Signs of abuse are dark side of pediatrics
by Daniel Taylor
The word pediatrician conjures up Norman Rockwell-like images of a doctor listening to the heart of a child's doll. We tend to be a happy crew: treating newborns with unlimited potential, struggling with teens as they figure out who they are. That's the good stuff.
But there's a darker side of pediatrics. It rears up when a child removes his shirt for an exam and has telltale bruises. Or when a child flinches each time a parent moves suddenly.
Recently, as I was preparing for patients, I noticed a consult report on an 8-year-old boy whom I have been caring for since birth. His visits were always a highlight because I knew that behind the exam-room door would be a smile and an infectious energy.
The ominous letterhead of the consult, which I have seen too many times, was from our Child Protection Team at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. The five-page report was filled with words that would forever change my patient's life: Cousin, penetration, repeated multiple times, thoughts of death. As I walked into the exam room, he met me with a downward gaze and a shrug when I asked about his summer. I felt anger, grief, and sorrow for him and his family.
The 2013 welfare department's Annual Child Abuse Report is filled with chilling statistics and accounts.
In 2012, there were 26,664 reports of suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania, a rise of 2,286 over 2011. Of these, 13.4 percent were substantiated. Eight percent of those reports involved children who had been abused before. Almost 300 children are falling through the cracks of child protection.
The Philadelphia Urban Adverse Childhood Experience Study, which surveyed adults' experiences as children, found 35 percent of city adults were physically abused, and 16 percent sexually. A tsunami of trauma.
Tragically, 33 Pennsylvania children died from abuse in 2012, most of them less than 4 years old. Deaths were by blunt force, suffocation, drowning, and starvation. They were defenseless. Like Jaquinn Brewton, 3, who died by blunt force to the abdomen in a trash-strewn West Philadelphia apartment. His godmother and her boyfriend repeatedly beat the 31/2-foot, speech-delayed boy with belts, shoes, and metal brushes and burned him with boiling water and a cooking torch.
The costs in Pennsylvania from child abuse are $3.5 billion. The cost to each child can't be estimated.
We know the risk factors for abuse. Disabled kids and those with difficult temperaments are more often hurt.
Risk factors in the parent include substance abuse, mental illness, lower educational levels, impulsivity, and a history of maltreatment.
Risk factors in the family include domestic violence, poverty, single-parent households, having a non-related male in the home, multiple children, and food insecurity.
Risks for the community include social isolation and lack of community supports such as places of worship and playgrounds.
People who care for children in the state must report suspected abuse to ChildLine (1-800-932-0313). Callers need have only a reason to suspect abuse.
The population we serve in the First Congressional District has all of the ingredients to brew a large urban stew of children at risk. Our child poverty rate is the nation's third-highest at over 45 percent. The district ranks second in single-parent families (67 percent) and in food insecurity.
Programs such as Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (www.pa-fsa.org), SCAN (www.scanpa.org), and Prevent Child Abuse (www.preventchildabusepa.org) use the best approaches to help families.
As I continue my day, talking to parents about safety, nutrition, and the joys of parenting, I start to relax. I am happy to slide back into the blissful world of newborns and toddlers with scraped knees.
But the memory of my 8-year-old patient never goes away. I remain prepared for the dark side of pediatrics.
Dan Taylor can be reached at Daniel.Taylor@DrexelMed.edu
McAsey Measures to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse Become Law
Local legislator works to ensure criminals face serious consequences for their actions.
by Ron Kremer
Two pieces of legislation sponsored by state Rep. Emily McAsey aimed at protecting children and punishing those convicted of sex crimes recently became law.
“We must never stop fighting to protect our children from criminals who aim to exploit them,” McAsey said. “These laws will increase penalties and punish dangerous predators. I will continue pushing for legislation that further protects our children from harm.”
House Bill 804 changes the definition of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child to be more inclusive of male victims. Under McAsey's new law, a criminal could be charged with predatory sexual assault of a child if they commit other sexual acts that are not defined as sexual penetration. A criminal defendant could be charged with a Class X felony for a violation of the statute, and may be sentenced to a term of 6 to 60 years in prison upon conviction.
McAsey's bill also creates the new crime of failure to report the sexual abuse of a child. Under this new measure, a person over the age of 18 who witnesses an act of sexual abuse and fails to report it could be charged with Class A misdemeanor. A second or subsequent offense of failure to notify law enforcement of the sexual abuse of a child could result with the witness being charged with a Class 4 felony.
McAsey also introduced legislation changing how individuals are sentenced under the child pornography statue. Under House Bill 2647, individuals may face additional convictions and jail time for each item of child pornography in their possession.
“Criminals should face serious consequences for their actions,” McAsey said. “These new laws provide prosecutors with additional tools to protect our kids and keep sexual predators behind bars.”
For more information, please contact McAsey's constituent service office at 815-372-0085.
Making friends with a paedophile: 'We can't kill him, so we help him not to do it again'
Could it help to cut reoffending rates? Emily Dugan gets unprecedented access to a pioneering project in which the public encourage abusers to change
by Emily Dugan
Whenever Paul Sloane wants to remind himself why he gives up a night a week to hang out with a convicted child sex offender, he thinks back to one phone call. The 55-year-old former engineer from Newcastle was recently rung on his mobile by a paedophile he had volunteered to befriend.
Paul recalls: "One day he rang me out of the blue. He had gone and bought a load of teddy bears to give out to kids. He said, 'I feel really terrible.' But he didn't do anything with them and it makes you feel afterwards, good job we were here, because God knows what would've happened if we weren't."
Paul volunteers on a programme which aims to prevent child abuse by creating a friendship group around known perpetrators. The Independent on Sunday was given unprecedented access to these social support networks aimed at preventing convicted child sex offenders from reoffending.
Circles UK has been running these groups quietly in Britain for more than 10 years, but is so concerned about the hysteria around the subject that it usually shies away from publicity.
While befriending paedophiles may be a hard sell to the tabloid press, the statistics show that it works. A review of a Circles project in the South-east found that none of its 71 past clients had reoffended over a four-and-a-half-year period. A control group of 71 criminals with a similar offending history committed 10 new offences in the same period.
The latest man Paul has agreed to help is Barry, a 69-year-old who is on the sex offenders' register for life after sexually assaulting young children, including his own son and stepson, for more than three decades.
Despite his disgust at Barry's actions, Paul is one of five volunteers who meet up with him every week to talk about his life. "I hate do-gooders and I don't usually volunteer for things, but I felt so strongly about this," Paul says. "He's a bastard and what he's done is awful and I'd love to wring his neck. But we can't kill him and we can't lock him up for life, so what are we going to do? The only answer is you try to help him not to do it again. To me there's no alternative."
Sitting in the Newcastle community centre where the group meets once a week, Barry talks with unnerving honesty about his crimes. "I was in prison for abusing young boys," he says, maintaining eye contact. "My sentence was for historic offences against my son but I have a long history of it. I don't think I'd do it again, but I have to look at it every day as a possibility. It could be very easy if I allowed myself to accept it as acceptable behaviour again. There'll always be an attraction to children and you can't change that much."
Barry is forced to live a long way from his family now – most of whom detest him – and he walks with a cane after being so badly beaten in a vigilante attack that a brain injury has affected his balance.
He asked to be put on to a Circles project before he left prison. "I want to be somewhere with people where, if the need comes, I can discuss bad feelings. I don't have any friends because of what I've done."
Though much of the conversation at meetings deliberately mimics a normal friendship group – with casual chats about everyone's day and interests – they also discuss thorny issues, including the temptation to abuse again. In these talks, volunteers often confront Barry.
At one point in the meeting attended by The IoS , Barry tries to suggest that "times were different" when he committed his offences and "it was viewed more casually in society". But his new friends are quick to interject. "No, I don't agree," a retired probation officer, Colin Robson, 59, interrupts. "That's just not true."
Paul is likely to be even more confrontational with Barry as the meetings go on. "I want to talk to him about medical castration," he says. "If he's so full of remorse and never wants to do it again, what's so difficult about taking a tablet?"
It is these frank conversations that the charity's advocates believe are central to its success. The more sex offenders are ostracised by society, the less likely it is they will ever have an understanding of normal sexual behaviour – and the more likely it is they will reoffend.
Circles of Support and Accountability started out as a Mennonite church project in a town in Ontario, Canada, in 1994. Realising that a low-IQ sex offender called Charlie was about to be released into the community, church volunteers formed a group to support him. The method soon expanded across Canada, where studies demonstrated a 70 per cent reduction in reoffending rates.
The Quaker church in Britain decided to mimic the project, and in 2002 it secured Home Office funding for a pilot in the Thames Valley. Now Circles UK has grown to 11 projects around Britain with more than 600 volunteers working with 96 sex offenders. The model is so admired that the charity is now advising criminal justice systems in the Netherlands, Belgium, Latvia, Bulgaria and Spain.
Stephen Hanvey, chief executive and founder of Circles UK, said: "Demonising such serious offenders, even given the awful things they have done, driving people underground, renders them less safe, and less inclined even to attempt to lead offence-free lives. Forcing them from their homes to live somewhere else equally means someone else's sex offender is being driven into your area. It has to be more about supportive vigilance than mere vigilantism."
About half of the charity's national funding comes from the Ministry of Justice, while local projects are paid for by a mixture of charitable trusts, probation trusts and the police. The projects visited by The IoS in Middlesbrough and Newcastle are run by the children's charity Barnardo's – though they do not provide any funding because they are too worried about donor reactions. Instead, money comes from a collection of local authority, probation and public health funds.
In addition to the struggle to raise money, most projects find it hard to rustle up volunteers – particularly male ones – willing to give up a night a week for at least 18 months to spend time with some of society's most hated criminals.
Deborah Marshall, who runs the projects in the North-east, was staffing a stand at a recent volunteer fair when a man came over and asked for more information. "I could see his face change as I explained what we do. I said, 'Could you see yourself volunteering?' and he said, 'I feel I'd kill the guy.'"
Deborah, a former probation officer, understands the difficulty caused by public opinion. Even she isn't always open about what she does. "I've stopped telling my parents now because they're in their eighties. When they found out about a previous job in a sex offenders' treatment centre in prison, my dad said he was appalled that I would work with scum like that."
Diane Robson, 39, is a psychology student with a six-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. She volunteers in a Circle for a 23-year-old called Ben, who had sex with a 15-year-old girl. When the girl rejected him, he posted naked pictures of her on Facebook and was later arrested.
"There are certain people in my family and certain friends that I don't disclose to," she says. "I have the best mother-in-law in the world, but as far as she knows, I volunteer for Barnardo's and that's it."
At times, the conversations about socialising a convicted child sex offender can make for surreal listening, as the volunteers discuss the best way to get Ben friends – and even a girlfriend. Dressed in a black T-shirt, with a silver chain round his neck and closely cropped hair, Ben carries himself like an angry teenager, though he is much older.
Diane admits that conversation in these "informal" meetings can be strained. "In the early days, we struggled for common ground and it was like pulling teeth some nights."
She is glad that Ben's offences did not involve young children. "I'm not saying what Ben did wasn't wrong and a serious offence, but in a way it was a relief finding out what he did. I don't know where my cut-off point would be, but I'd been preparing myself to work with someone quite a lot more serious. I believe in what I'm doing but if that was my child who had been abused, I don't know how accommodating I'd be to the idea."
For Ben, who is unemployed and lives with his parents, the Circle has been a source of hope. "I look forward to it. It's pretty much the only time I leave the house," he says.
He has never had friends as an adult after being bullied at school. Since then, he has had depression and been suicidal, but now he is hoping to go to college and try to get work. "It's been really helpful. I want a job and I want friends. That's the main thing. One of the reasons for my offence was I didn't have the confidence to go with girls my own age and I didn't have the confidence to go out of the house."
Another man to benefit from the social effects of a Circle is Douglas, a jocular 63-year-old who does a mean Elvis impression and likes flashing at kids. His mother, whom he lived with his whole life, died less than a year ago and his behaviour became increasingly erratic. He took to walking round the house naked and soon began standing by windows without clothes, particularly when young boys were around.
On the first day he met the group, he said: "This is me. I'm the monster." That jokey tone has persisted throughout their meetings. He has never had sex with anyone and is convinced that fleeting glances at bus stops or in the supermarket are sexual advances.
Douglas says: "These are my friends now", and they really do seem to be. While they're joking and reminiscing about outings to bowling and dinner, it is easy to forget the serious reason they have come together. But in many cases, this "normal" interaction is what can create a breakthrough. Since Douglas joined the circle, his probation officer says his risk level has been reduced from high to low/medium.
Many of the volunteers are psychology or social work students hoping to get experience with difficult criminals. But others simply want to be involved in a practical solution to preventing an unsavoury crime.
Richard Harris, 62, is one of five of the 50 volunteers in the North-east who are survivors of abuse themselves. Though the web developer and Latin dance teacher says the abuse he suffered was not of the most serious sort, it is part of what motivates him. "When I was a lad, I had an incident with a Scout master. It was minor, but I told my parents and they said 'no, not Ron', and did nothing about it. As a result of society's inaction this has persisted.
"You can't apply the easy solution because there isn't one. You can't hang someone or lock them up for ever, so practical solutions are really important. Sometimes a problem is too difficult to legislate on. Sometimes you have to get involved."
The day he spoke to The IoS he was meeting the group for Adam, a 29-year-old who was caught looking at child-abuse images and has been coming to a Circle for 10 weeks.
"It's a difficult process for Adam to get through, so we're here to help and provide support. In this group he knows there's nothing he can't talk about. We accept what he's done. We don't like it, but that doesn't mean we don't like him. He is not the thing he's done."
The names of all the sex offenders featured in this article have been changed
The NSPCC runs a telephone line to give advice to adults who fear a child may be at risk of sexual or other types of abuse: 0808 800 5000; nspcc.org.uk/reportconcern
High Holiday Child Sex Abuse Prevention Guidelines for Synagogues
Tzedek, the Australian victims advocacy organization, has issued High Holiday child sex absue prevention guidelines. As you read them, notice how few haredi synagogues meet any of Tzedek's requirements.
High Holiday Guidelines for Synagogues
During the High Holidays our synagogues are filled with children celebrating this wonderful time in the Jewish calendar.
Synagogues seek to provide a safe and secure environment for the children of their congregations. In the interests of ensuring such an environment, Tzedek recommends that synagogues adopt and operationalise the following guidelines.
|• Require all children under the age of bar/bat mitzvah to be in a supervised children's program if they are not attending services with their parents.
• Require all staff of supervised children's programs to have a current Working with Children Check.
• Ensure that there are at least two staff members in the room at all times during a supervised children's program. Further, the room in which the supervised children's program is held should never to be locked.
• If a bathroom is not attached to the room in which the supervised children's program is held, staff should escort children to the bathroom in a group, never alone.
• Ensure that all buildings within synagogue premises that are not required for services cannot be accessed.
• Establish and implement a roster for two congregants (who hold current
• Working with Children Checks) to walk the synagogue grounds and keep an eye out for children who are not attending the service or a supervised children's program.
Tzedek expects that synagogues have broad policies and procedures in place to address the issue of child sexual abuse. These guidelines should therefore be followed in conjunction with the individual policies and procedures. Also, it is expected that appropriate remedial action should be taken if there is knowledge or suspicion of an incident. It is important to emphasise that ALL incidents MUST be reported to the police immediately.
Tzedek would like to take the opportunity to wish the Jewish community a Shana Tova U'metukah. Tzedek would also like to extend gratitude for the support, cooperation and endorsement of this important initiative.
Here are the guidelines as a PDF file you can download and print for your rabbi:
Grave excavation begins at Florida reform school site
MARIANNA, Fla. (AP) — University of South Florida researchers began exhuming dozens of graves Saturday at a former Panhandle reform school where horrific beatings have been reported in hopes of identifying the boys and learning how they died.
The digging and work at the site will continue until Tuesday, with researchers hoping to unearth the remains of four to six boys before resuming at a later date, said Erin Kimmerle, the USF anthropologist leading the excavation.
After work began Saturday, relatives of one of the boys believed to be buried at the school held a private prayer at the grave sites. The family has provided DNA in hopes of finding a match with Robert Stephens. School records show he was fatally stabbed by another inmate in 1937, but his family hopes to confirm how he actually died through the exhumation efforts.
If his remains are found, his family says they will be reburied in a family plot in Quincy.
“That will be a great sense of homecoming,” Tananarive Due said. The boy was Due's great-uncle. She was at the site Saturday with her son, father and husband, and said she hopes that other families will also be able to locate relatives buried there.
“Their families never had a proper opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones. In a lot of cases children just disappeared,” said Due, who lives in Atlanta.
Former inmates at the reform school from the 1950s and 1960s have detailed horrific beatings in a small, white concrete block building at the facility. A group of survivors call themselves the “White House Boys” and five years ago called for an investigation into the graves. In 2010, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement ended an investigation and said it could not substantiate or refute claims that boys died at the hands of staff.
USF later began its own research and discovered even more graves than the state department had identified. USF has worked for months to secure a permit to exhume the remains, finally receiving permission from Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet after being rejected by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who reports to Scott.
“In these historic cases, it's really about having an accurate record and finding out what happened and knowing the truth about what happened,” Kimmerle said of efforts at the school, which opened in 1900 and shut down two years ago for budgetary reasons.
Kimmerle said the remains of about 50 people are in the graves. Some are marked with a plain, white steel cross, and others have no markings.
Robert Straley, a spokesman for the White House Boys, said the school segregated white and black inmates and that the remains are located where black inmates were held. He suspects there is another white cemetery that hasn't been discovered.
“I think that there are at least 100 more bodies up there,” he said. “At some point they are going to find more bodies, I'm dead certain of that. There has to be a white graveyard on the white side.”
Among those that have pushed to allow USF to conduct the research are Florida's Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
“My goal all along has been to help bring closure to the families who lost loved ones at Dozier. I feel great relief that the work to identify human remains is now underway,” Bondi said through a spokeswoman.
Specialty License Plate to Raise Awareness of Sexual Abuse
(Picture on site)
by Staff Report
TALLAHASSEE – Lauren's Kids has announced the launch of a specialty license plate, unveiling a design created by internationally acclaimed artist Romero Britto. The organization hopes to use the plate to focus attention on child sexual abuse prevention. Titled “Love and Healing,” it can be pre-ordered at laurenskids.org/plates, with proceeds going to support Lauren's Kids' education and awareness activities.
“Nothing is more important than keeping Florida's innocent children safe, and through the sale of these license plates we will be able to greatly expand our efforts,” said Lauren Book, child sexual abuse survivor and founder of Lauren's Kids. “This presents an opportunity for others not only to contribute to the cause, but to serve as rolling ‘billboards' raising awareness within their communities while doing it.”
The specialty plate features a stylized rendition of the Lauren's Kids logo designed by acclaimed contemporary pop artist Romero Britto. Britto is known for his use of pulsating colors and bold patterns as a visual language of hope and happiness. He has created artwork for such companies as Disney, Coca-Cola and Audi, and his work is prominently displayed on buildings and in galleries in South Florida and around the world.
"I decided to title this piece 'Love and Healing' because those sentiments are the driving force behind Lauren Book and the Lauren's Kids foundation,” said Britto. “Lauren is on a mission to help and to heal survivors of sexual abuse, and to prevent others from having to live through the unthinkable nightmare she endured as a child."
Floridians can pre-order the plate using a voucher system. Vouchers, which cost $35.50 in addition to regular registration fees, can be purchased online at http:// laurenskids.org/plates/; at a local tax collector's office; or through a private license plate agency.
Once Floridians make the purchase, they will receive a Specialty License Plate Voucher Receipt. After 1,000 vouchers have been sold, production will begin and voucher holders will be notified that they can exchange their voucher for a specialty plate.
In June, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7125 into law, which included approval for the Lauren's Kids license plate. The Lauren's Kids foundation receives $25 from each plate purchase, and under Florida law the proceeds must go directly toward education and awareness efforts.
Lauren's Kids is a non-profit organization that works to prevent abuse and help survivors heal. The organization, which has offices in Aventura and Tallahassee, was started by Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who endured abuse at the hands of her nanny for six years. Her organization offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, elementary school prevention curriculum, annual 1,500-mile awareness walk, legislative advocacy and speaking engagements. For more information, visit laurenskids.org
Associated Credit Union Foundation Donates $10,000 to Child Enrichment, Inc.
AUGUSTA, GA -- The Associated Credit Union Foundation donated $10,000 to Child Enrichment, Inc.
Since its start in 1977, Child Enrichment, Inc. has helped over 17,000 local, abused, abandoned and neglected children overcome their experiences and rebuild their lives.
“Child abuse and child sexual abuse are insidious and often hidden aspects of our society. It's difficult for most people to acknowledge or understand child abuse, yet with 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse, we are experiencing an epidemic,” says Executive Director of Child Enrichment, Inc. Dan Hillman. “Financial support from donors like the Associated Credit Union Foundation is critical for the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy to be provided to child victims of abuse and sexual abuse.”
Located in Augusta and started by a group of physicians, nurses and social workers, Child Enrichment, Inc. provides forensic interviewing of children suspected of having been abused, expert court testimony and court advocacy for the victim, as well as counseling for the victims and their families.
“On behalf of the Associated Credit Union Foundation we are honored to support Child Enrichment's service to the children of our community,” said CSRA CU's Division President Leah Eldridge.
The Associated Credit Union Foundation, which began in 2009, is a 501(c)3 organization that strives to promote the social and economic well-being for the community and the employees of companies served by Associated Credit Union.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Working Together to Combat Human Trafficking & Violence Against Women
by Alice Hill, Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Homeland Security
Over the past four years, DHS has worked to stop human trafficking, combat violence against women, and raise awareness about protections available to vulnerable populations. Earlier this week, I met with our stakeholders from the law enforcement and first responder communities as well as faith-based groups and members of the judicial system to introduce DHS' Council on Combating Violence Against Women, which will build on the progress made by the DHS Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking and apply those successes to addressing the security of women and children.
This past March, Secretary Napolitano announced the formation of DHS' Council on Combatting Violence Against Women, also known as the Council, which is co-chaired by the Assistant Secretary for the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement and myself. The Council brings together experts from across DHS to identify and share best practices related to our policies and programs in order to improve our ability to combat violence against women.
Together with our stakeholders, we have made great strides to better protect vulnerable populations from violence and human trafficking. However, these accomplishments would not be possible without the Violence Against Women Act and the Trafficking Victim Protection Act, two important pieces of legislation that were reauthorized earlier this year. These laws also provide critical support to immigrant victims when stepping forward to report crimes – but there is still more work to be done.
The Council will leverage the accomplishments of the Blue Campaign and support these laws through enhanced public awareness, training, victim assistance, and law enforcement investigations. In June, the Blue Campaign unveiled new public awareness materials, including posters, a PSA entitled “Out of the Shadows,” and informational guides tailored for the general public and our stakeholders. By increasing awareness of human trafficking and training individuals to recognize the indicators of such heinous crimes, everyone can do their part to help law enforcement rescue victims.
I encourage you to take our Blue Campaign training, display our posters, watch our PSA and share our information guides with your family, friends and coworkers. For more information, visit the DHS Blue Campaign on Facebook and visit our website: www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign .
Human trafficking in the suburbs?
by Karen Huppertz
I tend to be naïve. I've read about Atlanta being ranked one of the top cities for human trafficking. I've foolishly thought this is an “inside the perimeter” problem, maybe even just a downtown Atlanta issue.
Of the countless examples I've learned about, one goes like this. A 14-year-old child is recruited from a small village in Mexico to come to the U.S. She's told there are men here who would love to marry her, or she can get an education and make a great deal of money.
At 14, I probably believed most of what the adults around me said as absolute truth. If I'd been raised in a poor or abusive home, I'd have been all the more likely to want to believe someone promising me a better life.
This young girl is smuggled across the border and introduced to drugs and alcohol to make her compliant. She eventually arrives at a home in Gwinnett. Quickly she learns she will be expected to have sex with numerous men to earn her keep. She'll be threatened that her family back home will be killed, or told she will be arrested and deported if she doesn't comply. She might hold out hope one of the men coming each night will want to marry her. Eventually she'll be emotionally battered enough to believe she has no other options.
Sometimes it's a runaway. Often a family member has already abused her. They are not all from other countries. Many are born right here in Georgia.
There are signs. A lot of late-night male traffic to and from the same home, apartment or extended-stay hotel, or numerous women living in one location, might suggest a brothel. Same thing might apply to an unusually busy nail salon or massage parlor.
A young girl under the age of eighteen with a man's name tattooed on her neck or ankle can indicate a pimp has “branded” her.
An older man, who is not the girl's father, speaking for a younger girl. He may act as her interpreter. She may have multiple cell phones. She may also have signs of beatings, rope or cigarette burns. These are red flags.
According to Mary Frances Bowley, founder and CEO of Wellspring Living, a faith-based rescue and rehabilitation organization, “We know from a study done a few years ago by the Schapiro Group that 42 percent of calls for sexual services are coming from the suburbs outside Atlanta.” Wellspring Living helps women by providing a safe place to heal both physically and emotionally and begin to survive childhood sexual abuse and exploitation.
If you suspect human trafficking might be occurring near you, please contact local police. Several organizations are helping these girls become survivors. Two excellent choices are www.wellspringliving.org and www.outofdarkness.org
Accused child rapist's neighbor: His house 'was like a Disneyland'
by Dusty Lane and Dan Cassuto
BEAVERTON, Ore. – For years, people in Steven Rockett's neighborhood had their suspicions.
Pool parties. Lavish video-game systems. Video cameras everywhere. Free toys for anybody who wanted them.
All for children who weren't even his.
Rockett's behavior became so sketchy in fact, that neighbors called police – only to see nothing come of it.
One neighbor said she cornered Rockett after an incident in which he tried to get her son to pull down his pants for the cameras.
“That made me so angry - we had him over here,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “We told him to come over here and we had him sit on the couch and I was at him. I said ‘You're not moving, you're not going anywhere until the police get here.'
“And they came and talked and talked and talked and talked and apparently there was not enough evidence to convict.”
That information would've been valuable to Paul Blackmore, the president of the Aloha Soccer Club.
He learned Sunday night that Rockett had been arrested – he's charged with rape, sodomy, sex abuse, unlawful sexual penetration and using a child in display of sexually explicit misconduct. Detectives said Rockett sexually abused three sisters while their family was homeless and living with him in Beaverton in 2011.
Rockett, it turns out, had been taking pictures of young girls at soccer games in the Aloha Soccer Club in the meantime. Those pictures were later sent to parents.
They also went on Rockett's Flickr page, which consists of 663 pages that are almost entirely of young children.
“It would've been nice if there was something that could've let us know that or let us see that potential people have a potential issue,” Blackmore said. “But again, there was nothing out there for that.
“It kinda sickens you to think that somebody is taking these pictures and has some other kind of motive behind why he's taking them.”
Neighborhood children describe a kid's paradise at Rockett's house. He would throw Fourth of July fireworks shows that rivaled those in downtown Portland, rent inflatable bounce-castle and set up giant slip-and-slides.
Now that they've grown up, it all makes sense, but they say it took them quite a while before they put the pieces together and realized what he might be up to.
“You'd go into his house and he had a huge screen TV back when they were brand new,” one now-adult man said. “He had like every single video console you could imagine and then literally a binder with like the slots for CDs and every single game ever made for every system right there.
“In his garage he had these boxes of RC cars and he'd give them out to everyone just like they were candy.”
The man said Rockett would also throw lavish parties in his backyard nearly every weekend during the summer, ostensibly inviting other children to keep his own kids company – even though his own kids were much younger than the rest of the attendees.
“He would use his kids, I guess, to have everybody over,” the man said. “And he'd have these parties in his back yard with these trampolines and these like waterslides. It was like a Disneyland.
“Yeah, it was Disneyland and we'd see drinking going on back there. I don't know who was responsible for the drinking but we'd always see lots of alcohol and a lot of toys.”
Even as his neighbors grew suspicious, Rockett was becoming involved in a web of sports teams. Many of the pictures on his Flickr page are from baseball games, soccer games and swimming pools.
Most leagues run background checks on adults who come into contact with the children. Since Rockett didn't directly deal with the children in an official capacity, there was no call for background checks.
Blackmore said Rockett became involved with one team in the league because he was friends with the parents of a girl who played on the team.
“At any given soccer game, you'll see many, many people out taking photos of the games,” Blackmore said. “So it's not an uncommon occurrence to see that. He never gave us any outward signs that there was anything other than him taking pictures of the team.
“It's quite disturbing. We have somebody who's been entrusted to take pictures of the girls during the games and it definitely gives us concerns and time for pause.”
Police said they kept an eye on Rockett for 14 years but only just recently compiled enough evidence to arrest him. Now they're working with police in Asia to investigate Blackmore's trips there – at least some of which are documented on Flickr.
One neighbor said Rockett showed him video of a trip to the Philippines.
“He would take this whole town – he had this extravagant feast for the entire city,” the man said. “Everybody would have their own table with every food you could imagine. He would show us these videos of him playing with these little kids and they would follow him around like he was a father.”
The woman who eventually called police said Rockett used his trips to attempt to lure at least one neighborhood girl, who was about 12 at the time.
“He goes, ‘Oh girls in the Philippines at your age are having relations all the time, that's perfectly normal,'” she said. “He goes ‘Anytime you want to come over, spend the night at the house, sleep in my bed, that's perfectly normal.”
Blackmore said there's not much his league can do to keep people like Rockett away, so long as they're not there in an official capacity.
“It's disturbing, really,” he said. “The parents are upset because they feel like a trust has been broken there and somebody that they were trusting to do something – taking photos of their children playing soccer in an innocent context - has been taken into another context. So that's kinda disturbing.
“Unfortunately, I think it's kinda the world we live in right now.”
SDPC “Partner in Prevention” of child abuse
PICKENS COUNTY — 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.
About Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
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.
Police seek suspect in Tarzana girl's attempted sexual assault
by City News Service
TARZANA - Police on Thursday were asking for the public's help in locating a male suspected of entering a residence in Tarzana and taking a young girl from her bed.
The suspect entered an open patio door of the home in the area of Miranda Street and Reseda Boulevard early Monday morning, according to a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department.
The child cried out for help, alerting her mother, who ran outside and found her in the rear patio area, police said.
The suspect attempted to sexually assault the victim, a 6-year-old girl who lives in a first-floor apartment in a complex in the 5700 block of Reseda Boulevard, according to KCAL9.
The girl's mother told the station that she found her terrified daughter, scratched, bruised and wrapped in a blanket, standing outside the patio.
The suspect wore a black and white mask, a dark shirt, black and red pants and dark boots, police said.
Anyone with information about the case was urged to call police at (877) LAPD-24-7.
Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.
Ridley-Thomas, Knabe Call for Harsher Sex-Trafficking Penalties
In an unprecedented step in the fight against sex trafficking, Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe are calling on state legislators to dramatically stiffen penalties for adults convicted of soliciting sex from children. There have been numerous efforts over the past several years to combat the growing scourge of sex trafficking, but the majority of those efforts at the local and state level have focused either on the pimps who exploit the girls, or on providing treatment and help for the victims. While these efforts are to be applauded, there is a loophole that must be closed with regard to the so-called “Johns” – whose punishment should fit their crime, according to a board motion by Ridley-Thomas and Knabe.
Every day, children – primarily girls – as young as 10 years-old are being coerced and sold into prostitution in Los Angeles County and in counties throughout the state. According to experts in the field, the average life expectancy of these children once they enter the sex trade is seven years, due to the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the violence to which they are regularly subjected. The men who solicit sex from children, however, often are not arrested and prosecuted, and even when they are, typically face only a proverbial slap on the wrist. But this is not consensual sex; it is child molestation and rape, and the punishment should fit the crime. Only the state legislature, however, can mandate criminal penalties.
The motion, to be presented Tuesday, authored by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Knabe, asks lawmakers to amend the state penal code to make paying for sex a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, if the victim is a minor. It also requires the “customers” to register as sex offenders, and increases the fine from $1,000 to $10,000. And it calls on law enforcement to refocus its priorities and actively arrest and prosecute these predators.
“I am proud of the work Los Angeles County has done over the past 18 months to bring awareness to the horrific crime of child sex trafficking,” said Knabe. “However, in addition to doing all we can to protect the young victims, we must aggressively penalize those who solicit girls for sex and ensure they are the ones prosecuted, not the victims.”
In addition, the motion calls on the board to support federal legislation currently under consideration that would strengthen federal laws against child sex trafficking.
Chairman Ridley-Thomas emphasized that all levels of government and law enforcement must work together to protect these children, mainly girls, from being exploited and terrorized. While children cannot legally consent to sex, they are often charged with a prostitution related offense and become enmeshed in the criminal justice system.
“This is not a victimless crime,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “These are children who are being exploited for the enjoyment of unscrupulous men, and it is our duty to protect them. To that end, California should step up and create the toughest laws in the nation that will either deter or, if necessary, punish those who purchase children.”
6 local law enforcement agencies attend human sex trafficking training
by Laura Warren
AUGUSTA, Ga.--Human sex trafficking is a problem that's gaining a lot
of attention here in our area. Law enforcement from six counties across the area met at the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta Thursday to get the latest training.
It's all in an effort to spot the signs, and fight what's becoming a growing problem. Elizabeth Smith, says, "We know it's an issue, and I suspect you'll see cases begin to arise a lot more now that our law enforcement knows what they're looking for and has training on it."
Elizabeth Smith started the non profit, I'm Aware, to focus on the problem of sex trafficking in our area. She says there are four risk factors that indicate a city has a problem. "The first would be a major thoroughfare, the second would be a major sporting event, the third would be any migrant community, and the fourth would be a population over 200,000. Out of those four indicators, we have all 4," she points out.
Recent stings helped open a lot of local eyes to the problem, like the FBI's Operation Cross Country VII that led to the arrest of 9 alleged prostitutes and 2 alleged pimps in Augusta.
Sgt. Byron Fassett with the Dallas Police Department says, "It's a difficult concept to grasp or to accept as a community, because we don't think it happens in our backyard."
That's one of the main points during training, coming from an expert out of Dallas, Texas who's worked in sex trafficking for 20 years.
He explains, "Part of this whole game of trafficking and prostitution is to make them feel complacent in their victimization, that they chose to do it. I haven't met a person yet involved in this that chose to do this."
Sheriff Richard Roundtree says, "9 times out of 10 most people do not choose to be int he street, they do not choose to be homeless, young women do not choose to sell their bodies to survive."
This training is the first of an 18 month program. Law enforcement agencies are the first to receive it, then the course will be opened to medical personnel, social workers, and eventually anyone from the community interested in bringing this hidden problem to light.
Arkansas leads the way in human trafficking laws
Mike Beebe Governor's Report
Thirty-nine states, including Arkansas, passed legislation against human trafficking this year. The legislation cleared both houses of the Arkansas Legislature unanimously—an indication of the universal urgency to find solutions. Even more notable at home is the toughness of Arkansas's law.
With its enactment of our new law, Arkansas strengthened its stance against human trafficking more than any other state, according to the Washington-based Polaris Project. The group advocates for stricter laws against human trafficking, and it had high praise for Arkansas's new law. The legislation expands the definition of human trafficking and makes it a Class Y felony, punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison. The measure also allows for victims to qualify for restitution and other services and provides law-enforcement officers with specialized training. The law also allows for the seizure of traffickers' assets and mandates the posting of the hotline number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
Forced labor is one form of enslavement, but an increasing number of cases involve sex trafficking. This crime is being perpetrated in Arkansas and across America more than most people realize. Earlier this summer, a Little Rock man was convicted in federal court of sex trafficking. It was the first such conviction in the Eastern District of Arkansas, but the offense had been ongoing for quite some time. The U.S. Attorney said that a key factor in bringing cases of human trafficking to light is the awareness of others.
That awareness is spreading in Arkansas, thanks to the work of national and local organizations. Many companies in Arkansas's trucking industry, along with the nonprofit group Truckers Against Trafficking, are training drivers to look for and report signs of enslavement. Already, reports from Arkansas truckers are on the rise. Their watchful eyes across our state's roadways can be a powerful resource for law enforcement and may save lives.
Human traffickers target people who are often the most vulnerable in society. Commonly, victims are new to this country. They come after being promised a better life and a better job, but are tricked into owing their captors large sums of money. The only form of repayment these captors will accept is forced labor or the sex trade.
Fortunately, help is available for victims of these crimes. Partners Against Trafficking Humans, or PATH, provides safe shelter in Central Arkansas for individuals who gain freedom or escape. Knowing that help is available is certainly an incentive for those who are trapped in what they consider a helpless situation.
Criminals are trafficking women, men and children from coast to coast at appalling rates. While breaking the law, they are also robbing their victims of their liberty, one of the strongest tenets of our American way of life. In Arkansas, and every other state, prosecutors and law enforcement are acquiring stronger tools and more support to stop traffickers, and state agencies will protect survivors and help them reclaim their freedom.
Michael Reagan: How I Overcame Child Abuse
by Sandy Fitzgerald and Kathleen Walter
Every 10 seconds in the United States, a call is made about a child being abused, but the laws "always seem to be helping the adults," — a trend Michael Reagan hopes to change.
Reagan, himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and child pornography, along with Childhelp, a national child abuse hotline, have declared a call to action to stop children from being victimized.
Reagan, the adopted son of the late President Ronald Reagan and the president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation, has spent the past 25 years raising awareness about the scourge of child abuse, after detailing his own experiences in 1987 through his book "On the Outside Looking In."
"So many people really have no concept about how many kids are abused every single year," Reagan told Newsmax.TV. "Just to give you an idea, every 10 seconds, there is a call made about a child being abused. Five children die every single day because of child abuse, and 400,000 children will be taken out of their homes this year because of neglect and abuse. It is discouraged in America and it's the least talked about issue in America. We talk about always helping the children but we always seem to be helping the adults."
Reagan and Childhelp are pushing for all states to adopt Erin's Law, a mandate to teach prevention education in every school in America. In addition, they want to implement Childhelps' "Speak Up Be Safe" program and to make the country aware of key resources available on Americans' smartphones and by encouraging them to call the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD. (1-800-422-4453).
Childhelp is a non-profit organization that works to meet the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of abused, neglected, and at-risk children. The organization is not affiliated with Child Protective Services or any government agency, political party, religious denomination, or other entities.
"Childhelp has a back to school program, a Be Safe initiative calling on Erin's Law to be passed in every state in this country that would require in fact the curriculum in schools to in fact teach kids about being safe," said Reagan, who was abused by a day camp counselor in the 1950s, when he was only eight years old.
"Don Havlik was the name," he said. "He died about seven years ago, and he had taken naked photographs of me as an 8-year-old child, and had me in fact develop the photographs when I was almost turning nine. [He] put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'wouldn't your mother like a copy of this?'"
Reagan said his life "absolutely ended" that day.
"I thought I was going to Hell, and I didn't know if people would see me as gay or heterosexual," he said. "My dad ran for governor, my dad ran for president, and I knew there were photographs out there."
Reagan kept his secret for the next 30 years, finally revealing to his father and First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1987 what had happened.
Reagan said his father reacted by saying "I'll go out and kick the guy's butt," and Nancy Reagan responded, "Honey, I don't think he has a butt anymore."
But, he told Newsmax, parents also need to be aware about what could be happening to their own children.
"As parents, we're so busy we've forgotten to raise our own children and somehow we're wanting to trust all those who we put our children in their care," he said. "Sometimes we need to be careful."
Havlik died at 83 about seven years ago, and his sister-in-law told Reagan the photographs had finally been destroyed.
"Now think about that, photographs taken in 1953, 1954 were not destroyed until seven years ago because these people use them as trading cards in their lives," said Reagan.
Reagan also said he disagrees with recent New Jersey legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie that bars therapists from helping children overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, including minors whose attractions come from childhood sexual abuse.
"There's a lot of children who are in the homosexual community that are there because it's a safe haven for them having been sexually abused," said Reagan, "They're the ones who truly, in fact, need to have some help. So to opt them out of the situation is not the right thing to do."
Reagan also accused lawmakers of being a "bunch of old fogies sitting on Capitol Hill that really don't get it."
Sex trafficking is a $12 billion per year industry, said Reagan, and there are few places in the United States to help children who have been recruited into the trade.
"It's like America doesn't want to talk about it, because to talk about means we have to accept it," said Reagan. "But just to give you an idea, within 48 hours of your child running away from home, whatever the reason is – they're being sexually abused. Congress talks a lot about it but doesn't do very much about it."
Documents Detail Child-Abuse Deaths in Los Angeles County
by John Cadiz Klemack and Brandon Lowrey
Records obtained by NBC4 show 63 children died in Los Angeles County as a result of abuse and neglect since January 2012, including some with a lengthy history of allegations leading up to the death.
The documents provide details about the deaths and the history of involvement - if there was any - by the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services.
Some cases flew under the DCFS's radar, as no one reported any abuse or neglect until after the child's death. But in other cases, the DCFS had been chronicled neglect, abuse and sexual abuse allegations against the children's parents for years before the case culminated in a death.
"Yes, we've had contact and there have been assessments done," said Armand Montiel, spokesman for the DCFS. "But that assessment may have been done three weeks ago, six months ago or years ago."
The public agency released hundreds of pages of those documents Wednesday, which NBC4 is examining.
The DCFS has been under scrutiny - both internal and by the public - since the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in May. The agency has fired four of its social workers because of apparent mishandling of Gabriel's case.
Gabriel died of apparent torture and severe abuse after being found nearly dead in his mother's apartment in Palmdale. His mother and her live-in boyfriend were charged in his death.
Gabriel had been removed from the home and placed with another family member. A court eventually awarded custody to his mother in late 2012, just months before his death.
Teachers and relatives have since come forward saying they tried to warn the DCFS for months or years about signs Gabriel was being abused, but nothing happened until after the boy died.
Gabriel had suffered a fractured skull, three broken ribs and burns to his skin. Two of his teeth were knocked out, and paramedics found BB pellets embedded in his lung.
Gabriel's maternal grandparents are suing the DCFS and other county agencies over their handling of Gabriel's case.
"For the most part, our social workers are very confident in what they do and if they feel the child is not safe in the home, then they won't remain in the home," Montiel said.
Victim Advocates Speak Out
DUBUQUE, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Tonight, it's the church asking for forgiveness.
“I will repeat it as long as I have life's breath...I am sorry,” said Archbishop Michael Jackels.
With the Archdiocese of Dubuque settling with 26 more victims of sexual abuse for a total of $5.2 million dollars, the total is now up to 83 settlements over the past seven years.
Jackels says they don't want to stop at a cash payment.
“If there's anything that we can do or say to help with the process of healing and wholeness, we're ready to do that,” Jackels said.
Steve Theisen with SNAP, or the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says the church could have acted before it went this far.
“They sent them from parish to parish after the abuse, and then unsuspecting children, unsuspecting parents knew nothing about it,” Theisen said.
Theisen, also a victim of sexual abuse in the church, says as a result more children were impacted. Those Children grew into adults and suffer the consequences till this day.
“I've met too many that because of the abuse, they turn to alcohol, the turn to drugs,” Theisen said.
He says the money they will receive may help with necessary therapy, but ultimately you can't put a price tag on the pain.
“There's no amount of money…how much money would you pay for a child to be molested?” Theisen asked. “You can't put a dollar figure on it.”
More victims out there Theisen says, and he hopes is that this settlement inspires more to share their story. However he says there is a backlash within the church from members who think the victims are bringing the church down.
“They've had to seek justice in the courts, and that upsets a lot of people in the pews,”
Until that attitude is broken, Theisen says victims may continue to live in the dark.
“I'd like to see the people in pews be more accepting of the victims…it wasn't their fault that some other church official knew about it and didn't say.”
Of the 10 priests accused of abuse only two of them, William Schwartz and Allen Schmitt, are still living. Schwartz was dismissed from the priesthood in 2005. Schmitt has been moved into an administrative position.
Judge in rape case criticized for light sentence, remarks about victim
Montana jurist gives a former teacher 30 days in jail for the rape of a 14-year-old student, and then calls the victim 'older than her chronological age.'
by Christine Mai-Duc
A Montana judge has come under fire after handing down a 30-day sentence to a former high school teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student and for making statements in court that the victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as her teacher.
Outrage is particularly sharp in Billings, where the crime took place, because the girl committed suicide in 2010, just shy of her 17th birthday, as the criminal case was pending. A protest was planned for Thursday, and organizers have called on Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh to resign.
The uproar began Monday when Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, to 15 years in prison on one count of sexual intercourse without consent, but then suspended all but 31 days and gave him credit for one day served. Prosecutors had asked for 20 years in prison, with 10 years suspended.
Baugh said that after reviewing statements made by the girl before her death, he concluded that she was a troubled youth. He then made the controversial remarks, including that he thought the girl had been "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold. The girl's mother, Auliea Hanlon, was in the courtroom and screamed at the judge before storming out, according to the Associated Press.
On Wednesday, Baugh apologized in a letter to the Billings Gazette newspaper, conceding his words were "demeaning of all women." He also said that while a 14-year-old "obviously" cannot consent, "I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape.… It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape."
Under Montana state law, minors under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex.
"I don't believe in justice anymore," Hanlon said in a statement. "She wasn't even old enough to get a driver's license."
Protest organizer Sheena Rice called the judge's language "horrific."
"Judges should be protecting our most vulnerable children … not enabling rapists by placing blame on victims," she said.
Rambold was first charged in 2008 with three felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent after the girl reported to a church counselor that she had been sexually assaulted by a teacher, court documents show.
After the girl's death, Rambold admitted to one rape charge and entered a plea agreement in which the case would be dismissed provided he complete a sex-offender treatment program and meet other conditions, including having no unsupervised contact with children.
Prosecutors re-filed the charges in December after learning he had been terminated from the treatment program for having unsupervised visits with family members who were minors, according to court documents.
Jay Lansing, Rambold's attorney, had argued that Rambold had "already suffered as a result of his conduct," losing his career and his standing in the community. Lansing, who argued for the same sentence Baugh ultimately delivered, declined to comment Wednesday.
Prosecutor Scott Twito said his office was reviewing the sentence, which relied on an exception in state law that gives the judge latitude on sentencing in cases of sex with minors.
"I think the outcome could have been very different if the judge didn't have the freedom to make those choices," said Marian Bradley, president of Montana's National Organization for Women. Bradley and others are asking the governor and attorney general to review Baugh's actions.
In a statement to The Times, Gov. Steve Bullock said Baugh's comments left him "angry" and "disappointed," but that the Judicial Standards Commission handles complaints about a judge's actions.
Family of tortured 8-year-old Palmdale boy to sue DCFS, L.A. County
by Kelly Goff
The grandparents of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who died after being tortured, allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend, have taken the beginning steps toward a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, the Department of Children and Family Services, Palmdale Unified School District and others.
In documents served to potential defendants this week, the grandparents allege county investigators illegally removed Gabriel Fernandez from their care just months before he died and returned him to his mother, 29-year-old Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, over their objections and multiple allegations of abuse.
Gabriel lived with his mother's parents from the age of one month until October 2012, when his mother decided she wanted custody and asked DCFS for help.
“Despite the objections of Robert Fernandez and Sandra Fernandez, and the warnings that Pearl Fernandez had previously abused her other children, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department removed Gabriel Fernandez from his grandparents' home and placed him with his mother, Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre,” the 16-page document states.
Gabriel was found unresponsive May 22 and died at a local hospital two days later. The little boy had BB pellets in his lung and groin, a fractured skull, cigarette burns on his body, and two teeth had been knocked out, allegedly by Aguirre, while his mother did nothing to stop it.
But investigations into Gabriel's death have shown that there were allegations of abuse by Pearl Fernandez long before the little boy died, and four DCFS employees are losing their jobs as a result of a probe into the handling of the case.
County documents released in June indicate there were more than 60 complaints lodged with DCFS about Pearl Fernandez and eight separate investigations started on the family, including one underway when Gabriel died. His two sisters are now in foster care.
In the lawsuit, Gabriel's grandparents allege that one investigator with the Department of Public Social Services who had been called out to look into charges of welfare fraud by Pearl failed to document injuries to the little boy.
“Rather than reporting the suspected abuse, (the investigator) telephoned Gabriel Fernandez's mother, Pearl Fernandez, the following day and asked her out on a date,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit also names Palmdale Unified School District, claiming the officials and teachers at Summerwind Elementary School should not have released Gabriel to his mother's care after teachers became aware of repeated abuse, which had been reported.
John Noland, attorney for Robert and Sandra Fernandez, was not immediately available for comment.
Gabriel's mother and Aguirre are being held without bail, awaiting arraignment on charges of capital murder with a special allegation of torture, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. Both arraignments have been postponed three times. They are next due in court Oct. 7.
Detectives who interviewed the couple after Gabriel went into the hospital say Aguirre admitted to hurting the boy and Pearl Fernandez admitted to being in the room when it happened and doing nothing to stop it.
If convicted, each could face the death penalty.
Former Redlands teacher Laura Whitehurst gets year in jail in student sex case
by Greg Cappis and Lori Fowler
As expected, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge on Wednesday sentenced former high school teacher Laura Whitehurst of Redlands to a year in county jail and five years' probation.
The sentencing came after one of the victims, referred to in court as John Doe, asked Judge Arthur Harrison not to accept the deal, calling it unjust.
Whitehurst, 28, who was charged with committing sex acts with three former students in Redlands, could have received as much as 29 years in prison. But on July 31 she pleaded guilty to just six of the 41 felony counts she was facing.
Harrison said Whitehurst “grossly violated” her responsibility as a teacher, but the plea bargain is appropriate.
However, if she violates any terms of her probation — which among other things specifies she have no contact with John Doe — she could be re-sentenced to up to six years and four months in state prison, Harrison said.
During the court hearing, a relative of John Doe read a statement written by his mother, calling Whitehurst a “child predator” and saying her son has been bullied and teased as a result of the case.
Her son has been told he was not a victim and changed from an outgoing and involved honor student to a quiet, stressed out teen while hiding the relationship during his senior year at Citrus Valley High School, she said.
Whitehurst “actively pursued my son,” she wrote. “She robbed him of his innocence and youth.”
The mother requested that Harrison not accept the plea bargain and sentence Whitehurst as if the victim were his own child.
“No teacher should think it's OK to have sex with a student,” the mother wrote in her statement, which was read while Whitehurst, in a green jumpsuit, stood gazing at the floor with handcuffs attached to a chain around her waist.
Harrison said it was his understanding prosecutors discussed the plea deal with the victims before submitting it to the court.
Prosecutors previously said they agreed to the plea bargain because the victims wanted to move on with their lives.
After the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Melissa Rodriguez said she had notified John Doe twice about the terms of the plea agreement.
“He did not voice objection to it,” she said.
Rodriguez said she respects their rights as victims.
“We respect their rights to change their position,” she said.
The former English teacher at Citrus Valley High was arrested July 1. The case came to light after Whitehurst gave birth on June 18 to a baby fathered by one of her victims.
John Doe, the father of her child, also spoke in court, saying he was a victim of extreme manipulation and countless sexual assaults by Whitehurst.
He said the incidents have scarred him and will affect every relationship he will have for the rest of his life.
He said Whitehurst told him there was a special connection between them, and that she loved him and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
John Doe said he enjoyed the attention, but she should not have fueled his romantic interests and pursued him.
“I am the father of a child when I am still myself a child,” said John Doe, who turned 18 this month.
In the courthouse hallway, defense attorney James Gass said he would not refer to his client as a child predator.
“He is the only victim in the last five years,” Gass said. “I don't think the term (predator) fits her very well.”
He suggested the mother's statement was written by a lawyer attempting to get taxpayer money from a civil suit.
The family has retained The Law Office of Heather Cullen in Riverside to file a civil suit after the criminal proceedings finish. Two attorneys, Heather Cullen and Jillian Duggan-Herd, sat with the victim and his family in the back of the fourth-floor courtroom.
“A lawyer didn't write either statement,” Cullen said by phone after the hearing. “They each had individual statements. They reviewed them with us, but no, they wrote their own statements.”
Police arrest man for 'uncommon' sex crime
by Kristin Hoppa
A 25-year-old St. Joseph man was arrested Wednesday after he was charged last week with an “uncommon” sex crime against two juvenile victims.
Willis Jackson Hartman III, was charged with use of child in sexual performance, a Class C felony, after he allegedly “taught, encouraged and authorized” two underage siblings to perform sexual intercourse in March, according to detective Quentin Abbott with the St. Joseph Police Department.
The siblings were 7 and 5 years old.
“At the time of the incident, Willis Hartman had care and custody of the children,” the probable cause statement said.
Mr. Hartman was charged Aug. 23 with the felony, but was arrested Wednesday in the 3500 block of East Hillview Circle without incident.
The mother initially contacted police about her suspicions, Mr. Abbott said, adding that after she reported the incident, Mr. Hartman no longer had contact with the children.
“Typically, sex cases involving children are when an adult perpetrates on a child, not as many children perpetrating on another,” Mr. Abbott said. “When you have children this young … who would have no knowledge of sexual activity … this is pretty uncommon.”
Mr. Hartman remained in custody en lieu of a $50,000 bond and must not have custody of any minor or contact with either victim. His next court appearance was not immediately scheduled.
Estimated 40 million Americans are victims of child sexual abuse
STUART — Learn how to help prevent child sexual abuse (CSA) and understand the impact it has on our society by registering today for an upcoming “Stewards of Children” workshop.
There are two opportunities coming up for you to learn more. Workshops are scheduled Thursday, Sept. 19, from 6-8:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 28, from 9-11:30 a.m. Both classes are generously hosted by Covenant Fellowship Church in Stuart. The workshop was created by Darkness to Light, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse, is being facilitated by Sheila Hoadley and Helena Beers.
The training is open to the public and is a grass roots push at the community level with specific interest among parents, youth sports organizations / coaches / camp counselors, teachers / school personnel and faith centers. The two-and-a-half hour workshop is designed to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. The cost of the workshop is $20 for each participant, which includes DVD presentation, interactive workbook and most importantly discussion. Please register online at httip://www.letstalkaboutcsa.com or call 772-359-7707 for details.
Charlestown, S.C., resident Ann Lee, a child sexual abuse survivor, founded Darkness to Light in 2000 and serves as the organization's president and CEO. She says public education is an essential tool to provide real impact to prevent sexual abuse of children. She points to leading research that shows educating 5 percent of a community's adult population can create a “tipping point” toward societal behavior change. This tipping point carries momentum throughout the community to further spread awareness and make preventing sexual abuse the norm.
The overall goal for Stewards of Children in Martin County is to train at least 6,750 residents. To date, more than 60 residents in the region have participated. Are you next?
Darkness to Light (http://www.darkness2light.org) has surpassed certification of 4,000 facilitators, who undergo advanced training in order to lead Stewards of Children workshops. Since its founding D2L has created ongoing public education programs across the United States, 15 countries and three languages.
Our children need your help and dedication to ending child sexual abuse. Please sign up for the next available class or donate so someone else can benefit from this source of knowledge.
On Marrying a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Dealing with misinformation, feeling powerless, and slowly getting better together
by Shonna Milliken Humphrey
I thought the article would validate my husband's experience. That's why I emailed him the link to the decade-old New York magazine article about his alma mater, the American Boychoir School for vocal prodigies, where alumni from as late as the 1990s estimate that one in five boys were molested. Boys like Travis.
“It used to feel like an isolated incident that affected just me," Trav said.
It was the end of my workday on an October afternoon; I had just set my keys on the kitchen table. My coat was still buttoned.
“Now I know I spent nearly three years of my childhood at a boarding school not just with random pedophiles, but in a culture that allowed it.”
As his wife, how do I respond? That he survived? That he's brave? That he's a hero for letting me talk about it? That I will stand beside him with a personal mission and public vow that nobody will ever hurt him, physically or emotionally, again, the way they did during his 30 months as a choirboy from 1988 to 1990?.
He keeps a machete by the nightstand. A long pillow divides our bed.
Trav deflects these statements. He understands my protective instincts, but it makes him feel weak and uncomfortable when I say the words with such elevated drama. He is not brave, he says. Not a survivor, and certainly no hero. It doesn't matter anymore, he says, so I suck in my breath and nod.
Mostly, I listen. I listen, and I do not laugh when my husband needs to secure the perimeter of our home each night. He keeps a machete by the nightstand. A long pillow divides our bed.
Trav believes his story is too familiar to be interesting. “I'm just another kid who got molested.” This breaks my heart to hear, but he's not wrong about his story not being unique: The generally accepted estimate is that one in six men are sexually abused as children.
When high profile cases dominate the news, I feel for the victims, but I also scan for images of their partners and wonder how they deal with it. I want to ask what's inside their medicine cabinets and if their husbands sometimes wince when touched, too.
I want my husband to sleep at night, and if it takes a machete in the bedroom, I‘ve learned not to mind.
Search for Americana singers in our state, and Trav's name usually tops the list. As a musician, he built a business on his terms, one small stage at a time, and now plays at least five shows a week. He has a kind energy that draws people to him. He is a Reiki master and meditates daily. He diffuses bar fights with humor and loads heavy gear with confidence in and out of dim back alley doors. Our niece and nephew run to him, and our chiropractor once called him the nicest man he'd ever met. His shoulders and arms, muscular and tattooed, project strength and confidence. “You're so lucky,” women tell me after they hear him sing.
There is a hum about Trav—Hawaiians call it “big mana”—so much so, people might be shocked to know about the other, darker parts of him. For all his bold stage presence, he is an extremely private guy.
My husband does not want to be a spokesperson for child sex abuse survivors. His experiences are his own, and he finds no comfort in commiserating with others. He only agreed to this essay as a way of taking the conversation into the light, removing the shame, and saying to some other little boy, “With help, you, too, can heal;” to parents, “Be careful;” and, to partners like me, “Please do not give up.”
Still, there is something in people that always wants details. Partners like me know that even if I ranked every distinct act of pedophilia from bad to worst, the emotions—fear, trauma, sadness, anger, shame— are exactly the same for every crime. While Trav's experience might not equal the horror of some, I don't believe in “molestation lite.”
Instead, I read statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network and nod along. These are the details that matter:
“Victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.”
Misinformation is the worst. Child sex abuse victims are not destined for deviance, but despite its repeated discrediting, a “cycle of abuse” myth persists. Put in the simplest terms by Houston's Children's Assessment Center, 500,000 babies born in the United States this year will likely be sexually abused before they turn 18. The vast majority of these victims will not grow up to be sex offenders.
“I have never, ever had feelings like that,” Trav once told me, as if I did not already know his character, and I was sad because he felt he needed to say the words out loud.
There's also the guilt of not telling. He described the pressure he felt during his time at the prestigious school. “My folks borrowed money to send me there. If I quit, my whole family would have been seen as a failure.”
This idea—that it was his fault for not speaking up—was embedded in my husband's psyche for years.
Both of us grew up in the same small community, and I remember seeing his photos in the local newspaper and the pride shown by our hometown. Looking back, I imagine that weight on the shoulders of a 12 year old, worried about his mom and dad. “I didn't say anything to them or to the teachers,” he said. “If they knew what happened, I thought it would destroy them.”
This idea—that it was his fault for not speaking up—was embedded in my husband's psyche for years. In an effort to survive, he buried the details deep, doing his best to forget the American Boychoir School. “Who would believe me?” he used to ask. “I was a scholarship kid.”
Newly into our marriage, and refusing to put more blame on that little boy's shoulders, I said “I believe you.”
This is the most important thing a partner can say. Almost 25 years after leaving the school, when Trav did tell his parents, they believed him, too. His mom had set out a pile of items unpacked from his school days to make a memory quilt. When Trav declined, his father asked why, and Trav told the truth.
As a parent, thinking you gave your child the opportunity of a lifetime, how do you watch that image corrode? How do you remember hearing your boy cry to come home, believing it was temporary homesickness? How do you process that despite doing your best due diligence, the organization you trusted with your child played a role in his trauma?
His parents' immediate reaction—to hug him tight—was exactly right.
Travis sleeps most nights now. Before, he didn't. When we moved in together, he was 23 and midway through a second military band enlistment. Our apartment was a small cinderblock studio, and in such close physical proximity, I watched his sunny, gregarious stage presence lie dormant for hours under a blanket on the couch. I suggested Trav visit the Air Force base clinic, and he got a 10-question checklist. “You're fine,” the clinician said and sent Trav back to our couch.
Frustrated, we located a private practice, and with a small dose of anti-depressants, information began to slip out. “I can't remember all the details, but I have this feeling,” he said. I held his hand as his night terrors, hyper-vigilance and claustrophobia began to make sense.
When Trav's enlistment was up, we moved back home to Maine.
“But you're eight years in,” people accused. “Why don't you just stay?”
We were told we were stupid and short-sighted, throwing away good careers. I preferred that oblique assessment to my reality: If Trav were to stay in the regimented, institutional environment of the military, void of any personal control while he wrestled with these memories, he would likely put a bullet into his head.
Partners like me have very few resources. There's no recourse, no opportunity for revenge, or even forgiveness. My challenges are loneliness, impotence, and the urge to do something, somehow to make it right.
I said, “let's go home” because I didn't know what else to do.
We took a 75 percent pay cut when we moved, but Trav gained a lifestyle structure with no overt vestige of imprisonment or dominance, emotional or physical. He could move freely, and we found a therapist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder. Details continue to leak out, but Trav is stable enough to handle them now.
At a recent dental appointment, while filling out paperwork, Trav checked the PTSD box in the medical history section. “Service-related?” the hygienist asked. When Trav said no, he thought she seemed disappointed. No war hero. He could buy sympathy with the truth, but he would never say it out loud.
I swallowed urges to find myself a small apartment, to have a discreet affair, or to book a hotel room for just one good night of my own sleep.
“It's nobody else's business, and I don't want it to define me,” he said, “Plus, it makes people uncomfortable.”
Given the near-universal shame in the telling and the near-universal discomfort of the listener, as his wife, it makes me uncomfortable how we, as a community, fail to protect our little boys.
Trav tells me I'm the most beautiful, smart, sexy woman he's ever met, and I know he believes it. Still, sometimes my husband cannot summon a desire to touch me in a way that doesn't feel obligatory and rote. I'd be lying if I said I never wanted things to be different.
I swallowed urges to find myself a small apartment, to have a discreet affair, or to book a hotel room for just one good night of my own sleep. On his bad days, I dreaded opening the front door because I was never sure what I'd find. His secrets were now mine to keep, and the weight was heavy.
The words of his fans echoed in my head. “You are so lucky.”
As Trav continues to do the exhausting and intense work to put distance between himself and his sense of shame, it gets better for us. One by one, he shares information with people he trusts, and the response is near-universal: Somebody knows somebody who was affected by this issue. More often than not, instead of the discomfort he feared, there is a level of compassion. People love my husband.
We are good now, and getting better, but there are still moments when I never know what to do or say. So, when I fell down the Google rabbit hole last year and was routed to the old 2002 New York magazine article, I sent the link to Trav. According to the article, there was a longstanding and widespread atmosphere of willful ignorance about sexual abuse.
Rather than bringing the solace of knowing he was not alone, the article put Trav's mind back in a little boy place, trying to sleep in the dormitory, sensing what happened in the rooms next door and wondering if and when he would be next.
“It wasn't just me. It was the entire school's culture,” Trav said, the new awareness making his voice wooden.
I watched my husband move back onto our couch that day, and I thought of all the other partners like me, shifting feet back and forth in their own kitchens, arms useless and keys jangling, with no social script and no map—the desire for vengeance and policy change and a way out overridden by a bigger, immediate desire for their husband, son, brother, or friend to just stop hurting.
I am grateful that "I" is now a solid community of "we."
“It was the entire school,” he repeated on that October day. And then, softer, “What if I remember more?”
I considered this. It took more than a decade for the emergence of his recollections to plateau, and I thought of our life stretched out for another 10 years, and then 10 more after that, dealing with this issue in perpetuity. Instead of anger or hatred or an urge to leave, I imagined a lifetime of my husband bolting straight up in the early morning hours and me coaxing him to breathe, assuring him he's okay.
“If you remember more, I will believe you, and your family will believe you, and your friends will believe you, and we will figure it out together,” I said in my now-practiced whisper. I set my keys on the table, hung my coat on the back of a kitchen chair, and crawled up into the nook under Trav's arm, nodding against his chest.
I know that this couch moment will pass, that it will never be as bad as those first early and uncertain days. I am grateful that “I” is now a solid community of “we” because now, most nights, instead of waking to sounds of Trav thrashing himself alert, I wake to find that at some point in those early morning hours, my husband's hand has reached across our bed's center pillow to rest on my waist.
Child pornography should end. As an ex-convict, I ask: Is prison the most effective way to address demand?
by David Goldberg
It was shortly before 3:00 a.m. on May 30, 2012 when I turned off my computer for the last time. I slid my recliner over three feet and tucked myself into my bed, for another sleepless session of self-loathing and self-pity. Later that morning, I would not be at my friends' home as I had planned to help them celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Instead, I would find myself sitting on the hard wooden bench of a police holding cell.
For almost 20 years, I spent virtually every night of my life in the same manner: Sitting in front of my computer and either trawling the Internet for child pornography or looking at the pictures and videos that were already a part of my collection. No matter how many images I found and regardless of how sleep deprived I felt, nothing would stop me from continuing this perverse pursuit. It was my own carelessness that finally got me arrested, when I used my credit card to order some films that had images of naked boys, although none of these movies were of a sexual nature. One police officer later told me he thought I had gotten caught on purpose, because, subliminally, it was the only way I would stop. He was right about the latter, but not the former. No one who is a pedophile wants to get caught and have their horrifying secret revealed to the world.
In fact, there were some nights—but not too many—when I would dare to sit in my chair after my computer was turned off and imagine how it would feel to get arrested. Would I fall to the ground in the fetal position, would I throw up, burst into tears or perhaps even have a heart attack? When that day finally came for me, I did none of those. After the lead detective read me my rights and asked several questions regarding my computer, a strange calm washed over me. I knew my job as a local newspaper editor and my hobby coaching baseball had both come to an end. Yet the overriding thoughts in my head were not of my past, but more of my future. I knew that I was in a unique position to help others understand the bewildering life of a pedophile. I had never asked to be cursed with this sexual attraction, and I had never hurt a child. In fact, I was always a good role model as a coach, and an upstanding citizen throughout my days. It was the nights that were a problem.
Over the months that followed my arrest, my journalistic instincts took over. I wanted to know how a lifetime of lusting after young children could seem so normal to me on an emotional level, even though I knew rationally that it was a completely deviant lifestyle. I would spend my days longing to get back onto my computer, the way a gourmand anticipates a scrumptious feast. Yet when the computer was turned off, I despised myself for being so aroused while looking at pictures of young children whose lives had been destroyed thanks to their unwilling participation.
I spent much of my time in the days right after my arrested reflecting on my childhood. Was there some horrible trauma, an incident of abuse perhaps, that I had covered up which lead to my pedophilia. Was there some anomaly in my formative years that skewed my sexual development? I asked my sister, an experienced therapist, for her help, but she assured me that as far as she knew, nothing of that kind happened to me. I was the victim of an unhappy childhood and a psychologically disturbed father. I had all the symptoms of arrested development, which left me at the emotional level of a 10-year-old. But there was nothing remarkable or unspeakable about my childhood.
I decided to continue my journey by seeking the help of a therapist and doing as much research on the topic of pedophilia as I could, with the help of my sister and her computer. What I discovered was that for every small nugget of helpful information, there was a sinkhole of unanswered questions that remained. The main query that I am convinced will always be without an answer is why I am a pedophile. It is the equivalent of trying to determine why someone is heterosexual or gay. We don't choose our sexual orientations. If we could, believe me, no one would choose mine.
The most important thing I've discovered in the 15 months since my arrest isn't the why, but rather what can be done to change the preconceptions and misconceptions that society has when it comes to pedophiles. Most people hear that word and think of the Jerry Sanduskys and abusive Catholic priests of the world. Fewer people think about the millions who grapple with sexual feelings on which they can never act. When someone hears the word “pedophile”, they immediately think of a child molester. Yet the majority of pedophiles do not molest, but instead spend hours looking at child pornography. And as those numbers grow, so does the number of child victims.
I am not advocating the cross-generational lifestyle. In fact, there is never an instance when an adult should engage in sexual behavior with a child. But until we as a society learn that help for those who view child pornography is a far better alternative to incarceration, we are doomed to see the continued proliferation of this problem. Scientists don't know for certain if there is a correlation between viewing child pornography and offending against children. Wouldn't it be nice to get pedophiles help before we find out for certain?
Despite my arrest, I am one of the lucky ones. Because I was arrested in Canada, I was only given a 90-day sentence. Had I been arrested in the U.S., I could have served many years with hardened criminals. My family and friends stood by since my arrest and love and accept me, despite my sexual flaws.
How many millions of pedophiles throughout the world aren't as lucky as I? How many will never seek help, too scared of the legal and social consequences? How many will continue to create the demand that fuels a malicious child pornography market? Is locking them away for a while the answer? Will the day ever come when we, as a society, reach out and offer them the help they so desperately need?
What Can Be Done About Pedophilia?
Academics on the most common questions, and where we stand with "treatment"
by Alice Dreger
To accompany todays's first-person essay from David Goldberg, "I, Pedophile," I asked James Cantor, Ph.D., an international expert on pedophilia, to answer some common questions. Dr. Cantor is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and the editor-in-chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment . (We have known each other for about 7 years through our common academic interests.)
How is pedophilia usually defined?
Pedophilia is the sexual preference for or a strong sexual interest in children. The term usually refers only to sexual preference for/interest in prepubescent or early pubescent children.
Sometimes people like David Goldberg, the author of the essay, are seen or referred to as "gold star pedophiles" or "good pedophiles." Can you explain what those seemingly incongruous terms mean?
It is extremely important not to confuse pedophilia—meaning the sexual interest in children—with actual child molestation. Not every person who experiences sexual attractions to children acts on those attractions. People who are pedophilic but who work to remain celibate their entire lives are being increasingly recognized as needing and deserving all the support society can give them.
What do you think David means when he refers to people being "too scared of the legal and social consequences" to seek help?
Many jurisdictions have passed mandatory reporting regulations for psychologists and other health care providers. Consequently, when someone who thinks he might be a pedophile comes in for counseling or therapy, the psychologist may be compelled by law to report the person to the authorities. That, of course, can lead to loss of the person's job, family, and everything else. So, these people have simply stopped coming in at all, and instead of getting help to them, we now have pedophiles circulating in society receiving no support at all.
What evidence do we have that pedophilia is a sexual orientation?
“Sexual orientation” means different things in different contexts. When they say “sexual orientation,” most people mean a sexual interest that is inborn and unchangeable. No one chooses to be sexually attracted to children, although people do choose whether they act on their sexual attractions. Therapists have been attempting to turn pedophiles into non-pedophiles for a very long time, but no one has presented any objective evidence of any enduring change in sexual interests. People can learn self-control, people can take sex-drive-reducing medications, and people can learn how to live more healthy and productive lives, but we do not appear to be able to change the pedophilia itself.
What do we know about where pedophilia comes from?
The best current evidence suggests that pedophilia results from atypical wiring in the brain. This field of research is still very new, but it appears that there exists what could be considered a “cross-wiring” in the brain anatomy that is responsible for controlling natural social instincts or behavior. Although learning happens after birth, humans are pre-wired to recognize and respond to certain stimuli. It seems, from research conducted thus far, that stimuli that usually elicits nurturing and protective responses in most adults are instead eliciting sexual responses in pedophiles.
So are pedophiles “born that way”?
In studies, pedophiles show signs that their sexual interests are related to brain structure and that at least some differences existed in their brains before birth. For example, pedophiles show greatly elevated rates of non-right-handedness and minor physical anomalies. Thus, although pedophilia should never be confused with homosexuality, pedophilia can be meaningfully described as a sexual orientation. Scientists have more specifically called it an “age orientation.” Caution has to be used, however, so as not to confuse the scientific use of the phrase “sexual orientation” with its use in law. Because the phrase “sexual orientation” has been used as shorthand (or as a euphemism) for homosexuality, there exist laws and policies barring discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation.” These were not likely intended to refer to pedophilia.
Is it reasonable to be afraid that, if we recognize pedophilia as a sexual orientation, we will have to consider it socially acceptable?
It is reasonable for questions of social acceptability to be directed at behaviors. People are responsible for their behaviors, not their thoughts or sexual attractions. For example, we very readily acknowledge that a typical heterosexual man will, while just walking down the street, find some women sexually attractive. We would not, however, conclude it is socially acceptable for him to coerce any of those women into sex. Thinking of pedophilia as an innate characteristic that a person did not choose and cannot change can go a very long way in helping society come to a rational response to the problem—one that can help prevent molestation of children.
Can someone be cured of pedophilic desires? For example, could a pedophile through treatment go on to have either no sexual desire or a fundamentally different kind of sexual orientation?
The best treatments we have available for pedophiles help them develop the skills they need to live a healthy, offense-free life and, in some cases, to block their sex drives (if they feel it would help them). We have not yet found a way to convert pedophiles into non-pedophiles that are any more effective than the many failed attempts to convert gay men and lesbians into heterosexuals.
What treatments are available for pedophilia?
In my experience, pedophiles are the most likely to commit their offenses when they feel that they have nothing going for them in their lives and that therefore they have nothing to lose. People are most likely to do the most desperate things when they feel the most desperate. Unfortunately, much of the current social systems greatly increase rather than decrease these people's feelings of desperation.
Traditional treatments for pedophiles have largely been based on treatments initially designed for addictions, using a model called Relapse Prevention. It has been very difficult to assess the effectiveness of the model (or any model), because we cannot randomize people into treatment and placebo groups.
My greatest hope is less about treatment, however, and more about prevention. Despite the fact that many people imagine sex offenders to be insatiable predators or ticking time bombs, only 10-15 percent of sex offenders commit new offenses. I believe we can prevent a much greater number of victims if we put greater energies into early detection and provide support before the first offense occurs, rather than relying only on stronger and stronger punishments after the fact.
Alison Lee Says Alison Redford Not Listening To Sexual Abuse Victims
The Huffington Post
A 15-year-old teen, who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, says she was snubbed by Premier Alison Redford when trying to talk about victims' issues.
Alison Lee says she met Redford in Lethbridge Saturday, during a stop on the premier's Building Alberta tour.
"I was going to meet the premier and I was pretty excited about it because I had a really important question for her," said Lee in a video posted on YouTube.
The teen asked Redford if the government planned to fund the Little Warriors organization and the Be Brave Ranch -- a camp which would provide a 30-day program designed to counsel and assist victims.
"I really wanted to ask her when the government is going to see it as mandate, when they're going to even give it a thought," she said.
Redford reportedly told Lee money had already been dedicated for mental health issues in Alberta.
When Lee's mom mentioned mental health wasn't the same as sexual abuse, Lee says Redford ended the meeting abruptly.
"I don't exist, I'm nothing.. I guess that's what the premier said to me," she says in the video.
Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor, a witness to the the exchange, told the Lethbridge Herald that Redford did spend time on giving an in-depth answer, explaining program funding and having a “very civil”?conversation with Lee.
In response to the incident, the Office of the Premier issued the following statement:
"Wildrose MLA Ian Donovan had asked the Premier to make time to take an informal photo with Alison. The Premier was pleased to do it. After the photo, she had a good chat with Alison and was happy to answer her question about Little Warriors. Alison's mother later thanked the Premier's Office for the conversation."
The video has touched a nerve with many who are highlighting the importance of supporting victims of child sexual abuse.
"This is a poor example of leadership and an extreme lack of compassion on behalf of the Premier," Theo Fleury, a former NHL player who also faced sexual abuse as a child, posted on Facebook.
“Supporting the victims of heinous crimes should be the top priority for any government,” said Wildrose Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw.
Care for victims of child sexual abuse is something you'd expect was already taken care of, says Lee, but once you're a victim you realize there's little support.
Lee, who says she was abused at the age of six, was going to receive counselling from Alberta Health Services but because she lives in a small town she faced limited access to resources.
As a result,"they gave priority counselling to the perpetrator instead of the victim," she told the Huffington Post Alberta, explaining her abuser received counselling through the program while she didn't.
According to Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, the Alberta government currently provides $18 million to support programs related to survivors of child sexual abuse.
"We certainly agree and share the goals of Little Warriors," said Hancock's press secretary, Craig Loewen, adding his office is looking to determine the viability of the program before doling out the requested $650,000.
“One of the struggles in this is, it's an emotional issue and everybody wants to help. The question is, is it helping?” Hancock told the Lethbridge Herald.
“We can't commit funding to the project until we get the research and evidence, a delivery and treatment plan that shows the viability and the effectiveness. And we haven't got that. So as far as I'm concerned, it remains an open question,” he added.
One-in-three girls and one-in-six boys will experience an unwanted sexual act and 95 per cent of victims know their perpetrator, according to a report on sexual abuse in Canada.
Lee hopes to educate the premier on what million of victims live through, she says, and remind Redford children across Canada are asking for support.
"I am sorry that she can't see that children in our province need help," she said.
Police looking for more victims in online underage sex-abuse case
CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. – Police are searching for more victims after 23-year-old Nicholas Tyler Kienle was sentenced to 13 months in prison on child-sex charges last week.
Kienle found his 14-year-old victim on Facebook. When the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office searched his computer, they found many more pictures and videos of possible victims.
Kienle was found guilty of first-degree online corruption of a child and second-degree sexual abuse last Wednesday.
Police are asking other victims, or anybody who knows of other victims, to call 503-723-4949 or to fill out an online form and reference Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Case 12-08877.
Department of Public Safety reminds citizens to utilize email alerts available through the Vermont Sex Offender Registry website
Waterbury, VT – The Vermont Department of Public Safety would like to remind citizens of a valuable service that became available earlier this year.
In February the Vermont Criminal Information Center implemented a new and enhanced Sex Offender Registry software program. One of the many features of the new software was the ability for the public to register for email alerts when an internet-posted sex offender moves into their city or town.
The registration process is available, free of charge, to the public on the Vermont sex offender website at the following internet address: http://www.communitynotification.com/vermont/.
When on the site there is a tab titled “Register for Email Alerts” which will give the user access to the simple registration process. The process allows the resident to select their city/town of choice.
Once registered you will automatically receive notification when an internet-posted sex offender moves into the area for which you registered. The notification will include the individuals name, city/town of residence and a link to information regarding the offender that is available on the public internet site.
Although full address information is not allowed by current legislation, this tool can be valuable to concerned citizens and many have already taken advantage of the program.
Email alerts will be received until the service is cancelled. Cancelation of email alerts is up to the registered recipient and can be done easily at any point on the public internet site.
When registering for the email alerts the public should be aware that the alerts are only for sex offender registrants that are required to be posted on the internet and is not inclusive of all registered sex offenders.
It is also important to recognize that alerts are for the city/town of registration and individuals living near town lines need to be aware that the alerts received for their town will not be indicative of offenders in neighboring jurisdictions who still may be residing in their proximity.
The Vermont Department of Public Safety proactively encourages the use of this valuable tool to enhance awareness and foster increased public safety.
There is no charge to the public for use of the registration service.
For more information about registering for email alerts or Vermont Sex Offender Registry, visit http://vcic.vermont.gov/sex_offender or call VCIC at 802-244-8727.
Cumbee Center to conduct sexual assault awareness conference
by DeDe Biles
The Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons is bringing a new event to the Aiken area to raise awareness about sexual assault. The Many Faces of Sexual Assault, a two-day conference, will be held Sept. 12 and 13 at Aiken Technical College on Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville.
The free symposium is limited to 200 participants and as of Monday afternoon, there were no openings available. However, there probably will be some cancellations, according to Sherry Cheatham, the Cumbee Center's assistant director.
Anyone interested in attending the conference, she said, should call the Cumbee Center at 803-649-0480 or go to the organization's website, www.cumbeecenter.org, and click the link to “SA Conference” at the bottom of the home page.
The conference will begin each day with registration and breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The Cumbee Center is using a grant from South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control to fund the symposium. Cheatham said the event's program is designed to educate mental health and social workers, police officers, lawyers, physicians, ministers and the general public.
“To get the information out there is our primary purpose,” added Cheatham, who is a licensed professional counselor. “We want to give people more knowledge so they can deal with this issue more appropriately.”
Cheatham and Nola Grant, who was 2012's Miss Black South Carolina, will speak on the opening day. “Overcoming the Face of Shame” is the title of their presentation.
“She is an adult, college-age sexual assault survivor, and I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor,” Cheatham said. “But we're not free and clear because recovery is a lifelong process. We're going to talk about some of the things we experienced. I'm going to discuss my family's response and the community's response.”
Dr. Tony Jones of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault will speak on the opening day about how faith communities and sexual assault advocates can work together to help sexual assault survivors. On the second day, “he is going to talk about engaging men and boys in the response to sexual assault,” Cheatham said.
Other speakers during the conference will include Lynn Clark of Aiken Regional Medical Centers and Gayle Lofgren, Anne Laver, Mary Helen Simons and Kimberly Sawyer of the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County.
“We also have someone coming from Fort Gordon to talk about the military's response to sexual assault,” Cheatham said.
SPECIAL REPORT: Wilmington Human Trafficking survivor
by Ann McAdams
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – It's a problem we are hearing more and more about. But for the first time, WECT has met a victim of sex trafficking, who wants to share her story with you.
"Mandy" was taken away from her mother by social workers at age 8, and ran away from her abusive foster home at the age of 14. It didn't take her long to realize she couldn't make it on her own. "I felt like my adoptive mother wasn't going to take me back, so I had to find some way to support myself."
Mandy shares much in common with the estimated 300,000 children in the US sex trafficking industry. Experts say 90% of them were sexually abused as children. 70% were in the foster care system.
New Hanover County Assistant District Attorney Lindsey Roberson says the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 13. "When people think of trafficking, they think of the movie Taken . They think of girls chained up in a basement. They think of girls in Thailand and Cambodia and sex tourism and certainly those things are real and they happen, but in North Carolina, a lot of trafficking, on the surface can at least look like teenage prostitution. So we have to be really careful in thinking about teenagers as prostitutes and realize there's a lot of coercion that goes into that," Roberson explained.
So how does it work? There's a website called backpage.com where people go to find sex for sale. You find a picture of a girl you like in your area, respond to the ad and that girl shows up at your hotel room or designated meeting spot.
"It's crazy," Mandy says about the response to the ads. "You get doctors. You get lawyers. You get anyone. I mean, it doesn't matter. They all call."
Wilmington teenager Alexandrea Berte was lured into the sex trafficking business about a year ago. Allie's mother, Laura, says she was horrified to find provocative pictures of her teenage daughter on backpage.com. "Once you place an ad on that, it doesn't necessarily stay on the backpage website... the ads go viral and they get distributed to every adult website that there is," Laura told us.
While this is happening all over the country, Roberson says a number of men are under investigation for possible involvement in sex trafficking in Wilmington, including Kalmeaice Williams and Randolph Spain. Spain is behind bars in New Hanover County, and was recently convicted in Virginia for pimping a Wilmington teenager.
"I want everyone to know that it is happening, and it is happening here. I've actually worked here before in Wilmington, so I know it happens," Mandy said.
Mandy is one of the lucky ones. She was finally able to leave sex trafficking when her pimp was arrested by the FBI last year. This time, she came to Wilmington to live at the Centre of Redemption with her infant child.
The Centre of Redemption is the only safe house in the country for victims of sex trafficking who are pregnant or have a child as the result of sex trafficking. "What we want to do is offer these girls a safe place and an opportunity to recover ownership of their life," said Centre co-founder Malisa Johnson. "Everything has been taken from them. We want to help them regain independence."
Johnson says she launched the Centre of Redemption after becoming aware of this horrific industry. The centre is a hands-on way to help victims, but trafficking experts say it's also important just to know this is happening, and to understand how young people can be so vulnerable.
Rachel Lloyd, a sex trafficking survivor and renowned expert on the topic explained it this way: "Okay, we've got 10 years, 12 years with these young women before this pimp intervened…before this exploiter came along and presented himself as an adult who was interested in her. As a society, as an adult, that's a real indictment on us about what we could've been doing. Pimps are offering something that no one else offered. And that isn't indicative of what a great guy he is, that's indicative of how bad we failed in people."
Prosecutor Roberson adds that public misconceptions about sex trafficking are also part of the problem. "There's this myth of choice, that a woman chooses to get into this. Find me a college educated, well adjusted woman who's had tons of opportunities in her life, who understands what a healthy relationship is and who's actually experienced one and then chooses to sell her body for sex. Nobody does that. These people are coming from situations of desperation."
Mandy is now pursuing a career in nursing, and is working hard to provide a good home for her family. She hopes her experience can help other understand the realities of human trafficking.
Earlier this year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Safe Harbor Law in response to this evolving problem. One important aspect of the law: the state no longer prosecutes girls and boys under the age of 18 for prostitution. Now, they are seen as victims in the eyes of the law.
Harmony House celebrates 10 years of child protection
by Glynis Board
A children's advocacy center in the northern panhandle is celebrating ten years of operation this year.
Leslie Vassilaros is the executive director of Harmony House. She says it's not actually a residence, but a child-friendly office center that's built into the back side of the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling.
Harmony House is an accredited member of the National Children's Alliance. It's one of more than twenty in the state that advocate for children.
“This is kind of a bare bones room,” Vassilaros says upon entering the interrogation room in the facility.
“We have an adjustable table which is really nice because obviously our kids are three years old to eighteen. And sometimes we interview adults with disabilities and sometimes we have kids or adults in wheelchairs so we can lower and raise the table. But this is where we do the forensic interviewing.”
Vassilaros explains that she's a trained forensic interviewer—which is a style of neutral, non-leading interviewing tactics. She points out the small camera attached to the ceiling. Each interview, she says, is recorded and usually takes about an hour. The camera allows other parties access without intimidating the interviewee.
“We try to coordinate a team of people who are dealing with this anyway: law enforcement, child protective services, mental health, medical, victim's assistance. We try to bring us all together so that we're not duplicating efforts and retraumatizing the child and their families. And we're making sure that they get the their services.”
The House serves Ohio and Marshall Counties and now there's also a center across the Ohio River in Belmont County. With only five staff, last year 933 children and family members were served, 359 interviews conducted, and education and awareness was brought to over 7,000 community members.
In recent years, Vassilaros says she's noticed that many of the parents of abused kids have often also been abused themselves as children.
“Sometimes parents are very protective, other ones feel like they made it through the abuse so maybe their child doesn't really need all these services, that they'll make it through the abuse. So that's all something as professionals, we have to be aware of, and be able to know how to approach those care takers in order to insure their children are getting the services they need. And also that they are getting the services they need for healing.”
It's clearly a trying and painful job. Vassilaros says child abuse and neglect thrive in darkness and so she is motivated to spread as much light as she can onto the subject. But, she says, her main motivation is working to help the abused find their voice. She says it often takes true courage to find your voice and that's so often the place where healing begins.
“We want children to go from being victims, to being a survivor, to being a thriver. We want them to be the best that they can be. That's why I do it. I believe Harmony House and a lot of other agencies out there really contribute to that. So as hard as it is to hear this every day, there is a reward in knowing that you're able to listen to it, when a lot of people can't and giving them the opportunity to find their own voice.”
Vassilaros encourages community members to report if you see abuse, and reminds us that it's now a law to do so if you are over the age of eighteen and you see abuse happening. She says agencies like hers can help.
“And I guess I would like to send a message to all children that when this happens it is not your fault, and if you can tell you're very brave, and if you can't tell, you're still very brave. And this also goes out there to adults who were molested as children and maybe never got the resources they needed—that they can reach out now and people will try to help them access those resources because you know they're still dealing with that trauma of childhood abuse, too.”
When Rape Goes Viral
The horrific Catch-22 of rape in the Internet age.
by Ann Friedman
“I was raped at an off-campus event,” says Kelsey (not her real name), who just finished her freshman year at University of California, Berkeley. She never reported the assault. About a week later in her dorm, a group of students was clustered around a guy holding a phone. “A bunch of my floormates had gone to a party,” she says. “There was a video of him, very drunk and laughing, and fingering a girl who was very drunk and crying. And everyone on my floor was gathered around the phone watching this video and laughing about it.” She was horrified. “When I said something, I was told to shut up and f–k off.”
This wasn't the guy who had raped Kelsey, and she didn't know the girl in the video. But “it was really similar to my situation,” she says. “I just kind of put myself in her position and imagined: what if everyone in my perpetrator's dorm is doing the exact same thing?” She says she went to a school administrator, who was sympathetic and asked Kelsey to get her hands on a copy of the video. But because Kelsey had already expressed her outrage, none of her classmates would forward it to her. She says she tried to follow up with the administrator a few more times, but nothing much happened. Of course, it's certainly possible that action was taken behind the scenes, without Kelsey's knowledge. But at least as far as she knows, the student “didn't face any repercussions for his actions.”
Kelsey is one of the anonymous plaintiffs in a national complaint against the U.S. Department of Education and several universities for violating students' civil rights by failing to thoroughly investigate reports of crime on campus, and for failing to follow the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges to keep accurate crime statistics. (Janet Gilmore, spokeswoman for UC-Berkeley, says the university has yet to see the complaint, but “we care very much about this issue and work hard to encourage students to report sexual assaults. We thoroughly investigate these cases and work with surviving students to ensure they are getting the counseling, support, and any additional care they may need.”) But even though Kelsey is deeply engaged in activism surrounding the issue of rape, she's also been very private about her own experience as a victim. Right now, she's home for the summer, and her parents still don't know that she was assaulted. She feels incredibly lucky that she didn't end up like the girl in the video her floormates watched: the victim not only of a sexual assault but of a gross affront to her privacy.
And yet, even as she seeks to maintain privacy about her assault, she says she wishes more people would have seen the video of the crying woman being attacked. Assuming the university failed to act, perhaps the release of the video would have changed that. “If the video had gotten published or something, maybe the university would have actually done something if it would have tarnished their reputation,” Kelsey says. “There's a history of sexual assault and harassment being swept under the rug to make the campus look like a perfect and safe place, and it's difficult but I feel like if something would have happened with this video …” She trails off, and corrects herself: “It isn't even about the video though. It's that it happened and the university didn't do anything.”
In a way, though, it is kind of about the video—and the stark dilemma it created. That video—grotesque as it was—probably represented the best hope for shaming people into taking strong action in this case. It was also, however, a vicious weapon that if widely circulated could have ruined a young woman's life.
Both of those outcomes have repeatedly proved to be consequences of our hyper-social digital culture. As social media has become enmeshed in the lives of young people, so has the widespread sharing of information about specific sexual assaults, especially video and photos. In recent years, about a half dozen high-profile sexual-assault cases have centered around photos or video of the crime that were shared on social media. In 2010, a 16-year-old was drugged at a rave in Vancouver and violently raped by six men while a bystander snapped photos and later uploaded them to Facebook. Soon the whole school had seen photos of what was undoubtedly one of the worst experiences of her young life. This past April, a 17-year-old named Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life in Nova Scotia. A year and a half earlier, Parsons had been gang-raped at a party and harassed about it on Facebook.
It's becoming harder to argue that rape is anything but a public scourge. We are all bystanders. We all bear witness.
Probably the most notorious incident occurred in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. There, two high school football players and a handful of bystanders took photos and tweeted about the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl who had passed out at a party.
Then there was the case of 15-year-old Audrie Pott. In September last year, Pott told her parents she was sleeping over at a friend's house in her hometown of Saratoga, California, on the western edge of Silicon Valley. Instead, she went to a party where she drank so much vodka and Gatorade that she passed out in a bedroom and woke up to find her body written on with a Sharpie—someone had scrawled his name and “was here” on her leg, like graffiti on a bathroom stall. Her shorts were off. She had no memory of what happened. The next day, photos of her naked body made the rounds on Facebook.
“I have a reputation for a night I don't even remember, and the whole school knows,” she messaged a friend on Facebook. It wasn't just that she had been physically violated and still wasn't sure what had happened to her. Now even her classmates who weren't in the room had seen an intimate part of her body. And they were taunting her about it. In another message, she wrote, “My life is ruined. I can't do anything to fix it.” She didn't tell her parents what had happened, and she didn't go to school authorities. She certainly didn't press charges.
Instead, one week after she woke up in that bedroom after the party, she hanged herself in her bathroom. At the time of her funeral, her parents still had no idea that their daughter had been assaulted. But over the next few days, the story started to come out. Classmates came forward with anecdotes and names. Eventually, three 16-year-old boys were charged with sexual battery and distribution of child pornography.
What all these stories have in common is a wrenching Catch-22 at their core. For decades, the challenge facing anti-rape activists was to take what is often an intensely private crime—54 percent of sexual assaults are estimated to go unreported—and bring it to national attention as a pervasive crisis. Now that cases regularly crop up in which photos and videos of sexual assaults are circulated on social media, it's becoming harder to argue that rape is anything but a public scourge. We are all bystanders. We all bear witness.
Yet the increased attention on social media often has tragic consequences for victims. They don't just have to grapple with the physical and psychological ramifications of being sexually violated. They have to deal with the fact that everyone else knows what happened, too.
Rape was long considered to be a crime carried out by sex-crazed men who targeted strangers—women who were stupid or unlucky enough to walk alone down a dark alley or leave their doors unbolted. But starting in the late 1960s, feminists began working to change this common misperception of sexual assault. In her influential 1975 book Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller argued that “rape is a crime not of lust, but of violence and power,” a social tool that men used to assert dominance over women and communicate that dominance to the wider world. At the time, it was still legal in most states for men to rape their wives, and many states required all sexual-assault allegations to be corroborated by a third party. Both legal distinctions sent a clear message that what happens behind closed doors between two people—even if it's a violent sex crime—is not something the rest of us should be particularly concerned about.
In the 1980s, victim-advocacy organizations began publicizing the fact that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. There are simply not that many nefarious strangers, not that many dark alleys. This is a crime that happens every day, in the spaces where we live and work and sleep and, yes, drink. Places where we feel safe. It is a crime that usually involves existing friendships, acquaintances, and relationships. When we see photos and videos of a teen girl's body or of a high school boy bragging about taking advantage of her, this reality is thrown into stark relief. And when we see ordinary kids engaged in extraordinarily terrible behavior, we don't always look away. Often, we click “share.”
That was exactly what happened in Steubenville, Ohio. Thousands of us clicked on grainy images taken at a house party and saw a girl whose body had gone slack, held by her arms and legs by two high school football players. We read tweets from bystanders who joked, “Song of the night is definitely ‘Rape Me' by Nirvana.” We watched a video of those boys laughing about it and saying “she is so raped her p–s is about as dry as the sun right now.” Most people who saw all of this online could not even locate Steubenville on a map, but now they were witnesses to an awful crime that had occurred there.
Indeed, the Steubenville case is perhaps the best representation of how social media can offer victims a path to legal relief by, in effect, creating more witnesses. Arguably, the case never would have resulted in a conviction if the images had not been circulated through social media.
But social media does more than offer legal relief. The Steubenville tweets and photos infused the crusade to end rape with a new degree of urgency. Suddenly we weren't talking in abstractions about what “he said” or “she said.” We were looking at an Instagram photo of a comatose teenager being dragged around. “That picture was a come-to-Jesus moment for a lot of people,” says Kate Harding, author of Asking for It . “We had a conversation in the wake of Steubenville that we've never really had before as a country. All of these things have been coming out, and it's something that we're hearing about on [TV] and in the big newspapers. A lot of what we're talking about is driven by the fact that there is video and social media. Social media is used as a demonstration of how many people care and are watching and listening.”
Courtesies of legal protections, anonymity are not available in the court of Twitter and Instagram.
The simple truth is that salacious photos help to get the media interested in what isn't exactly a new issue. “That's why media is covering these stories more,” says Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of the advocacy group Women, Action & the Media (WAM) and coeditor of Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape . “It's sad to me that this is a question of, does this make good TV or not? But I do think that it improves the chances for justice when those photos or videos are sent around. I don't think on balance it's worth it, but I'm not the one who gets to decide.” She adds: “It's traumatizing to the victims and all of us, but if perpetrators choose to do it, we take advantage of it and use it against them.”
It isn't just the mainstream media that pick up on these stories and move them forward: in several cases, video and photos that had been circulated only among teens were brought to wider attention by members of the hacker group Anonymous. After no one was charged in Rehtaeh Parsons's gang rape in Nova Scotia, Anonymous hackers found and published the names of young men allegedly involved in the 2011 attack. A 12-minute video of Steubenville boys joking about the assault—which includes comments like “she's deader than a doornail,” followed by laughter—was also made public by Anonymous. It got more than 717,000 views.
And yet, whatever the benefits, the horrific human downsides of all this sharing are never far from view. During the trial, the Steubenville victim was asked on the stand how it felt to see photos of herself passed out. “Not good,” she replied.
Moreover, while unearthing videos and photos and publicizing them beyond teens' social circles can lead to arrests, those photos and videos are just as likely to be turned against accusers as they are to help prosecute attackers. The questions that have long dissuaded survivors from coming forward—What were you wearing? How much vodka did you drink? What were you thinking? —are now being asked on social media, often whether or not a victim has made allegations herself. Inevitably, when people share images of a sexual assault, they end up putting the victim on trial along with the accused attackers. And whereas there are legal protections to ensure the victim remains anonymous and that details such as her sexual history are not introduced as evidence at trial, no such courtesies are extended in the court of Twitter and Instagram.
For a victim, there's no difference between people who share footage of the assault because they want to raise awareness about the problem and people who share footage to laugh at it or, worse, because it turns them on. “The horror of having the intimate violation of your body exposed, shared, transmitted, and existing in a way that you know can never be expunged is awful,” says Kaethe Morris Hoffer, legal director of the Chicago Alliance against Sexual Exploitation. “Since the advent of the Internet, it has been a tremendous and devastating burden for survivors to live with the knowledge that they have no hope of ensuring that images of their sexual violation will ever be erased. What social media does is make the transmission of it a hundred times faster and more shareable.”
Attackers have created photographic and video evidence of their crimes ever since cameras and camcorders have been available. (“One of the characteristics of gang rapes is they're so performative,” says Harding. “The urge to document this particular kind of rape has apparently always been a part of it. It's just now we have the distribution.”) In 2006, when Facebook was not yet a major cultural phenomenon, Morris Hoffer successfully intervened in a Chicago-area court case in which a judge was going to make a victim watch footage of herself being sexually assaulted—a crime of which she had no memory—as part of her assailants' trial. Had that crime occurred in 2013, there's a good chance that victim would have come across such images on social media, before she even decided whether or not to seek justice in court.
And that case illustrates another reality about images and videos of sexual assault: they can easily be used as proof of consent rather than its absence. Even though the victim in the 2006 case ultimately wasn't forced to watch the footage, the trial ended in an acquittal after defense attorneys went frame by frame and argued the victim—who was so drunk she doesn't remember the incident—had consented.
“Ever since there have been photographs of sexual assault, the assertion of the survivor that the image is actually an image of abuse has been contested,” Morris Hoffer says. “The material that is produced from the abuse is used as evidence that it wasn't abuse.”
Even if the perpetrators are convicted, it doesn't mean the victim is off the hook. The publicity surrounding images and photos can last well beyond the point where it is useful for the justice system. Recently, tennis star Serena Williams came under fire for a sentiment that a lot of other observers expressed about the two convicted Steubenville rapists: “They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don't take drinks from other people. She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky.” Williams later apologized directly to the victim and her family. Meanwhile, the victim's attorney has made repeated public statements that she wishes the whole thing would just go away. But, as with the night she was assaulted, she doesn't have much of a choice.
There aren't any easy ways around the conundrum of social media and sexual assault. One strategy being pursued by activists is to go after social-media posts that are unambiguously pro-rape. Recently WAM, Friedman's media-advocacy group, embarked on a campaign to get Facebook to pull down any pages with titles like “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs” that promote sexual assault. Dozens of organizations signed on to a letter demanding “swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence on Facebook.”
Facebook had long taken a laissez-faire approach to responding to user reports of pages peppered with rape jokes, images, and, in some cases, threats. “The reason we targeted Facebook is because they have a policy against hate speech,” Friedman says. “In some ways they're ahead of the game because at least in theory they have a policy that this stuff is not welcome there.” Eventually Facebook admitted its attempts to curtail hate speech had failed, and unveiled plans to improve its monitoring system.
One possibility is that the legal system could end up offering some recourse for activists. Cristina Tilley, a media law professor at Northwestern University, predicts that, eventually, we're going to see people sued in civil court for posting videos and images of sexual assault. “But it's not entirely clear to me how successful they might be,” she says, “and if early suits along these lines don't succeed, that may discourage others from filing and send a message about whether the underlying conduct is off limits or tolerable.”
Of course, if such lawsuits, coupled with tougher enforcement of community standards by Facebook and other sites, did ultimately lead to fewer violations of rape victims' privacy—and fewer suicides—that would be a wonderful thing. But there will still be the question of how to continue making rape a public crime without intruding on the privacy of victims.
After all, if users are sharing photos and videos of sexual assault as a way to encourage action against such crimes, it's hard to call such content hate speech. And so, when it comes to social media that is not pro-rape but instead aims to raise awareness of it, advocates are more conflicted. If they could wave a magic wand and make all social-media content documenting rape disappear, would they?
“I'd only want that if we'd somehow otherwise transformed the culture so we took women and men seriously when they report rape,” Harding says. For her part, Friedman argues that activists should take their cues from victims. “We have to do our best as activists and journalists to either find out what the victim would want or at least consider that question,” she says. “If we don't have access to that info, we have to do our best to be empathetic and try to imagine what the victim would want.”
In some cases, perhaps the answer lies in considering the content of each individual photo or video. Much of the footage and many of the tweets that came out of Steubenville didn't picture or name the victim at all—they featured perpetrators and bystanders laughing about the crime. While we might be wary about outing victims as we pursue justice, most of us have far fewer qualms about publicizing the sickening remarks of an onlooker who encouraged the attackers. Documenting the callous way perpetrators and bystanders discuss rape has the potential to be just as horrifying as a blurry crime photo or its aftermath, a way to highlight the banality of this particular evil.
Photos and videos that feature bystanders have the added benefit of engaging all of us from a perspective we understand. Most of us don't identify with sexual predators. But, in the age of social media, we all know what it's like to witness an attack.
Ohio stepping up the fight against human trafficking
Although some 1,000 American- born children are forced into the sex trade in Ohio every year, and about 800 immigrants are sexually exploited and forced into sweatshop-type jobs, many Ohioans still don't consider human trafficking a major problem in the state.
Fortunately, government officials, led by Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, remain strongly committed to educating the public about this scourge and to providing safe shelter for runaways.
Earlier this month, the state approved spending a combination of state and federal money to create a 24-hour shelter in Toledo for young runaways. It also agreed to use $500,000-plus during the next two years to help children's advocacy centers across Ohio learn how to help young victims and their families.
But it isn't only the executive and legislative branches of state government that are stepping up the fight against human trafficking. A judge in Columbus recently threw out the criminal record of a human trafficking victim, using a provision in a new state law signed last year. The law increases penalties and creates a fund to help victims.
“Victims of human trafficking don't deserve to be treated as criminals, but deserve our compassion and support so they can retake control of their lives,” Gov. Kasich said, in reaction to the judge's ruling.
The State Controlling Board has approved spending federal funds to support AmeriCorps members who are working on human trafficking issues.
At the same time, the Ohio Network of Children's Advocacy Centers in 26 locations around the state will share $523,000 to respond to the needs of victims and their families.
The centers will use the money for medical screenings, forensic interviews and mental health care, Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services said last week. Money also will go toward training, conducting workshops on human trafficking and identifying community resources.
In this region, the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and the Mahoning Valley Rescue and Restore Coalition have focused on the recruitment of girls into the sex trade, with a point of concern being the past proliferation of recreational massage parlors in Warren.
Attorney General DeWine, who is continuing the work started by former Attorney General Richard Cordray, has a website that lists some of the signs of human trafficking of which the public should be aware. His office has a hot line for victims. People who see signs of human trafficking should call local police or his office.
At the same time, Kasich's order calls for a coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute human trafficking and to provide the services and treatment necessary for victims to regain control of their lives.
It is no accident that children are most at risk. They cannot defend themselves from adult predators. Many are vulnerable because they come from broken homes and are craving human kindness. Or, they are on drugs and do not have control of their lives.
These children deserve to be protected, which is why the governor, the attorney general and state legislators are to be commended for keeping this issue front and center.
Native American Women Are Being Sold into the Sex Trade on Ships Along Lake Superior
by Dave Dean
Native women, children, and even babies are being trafficked in the sex trade on freighters crossing the Canada-US border on Lake Superior between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Duluth, Minnesota.
Next month, Christine Stark—a student with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, who is completing her master's degree in social work—will complete an examination of the sex trade in Minnesota, in which she compiles anecdotal, firsthand accounts of Native women, particularly from northern reservations, being trafficked across state, provincial, and international lines to be forced into servitude in the sex industry on both sides of the border.
Stark's paper stems from a report she co-wrote, published by the Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition in Duluth in 2011, entitled, “The Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota.” Through the process of researching and writing this report, Stark kept hearing stories of trafficking in the harbors and on the freighters of Duluth and Thunder Bay. The numerous stories and the gradual realization that this was an issue decades, perhaps centuries, in the making, compelled Stark to delve further into what exactly was taking place.
She decided to conduct an exploratory study, “simply because we have these stories circulating and we wanted to gather information and begin to understand what has happened and what currently is happening around the trafficking of Native American and First Nations women on the ships” said Stark, in an interview with the CBC Radio show Superior Morning . “Hearing from so many Native women over generations talking about the ‘boat whores,' prostitution on the ships or the ‘parties on the ships,' this is something that… was really entrenched in the Native community and we wanted to collect more specific information about it.”
Through her independent research and work with the Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition, Stark interviewed hundreds of Native women who have been through the trauma of the Lake Superior sex trade. The stories she's compiled are evidence of an underground industry that's thriving on the suffering of First Nations women, which is seemingly going unchecked and underreported.
In an article written for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Stark describes one disturbing anecdote of an Anishinaabe woman who had just left a shelter after being beaten by her pimp—who was a wealthy, white family man. He paid her bills, rent, and the essentials for her children, but on weekends, “brought up other white men from the cities for prostitution with Native women… he had her role play the racist 'Indian maiden and European colonizer' myth with him during sex.”
“The Duluth harbor is notorious among Native people as a site for the trafficking of Native women from northern reservations.” She continues, “in an ongoing project focused on the trafficking of Native women on ships in Duluth, it was found that the activity includes international transport of Native women and teens, including First Nations women and girls brought down from Thunder Bay, Ontario, to be sold on the ships… Native women, teen girls and boys, and even babies have been sold for sex on the ships.” Christine Stark's complete research paper will be published in September.
The fact that these horrendous crimes are taking place right under the noses of North American authorities is obviously disturbing and somewhat surprising, considering we have a Conservative government that is oh-so-tough on the commercialization of human beings. However, the word trafficking can often be a blurry one.
I spoke with Kazia Pickard, the Director of Policy and Research with the Ontario Native Women's Association based in Thunder Bay. Their organization has also been researching this issue. Kazia told me over email: “People assume that trafficking always takes place across international borders, however, the vast majority of people who are trafficked in Canada are indigenous women and girls from inside Canada and sometimes, as we're now starting to understand, across the US border.”
In an earlier interview with the CBC, she also alluded to the possibility that there was trafficking taking place across borders in Southern Ontario as well. She made it clear to me that the image most people imagine when they think about “human trafficking” often isn't accurate: “The majority of women who are trafficked in Canada are indigenous women and girls. So it's not that you have people being trafficked across international borders in shipping containers or something like that.”
In most cases it's a lot more subtle. “Women may say they [have been pulled into it by] a boyfriend, there have been some reports of family members recruiting women into the sex trade . . so it doesn't appear in this sensationalized way that we may [think it is].”
All that said, there are nearly 600 aboriginal women who are currently missing or believed to have been murdered in Canada, a number the RCMP— who are being accused of human rights abuses against aboriginal women on a monthly basis — have publicly questioned.
And while it's refreshing to hear Canadian Parliament members (particularly Conservative ones) such as Manitoba's Joy Smith show some honest compassion, on the whole, the government's attitude and response to protecting vulnerable Native women has been one of indifference. In July, the federal government dismissed calls made for an inquiry into missing or murdered Indian women by the provinces and territories' premiers.
Christine Stark's report is one that cannot be ignored. If the government is as serious as they claim to be about human trafficking, they can't dismiss what's taking place between Duluth and Thunder Bay the same way that they have regarding the 600 missing First Nations women. To ignore this issue would point to an obvious double standard when it comes to the treatment of Indian women, many of whom are clearly being taken advantage of.
Miss. officers learn to fight human trafficking
by EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
PEARL, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi law officers are learning how to more thoroughly investigate cases of human trafficking.
About 80 state and local officers are at the Law Enforcement Training Academy for sessions that started Monday and end Wednesday.
Heather Wagner, a special assistant state attorney general, said human trafficking is forced labor. It can involve people who are made to work under pressure and against their will in sex jobs in prostitution or pornography or in other fields such as manufacturing, farming, construction, janitorial services or restaurant work.
"Much of it does involve some sort of coercion, some sort of force," Wagner said in an interview Monday at the training academy.
Mississippi's homeland security director, Rusty Barnes, said human trafficking is not limited to big cities. He said small towns and rural areas can have problems, too.
"It's one of those situations where we don't think we have a problem until we start learning more about it," Barnes said.
Mississippi has had a law against human trafficking since 2006. Legislators strengthened it this year with House Bill 673 (http://bit.ly/15dKFeo), which became law July 1. Among other things, the law establishes a minimum sentence of five years for someone found guilty of trafficking a minor for a sex job, including production of explicit material. The previous law had a maximum penalty but no minimum; the maximum remains 30 years.
Sandy Middleton is executive director of the Center for Violence Prevention, which serves 10 central Mississippi counties. She helped teach the law enforcement class Monday. She said many people mistakenly think human trafficking involves only international workers. She said victims also can be U.S. residents who are coerced to work. She said trafficking victims fear they'll face retribution if they leave the jobs they're forced to do.
"It's modern-day slavery, is what it is," Middleton said.
Short Term12: A heartbreaking and inspiring window into at-risk teens
by Jerome Elam
DALLAS, August 26, 2013 — After college, filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton set out in search of a job. What he found would not only change his life but also the lives of many others.
Short Term 12 is a captivating film based on Cretton's experiences working in a California group home for “at risk” teenagers.
The film is heartbreaking and filled with an emotional honesty and talent for storytelling that places us squarely in the chair next to Cretton's characters.
As we watch through the eyes of “Grace,” the staff supervisor brilliantly played by actress Brie Larson, our heart is stolen by the broken and battered lives Grace so desperately wants to mend. We soon discover that her dedication to saving at risk children has a deeper purpose as her own ordeal as a survivor of childhood sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her father is revealed.
Playing Grace's love interest, “Mason,” in Short Term 12 is actor John Gallagher Jr. Mason is a foster child raised in a loving household, and Gallagher skillfully embodies his character with a hope and optimism for life as he struggles to save Grace from the darkness of her past.
Group homes like the one portrayed in Short Term 12 are an oasis for the lost and forgotten children of the world. Removed from abusive households, they dream of a life without chaos and hope for peace. Some find their dreams fulfilled through Foster Homes or adoption, but many are so badly scarred by their abuse that a group home is the only place they will ever know safety.
In Short Term12, actor Keith Stanfield delivers a particularly moving performance as “Marcus,” an aspiring rapper rescued from a physically abusive mother. Marcus is fast approaching the age of eighteen which will bring discharge from Short Term 12. We are brought to tears as his “tough guy” persona is slowly peeled away and the pain of a small boy abused by the one person in his life he desperately needed love from is revealed.
Marcus cannot face a life beyond Short Term 12 and as his time there draws to a close, he is consumed by the fear of being beyond its safety. Ultimately Marcus learns that to conquer his fear he must protect the child inside him by recognizing the man he has become.
We also watch as Grace desperately tries to straddle two worlds. At times she seems to function seamlessly in the realm of her peers, but when the pain that lies so deep within her is triggered, her emotions and her behavior become a slave to the chaos of her childhood.
Grace's childhood trauma draws her to the residents of the group home where she feels a safety and a kinship among the wounded souls. Grace hovers between a life of happiness and the pain of her childhood. She is driven by her fear of having it all taken away in an instant and haunted by the ghosts of her stolen innocence at the hands of her father.
Mason forms one side of that polarity in her life that draws her near healing and happiness while her abusive past drags her back into the skin of a vulnerable young girl, alone, afraid and infected with hopelessness. Locked in a desperate struggle, Grace refuses to open herself up to any emotions beyond the tendrils of her past that uncontrollably manipulate her life.
Survivors of child abuse are veterans of shattered trust and vandalized emotional blueprints. Brie Larson is stunning in her ability to reflect the ‘hot and cold' nature of an abuse survivor living with the fear of the vulnerable child trapped deep inside them. It is only through a leap of faith that any abuse survivor can journey to the undiscovered country, as Shakespeare so eloquently described it, and face the fear that holds them prisoner and embrace happiness as a friend and not a visitor.
Grace's life takes a turn when a new resident “Jayden,” beautifully played by Kaitlyn Dever, arrives at Short Term 12. In Jayden, Grace finds the catharsis she has so desperately needed in her life as she instantly recognizes the physical and sexual abuse Jayden conceals.
Grace finds herself taken back to the point in her life before she surrendered to chaos. She sees a chance to save the young girl inside her who tasted happiness before it was stripped away by her father's abuse.
Short Term 12 becomes a place where Grace avoids her past by taking on the problems of others and she uses it to maintain an emotional distance that forms the pocket of safety she has created.
Jayden liberates the strong and independent woman that lays hidden inside Grace and allows her to become whole again by conquering her fear and rescuing herself by rescuing Jayden.
According to a report by the University of Chicago, as of 2011, nearly 60,000 children in foster care in the U.S. resided in institutions or group homes rather than traditional foster homes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau reports that in the United States, 400,540 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. 115,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. It also reports states spent a mere 1.2-1.3% of available federal funds on parent recruitment and training services even though 22% of children in foster care had adoption as their goal.
The National Council on Adoption reports children wait an average of three years in foster care before being adopted. Approximately 55% of those children have had three or more placements before adoption. An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally.
According to the National Runaway Switchboard, on any given night there are close to 1.3 million homeless youth living in abandoned buildings on the streets or with strangers or friends. Homeless youth are at a greater risk for sexual exploitation, physical abuse, substance abuse, mental health disabilities, and death. Roughly 50,000 unaccompanied youth die each year due to illness, assault, or suicide.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that in 1999, approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing. One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away, and seventy-five percent of runaways are female. One in 8 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2012 were likely sex trafficking victims.
Nationally, one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child sexual abuse. There are over forty-two million survivors of child sexual abuse in the world today. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, the lifetime costs for the victims of child sexual abuse in one year is $124 billion.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports there are currently 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. Research has also shown that each victim of child sexual abuse has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed, and those who make it to the seventh adult are few in number.
Many children never make it to group homes; they become lost in a system overwhelmed and underfunded. Those who do make it to a group home face an uphill battle to escape the scars of an abusive childhood and accept that there is a life without pain.
Programs like the one at the University of Chicago that counsels teenage boys is bringing hope with a 44% drop in arrests for those involved. Group homes like the one Destin Daniel Cretton brilliantly portrays in Short Term 12 may not be perfect, but they are the only alternative some children have.
For more information on Short Term 12 and to view the trailer and find show times, go to the official website found here: http://shortterm12.com
Doctors warned of rare form of child abuse
by Sheryl Ubelacker
Doctors need to be alert for signs of a form of abuse in which a parent fabricates illness in a child and exposes them to unnecessary and potentially harmful tests and treatments, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Because it is relatively rare, caregiver-fabricated illness in a child is often unrecognized by health professionals, said Dr. Harriet MacMillan, who co-authored a report on the subject for the AAP, which appears in Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics.
“In the child, it's a form of maltreatment; in the person who is committing it, it is considered a psychiatric disorder,” said MacMillan, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist at McMaster University's Children's Hospital.
“One example would be where a parent is reporting that the child has certain symptoms that the child doesn't have,” she said from Hamilton.
“The parent will say, ‘My child has terrible abdominal pain.' So it begins with a set of X-rays, then other (diagnostic) procedures or potentially even exploratory surgery.”
MacMillan and other members of the AAP's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect said caregiver-fabricated illness in a child has been known since the 1980s as Munchausen syndrome by proxy. The latest volume of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, the bible of psychiatric diagnoses, calls it “factitious disorder imposed on another.”
The syndrome name derives from Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German aristocrat who purportedly told many fantastic stories about himself. In the early 1950s, people who fabricated disease symptoms that led to self-harm were described as having Munchausen's syndrome.
Inventing symptoms in others came to be known as Munchausen's by proxy.
“It's been referred to with different names and our committee felt it was important to refer to it as caregiver-fabricated illness in a child because it really puts the emphasis on the child, as with other types of maltreatment,” MacMillan said.
Caregiver-contrived illness is relatively rare — it's estimated to occur in 0.5 to two per 100,000 children — but its effects can be severe.
An estimated six to nine per cent of children exposed to this form of abuse end up dying as a result, and about the same proportion are left with long-term disability or permanent injury.
“When health-care providers are seeing children with illnesses that are not explained and result in multiple medical procedures, they need to be alert to this possibility,” said MacMillan, cautioning that there is no typical presentation.
A child might show up with anything from bleeding or seizures to a urinary tract infection or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the authors say.
MacMillan, who is part of a health-care team dealing with family violence and interventions aimed at preventing child abuse or neglect, said made-up symptoms can be physical or psychological.
Over the years, she's seen cases of psychiatric symptoms being fabricated by a parent, “anything from ‘My child is behaving in a way that makes me question autism' to ‘My child keeps trying to hurt herself.'”
Children can end up being prescribed unnecessary drugs — antidepressants, even antipsychotics — as a result, she said.
Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist at the University of Alabama and an internationally recognized expert in Munchausen's and other forms of medical deception, said parents behind this kind of abuse are typically seeking emotional gratification, but at the cost of the child's well-being.
“And usually that comes in the form of seeking attention and sympathy,” he said from Tuscaloosa, Ala. “So they present themselves as the caregivers of terribly ill children, whose illnesses are defying diagnosis. And predictably, they get a lot of care and concern from immediate family as well as the community.”
Feldman, author of “Playing Sick,” said many of these parents are dissatisfied with how their own lives have turned out and feel out of control. Successfully manipulating the beliefs of “high-status professionals like doctors allows them to feel once again in control.”
One of the most common means of “proving” their assertions to health providers is to cause their child to stop breathing.
“I actually have videotapes of several perpetrators, male and female, suffocating the child when they think they're not being observed,” he said.
“In one case, the father literally positions his entire body over the infant's head with the infant's face pressed into the mattress and he stays in that position for 70 seconds, and then gets up when a nurse enters the room and the child is unconscious but alive.”
While babies and toddlers are often the victims, older children and even caregiver-dependent disabled adults can also be the subjects of sham symptoms, Feldman said.
One paper in the medical literature suggests older siblings may also have been previous targets, and in about 25 per cent of cases, those children died as a result.
“It may be more lethal than just about any other form of abuse,” said Feldman, noting that children can become Munchausen's patients themselves as adults or end up avoiding medically necessary treatment due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They want nothing to do with anything that reminds them about the victimization they experienced earlier in life.”
MacMillan said doctors who are suspicious about the credibility of purported symptoms need to conduct a careful medical history and physical examination, and speak to health providers in other settings to see if they have previously seen the child for similar complaints.
“My aim is not, nor is it of the committee, to suggest that this is a really common problem. It's not at all,” she said. “Nonetheless, as with any condition that is so associated with impairment for a child, we think it's important for health-care providers to know about it.”
Child abuse in South-Central Idaho May be Worse Than Believed
by Joe Cadotte
TWIN FALLS • About 525 children were abused or neglected so badly last year that they had to be removed from their homes in south-central Idaho.
That's far too many for 67 trained volunteer advocates to adequately help, said Tahna Barton, director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.
CASA is seeing about the same number of children this year, but many locals mistakenly think child abuse is “a big-city problem,” Barton said.
“One of our worst cases was a little guy who was put in a box and dirt (was) thrown on him for punishment. That sounds like something you'd hear of in New York or Florida, but that happened in downtown Twin Falls,” she said. “That little guy was kept in a cement room.”
When a home is deemed unsafe, children are placed in emergency foster homes or juvenile detention centers. A CASA seeks out these kids to comfort them and explain how everything is being done to protect them.
But CASA doesn't have enough volunteers, and a child without an advocate easily slips through cracks in the system, Barton said.
“I have more than 100 kids that don't have a CASA volunteer appointed to them right now. I have so many people that don't think we need volunteers because we don't have a lot of abuse going on. Really, what they need to know is that it does exist and there is a need.”
A CASA's main role is to advocate for a child's best interests in court. Without an advocate, children are more likely to be locked up or bounced from home to home, she said.
“A lot of people underestimate themselves. They don't think they're good enough or they're smart enough or they have enough education,” Barton said. “We highly screen our volunteers, but what we need more than anything is sound-minded individuals that understand children and know what's best for a child. And if you have that foundation, the training for everything else is there.”
When Jeannine Barneby retired from nonprofit work in 2001, she looked for a way to keep using her skills. First she volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of the Magic Valley, but she wanted to work with kids more closely.
At first she refused an invitation to volunteer as a CASA, but later decided to give it a shot.
“I wasn't exactly sure if I could do it, deal with some of the more emotional situations,” Barneby recalled. “Could I do that? Remain objective, investigate and not take everything to heart? I sure surprised myself. Righteous indignation comes out because you have to fight hard for these kids because who is going to do it?”
Jeannine's husband, Dave Barneby, volunteered too. They have advocated for more than 50 kids since becoming CASAs in 2005.
“We have some pretty wide-ranging investigative powers that the social workers don't have,” said Dave Barneby. “We can go to the doctors that are involved. HIPAA does not bind them. We can talk to them. We have a judge's appointment that lets us get into some things that a social worker can't.”
Because of their time with CASA, they're allowed to handle high-profile cases, which include sexual and physical abuse.
“We have seen families going on three, four generations of drug abuse or sex abuse. It's generational. That's what they know; they don't know any different,” he said.
The Barnebys sometimes work 15 hours a day on cases, and the work has been eye-opening.
“Not that we lived in a bubble,” Jeannine said. “I'm not saying that. ... Being face to face with it, it's a renewed appreciation for our own parents giving us the things that we had and the values that we had that we could give to our children. We see that these kids we are trying to help, they have not seen good things.
“There are problems in our community. And if you see them, speak up. Be more appreciative of what you have. Don't be critical of that child you see that maybe comes to school dirty.”
The Barnebys said they have helped several children break generational cycles of dysfunction. Some have climbed out of bleak socioeconomic roots, but others have wound up in prison.
“If I make a difference in one or two lives, I hang onto that,” Jeannine said.
Despite a childhood of abuse and abandonment, one Twin Falls woman managed to rise above.
“My mom gave me and my brother up when we were small,” said Natassia Lee, 21. “I grew up with my grandparents. She left us to go and do drugs and be all crazy. I really resented it when my mom left, because who was going to take me to school my first day? Who was going to do all those things with me?”
Abandonment issues manifested into behavioral problems and made it difficult for her grandmother to raise her. Lee moved back in with her mom when she was 12. She acknowledges that her dysfunctional behavior didn't mix well with her mother's and stepfather's alcoholism. Fights erupted, with violence by all parties.
Lee said she was 15 when the adults reprimanded her for sneaking out to see a boy. “ ... we got in this big blowout. They grounded me and said all kinds of things. They went to bed. Then I snuck out my window and ran away because I didn't want to deal with her screaming and saying I can't do anything right. My goal was to get as far away from them as I could, but that didn't work.”
Police picked up Lee and took her to juvenile detention. She was an unlikely candidate for adoption because of her age.
A CASA represented her through four court hearings.
“It would have been super hard to tell the court what I wanted and needed or my case worker, you can't always give them a call. Your case worker works close with your CASA worker, and they do what's best for you.”
After being institutionalized and stripped of privileges, Lee wanted to go home again. But her mom didn't want her and let the state terminate her parental rights when Lee was 17. It was the second time she was abandoned.
Lee spent the rest of her childhood in the Safe House, a strict facility. A few months before turning 18, she took a few courses on finances there.
She said she hadn't graduated from high school, and no one taught her how to find a job or apartment. But she was turned out a day after her 18th birthday.
That's one example of “slipping through the cracks,” Lee noted, and it's one of the biggest problems facing CASA.
A foster child isn't allowed to get a driver's license, Barton noted, and services to help transition kids into adult life are nearly non-existent.
“That's got to be tough — turning 18, not having parents, not having a driver's license, not having a job because you probably couldn't get to work and you don't have anybody to take you to work,” Barton said.
With nowhere to go, Lee went back to her mom and stepdad. Predictably, she said, “The fights just started right where they stopped. So I moved out.”
Lee said she worked two jobs, tried to finish high school and “struggled to stay afloat.” Then she discovered crystal methamphetamine. In January 2012, she was arrested on felony drug charges and spent two months in jail.
Most people who spend their childhoods in foster homes and facilities wind up in prison, on drugs or dead, Barton said. Lee appeared to be headed down that path.
“When I was in jail,” Lee said, “I filled my time doing stuff that would help me because I wanted to learn how to never be in there again. That color is horrible on me. I hate orange. I will never look at orange the same ever again.”
When she got out of jail, Lee completed drug treatment, found work and enrolled in the College of Southern Idaho. She's since helped other kids struggling in the CASA program and is working to start a foster care alumni group to help kids in the system transition into adulthood.
“I worked so hard to become a better person because once I graduate from probation, they're going to expunge my record. I've worked so hard to do well so it can be expunged.”
Lee has done so well, Barton said, that she sometimes has her offer cautionary tales to at-risk youths who don't have families.
Despite all she's gone through, from abandonment to imprisonment, Lee said she looks at life differently now. She said she let go of regret and tries to demonstrate the power of forgiveness.
She said she owes her mother thanks, because her journey has opened her mind and allowed for personal growth.
Once her criminal record is expunged, Lee said, she wants to become a social worker and use her experience to help others.
Operation Magnet rounds up three in child sex abuse cases
by MARK REAGAN
Cameron County law enforcement officials said the arrest of two Harlingen men and a Brownsville man is just the beginning of an effort to round up approximately 100 people charged with sexual crimes against children who failed to appear for court dates.
Local, state and federal authorities spanned out across Cameron County Friday trying to locate 15 people in what has been dubbed Operation Magnet.
Arrested were Rutillio Flores, 44, and Emilio Cruz, 37, both of Harlingen, according to authorities. Flores failed to appear in court in 2012 on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child; and two counts involving indecency with a child, Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said. Cruz failed to appear in court in 2012 on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, Saenz said.
Also arrested was Brownsville resident Luis Mariano, 26, at the 6300 block of Penjamo Street after he fled from law enforcement wearing only his underwear, Saenz said.
Mariano is charged with sexual assault of a child and failed to appear in court last year for a hearing, according to the DA's Office.
With the first Operation Magnet arrests, Saenz said he was surprised at how many people have outstanding warrants for sexual crimes against children.
“I was surprised in a negative way. I mean it was over 100 (people) and that is very discomforting,” he said, flanked by Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio and San Benito law enforcement authorities. “Again, these are individuals who have a very high recidivism rate. They're inclined to re-offend.”
Saenz said the Child Abuse Unit's discovery of so many people with outstanding warrants prompted him to contact Lucio, as well as law enforcement in Brownsville, San Benito and Harlingen. The newly formed Child Abuse Unit began work in July.
“In working up the unit, we came across a substantial number of defendants who have been indicted but failed to appear,” he said. “And these are defendants that have been indicted for sexual abuse cases involving children.”
Lucio said his office worked closely with the DA and area law enforcement to check names, warrants and to get Operation Magnet rolling.
“Some people used to call them the ‘funny uncle,' but there's nothing funny about it, OK,” Lucio said. “We need to get those people out of the streets. These are the type of people who are going to do the same thing. There's too many warrants. There's one too many out there, and they need to be behind bars.”
Saenz said it's important to round up the suspects so that justice can be done, but it's also an important part of the healing process for a victim to be able to testify against their perpetrators.
“The more time you let go the harder it is for these children to still have what they have in their lives. Sometimes testifying in court is their way of venting and letting it out,” he said. “So as far as the victims, we know where they are and we appreciate that they underwent a lot of trauma to tell us what happened, and it's unfortunate that we don't prosecute the defendant because we can't find them.
“That's part of the healing process for that child, the victim, to get on the stand and get it out.”
And all law enforcement in attendance at the District Attorney's Office Friday had one message for people who have failed to show up to court to face charges of sexual crimes against children.
“We're coming,” Saenz said, with Lucio chiming in that suspects should turn themselves in.
“We'll pick them up and give a free ride,” Lucio said.
Police suspect Forest Grove man of extensive sexual child abuse
(Picture on site)
by Justin Runquist
Washington County detectives believe a Forest Grove man who was arrested last week spent years subjecting numerous children to sexual abuse.
Police arrested 44-year-old Steven Douglas Rockett Friday after they received a report that he recently engaged in sexual activity with three girls in Aloha. Rockett also solicited nude photographs from at least one of the girls, police said.
In the last 14 years, detectives investigated Rockett, but failed to gain enough evidence to charge him with any crimes until last week, police said. Rockett traveled extensively over the years, and detectives believe he may have additional victims anywhere.
Police booked Rockett in the Washington County Jail on accusations of second-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and first-degree sex abuse. He is being held on $500,000 bail.
Police ask that anyone with information about this case or other potential instances of sexual abuse involving Rockett contact the Washington County Sheriff's Office Detective Division at 503-846-2500.