Valley View: Do not hesitate to report suspected child abuse, neglect
With the start of school around the corner, I thought that this was an apropos subject to write about. In New York state a mandated reporter includes teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, emergency medical technicians, day care center workers and police officers. For a complete list and a guide for mandated reporters, please visit www.ocfs.state.ny.us. All mandated reporters are required to call the Mandated Reporter State Central Registry (SCR) hotline at 1-800-635-1522. If a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused, maltreated or neglected they are legally obligated to call the hotline.
We often receive calls at the center from mandated reporters asking us if they should call the hotline. The answer they are given is that if they suspect something, make the call! Please do not wait until the end of the day. The earlier the call is made the quicker a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker can be assigned to the case if an investigation is warranted. If the suspected abuse is happening at the hands of a person who is not the parent or person legally responsible for the child, contact your local law enforcement agency. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911 right away!
I like to think that we are all mandated reporters. However, until the law is changed in New York state, this is not the case. If you witness or hear about a child being abused, maltreated or neglected and you are not a mandated reporter, please call the public hotline at 1-800-342-3720.
Some of you may be thinking if you make a call to report a neighbor, a friend, or maybe a relative, that you will be turning that child's and their families lives upside down. This not always the case. When CPS becomes involved it is to help the child and their family. Unless the abuse or neglect is so severe that a child is considered in immediate danger, it is unlikely that a child will be removed from their home. Preventive services are often offered and put in place to help the family stop the abuse, neglect of maltreatment from continuing.
The center is here for the community to use as a resource. We are more than willing to answer your questions. In this case there are no silly questions or questions that are too small to ask us. We would prefer you call us then just ignore a potential problem. We can be reached at 845-454-0595.
Please keep in mind, that most often a child will not or cannot speak for themselves. It takes all of us to keep our children safe! As Nelson Mandela so aptly put it, “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
So what is the answer to who is a mandated reporter? Legally, it is the posted list found at www.ocfs.state.ny.us. Ethically? I think you will find the answer by looking in a mirror!
Kathleen M. Murphy is the executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
Wichita school board to consider clarifications to policy on reporting child abuse
by Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita school board on Monday will consider updates to its policy on reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.
The revisions, which come about a year after a Wichita kindergarten teacher lost her job after allegedly failing to report suspected abuse quickly enough, are intended to clarify procedures in language that matches current state law, officials said.
“It adds clarity,” said Loren Pack, coordinator of social work services for the district. “But the procedure itself, that hasn't changed at all.”
Kansas law requires teachers, doctors, counselors and other mandatory reporters to inform either local law enforcement or the Kansas Protection Reporting Center if they suspect a child has been abused.
The district's policy, last revised in 2007, currently requires employees to report suspected abuse by phone to state officials “on the same day the suspicion arises.”
The proposed revised policy states: “As soon as suspicion arises, the employee, with only minimal questions to determine the nature of the incident, shall contact KPRC by phone or their web-based system.”
The proposed policy includes the toll-free number and Web address for the Kansas Protection Reporting Center.
It also requires teachers to notify their building principal or designee promptly of their suspicions, but notes that the notification “does not substitute for the employee reporting the suspicion to the proper authorities as required.”
Pack said teachers are reminded each year that they are legally required to report suspected abuse quickly. They don't have to know all the facts about a particular case before making the call, he said.
“All you have to do is suspect – period. End of statement,” Pack said. “Somebody else's job is to investigate.”
The Wichita district logged 1,982 reports of suspected abuse or neglect last school year, Pack said. The previous year, employees made about 1,600 reports, Pack said; the year before that, about 1,400 reports.
“I have to operate on the belief that people are taking it seriously and understand the policy, because to me, that's a heck of a big number,” he said.
In April 2012, Donna L. Ford resigned her job as a kindergarten teacher at Cleaveland Elementary School and surrendered her teaching license after allegedly waiting about two weeks to report suspected child sexual abuse. The State Board of Education later voted to reinstate her license, but Ford no longer works in the district.
Details of that case – including when and how the teacher first suspected a student was being abused and why a report may have been delayed – were not made public. Sources familiar with the case said Ford informed her principal, social worker and counselor of her suspicions that a 6-year-old girl in her class was being abused by a teenager living in the child's home.
Sources said Ford tried to file a report online to state officials, but her school computer malfunctioned while trying to submit it. It was unclear whether she or other employees tried to report suspicions via a 24-hour telephone hotline.
Ford could not be reached for comment Friday. Her case, believed to be the first time a Kansas teacher lost her job or had her license revoked for taking too long to report suspected abuse, illustrated what many perceive as gray areas of abuse reporting and the struggle teachers face whenever they suspect abuse.
Pack said most changes in the policy update board members will consider Monday are “subtle” and meant primarily to further clarify precisely when and how teachers should report suspected abuse.
“It may not be perfect, but I think it works pretty darn good,” Pack said. “We live in a society where … we try to protect each others' kids and keep them safe.”
Expert: Educate children about child sexual abuse
Dozens gather for prevention training at Tribune
by Madeline Buckley
SOUTH BEND -- The first time you call Child Protective Services to report suspected abuse, your heart pounds out of your chest.
There's that little voice in the back of your mind that says, "What if I'm wrong?"
Ignore that voice.
Report it, a child sexual abuse expert told a group of local teachers, therapists, social workers and parents Saturday morning.
"You don't have to have a case all built to make a report," said Mary Armstrong-Smith, a director at Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.
More than 30 men and women gathered at the South Bend Tribune for training on how to recognize and respond to child sexual abuse -- a pervasive but often silent problem.
One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to information presented at the training.
Every adult is responsible for protecting children, Armstrong-Smith said.
Yet adults are reluctant to talk about it, which feeds the patterns of sexual abuse, she told the group.
"I'm afraid of passing my anxieties onto my son," one woman, a teacher, said as discussion turned toward educating children about abuse.
"We don't want to make our kids paranoid," Armstrong-Smith said.
But, she added, frequent discussions with children about inappropriate touching and related behavior will make them less vulnerable to predators.
Tell children they have the right to their own bodies. Don't use shame-based or cutesy names for body parts. Tell them it's not OK for an adult to instruct them to keep a secret from their parents.
The training, a program from Darkness to Light, a national child sexual abuse prevention organization, was sponsored by The Tribune and Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, of St. Joseph County.
A video portion of the training showed often gut-wrenching stories from survivors, like a former Miss America winner who said her father sexually abused her for her entire childhood and teenage years.
One night when she was around 12, she said, her father was in her room.
She heard her mother's footsteps coming toward her door. It would all be over soon, she thought.
She was sure her mother knew what was happening in the room.
Her mother paused at the door. But her footsteps continued up the stairs away from her daughter's bedroom.
People who abuse children are often a relative or someone who has gained the trust of the family, Armstrong-Smith.
And abusers are drawn to youth organizations and institutions, so such places should have certain policies in place, she said.
Schools, churches, sports teams and other youth organizations should enforce a policy against private one-on-one time between an adult and a child.
"My goodness, that is so unloving," Armstrong-Smith said people told her when she tried to institute such a policy at a faith-based organization she was involved with.
Now, though, many insurance providers mandate that organizations and institutions have a policy like that.
Most importantly, Armstrong-Smith said, it is critical for the adults in a child's life to be vigilant, educative and compassionate about child sexual abuse.
If a child comes forward to you, tell them you believe them.
If you suspect abuse, ask them. And if they say no, as children often do at first, ask them again, Armstrong-Smith said.
The session ended with applause. Several attendees said this type of training is not as widespread as it should be.
One woman said, "We are all so inadequate on what to say, what to do."
A heavy toll for the victims of human trafficking
by Adriana Hauser and Mariano Castillo
Miami (CNN) -- Their descent into prostitution followed different paths but ended up in the same nightmare: abuse, drugs and fear.
For years, the girls who sell their bodies on certain Miami streetcorners and in hotels were treated as criminals. But new state laws have instructed police and judges to look at the wider context and consider them victims of sex exploitation.
South Florida is the third-busiest area for sex trafficking in the United States, the Department of Justice says, and oftentimes it is children who are drawn into the web without even realizing it.
"You always think that it is not going to happen to you and that that would never happen. It turns around, and it is you, and you don't know what to do," one former prostitute said. "April" agreed to an interview as long as her identity was concealed.
The 18-year-old was in and out of prostitution as an adolescent and eventually jailed.
But the passage of the Safe Harbor Act, which went into effect in January, transformed the way she was treated in the justice system. She was released from jail and given access to treatment for abuse.
The new law is designed to ensure the safety of child victims who have been trafficked for sex, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
April says she first ran away from home at age 14 after enduring years of sexual abuse by her grandfather. She met two girls who had jewelry, cars and popularity. April wanted that, too.
They told her, "You know, if you do this and this for us, you can have all this, too."
So she started selling her body.
"As bad as it sounds, it is really easy to just open your legs for five minutes instead of going to work all day and coming home with nothing," April said. "It is very easy, but it is very hurtful on the inside."
A problem in Miami
Miami is a hub for human trafficking because the city attracts travelers from around the world.
"We have a booming tourism industry. We have a very active transient male population here, where guys come and go," said Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "If they are here for sporting events, for example, a lot of these victims are used, so to speak, to service them."
His office has indicted and convicted 35 sex traffickers in the past 2½ years.
In Florida, those who solicit sex can get 60 days in jail plus an embarrassing public record; pimps face up to five years in prison or more if minors are involved or for repeat offenders.
What is happening in Florida is just a slice of a criminal racket that is seen at the national and international level.
Nationwide, the Department of Justice says, between 15% and 20% of men admit having paid for sex at least once. The estimated revenue of the sex industry worldwide is more than $32 billion a year, the department says.
There are international sex trafficking cases and forced labor cases but also domestic cases that happen in plain sight.
Traffickers "use coercion, violence, fraud, (and) they threaten them with harm to their families if they do not listen to them," Ferrer said.
In April's case, things got worse after her initial foray into prostitution. At one point, she ended up in a strange house, locked up by her pimp and drugged. She's not sure but thinks she was held there for eight or nine days. The days seemed long because she didn't have anything to occupy her in her room except for the men who paid to be with her.
The drugs that she was introduced to during that period kept her in a haze as she fell deeper into the sex trade.
April was already on probation during her time as a captive inside the house, and when she got out, she was promptly arrested for probation violations.
She would get out of jail, and the cycle would repeat itself. Prostitution, then jail.
Only when the Safe Harbor Act was enacted, April said, did things change.
"It was really awesome, and I got out (of jail), and they just realize that I was a victim and that I should have been treated like a victim first, and they should have investigated me as a victim before they tried to criminalize me," she said.
Exposed at young age
Samantha, another former prostitute, first was exposed to the sex trade before she even knew what it was. This is not her real name, as she requested that her identity be concealed.
She left her home at age 15 with her sister, "being rebels," as she put it.
Her sister began working as an escort, and Samantha paid attention, even though she didn't know the term for what she was seeing.
"I watched how she got herself ready, and she would tell me little things, a few stories. It wasn't glamorous, but I was amazed by the money. She always had a lot of money," Samantha said.
There are cases where girls or boys are kidnapped and forced into the sex trade, but in most cases they are seduced by men who make them feel loved and offer them other stability, said Maria Clara Rodriguez, the outreach and education supervisor at Kristi House, an advocacy center dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse.
"The girls don't see themselves as victims. 'No, this is my boyfriend; we are going to get married; he promised me the world.' They believe that," she said.
Once girls enter the sex industry, their average life expectancy is seven years, with homicide and AIDS being the top killers, Rodriguez said.
Samantha was 17 the first time she was paid for sex. She remembers feeling remorseful about it, but she would get pulled back in.
A friend invited her to a hotel when she was 18.
"She knew what was going to happen, but I didn't," Samantha said. "I didn't realize it until later."
Her friend, it turned out, was a recruiter for a pimp and that day left Samantha alone with a man. Samantha "felt forced" to re-enter the world of prostitution.
The drugs and the alcohol followed, and eventually Samantha herself would recruit other girls for the pimp.
She escaped that life only after she was caught in the act by authorities. Now Samantha is pregnant with a girl and wants to return to school and focus on raising her child.
Her former pimp is the father.
Sharing stories to empower
Kat Rosenblatt, an anti-human trafficking activist, began sharing her own story five years ago, when she found that children in that world could relate to her and want to get out of it.
"The issue is more serious than anyone can put a number to," Rosenblatt said. "The numbers that we have found are greater than anything that has been reported."
Rosenblatt has done outreach at truck stops, schools, jails and strip clubs, where she has found many victims of child sex trafficking who are willing to come forward and confront their situation.
Victims of sex trafficking come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, she has found, and of all races and ethnicities.
"There is no discrimination," she said. "Trafficking does not discriminate. It just exploits."
The pattern she has witnessed is one of girls who are vulnerable, because of drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse or domestic violence.
The top method for luring new girls into the sex trade is to use other children to recruit them, Rosenblatt said.
Her own story begins when she was 13 and left home with her mother to escape an abusive father. Mother and daughter moved into a hotel, where Rosenblatt was often alone while her mother worked.
At the hotel's swimming pool, she met an older girl.
"She was 19 and thin and pretty and all I thought I wanted to be," Rosenblatt said.
The girl introduced her to a man who Rosenblatt would later learn was a pimp.
He gave her attention and acted in a way that filled the gap that leaving her father had left.
"Never would I have imagined he was grooming me through this other girl for the life of sexual trafficking," she said.
It wasn't long before the older girl arranged for Rosenblatt to sell her virginity for $550.
"At 14 years old, I didn't know where to begin," she recalled. "I didn't understand that this was a crime. All I knew is that I wanted to get home and that I was willing to do or say whatever they wanted."
New approaches by police
With Florida's new laws, police take an outreach approach rather than an enforcement approach with juveniles who are selling their bodies.
Miami-Dade police use undercover officers to determine whether a girl is prostituting herself and whether she is a juvenile.
"A lot of juveniles do not identify themselves as victims, and it takes several interviews of going back and getting the trust of the juvenile to let them know that we are there to help them," police Sgt. Nicole Donnelly said.
If the girls are minors, police check to see whether they are reported missing and will try to reunite them with family.
Ferrer, the U.S. attorney, says his office is pleased with the new approach.
"We are very happy that the state has changed the laws and amended to help these victims come forward and declare themselves as victims without fear of prosecution," he said. "That is very helpful."
CNN accompanied undercover officers in about 10 patrol cars on an operation to dissuade prostitutes from working on the streets and to rescue minors from the sex industry.
While patrolling one of Miami's known prostitution "tracks," officers came across a youth who identified herself as April, like the woman at the beginning of the story. This April told officers she is 24 and has been working the streets since she was 21.
April has two children, ages 2 and 4, and works as a prostitute to pay for their needs and for her education, she said.
Initially, it was a boyfriend who get her involved in prostitution.
She was working as a stripper, she said, when she met the guy, who promised her clients and money. He made it sound easy.
The first time she stood out on the corner, it was against her will, but she liked the guy, said April.
"And then, the money. It gets addicting," she said.
It is a life that she never imagined. She had been in juvenile detention when she was younger and had met girls who had been prostitutes and told herself she would never go down that route.
But after being pulled in that first time by her boyfriend, lack of economic opportunities influenced her to continue.
"I want to stop," she said.
"If I can find a job."
Rescued children shouldn't be in handcuffs
Editor's note: Francesca L. Garrett is a long-time victim's advocate and Executive Director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio.
by Francesca Garrett, Special for CNN
The girl on the news is wearing pink flip flops. An oversized plaid shirt hides a figure that has barely begun to develop. According to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, as a minor who has been forced to perform a sexual act for money she is a victim of sex trafficking. Yet under prostitution statutes in most states she has also committed a criminal offense - and now she is in handcuffs.
About three-quarters of the children rescued last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through Operation Cross Country VII live in states that afford them no legal protections from prostitution charges.
Some could face up to two years in juvenile detention, others, thousands of dollars in fines (pdf). Many may also be charged for possessing the cocktail of drugs that traffickers use to create dependency and compliance in the children they sell. And though the FBI is likely to afford special leniency to those rescued in the sting, without change, the same may not hold true for the children arrested on the streets in the coming months and years.
Nor has it in the past. In 2007, a Texas District Attorney prosecuted a 13-year-old girl for prostitution while her 32-year-old “boyfriend” went free. She was one of 1,500 sexually exploited children arrested nationwide that year.
Treating a child as an offender breeds mistrust in a legal system that ought to protect him or her, and traffickers and pimps exploit this, threatening their victims with arrest and criminal records if they try to seek help.
They are threats Dominique, whose named has been changed to protect her identity, knows all too well. Three days after the FBI's raids, she sits across from me in a local coffee shop. Like the girl on the news she's in flip flops, which dangle from her feet. Dominique is 21, but entered what is commonly known by survivors of sexual exploitation as ‘the life' at 14, when her middle-aged boyfriend sold her for the first time.
“He said if I ran, he'd call the police and say what I'd done. He said no one loved me now, that I was trash now, and I'd always be trash. He said only he loved me now.”
And so she stayed, afraid of rejection from her family, and of prosecution from local police. That mistrust of the law remains seven years later, and as Dominique and I watch footage of Operation Coast to Coast VII on my laptop, she shifts uncomfortably as a victim's fingerprints are taken.
“Are they booking her?” she asks warily. “Is she under arrest?” I have no easy answers. But I could if so-called ‘safe harbor' laws were passed across the country.
‘Safe harbor' laws remove the conflicts between federal and state law by exempting children from prosecution for prostitution, while ensuring strict punishment for people who sell children.
They also require that law enforcement agencies undergo training on how to identify and assist victims, and prompt agencies to participate in the creation of statewide multidisciplinary systems of care.
Since 2008, ‘safe harbor' laws have been passed in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington, with a Texas Supreme Court ruling offering the same security.
These states work with non-profits like FAIR Girls, the Polaris Project, and GEMS: Girls Educational and Mentoring Services to provide comprehensive case management, court advocacy, survivor support groups, and life skills workshops.
But the cost of such inclusive care can be challenging. Teresa Tomassoni, Director of Programs at FAIR Girls, said: “We want ‘safe harbor' laws to pass in every state. But we also recognize that these laws are what we call an ‘unfunded mandate.' The law demands that child victims be offered specialized services and be kept out of the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and yet if there is no safe house for law enforcement to place a recovered child in, that's exactly where they often end up.”
And juvenile detention centers are often ill-equipped to meet the staggering needs of trauma victims. Some research indicates that two-thirds of girls and women who have been commercially sexually exploited suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), surpassing rates found in returning Iraqi and Afghan war veterans by nearly 30 percent. Others are pregnant, addicted, or have severe physical health problems.
Jail is not where these children will find the care they need. But for children in the 42 states without ‘safe harbor' laws, there are few alternatives.
We need to show girls like Dominique that we can do better. We need to show them that we care about their futures by funding the agencies and organizations that aid them, and by advocating for the passage of ‘safe harbor' laws country wide.
Operation Cross Country VII is undeniable progress, but that progress will remain flawed as long as we continue to prosecute children for the crimes others perpetrate against them.
Are you a victim of trafficking, or do you have information about someone who is? Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888?.
Runaway teens at risk to become human trafficking victims, Florida experts say
by Margie Menzel
TALLAHASSEE _ A recent nationwide crackdown last week by the FBI on child sex trafficking yielded 159 arrests and freed 105 children — nearly all girls between 13 and 17 — but experts say it's the tip of the iceberg.
“We're barely scratching the surface,” Tyson Elliott, who directs the state Department of Juvenile Justice's efforts to curb human trafficking, said during the recent seminar at Florida State University.
Elliott, a former detective, was speaking to about 75 police officers, clergy and social workers about human trafficking. He said that although the FBI's 10-year Innocence Lost project has rescued 2,200 teens from forced prostitution, at least 100,000 go into it every year — by a conservative estimate.
The U.S. Department of Justice has estimated that nearly 450,000 children run away from home each year and that a third will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
“Anybody can be a pimp or a trafficker,” Elliott said. “Get past the stereotype. (The Department of Children and Families) has been taking reports on parents prostituting out their daughter for drug money forever.”
Trafficking human beings for forced labor or prostitution is a $32 billion global industry. It's vast, yet invisible to most people — including many law enforcement officers and social service agencies.
But now, with Florida ranked third in the nation for human trafficking, state and local authorities say they're learning to identify the crime and help the victims.
“These are children that actually don't have a biological family to go back to,” said Terry Coonan, director of the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, which co-sponsored the event. “They are the prime victims. And we've seen cases all over this state — north, south and central Florida — where these children are being exploited.”
The recent FBI sweep recovered three children in Tampa and arrested four pimps in Miami and one in Jacksonville, according to an FBI news release.
Elliott said that of all human trafficking victims, runaway teens are most at risk, especially if they've left homes roiled by domestic violence or child abuse.
“If you're a teenage girl being molested by your stepfather and you run away, you've probably got some vulnerabilities that can be exploited,” he said.
That's the heart of the matter, both men said. Whether in forced labor, domestic slavery or child prostitution, the way to spot trafficking is to look for someone controlled by another.
“Do workers arrive and leave in the same vehicle with a handler?” Coonan asked. “Does the boss try to speak on behalf of the worker? Is a young woman being checked in by an older male?”
He described Florida trafficking cases, how the traffickers operated and who the victims were.
For instance, he said, in 2005, Ronald Evans was arrested for luring homeless people from shelters to a forced labor camp in East Palatka. Evans paid them with alcohol and crack cocaine.
Coonan showed a photo of emaciated black men after the federal raid that freed them.
“They were very, very deliberately targeted,” he said. “It was a shock to us in the human rights community that African-Americans could once again be targeted for slavery.”
Under Coonan's direction, the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights provides pro-bono legal aid to trafficking victims and, at the Legislature's request, has produced several reports on the subject.
In May, Gov. Rick Scott signed a pair of bills (HB 1325 and HB 1327) creating a legal process for human-trafficking victims to get their criminal records expunged — typically for prostitution charges. The new laws, which take effect Jan. 1, only apply to crimes committed while the victims were being forced, threatened or coerced.
In June, Scott signed HB 7005, intended to crack down on shady massage establishments that are fronts for sex trafficking. The bill would prevent the operation of massage establishments between midnight and 5 a.m., although it has exceptions for businesses such as health facilities and hotels that might offer massage services.
Congress is considering legislation that would require state law enforcement and child-welfare agencies to identify children lured into sex trafficking as victims of abuse and neglect. That would make them eligible for protections and services.
Coonan said now that Florida lawmakers have given prosecutors more tools, it's time for the next step.
“What we've realized is: Now it's community awareness that may be the missing piece,” he said. “So our efforts here today are a step in that direction, to try to get our communities better informed about how they can identify trafficking and especially identify victims and assist in their care.”
Capitol Hill isn't immune to sex trafficking
This year, 250,000 American youths will be lured into sexual slavery or forced labor. Between 300 and 700 of these girls and boys will be trafficked within King County. That's more than one person each day. The crime is often invisible, untraceable to the general public, and though the Department of Justice lists Seattle as one of the worst ports of human trafficking in the nation, there are many organizations wrestling to undo it.
In the company of towns like San Francisco, Portland, New York, Las Vegas and Detroit, Seattle is the United States' third highest offender, and considered both a transit city and a destination of human trafficking. But how and where is the exchange happening? Phillip Martin, the National Director of compassion2one, an organization that works to rescue children from sexual exploitation, told The Capitol Hill Times that the network of criminals is more sophisticated than one would think.
“Really any public venue can be what we call a ‘facilitator' for sex trafficking,” Martin said. “A lot of the business professionals go to different countries to purchase these girls and go have their way with them, in a sense. But here, within Washington and Seattle, they're used in strip clubs, massage parlors, nail shops, truck stops, rest areas, hotels, websites like backpage.com and Craigslist, and escort service websites.” Not to mention traditional street prostitution.
Capitol Hill is one of Seattle's neighborhoods where there is a higher rate of trafficking.
Within the United States, the average victim is between the ages of 11 and 16 (trafficked victims are much younger overseas, since they can be a source of income for their families). The common demographics of at-risk youth include teen runaways, being exposed to pornography at a young age, drug addition, or coming from a background of domestic violence, abuse, neglect or abandonment. But girls from affluent families aren't immune. When girls enter their teen years and want to exercise independence, their curiosity could lead to their detriment.
Martin explained that a typical pimp, whether belonging to a group involved in organized crime or affiliated with a gang, might be older, between the ages of 35 and 40, and pay off younger, 14- and 15-year-old boys to befriend girls and lure them to a party or unfamiliar situation where the pimp will kidnap the girls. In most cases, the boy isn't informed of the pimp's intentions.
“The girls think ‘Well, if I just have my cell phone or if I just have one of my girlfriends go with me, then if I get into trouble, I have my bases covered, and I'll be okay.' That's not the case here,” Martin said.
Some gangs use abduction, luring a girl into a life of prostitution, as a form of gang initiation. Other predators hunt for girls in malls, churches, along the I-5 corridor, at movie theaters and in online chat rooms. Some are slowly initiated via bikini barista shops, strip clubs and porn shoots.
“It's not usually at random,” Martin said. “He [the pimp] knows what kind of girl he needs. He knows if he's using her for sex trafficking, labor, or domestic servitude like housekeepers and nannies. He knows who he's supplying to, and how much money needs to be made.”
Customers, or “Johns,” are average men from all walks of life, from businessmen and attorneys to coaches and counselors – the men who children are entrusted to everyday. According to Martin, a John need not move or pimp a girl; he only needs to buy her. “I go as far as classifying a John as someone who pays a cover charge to go to a strip club, because, whether you know it or not, you're facilitating a crime.”
Supply strives to meet demand, and so the base problem is men who buy. In the same way that victims usually come from troubled backgrounds, so do the customers. These men are also exposed to pornography at a young age, raised in a family without positive role models, didn't have access to educational opportunities, have pent-up anger, are divorced, or lack a support system.
In addition to rescuing victims and persecuting offenders, compassion2one's other goals involve offering alternatives to predators, addressing the issue of demand, and making it unattractive for men to buy commercial sex.
“If a guy is arrested, serves his time, and pays his fines, now what is he going to go do? Hopefully he has learned his lesson, but in most cases, they don't; they go back to what they're familiar to because their support system is still there. And, in fact, people despise them more now because of what they have done,” Martin said.
“We have to offer alternatives, so job training is a big thing for men, counseling services for them, a way to apply for a job, give them a support system and offer alternatives so that they can rebuild their lives, just like these women need to rebuild their lives. The hope is that these guys would become protectors of these women, and that they would also be champions to other men, saying, ‘Let's not buy women, let's not objectify them.'”
Besides raising awareness, communities can get involved by learning to identify a victim and partnering with law enforcement, social service providers, and first responders. Another essential element to be improved upon is creating more safe homes that offer victims meals, clothing, healthcare evaluations, placement and after-care housing.
“Until we have a safe place for these girls to go, and more of them, they're just going to end up in the same situation,” Martin said. That's the Band-Aid. The real panacea is humans learning to respect and value other humans.
To learn more about human trafficking in Seattle, or to have a more active role in the fight, visit local non-profits' websites: iwantrest.com or seattleagainstslavery.org
Appeals court: Clergy not always required to report child abuse
by Kevin Grasha
The state appeals court has ruled that a member of the clergy is not required to report child abuse when a church member seeks confidential guidance.
The published opinion by a three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel was released Thursday.
The case originated in Ionia County, involving a woman who in 2009 suspected her husband had her daughters touch their own genitalia in front of him. The woman went to her pastor, John Prominski of Resurrection Life Church in Ionia, seeking “family and spiritual guidance and spiritual advice,” according to court documents.
Prominski told the woman it was something he could handle through counseling, according to court testimony, and told her she didn't need to report it to police.
Two years later, however, the husband was accused of sexually touching one of her daughters.
In court testimony, the woman said: “I woke up to (my daughter) screaming, ‘I hate you, I hate you, don't ever touch me again.' I went in there and ... asked her what happened. And she said that he was touching her.”
The woman again went to Prominski, who this time told her she needed to report the incident to police or else he would, court documents say.
It was during the investigation of this incident that police learned about the 2009 report by the woman.
Her husband was later convicted of criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to prison.
Prominski was charged with failure to report child abuse.
But the charge was eventually dismissed in district court, and the appeals court upheld that decision.
Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer said he has not yet determined if he will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Members of the clergy are among those, who under state law, can be considered “mandated reporters” of child abuse.
The only exceptions are communications between an attorney and a client, or member of the clergy and a church member in a “confession or similarly confidential (setting).”
The appeals court's ruling says that communication between a clergyman and a church member can be considered confidential, when the church member has an expectation that the information will be kept private.
“Although the mother did not make a confession, she had a similar expectation the communication would not be shared,” the opinion states. “Therefore ... (the) defendant was not required to make a report.”
Schafer said a third party's report of child abuse to a member of the clergy should not be confidential.
“If they get to decide when the bell is rung, so to speak, then the law is wrong, and we're not protecting children,” he said.
|» State law lists professions required to report child abuse, including teachers, physicians and members of the clergy. The only exceptions are communications between an attorney and a client, or member of the clergy and a church member in a “confession or similarly confidential communication.”
» This week's Michigan Court of Appeals ruling further defines what constitutes confidential communications involving members of the clergy.
School District A "Partner in Prevention" of Child Sexual Abuse
District recognized for its commitment to protecting children by training over 90-percent of its staff on how to prevent, recognize the signs, and react responsibly to CSA.
by Jason Evans
The School District of Pickens County has achieved “Partner in Prevention,” a nationally-recognized public standard to end child sexual abuse (CSA).
The designation was awarded for the school district's commitment to protecting children by training over 90-percent of its staff on how to prevent, recognize the signs, and react responsibly to CSA.
The training and designation award is provided by Charleston, SC-based Darkness to Light (D2L). D2L has championed the movement to end CSA since its founding in 2000 and now has education programs in 49 states and 15 foreign countries.
“Partner in Prevention” was created as a national standard to help parents and caregivers recognize organizations who take CSA prevention seriously by implementing policy and training staff.
“In our roles in the education profession, we are entrusted by parents each day not only to educate their children but to be advocates for them,” said Dr. Stephanie Lackey, Executive Director of Human Resources for the school district. “The Darkness to Light training allows us to equip all of our employees--including our food service staff and custodians, alongside our teachers and principals--with the tools to protect our students from child sexual abuse. Our (SDPC) primary focus is to be about what is best for our students.”
D2L's training curriculum points out that CSA is pervasive in a society where it is repressed and not discussed. Thousands of organizations across the U.S. and Canada are now seeking out a dialogue for prevention and they are sending parents and the community a message with the Partner in Prevention distinction.
“The administration of SDPC believes that D2L training has a two-fold purpose. It equips the employees with tools to help guard our students, and it puts potential predators on notice that we take this matter seriously,” Lackey said.
Crime and behavioral studies have long cited CSA for its devastating impact on society.
Statistics are startling, according to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse & Neglect:
|• 95% of abuse is by someone the child knows and trusts.
• 73% of children don't tell anyone until well after the abuse has occurred, if they tell at all.
• Statistically, approximately 500,000 babies born in the U.S. each year will be sexually abused before they reach age 18.
• In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
• CSA is linked to a host of social issues including teen pregnancy, psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.
• CSA ranks second to murder as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S., where costs exceed $35 billion annually.
Clinic helps people recognize warning signs of sexual abuse
by Dana Rebik
OLYMPIA — One in four girls and one in six boys has suffered sexual abuse before they're 18 years-old — and those numbers are difficult to comprehend.
The Providence St. Peter Sexual Assault Clinic in Olympia is the place where children come to be evaluated after a reported abuse as well as receive counseling services.
“It's a real need in our community. We're the go-to place for five counties and I'm the only pediatrician here,” Dr. Deborah Hall said.
In her 20 years with the clinic, Hall has witnessed the aftermath of horrific abuse.
“We've seen young infants who have been viciously sexually assaulted. Most kids we see are toddlers to mid-teens,” she said.
For children who are old enough to describe what happened to them, the clinic team works hand-in-hand with law enforcement and prosecutors.
“When you see a guilty verdict based on the child's testimony, it's like our whole team has succeeded and gotten somebody off the street that's not safe to be around our kids,” Hall said.
The clinic launched a new awareness campaign called “Darkness to Light,” that trains people in the community to recognize signs of sexual abuse.
“The message I always try to get across is you don't have to know for sure if a child is being abused. You just have to have the suspicion,” Heather Reid said.
Reid is a medical social worker and interviews children and parents at the clinic. The meetings can be extremely difficult.
“What typically happens is the child goes into the medical interview and they come in here with me and fall apart. They blame themselves and wish they would have seen things differently,” Reid said.
She feels it's critical for everyone in the community to be aware of the warning signs.
“They may start being angry and acting out in ways that don't make sense. Their school performance may suddenly plummet and they may become very withdrawn,” said Dr. Hall.
Victims can also become anxious and not want to be alone. Helping these children get through this tough time is this clinic's core mission.
“When we see a kid go through the process here and they feel better afterwards we feel like it's all worth it. It's a big part of their healing when they're listened to and taken seriously and protected,” Hall said.
Funding for the clinic comes primarily from Providence St. Peter Hospital with additional funds coming from the state.
Child Molestation at Idaho Scout Camp in the 90s Has Lasting Impact
by Michael Ames
A 1997 case of child molestation at a Boy Scout camp in Idaho embroiled the Scouts and the Mormons and opened a floodgate of victims' accusations that continue to this day.
Adam Steed never did become an Eagle Scout.
In 1997, Steed was a 14-year-old junior counselor well on his way to earning the rank of Eagle when he arrived at Camp Little Lemhi, a scenic campground on the Snake River south of Grand Teton National Park in southeastern Idaho. His father, Paul, worked as a Mormon seminary teacher in nearby Pocatello and felt secure sending Adam and his younger brother, Ben, to the church-sponsored camp. What no one in the Steed family—nor the parents of any other boys at Camp Little Lemhi—knew was that the camp's program director, Brad Stowell, had a trail of dozens of child molestation accusations dating back nearly a decade.
After being molested by Stowell that summer, Steed acted on what the Boy Scouts of America, in its own literature and educational videos, calls “the three Rs of protection”: recognize, resist and report. But when Steed went public with his story to a local newspaper, he claimed that after he told camp officials that Stowell was waking up boys in the middle of the night to fondle them, he was told not to tell his parents.
According to “Scout's Honor,” an explosive six-part series published by the Idaho Falls Post Register in 2005, Steed then took matters into his own hands and assembled a group of Stowell's victims (many were easily spotted by the necklaces that the predator gave out to his favorite targets) and demanded that something be done. Within a week, the police took Stowell away, and he confessed to molesting at least 24 boys over nine years, many of them at Camp Little Lemhi. Stowell was sentenced to 150 days in jail and 15 years probation. Sixteen years later, he is now married and lives in Idaho Falls as a registered sex offender, and he claims to be completely rehabilitated. “I was a molester,” he told the Post Register in 2005. “I'm not anymore.”
After Steed's story became public, numerous similar cases began coming to light, and Stowell's predations proved far from unique. As recently as late June 2013, four men filed a joint lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon Church in federal district court in Boise, Idaho, claiming that they were victims of sexual abuse in the late 70s and early 80s in church-sponsored Scout troops. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that the Boy Scouts' own records, along with newspaper reports from the time, prove that there were more than a dozen known pedophiles working or volunteering for the organization. In statements, the Scouts concede that wrong was done. “Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families,” said Scouts public relations director Deron Smith.
After he went public, Steed was the target of ridicule and gossip and even received hate mail.
The Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church), have had an intertwined history in the American West dating back to at least 1913, when Scouting became a recognized and sponsored activity for Mormon boys. The partnership is so close that, according to the Boy Scouts of America, Scout troops should “be chartered by every [LDS] ward and branch that has two or more boys” of appropriate age. The Scouts offer an LDS-specific “Faith in God Award” as well as a “Duty to God” program that “strengthens young men spiritually” and advances them through the church's religious education. In 2010, according to Scouts literature, the church sponsored nearly 350,000 Cub and Boy Scouts in almost 30,000 separate troops nationwide.
Compared to the abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church, the allegations that LDS officials and the Boy Scouts failed to act on reports of abuse have been less widespread. But since last October, when an Oregon judge ordered the Scouts to release thousands of pages from its Ineligible Volunteer Files (commonly referred to as the “perversion files”), more victims have been coming forward. In December, a Delaware man sued both organizations on the evidence provided in those files.
The recent Idaho lawsuit is set against the backdrop of Western communities where the Mormon Church is an influential religious, social, and political institution, places where abuse victims have faced pressure and even outright animosity for speaking out.
Steed's victimization follows the common and sickening routine now familiar from Catholic dioceses and the crimes perpetrated by convicted child rapist and former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Those who could have kept Stowell away from children knew all about his issues. In 1988, when Stowell was just 16 years old, he confessed to his mother, his church bishop, and a police officer that he had molested a 6-year-old boy who lived in his neighborhood. He was sent for six months of church-sponsored counseling, and then later that same year was hired to teach first aid to young boys at Camp Little Lemhi. In sworn testimony he delivered nine years later that was uncovered by the Post Register, Stowell said that was the summer he began preying on Boy Scouts.
By the time Steed arrived in the late 90s, Stowell had been promoted several times at Camp Little Lemhi, from counselor to assistant water sports instructor and eventually to programs director. The timeline of events surrounding his crimes is chilling. For two years in the early 90s, he traveled on his church mission to Alaska, where he molested a boy who has to this day not been identified. In 1991, Richard Scarborough, a neighbor who knew about Stowell's checkered history, wrote a letter to the Boy Scouts of America office in Irving, Texas, to report the pedophile in their ranks. Three years later, when Stowell had still not been removed, Scarborough wrote another letter, this time to a higher authority: Mormon Church President Ezra Taft Benson. According the Post Register, the letter he received in return claimed that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare had looked into the case and “determined the nature of the allegations warranted no further action.”
Today, the Scouts concede that crimes by many other Scout leaders and volunteers went unpunished. “There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong,” said Deron Smith with the Boy Scouts of America, when asked to comment on this story.
The Mormon Church is looking forward rather than back at crimes that cannot be undone. “As a society, we've learned a great deal about abuse in the decades since these cases, and made large strides in recognizing and preventing this societal plague,” said Church spokesman Eric Hawkins. He added that the LDS Church has adopted a 24-hour help line and has “dedicated significant efforts and resources to preventing and addressing abuse.”
By speaking out, Steed saved an unknown number of boys from sexual abuse. And yet, his decision to turn Stowell in and go public with his story turned many in the eastern Idaho Mormon community against him. After he went public, Steed was the target of ridicule and gossip and even received hate mail. The alienation among his peers was so complete that he dropped out of high school at 16 and took courses at a local college to complete his GED. For doing the honorable thing, “he lost all of his friends,” said Dean Miller, the Post Register's executive editor at the time. As Steed told the paper in 2005, “I felt like I was the one who got in trouble.”
Steed's family also saw their lives seriously disrupted. His father Paul quit his job as an LDS seminary teacher and devoted himself, full time and without pay, to fighting for the rights of sexual abuse victims. In 2006, those efforts paid off when then-Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne signed a bill that eliminated a statute of limitations that had shielded sexual predators from prosecution once their victims turned 23. The entire Steed family traveled to Boise to attend the bill's signing into law.
The newspaper series, which would have rested on much flimsier evidence without Steed as a witness, stirred up deep controversy in Idaho Falls, a sleepy city of 60,000, and the surrounding majority-LDS communities. Frank VanderSloot, a prominent businessman and active Republican Party fundraiser (he served as a national finance co-chair to Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012), paid for several highly critical ads ( PDF ) through his Melaleuca Company in the Post Register (PDF). Those ads questioned the paper's competence and motivation. “Suspicious of the truthfulness and accuracy of the Post Register's version of the story, Frank VanderSloot, president of Melaleuca, decided to learn the truth for himself,” the paid content announced. “The Post Register's real intent,” one ad (PDF) read, “was to smear the Scouts' good name and take away what the Scouts value most—their Honor.”
VanderSloot's ads (PDF) also attempted to out reporter Peter Zuckerman as a homosexual and suggested that the journalist was a “gay rights advocate” and therefore had “a personal axe to grind” against the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church. Though he was not closeted, Zuckerman had, prior to VanderSloot's campaign, kept his sexual orientation private in Idaho Falls, only telling his boss and a couple of colleagues at the paper. Before he left the state later that summer, Zuckerman fielded not just angry phone calls at work, but threatening late night visitors at his own home.
For Miller, who has since left Idaho Falls and is now the director of the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University, the ongoing and recent lawsuits are a reminder that institutions and society at large have not figured out how to properly deal with these crimes. “We as a people have some seriously unfinished business on how we treat victims,” he told The Daily Beast. After “Scout's Honor” was published, more men in Mormon communities have felt empowered to come forward and report even more heinous crimes from their own childhoods. In Idaho Falls, the story even led the city's police chief to admit, 40 years after the fact and during an interview with PBS, that he too was molested as a Boy Scout. Those voices of witness and validation, Miller said, were the most significant outcome of Steed's sacrifice. Grown men who had been abused as children called Miller at the Post Register and told him, regarding Steed and other assault victims, “The best thing about this was that you believed them.”
Raped and Impregnated at 14, Girl Must Now Share Parental Rights with Her Attacker
Rapist's paternity rights locks victim into 16-year relationship with him.
by Iulia Filip
BOSTON (CN) - A rape victim sued Massachusetts to stop it from subjecting her to "a court-ordered 16-year unwanted relationship with her attacker" by giving him paternity rights over the child born from the rape.
H.T., of Norwood, Mass., sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Federal Court.
"The plaintiff, a rape victim in a state criminal matter, became pregnant in 2009 at age 14 as a result of the crime and gave birth to her attacker's child," the lawsuit states.
"The defendant in the state criminal proceeding, age 20 at the time of the impregnation, was convicted of rape in 2011 and was sentenced to 16 years probation. Conditions of probation include an order that he initiate proceedings in family court and comply with that court's orders until the child reaches adulthood. The plaintiff here seeks to enjoin enforcement of so much of the state court's order as violates her federal rights by binding her to an unwanted 16-year legal relationship with her rapist."
H.T., who recently graduated from high school, says the order forces her to participate in unwanted court proceedings for 16 years with the man who raped her, and to spend money on legal fees.
"The plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm without relief from this court because she cannot choose not to participate in said family court proceedings without risking serious consequences, including the loss of custody of her child," the complaint states.
"Even if the family court ruled in the plaintiff's favor on issues currently in dispute, such as whether the criminal defendant should be granted visitation rights to the plaintiff's child, the plaintiff will suffer harm from the constant threat of new issues arising in family court until her child reaches adulthood, including, for example, efforts by the criminal defendant to seek to modify child support orders and enforce his parental rights at the trial court level and on appeal."
H.T. was 14 when 20-year-old Jamie Melendez raped her in the fall of 2009, making her pregnant, according to the complaint.
H.T. says she lived with her mother, who had to quit her job to care for the baby.
"The plaintiff and her mother repeatedly informed state officials that they wanted no contact with Melendez for any purpose and that they did not want the child born of the crime to have a relationship with Melendez," the complaint states.
"Melendez pleaded guilty to rape in September, 2011 (Norfolk Criminal Docket No . CR200900499) and was sentenced to probation for 16 years. As a condition of probation, Melendez was ordered to initiate proceedings in family court, declare paternity as to the child born of his crime, (paternity had already been determined in the criminal case, via DNA testing), and comply with the family court's orders throughout the probationary period. The plaintiff and her mother were adamantly opposed to participation in family court proceedings and repeatedly expressed this sentiment to state officials." (Parentheses in complaint).
In June 2012, H.T. found out that Melendez was seeking visitation rights with the child.
After a family court judge ordered Melendez to pay $110 a week in child support, he Melendez asked for visitation rights, and offered to withdraw his request in exchange for not having to pay child support, according to the lawsuit.
"Melendez had no prior contact with the child and had expressed no interest in the child, but no Massachusetts law forbids the enforcement of visitation rights by a biological father who causes a child's birth through the crime of rape," the complaint states.
The sentencing judge in the state criminal court denied H.T.'s request to order Melendez to pay criminal restitution instead of child support, and release her from any legal proceedings involving him.
H.T. asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to review the decision, but the single justice of the court found that she lacked standing to challenge the order. The justice agreed with the state court that H.T. could appeal any adverse rulings in family court.
H.T. appealed the ruling, but the full court affirmed the single justice's decision in June, according to the complaint.
H.T. says she never asserted an interest in the prosecution of Melendez. On the contrary, she seeks to be released from having any authority over his probationary conditions, according to the complaint.
"Through this action, the plaintiff requests that she be liberated from a state court order that not only imposes unlawfully on her liberty for 16 years, but also obligates her with the unwanted and inappropriate responsibility for ensuring Melendez's compliance with the conditions of his probation; an obligation that should rest exclusively with state officials," the complaint states.
H.T. claims the order subjects her to an unwanted legal relationship with her attacker, and violates due process and other constitutional rights.
"An estimated 35,000 babies are born from rape every year," the complaint states. "No state court has ever issued an order such as the one at issue here. Granting the plaintiff's requested relief will inhibit state court judges in Massachusetts and elsewhere from similarly depriving rape victims of their liberty, personal autonomy and due process."
H.T. seeks an injunction and annulment of the order.
She is represented by Wendy Murphy, co-director of New England Law School's Women's and Children's Advocacy Project.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the state had not yet reviewed the filing.
Illinois students to get sexual abuse education as part of curriculum
by Rebecca Klopf
ROCKFORD -- A new law in Illinois requires schools to teach children about sexual abuse. Although there is no funding to put on such a program one organization has already been offering it's services for free throughout Winnebago and Boone Counties.
The Carrie Lynn Children's Center has been teaching children to recognize the signs of sexual abuse for years. But what once was a voluntary program is now a requirement for school and many are turning to the center for help..
"Like with anything- drugs and any kind of issue that your children are going to face starts at home. So our program is not about sex. It talks in generalities," says Kathy Pomahac, Carrie Lynn Children's Center, executive director.
The Carrie Lynn Children's Center provides resources for kids who've been physically and sexually abused as well as education. The new measure known as Erin's Law was named for Erin Merryn. She's a child sex abuse victim who said the abuse started when she was six. Merryn felt she might have gotten help sooner if there was better education. Previously Illinois required only high school students to get sexual assault and prevention programming. Now elementary and middle school students will also get their own age appropriate education.
"The median age for sexual abuse nationally is 9 years old. That would hold true for the center, between 7 to 12 are our biggest referrals. But we have numbers representing 0 to 6 as well," says Pomahac.
When it comes to number of cases Carrie Lynn gets up to 600 referrals year.
"We are one of 38 children advocacy centers in the state of Illinois and we are by far the busiest outside of Chicago a and it's collar countries. This issue is happening here in this community," says Pomahac.
School districts will ultimately decide how to teach sexual abuse education. But the Carrie Lynn Center says it is already being flooded with requests from Boone and Winnebago County schools this year.
Laws alone will not stop child abuse
If only a law could put a stop to child abuse.
But as we've seen with drunken driving, making laws more comprehensive and penalties more severe can reduce the number of offenses, but won't eliminate them.
We support the initiative of Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright and other county prosecutors who are advocating for a new class of crimes packaged together as the Child Protection Act, that would address holes in current laws on child abuse and child murder.
If the new laws prevent one child from being beaten, one baby from being killed, they're worth the legislative and bureaucratic effort.
But we're afraid the laws won't have much effect. If child abusers — most of whom are parents or other caregivers — could be prevented from their crimes by concern over legal consequences, the laws now on the books would suffice.
Child abusers don't generally plan their crimes, and child abuse doesn't happen in isolation. Most often, it's a chronic criminal behavior engaged in by people who were themselves subject to abuse.
As with drunken driving, societal disapproval can be a stronger force than law in curbing child abuse. A willingness to step in when we see or hear children being mistreated — express disapproval, call the police — creates an atmosphere in which people prone to violence against family members are forced to think before they act.
Laws can be reflections of popular will, however, and buttress good intentions. In several recent local cases, the shortcomings of the laws on child abuse have been exposed. It makes sense to reform them.
To get a conviction on a second-degree murder charge, current law requires prosecutors prove a suspect acted with “depraved indifference,” which is a high bar to clear, especially since most child abuse takes place in the home, in private.
Under the Child Protection Act, suspects in a position of trust and with a duty to protect a child who recklessly cause injuries that led to the child's death could be prosecuted for murder. “Depraved indifference” would be removed from the law.
The act would also bump up the level of other violent crimes against children, increasing the seriousness of the charges and the severity of the penalties.
Many people have expressed outrage over the recent case of Gary Carpenter, the 5-year-old boy beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend, Brandon Warrington.
Warrington was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. But the boy's mother, Jennie Mattison, who was aware of the abuse, received a 1- to 3-year sentence for lying to police, with a chance of serving a shorter sentence in a shock incarceration camp.
Anger about Mattison's behavior and her light treatment by the criminal justice system is understandable.
But it would be immeasurably better if people like Mattison could be taught to recognize the potential for abuse and prevent it than to sentence them to long prison terms after the abuse has been committed.
Preventing abuse, not punishing abusers, is the more important task.
So it was encouraging to hear from Hogan that she is working with a coalition of community leaders to come up with strategies to prevent child abuse through educational interventions in schools, public service messages and programs at community centers.
These acts of violence against children happen spontaneously, in moments of anger and frustration, with horrifying results that often surprise the person who commits them. They can be prevented.
The sad truth is that people who abuse children almost never grew up in healthy loving households, but were children of absent, neglectful or hurtful parents.
Intervention and education — giving adults the parenting they never had growing up, and teaching them the patience and restraint they never learned — is the way to stop the cycle of destruction.
Audit: W.Va. fails to address child abuse quickly
The Associated Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The agency charged with protecting West Virginia's children from abuse and neglect suffers from high staff turnover, consistently fails to do timely investigations and appears unwilling to fix its many shortcomings, according to a legislative audit.
Child Protective Services is part of the Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Children and Families. The audit presented to lawmakers in Charleston says the bureau lacks a sense of urgency in recruiting, building and retaining a workforce capable of timely investigations.
While it has been aware of and studied the turnover problem for six years, the audit concludes, the bureau has done nothing to change the situation.
The Dominion Post (http://bit.ly/1dvVFeO) says interim bureau commissioner Susan Hage told lawmakers that she is taking the report seriously and committed to change. She also acknowledged the bureau should be farther along in addressing 14 recommendations.
But state Sen. Donald Cookman, a Hampshire County Democrat and retired circuit court judge, called the situations laid out in the audit "appalling."
While state law requires CPS workers to respond to abuse and neglect reports within 14 days — and within 72 hours in cases of imminent danger — the audit found workers met that standard less than half the time.
In 2011, it said, only 48 percent of the cases were handled promptly.
A national report released last fall found that children are dying from abuse and neglect at a higher rate in West Virginia than in any other state, a problem that judges, social workers and others say is fueled by rampant substance abuse.
Though abuse and neglect reports have dropped nationally for five straight years, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System found West Virginia had the highest death rate at 4.16 children per 100,000 in 2011.
Yet the audit says the bureau fails to conduct central reviews or disseminate that information.
"The Legislature and the public are not aware of the number of child deaths . reported each year within the CPS system," the audit said.
The bureau cannot even provide consistent figures for the number of employees, the audit found. They ranged from 435 to 478.
The audit also cited the lack of a centralized intake system for abuse and neglect reports. Currently, 120 people around the state take those calls. The audit suggests 55 — one for each county — might work better.
Hage said high employee turnover is part of the reason CPS has been unable to change.
The audit says the rate is 28 percent among employees but 54 percent among trainees, many of whom leave because the pay it too low and the case loads are too heavy.
Recruitment is also challenged by regulations for social work licenses and rules that eliminate people with certain academic fields of study.
The audit recommends, among other things, that bureau leaders develop a long-term workforce plan for CPS, improve its exit-interview system and conduct an annual child fatality review. It says it the findings should be sent in an annual report to both Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the Legislature.
Registration open for 2013 Child Abuse and Neglect Conference
Registration is open for the 2013 Arkansas Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, a conference led by MidSOUTH, the community service unit of the UALR School of Social Work. The conference will be held Sept. 11 through 13 at Embassy Suites in Little Rock. The theme of this year's conference is “Reaping the Harvest: Are We Making a Difference?”
This year's keynote address will be delivered by leaders of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, which uses canines to comfort sexually abused children undergoing forensic interviews and court testimonies.
The dogs also visit juveniles in detention facilities and provide cheer for court jurors and staff who often conduct business in an adversarial setting.
Jon Conte, a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington, is the general session speaker. Conte is founding president of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and was recently honored with the designation of President Emeritus. Conte maintains a private practice in Mercer Island, Wash., where he specializes in forensic mental health issues related to child abuse and trauma. He has a particular interest in the impact of trauma work on professionals and on professional ethics.
In addition, there are multiple concurrent sessions led by experts on child abuse from across the state and nation. Law enforcement and persons employed in the legal and healthcare fields, social work and education are encouraged to attend. Continuing education credits are available.
Conference coordinators are also seeking exhibitors and sponsors interested in setting up booths at the event. For more information or to register for the conference, visit www.midsouth.ualr.edu.
Updates will also be available through the 2013 Arkansas Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect Facebook page.
Potential sponsors or vendors may contact Conference Coordinator Robin Wilson at email@example.com.
With five training locations across the state, MidSOUTH provides leadership, training, and product support in the areas of addiction, child welfare, technology, distance learning, and organizational development.
Number of Child Maltreatment Deaths Currently Unknown
MU professor receives funding to better estimate child fatalities due to abuse and neglect, which will strengthen prevention efforts
by Anne Allen
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Approximately 1,700 children die of maltreatment every year in the United States, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System; however, researchers estimate that the actual number of child fatalities due to abuse and neglect is nearly double that number. During a 13-month health policy fellowship at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), an MU nursing researcher will investigate better ways to identify child maltreatment deaths on death certificates then use this data to estimate a more accurate number of child fatalities due to abuse and neglect nationally.
Patricia Schnitzer, associate professor at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, will link data from10 states' child death review programs with death certificate data maintained by the NCHS. The child death review data contain details on the circumstances of death that are not available on the death certificate but are essential for classifying child maltreatment. Although death certificates identify many deaths due to physical abuse, most neglect-related deaths are not identified as such on death certificates.
“Take for example a death certificate that states that a young child died from an accidental drowning,” Schnitzer said. “On its own, the death certificate does not contain the information needed to determine if maltreatment was involved. However, the child death review provides important details of the circumstances surrounding the death, such as a lack of adult supervision. When we determine how many young children drown because of a lack of supervision, we have information necessary to develop effective and focused prevention programs.”
Completion of this project provides an opportunity to further our knowledge of child maltreatment deaths in the United States, use NCHS data to obtain national estimates of fatal maltreatment and monitor trends over time, Schnitzer said.
“Collaboration with the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths and the 10 states committed to sharing their child death review data, is essential to the success of this project,” Schnitzer said. “I am grateful for the states' diligent death review and data collection processes and commitment to improving the welfare of children.”
The NCHS/Academy Health Policy Fellowship program brings scholars in health services research areas to the NCHS headquarters for 13 months to conduct research using NCHS data that addresses issues of interest to policymakers and the health services research community.
Soliciting Sex With Children Will Now Be a Federal Offense
by Kristina Chew
Last month, the FBI announced that it had rescued more than 100 sexually exploited children in Operation Cross Country, a nationwide sweep of sex traffickers. Some 150 people, most “pimps” who profit from sexually exploiting children, were arrested. A bill introduced last week in Congress, the End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013, goes a step further, calling for those “patrons” who seek sex with children to also be federally prosecuted.
It goes without saying that the new bill makes an important step in protecting children by recognizing that those who “obtain, patronize, or solicit” prostituted children are guilty of the crime of human trafficking. Beyond prosecuting both those who seek sex with children and those who profit from it, we also need to make provisions to better identify children who are being exploited and to help those who have survived such an experience.
“Soliciting or obtaining sex with minors, paying to have sex with a child, is a crime — period, end of story. This is a monumentally important bill that will do more to curb this terrible crime of [sexual] slavery in the 21st Century,” said Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a sponsor of the bill.
The new bill amends the existing Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Under the TVPA,”the guy that brings those girls throughout the United States” is the one who is prosecuted, as Republican Congressman Ted Poe (a former state district judge from Humble, Texas) said during a news conference at the Capitol but “the consumer, the buyer, is not prosecuted on the federal level.” The new bill will mean that “patrons” will also face federal prosecution.
The End Sex Trafficking Act will seek to draw on existing resources, including federally funded law enforcement task forces, which are part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, to prosecute both those who profit from and solicit sex from children.
Efforts to identify children who are the victims of sex trafficking must also be stepped up. “Our child protection systems often fail to see these kids, to recognize them as crime victims, and to extend protection,” Michelle Garnett McKenzie writes in the Minnesota Daily Planet.
McKenzie emphasizes that it is imperative to see sex trafficked children as crime victims who will need services including safe housing to address what can only be many and complex needs. To this end, Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York have introduced H.R. 2744, the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013. This bill would amend federal law to require that states' programs relating to child abuse and neglect include provisions and procedures to identify and assess all reports involving child victims of sex trafficking and to train child protective services workers about identifying and providing comprehensive services to exploited children.
The legal response to human trafficking has tended to reflect “the long-held ambivalence about prostitution, which continues to rescue victims by arresting, detaining, and prosecuting them rather than by focusing efforts on the traffickers,” McKenzie writes. The End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013 can, as Poe says, help to end “modern-day slavery” by prosecuting those actually guilty of crimes, not minors who are the victims of criminal activity and in need of rehabilitative care and support.
The bill has broad bipartisan support and is expected to pass both houses of Congress unanimously. More than 85 groups across the country including the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, Texas CASA and World Vision International have indicated their support for a law that cannot be passed too soon.
From failed to approved, Assembly revives sex abuse bill
The Assembly Appropriations Committee resurrected a bill extending the statute of limitations for some sex abuse victims after it failed last week amid fierce lobbying.
Senate Bill 131 by Jim Beall , D-San Jose, would open a one-year window for victims who were excluded from a 2003 law that extended the time during which sexual abuse victims can file a civil lawsuit.
Opponents have argued that the bill unfairly excludes public agencies, such as school districts, and instead only revives abuse claims against private institutions, such as the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts.
An umbrella organization of groups like the California Catholic Conference and California Association of Private School Organizations spent $250,000 in the fist six months of this year to fight the bill.
SB 131 fell three votes short in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week after six of Beall's fellow Democrats did not vote. Beall asked for reconsideration and, despite no recent amendments, it passed on Wednesday 11-3 with three members not voting. SB 131 is now headed to the full Assembly for a floor vote.
PHOTO : Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, during session in the Senate chambers in March. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua
Cass Family Medicine column
by Gloria Gonzalez-Kruger Ph.D., LIMHP, LMFT
No one who experiences a traumatic event moves on unchanged. While some resume their daily routines more quickly than others, trauma has a way of stopping us in our tracks. It is important to be aware of potential effects (both short-term and long-term) and to know where to seek help. As it turns out, traumatic experiences can have a broad range of health consequences, and mental health isn't the only area affected.
In the context of life experience, “trauma” refers to events that cause feelings of powerlessness, fear, hopelessness, or an extended state of anxiety. These events tend to involve the risk of injury or death, or threats to the physical integrity of oneself or others. Examples include physical and sexual abuse; exposure to domestic abuse (either as the direct victim or as an observer), or to violence in the community; medical trauma and motor vehicle accidents; natural and human-made disasters; and traumatic losses such as the death of a family member.
Most people experience traumatic events at some point in their lives, often very early. In samples from the American Psychological Association, over two-thirds of children report experiencing a traumatic event by age 16 (e.g., accident requiring serious medical attention; exposure to sexual abuse; witnessing community violence).
What to expect
After a traumatic event, it is normal to feel anxiety, exhaustion, grief, or anger. Every person has different ways of coping and will benefit from different types of help. You should not worry if you do not feel up to resuming your normal activities for a few days. However, if you are still sad or anxious several weeks later and find that this interferes with your daily activities, you might consider seeking help. This is also true if you have persistent flashbacks of the experience (either during waking hours or during sleep), or if you have ongoing changes in your sleeping habits or appetite (i.e., sleeping
It is also important to be aware of potential long-term consequences, particularly for childhood trauma. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, children who are exposed to trauma experience increases in stress hormones comparable to those seen in combat veterans. Adults who experienced multiple types of traumatic events before the age of 18 (e.g., being a victim of abuse or neglect; having parents suffer from addiction or mental illness; losing a parent through divorce, abandonment, or imprisonment) are at higher risk not only for mental health issues or suicide attempts, but for physical problems such as chronic pulmonary lung disease and hepatitis. If you are an adult survivor of childhood trauma and are still struggling with the experience, you should consider speaking to a mental or behavioral health professional. For suggestions, you can consult your healthcare providers, local social service agencies or clergy, and local clinics.
In the Plattsmouth area, Cass Family Medicine is able to offer both primary care and behavioral health services. This includes mental health evaluation and treatment for children, adolescents, and adults. For more information, you can call the clinic at 402-296-2345. Our hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We accept most insurance plans including Medicaid and Medicare. For those with limited income who do not have insurance, a sliding fee scale is available.
National Council Magazine - Long-term risks
People who have had multiple traumatic things happen to them are at higher risk for a wide range of problems- not just mental illness.
* Suicide attempts
* Chronic pulmonary lung disease
* Changes in cortisol – metabolism
This increases with exposure to multiple traumatic events
Examples of traumatic (ace score) – Prior to 18th birthday…
* Verbal or emotional abuse from a parent or other adult in the household
* Physical abuse from parent or other adult in the household
* Being molested, or being the victim of an attempted or successful rape
* Lack of familial love or support, sense that family members did not support each other.
* Being neglected: dirty clothes, no one to protect you, parents drunk or high
* Loss of a biological parent through divorce, abandonment, or other reason
* Mother physically abused
* Living with someone who was a problem drinker, alcoholic, or drug user
* Household member depressed or mentally ill, or attempted suicide
* Household member incarcerated
Treatment centre speakers will focus on their experiences
CORNWALL, Ontario - This year's guest speaker at the Children's Treatment Centre's biggest fundraiser of the year not only talks the talk, she walks the walk. Every year, Lauren Book treks 2,400 kilometers across Florida to raise awareness about childhood sexual abuse.
Born and raised in south Florida, Lauren was abused as a child by her live-in female nanny. She'll be the guest speaker at the Celebrity Walk Kick-Off Breakfast on Wednesday, September 18th. She and her father, Ron, will share their moving story of horror, hope and healing with about 600 people at the charity event. The two will also join forces for separate presentations to teachers and principals, and to parents and caregivers of young children.
A shy girl desperately seeking approval, Lauren was 11 years old and the daughter of a wealthy Tallahassee lobbyist when her family hired Waldina Flores to look after her and a younger brother and sister. Lauren already felt isolated by her mother's severe mental illness and her father's busy work schedule, so she was easy prey for the nanny's unrelenting physical and sexual abuse.
After six years of beatings, rape and degradation, Lauren finally disclosed the truth when Flores threatened to kill a boy she was dating. The nanny fled to Oklahoma where she was found coaching a female soccer team. In 2002, she was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Emotionally conflicted and ridiculed by classmates, Lauren began to do drugs while cutting, burning and starving herself. It was a fierce struggle but she eventually regained control of her life, graduated from university and teamed up with her father to establish Lauren's Kids, a group dedicated to helping other victims.
Thanks to their tireless advocacy, Florida law now insists victims get the results of an abuser's HIV/AIDS test; it's a felony for convicted offenders to contact victims or their families, as Flores did after conviction; the state's abuse reporting rules are among the toughest in the nation; and there is no longer a statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children.
Florida also has a compulsory abuse-prevention curriculum for elementary schools and Lauren designed the kindergarten component. She has a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and Creative Writing; and a Masters in Community Psychology and Social Change.
In 2011, Lauren wrote It's Okay to Tell , a book about the extreme abuse she suffered and the healing journey she underwent to become a survivor. As part of her continuing work, Lauren does her annual 39-day walk across Florida, visiting treatment and prevention centres and listening to the stories of people she encounters along the way.
She'll bring that same energy and empathy to Cornwall when she and her father speak at the Celebrity Walk Kick-Off Breakfast at the Cornwall Civic Complex. Breakfast will be from 6-7 a.m. followed by their presentation.
In the afternoon, the Books will address principals and teachers of children between pre-kindergarten and grade four, teaching them to use a school curriculum that empowers children to protect themselves against abuse. This curriculum teaches children to tell a trusted adult about any situation which makes them feel unsafe, uncomfortable or confused.
On Thursday, September 19, the duo will speak to parents and caregivers of children aged four to eight about how to speak to their kids about abuse prevention. Ms. Book believes that children are the first line of defense against abuse, and if they are taught what to do, 90% percent of those who otherwise would be abused could protect themselves. The presentation will be at 7 p.m. at the Best Western Plus Parkway Inn & Conference Centre in Cornwall and it is open free of charge to all parents and caregivers.
For more information on these events, contact the Children's Treatment Centre at 613-933-4400.
Abused children deserve help from Florida law enforcement
by John Romano
On her own, the little girl never had a chance.
Not when she was homeless. Not when a doctor discovered injuries consistent with abuse. Not when she was nearly suffocated and had her eye swollen shut.
She was just 2 years old when, according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, her mother killed her by smashing her head against a wall.
Aliyah Marie Branum was among the victims highlighted in a Miami Herald investigation that discovered at least 20 children on the radar of the state's Department of Children and Families who have died this summer.
The numbers, understandably, have led to outrage. They led to a town hall meeting Tuesday in South Florida. They've led to a lot of finger-pointing and shouting. But will they lead to a solution?
The current problems at DCF are familiar to anyone who has paid attention to children's issues. These problems have transcended governors, legislators, political parties and the passage of time.
There is a treacherous balance between a desire to keep children out of foster care and the need to protect them from unfit parents and caregivers.
Roy Miller, the president of the Children's Campaign, has devoted much of his life to serving as a watchdog for children's services and says there is no doubt that progress has been made and lives have been saved.
Still, much more needs to be done. And Miller, as a circuit judge in Miami recently suggested, says one of the answers is removing investigative responsibilities from DCF and handing them over to local law enforcement.
"Child abuse is a crime, and we need to treat it that way,'' Miller said. "The problem is we have been unwilling to invest the money we need to get the sheriff's offices engaged in child abuse investigations. We have yet to have a governor or a Legislature willing to provide the money necessary to protect these children.''
There are local models for this concept. Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco are among six counties in Florida that have contracts with DCF to provide investigative services.
Miller says the presence of law enforcement holds more sway with abusive or neglectful parents, but Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says the benefits go beyond that.
The Pinellas Sheriff's Office employs about 140 people in its child protection division, and the bulk of the investigators have social services and child welfare degrees, including some former DCF employees. Those employees are then buttressed by deputies and supervisors with more traditional law enforcement backgrounds.
"There is a checks and balances to the way it's set up,'' Gualtieri said. "The difference is not so much a badge or uniform, but the law enforcement mind-set that is part of the investigation. It also brings a local level of accountability.''
So why isn't this the norm throughout the state?
Getting the Legislature to provide funds is one problem, and sometimes fighting by DCF officials to control their turf is another. Gualtieri says he gets about $10 million annually from the state and has to supplement that by borrowing from elsewhere in his organization.
"It's a good idea, as long as it's adequately funded,'' Gualtieri said. "If not, we're setting it up for failure.''
Neglected children deserve better. They deserve our protection. They deserve our best effort. They deserve a chance.
When children abuse parents, few programs are in place to help
by Kate Santich
She is 46, a teacher, wife, mother — and prisoner in her own home.
In the past two years, she has called Orlando police 39 times, whenever her son has turned violent. At 19, his 250-pound body — with a third-grader's maturity — towers over her.
"When the meds are in him and working well, when I see him smile, I think, 'That's my son,'" she said. "But other times, there's this ugliness he can unleash, and I worry he will hurt someone."
Once he even threatened to bash her head in.
Her story is not as unusual as you might suppose. Whether the result of mental illness, drug and alcohol use, or just bad behavior, parent abuse is a grossly underreported problem shrouded in secrecy and shame, experts say.
"It tears your whole world apart," said Donna Wyche, manager of Orange County's mental-health and homeless division. "A lot of parents won't even tell you about the problem because it's so frightening to them, and they feel like no one will understand. And then when they do look around for help, there's not any — or very little."
The child-welfare system is set up to protect children from parents, not the other way around. And only very recently has the juvenile-justice system created diversion programs to help kids get therapy instead of locking them in a detention center, which does little to change behavior when they're released.
In Orange County, 426 kids were arrested last year for domestic violence: physically assaulting family members in their own home.
"I've seen all kinds of cases," said Stephen Dalsemer, director of the Orange County Juvenile Assessment Center. "We had one 8-year-old who attacked his grandmother — who was in a wheelchair — with a hammer. These things don't just all of a sudden start at [age] 17."
Even when parents are abused by adult children, the roots often reach back into childhood. Carolann Duncan, regional substance-abuse and mental-health director for the Florida Department of Children and Families, said behavior that parents can control physically when children are small becomes unmanageable as kids pass puberty.
Last October, Rosemary Pate of Ocoee — a 30-year employee of Lockheed Martin — took out a restraining order against her son, Everett, saying she had been afraid for years that he would kill her. Two years earlier, when he was 16, she said in her petition to the judge, he had held her hostage at knifepoint. She had even installed extra locks on her bedroom door for protection.
Last month, Rosemary Pate was found stabbed to death in that bedroom. Everett Pate, now 19, has been charged with her murder.
Though parricide — the killing of a parent — is rare, there have been at least five cases in South Florida in the past six years. The most gruesome involved a 76-year-old Hollywood woman allegedly killed by her daughter with an ax.
Studies on all forms of parent abuse are scarce, and the line between mental illness and sane-but-violent behavior is sometimes blurry.
Sarah, the 46-year-old teacher — who did not want her last name used to protect her son, who is mentally ill — looks back now and thinks she may have had the first glimpse that something was wrong when her son was still an infant. Unlike most babies, he would simply stare off into space for long periods of time, "like he would disappear within himself."
She first tried to get help for him when he was in second grade and drew a Mother's Day card showing a cat surrounded by knives, guns and spears. When she took the card to the principal and expressed her concern, he chalked it up to normal "separation anxiety."
When the boy was 11, he tried to stab another child with a pair of scissors. At 16, he came at her with a hammer.
Therapists have offered a string of diagnoses: schizoaffective disorder, bipolar with psychotic features, Asperger's syndrome, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette's. Maybe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Sarah eventually sued the Florida Department of Children and Families to get her son treatment. Her own private insurance was maxed out.
"People would say to me, 'There's nothing we can do until he commits a violent crime,'" Sarah said. "I told the judge, 'You are not going to make me let him kill someone before he gets help.'"
But getting help is hard to do.
Parents who fear their children usually come to the attention of authorities by refusing to pick up their kids from juvenile detention. Unless they get a sympathetic caseworker, the parents in those cases can be prosecuted under child-abuse laws for abandonment.
And if parents seek treatment or therapy for a child on their own, they must be prepared to shell out serious money. Inpatient treatment runs about $400 a day, and insurance coverage dries up fast.
Home staged with possible abuse scenarios set to help area child advocates
KMOV) –Every year, more than three-million reports are made in the United States, involving nearly six-million children.The St. Louis area will soon be equipped with a new tool to help battle the terrible epidemic.
On Friday, UMSL will hold the grand opening for its new Children's Advocacy Services location in Kirkwood.
The home will serve as a training exercise to teach UMSL students and professionals on how to spot the warning signs.
News 4's Sharon Reed got an exclusive, firsthand look at the home and to see what it would be like to be a social worker or a police officer trying to protect children.
“I really wasn't prepared for what I would find inside,” Reed said
Jerry Dunn, Executive Director of Children's Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis followed Sharon as she moved through the mock home.
Reed was told a scenario before entering the home explaining that the family who supposedly lived there recently moved to the area from Illinois. The 27-year-old mother, 28-year-old father, five-year-old daughter, 18-month-old son and an infant all lived in this staged home.
“What's really sad, this mock house, these simulations are based on real life situations my staff has walked into,” Dunn said.
Reed noticed prescription pill bottles with labels that did not match the family's name, drugs, dead mice, dirty diapers, adult items and weapons within a child's reach.
it is very upsetting and I think that is part of why we constructed the house in such a way that our child advocacy students coming from a variety of fields so we can be here this first time when they are upset,” Dunn added.
Dunn said this is invaluable in training social workers, children psychologists and police officers of the future to help them as investigators. The home is also meant to help with learning how to cope.
The new site will help CAS better meet the needs of the area as well as provide a unique training tool for UMSL students. They will be able to sharpen their skills as investigators, learning to deal with children and families in crisis, and in this controlled environment they will learn how to deal with their emotions.
This is the fourth house of its kind in the country.
Click here to see the firsthand walk-through of the staged home.
Child protection center sees increase in referrals
by Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City center that interviews children to gather information for law enforcement officers investigating crimes is seeing a sharp increase in the referral of youngsters who say they were abused or witnessed the abuse of another child.
The increase doesn't mean more physical child abuse cases are occurring in the county but instead reflects a change in focus following a directive from Jackson County's top prosecutor, said Beth Banker, director of the Child Protection Center, a nonprofit that has provided evidence in thousands of child sex abuse investigations since 1996.
Banker said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has "made it clear she takes physical abuse in Jackson County seriously, and, if warranted, she wants to see prosecutions."
The center recorded a 78 percent increase in referrals from law enforcement in physical child abuse cases in the first six months of 2013, compared with the same time in 2012, The Kansas City Star reported Monday. And it had a 59 percent increase in referrals to interview children who have witnessed child abuse.
Baker, whose husband serves on the center's board, said the idea is to save troubled children from further crimes.
"If cases are out there with children with broken bones, burns, bites or discipline that went too far, they should be here," Baker said.
The center interviews about 800 children each year, with workers trained to interview a young child about his or her experiences without asking leading questions to reach a predetermined outcome.
"We interview children," said Lisa Mizell, chief executive officer for the center. "Law enforcement interrogates witnesses. There's a big difference."
With the help of the center, the child has to tell the story only once, unless he or she must testify at trial. Previously, a child might have to repeat the story before trial to parents, teachers, state social welfare workers, police officers, prosecutors and defense lawyers.
"If you keep asking the kids over and over again, they'll think you don't believe them," said Brandy Hodgkin, a forensic interviewer at the center.
One Kansas City criminal defense lawyer, Lance Sandage, who resigned from the center's board when he accepted a case on which it had conducted interviews, said he considers the information coming out of the center almost as reliable as DNA testing. That can be used to exonerate a suspect as easily as it can convict a defendant, he said.
"It's almost like a crime lab," Sandage said. "It's the best way to extract the information from a child to make a decision about whether to prosecute."
Clergy abuse: a cry for help
by FIONA HENDERSON
THE full extent of the horror inflicted on Ballarat children by Catholic priests Gerald Ridsdale and Ronald Claffy, and Christian Brothers Robert Best, Edward Dowlan, Stephen Farrell and Gerald Fitzgerald may never be known.
We know 107 cases have been substantiated during former Bishop Ronald Mulkearn's 26-year term from 1971 until 1997.
We know through the recent state government inquiry into institutionalised child abuse, the Catholic Church Insurance has a list of clergy they would not cover because of their paedophilic activities, yet they remained in service and were just relocated.
We know 40 of the victims committed suicide.
We also know this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. One perpetrator alone allegedly boasted he had hundreds of victims.
Best and Farrell are still in jail, Ridsdale's parole hearing decision has been put on hold while new incidents are investigated, Dowlan left the Christian Brothers after serving his sentence, changing his name and receiving a payout of $135,000, Claffy received a good behaviour bond and Fitzgerald died before he could face justice.
But what about all the victims?
Many broke down as they told their heart-rending stories at the state government inquiry into institutionalised child abuse in Ballarat in March.
Many will lay their broken hearts on the line again at upcoming Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse hearings.
Many can't bring themselves to speak but rely on group submissions to talk for them.
Many struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Many are suicidal. Many can't hold down jobs, relationships, friendships.
So - turning the media spotlight from the villains to the victims - what can be done to help Ballarat survivors?
What is needed to help them get back the life taken from them at a young age?
Peter Blenkiron and Andrew Collins are the public faces of the Ballarat survivors.
Together, the pair has been fighting hard to get victims back on track emotionally. And - absolute bottom line - they don't want anyone else to die.
But it is taking a toll.
"Specialist social workers are needed for every clergy abuse "hot spot". Survivors can't do this alone," Mr Blenkiron said.
"They need support to maintain basic coping strategies and accessing specialist counselling.
"They need help from groups like Moving Towards Justice, with reimbursement of costs, with reporting to police, with submissions, getting legal help and more.
"Survivors supporting survivors is okay to a point but eventually it's like drowning. People trying to save other drowning people - no-one survives."
Federal government funding was recently allocated to 28 national organisations to provide counselling and support to survivors, particularly during the royal commission hearings.
But Mr Blenkiron was critical of a decision to give $45 million of funding to Relationships Australia Victoria, Berry Street and Drummond Street, rather than the 15 Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA).
"It destroys for most any belief in the afterlife, or a God that can support you while you heal."
"Relationships Australia will be great for families and secondary victims but, as for the primary victims, it's like going to your GP and expecting him to perform brain surgery.
"There have been 40 suicides in Ballarat. Most people have lost their faith in life because they were abused by a representative of God.
"It destroys for most any belief in the afterlife, or a God that can support you while you heal."
Mr Blenkiron said some very good private practitioners in Ballarat charge for their service, but CASA offers a free service, with counsellors who specialise and are experienced in clergy sexual abuse.
"There was one guy whose life was going okay but he felt there might be a time bomb ticking so he got some really good help and he hasn't really missed a beat and the harm has been minimised.
"I've sent guys in there who have been suicidal and they've managed to get them back. They're still damaged but they are going there and sticking with counselling."
Mr Blenkiron's stance is supported by American psychotherapist Mike Lew, who has spent 25 years working on child sexual abuse recovery, particularly in males.
Mr Lew conducts lectures and workshops throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia.
"I have a great deal of respect for the work of Relationships Australia. I've done workshops and professional training sponsored by them and have met a number of highly competent and experienced counsellors who work for them," Mr Lew said.
"However, the proper venues for working with survivors of sexual abuse are the CASAs and/or private practitioners who are trained and experienced in this area."
Mr Lew said it was not simply a relationship issue but needed someone understanding of child sexual abuse, institutional abuse and abuse in a religious context.
"To reduce this to a ‘relationship' matter minimises the issues for the survivors in a potentially damaging way.
"The survivors must be treated with the utmost respect, and the situation must be taken very seriously."
Mr Lew said CASAs, including Ballarat, must receive funding immediately, employ more staff if needed and provide groups and workshops for survivors and their families, along with specific training for its counsellors.
"To do less would be appalling, and serve to exacerbate the effects of the abuse.
"Although many of the counselling and service needs of clergy abuse survivors overlap with those of survivors of sexual child abuse generally, there are also specific needs that need to be focused on in the area of institutional abuse, religion and spirituality.
"If the disclosures of the child victims and/or adult survivors have been minimised, ignored or deflected by authorities, that also has to be addressed."
"If the disclosures of the child victims and/or adult survivors have been minimised, ignored or deflected by authorities, that also has to be addressed."
Survivor Brett, 38, said he had never seen a counsellor in his life before attending CASA on a fortnightly basis for a few months recently.
"I've just stopped going because I was progressing really well but it was well worth it," Brett said.
"I just needed basically someone to talk to about it. I've never talked about the situation before and I thought it was best to get it out and get some healing.
"I could tell my counsellor anything, even all the thoughts I was having. It was a great support."
But, Ballarat MP Catherine King said more than 100 applications were received from eligible organisations to deliver counselling, support and case management services to survivors and their families before, during and after the royal commission.
"Organisations were selected through a strict open competitive selection process to ensure the best outcomes for clients," Ms King said.
She said the federal government would monitor the demand for more services and client needs over the commission's course.
However, Relationships Australia Victoria social inclusion senior manager Sue Yorston said the federal government funding would enable them to provide very broad based support to survivors.
"That may include family members or someone who has experienced sexual abuse," Ms Yorston said.
She said RAV would help anyone dealing with the royal commission, including helping them put their story together and being a supportive presence at hearings.
"All of our staff are trained at dealing with trauma and abuse. It's a thread that runs through all our work."
Ms Yorston said survivors also needed to be aware they had the choice in the support they received.
"There are a whole range of people in Ballarat who can do this work - CASA, RAV, private counsellors.
"The person has the choice and can decide who best suits them."
She said RAV would ensure any care was continuous with the person's current support and would be long-term and intensive.
The final recommendations from the inquiry will be handed down by the Family and Community Development Committee on September 30.
Royal Commission private hearings begin in Victoria next month, with the entire inquiry expected to take three years, with an interim report due June 30 next year.
AG takes steps against human trafficking
by Alyssa A. Botelho
Massachusetts took another step Monday in its crackdown on human trafficking, a brutal and often invisible enterprise that drags countless victims into prostitution and forced labor each year, with a new set of recommendations presented by Attorney General Martha Coakley to the Legislature.
“These are victims often with no voice of their own and very few voices to speak for them,” Coakley said in a press conference at her office. “Unlike the sale of guns and drugs, which are sold out of the traffickers' inventory, a trafficked person may be sold over and over again, for sex or labor or both.”
Coakley's recommendations stem from the work of a 19-member task force of legislators, police, social workers, activists, and survivors formed in 2011 after the signing of the state's human trafficking law, which aligned Massachusetts with 46 other states that have banned the trade.
“This is a very comprehensive road map . . . for how we can move forward effectively,” said state Representative Eugene L. O'Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat who sponsored the 2011 House bill.
Among the recommendations from the task force: creating pilot safe houses for people escaping the trade, establishing a first-offender program or “john school” to rehabilitate sex-buying customers to stem demand, and building a data collection system to keep track of traffickers and their victims.
The proposals, officials said, are designed to change how prosecutors and police approach the sex trade by shifting focus from prostitutes to traffickers, who often escape unnoticed while the women they victimize face charges.
“We acknowledge that law enforcement must shift from criminalizing the acts of victims to eradicating the demand with aggressive political action,” said Daniel Linskey, superintendent in chief of the Boston Police Department.
He estimated that hundreds of women, if not more, are victims of trafficking each year in Greater Boston.
Audrey Morrissey, a survivor of the commercial sex industry and associate director of the victims' service agency “My Life My Choice,” said safe houses and educational programs are vitally needed to help victims, especially young women, leave the trade.
She was recruited to be a prostitute in Boston's Combat Zone at age 16 and could not get out of the trade until age 30, when she was treated for substance abuse.
“The only way I could deal with what I was going through, and numb myself, was by becoming a heroin addict,” Morrissey said.
“When I look back at that, I wonder how that could have been avoided, had there been services, had there been somewhere to go.”
Such resources, Morrissey added, must not only serve young sex workers, who are offered protection through child services, but also adult women who “have aged out of the system.”
The hurdles for implementing such initiatives could be high, officials said Monday, because the commercial sex industry has become more veiled with the rise of Internet businesses that allow pimps to schedule sex workers without on-street solicitation.
“Go on the Internet and look at how many ads [for escort services] are on Backpage or Craigslist,” Linskey said. “For each one of those pictures, that's a victim.”
While some recommended projects will require additional tax dollars and private money, Coakley said, many of the initiatives to fight trafficking are neither complex nor resource-intensive.
One such change is creating a standard for what human trafficking entails across local, state, and federal agencies, which all document victims of trafficking in slightly different ways.
“We want to get some kind of definitions, so we're all taking about the same kind of incidents,” Coakley said. “. . . When a crime is charged, let's treat it the same way whether it's in Newton or Boston or North Adams, or it's a federal crime.”
Such simple policy changes, officials said, could pave the way for vital programming for victims who have to start from scratch in rebuilding their lives after spending their adolescence at the mercy of their traffickers.
“I am hopeful that children will no longer be blamed for crimes against them,” Morrissey said. “Back when I was a child, we took charges for the johns and the purchasers.
“There was always a powerful person behind them, and I want to see them punished.”
Kansas / Missouri
Human Trafficking In Kansas
Calls to our KCMO FBI affiliate confirmed that since the inception of Operation Cross Country in 2008, there hasn't been a juvenile recovered from Kansas. In total, 270,000 children were recovered with just one from Missouri.
However, an email from our Topeka Police Department shared that of four juvenile females being advertised on Backpage, they've managed to recover one and are working towards recovering the other three. GO TPD!!
Of calls made to Congresswoman Jenkins' office for H.R. 1732, the bill is still in committee and they're watching for it, whereas Emily at Senator Roberts' office shared that they were recently briefed on human trafficking measures taken by the Department of Homeland Security, so Senator Roberts is feeling passionate about legislation that would address these crimes.
On the homefront, Assistant Attorney General Pat Colloton is at the helm of building fresh legislation into the Attorney General's office, whereas A. G. Schmidt has been appointed to a national committee focused on combating human trafficking.
H.R. 1732, the Strengthening The Child Welfare Response To Trafficking Act of 2013 would educate welfare agencies on the probabilities that foster care kids are at a higher risk for getting involved in sex trafficking networks, while laying the foundation for a means of bringing exposed children into the system and addressing their immediate needs.
A detective I spoke with said that these runaway children get into drugs, then enter the sex trade to feed their habit. "They need love and structure," he said, whereas I sent an email to our local Fraternal Order of Police Legislative Liason, begging a look at H.R. 1732. The Liason said that he would introduce it at their next meeting for consideration of a resolution. If you get a moment, please call your congressional delegation and ask them for H.R. 1732.
Recovering from Childhood Adversity
by Will Meecham, MD, MA
Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.
Did you or someone you know grow up in a dysfunctional home? I doubt anyone in America can honestly answer “no.” Childrearing occurs in households managed by two highly stressed parents (and often just one) with minimal outside support. Addictions and overwork are common, limiting quality and quantity of nurturance. Abuse is widespread but under-recognized. The culture frowns on open discussion of weaknesses and mistakes, so family toxicity accumulates amidst shame and secrecy. Traumatic upbringings result.
Of course, homes vary. Many parents maintain perspective and do a “good enough” job, so children grow up feeling loved and empowered. Other guardians, especially those freighted with shame, rage, and despair erupting from their own painful pasts, may cope less well. Misery translates into mistreatment, and the next generation enters adulthood with psychological frailties. Sometimes the traumatized decompensate early in life. Other times inner conflicts remain partially suppressed, only to overwhelm after major setbacks like divorce or job loss.
Healing from trauma is possible. The Center for Post-Trauma Wellness (CPTW) guides both lay and professional audiences toward effective remedies for the impact of trauma, with emphasis on whole person support for recovery. Writings on the site support trauma recovery through diverse means: news reports, personal accounts, professional analyses, training opportunities, etc.
My contributions will present the perspective of an informed layperson. I happen to be a (retired) physician, but I trained as a subspecialty surgeon, not a psychiatrist. And although I studied neuroscience in graduate school, sophisticated tools were not yet available for investigating trauma's biological traces.
The most relevant background I bring to this project is a traumatic upbringing followed by arduous recovery in adulthood. In resolving the problems bequeathed by my past, I learned a lot about childhood adversity, mental health, and meditative practices. The effort paid off: I now feel more flexible and contented than could have been imagined in younger years.
My entries will examine trauma effects, treatment options, and research results through the lens of personal experience. The pieces will not describe day-to-day struggles but instead focus on past and current vulnerabilities, their likely mechanisms, and strategies that help me manage them.
The challenges I faced growing up inform my writing, but when possible I'll avoid describing them in detail. Trauma appears to produce similar outcomes regardless of its precise nature. Most adults raised under painful circumstances suffer from some combination of poor self-concept, emotional reactivity, social unease, feelings of emptiness, problems sustaining or shifting focus, and stress-induced bodily symptoms. Anxiety, depression, stormy relationships, addictions, erratic job performance, and/or poor health often result . This cluster of difficulties, shared to some degree by most who survive adversity, draws us together in healing. My individual story is important only to the extent it illuminates common themes.
Yet details matter. For instance, sexual molestation leads predictably to turmoil around physical intimacy, whereas parental loss instills fear of abandonment. Even within a single category, like sexual abuse, we recognize distinctions. Someone whose parent gradually eroticized their relationship may have felt both confused and aroused, and is likely to have trouble setting healthy boundaries. On the other hand, someone who was forcibly raped by a visiting relative will tend toward panic and dissociation when approached by intimate partners.
In writing entries, I will strive for balance. The narrative will be kept general enough to apply to most trauma survivors, but with sufficient personal detail to maintain clarity and emotional appeal. Consider this a work in progress, open to comments and suggestions.
Trauma is a common problem that undermines both individual and collective wellbeing. Let's solve it together.
Appalled by child abuse, prosecutors seek to crack down with new laws
by BILL TOSCANO
More than five years ago, after the child-abuse death of Colbi Bullock and after an episode in which a sexually abused and beaten toddler wandered into traffic, Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan and other DAs renewed calls for changes in child-abuse and child-murder laws.
At the time, the plan was to ask the state Legislature to create a Class D violent felony charge of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child as a tool to help police and prosecutors fight serious instances of threats to children. The current charge of second-degree endangering would be left as a misdemeanor, for use in less serious situations.
In the past few years, Hogan and other district attorneys across the state have stepped up their efforts, developing the Child Protection Act, which would add six new crimes to state statutes, including “aggravated endangering the welfare of a child.”
The act would also add three degrees of aggravated abuse of a child, aggravated manslaughter of a child and aggravated murder of a child. All the new charges would be felonies and would give police and prosecutors more latitude in charging people accused of child abuse.
“We all have seen way too much of this stuff,” said Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright, “We don't really have laws with the teeth to show somebody like you would like to.”
Kortright's office is prosecuting Kevin King, 30, of Fort Edward, who is accused of slamming his 3-month-old son, Brett, to the floor in their apartment on Aug. 11.
While final charges have not been determined, and the case is awaiting King's scheduled psychiatric evaluation, King is currently facing second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter charges.
The murder charge can be difficult to pursue because it requires proof of “depraved indifference” to the victim. The new law would address that by requiring “aggravating circumstances” instead of “depraved indifference.”
Hogan said a new set of statutes is needed.
“We rely on our laws to hold people accountable for the harm that they inflict and to ensure that the punishment is proportionate to the crime. Our current law requires us to prove depraved indifference, and the courts have changed what that means, making it a more difficult element to prove,” she said.
If depraved indifference cannot be proven in a child homicide case, prosecutors can be forced to settle on a charge with a maximum punishment of 5 to 15 years in state prison.
“That hardly seems a sufficient punishment for taking the life of an innocent child,” Hogan said.
Laws get stuck
The Child Protection Act has passed the state Senate, but has not gotten out of the Codes Committee in the Assembly.
Matthew Titone, D-Staten Island, who has been pushing a bill for felony child endangerment for at least seven years, said he has never been able to get an explanation for the bill stalling in committee, although he has ideas why it happens.
“What you hear is that some downstate legislators do not want to vote for tougher penalties for crimes, because the brunt of that burden falls on their constituents,” he said.
“You have children being harmed, and the prosecutor's hands are tied,” he added. “I can promise you I will push it in 2014. It's a priority.”
Hogan, who pushed for the bill when she was president of the state District Attorneys Association, said some adjustments have been made in the Child Protection Act and it will be put forward again when the Legislature convenes next year.
Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, who is running against Kortright this fall, said he supports additional charges and penalties.
“There should be tougher laws in these situations,” he said. “It's important to look at aggravating circumstances.”
The sheriffs in Washington and Warren counties also favor tougher penalties.
“I think it's obvious what has been going on, and we should do anything we can to stiffen penalties, enforce the laws and protect children,” said Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy. “To me, what we really need to do is add the concept of omission, for people who do not do what they can to stop abuse when they know about it.”
Warren County Sheriff Bud York said, when it comes to laws protecting children, Hogan is an expert.
“I am certainly for any laws that would protect children,” York said. “If it's something Kate Hogan is working on, then I am behind it 100 percent. She's familiar with all the pitfalls in prosecution. I have faith in her.”
Hogan and those advocating for the law have picked up new allies in the members of Hands Across New York, a nonprofit group that advocates for children and their families and held a rally and vigil in Brett Kelly's memory Wednesday at the Washington County Municipal Center.
“You can bet we will be contacting legislators about this law,” said the group's founder, Laurie Russell. “We have to do everything we can to get tougher laws.”
Child Protection Act
The Child Protection Act would establish the following new felonies for those who abuse or kill children for whom they are legally responsible: (Charges apply to a person 18 or older and a child under 13)
* Aggravated murder of a child: Causing the death of a child; or acting with depraved indifference or engaging in reckless conduct, leading to a child's death; or intentionally causing the death of a child in the course of committing rape, aggravated sexual abuse or incest. Penalty: 20 years to life.
* Aggravated manslaughter of a child: Recklessly engaging in a conduct that creates a grave risk of serious injury or death to a child and results in the child's death. Penalty: 5 to 25 years.
* First-degree aggravated abuse of a child: Causing physical injury to a child with intent of causing injury; recklessly engaging in conduct with creates a grave risk of serious injury or death to a child and causing serious injury by means of a deadly weapon; or, causing serious injury to a child on at least one other occasion. Penalty: 5 to 25 years.
* Second-degree aggravated abuse of a child: Causing physical injury to a child with intent of causing injury; or recklessly engaging in a conduct which creates a grave risk of physical injury and causing serious injury to a child. Penalty: 3 1/2 to 15 years.
* Third-degree aggravated abuse of a child: Recklessly causing physical injury to a child. Penalty: Up to 4 years.
* Aggravated endangering the welfare of a child: Knowingly acting in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical or mental welfare of a child, consisting of at least two acts of cruelty against the child. Cruelty is defined as causing extreme physical pain or is an act carried out in an especially vicious or sadistic manner. Penalty: Up to 4 years.
Police, victim advocates focus on sex abuse
'Pursuit of Truth' — film will highlight adult survivors of abuse and their quest for justice
by Sanne Specht -- Mail Tribune
Seeking justice after surviving child sexual assault is the topic of Tuesday's free film screening and roundtable discussion at Ashland's Varsity Theatre.
Featured in the film are Randy Ellison, a local adult survivor, and representatives of the Ashland Police Department. Their goal is to ease the path of victims seeking redress in the courts system. They also want to change the public's perception regarding allegations of false reporting, said Ellison.
"The system is not designed to protect, or quite frankly, bring justice, to victims of abuse," said Ellison, an Ashland resident. "It is assumed that (sexual assault) didn't happen until you can prove it did. This does not honor or support truth telling. And it makes it difficult beyond belief for the victims. Our hope is this film opens eyes to just how difficult it is to come forward."
Ellison was 15 when a charismatic youth minister began sexually abusing him. For more than 40 years, Ellison remained silent about the devastation wrought by the trusted leader in his community — a 40-year-old married man with children of his own.
Because perpetrators are often "upstanding" members of the community, holding trusted positions in churches, schools and city councils, the community is loathe to believe victims who come forward, he said.
"We just don't want to believe the victim, and that assumption follows through the judicial system," Ellison said. "In the end, if these crimes are not reported, the offenders are left to reoffend, and never brought to justice or held accountable for their actions."
Ashland police Chief Terry Holderness agrees. Whether the abuse is recent or decades old, there is a general assumption that the victims' reports are false.
"But, in fact, that is an extremely small percentage," Holderness said. "We have to have a new paradigm."
Holderness has investigated "hundreds and hundreds" of sexual assault cases in his 32 years as a police officer, he said. Only twice did he receive a false report. Both incidents involved teens concerned about parental fallout from unprotected sexual activities. Both teens refused to name anyone related to their false reports. One quickly admitted she had lied after speaking with police, he said.
"I hope people will show up to see the film," Holderness said. "I think the whole film is interesting."
Ashland police Detective Carrie Hull said Valerie Gibson, the executive producer of "Pursuit of Truth," conceived the film project as a result of her fight to support her adult son's quest for justice against the individual who abused him as a child. The family's odyssey through the legal system was marked by countless impediments, including incompetence, indifference and procedural devices that are heavily weighted against adult survivors and in favor of their abusers. The process re-traumatizes survivors by invading their rights to privacy and subjecting them to inherently unfair practices, she said.
Hull recently created an instructional animated video about the biases faced by victims who attempt to report sexual assault based on a 40-year-old transcript of an article written by Art Spikol.
In the video, an affluent attorney named "Mr. Smith" has been robbed by an armed assailant. When Smith reports the crime, an officer, voiced by APD Officer Jason Daoust, derisively questions Smith. Why didn't Smith cry out against his armed attacker? Why didn't he fight back? Why was he wearing an expensive suit? Why was he walking around town at night?
"I was just trying to increase awareness," Hull said, adding these are the types of questions that sexual assault victims regularly have to answer.
Placed in the context of a male-on-male robbery, the narrative parodies the myths and misconceptions that help create judgments made against sexual assault victims, she said.
"It's a thought-provoking reversal of the way crime victims are treated," Hull said. "Art did this in 1973, and the fact that we have not really made the necessary changes since then is amazing. We just have to change."
Hull said she hears similar victim-blaming statements "almost on a daily basis," she said. The questions aren't coming from Ashland police officers, they come from family and friends, Hull said.
"It makes it really hard for victims to come forward if they're not supported by the people closest to them," Hull said.
Hull said Gibson chose APD as a law enforcement model to better support adult survivors.
"Chief Holderness was interviewed for the film because of his out-of-the-box thinking in allowing victims to report past the statute of limitations, which allowed law enforcement to better identify perpetrators," Hull said.
Holderness was recently challenged by a man questioning his ability to assume a person accused of sexual assault was innocent until proven guilty, he said.
"He said, 'I thought you were going to be neutral'," Holderness said, adding no one ever poses that question regarding crimes that are not sexually-based.
"If you tell me you were robbed, we're going to assume you were robbed," Holderness said. "If a house is burgled, we go out and assist that person. We are not going to be assuming that someone is making a false report of sexual assault. False reports are extremely rare."
Only 15 to 20 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported, he said.
"Seventy five to 80 percent of victims don't feel comfortable letting (authorities) know what happened," Holderness said.
Ashland police offer victims more respect, and control, in reporting sexual assault, Holderness said. The combination has resulted in a 42 percent increase in reporting. Reports rose from 25 in 2009 to 43 in 2012. Holderness said he is grateful that he works for a "progressive" city council that understands the meaning behind the statistics. Some cities might worry that the data from increased reporting portrays the city as unsafe. But Holderness said the council understands that an increase in reporting does not correlate with an increase in activity, he said.
However, the increase in reporting has helped police track serial sexual offenders. Ninety percent of sexual assaults are by repeat offenders, and the average offender has committed 5.8 assaults before being identified, he said.
"Some we have been able to prosecute," Holderness said.
Plagued by thoughts of suicide and abusing alcohol and drugs for decades, Ellison said he finally found his voice. In 2009, he helped change the civil statute of limitations in Oregon on sex abuse of children to one of the most liberal in the country. In the 2011 legislative session, Ellison advocated with others to help pass the first human sex trafficking laws in Oregon.
Recently appointed to the Oregon Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, Ellison also is a member of the Child Abuse Network of Jackson County, a group of more than 40 agencies working together to reduce child abuse in Southern Oregon.
"When I was finally able to tell my deepest, darkest secret, I began the process of freeing, and healing, myself," Ellison said.
If you go
What: "Pursuit of Truth," a video about adult survivors of child sexual abuse seeking justice
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20
Where: Varsity Theatre, 166 E. Main St., Ashland
For more information: Contact Ashland police Detective Carrie Hull at 541-552-2126. To see a trailer of the movie, go to www.pursuitoftruthfilm.com
Ashland Police Department sexual assault prevention efforts:
Reporting Options campaign and website, www.reportingoptions.org, designed especially for victims of sexual assault.
Sexual assault awareness education for seventh and eighth grade students at Ashland Middle School in partnership with the Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team and Sexual Assault Victim Services of Community Works.
Sexual assault awareness training for bartenders and servers at restaurants and bars.
Victim-centered and offender-focused training for law enforcement, victim advocates, prosecutors, nurses, doctors and other people who respond to sexual violence.
Community sexual violence prevention training.
For more information, contact the Ashland Police Department, 1155 E. Main St., 541-482-5211.
The prosecution of sexual abuse cases: the CPS wants your thoughts on reform
New guidelines – out for public consultation – are intended to change the way victims of child sexual abuse are perceived
by Keir Starmer
Cases of child sexual abuse have rightly received unprecedented coverage over recent months. Most recently comments made by a self-employed barrister, instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), describing a 13-year-old victim of sexual abuse as "predatory", have in my view reinforced the need to ensure the criminal justice system changes its approach to tackling these types of offences.
As head of the CPS, I need to ensure that we improve our approach to child sexual abuse cases more widely, and if I am to succeed in this challenge, then I need wide ranging contributions to the process of reform.
I have recently published guidelines setting out the complexities of bringing these difficult cases to justice, proposing a new approach to the way the police and prosecutors handle cases of alleged child sexual abuse, which is open to public consultation.
A key part of our new approach has to be the way we perceive the victims and the kind of issues they face. Many of the victims are vulnerable precisely because they are not only young, but display some or all of the following characteristics: they are unable to trust easily those in authority and still less able to report intimate details; they use alcohol; they return to the perpetrator of the offences against them; and, not infrequently, they self-harm. These characteristics were previously seen as reasons not to prosecute, but the draft guidance shows the fundamental change in approach. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the number of victims at risk may be considerably higher than previously thought.
These guidelines will ensure that my lawyers focus on the overall allegation, rather than the perceived weakness of the person making them. When victims report a burglary, we do not instinctively question their credibility, and nor should we when people report allegations of child sexual abuse.
Also, an over-cautious approach has been adopted on some occasions in the past, perhaps reflecting an understandable concern for guarding against false allegations, but my view is that this degree of caution is not generally justified. The concern should not be ignored, but it is important that it is kept in proper perspective. The risk, otherwise, is of sexual offences being subjected to a different and, in reality, more rigorous test than that applied to victims of other crimes.
These cases are not easy, but recent experience has shown that by patiently building a case and dispelling myths and stereotypes about victims, the CPS can prosecute successfully.
These guidelines need to stand the test of time, and in order to so, must command as much as confidence as possible. That's why I am putting my new approach out to public consultation, and I strongly urge you to share your views at www.cps.gov.uk/consultations/.
• The consultation period ends on 3 September