony corruption of minors, misdemeanor indecent assault without consent of others, misdemeanor indecent assault of persons less than 13 years of age, summary harassment and summary disorderly conduct on July 8 in Etters.
Newberry Police said Alfrey followed a 2-year-old and her mom around Walmart and repeatedly assaulted the young girl while her mother had her back turned.
Police said he assaulted the toddler as he exited the store and the girl was sitting in a shopping cart. Her mother was several feet away.
“The parent did absolutely nothing wrong,” Newberry Township Police Chief John Snyder told the York Dispatch. “Her back was turned for just a brief minute.”
Alfrey then allegedly re-entered the store, followed the mother and daughter around, and inappropriately touched the child, again. A nearby patron saw him and verbally confronted him about it. Police say the assault then stopped and Alfrey left.
The York Dispatch reports that the child's mother then followed Alfrey as he “briskly walked” to his car and drove off. She was able to give officers his license-plate number. Police later located him and took him into custody without incident.
According to police, the entire incident was caught on the store's surveillance cameras.
Alfrey was held in York County Prison on $50,000 bail, which was posted the same day. A preliminary hearing is the case is scheduled for July 31 before Magisterial District Judge Scott Gross.
The Sentinel previously reported that he, along with his wife and three others, was appointed as a CASA volunteer in Cumberland County in April.
CASA volunteers assist the courts in determining the best course of action to improve the life a child dealing with neglect and/or abuse by supporting 330 children who have been deemed to be dependent, without proper parental care and control, by the Court of Common Pleas.
CASA program director Anita Brewster said they were aware of the recent charges and Alfrey's participation in the group has been suspended pending the outcome of the case.
Brewster confirmed Alfrey was sworn in as a volunteer during the spring class, but had not yet been assigned to any children.
She said Alfrey went through the rigorous screening process that all CASA volunteers do, including an “extensive eight-page application, an in-depth background check, an extensive interview and 40 hours of training.”
Brewster said the group runs three background checks including the police background check, Childline, and Livescan, on all prospective volunteers, and Alfrey met every requirement to become a volunteer and “if he hadn't he would not have been sworn in.”
“We followed the standards for national CASA as well as any county guidelines there are, and I am happy to say that we feel that we have been very thorough with every potential CASA who comes through,” she said.
Alfrey's attorney Christopher Ferro did not return a call for comment.
Childhood abuse raises drug users' suicide risk
For health professionals, the message from a new study in the American Journal of Public Health is clear: Asking patients about a history of childhood abuse can directly help assess their risk of attempting suicide. The evidence, authors say, shows that childhood abuse can have life-and-death consequences for the rest of a person's life.
The longitudinal study of more than 1,600 drug users in Vancouver, Canada, found that "severe-to-extreme" abuse – particularly emotional or sexual – contributed significantly to the risk of future suicide attempts, even after accounting for a wide variety of other suicide-related factors. Less severe abuse, and physical or emotional neglect no matter the degree, did not contribute significantly to suicide risk.
"This study show that all of forms of childhood abuse, be it emotional, physical, or sexual, are important risk factors for suicide to various degrees," said study lead author Brandon Marshall, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health. Marshall began the work while a doctoral student at University of British Columbia and continued it as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Care providers and health professionals should screen for these types of abuse and intervene whenever they see a situation of severe abuse, regardless of what type it was."
To assess each subject's history of childhood abuse and neglect, the researchers used the well-validated Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) that produces a distinct score for each of five trauma categories (sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and physical and emotional neglect). When each participant entered the study, the researchers were able to quantify each participants' self-reported degree of childhood trauma.
The study was part of two larger National Institute of Drug Abuse-funded studies led by UBC researchers—the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study and the AIDS Care Cohort to Evaluate Exposure to Survival Services. Staff including trained nurses followed up with participants every six months during the study period. Among the questions was whether the subject had attempted suicide.
Over the course of the study 80 participants reported 97 suicide attempts. While that may seem like a low number out of more than 1,600 people, it is a rate of suicide attempts about five times greater than in the general population.
"I didn't think there'd be enough power to show these relationships but there was and I think that demonstrates how detrimental childhood trauma can be," Marshall said. "We saw extremely strong associations, which suggest that abuse has lasting mental health impacts well into adulthood."
The researchers accounted in their analysis for many other factors that also predict suicide risk, such as depression, prior suicidal ideation or homelessness. They made several specific findings specific to abuse and its degree:
Only "severe-to-extreme" abuse (a CTQ score above 15) resulted in a significantly elevated risk of suicide attempts – 2.9 times for emotional abuse, 2.8 times for sexual and 1.6 for physical—compared to "none-to-minimal" abuse. Among the 1,634 participants, 23 percent reported suffering "severe-to-extreme" sexual abuse, 25 percent suffered that degree of physical abuse, and 32 percent endured that degree of emotional abuse. Nearly 200 participants were "lost to follow-up," in some cases possibly because of a completed suicide. A statistical method that accounts for participants who dropped out raised the suicide risk from emotional abuse to 3.5 times, and physical abuse to 2.0 times. The risk from sexual abuse dropped slightly in that analysis to 2.5 times.
The best long-term public health strategy to reduce suicides would be to prevent child abuse in the first place, Marshall said, but his hope is that health providers can still make an impact through secondary prevention—identifying victims of such abuse and providing treatment meant to mitigate their elevated suicide risk.
The data also shed light on the resilience of the human spirit and the tragic limits of that resilience.
"There might be a level of resiliency in people who have experienced more minor forms of abuse, but very severe cases were linked with multiple suicide attempts," Marshall said. "These results will allow us to focus future intervention efforts."
Ways to prevent child abuse
by Kristen Barbaresi, MMJ
LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)—Last year there were about 1700 child abuse reports filed in La Crosse County.
According to Jeanne Meyer, the coordinator for Stepping Stones at the Family and Children's center, only about one-third of child abuse cases are reported.
Stepping Stones provides help to victims of abuse but they also work to prevent child abuse. There are many resources for parents who may be feeling overwhelmed or struggling to control anger.
Meyer's says you can start by calling 2-1-1. It's free, confidential and can refer you to the support you need, whether it's parenting concerns, addiction or you need food or shelter. It's also a 24-hour crisis line. Meyer says it's important for parents to feel like they can call and know they will get assistance without judgment.
"Human Services, our agency, other agencies, to help prevent things before they get out of hand and we're not there to judge or to make any sort of assessments," Meyer said. "We really want to help people, talk to them, send them resources, get them connected, so that, everybody struggles and we want to help them so it doesn't escalate."
Meyer says a variety of things can lead to anger and stress that can result in child abuse, like financial struggles, addiction or simply being a new parent.
On child abuse, the police still aren't doing their best for victims
Despite reports and soul-searching following the Jimmy Savile scandal, vulnerable victims are not being well served
by Simon Hattenstone and Eric Allison
In the wake of the Rochdale and Jimmy Savile scandals, the Crown Prosecution Service announced it had to change its approach to people who claimed they had been sexually abused as children. Last month new guidelines were issued, stating that vulnerability could not be a barrier to justice for abused children.
Back in March the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said "the pendulum had swung too much against the child", and that police and prosecutors should not discard accounts of abuse because the alleged victims were unreliable or had criminal records, or had drink or drug problems. After all, these factors made them more vulnerable to predators, who knew their victims were unlikely to be believed.
Instead of just focusing on the victim's account, Starmer said: "We need to look equally carefully at the account the suspect is giving – look at the context, look at the pattern of behaviour, make the necessary links and think about how a case can be built." He revealed that a new panel would be formed to review old cases of sexual abuse that had not been pursued by police or prosecutors.
Sure enough, post-Savile, a number of celebrities have been charged with sex offences in recent months – and a Freedom of Information request released this month reveals that there has been a 9% increase in the number of sex-offence allegations recorded by the police in the six months since the Savile revelations in the ITV documentary Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. In June Stuart Hall was jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty to 14 cases of indecent assault, including kissing a 13-year-old girl on the lips and fondling the breast of a girl aged 16 or 17.
While critics have suggested that the CPS might have done better trying to convict Savile for serial rape in the first place rather than nail his contemporaries for lesser offences, at least Operation Yewtree (tasked withwhich is investigating sexual abuse by Savile and others) seemed to be thorough.
But then we came across a case that made us question whether other allegations were being investigated as assiduously as more high-profile ones.
In April last year we reported on the shocking case of prison officer Neville Husband, one of the most prolific sex abusers this country has seen. For 16 years in the 1970s and 1980s, Husband abused boys on a daily basis at Medomsley detention centre, near Durham, where he was in charge of the kitchens. His victims were thought to number hundreds, possibly thousands.
Husband was medically retired in 1990 and awarded the Imperial Service Medal. In 2003 he was finally convicted of sexually abusing five young male inmates between 1974 and 1984. In 2005 his sentence was increased to 10 years after new victims came forward and he admitted to attacks on four more boys. He was released from prison in 2009 after serving just over half his sentence. A year later, he died of natural causes.
We knew Husband had not always acted alone. In 1985 police raided Medomsley and arrested Husband's friend Leslie Johnson, a storeman at the detention centre. Johnson was later convicted of abusing a young inmate, Mark Park, who, he said, had been "given to him" by Husband. One victim we interviewed, Kevin Young, said he was taken to Husband's house where he was "blindfolded, ligatured and made to lie on the stairs. Then three or four others raped me as well."
We also knew Husband had taken boys to a local amateur dramatic society he belonged to and we believed they were abused there. But we could not stand that part of the story up, so we stayed with what we could prove.
Following publication of our piece, a former detainee at Medomsley, Chris (not his real name), contacted us and said he was abused by Husband many times in 1983. He said he was also taken by Husband, on several occasions, to a local village hall, where he was raped by a male member of the drama group who made no attempt to conceal his appearance.
When we showed Chris a picture gallery of players from the drama group, he immediately recognised his alleged abuser. Chris was interviewed at length by Durham police last November. The man he identified was arrested. He denied the allegations. The police told Chris, he says, that they intended to hold a press conference in the hope other victims would come forward, as happened in the Stuart Hall case. We told Durham police our investigation into Medomsley had revealed information we did not publish and that we were willing to pass this on to them. Chris says the police told him they intended to interview us. They did not, nor did they hold a press conference.
Chris was recently told that the CPS did not intend to prosecute the arrested man. The decision is understandable; based solely on the word of Chris, it would be dangerous to proceed to trial on such a serious matter. But it would appear that Durham constabulary has made little or no effort to trace other detainees who may have been abused at the drama group. Astonishingly, police did not even get in touch with David Greenwood, the lawyer who has represented more than 30 Medomsley victims.
Durham constabulary has history with regard to Medomsley. At least two of Husband's victims reported his abuse directly to this force, and both were ignored (one was warned about making false allegations). After our story was published, many observers called for a public inquiry into Husband's reign of terror at Medomsley. That call was rejected. The least the victims deserve is a thorough investigation into allegations that Husband passed some of these vulnerable boys around like cigarettes.
In January the Metropolitan police and the NSPCC produced a joint report in which it was revealed that post-Savile there had been a surge in child abuse allegations, both historical and current. The NSPCC's Peter Watt, who co-authored the report, Giving Victims a Voice, said: "We are optimistic that this signals a watershed moment for child protection in this country. We must seize the opportunity if we are to make a lasting change." Given Chris's experience, there is still plenty of seizing to be done.
Orkney survivor's memoir is a tale of betrayal
NOT even in their darkest thoughts could most people conjure up the horrors endured by victims of child sexual abuse.
Against all odds, Esther Willsher survived to tell the tale.
In 1987, long before the island of South Ronaldsay in Orkney became synonymous with satanic ritual, Esther's father was imprisoned for offences against his 15 children, known as the W family. He attacked them with weapons, kicked them with steel-capped boots, stuffed nettles inside their underwear and sexually abused the eight girls.
Monster doesn't come close.
With her father safely behind bars, Esther was taken into care. Just as she began to believe her life could begin at last, she was raped by a member of the home's staff. She attempted suicide then told a friend she trusted about the attack. Her friend betrayed that trust and informed social workers, who assumed her older siblings had been responsible. Eight of the W children were taken into care, separated then notoriously questioned by the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (RSSPCC).
If only Esther had told.
Four years later, on February 27, 1991, Scotland awoke to the chilling news that nine children had been removed from four other families in Orkney. Social workers claimed three of the W children had made allegations of sadistic ritual abuse in therapy sessions. Within five weeks, this case had collapsed and the children, aged between eight and 15, were returned home. Sheriff David Kelbie, who gave a ruling at a proof hearing on the allegations, said repeated cross-examination of the children – designed to coerce them into admitting abuse had taken place – left them much more at risk.
Esther said: "The head of the RSSPCC was fresh from America, where she'd studied ritual abuse. She insisted satanic abuse was everywhere. Her favourite expression was: "You just have to know what to look for."
Now 39, Esther is no longer a victim. Rather she is proud to describe herself as "normal, probably boringly normal".
She lives in the West Midlands with her partner and two sons, aged seven and three. Typically, she left the care system with no academic qualifications but she now has a BA in design and has just written a brave, angry and painful memoir, If Only I Had Told. It is a shocking account of how two evil men and a flawed system let down not just her but a whole community.
Showing a courage and determination that at times defy belief, Esther has flatly refused to allow that system to grind her down. The fact she went on to have children of her own is proof of that. However, beneath the calm surface lurks an ongoing unease. "I lost everything," she said, "my siblings, my home, my childhood, and my community was torn apart."
She wishes now she had reported the sexual abuse she suffered in care, but added: "Looking back, I think it was because I had never met an adult I could trust. I just knew I wouldn't be believed."
In fact it took Esther 20 years, including counselling and childbirth, to find the courage to speak out.
"After giving birth, I had terrible flashbacks," she recalled. "They tormented me, made me doubt my ability as a mother. It was post-natal depression. I knew that my dysfunctional background would have consequences if I had children, but I became obsessed with being a good parent.
"I imagined having a baby would give me closure, yet I was terrified I would ruin my son's life. My counsellor suggested I wrote everything down, so my book in fact started out as therapy."
Esther feels strongly about the lack of help for children in care: "There is an assumption they will fail at everything they do in life," she said. "It's a cycle of despair; you are beyond help.
"Books on parenting weren't written for people like me," she said. "I wanted to help others; show them they were not alone". As a result, Esther started her blog, survivormum.com.
Despite everything, Esther bears no ill-will towards social workers: "I don't hate them," she said. "They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. There are bad people in every profession.
"It's just that such vulnerable children depend on them for survival."
There has never been any satisfactory ending for the W family. A £6 million inquiry followed in 1992, led by Lord Clyde. His 363-page report was heavily critical of the way Orkney's social work department handled the allegations and made 194 recommendations.
The children of the W family remained in care without any explanation yet, in March 1996, the four other families accepted a full apology from the council as well as compensation. The W children have received neither. "We were treated like criminals when none of us had done anything wrong," Esther said. "And it ripped us apart."
She is gradually forgiving her mother for having turned a blind eye to her husband's violence. The dedication in her book says: "For my two boys, thank you for teaching me how to be a mother.
"And to my own mother, who realised too late what being a mother means."
A survivor indeed.
If Only I Had Told by Esther W (Ebury £6-99)
Trial starts for San Jose teacher accused of vile molestation of grade-school girls
by Eric Owens -- Education Editor
San Jose, Calif. elementary school teacher Craig Chandler is on trial right now for allegedly blindfolding second- and third-grade girls and coercing them to perform oral sex on him during recess.
The trial opened Monday, reports the San Jose Mercury News. If convicted of the five child molestation accounts against him, Chandler faces up to 75 years in the state pen.
The details of the prosecution's case are nauseating. Prosecutor Alison Filo charged that Chandler, 36, led the young girls one by one into Room 18 at O.B. Whaley Elementary School. They were blindfolded, the prosecutor said. Something was placed in their mouths. Then, Chandler allegedly told them to do things such as, “Move your tongue around.”
Filo introduced into evidence two adult chairs where some of the girls were allegedly told to sit. She said the chairs contained traces of semen in various locations. She said the semen belonged to Chandler.
There was also a videotape of one of the allegedly victimized girls. She claimed that she peeked out of her blindfold at one point and saw “hair and skin” as well as something in the general shape of a phallus, according to the Mercury News.
Chandler's defense attorney, Brian Madden, argued his client's case vigorously. He explained that Chandler did once have a sexual encounter in Room 18, but that was with an adult woman.
“It's certainly not something he's proud of,” Madden noted.
Chandler is married to another elementary schoolteacher.
“Craig Chandler has no sexual interest in children,” Madden said. “It's inconceivable that children would allow him to do what they said he did without evoking some physical or emotional reaction.”
Madden said the blindfolds had an innocent explanation as well: Chandler wanted to show the girls what it was like to live life like someone such as Helen Keller.
Madden also indicated that he will use what's known as the “McMartin defense,” so named for the 1983 McMartin daycare sexual abuse case—the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history. In that six-year Southern California criminal trial, defense attorneys successfully showed that investigators convinced preschool kids they were molested using suggestive questions.
Mom who found baby in Vallejo mini-mart restroom says she'll take him
Cameron Johnson of Ukiah said that if authorities allow it, she'd happily take custody of the baby she found in a Vallejo mini-mart restroom on Saturday.
The 37-year-old mother of three said Monday that when she entered the restroom and discovered the baby, she realized almost immediately that the 16-month-old boy had been alone for a while.
The general manager of a family fitness center and an instructor at a local community college, Johnson said the baby was "screaming and blotchy;" when she found him -- a condition that typically takes a while.
"He'd thrown his cup, and was so angry and upset, until I picked him up, and he didn't cry again," she said. "I went out to tell my husband and my son that it was going to be a while."
Vallejo Police Department officers arrived, but there was no one available from Child Protective Services to pick up the boy -- so Johnson and her children stayed with him for the next two or three hours, until police took him to the police station, she said.
"We entertained him; my kids played with him and my son wanted to take him home," Johnson said. "He's a sweetheart. Once I took him out of the stroller, he relaxed. I could tell he had been left with strangers a lot, because he was so comfortable. If that had been my kids, they would have been freaking out."
A review of surveillance video showed a white or Hispanic woman in her 20s with dark hair wheeling the boy into the ladies' room in a stroller, and emerging
alone about nine minutes later, heading on foot toward Benicia Road, police said.
The child, later identified as Charles Edward Evans, IV, was alone in the lavatory for about an hour, with crackers and other supplies left with him in a backpack.
Vallejo police arrested Joia Hukill, 21, at a residence on Wilshire Avenue in Vallejo only hours after she allegedly left her son in the 400 Lincoln Road East. She was booked into Solano County Jail for child endangerment and child abandonment, police said. She pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of child desertion, child abandonment and possession of methamphetamine -- all felonies.
Hukill also faces one count of misdemeanor child cruelty and one count of violating her probation in a separate case..
It is believed Hukill, who may also be known as Joia Benavidez, may also have a younger child named Jordan, and may have recently battled substance abuse.
The Ukiah woman's discovery of baby Charles could not have been predicted.
"We were on our way to Ikea and met up with friends there, which we do sometimes, because the bathrooms are clean, so I took my daughter to the restroom, and there was a baby in a stroller, an empty sippy cup on the floor and he was very upset," Johnson said. "I immediately looked in all the stalls, and they were empty. Then I asked around outside if he was anyone's baby and no one answered. So I got the girls behind the counter to call the police."
After the short time baby Charles was with the Ukiah family, Johnson's son wasn't the only person ready to take "Charlie" home.
"I have contacted Health and Human Services in Solano to put my name on the list for keeping him," Johnson said. "I don't think there's a mom out there who wouldn't. It's the saddest thing ever; a disgusting trait of society that we're not taking care of people with whatever problems and they're not taking care of themselves, and they're still having kids. I want to save this little boy and any other children she may have."
Johnson's actions come as no surprise to her friend, Nicole Marino.
"She is the most kind, thoughtful, loving person I know," Marino said. "She doesn't feel like what she did was a big deal, but in all honesty, it was. Some crazy person could have found (the baby) and done unimaginable things to him."
What will happen next is uncertain.
While confidentiality rules prevent him from speaking to this particular case, Solano County Health and Human Services Director, Patrick Duterte, said this type of situation is exceedingly rare. He has no recollection of anything like it happening in his 12 year career. In such cases, however, protocol would dictate taking the abandoned child into protective custody.
"A child left unattended, it usually becomes the county's responsibility," he said. "Theoretically, a determination would be made if there are any other children remaining in the household, and social workers will look at the situation to see if there is someone in the home or another family member, who is equipped to care for them."
If no suitable family member can be found, the child would typically go to a foster home, Duterte said. Authorities look for ways of keeping siblings together when possible, he said.
Acknowledging that a parent who abandons a baby in a public restroom is likely "feeling desperate and not thinking straight and that their situation can be so dire, they feel that have no choice, but abandoning a baby in a restroom is not normal, not OK."
Infants under 1 year can be dropped off without consequences at any fire station, under the state's Safely Surrendered Baby Law, he said. The law's intent is to save the lives of newborns at risk of abandonment by encouraging parents to safely surrender them within 72 hours of birth, with no questions asked, according to the California Dept. of Social Services website. Solano County residents can dial 211 for local safe surrender sites.
Johnson said she never thought she'd wander into a public restroom and find an abandoned baby.
"It broke my heart, as I was holding my own daughter's hand," she said. "I had to tell my husband and son that someone had left a baby in there, and I just found him. I'm not a hero; I'm just lucky enough to be the one to walk into that bathroom and save that little boy."
Study shows link between Early Head Start and reductions in child abuse
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at Portland State University (PSU) and Harvard University have found that low-income children who participate in Early Head Start are less likely to suffer abuse at home than their peers who are not in the program.
Early Head Start is a federal program that provides services – including medical, mental health, nutrition and education—to low-income families with children up to age 3. Parents can apply to be part of the program, and often are referred to it by doctors and other professionals, according to Beth Green, director of early childhood and family support research at PSU's School of Social Work.
Green and her research team looked at 13 years of data covering 1,247 children and their families in six states. Half the families received Early Head Start services, and the other half did not. They found that families and children who had received Early Head Start services were significantly less likely to be reported to child welfare agencies – a measure of child abuse or neglect – in the years after being part of the program (up to age 14) than the children and families who did not receive services.
"This is the first study that shows a link between Early Head Start and preventing child maltreatment," Green said. "From these results, we think the program reduces risk factors. It sets families on a trajectory to greater stability and better parenting."
Half the mothers in the study sample had less than a high school education. Most were unemployed, and a quarter were living with a spouse. Twenty-two percent were living in extreme poverty, earning only 33 percent of the federal poverty limit.
How to Report Child Abuse
90, 714 New York City children were reported for signs of neglect and abuse by callers in 2011. The number in 2012 was only slightly lower.
by Leah Robinson
Serious harm committed against a child by a parent or legal caretaker is known as child abuse. When those legally responsible for a child place them in imminent danger or harm, it's child maltreatment. Both can be prevented by the average New Yorker through careful observation and a dial tone. New Yorkers should have a heightened awareness for the issue: A 2012 report released by Brooklyn and Queens district attorneys showed seven percent of the country's child abuse fatalities occurred in New York.
Any member of New York's general public can report instances of child abuse and neglect 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the New York State Central Register's Child Abuse Hotline. (1-800-342-3720). While the process is easy, mistakes are also costly. Many types of professionals may be unaware that they are mandated by the state to report maltreatment. Those who must disclose information on possible abuse or neglect face penalties for failing to report, usually in the form of a class A misdemeanor charge. False reporting of any kind is also a crime.
Physicians, surgeons, dentists, chiropractors, nurses, guidance counselors, day care workers, camp counselors, teachers, law enforcement officials and many others are included on the growing list of people mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Interestingly, New York is not one of the 18 states that requires all person who suspect child abuse or neglect to call in a report. The hotline for mandatory reporters is 1-800-635-1522 –with roughly 60 percent of child abuse case reports coming from calls made to the mandatory hotline.
Both regular civilians and those lawfully bound to inform must follow up their oral report with a written one (2221A form) no more than 48 hours after the initial call.
The written report of suspected child abuse does assume the reporter has had more than a glance at the child – or children – in question. The form, which begins by asking for the first and last name, address, telephone number and primary language spoken, also requires the witness to list the basis of their suspicions. While abuse in the form of burns, bruises, fractures, inadequate food or clothing and abandonment may be obvious, internal injuries or emotional neglect may be harder to spot and document by a passer-by.
According to the Office of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and Intervention, physical abuse and neglect can both be manifested in a child's behavior and appearance, such as unexplainable injuries, poor hygiene, wariness of adult contact and frequent absence from school. However, emotional abuse can only be identified by red flags in a child's actions and may not be displayed physically. The majority of sexually abused youth also have no physical findings, as evidence of such an offense is hidden under clothing. The complete list of warning signs for all four types of maltreatment can be found in this pocket guide distributed by the city's Administration for Children's Services.
Social services law extends confidentiality to all reporters, meaning that members of the general public who are not bound to report based on profession can do so anonymously.
After the State Central Register (SRC) receives a call, they determine whether the report meets requirements for an investigation and assign a child protective specialist. Unless a report is rejected (due to the victim being older than 18 or because the alleged perpetrator is not the parent or legal guardian of the child) the specialist will contact the child's family within 24 hours and begin the investigation. Up to 60 days are allotted for the child specialist to interview family and various community members, including teachers and neighbors. Further information is also gleaned from the person who reported the abuse and the child herself, as well as through home visits.
Depending on the severity of the case, the result is one of three options: voluntary preventative services, court-mandated services for the guardians or foster care placement for the child.
90, 714 New York City children were reported for signs of neglect and abuse by callers in 2011. The number in 2012 was only slightly lower.
City Council candidate Nury Martinez discloses childhood sexual abuse
Nury Martinez makes the sexual abuse revelation to counter attack ads by her opponent in an L.A. City Council special election.
by Catherine Saillant
July 15, 2013, 10:28 p.m.
Los Angeles City Council candidate and former school board member Nury Martinez on Monday said she was repeatedly sexually abused as a child, an allegation she's making public now to counter attack ads being circulated by her opponent in a July 23 special election to fill an open council seat.
Martinez, 40, said she's never publicly acknowledged that starting when she was "3 or 4," she was touched inappropriately over more than a year by a man in her Van Nuys neighborhood.
Feeling ashamed, Martinez said, she never told anyone about the encounters until she alerted her parents in her 20s. She also never reported the contact to police.
She said she was coming forward now because her rival for the 6th District council seat, Cindy Montanez, last week sent out attack ads accusing Martinez of not doing enough to protect students during a series of teacher abuse scandals that unfolded last year. Martinez's four-year term on the school board ended June 30.
One of the ads hitting mailboxes last week features a large photograph of Martinez with a quote from Lisa Carrahelios, identified as a former teacher at Verdugo Hills High School. The quote reads: "Nury Martinez and the LAUSD hid the existence and arrest of a teacher at Telfair Elementary School."
Text in the ad goes on to say, "Who would put our children at risk just to further her own political career?"
Martinez denied that the school board hid any abuse and called the Montanez ads "hurtful." She said she decided to go public because the ads "attack me on the record." Martinez never revealed her past to her fellow school board trustees or her former colleagues on the San Fernando City Council.
"She is accusing me of covering these things up,'' Martinez said. "That's where I draw the line."
Martinez said she didn't know of Telfair teacher Paul William Chapel's arrest in October 2011 on suspicion of child abuse until about four months later, when a Daily News reporter called to tell her a story was running the next day, Feb. 5, 2012. Chapel subsequently pleaded no contest to 13 molestation charges.
She spent the day at Telfair talking to and comforting parents, Martinez said. Then she pushed the district to disclose to parents any suspected wrongdoing by teachers as soon as possible. She said she also backed state legislation that would have allowed districts to get rid of teachers suspected of child abuse, violence or drug use in quicker fashion.
The bill, SB 1530, died in an Assembly education committee.
"These attack ads are an absolute lie," Martinez said. "Cindy Montanez is completely taking advantage of these victims for political purposes, and that's not OK."
Montanez defended the ads as factual. "She was on the school board when all of this happened and it was her responsibility to make sure that the district was acting properly to protect children," Montanez said.
As for Martinez's disclosure, Montanez said she is sympathetic: "My heart goes out to all victims of abuse."
Martinez and Montanez were the top two vote-getters in a six-way primary to replace former Councilman Tony Cardenas, now in Congress. The seat represents a swath of the East Valley, including the communities of Arleta, Pacoima and Van Nuys.
Montanez led Martinez by 19 percentage points in the May 21 primary election results and has raised far more money than her rival, city election records show.
255 child predators arrested, 61 victims identified during Operation iGuardian
Photos and b-roll available at: http://www.dvidshub.net/unit/ICE
WASHINGTON — Two hundred and fifty-five child predators were arrested and 61 victims of child sexual exploitation identified during a five-week operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces across the United States and its territories.
Operation iGuardian, which ran May 28 to June 30, was a surge operation conducted as part of HSI's Operation Predator to identify and rescue victims of online sexual exploitation, and to arrest their abusers as well as others who own, trade and produce images of child pornography.
"Protecting our youth in the digital age requires all of us to be on the lookout for child predators abusing and extorting victims online," said ICE Director John Morton. "Children and parents need to understand that not everyone online is who they say they are. Child abusers prowl social media looking for opportunities to force young people into sexual exploitation through guile, deceit, and extortion. We want children to know that it's wrong for any adult to solicit or pressure them for sex and that the law is on their side."
According to investigators, a "disturbing trend" is emerging in which child predators are increasingly using the Internet to entice children to produce and share sexually explicit material online. During Operation iGuardian, HSI and ICAC investigators encountered various child predators chatting online with minors about sexual topics, sending them obscene images, encouraging them to produce nude or sexual photos and videos, and attempting to meet them in person to engage in sexual activity. In some cases, child predators are also sexually extorting, or "sextorting," the minors into producing additional and increasingly graphic images and videos.
"Thanks to the essential support of our federal partners and the dedicated efforts of our task force members, Maryland's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has had a significant impact on our fight against the Internet exploitation of children," said Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Marcus L. Brown. "Since 2000, Maryland's task force has been responsible for 526 arrests of men and women who were attempting to victimize our most vulnerable citizens – our children. I applaud the dedicated members of the 61 task forces across our nation, who daily work together in cyberspace tracking down those who prey on our children."
Twenty-four of the 61 victims identified during the Operation iGuardian were engaging online with strangers who sexually exploited them. Their ages ranged from 7 to 17, the majority aged 13 to 15 years old. Of the 61 victims identified, four were under the age of 3; five were ages 4 to 6; 13 were ages 7 to 9; 10 were ages 10 to 12; 23 were ages 13 to 15; and six were ages 16 to 17. Forty-two were girls and 19 were boys.
Of the 255 child predators arrested during Operation iGuardian, 20 were charged with online sexual enticement of a minor, two of which escalated to sextortion of multiple victims (see Caraballo-Colon and Romero Barrios cases below). The other 235 were charged with child pornography production, possession and distribution of child pornography; traveling with the intent to have sex with a minor; and various other offenses, including rape and molestation. Of the 255 arrested, 251 were men and 4 were women.
Investigators point to three significant arrests made during Operation iGuardian. In each case, HSI is asking that anyone with additional information about potential victims come forward:
Jimmy Caraballo-Colon, 25, a former high school cheerleading coach and athlete from Caguas, Puerto Rico, was arrested June 4 by the HSI Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF) after it was discovered by the Greenwood Village Police Department in Colorado that he was blackmailing a 17-year-old girl he met online in an anonymous Internet video chat website. Through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, investigators identified a second victim, a 15-year-old girl in California. Further investigation led to another 15-year-old girl in the Netherlands, and leads are currently being pursued regarding two 15 and 16-year-old girls in Australia. Investigators believe there are more than 80 potential victims who remain unidentified.
John David Boyle, 49, a former middle school teacher from Glendora, Calif., was arrested June 5, during an undercover sting operation in his classroom, by HSI Los Angeles and the multi-agency ICAC. Boyle has been indicted and charged with enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity over the Internet. He has also been charged with advertisement of online child pornography, as well as distribution, receipt and attempted receipt and possession of child pornography. Believing the undercover investigator shared his sexual interest in young boys, Boyle allegedly set up an in-person meeting in his middle school classroom for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity while watching child pornography. Investigators have identified a 14-year-old boy who was a victim of sexual contact with the defendant and believe that there are additional victims in this ongoing case.
Eduardo Arturo Romero Barrios, a Mexican national, 33, was arrested June 26, by the Mexican Attorney General's Office with the assistance of the Mexican Federal Police in Monterrey, Mexico. The arrest followed a lead by HSI Mexico City and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children from a social media provider about a user who was pretending to be a young teenage girl in order to elicit provocative images from minors via the social networking site. Romero Barrios was then extorting the minors to provide more sexually explicit material by threatening to expose the images he had acquired from them throughout the Internet. Investigators – with the assistance of HSI Little Rock and the Arkansas Area 4 ICAC – have identified two victims, boys ages 11 and 13 in Arkansas, and are pursuing leads into at least three other children: a 10-year old Kentucky girl, and two others in Australia and the Ukraine. Investigators believe there are other potential victims who Romero Barrios may have exploited.
"We are very thankful for the priority that Director Morton and ICE have made in protecting our country's most vulnerable victims, and we are proud of the assistance that NCMEC provides law enforcement as they investigate child sexual exploitation cases," said John Ryan, CEO of The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "The sad truth is, there are many more child victims of sexual exploitation out there who have not yet been rescued and are still suffering. We know that there's more work to be done so that all child victims receive the help they deserve."
In fiscal year 2013 to date, 1,674 child predators have been arrested by HSI on criminal charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children. In 2012, 1,655 child predators were arrested, 1,335 were arrested in 2011, and 912 were arrested in 2010. Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 29,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes.
During the announcement of Operation iGuardian, HSI also discussed plans to launch an educational awareness program in conjunction with ICACs and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's Netsmartz. That program, called Project iGuardian, is being designed to reach children, parents and teachers and share information about the dangers of online environments, how to stay safe online and how to report abuse and suspicious activity.
The 61 ICACs are funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
DCF unveils new child abuse prevention strategy
New method begins in October
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Two years after the high-profile death of a child in a pickup truck, the Department of Children and Families is unveiling an intensive new strategy for keeping kids safe. The transformation change comes as the department is under fire for four Miami-Dade child deaths in May.
The rollout of the new method begins in October, but isn't likely to be implemented statewide until February or March of next year.
Child abuse investigator Letitia McClellan and case manager Sheyla Ferguson walk into the unknown every day.
On this day, they are checking up on a baby in foster care. The baby's mother has mental health issues and can't care for the infant.
When asked about whether or not the mother is cooperating with the referral, McClellan said, "I don't know if she really understands."
The case might be handled very differently in the future. Everyone involved with child protective services is undergoing eight days of specialized training in a method that is 180 degrees different from current methods.
"The goal of the new program is to do away with checklists and actually listen to the client," McClellan said. "We're looking at family functioning, the parenting, the discipline. Just entire family as a whole."
"We are moving away from a compliance," Ferguson said. "Yes, you know, they complete one or two classes. More towards, do we see a behavioral change in their parenting?"
DCF Secretary David Wilkins said every investigator in Florida will now be using the same playbook.
"Now we have the technologies and the data collection activities occurring," Wilkins said. "So we can really measure which programs work and which situations. Before that we just didn't collect that kind of information."
There are some fears more children will be taken from their homes, or the caseloads will go up as investigators spend more time with each family. But Wilkins said pilot programs don't bear out those fears.
DCF had contact with all four children killed in May. Two were murdered, and investigations into the other two deaths are incomplete. Wilkins said the agency is reviewing its contact with the families for clues.
“Any time you've met a family before then and a bad thing happens, we have a lot of information on that situation," Wilkins said. "We're able to go back and reflect what services did we offer, what did we not offer, could we offer different types of services? And definitely, we are going back and looking at our actions in those cases."
The agency is in the process of transforming its investigative and service functions. Whether new methods would have helped the four children is uncertain.
Utah professor recruited to key child abuse-related role at Penn State Hershey
by David Wenner
Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital said Monday it has recruited a Utah pediatrician and child abuse expert to play a key role in dealing with child abuse.
Dr. Lori D. Frasier will lead the new division of child abuse pediatrics at the children's hospital.
She also will work closely with the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children, which was formed following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal to address many issues related to child abuse and neglect.
Frasier, who begins on Sept. 1, is a professor in the department of pediatrics at The University of Utah School of Medicine, focusing on child protection and family health. She also holds a child abuse-related leadership position with the American Board of Pediatrics, according to Penn State Hershey.
She is already working with the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children to recruit additional child abuse specialists.
According to Penn State Hershey, Frasier is an expert in areas including evaluating cases of child abuse and neglect as well as medical conditions that mimic child abuse. She also is a pioneer in using telemedicine to diagnose physical and sexual abuse, Penn State Hershey said.
Looking the Other Way?
by Colleen Flaherty
Another institution has found itself embroiled in a sex scandal involving children, this time the University of Connecticut. A music professor has been put on administrative leave pending further investigation, but preliminary details about the case raise questions of who knew what when, and if allegations brought to the attention of university employees in 2006 were ignored.
UConn on Monday announced it was cooperating with law enforcement investigations into claims that Robert Miller, professor of music, committed sex crimes against minors, and additional allegations that he had sex with students. The university also announced that it was seeking legal counsel and launching an internal investigation into how it handled those claims. No formal charges against Miller had been filed.
At the same time, the university launched a comprehensive website with information pertaining to the case and comments from institution leaders – seemingly signaling that it was getting ahead of the news and a commitment to transparency. But emerging details suggest that some at the university may have ignored the allegations. If that's so, the case would recall charges that some Penn State administrators looked the other way as Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach abused young boys for years. And in another case of university officials looking the other way, the chancellor of Yeshiva University resigned earlier this month, apologizing in his statement of departure for not reporting to authorities allegations of sex abuse made by boys against a principal and a teacher at the university's high school in the 1970s and 1980s.
Miller has worked at UConn since 1982 and once served as chair of the music department. Allegations against him include that he molested young boys at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut, where he served as a counselor from 1989 to 1992, and that he molested a student at Virginia's former Whittier Intermediate School in the late 1960s to early 1970s, when he was a teacher there, the Associated Press reported. The statute of limitations has expired in Connecticut, but not in Virginia.
UConn is also looking into a Title IX investigation into allegations brought by another faculty member that Miller may have had sex with students and brought them drugs, according to university documents.
Miller, 66, was placed on paid administrative leave and barred from campus in late June, several months after Brid Grant, dean of the School of Fine Arts, received a letter dated December 2011 from an employee of the school. The letter, delivered February 13, said Miller may have had inappropriate contact with children in the past.
The professor did not respond to requests for comment.
Stephanie Reitz, university spokeswoman, said additional details about the letter, including who delivered it and if had originally been sent in 2011, were part of the investigation and could not be discussed.
Grant, who came to UConn in mid-2012, turned the letter over to the university's Title IX coordinator. That office contacted the university's office of labor relations and the assistant attorney general based at UConn. The university's chief of police also was notified.
Reitz said police investigations dictated the university's timeline for placing Miller on leave. He was notified the day after state officials searched his home and UConn seized his work computers, she said.
But employees of the university may have failed to act on allegations against Miller much earlier than this year. In its request for proposal for legal counsel, UConn states that police investigations since February “determined that between 2006 and 2011, several allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with minor children by this same faculty member were allegedly brought to the attention of university employees.”
It continues: “At least some of the allegations that were presented to UConn [police] in 2013 were allegedly received by a department head in 2011 but there are questions as to whether appropriate action was taken prior to 2013, when the department head advised a newly hired dean, who immediately took steps which resulted in those allegations coming to the attention of UConn [police].”
Reitz said the retirement of David G. Woods, former dean, had nothing to do with the Miller case. He did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.
University leaders deny any deliberate cover-up since the letter surfaced this year, and say they acted immediately upon learning of the allegations.
“These allegations are deeply disturbing and require a very deliberate, comprehensive response that is both thorough and as transparent as possible,” said Lawrence McHugh, board chair and chairman of the special investigation committee. “The board of trustees and the university must treat these matters with the utmost care and seriousness. It is clear to the board that when these allegations were brought to the attention of current university personnel in 2013, the university took swift, decisive and careful action as this matter evolved.”
President Susan Herbst said in her own statement that “conducting a complete independent, outside review of how allegations were handled by the university prior to 2013 is essential. We hope that our response to this matter beginning earlier this year, and the transparency we are demonstrating, can serve as a model for other institutions that may face similar circumstances in the future.”
Still, some find the situation – particularly how long certain employees at the university may have known about the allegations against Miller and done nothing – alarming.
Daniel Swinton, senior executive vice president at the NCHERM Group, a law and consulting firm that advises schools and colleges on safer schools and campuses, is a former assistant dean and director of student conduct and academic integrity at Vanderbilt University. He called the case “disturbing,” and could have major legal ramifications for the university, depending on who the unspecified employees alerted to claims about Miller, turn out to be. Responsible employees under Title IX – those who have authority to address and remedy on such claims – are mandated reporters.
“So if it's part-time custodial staff, or a department chair or another faculty chair is a whole different story,” he said.
The university would be in particularly precarious legal spot if it was shown to be knowledgeable of sex abuse claims against an employee, and the abuse continued, he added.
As for relationships with students, Swinton said different institutions had different policies, but that it was probably generally frowned upon for faculty to make informal social visits to dorms, as Miller is reported to have done in university documents. Reitz said the university currently doesn't have policy against consensual student-instructor sexual relationships, but was drafting one even before February.
“We expect this policy to be presented to the Board of Trustees for its consideration within the next several weeks,” she said.
Swinton also said the case raises questions about the effectiveness of background checks for faculty (although criminal charges were never filed against Miller). Reitz said that UConn in recent years has conducted criminal background checks for certain positions, such as police officers or those working with children, but not faculty. But starting next semester, all faculty and staff will undergo criminal background checks, she said.
To UConn's advantage – and where the Miller case there differs significantly from the Penn State Case, he added -- the university seems to have acted swiftly when news reached upper-level administrators.
Still, the scope of cases can change once they become public and additional victims may feel comfortable coming forward, he said.
Catholic Church lobbies to avert sex abuse lawsuits
SB 131 would give some victims of sexual abuse more time to file suit against employers. But church officials argue the bill opens it up to suits that are too old to fight.
by Ashley Powers
At the height of the clergy sex-abuse scandal in 2002, Catholic leaders stayed silent as California lawmakers passed a landmark bill that gave hundreds of accusers extra time to file civil lawsuits. The consequences were costly.
California dioceses paid $1.2 billion in settlements and released thousands of confidential documents that showed their leaders, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, had made plans to shield admitted molesters from law enforcement.
Now, state legislators are considering a bill that would give some alleged victims more time to sue. But this time, the church is waging a pitched battle in Sacramento to quash it.
A group affiliated with the church has hired five lobbying firms and spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting SB 131. Opponents argue that the bill unfairly opens the church, the Boy Scouts, and other private and nonprofit employers to lawsuits over decades-old allegations that are tough to fight in court. Two bishops have visited the Capitol to argue their case to the bill's chief author.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the campaign extends to the very top. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez warned parishioners last month in the church newspaper that the proposal "puts the social services and educational work of the Church at risk" and urged them to press their lawmakers to scuttle it.
The church, Gomez said, "faces deep challenges from the government" and cited the proposal as an example without explaining what it would do. "Let's pray for our religious freedom … and let's exercise that freedom by contacting our legislators about SB 131," he wrote.
The current battle has roots in 2002, when lawmakers were searching for a way to respond to the unfolding clergy scandal. At the time, California's civil statute of limitations — or the time limit for plaintiffs to file lawsuits — was relatively strict for child sex-abuse claims.
Plaintiffs could sue alleged abusers or their employers until age 26. After that, they could sue within three years of finding links between past molestation and present psychological problems, but they could no longer sue employers who may have failed to protect them from known molesters.
The 2002 bill extended the three-year discovery rule to employers and lifted the statute of limitations on lawsuits against them for all of 2003, allowing a slew of claims related to decades-old abuse. Church leaders didn't mount a campaign against the bill. They didn't testify at hearings. They didn't write a single letter in opposition. The legislation zipped through both chambers of the Legislature — not one lawmaker voted against it.
"At the time it didn't seem like too unfair of a response to the sexual abuse of children," said Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, the church's political arm. "I don't think anybody anticipated the exposure that would be there."
In 2007, the L.A. Archdiocese alone settled with more than 500 plaintiffs for $660 million. Church officials were also forced to make public a trove of confidential papers in January of this year. In an acknowledgment that the documents had sullied the church's reputation, archdiocese attorneys tried this year to get upcoming sex-abuse trials moved to another part of the state, saying the media firestorm had tainted the Southern California jury pool.
Since the California law took effect, lawmakers in other states have introduced similar bills, arguing that civil lawsuits are a key way for abuse victims to seek justice. But only three states — Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota — have passed such laws, said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York and an expert on child sex-abuse statues of limitation.
That's partly because of the Catholic Church's opposition efforts, she said, which have included hiring lobbyists and dispatching bishops to try to sway legislators. "The 2002 bill caught the church off-guard," said Hamilton, who supports lengthening the time child sex-abuse victims have to sue. "Now the Catholic bishops are bringing their A-game to California."
Their target is a bill introduced by Sen. James Beall Jr. (D-San Jose). Its key provision would again lift the statute of limitations for one year, but only for a group who were 26 or older and missed the previous deadline because they more recently discovered abuse-related psychological problems.
Advocates say loosening time limits is crucial in sex-abuse cases because it often takes decades for victims to admit that they were molested and seek legal recourse. Supporters of SB 131 include the National Center for Victims of Crime and the California Police Chiefs Assn.
"There are victims out there who deserve justice and accountability," said Joelle Casteix, western regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Casteix sued the Diocese of Orange during the 2003 window, alleging abuse at the hands of a lay choir director at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.
Casteix not only won a $1.6-million settlement, but she also received documents that showed administrators knew about — and ignored — the abuse. "It gave me my dignity back," she said.
Opponents argue that it's hard to mount a defense against decades-old accusations because key witnesses are often dead or infirm and evidence may have vanished. They also say that legislation that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations encourages people to make false claims in hopes of walking away with a settlement check.
Because Beall's bill doesn't apply to schools and other public agencies, church lobbyists also say they're being scapegoated. The California State Alliance of YMCAs and the California Assn. of Private School Organizations, whose members include Catholic dioceses, oppose the bill as well.
"We're not going to open up a window again. We have done that once," Dolejsi said. "Are you going to open another window five years from now? When does it end?"
A group linked to the church, the California Council of Nonprofit Organizations, spent $75,000 in the first three months of the year to oppose SB 131, according to papers filed with the secretary of state. The ties between the group and the church, including Dolejsi's affiliation with both, were first reported by the Orange County Register.
Beall said two high-ranking church officials told him that the bill could financially hobble schools and parishes: Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson of the L.A. Archdiocese and Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento, who are president and vice president of the California Catholic Conference. Other bishops have urged their flocks to help defeat the bill.
In Southern California, at least one parish, St. Timothy in West Los Angeles, rounded up letters signed by parishioners to send to Sacramento. An archdiocese spokeswoman did not respond to questions about whether other churches did the same.
It's unclear what effect the campaign has had, though a posting on the California Catholic Conference's website said that it persuaded some lawmakers to either vote against the bill or abstain from weighing in.
The bill recently squeaked through the Senate and passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It goes to the lower house's Appropriations Committee next. Because of the church's lobbying efforts, Beall said, he was concerned about its survival.
"If people don't like a bill, they kill it in appropriations," he said.
Sex traffic researchers to train hotel staff on warning signs
by Lindsey Reiser
PHOENIX (CBS5) - We know that sex trafficking is no longer just a theme for blockbuster movies. It's sadly become a booming industry, and it's happening right here in the Valley. That's why a group of researchers, law enforcement agencies and social workers are teaming up to educate a surprising population: hotel staff.
Experts tell us it doesn't matter if it's a 2-star motel or a 5-star resort; sex trafficking is happening inside Valley hotels and there are some warning signs to identify victims.
"I had a young woman who had been trafficked by her boyfriend's parents, her prostitution fed their drug addiction," said Kristi Hickle, a researcher at ASU's School of Social Work. She has a dozen stories like that since Phoenix has become the third-largest hub in the nation for sex trafficking accessibility. We can thank our accessibility and tourism bringing in fly-by-night clientele.
"We have some transportation corridors that link it to other states," Hickle said. She and her team at ASU worked with Phoenix police and the O'Connor House to come up with a list of warning signs hotel personnel should be on the lookout for. Signs include a single older male with multiple females renting a room in cash, several phone calls from "Johns" at the front desk, garbage cans full of contraceptives and drugs and pornography in the room.
"If you start to look at these together as a whole package of warning signs, that would be something that should raise a red flag," Hickle said.
"The response we've gotten back has been largely positive," said Kimberly Klein with O'Connor House. She said an anonymous grant of more than $70,000 will help them train hotel staff across the Valley to tell traffickers - do not disturb.
"Try and demolish some of those systems to so we can really reduce and ultimately end domestic minor sex trafficking in the U.S.," Klein said.
This team said they'll be studying which hotels are reporting the most activity. They said they'd like to have solid data by the time the Super Bowl comes into town in 2015 because sex trafficking is likely to increase then.
SD Truckers Against Sex Trafficking
by Ben Dunsmoor
SIOUX FALLS, SD - South Dakota truckers are being asked to help end sex trafficking.
South Dakota has become the 14th state to adopt the ‘Truckers Against Trafficking' program.
Recently, the South Dakota U.S. Attorney formed a task force to tackle the problem of sex trafficking in the state, and often times sex traffickers target truckers at travel plazas as prime customers.
"The trucking industry is absolutely targeted," Rick Hoogendoorn, chairman of the South Dakota Trucking Association, said.
That's exactly why South Dakota is now joining in the ‘Truckers Against Trafficking' effort.
"I just thought here's something that we could really get involved in, in really rescuing and saving lives," Ann Tschetter with Thermal King and the South Dakota Trucking Association said.
More than a dozen states have already endorsed the effort and South Dakota is hoping to raise awareness among its truckers and provide them with a window sticker with a phone number to call if they see this type of activity.
"We want to tell them what to recognize, what to look for, and then what information they have to collect before they make that 800 call," Myron Rau President of the South Dakota Trucking Association said.
Officials say just that information alone could help curb the problem.
"They're going to think twice about what truck they send one of those young ladies to because that truck may drive a phone call immediately, and it in itself could definitely help curb the problem," Hoogendoorn said.
By giving South Dakota truckers this information, organizers believe they can have an impact wherever they are hauling across the country.
"I know when they are armed with the truth, and they are aware of the situation and what they can do about it with an anonymous phone call, I have faith they're going to make a difference. That they are going to refuse to do nothing," Tschetter said.
What the austerians hath wrought: significantly higher rates of child abuse — and fewer resources for its victims
by Kathleen Geier
So! This weekend, thus far, we've covered the fact that Texas just passed one of the worst abortion laws in the nation ; the news that Democratic attempts to hold onto the U.S. Senate in the 2014 election just became significantly more difficult; the infuriating, and utterly depressing, Trayvon Martin verdict ; and the economically and socially devastating impact of the federal budget sequester.
Are you totally bummed out yet? Is your weekend ruined? If not, here is some more news that might make even the likes of Debbie Downer start screaming, “Enough already!” In a chilling op-ed in today's New York Times, economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes that, contrary to earlier reports, the incidence of child abuse and neglect have not declined during the Great Recession. In fact, they are up — way up.
Why did we mistakenly believe that child abuse was on the wane? According to Stephens-Davidowitz, many fewer child abuse cases were being reported to the authorities. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Social service budgets were slashed, which meant that overburdened teachers, health care professionals, and social service workers didn't have the time or resources to follow up on child abuse reports. And the reduced hours and longer waiting times at child abuse agencies and hotlines discouraged many people from making reports in the first place.
That explanation seems plausible, in theory. But how do we know for sure that that's what was going on? Stephens-Davidowitz used a novel technique to estimate child abuse rates: Google searches. He writes:
Google queries provide an immensely powerful database, particularly on sensitive topics that people don't discuss freely with pollsters or authorities or even the friends and family members they know best. Online, often unobserved, we tend to be very honest
I examined a heart-wrenching category of searches: those likely to have been made by recent victims of abuse who were old enough to use Google. These searches included “My dad hit me” or “Why did my father beat me?” I also examined a more common class of Google queries: those that include the words “child abuse” or “child neglect.” In some sense, this Google data is like a survey of how many people suspected child maltreatment at a given time. If you see something that worries you, you may well ask Google about “child abuse signs” or “child abuse effects.”
Some caveats: I would like to see a copy of Stephens-Davidowitz's study, and to know more about the Google search technique in general. Do other researchers consider it to be a kosher methodology? What is the relationship between the number of Google hits and the rate at which other, directly measurable social phenomena related to the searches occur? That said, I would guess his research is probably on the mark. He's a recently minted Harvard Ph.D., and these days most professional economists receive excellent, rigorous training in quantitative research methods.
Moreover, Stephens-Davidowitz points to additional pieces of evidence that appear to confirm his findings. For example, he describes child fatalities as the type of abuse that is “least susceptible to reporting pressure,” and notes that there was “a comparative increase in these rates in states that were hardest hit by the recession.” Also, his research found that “when a particular group's budget [such as budgets for teachers, health care workers, etc.] is reduced, it reports fewer cases of maltreatment.”
Though he doesn't say it outright, Stephens-Davidowitz implies that there is a strong causal relationship between child abuse and the economic downturn.
Controlling for pre-recession rates and national trends, states that had comparatively suffered the most had increased search rates for child abuse and neglect. Each percentage point increase in the unemployment rate was associated with a 3 percent increase in the search rate for “child abuse” or “child neglect.”
He also notes that, “On weeks that unemployment claims rose, Google searches related to child abuse increased.”
There are many layers of painful irony here. Not only does the recession appear to be causing more cases of child abuse and neglect, it is also preventing victims from accessing services that might help them (because the budgets for such services have been cut), as well as creating the false belief that the incidence of child abuse is in decline (again, because budget cuts discourage people from making reports to the authorities). Finally, Stephens-Davidowitz notes that the economic impact of child abuse “will be felt long after the economy fully recovers”:
The evidence from medical researchers and psychologists is overwhelming: as adults, victims of child abuse or neglect will face higher probabilities of mental illness and criminal behavior and lower probabilities of employment and stable family lives.
So, to recap: first, financial elites wrecked the global economy. The result was an historic recession that, among other things, led to sharp increases in the numbers of children who were beaten, neglected, and even killed. While all this was going on, stinking rich greedheads, the lunatic right, and their assorted useful idiots made things even worse by banding together to demand budget cuts. Those cuts deepened and prolonged the recession, which led to even more child abuse, and also eviscerated social services. The resulting social service cuts created the false belief that the rate of child abuse was declining, because it made it more difficult to report abuse. Those same cuts also aggravated the negative impact of the abuse, by making it harder for victims to get help.
But hey, ultra-deserving gazillionaires like Mitt Romney got to hold onto their massive fortunes, their lavish homes, and various other can't-live-without-‘em perks (a stable full of horses for Ann!) And anyway, what are few more dead kids, compared to near-historic low tax rates? Can't you just smell the freedom?
UPDATE: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz sent me an email with additional information about his paper and his work. It answers many of the questions I posed earlier. Here is the text, which he has allowed me to copy here:
I thought I would help with a few of the questions you posed:
First, a copy of my study can be found here.
Second, I would say that the use of Google data is controversial. I am one of its biggest proponents and wrote my entire dissertation using it. (My other papers can be found on my website, at sethsd.com/.) But there are certainly plenty of people who do not support the methodology.
Third, the Google data tend to correlate very strongly with underlying beliefs and actions that can be measured. I discuss a whole bunch of these in my racism paper
For example, Google search rates for God correlate almost perfectly with belief in God. Google search rates for “African American” correlate almost perfectly with the size of the black population. Google search rates for “Jewish” correlate almost perfectly with the size of the Jewish population. Google search rates for “gun” correlate almost perfectly with the gun ownership rate., etc.
Overall, this paper uses some new methodology, but also some old methodology. I think the bulk of the evidence that I could find points to the story that I suggested. But it is certainly not the last word.
Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee
Child sex abuse rampant in Afghanistan, documentary shows
Documentary raises questions about why it has taken 5 years to complete investigation into allegations that officers told soldiers to ignore cases of sex abuse against boys in Afghanistan.
by Rick Westhead
U.S. Marine Maj. Bill Steuber, like most people in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, knew that local Afghan police were keeping young boys as sex slaves.
The practice, known as bacha bazi , or “boy play,” was an open secret in Sangin, a town of 14,000 in Helmand.
So Steuber sat down to confront deputy police chief Qhattab Khan, hoping he could convince him that the practice — which is as illegal in Afghanistan as it is in Canada — would cost the police the support of the local community.
But what Steuber heard left him shaking his head in disbelief.
During their meeting in November 2012, Steuber said, Khan mocked the idea that his men shouldn't have sex with the boys. Without the boys, Khan said, using graphic language, his men would be left with few options other than their own grandmothers.
“Trying doing that day in and day out, working with child molesters,” Steuber, who led the police advisory team at Forward Operating Base Jackson, said afterwards. “It wears on you after a while.”
Steuber's battle with officials to stop Afghan soldiers, police and interpreters from abusing young boys plays out in the new documentary This is What Winning Looks Like , released by British journalist Ben Anderson and Vice.
Anderson's 90-minute production offers a sobering look at Afghanistan, a decade after Canadian and other western armies arrived, and raises questions about why it has taken the Canadian military more than five years to complete an investigation into allegations that Canadian officers told their subordinates to ignore cases of sex abuse.
The probe continues with no specified end date, a Canadian Forces spokesperson said, long after most Canadian soldiers have left Afghanistan and nearly five years after a board of inquiry was convened on Nov. 21, 2008.
“If you walked just 500 metres from the (Forward Operating Base) in Sangin, you saw evidence of child abuse,” Anderson said in an interview. “The police discussed it openly. The local council members and district governor discussed it openly. All the (International Security Assistance Force) forces who went out on patrol knew about it.
“I could have collected irrefutable evidence of abuse by the most senior police officers present in five days. I have no idea how any investigation into this could take five years.”
A preliminary investigation into the claims concluded in 2010 and since then, the case has been under review by the office of the Canadian army's deputy commander, currently Maj. Gen. P.F. Wynnyk. Two inquiry board investigators, as well as board president Brig.-Gen. Glenn Nordick, and a team of advisers have interviewed 87 witnesses and collected more than 30,000 pages of documents.
A Department of National Defence spokesperson refused to release the names of witnesses who have spoken to the investigators.
Steuber filed daily reports to his superiors about the abuse, suggesting that it's unlikely that the most senior western officers didn't know about sexual abuse taking place on military bases, where until recent years, facilities were mostly shared by Afghan and western personnel.
“The most common reaction among western soldiers is that this ( bacha bazi ) has been going on for so long, it's considered normal and there's nothing we can do,” Anderson said. “But that's just not true. There are plenty of Afghans who hate this practice.
“And the Afghan police were dependent on us for everything, and we could have said, ‘If we see this happen on your base again, you will not get another drop of gas from us.' ”
Anderson said Steuber is preparing for life after the military. He was given a poor review by superiors for his six-month training assignment in Sangin. Khan, meantime, was promoted.
Women who suffered severe sexual trauma as kids benefit most from intervention
A UCLA-led study of HIV-positive women who were sexually abused as children has found that the more severe their past trauma, the greater their improvement in an intervention program designed to ease their psychological suffering.
The study, conducted by researchers at UCLA's Collaborative Center for Culture, Trauma and Mental Health Disparities, suggests that such interventions should be tailored to individuals' experience and that a "one size fits all" approach may not be enough to successfully reduce women's depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety symptoms.
"This study shows that those who suffer early and severe trauma can improve their psychological symptoms," said primary investigator Dorothy Chin, an associate research psychologist at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "Indeed, those who improve the most are those who suffered the most trauma."
The research findings are published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy .
For the study, researchers used data on women who had participated in the Healing Our Women program, a clinical trial testing an HIV/trauma intervention for HIV-positive women who had suffered sexual abuse as children. Previous research demonstrated that this program was successful at reducing psychological distress among these women. The question for the current study was: Who benefited the most?
The trial used a psycho-educational group intervention called the enhanced sexual health intervention (ESHI), which linked these women's early sexual abuse–related trauma to their current sexual risk behavior and taught them ways of coping and emotional problem-solving.
The 121 women who participated in the trial were recruited from community-based organizations, health clinics, physicians' offices, hospitals and HIV support groups in the Los Angeles area. The researchers randomly assigned 51 of them to the ESHI group, an 11-week intervention that included writing exercises, group processing, strategies for identifying and coping with potentially risky or stressful situations, and problem-solving.
The other 70 were assigned to a standard control-group intervention, also 11 weeks, which consisted of one face-to-face session in which the women were provided with information and pamphlets on HIV prevention and child sexual abuse, as well as weekly calls and referrals to support services. At the end of the 11 weeks, 27 women from the control group moved to the ESHI intervention, for a total of 78 women in the treatment group.
The women's psychological symptoms were assessed both before and after the intervention program. The researchers found among the women in the ESHI intervention, those whose sexual abuse was most severe as children showed the greatest overall improvement in reducing their symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety.
Chin suggests that the most severely traumatized women improved the most because the insights they gained between their past and present experiences, as well as the problem-solving strategies they learned, "resonated more" with them than with the others.
"This is somewhat surprising at first glance, as one might assume that the more trauma, the more difficult it is to improve one's symptoms," Chin said. "But this shows that these focused interventions have targeted the right groups of people and need to continue to target the most traumatized."
The authors noted that the small sample size was not ideal and that more research is needed. The next step, they said, is to replicate these findings with larger samples, as well as to target the most severely traumatized women.
Human trafficking survivor fights to stop hidden scourge
by Janet Podolak
For two years she was a teenage sex slave, as she lived in a prosperous suburb and attended high school every day.
She was forced to sexually service men between midnight and 4 a.m. many nights of the week, but neither her parents, her friends nor her teachers had any inkling.
The nightmare began when she accepted a ride from an older boy she knew from school. She was just 15 and had a crush on him.
Now in her 40s, Theresa Flores of Columbus will tell her story on Saturday at St. Bede the Venerable's Father Tulley Center, 9114 Lake Shore Blvd., Mentor. Her presentation takes place from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and will include a light breakfast.
"What happened to me is probably happening in Mentor and in many other nice suburbs," she said. "There's not a ZIP code in the country where it's not taking place."
Flores now dedicates her life to stopping human trafficking.
Ohio is the fifth-leading state for human trafficking, she said. That's because of its proximity to an international border and a system of interstate highways that allows someone to leave the state within two hours of almost anywhere.
Most people think human trafficking is an issue involving immigrants, not the teen next door. But the proliferation of date-rape drugs, the Internet and the ability to easily take photos and videos with a cellphone have brought it to the suburbs.
"I was new at school and had a crush on an older boy who offered to give me a ride home after school," she recalled. "On the way, he told me he'd forgotten something at home and needed to stop there first."
The boy asked her in and at first she declined. "But he was charming and told me he really wanted to spend more time with me, and he'd just be a minute. So I went into the house with him."
He offered her a cold soda, which she drank down.
"It was drugged," she said. "The next thing I knew I'd been raped by him and others. A couple days later he came up to me at school and showed me the pictures they'd taken."
She was told she'd have to earn the pictures back.
"I thought he meant I'd have to wash his car or something," she said. "I was such an innocent."
It was an innocence soon to be lost forever, consuming almost two years of her teen life.
"They told me they'd show the photos at school and to my father's boss and everyone would know what a tramp I was," she recalled.
The "earning" began. She'd get a late-night call and one of the young men would pick her up at her suburban Detroit home and take her to a wealthy suburb to have sex with a variety of men.
She was getting home at 3 or 4 a.m. and was always exhausted. She wasn't making friends, and her grades took a nose dive, so her concerned parents arranged for counseling.
"But I never told anybody," she said. "I was just too frightened."
She was new at the school, and both her parents and school authorities thought she was having a difficult time adjusting to a new place.
The nightmare continued until early in her senior year, when her father was transferred by his employer to Connecticut. She told no one where they were moving and didn't stay in touch with anyone from that chapter of her life.
She tried to start over — to become a normal teenager again.
"I grew up, went to college and became a social worker," she said.
Now she realizes the career choice was one influenced by her teenage experiences, as was her low self-esteem, a failed marriage and many other issues in her life.
She moved to Columbus to work in her profession.
"About seven years ago, I went to a conference for social workers to learn more about human trafficking," she said. "I thought it was something that happened to immigrants and never had a thought it was exactly what had happened to me so many years ago."
She'd kept her awful secret all that time, but her oldest daughter, now 22, was then about the same age as she'd been when her nightmare began.
Flores resolved to tell her story and do what she could to educate others to the signs of human trafficking. Her parents were shocked and filled with guilt, as were her siblings.
"I don't want another teenager, parent, teacher or guidance counselor to not know this," she said.
Flores testified before the Ohio legislature in 2006, something that played a major role in revising Ohio's trafficking laws. In 2009 she was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General's Human Trafficking Commission.
She wrote two books, "The Slave Across the Street" and "The Sacred Bath." As her story became more widespread, she was asked to tell about her experiences on NBC's "Today" and "America's Most Wanted."
Her heart goes out to the three Cleveland women who were held captive for nearly a decade, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. She knows it's an experience that will influence the rest of their lives and a long, slow healing process like hers is ahead for them.
She tries not to be an overprotective mother to her own children, daughters 22 and 20 and a son, 15. But they know all about their mom's past life and have come to her when they see things among their peers that make them suspicious.
Flores speaks to groups, sometimes as many as 16 times a month. She tells people about her life and signs that human trafficking is going on around them. She's developed an initiative called the SOAP Outreach to publicize a toll-free number that can be called by victims of trafficking and those who observe incidences that point to trafficking taking place.
"We buy cases of soap and distribute them free to motels and hotels. Each bar of soap has the number of the National Human Trafficking Hotline on it," she said. "We also give the hotel front desks photos of missing teenagers and talk to them about what to look for."
SOAP stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. A campaign last year in Lorain was successful in identifying two teenage victims of trafficking and putting their pimp behind bars.
The Lorain County Human Trafficking Collaborative will repeat the successful SOAP campaign on Aug. 3 with an event at the YWCA in Elyria. Get details at 440-714-1380.
A survivor's story
Meet human trafficking survivor Theresa Flores and hear her story at 9 a.m. July 20 at The Father Tulley Center of St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church, 9114 Lake Shore Blvd., Mentor. A light breakfast will be served. There is no charge, but donations to the Human Trafficking Collaborative will be accepted. Reservations and information: 440-223-1754 or 440-974-2932.
What to look for
Signs of human trafficking can be seen in crowded areas, at concerts, amusement parks and sporting events. Here are some clues parents, teachers, health care workers and ordinary people might see.
|1. Bar code tattoos to indicate a commodity status.
2. Teens with falling grades.
3. Young teens hanging out with an older group.
4. An older boyfriend buying expensive gifts for a girl.
5. A controlling older male with a girl of a different ethnicity.
6. A girl who is never left alone by an adult/boyfriend.
7. Frequent occurrence of sexually transmitted disease, poor dental hygiene.
Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888.
Sex trade violence law change urged
Former prostitutes have called on the Government to make violence against men and women in the sex trade a hate crime.
Two Dublin women who escaped the sex industry want the law changed to protect the estimated 800 prostitutes across the country and penalise those who buy sex.
Rachel Moran and Justine Reilly are co-founders of Space (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment), an international group of sex-trade survivors spanning Ireland, the UK, United States, France and Canada.
Ms Moran, 37, said human trafficking and prostitution is a borderless crime, with buyers of sex able to pick a woman being pimped online "at the click of a mouse".
"In excess of 90% of people prostituted in Ireland today are young women from impoverished countries all over the world, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria and Brazil," said Ms Moran, an ex-cocaine addict who was a prostitute for seven years.
"Pimping and trafficking gangs, both foreign and home-grown, have a stranglehold on prostitution in Ireland and have done for many years. Legislation is very important because it will make trafficking a non-viable business choice," she added.
An Oireachtas committee recently proposed that Ireland should adopt a model used in Sweden to penalise buyers of sex rather than prostitutes.
The Committee on Justice recommended that: the accessing of online brothel directories should be made a criminal offence; more supports for women exiting the industry; and the Criminal Assets Bureau should focus on the finances and flow of money to criminal organisations.
Ms Moran urged the Government to implement the measures and to make violent crimes against prostituted persons a hate crime. "This model of protecting women in prostitution has already been in effect, to great success, in Liverpool since 2006, and we see no reason why it could not or should not be incorporated into our new legal framework," she said.
Ms Reilly, 45, - who was forced into prostitution by a former partner - said without clients, women trafficked into the country by pimps would be thrown out on the streets where they could get support. "The simple word is hope," she added. "When somebody is so destitute and so low they need direction. You need to teach these women how to lead a normal life, how to pay their bills, pay their rent. If you can give them hope and a journey and a light they will follow."