History of abuse shows that slapping ban protects children
Our young have a right to total bodily integrity and a right not to experience violent behaviour
by Paul Gilligan
'Slapping Children is Wrong – Pass it On" was the slogan of an ISPCC billboard campaign in the Nineties. At the time, reaction to the campaign was ferocious with claims that its aim was to turn children against their parents and criminalise parents. Even some child-protection professionals claimed it was a step too far.
Since then, various international and national authorities, including the United Nations Convention Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Government's own Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, have called for a legal ban on corporal punishment. Yet, slapping children, when characterised as reasonable chastisement by a parent, legal care-giver, child minder or foster parent, remains legal in Ireland.
The arguments against a legal ban have not changed since the Nineties despite all of the child-abuse scandals that have emerged since then and despite the passing of a children's rights constitutional amendment last year. Many policy-makers argue that legislation is unnecessary because parenting practice is changing and fewer parents now slap their children. They also fear that introducing a legislative ban would be viewed as too draconian and an over-interference in family life, even by parents who don't condone slapping.
It is estimated that in Ireland only 35 per cent of the population believe that corporal punishment should remain legal. When a ban on physical punishment was introduced in Sweden in 1965, 53 per cent opposed it. Following the ban, this figure reduced to 11 per cent. In the UK, it is estimated that less than 20 per cent support such a measure.
Research and international child protection best practice all support the need for a ban. Evidence from across the world indicates that slapping children does them no good and can, and often does, cause them harm. Consistent corporal punishment of children is associated with increased aggression, anti-social behaviour and emotional and psychological difficulties. It impacts negatively on a child's self-esteem and confidence and by virtue of this leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by others, either as children or when they become adults.
We have direct evidence of the impact of serious corporal punishment on Irish children through the revelations of the survivors of state childcare institutions. Their stories provide harrowing accounts of what can happen in the name of reasonable chastisement.
Those who condone slapping argue that there is a vast difference between "a slap" and corporal punishment or physical abuse. But the difference lies in the extent of the behaviour, not in the intention or the impact. Slapping degrades a child and conveys a message that an adult can hurt him or her whenever they want. It disempowers a child and it decreases the quality of the parent-child relationship.
The most significant argument supporting a legal ban on corporal punishment is a rights one. Like all other citizens, children have a right to total bodily integrity and a right not to experience degrading or violent behaviour. Rights are the foundation on which civilised societies are built. If we do not afford children the same rights as all other citizens, they will inevitably be more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
The Irish State, with its acknowledged failure of children in the past, should want to take every action possible to ensure children's rights are protected. The Government should be seeking to create a state that is exemplary on the protection and promotion of children's rights. It is difficult not to conclude that underpinning the reluctance to tackle this issue is a more deeply ingrained misconception about children. This misconception centres on viewing children as the property of their parents rather than individual citizens in their own right. This was enshrined in our Constitution until the passing of the recent amendment. Changing belief systems about children will require more than constitutional change.
The role of the State is to support parents to rear and protect their children as well as they can. This should ensure parents are given the best opportunity to raise their children in a healthy, nurturing environment. Introducing a legal ban on corporal punishment would lay down a marker for parents and would support them to make the right decisions when it comes to disciplining their children.
For any government, banning slapping is a courageous move. The Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, has already shown a commitment to children's rights by leading on the passing of a constitutional amendment. She is best placed and has the political courage to legislate for what is a seminal children's rights and child-protection issue.
All right-thinking parents should support her to deliver this crucial reform.
Paul Gilligan is a clinical psychologist and chairman of the Children's Rights Alliance
Victims' advocate hopes ‘Dr. Phil' educates on rape
by Nancy Tanker and Emily Weaver
When it comes to sex, “No means no.” It sounds simple enough, but what if a person isn't fully conscious?
A two-part episode of the “Dr. Phil” show next week will broach the topic of consent — a determining factor in alleged cases of rape — while featuring the story of four young Henderson County men who told detectives the sex they had with a classmate was consensual. The classmate told investigators she was unconscious at the time.
Executive Director Angélica R. Wind of Our VOICE (Victims Outreach International Counseling and Education) in Asheville said Friday that the discussion about intoxication and sexual activity may be a good conversation to have.
“I commend Dr. Phil for wanting to take on the issue of consent. Consent is one of the things that can be tricky at times. If someone's intoxicated and doesn't say ‘no' to having sex, does that mean they consented? Consent is not black and white,” she said.
“One of the biggest barriers that you see when it comes to addressing sex assault is the lack of conversation about it. There's a silence around it. The community is not having enough conversations about it, so anytime that the community has the opportunity to have a discussion regarding sexual violence — what it looks like and what an appropriate response to it is — then that's a good thing.”
Wind counsels others in her outreach that rape is not about sex, “it's about power and control.”
“When someone is intoxicated, they don't have the capacity to form consent,” she said.
Working with Our VOICE, Wind said, “we have seen an increase in reports (of) drug-facilitated sexual assaults.”
“Alcohol is the no. 1 drug that is used in drug-facilitated sexual assaults,” she added. “Perpetrators will continue to buy a person drinks or provide them with alcohol in an effort to impair their judgment or incapacitate the victim to make it easier for them to perpetrate a sexual assault.”
Seventeen-year-olds Tyler Scott Garren, Justin Wesley Ponder, Vincent Joseph Curto and Matt Bishop were charged with rape after a classmate told police that three of them had sex with her while she was unconscious on a couch after a party where alcohol was served. All four later told police that they had sex with the girl, but said the sex was consensual.
The "Dr. Phil" show will air two episodes about the incident at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday on CBS.
Wind hopes the “Dr. Phil” episodes will remind those who may have been a victim of sexual assault that they are not alone, and that help is out there.
“The ‘Dr. Phil' show might have the capacity to maybe motivate other teens who have been impacted by sexual violence to come forward... Hopefully teens will recognize that they're not alone and not to blame for the sex assault that was perpetrated against them,” she said. “There are local resources out there that can help with what they're going through.”
Victims of sexual assault are encouraged to call the national hotline for RAINN — the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network — at 800-656-HOPE, to be connected to local services.
“When someone suspects that it has happened to them, if not a lot of time has passed, I would encourage them to go to the hospital to do the forensic examination commonly known as a rape kit,” Wind said. “Don't take a shower. If it's something that happened within the past day or two and you haven't showered, the hospital's ability to take evidence is much better.”
Survivors should also contact a local rape crisis center to talk to counselors and connect with the resources that exist to advocate for victims in their interactions with law enforcement and attorneys, she said.
Reach Ms. Nancy Tanker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-694-7867
The Healing Place, Hendersonville
The Healing Place is a rape crisis center that serves men, women, and children of all ages following rape, sexual assault, or child sexual abuse.
24-hour crisis line: 828-692-3931; other counties 800-656-4673
Henderson County Department of Social Services
Provides Child Protective Services to help victims of physical and sexual abuse
SAFE Inc., Brevard
Committed to breaking the cycle of domestic violence and sexual abuse
Crisis hotline: 828-885-7233
Steps to HOPE, Columbus
Domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and treatment center
24-hour crisis line: 828-894-2340
Our VOICE, Asheville
A non-profit crisis intervention and prevention agency that serves victims of sexual violence, age 13 through adult.
24-crisis line: 828-255-7576
Safeguards failed, so evil got another chance
There were many chances to stop John Burbine, accused of abusing 13 children — decades after he devastated a couple and their 3 little boys
by Jenifer B. McKim
Even after a quarter-century, it does not take much for Kevin to summon the rage that consumed him in April 1989 after learning his 5-year-old son had been molested by a baby sitter.
Kevin's first impulse that day was to track down and kill the man who cared for the Woburn family's three boys, the oldest of whom was 7 years old. But before he could get out the door, his wife, Gail, persuaded him to instead call the police. Within hours, John Burbine was taken into custody.
Gail and Kevin — who asked that their last name be withheld to protect the family's privacy — said their middle son described to them how Burbine had repeatedly fondled him. Investigators came to believe all three boys were similarly violated. Burbine, then 25, was eventually convicted of three counts of indecent assault and battery.
The boys' parents desperately wanted Burbine to serve jail time, but the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office told them that was unlikely to happen. They said prosecutors cited Burbine's lack of a prior criminal record and the problems associated with putting young children on the witness stand. Burbine received a six-month suspended sentence, plus two years probation.
The punishment was a letdown for Gail and Kevin, but they say the disappointment was tempered by assurances from Middlesex prosecutors that he no longer posed a threat. The couple was told he had to undergo counseling and avoid being around children, or risk landing in a prison cell. In retrospect, it appears they misunderstood the terms of Burbine's sentence — those restrictions applied only until the probation period expired.
After the case was resolved, Gail and Kevin went about trying to reconstruct a normal family life. It wasn't easy. They often worried about how the attacks might affect their boys' development, and there were soon signs they had reason to be concerned. But over time, the parents managed to distance themselves from the darkest memories.
That changed in shocking fashion late last year when the couple, now separated, found out that their now 49-year-old former baby sitter stood accused of new — and more horrible — crimes. Prosecutors said the Wakefield man videotaped himself raping and sexually abusing 13 children in his wife Marian's unlicensed day-care business between 2010 and 2012. The youngest victim was 8 days old.
Marian Burbine was charged with recklessly endangering children by recommending her husband to parents seeking child care, and with operating an unlicensed child-care business.
Both have pleaded not guilty.
“I can't believe he got away with this. He did it again,'' said Kevin, 57, who now lives in Florida. “I'm heartbroken.”
At her home in North Easton, Gail, 56, finds it hard to comprehend how a convicted pedophile was allowed unfettered access to children for so long.
“They promised me this would never happen again,” she said. “How did this happen?”
A lot of people are asking similar questions as John Burbine sits in isolation at Middlesex Jail in Cambridge awaiting trial and Marian remains under house arrest in Wakefield.
Over the years, various agencies received information about Burbine — including separate reports in 2005 and 2009 that he had again abused boys. The system's failure involved many agencies, among them the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Early Education and Care, the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, and the Sex Offender Registry Board. Despite the warnings, none intervened.
Laurie Myers, founder of Community Voices, a Chelmsford-based advocacy group for child victims, said Burbine's case represents a “perfect storm” of government errors and inaction.
Since Burbine's arrest last year, lawmakers and child advocates have started to pick apart the missteps made in his case, searching for ways to keep better tabs on known sex offenders and pedophiles. Some laws have already been changed.
“It showed us we need to close the loopholes and do better when it comes to protecting kids,'' Myers said. “Everybody did their little thing, but it was never enough.”
Gaining trust, and betraying it
Gail met John Burbine in the late 1980s when he was an early-education student at a local community college. She was a young mother working in financial services, seeking full-time child care for her boys. Burbine answered a newspaper advertisement Gail posted, and he made a good impression in an interview. But Kevin was wary of hiring a male caretaker. To ease her husband's concerns, Gail vigorously scrubbed Burbine's history, contacting references, local police, and even a contact she had at the FBI to make sure he didn't have a criminal record. After her investigation, she reported to Kevin that Burbine came well-recommended. And his father was a Wakefield police officer. With that kind of a family foundation, she argued, surely he could be trusted.
Kevin, who worked as a plumber, finally agreed to give Burbine a chance, and the young man quickly became an integral part of the family's daily routines. He was a dependable caretaker who arrived promptly in the morning and stayed through the afternoon on most weekdays. He regularly took the boys to a nearby park and library, read to them, and played children's games such as hide-and-seek. The children grew attached to their energetic and attentive baby sitter. Or so it seemed.
Looking back, Gail said, there were signals of trouble she didn't fully recognize. For instance, one day her oldest son abruptly decided he no longer wanted to spend time with his baby sitter, but wouldn't give a reason. Whatever issue the boy had, it seemed to quickly fade. Gail decided the matter could not have been serious and let it drop.
Not long after that unsettling episode, Gail and Kevin's middle son told them about being groped by Burbine. The frantic parents tried in vain to pry more information from their children. They also took them to a pediatrician, who confirmed their fears — the three of them had been sexually violated.
Detective Michael Pandolph, a Woburn police officer who investigated the case, said Burbine used cunning to gain the family's trust, “like any good pedophile.” The abuse, it was determined, took place at nap time.
As part of the 1989 investigation, Pandolph visited Burbine's home in Wakefield. During a search of the house — the same three-bedroom Cape on a dead-end street where the Burbines lived together until their arrests last year — police found a collection of homemade videos showing children in public places. The material wasn't criminal, Pandolph said, just odd.
Pandolph said Burbine was emotionless and displayed no remorse during the police interview.
“He didn't think it was bad what he did,” he said. “I remember he had that blank stare.”
The Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the 1989 case and filed the most recent charges, declined to answer questions for this story. But in a prepared statement last week, District Attorney Marian Ryan, who was named by Governor Deval Patrick to replace Gerald T. Leone Jr. in April, said she is “committed to doing all that I can to protect children, engage in prevention efforts, and punish those who abuse or exploit children.”
The Burbines also refused repeated requests for an interview. John Burbine's attorney, William Barabino, said his client is struggling to cope.
“John is reflecting on what took place and what also is going to happen to him, which is potentially a life sentence,” he said.
Gail said prosecutors told them in 1989 that under terms of the suspended sentence, Burbine would receive psychological counseling and be sent to jail if he harmed another child. Court records also show he was forbidden from going near children until his suspended prison term and probation lapsed. But three years after the arrest, the case was closed and he, like any offender reaching the end of his sentence, was relieved of his court-mandated obligations.
Today, Gail says she and Kevin were naive about would happen after Burbine's conviction.
“I trusted the judicial system,” she said.
Those who study pedophiles like Burbine say it is essential for them to steer clear of children, no matter how far in the past a prior crime may be. Otherwise, the chances of reoffending are high. Michael Bourke, chief psychologist for the US Marshals Service in Arlington, Va., said sex offenders are like drug addicts or alcoholics: At best, their disorders can be kept in check.
“This is a sexual drive. It's like the rapids of a stream, you just don't change it or convert it or stop it,'' said Bourke, who heads the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the service's National Sex Offender Targeting Center, which tracks down fugitive sex offenders. “For many of these men, one of the ways we help them manage their deviance is make sure they don't have situations to offend against a child.”
?That didn't happen with Burbine, who was apparently not deterred by his earlier conviction or by the court order.
This March, prosecutors filed new charges against him in Essex Superior Court. They said he molested and raped a boy in Saugus between 1990 and 1994. Some of the alleged crimes took place while he was still facing charges in the case involving Gail and Kevin's children. The Saugus case is also pending.
Settling down in Wakefield
On a warm May day 20 years ago, John Burbine and Wakefield native Marian Jean Dangora married in the town's First Parish Congregational Church. Burbine had completed his probation in the Woburn case a year earlier and was now free from scrutiny. Pastor Rick Weisenbach said the couple appeared to be like most of the newlyweds he saw — “starry-eyed kids.”
According to court records, Marian would later tell Department of Children and Families officials — investigating whether she was neglectful in referring her husband as a baby sitter — that she only found about her husband's sex offender status and criminal history in 2009. That was more than 15 years after they exchanged vows.
After their wedding, the couple paid $120,000 to buy the home on Second Street in Wakefield from John Burbine's parents, public records show. The house is at the end of short street in a residential neighborhood. Then, like today, the area is full of families with children.
John and Marian were well-educated. He earned a master's of science in management from Lesley University in 2007. She holds a master's in business administration from Bentley University, according to Burbine's attorney.
John worked for about 10 years as an IT specialist at TMP Worldwide Advertising and Communications — a recruitment advertising company based in New York with a branch office in Maynard — before he was laid off about 10 years ago, his attorney said.
Some of his TMP colleagues considered him off-putting, maybe a bit strange. Several remember him bringing a live rat to work and carrying it on his shoulder. That, combined with a prickly demeanor, made Burbine appear slightly sinister to some.
Among other jobs, he was hired in 1998 as an adjunct professor teaching a weekend computer class at North Shore Community College in Danvers. He was also baby-sitting young children again.
When Burbine was convicted of molesting the three Woburn brothers, sex offenders were not tracked by the state. It wasn't until 1996 that the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board was created to keep tabs on residents — mostly men — convicted of rape, possession of child pornography, sex trafficking, and other sex-related offenses.
With legal challenges, another five years passed before a seven-member panel began sifting through details of thousands of cases to determine the probability of each sex offender breaking the law again. Today, about 11,000 are registered statewide.
Sex criminals are divided into three categories based on the chances of them reoffending, not necessarily the severity of the crimes already committed. Details about Level 1 offenders, those deemed least dangerous, are not made available to the public.
Until recently, information about Level 2 offenders — considered a moderate risk to reoffend — could only be obtained in person at local police stations.
Following a change in state law — prompted by the 2012 Burbine case — names, addresses, and other personal data about Level 2 offenders classified after July will now be posted by the registry at http://sorb.chs.state.ma.us.
Data about Level 3 convicts — considered most likely to reoffend — have always been publicly accessible.
Because Burbine was classified Level 1, the registry cannot discuss his status, or even say whether he is on the list. The registry itself does not impose restrictions on sex offenders, but schools, child-care facilities, camps, and other institutions use a database operated by the state's Criminal Offender Record Information Support Services Unit to check prospective employees' backgrounds.
After Burbine's arrest last year, many critics of the state's classification system said his case showed how ineffective the classification system can be. If Burbine had been listed as a higher-level offender, parents of children in his wife's care could have found out about his past and police might have paid more attention to him, said Laurie Guidry, a clinical and forensic psychologist.
Many observers now wonder why a man convicted of molesting three boys could ever be considered a low risk to reoffend.
Legislation signed into law by Patrick during the summer calls for the classification system to be reexamined.
“In hindsight, we can say that clearly something went wrong,'' said Guidry, who is also president of the nonprofit Massachusetts Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers. “This awful incident gives us an opportunity to examine if we are doing the very best we can to protect the Commonwealth and its children from sexual offender recidivists. I believe the answer is: no, we are not.”
Currently, a single board member reviews individual cases and determines which risk level to assign. The decision only goes to a hearing if the offender questions the designation.
In Burbine's case, a board member would have reviewed his 1989 offenses and weighed them against a list of 24 risk factors used to determine whether he might commit more sex crimes. Those factors include the number of victims and their ages, and the frequency of the predatory behavior.
An offender's likelihood of remaining out of trouble also matters. Studies show the risk of re-offending drops off five to 10 years following incarceration.
Saundra Edwards, chair of the registry board, said she could not talk about Burbine specifically, but that classification is partly based on “current information” about an offender, including where and how they are living. “Historical information is never enough,'' she said.
Burbine's case has prompted several state lawmakers to file legislation aimed at increasing public access to information about sex offenders and reexamining the evaluation process.
Some lawmakers argue that anyone convicted of molesting children should automatically be considered at a higher risk to commit another sex crime. About 65 percent, or 1,750, of Level 1 sex offenders in Massachusetts committed some kind of crime against children, according to the registry.
But some civil rights advocates argue that posting information about abusers who have already served their sentences would unfairly penalize them while giving the public a false sense of security. Because most abuse goes unreported and criminals generally victimize people they know, families are better off, the advocates say, being wary of people who are frequently in their children's company rather than relying on a sex offender list.
State representative Shaunna O'Connell, a Taunton Republican, said Burbine's case illustrates why more information needs to be made public. O'Connell supports legislation requiring the state to publish information online about all sex offenders, but the more broad-based approach has not gained traction in the Legislature.
“Massachusetts does not do a good enough job at protecting our children and has weak laws,” she said. “These awful crimes could be prevented.”
Allegations, but no arrests
The cases filed last year in Middlesex Superior Court against the Burbines revealed not only disturbing details of recent alleged child abuse, but also that the state had long been aware of earlier alleged offenses.
In 2005 — 16 years after the Woburn family first made allegations against John Burbine — the Department of Children and Families received a complaint that the Wakefield sex offender may have struck again.
This time, the state agency learned that a 7-year-old boy said Burbine — still working as a baby sitter — had “rubbed the child's genitals over his clothes while masturbating, and ejaculated,” according to a brief description of the complaint filed in court last year.
In 2009, the same agency was told a 5-year-old boy claimed Burbine, also his baby sitter, “fondled his genitals on more than one occasion while being cared for at his home,” court records state.
The agency substantiated both allegations and reported them to the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, as well as state and local police. Because they were allegations, not convictions, the complaints were not referred to the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board.
The district attorney's office declined to file charges in either case, first under the leadership of Martha Coakley and later with Leone in charge.
Officials now say they didn't have enough evidence to move forward with criminal prosecution. In the 2005 case, the family of the child ?proved a major obstacle, according to a government official familiar with the investigation who did not want to be named. The official said the family refused to let police interview their son.
Geline Williams, a former executive director of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said prosecuting pedophiles is practically impossible if children do not testify or their parents won't cooperate.
“You either have the evidence or you don't,” said Williams. “It is demoralizing and heartbreaking for seasoned professionals to know what the truth is, but they simply don't have the evidence to prove it.”
That explanation doesn't sit well with Wendy Murphy, a professor of sexual violence law at New England Law, Boston. She believes prosecutors should pressure families to have their children testify, even if that requires a subpoena.
“Prosecutors are quick to rely on a mom's or a dad's jitters to give them reason why a case can't proceed,” she said. “This was the government's job to stop crime.”
Coakley referred questions about Burbine to the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office. Leone declined to comment for this story.
Cayenne Isaksen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families, said the agency did not have “statutory authority” to refer the 2005 and 2009 complaints to the registry board.
Prompted by the more recent allegations against Burbine, the governor signed legislation designed to improve the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies, the Sex Offender Registry Board, and the Department of Children and Families. The new law also clarifies the registry's ability to reclassify an offender based on new information, even without a conviction.
State Senator Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Melrose, pushed for the changes, which she believes will help prevent similar tragedies.
Burbine's case, she said, “was so disturbing on so many levels. Clearly we need to do better.”
But notification alone does not guarantee action. For instance, even agencies that were informed of the newer complaints against Burbine did not stand in his way.
In 2009, when the state Department of Children and Families followed up on the allegations that Burbine had abused a 5-year-old boy, questions were raised about whether his wife's day-care business was properly licensed, court records show.
The Department of Early Education and Care, the agency responsible for licensing and regulating child-care facilities in Massachusetts, was called in to investigate. But in the course of that inquiry, nobody from the agency ever entered the Burbines' home. Instead, a staffer spoke by phone with Marian, who said she had recently baby-sat for one child but no longer did so. Based on that brief explanation — and information that Marian had taken another job outside of the home — the state dropped its inquiry.
But her statements turned out to be false. Marian wasn't finished working with children. In 2009, she filed paperwork with the secretary of state's Corporations Division to open Waterfall Education Center LLC on Lincoln Street in Wakefield. The business, she said, would offer tutoring and other educational services to school-age children. Currently, the secretary of state's office is not required to notify the Department of Early Education and Care when someone applies to run such an operation.
Myers, of the Community Voices group, said the opening of Waterfall Education Center could have raised suspicions that John Burbine was, once again, in the company of children.
“If the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, we end up in situations where kids fall through the cracks,” she said.
In harm's way
Even as she went about building her new business, Marian appeared to be bothered by her knowledge of John's past.
Months after the Department of Children and Families wrapped up its 2009 investigation, she went to the agency's Malden office and asked to speak with investigators, court records show. Marian told them she had only recently found out about her husband's prior convictions in the case involving Gail and Kevin's boys, as well as the 2005 and 2009 complaints.
“She desperately wanted to have children with her husband, but had reservations in light of the most recent allegations,'' court records state.
Around that time, Marian filed for divorce in Middlesex Probate and Family Court, citing the marriage's “irretrievable breakdown.” Her resolve to end the relationship did not last long. Two months later, in February 2010, she filed a court motion to dismiss the request.
By that summer, the Burbines' child-care operation was expanding and John was actively involved in it. Marian created a website to promote Waterfall Education Center's services including “in-home” child care, “overnight newborn care,” and a “summer camp alternative,” court records show. She did not have a license to provide such services, as required by law.
Marian made arrangements to watch two siblings, ages 3 and 5, but then referred the parents to her husband because she was busy, according to court documents.
When another family called seeking overnight care for their newborn twin girls, Marian also recommended John for the job. She told the parents her husband “was an experienced child-care provider,'' according to prosecutors. John was often alone with the children at that family's home, taking them on outings and sometimes staying overnight. Generally, such extended care is intended to allow exhausted parents a stretch of uninterrupted sleep.
In all, Marian referred the parents of at least a dozen children — mostly infants too young to talk — to John for care, prosecutors say. But inexplicably, she also warned some neighbors about him, according to an investigation by the state Department of Early Education and Care. “Don't let my husband watch kids,” Marian is said to have told one. “If John asks [to take care of your child], say, ‘No, thank you,'?'' she said to another.
In July 2012, the Department of Children and Families learned of yet another instance of a child who showed signs of abuse at the hands of John Burbine. This time, the agency was notified that a 2-year-old girl began to exhibit “sexualized behavior” within weeks of receiving care from the Burbines, according to court records.
Anne Conners, a Department of Early Education and Care investigator, was deployed to the Wakefield house and visited several times before Marian finally invited her in. She reported the interior was cluttered with boxes, bags, clothing, and trash, according to a state report. In some places, the piles were more than 3 feet high. Dirty dishes filled a kitchen sink and spilled onto the counter, Conners said, and only a narrow path remained to navigate between rooms.
Conners wrote that the house was so crowded she and Marian had to retreat to the front stoop to talk. During the conversation, Marian told her, “John does baby-sitting.”
Apparently realizing those three words could spell trouble for her fledgling business, she quickly tried to retract the statement. “I didn't say that,” Marian told Conners.
In September 2012, State Police searched the Burbine home, concerned the couple had provided child care without a license. What they found was far worse. Cameras and computers contained evidence of horrific sex crimes: Videos and pictures allegedly depicted naked children — newborns to 44 months old — being sexually abused by Burbine. In some scenes, he calls them by name and makes explicit sexual comments while facing the camera, records show.
One video apparently shows him assaulting a child in a health club changing room. When someone knocks on the door, Burbine says, “Wait a minute,” and then continues with the molestation.
In another, two girls seated in high chairs are allegedly made to watch adult pornography on a laptop.
Burbine was arrested by State Police and later charged with 100 counts related to sex abuse of children. Prosecutors claim he created the images between 2010 and 2012 in Boston-area communities, including Lexington, Newton, Medford, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, Waltham, and Woburn.
In detailing the charges last year, Leone, the former district attorney, called it one of the “most troubling and disturbing cases of child abuse ever prosecuted in Middlesex County.”
‘It didn't have to happen'
Other than Gail and Kevin, the families of Burbine's alleged victims declined to comment for this story. But abuse specialists say coping with what happened to their children and to them may be an endless challenge. It has been that way for Gail and her family. In 1989, she said, a pediatrician told the couple the best option was to downplay what their three children endured and hope time would lessen their suffering. They followed that advice, telling their boys the baby sitter who did bad things had gone away forever. They did not seek counseling for themselves or their children. But Gail was wracked with guilt and began drinking heavily in an effort to cope. She was finally able to wean herself off alcohol seven years ago.
The couple's two oldest — ages 29 and 31 — struggle with substance abuse, their mother said, and have been in and out of treatment programs.
Today, Gail is attempting to steel herself for the gut-churning revelations that will be part of Burbine's upcoming trial, tentatively scheduled for December. She often dwells on the government's failure to intervene over so many years, and she can't stop thinking about what the family's life might have been like if John Burbine had not eviscerated it.
Gail says she is speaking out now partly because it might bring the bright light of scrutiny to an issue often relegated to the shadows. She hopes her words can spare others from the agony she, Kevin, and — especially — their boys have endured all this time.
“It didn't have to happen to the other children,'' she said. “I just want healing for the victims and their families.”
The Navy's domestic campaign targets child abuse
Programs takes aim at family health and behavioral issues
by Rob Johnson
Maria Moultrie never mentions such phrases as child abuse or domestic violence when the Navy assigns her to visit the Pensacola homes of active-duty personnel, but those issues are at the covert core of a program she describes as “rainbows and love.”
The New Parent Support Program, in which Moultrie is a counselor, focuses on young families whose military member is stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station, or deployed overseas while part of a unit there. The families usually live off the base in apartments or houses, and they participate in the counseling voluntarily.
Juliana Barricelli, a Navy spouse, recently welcomed Moultrie into her house near PNAS for the counselor's weekly visit. They sat on the living room floor while Barricelli's 11-month-old daughter, Ava, wearing an artificial pink flower in her hair, happily toddled among scattered toys.
“Do you think she can say at least three words?” asked Moultrie. Yes, Barricelli, answers, listing “momma” as part of Ava's nascent vocabulary.
Gradually, Moultrie guides the interview into an area where she can gauge the Barricellis' stress level, which is one way she assesses the potential risk to children. Moultrie asks how Anthony, Ava's 4-year-brother, is getting along with his sister.
“He's doing well,” said Barricelli. “He's just very much into his routine and the way things are supposed to be. She just kind of throws a wrench into it.”
The discussion illustrates the essence of the New Parent Support Program, in which trained civilian employees with degrees in psychology or nursing look for tensions plaguing military families that might boil over. Moultrie said, “We're pretty good at observing things, so we can stop it before it happens.”
Moultries concludes that things are fine with the Barracellis, who are among about 25 families that each of the visitation workers juggle on their client lists. The Navy-wide program started in 1990 after a federal General Accounting Office study stated that home visiting is a strategy that can be a form of early intervention.
“It's really a child-abuse-prevention program but we don't sell it that way to our clients,” said Darla Huffman, clinical supervisor of the program in Pensacola.
Moultrie explained, “I don't think any of our families actually pick up on the idea that it's a prevention program because we discuss so many different things like baby massage and sign language.”
If the home visitors find evidence of physical abuse, which is rare, they are required by the Navy program's guidelines to report it to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
To be sure, the home visitations provide plenty of help on issues unrelated to violence. Amanda Hesson, whose husband is a Marine Corps staff sergeant at the Naval base, said Moultrie's advice on raising her son, Conner, born in October, has been valuable.
“This was my first baby and I didn't know anybody here. We've gone over pretty much everything from disciplining kids to what they should eat,” said Hesson. “She brings in videos for me, which is great because I don't like reading. I've asked her questions about sleep issues with my baby and breast-feeding.”
Families are referred to the visitation program in various ways, including by an obstetrician supervisor at Pensacola Naval Hospital who screens prospective moms and sometimes recommends attention from the prenatal stage.
“We also get referrals from friends and commanders of the military members' units,” Moultrie said.
Huffman added: “We've had moms camp out at the front door of neighbors who are already in the program and ask, ‘Can you come see me too?'”
Scveral scenarios may prompt referrals. “It could be a deployment where the mom is left alone with a young child for a long time. Or it could be financial,” said Huffman. Money issues typically surface when families accompany an active-duty member who is assigned to Pensacola Naval Air Station for less than six months to attend training. In such short-term stints, the military doesn't usually pay for the dependents' moving expenses or housing costs.
“Plus the service member may not understand the military medical system and the family may not even be enrolled for treatment at the Naval Hospital,” Huffman said.
Sometimes a combination of circumstances create a family crisis. Monya Love, a home visitation counselor at Pensacola NAS, said, “Right now I have a family where the dad is deployed in Afghanistan. The spouse is here with a 2-year-old and just gave birth. It's already a difficult time and the mom just had a car accident. The father wasn't able to come home from deployment. She just needed someone to be there and listen. I think we made a real difference.”
Still, the counselors are always alert for the possibility that stress can intensify beyond control.
“Disciplining the child is a sensitive area,” said Moultrie. “A lot of people say, ‘I was spanked as a child and I'm OK.' I admit that I was a spanker at one time. But you throw in the military, where you do what you're supposed to do and ask questions later, if at all, and it becomes difficult for some families.”
She added, “We're not saying they can't spank. Because by law, they can. But sometimes it's about reasonable expectations.”
For example, she said sometimes military parents see crying by a young child “as a sign of weakness. We have to educate them that crying is a way babies communicate when there's problem or a need.”
Sometimes the visitors' guidance takes the form of acting out preferred parental behavior. Barricelli, the Navy wife spouse with a 4-year-old son said that when her 11-month-old daughter was born, Moultrie “came in and did some role-playing with my son to smooth the transition,” demonstrating how he ought to treat his new baby sister.
Moultrie often develops close bonds with her clients, parents and children alike. She has photos of many clients in her office.
“They're like my own. And we're pretty much all they have sometimes.”
Release of Ariel Castro evidence tapes raises troubling questions
by Cory Shaffer
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The release of the interrogation tapes of Ariel Castro Friday raises troubling questions, not the least of which is: What if more information gets released?
Mai Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, said when information detailing incidents of assault against a victim get released to the public after a trial, it could act as a salt in a barely healed wound.
"It's an individual's biggest fear," Fernandez said. "It's something that feels so internally horrible for them, and now it's going on in front of everyone."
Fernandez said she had not seen the footage of the interviews, but after a description of the segment she said it seemed like NBC edited out the "most victimizing information" of the interviews, in which Castro detailed his kidnapping and torture of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
The network said it contacted lawyers representing the women to alert them that they would air portions of the interviews.
But Fernandez questioned the worth of releasing information about the investigation for "purely voyeuristic reasons."
"I think the media does need to sit back and think 'if we got a hold of these things, maybe we shouldn't publish this and think about the victims, who have already gone through so much,'" she said.
Jim Wooley, a partner at Jones Day who has been acting as a spokesperson for the victims, declined to comment on the importance of not publicly releasing information like diaries kept during the 10-year captivity and the sexual violence the survivors endured.
Fernandez said if information like that gets released, it could have long-lasting effects on the the women and Berry's 6-year-old daughter.
"It's more than ended for Ariel Castro," she said. "It has not ended for the victims, who will be dealing with this for the rest of their lives."
Castro pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges and was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years. He hanged himself in his prison cell earlier this week and his body was released today to his family.
Friday afternoon, however, it was unclear what steps officials were taking to prevent other evidence from being leaked.
The Plain Dealer's Rachel Dissell and James F. McCarty reported that a court order signed by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo sealed much of the evidence collected by the FBI during the investigation.
All attorneys involved in the case were required to sign onto the order. But it didn't specifically mention the interrogation tapes.
NBC's TODAY said it obtained the video of Castro being interviewed by a police detective and sheriff's deputy the night he was arrested from "a source familiar with the criminal investigation."
In the tape, Castro admits to calling Berry's mother days after he kidnapped her. Plain Dealer reporter John Caniglia reported the FBI released similar information in 2003.
FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said the order regarding the investigation was meant to prevent the release of the interviews with the women. "We took the extra step to protect the girls, and we were hoping that this wouldn't come out, "she said.
The recording, which was stored on Cleveland police department servers, was shared with investigators, the prosecutor's office and defense attorneys involved in the case.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty's spokesman said his office did not release the video of Castro's interrogation. Spokesman Joe Frolik said that records available under public records law would be reviewed and released when available.
Cleveland spokeswoman Maureen Harper also said neither the city nor the police department released the video. She said investigatory records in the city's possession are being reviewed to determine what can be released in full -- or with some portions redacted as allowed by law.
Castro attorney Jaye Schlachet said he did not give the tape to NBC. His co-council on the case Craig Weintraub could not be reached.
Mary Pat Smith, bailiff for Judge Michael Russo, who ordered much of the information in the case to be sealed, said the judge was not immediately aware if release of the tapes violated his protection order.
"We have no jurisdiction at this point," she said.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio spokesperson Mike Tobin declined to comment whether there would be a federal investigation into the source of the leak.
Several county officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Decriminalization of teacher/student sexual activity is not the answer.
from Christopher M. Anderson -- Executive Director, MaleSurvivor
Last Friday, the Washington Post ran a controversial opinion piece written by a former attorney named Betsy Karasik. In the piece, Ms. Karasik argued that some incidents of sexual activity should not be considered a criminal act. As a reaction to this column, MaleSurvivor Executive Director Christopher Anderson collaborated with the partners listed below to draft a response that was sent to the Washington Post in hopes that our response would be given equal space.
Today, the Post agreed to run a part of this letter under Chris' name. Below is the full text of the letter along with all the signers.
Please share this full version. It is important that the message be heard.
|September 6, 2013
We, the undersigned, emphatically disagree with Betsy Karasik that student/teacher sex should be decriminalized. We also express in the strongest measure our disappointment with the Washington Post for giving her a national platform - remarkably, just one day after issuing an editorial strongly rebuking a Montana judge for his unacceptable comments and inappropriately lenient sentencing of a then 49-year-old teacher convicted of raping a 14 year old student.
Sexual activity between teachers and students is a profound ethical violation. The authority placed in teachers, coaches, counselors, or other instructors creates an inescapable responsibility to maintain appropriate behavioral boundaries. When that line is crossed, the power differential between teacher and student creates an abusive betrayal of the trust placed in the teacher by the student and the community. A student's willingness to engage in a sexual liaison with a teacher cannot eradicate this truth. As Dr. Richard Gartner, a pioneer in the treatment of men sexually abused as boys, has written, "Even seemingly consensual situations may turn out to have long term negative effects.... There's no way for an adult to know whether a particular child--even if he seems happy to participate--will be affected negatively by taking part in sex acts. And the very last person we can expect to be objective about the needs and best interests of a child is the adult who sexually desires that child."
The high levels of sexual abuse of children and teens in our society are further evidence for the need for stronger prohibitions, not weaker ones. Decades of research indicate that at least 10%, and perhaps more than 20% of all persons under the age 18 are sexually abused. In addition, overwhelming evidence makes clear that many victims suffer significant long-term emotional harm in these cases. Suggesting that legal sanctions are unwarranted based upon a small sample of self-selected anecdotes is both intellectually irresponsible and a needlessly cruel insult to millions of people who were sexually abused as children.
Criminalizing sexual activity between age-appropriate, truly consenting people is not a good idea. Yet the prevalence of abuse and the significant risk to students' long-term health and well being necessitates that clear legal boundaries be drawn and enforced between teachers and students. Stronger enforcement of professional and legal sanctions against teachers who violate these boundaries is required. Importantly, better enforcement does not imply that draconian punishments are required for all offenders.
A great deal of evidence indicates that decriminalization would lead to more students being sexually exploited, abused and harmed. Decriminalization would wrongly signal to many, including potential abusive teachers and student victims, that teacher/student sexual encounters are not harmful. It would also effectively empower perpetrators of sexual abuse, and make it more difficult for many victims to get support. Ms. Karasik is right to be concerned about the stigma and pressures victims face in the legal system, but decriminalization is not a solution to those problems, and certainly would not provide the support that all victims of sexual exploitation and violence deserve.
Christopher M. Anderson
Former Advisory Board Chair,
Darkness to Light
Julie Brand, M.S
Elissa Brown, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
Child HELP Partnership
Professor of Psychology, St. John's University
Jim Campbell, PhD
Coordinator, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Conference on Child Sexual Abuse
Roger Canaff, JD
Former Prosecutor, Child Protection Expert
Executive Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Norris J. Chumley, Ph.D.
Author, Executive Producer, Professor
James T. Clemente
Retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent
Child Sex Crimes Expert Witness
Joanna Colrain, LPC, CGP
MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery
NJ Sate Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Michael Deninger, Ph.D.
Andy Dishman; MDiv; LPC
Vincent J. Felitti, MD
MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery
Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program
Clinical Professor of Medicine
University of California
New York Center for Children
Howard Fradkin, Ph.D.
MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery
Sandi Forti, Ph.D
MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery
Donna Fox, MSSW, CAPSW
Richard Gartner, Ph.D.
Training and Supervising Analyst, Faculty, and
Founding Director of Sexual Abuse Service,
William Alanson White Institute for Psychiatry,
Psychoanalysis, and Psychology
Michael W Gillum, Licensed Psychologist
Director, Let Go, Let Peace Come In
Silent No More Group
National Children's Advocacy Center
Marci A. Hamilton
Verkuil Chair in Public Law
Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School Yeshiva University
Robert Hoatson, Ph.D.
Road to Recovery, Inc.
James W. Hopper, Ph.D.
Independent Consultant and Clinical Instructor
of Psychology, Harvard Medical School
Mic Hunter, Ph.D. LMFT
Author, Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims Of Sexual Abuse
William C. Kellibrew, IV
David O. McCall, Ph.D.
Thomas McMahon, Ph.D.
Private Practice, Washington, D.C.
Yale University School of Medicine
Sandi Capuano Morrison
Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma at
Alliant International University
Ernesto Mujica, PhD
Adjunct Faculty, TC-Columbia University
The National Center for Victims of Crime
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Chris Newlin, MS LPC
National Children's Advocacy Center
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
CEO, Scott Pitts Consulting
Owner, Event Merchandise Group
MaleSurvivor Advisory Board
Together We Heal
Support Group Leader, South FL Area, SNAP
PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment
Mikele Rauch, LMFT
MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery
Gundersen's National Child Protection Training Center
The Good Men Project
Jim Struve, LCSW
MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery
Murray Schane, M.D.
Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D
Virginia Commonwealth University
The Surviving Spirit
Stephanie M. Smith
Southern Regional Director,
Gundersen's National Child Protection Training Center
Basyle J. Tchividjian, J.D.
Executive Director, GRACE
Associate Professor of Law,
Liberty University School of Law
Viola Vaughan-Eden, PhD, MJ, LCSW
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
Victor Vieth, J.D.
Gundersen's National Child Protection Training Center
John L. Walker, Ph.D
Survivor and Board Member,
Debra Warner, Psy.D.
Beverly Whipple, Phd, RN, FAAN
Please SHARE - Full Text of Anderson Letter to Editor re: Karasik Op Ed
Montana Legal Officials Step In on Rape Case Sentence
by JACK HEALY
BILLINGS, Mont. — When a judge here sentenced a schoolteacher to 30 days in prison for raping a 14-year-old student — declaring her “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as the man who pleaded guilty — it set off a storm of outrage, magnified by heavy coverage on cable news and across social media. As the chorus of condemnation grew, the judge, G. Todd Baugh, apologized, saying that his remarks had been demeaning to women.
The Montana Supreme Court made Judge G. Todd Baugh cancel a rehearing and is reviewing the case.
But when he announced his intention to reconsider the sentence at a hearing on Friday, he set off fresh waves of objection, this time from the state's legal establishment. Lawyers for both sides protested that the judge lacked the authority to correct a sentencing error, and the Montana Supreme Court stepped in on Friday and blocked the resentencing.
On Friday afternoon, the judge stepped into the middle of the storm with an unusual courtroom appearance. With the hearing called off, there was no legal business to transact, no prosecutors or defense lawyers present. But as he faced television cameras and victims' advocates, the judge said he would try “to answer some questions that you might have.”
After reciting the lengthy legal history of the case, Judge Baugh said the dispute over the sentence he had issued would now be moving on to the Montana Supreme Court, and out of his hands.
“That's about all I got to say,” he said, as cameras clicked. “Thank you very much, we're adjourned.”
Judge Baugh did not respond to phone messages for comment. He was first elected in 1984 after working as a lawyer, according to news reports, has rarely faced any challengers for his seat, and until now, mostly made local headlines as he presided over trials for vehicular homicides, shootings and embezzlement.
As he prepared to run for a fifth term in 2008, he told The Billings Gazette that “I still enjoy coming to work every day.”
He is up for re-election next year, and advocates here have vowed to challenge him if he chooses to run again.
The outrage swirling across this city finds its roots in what officials have called a profoundly inappropriate sexual relationship between the 14-year-old, Cherice Moralez, who has since committed suicide, and Stacey Dean Rambold, who was a 49-year-old business teacher at Billings Senior High School. It began in October 2007 and lasted about three months.
“He'd wake up in the morning, look at his wife, leave his home and he'd go engage in sexual acts with a minor,” said Shane Colton, a lawyer for Ms. Moralez's mother, Auliea Hanlon.
In 2008, Mr. Rambold was charged with three counts of rape. He had resigned from school earlier that year and surrendered his teaching certificate.
In legal documents and interviews with several news outlets, Ms. Hanlon said her once-exuberant daughter, who had an infectious laugh and loved to dance in the rain, became emotionally distressed and humiliated as word of the abuse came to light. She was bullied and taunted at school, and fatally shot herself at home in February 2010, less than three weeks before her 17th birthday.
Her death changed the trajectory of the case, and in July 2010, lawyers agreed to defer prosecution if Mr. Rambold entered a sexual-offender treatment program. But prosecutors renewed their case against him after he was kicked out of the program in November 2012. Earlier this year, Mr. Rambold pleaded guilty to one count of rape.
Last week, the judge sentenced Mr. Rambold to 15 years, but suspended all but 30 days. Prosecutors had asked that Mr. Rambold serve 10 years behind bars.
While the light sentence infuriated the girl's mother and supporters, it was the judge's words that touched off an avalanche of public anger.
“We have ignored some awful things other people have said about rape,” said Sheena Rice, who helped organize the demonstrations. “This is just one of those cases where you can't be silent.”
Hundreds of protesters filled the courthouse lawn here to condemn his comments, saying they cast blame on a young rape victim. Thousands more have signed online petitions calling for a harsher sentence, or for Judge Baugh to step down. The Montana attorney general's office said this week that Judge Baugh's lenient sentence was illegal.
Some women here who helped to organize the demonstrations said the case had spurred them to publicly discuss their own stories of sexual assault. They said they saw a granule of their experiences in Ms. Moralez's story, and wanted to speak out to ensure that future victims were treated with respect by the legal system.
“It's about what our community will and will not allow,” said Kate Olp, 26, a waitress pursuing a master's degree in education. “To try and protect the next Cherice Moralez.”
Book retells victims' stories of abuse
I've just finished reading a book I would like to share with you. It is among the most difficult I have read.
"The Survivors Project" is a collection of essays edited by Nina and Joel Hoffman. Joel is an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. Nina, his wife, is the senior editor of Philadelphia Weekly. As they wrote in the book's introduction, the secret of Joel's sexual abuse and the damage it caused him nearly destroyed their marriage.
Both Joel and Nina found the help they needed and Joel, for the first time, was able to express the pain so long held inside.
He told his story in the June 2011 issue of Philadelphia Weekly. One year later, in the June 2012 issue, Nina wrote an editorial inviting first-person accounts from sexual abuse survivors, their loved ones and their advocates.
The couple didn't know what to expect, but then submissions began to pour in, first a few at a time and then a flood of people willing, needing to share their stories.
"The Survivors Project" is a collection of 55 essays compiled from the submissions. Some people wrote anonymously, some under their own names. They are stories of abuse and the ongoing healing of their lives.
Some stories talk of single events; some abuse was carried out over time. Most of the abusers were known to their victims; to others they were strangers. Some were children when the abuse occurred; some were teens, others adults.
There are no fairytale "happily ever after" endings in this book. But there are tales of much courage: the courage to heal, to share, and to reach out to others.
I've been a counselor to more than 1,000 people throughout my almost 40-year career. In all that time I struggle to recall the story of any woman I counseled whose life was not impacted by some form of sexual abuse. The same is true for very many of the men I've counseled as well.
A colleague who once worked at the Victim's Resource Center, a sexual assault counseling and prevention/education center in Wilkes-Barre, told me the story of a man who stopped by the facility only once. He was a bit over 80 years old and wanted to share with at least one other person the abuse he endured at the hands of his grandfather when he was but a child.
Throughout his decades of life he kept it a secret. Finally, he gave voice to his pain. He said he wanted at least one other person to know what happened before he died.
No one ever just forgets.
Not very long ago I had the pleasure of working with Adrienne Windley during her brief stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She was the former Iowa state director of the Darkness to Light Foundation, an organization dedicated to the prevention of sexual abuse and advocacy for its victims. From her I learned the tragic statistics that 1 in 10 children, far more girls than boys, will be sexually abused in some fashion before the age of 18. Ninety percent will know their abuser.
Only 1 in 10 of them will ever tell anyone. Some won't be believed.
I thought I understood the issue; I thought I knew a great deal about sexual abuse and assault and the impact on its survivors. After reading "The Survivors Project" I realize how very much more I have to learn.
One thing I learned from the book is that those who have found the path to ongoing healing found it through the love and support of trusted close friends and family and with the help of able counselors who knew and understood the issue. Not everyone who bears the title "counselor" or "psychologist" understands it. It takes someone who has both the training and the heart.
For the survivors and their loved ones there can be healing. For all the rest of us there must be awareness. Ignorance isn't bliss.
I encourage all who read this, and especially parents, to visit the Darkness to Light website at www.D2L.org to learn more, especially about how to best protect children. We adults are the only ones who can.
For the many who will read this who are themselves survivors of sexual trauma, there is help and hope.
"The Survivors Project" was published by Philadelphia Weekly and is available both in print or the Kindle edition from Amazon.com. The price of the Kindle edition is $3.99. The editor told me they wanted to keep it as inexpensive as possible so it would be available to all who wanted, needed to read it.
Help for survivors and education on the crisis of sexual abuse and assault is available from the Victims Resource Center, a United Way agency. They can be reached at 1-866-206-9050 or at 570-823-0765.
3 Broward Teachers Charged With Failing To Report Child Abuse
DAVIE (CBS4) - Three teachers at Western High School in Davie face misdemeanor charges of failing to report child sexual abuse.
Investigative documents obtained by CBS 4 News from the Broward State Attorney's Office lay out the allegations against the teachers. Prosecutors say two years ago a special needs child wrote an essay in which she described how she was raped by someone she dated. Prosecutors say the child's teacher, Cathy Schwartz, shared the essay with two other teachers but that none of the trio contacted the state's child abuse hotline.
The child's mother did not want to be identified. She says she didn't learn about the essay until 7 months later when it was disclosed during a meeting about her daughter's educational progress.
“(The teachers) didn't do what they were supposed to do,” the mother said during an interview in May when the allegations first surfaced. “They didn't do the right thing and the story is what it is today.”
The mother says her teenaged daughter chose the essay as a way to describe what she was dealing with.
“That was how my daughter was able to speak out about this situation and that was her way of crying out for help,” the mother said. “Instead of getting help the situation was ignored.”
Prosecutors say Schwartz graded the assignment and shared it with teacher Mirtha Fernandez and a third teacher but none of the teachers contacted the state's child abuse hotline. The State Attorney's Office says the third teacher has not yet formally been served with a criminal summons so her name is not being released.
“Just on a common sense basis, you pick up the phone and you contact the parents with a concern for reading something so horrific,” the student's mother said.
Prosecutors say all three Western High teachers are charged with failure to report child sexual abuse. An attorney for one of the teachers told CBS 4 News that the student later told her teacher that the essay was made up. The child's mother disputes that claim. She believes the teachers should have stepped up immediately to report what they learned.
“You know that this child has special education needs,” she said. “She has special psychological needs and then this sort of horrific thing you don't do anything to try to protect her?”
A spokesperson at the Broward School District says they continue to investigate the case. The School District also says that all 3 teachers remain on the job at Western High School. The victim's mother called that “appalling” and told CBS 4 News on Friday that she feels the teachers should be removed from the school.
Prosecutors say failure to report possible child abuse to state officials is a first degree misdemeanor. If convicted the three teachers could spend up to one year in jail.
Kentucky doing better job protecting abused children, advocates say
Report cites more investigations, efforts to protect those at risk
Child advocates who have harshly criticized Kentucky's often-secretive handling of abuse and neglect cases are giving cautious praise to a new report citing increased investigations and greater efforts to protect children.
The results — released this week by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services — show Kentucky child-welfare workers investigated and confirmed nearly 15 percent more cases of abuse and neglect in the year ending June 30 than in the previous 12 months.
Preliminary numbers show nine child fatalities and 27 near-fatalities from abuse or neglect during that period — a drop from the previous year. But those numbers typically rise as coroners' reports and other pending investigations are concluded.
The report “says to me that they are serious about looking at trends about what's going well and what's not going well,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, a private organization that promotes child well-being.
In all but one of the nine fatality cases, the cabinet's Division for Protection and Permanency had some history of involvement with the family, including investigations or assessments of concerns over the child's safety or custody.
And of the 27 children who nearly died because of abuse or neglect, 17 had prior involvement by cabinet workers, the report says.
All of those numbers are down from the 2012 annual report, but fatality statistics typically rise as more investigations conclude.
For example, the 2012 report initially reported 22 child fatalities because of abuse or neglect — eight of which had prior cabinet involvement. Those figures were updated to 32 and 11, respectively, in this year's report.
“It's tempting to get either overly excited in a positive way or overly despondent in a negative way when you see the number of children who die,” Brooks said. “A single kid who dies is one too many.”
Tina Webb, assistant director of the cabinet's Division of Protection and Permanency, said, “We want to prevent every single one.”
The cabinet reported receiving 39,847 reports of abuse or neglect that met its criteria for investigation, with 11,288 cases being substantiated during the year ending June 2013.
Fifty-eight percent of fatalities and near-fatalities in the 2013 report took place in families in which the cabinet was previously involved, the report said.
The cabinet is trying to identify danger signs and train workers to be alert for them, Webb said. For example, a mother might be investigated on a neglect report — and later the child dies of abuse at the hands of her boyfriend.
“When you go back and look at that case in hindsight, did we understand how protective she was, how she picks her partners?” Webb said. “Our interest is, how can we help the workers knocking on the door differentiate lethality from nonlethality?”
The report lists continuing efforts at improving child safety. They include working with the University of Louisville's pediatric forensics division, improving how workers assess risks and studying ways to improve risk assessment for at-risk children younger than 5 years old.
Webb said the cabinet also is helping to promote training of emergency-room doctors and other medical workers to quickly report injuries that appear intentional, rather than accidental.
“What we know about physical abuse is the next time we see the child, it's a lot more likely to be a fatal or near-fatal incident,” she said.
Charles Baker, an adjunct professor at U of L's Kent School of Social Work and retired president of Buckhorn Children's Foundation, a network of services for at-risk children, gave mixed reviews to the report.
“You did more substantiations, which is great, but there's a limit to what people can humanly do without the quality declining,” he said. He noted that the report doesn't measure the effectiveness of workers' interventions, which can vary widely in quality.
In recent years, Kentucky has ranked among the worst in the nation for deaths associated with child abuse, according to federal statistics.
Baker also noted that rates of abuse and neglect are higher in the United States as a whole than in many industrialized societies that have stronger safety nets for families and the needy.
“We're spending less, and it's not that important to us,” he said.
Brooks praised cabinet officials for using the data to alert workers to warning signals for children at risk. For example, the data show youngest children are most at risk of fatal abuse and neglect, as are those whose caregivers have a history of substance abuse, domestic violence or neglect.
“Can we learn lessons that keep tragedies from happening?” Brooks said. “We're in a much better place today on that score than we were two years ago.”
Brooks also called for improvements, such as creating a blue-ribbon panel of experts that would investigate individual deaths in a similar way that the National Transportation Safety Board mobilizes to review plane crashes.
State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville — who promoted the creation of a new external review panel to examine child abuse deaths and make recommendations for improving child protection — said the report shows the cabinet “stepping in the right direction.”
“The code of secrecy is gone,” said Burch, chairman of the House Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. “There should be more transparency in not just the Cabinet for Health and Family Services but all the cabinets.”
Abuse includes intentional infliction of injuries to children, while neglect includes such things as improper supervision, failure to meet medical needs and caretaker substance abuse.
Delhi first State to lay down anti-child abuse guidelines
Strict norms for awareness creation, transport and online safety formulated
Delhi became the first State on Friday to lay down comprehensive guidelines for prevention of child abuse. The guidelines are slated to serve as a model for other States.
Formulated by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the detailed guidelines were announced by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. They are divided into chapters covering all the aspects of the issue.
The guidelines come after a spate of child abuse cases in the Capital and six months after a seven-year-old girl was raped inside the gated complex of a municipal school in Mangolpuri. The police are yet to make any headway in the case.
The guidelines lay strict norms for recruitment processes, awareness creation, child protection safeguards, transport and online safety among other things. They are to be followed by all institutions catering to children.
They envisage three major stakeholders playing an important role in its implementation — the institution which houses, educates or provides care facilities for the child; individual stakeholders who are in a position of trust and responsibility; and the overall community to act as watchdog and to ensure that the silence around child abuse is broken.
The guidelines do not allow the recruitment of any person with a criminal record of sexual or physical violence and calls for a thorough investigation into the prior employment and engagement of the person.
It pushes for a uniform and standard teacher training module which will cover a broad spectrum of child protection issues, including recognising suspicious behaviour; being aware of a child who displays erratic and or unusual behaviour; and the ability to engage a child and create a safe environment.
The Delhi Police and the Special Juvenile Protection Units will undergo customised training to upgrade their knowledge of laws as well as to sensitise them towards child-friendly behaviour. Each institution is also expected to employ at least one counsellor and is allowed to make use of the services of para-counsellors when the need arises.
The guidelines also put down strict norms for transportation of children. They call for at least one female ward/guard to be present on school buses until the last child is dropped home. In addition, they mandate that CCTV cameras be installed and maintained at appropriate public spaces within the premises of any of these institutions.
The commission's chairperson, Arun Mathur, hailed the day as an “important one for the children of Delhi”. He said the guidelines have been put through rigorous scrutiny.
“Since such guidelines for prevention of child abuse did not exist in any systematic manner either in Delhi, other States or even at the Central level, the commission wanted to ensure that the guidelines are finalised in as thorough and well researched a manner as possible, so that these are not only applicable for the Capital but could serve as a model for other States,” he said.
After launching the guidelines, Ms. Dikshit termed them a “wake-up call” and said such a comprehensive document should be extensively shared among schools, institutions, colleges, media and every other stakeholder. “We should make a synopsis of this and distribute it,” she said.
Child abuse prevention progress requires full participation of all partners
by T. Wayne Davis
We all know it; leading the Department of Children and Families is a difficult and thankless job. Front-line jobs in the state's child welfare system are even tougher.
The learning curve is steep, every lesson is hard and failure is too painful and costly.
In the wake of recent tragedies, everyone is searching for answers, trying to figure out what went wrong. From county sheriffs and local care providers to religious and community leaders, everyone wants to, and should, do whatever is necessary to prevent the loss of another child.
Getting all of these partners to work together toward this worthy goal isn't easy, but it is essential. Repeatedly, we see that protecting vulnerable children is too big of a job for one person or one agency. We all have a part to play in solving this problem affecting our state; a philosophy that newly appointed DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo has embraced.
Complex social problems like child abuse involve multiple interrelated risk factors that sometimes develop over generations of family dysfunction, generally rooted in poverty and lack of education.There is no simple, quick-fix solution to these issues; drastic overcorrections in our policies and practices following tragedies have made matters even worse.
While it is true that more must be done to recruit, train, supervise and retain qualified front-line staff responsible for responding to allegations of abuse, we will never achieve sustainable change in child protection services without significantly increasing prevention efforts that strengthen vulnerable families before abuse ever begins.
Strengthening parenting skills and improving family stability — sometimes even before the baby arrives — is paramount to eliminating many situations we have read about over the past few months. Most at-risk expectant and new parents realize they need help, but help isn't always available before tragedy strikes.
Ensuring children are safe and nurtured at home, while stemming the tide of kids coming into state care, has been the work of Healthy Families Florida since its legislative inception in 1998. Administered by the private, nonprofit Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida through a network of local providers, Healthy Families is the state's preeminent child abuse prevention program. A rigorous independent evaluation revealed that Healthy Families is an effective prevention measure. Healthy Families prevents abuse and neglect for 98 percent of children in high-risk families served. Recent analysis shows that 95 percent of children served also remained free from abuse and neglect three years following program services.
For the past 15 years, the Department of Children and Families has been a supportive partner. Thanks to an additional $3 million legislative allocation this year, the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott and local partners' support, Healthy Families' reach has extended to serve additional families in parts or all 58 of Florida's 67 counties — a big step in the right direction.
Bringing these proven prevention services to scale, so every at-risk family has access to the help they need, will require additional investment; but it is still far less costly than failure.
Healthy Families saves taxpayers millions of dollars in child welfare and other services needed to deal with the consequences of abuse; more importantly, it saves lives. Other changes to the child welfare system may certainly help to prevent more tragic deaths, but we know Healthy Families is a proven and effective up-front prevention program that helps lead us toward that important goal.
T. Wayne Davis is chairman of the board for the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida.
Workshop offers tips to spot child sexual abuse, provide help
by VALERIE WELLS
DECATUR — No parent wants to believe their child has been the victim of sexual abuse.
The first reaction is often denial, said Lydia Tilton, a parent educator with the Decatur School District who conducted a workshop on the topic at Pershing Early Learning Center on Thursday.
“We're just trying to open up people's views in the world to know that it is going on,” Tilton said. “And it doesn't just happen to girls. It happens to boys, too.”
The latest figures show that 1 in 4 girls age 16 and younger and 1 in 6 boys are victims of some kind of sexual abuse. That abuse is most often perpetrated by a family member or close associate of the family.
“This class is to help families identify signs that their child is being abused, help them know where to go and what they can do,” she said.
An important thing to remember is to teach a child from infancy the proper names of body parts and that no one is allowed to touch them there if they don't want them to, said Sonia Garcia, also a family educator who also teaches bilingual classes to parents at Pershing. In one local case, a small child tried to tell her teacher that an uncle was abusing her but used the phrase “he pets my kitty,” and the teacher didn't realize what the child was talking about.
Tilton said at bath time and doctors' appointments, parents can assure a child that allowing an adult to touch and look at private areas is OK, but only if a parent is in the room with the doctor or nurse. An adult who wants to get a child alone first is likely up to no good.
If there is suspicion of abuse, Tilton said, parents should not try to question the child themselves. Small children are too easily confused and suggestible, and you want to have the real story and not what the child thinks you want them to say. She advises parents contact the Macon County Child Advocacy Center. People there are trained investigators who know how to talk to children of all ages.
Above all, she said, believe the child. Watch for changes in behavior, such as the child's fear or discomfort with someone. Take it seriously. Unexplained injuries or sexual behavior in a child can mean abuse is taking place.
Child sex abuse commission receiving 23 new allegations a day
A royal commission set to expose how institutions have failed child sex abuse victims is receiving an average of 23 phone calls a day.
More than 4300 people have called since the inquiry began to report abuse perpetrated against children.
The response to the commission has been so overwhelming that commissioners say it will be impossible to make findings in relation to every institute where child sex abuse allegedly occurred.
Speaking at a Bravehearts White Balloon Day in Brisbane on Friday, Justice Peter McClellan AM said the commission would have to be selective when investigating and holding public hearings into allegations of abuse.
Already, 326 child sex abuse victims have told a commissioner of their abuse, while another 423 are waiting to share their stories.
There are also 1000 waiting to be assessed for private sessions with commission staff.
Justice McClellan said some patterns of child sex abuse were beginning to emerge.
He said some of the stories would shock people.
"It is apparent that where an organisation lacks an appropriate culture and there are not appropriate practices and training of staff within the organisation, there is a risk that sexual abuse will occur," he said.
"In some institutions there may be only one perpetrator. In others there will be multiple abusers and many children may be abused.
"In residential institutions sexual abuse is almost always reported to be accompanied by almost unbelievable levels of physical violence inflicted on the children by the adults who had responsibility for their welfare."
The royal commission was established in January to examine how institutions responsible for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.
Public hearings will begin Sydney on September 16.
Katie Beers on Kidnapper's Death: 'Helps Me To Close this Chapter'
John Esposito, who abducted and abused Katie Beers in 1992, died in prison on Wednesday.
by Taylor K. Vecsey
John Esposito, the Bay Shore man who kidnapped 10-year-old Katie Beers in 1992, holding her in an underground bunker for 17 days, died on Wednesday, while awaiting a parole hearing.
His death came less than 24 hours after Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who abducted three women and held them for 10 years before they escaped, committed suicide in his cell. He was just one month into a life sentence.
Esposito was serving a sentence of 15 years to life. The 64-year-old was found dead in his cell at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, N.Y.
Beers, who spent the rest of her childhood in Springs after her rescue — she was already suffering neglect, as well as sexual abuse at another predator's hands, said she has been preparing herself for this day. "I always knew that there would be one of two outcomes — John is either released on parole, or he dies in prison. I never wanted him released on parole," she said.
In January, after 20 years, Beers broke her silence with the release of a book, "Buried Memories: Katie Beers' Story"
Esposito's death left Beers feeling indifferent. "I'm not saddened at all about it. Because I have let go of my childhood trauma's as part of my recovery, and I no longer associate my 'adult' self with my 'child' self — I really have no hard feelings toward John's death," she said.
According to CBS reporter Carolyn Gusoff, who wrote the book with Beers, his death does not appear to be suspicious.
Beers was not due to speak at Esposito's parole hearing on Wednesday. When he was up for parole the first time, in 2007, she spoke out against him. "When John was sentenced 20 years ago, it was based on him lying to the DA saying that he had never harmed me," she said. "When I went to the parole hearing in 2007, I told the parole board about the abuse that I had sustained at the hands of John — emotional, physical, sexual abuse and rape. Since his prison term was 15 to life, I never thought that he'd be released from prison," she said.
After news broke that Castro had taken in his own life in Ohio, Beers took to her Facebook and Twitter pages. "One more monster is gone! I hope this news gives Amanda, Gina and Michele some piece of mind, and aids in their (hopefully speedy) recovery! Sleep well girls, sleep well!! You're all always on my mind & I'm here if you'd ever like to reach out to me!," she wrote.
Beers received a call with the news about her own abductor from the parole board on Wednesday at about 3:30 p.m.
Late Wednesday night, Beers took to social media, again. "Within 24 hours, we have lost 2 monsters," she wrote.
A married mother-of-two living in central Pennsylvania, she also wrote, "I'm saddened for his remaining family— they lost John a long time ago, but now they've lost him forever."
Asked if the deaths of Castro and Esposito would help give their victims' closure, Beers said she didn't want to speculate about how the Cleveland survivors felt. She said their reactions would each be different and dependent on where they are in recovery.
"For me, I think Esposito's death will help me to close this chapter and move on to bigger and better things — I don't have to worry about the possibility of him being released on parole. I can now completely concentrate on my motivational/inspirational speaking career discussing recovering from trauma," she said.
Mary Bromley, an East Hampton-based psychotherapist who began treating Beers almost immediately after she was found and has remained close with her, said she felt Esposito's death was synchronistic in terms of the Cleveland case.
"I really believe his death was a form of 'giving up,' " Bromley said of Esposito. "He may have followed the Ariel Castro suicide. I believe it was his last gift to Katie."
Camp Victory deserves our support
Honor the memory of Judy Seabert, a visionary leader
Judy Seabert was the kind of actively involved person that every community dreams of attracting. Strong, daring, hard working and compassionate, Seabert was one wise woman among many who nurtured Pacific County's Camp Victory for young survivors of sexual abuse.
Like its sister program in Clatsop County – Victory Over Child Abuse Camp or VOCA – Camp Victory goes about quietly setting the stage for personal healing among youngsters whose trust has been damaged by the predation of adults. By showing girls and young women that it is literally possible to become victors over the pain of the past, Camp Victory and VOCA save lives.
Without ever taking attention upon herself, Seabert became the nucleus of a core of healers. When she died on Aug. 23 in a Seattle hospital, Seabert had already set the stage for Camp Victory's 25th year of helping young people find the light. (Camp Victory also began extending its aid to boys and young men last year.) VOCA has been around two years longer.
As with all such content-filled lives, the best way for us to honor Seabert's is to support the work she helped lead and pattern our behavior upon hers.
Child abuse flourishes in secrecy and grows in the dark. We can't see what goes on behind closed doors, but the tangible damage from physical, verbal and sexual abuse of children echoes through society and through time. The cost in terms of lost innocence and potential is frightening. We all must make it our business to bring it to a stop.
It is awful that child abuse is so prevalent in our culture. Anyone who has not experienced it has a difficult time imagining just how widespread it is. And yet there is ample solid evidence that this issue is not exaggerated.
VOCA and Camp Victory routinely, but rather miraculously, help many children overcome their darkest secrets. It is one of the many tragedies associated with this subject that these kids are burdened with shame about events over which they had no control. The fact that so many reach out for help is a troubling indication that others doubtless find it impossible to do so, still being dominated by their abuser or crippling memories.
For information about VOCA, call (503) 325-2761 or go to www.vocacamp.org. For Camp Victory, call (360) 665-2888 or see www.campvictoryforchildren.org.
Remembrances can be made in Seabert's honor to Camp Victory, at P.O. Box 711, Ocean Park, WA 98640 or online.
PCC porn professor admits to having sex with students on campus
by Frank Girardot
Pasadena City College porn professor Hugo Schwyzer admitted Thursday he had sex with students as recently as 2011 and as a result the college issued a statement saying it would open an immediate investigation into his conduct.
Schwyzer, who last semester taught a class titled “Navigating Porn” and invited adult stars James Deen and Jessica Drake to speak to students, made the admission on the Internet.
On Tuesday a woman who identified herself as a former PCC student in a blog post wrote about having sex with Schwyzer in his campus office in 2008. The former student said she knew of at least one other student who also had sex with Schwyzer, who has been dubbed the “Porn Professor”.
On his blog, http://www.hugoschwyzer.net/blog/ Schwyzer said the claim had merit.
“Until recently, I maintained that I had stopped having sex with students enrolled in my classes in 1998,” he wrote. “That is not true; I started sleeping with students again in 2008, well before my psychiatric breakdown of earlier this year.
“I have no intention of naming names or of discussing numbers, save to say that the allegations (the student) makes are true and that I did indeed have sex with more than one adult student. There is no excuse for this behavior, and I do not expect anyone to defend it.”
In a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, PCC officials said the college would “act swiftly to conduct an investigation and hold Mr. Schwyzer accountable for his actions while an employee.”
Child abuse, adult help topic of ISU seminar
NORMAL — Child abuse victimization and how community partners can help children will be the subject of a seminar from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center.
Guest speaker will be Juan Ortiz, a childhood abuse victim who now speaks on behalf of victims and encourages community partners to do the same.
The free seminar is presented by Child Protection Network, in partnership with the School of Social Work and Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program. Register at 309-888-5656.
Virginia gets high marks for new human trafficking laws
by Audrey Barnes
Virginia has now moved from worst to first on a new poll ranking states on how well they are battling human trafficking.
The Polaris Project credits Virginia's new get tough laws with its jump into the top category.
Barbara Amaya wishes they were on the books when she was a 13 year old runaway from a sprawling Fairfax subdivision plucked off the street in DC and forced into a life of sex, crime, and trying to survive.
“I ran away from home the summer I turned 12 and basically became a target for human traffickers, "Amaya says,
Amaya was picked up by a man and woman who groomed her as a prostitute and trafficked her in DC for weeks, and then at the corner of 14th and I Street NW, it got worse.
“They sold me to a trafficker, who took me to New York, and for the next nine years, he trafficked me there, " she says.
It was a struggle just to survive.
“I've been stabbed, I've been shot, thrown down steps, thrown out of cars. And I can't tell you
how many times I was raped, “Amaya says.
A counselor at a methadone treatment center where she went for help with her heroin addiction offered a way out.
“Something inside me said you want to live, you're not meant to die," she says.
Keeping people out of that type of life is what the Polaris Project is all about. For the last four years, the Project has been ranking states on their trafficking laws and victim assistance programs.
Virginia is on the way up.
“In 2010, Virginia was ranked in the bottom tier, the so-called dirty dozen," Britanny Vanderhoof, of the Polaris Project said. "But this year, Virginia has surged to the top of the rankings."
Virginia has made it a felony to solicit sex from a minor. The state is mandating additional training for police to recognize trafficking activity, and it's requiring educational programs for schools too.
It took Amaya 40 years to break her silence. She's now written a graphic novel that she hopes to get in Virginia schools soon to help young people avoid the life she lived and almost died for.
“I'm happy with the progress Virginia has made, but I just think there needs to be even more progress," Amaya says.
She's been working with some Virginia legislators to try and get a law on the books allowing human trafficking victims to vacate the crimes they were forced to do by their pimps from their records. She lost a great federal job after they saw her record from New York, crimes committed as a teenager held against her will.
Amaya's just gotten some good news, a court date later this month to try and get her record wiped clean.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a 24 hours, 7 days a week hotline for tips about human trafficking and for victims who want a way out.
That number is 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)
Redesigned feminine hygiene product tackles problem of human trafficking
by Doree Armstrong
A group of University of Washington graduate students wanted to help save victims of human trafficking. Along the way the students won two prestigious national design awards for their efforts and hope to raise money to help even more people.
UW art students Kari Gaynor, Josh Nelson, Melanie Wang, Mike Fretto and Adriel Rollins – along with Tad Hirsch, a UW assistant professor of interaction design – created a product they hope will prompt female victims to seek help. They designed bilingual, easy-to-read information on flushable paper, and tucked it inside a feminine napkin in individually sealed boxes. The victim hotline number can be torn off and is disguised as something else, so if an abuser finds it, it won't attract attention.
Victims can then flush away the other information, but hide the hotline number in their pocket without arousing suspicion.
“The vast majority of human-trafficking victims are women,” Hirsch said. “A sanitary pad is the kind of product that's innocuous. It's sealed, and when you open it, you're probably alone.”
The group partnered with Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network, known as WARN, to distribute 1,000 sanitary pads to vulnerable populations. Exactly how and where they distribute them is confidential to protect the victims who may use the products.
Hirsch has been contacted by organizations across the country interested in distributing the sanitary pads. Project members are now trying to raise at least $15,000 to produce another 20,000 pads and information packets.
The group calls the project Pivot. Hirsch said the name comes from the idea of radically changing common thinking about how to tackle a tough subject, in this case, human trafficking.
While educating themselves about the issue, team members were surprised to discover that victims of trafficking aren't usually rescued by police knocking down doors, like in the movies. Instead, victims typically rescue themselves, by seeking help when they are ready.
Pivot team members wanted to design something that made getting help easier for victims. Phone numbers on a poster are fine, but not if a woman has to memorize a 10-digit number or find a piece of paper and pen to write it down. Plus, victims are often watched closely and never left alone – except when they go to the bathroom.
That's when inspiration struck.
The Industrial Designers Society of America awarded Pivot a Gold Industrial Design Excellence Award as well as its top prize, the Design Ignites Change Ideas Award, along with $1,000 that the team used to manufacture the first batch of 1,000 sanitary pads and information sheets.
Pivot is part of Hirsch's Public Practice Studio, which encourages students to not just think about design theory, but to go out in the world and change lives. Hirsch created the Public Practice Studio in spring 2012 and said the studio welcomes people from different academic departments as well as from outside the university.
“I call it socially engaged design. We have this strong desire that the work we do is actually out in the world and making change in a real way,” Hirsch said. “I hope that after opening up one of our sanitary pads, someone is able to change her life. If we distribute 20,000 or 30,000 pads and save one life, I call that a success.”
Strides taken to crack down on human trafficking in Richmond
by Sarah Bloom
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Experts say kids are being lured from their homes, and trafficked for sex, right here in Richmond.
Today, Governor Bob McDonnell announced great strides in taking on the problem of human trafficking. Four years ago, Virginia was in the "Dirty Dozen" - one of the worst states in the nation for this problem. Now the state has the highest rankings.
Thursday was a day of celebration for that growth - but also a recommitment to stopping the problem.
Virginia leaders say they've worked hard to make the change, with new policy, police, and advocacy groups, but there is still work to do. Experts say 100,000 American children are trafficked each year, 300,000 more are at risk.
"Traffickers are luring these kids from schools, from malls, from online, that's kind of where their playground is," said Sara Pomeroy for Richmond Justice Initiative. "Once they've tricked them into falling in love with them, to being their boyfriend, to going away with them, they at some point are flipping the switch and putting them into prostitution, into selling themselves."
And don't be fooled - it is happening here.
"Currently in our city and in our state, there are girls and boys who are being sold."
Experts say it's only a click away - tools like a smart phone, a Facebook message or tweet, could be a predator praying on your child. Because a predator could be this close, at the tip of our fingers, the experts say the battle is still on.
"We need to know that the ones being targeted are our very own kids," said Pomeroy. "The average age of entry into forced prostitution and human trafficking is between 12 and 14 years old, and you know, these traffickers, they're not targeting a specific neighborhood or a socio economic status or a color. They are targeting vulnerabilities."
In Henrico, a 15-year-old girl was reportedly forced to see 15 clients in just one week. Court records say she turned most of her money over to a man later charged with sex crimes. She had been listed as a run-away.
"This isn't the movie taken, this is something that is a process," said Pomeroy. "They are being lured. They are being tricked. The man that they're friending and talking to on Facebook could very well not be a boyfriend, but a trafficker."
The experts say a big part of the problem is demand. Just this year in Chesterfield, police arrested 26 "Johns" seeking prostitutes and other sex crimes.
The experts say in just four years, Virginia has come far, and today these leaders renewed their commitment to the fight. As part of that fight, Governor McDonnell also announced Thursday the first ever governor's summit on human trafficking - which will be hosted here in Richmond in October.
If you know someone who might be in trouble, there is a tip line you can call. The human trafficking hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
County targets sex trafficking
Supervisors seek harsher penalties, especially in cases of child prostitution.
by Wave Wire Services
The county Board of Supervisors called Tuesday for harsher penalties against those who solicit sex from child prostitutes.
The crime is often “not complained of or conspicous,” in part because some transactions are facilitated over the Internet, according to Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell. But once people start looking, he said, “This is in every big city and every small town across America.”
Los Angeles is one of 13 areas in the country identified by the FBI as having a high incidence of child prostitution.
Sheriff's Chief of Detectives Bill McSweeney cited a two-mile stretch of Long Beach Boulevard crossing through Compton and Lynwood as a “longtime area for prostitutes and ‘johns' to transact business and return to local motels” that support the trade.
About 5 percent of the roughly 300 prostitutes who work the area are juveniles, according to McSweeney. He estimated that as many as 1,000 “johns” cruise the boulevard during any 24-hour period.
Soliciting prostitution and having sex with a prostitute are misdemeanors under California law, regardless of whether the person being paid for sex is a minor or an adult.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe recommended making the crimes a felony when someone under 18 is solicited or paid for sex. They also want to require those convicted to register as sex offenders and pay a minimum $10,000 fine.
“Our aim today is to make [johns] think twice,” Ridley-Thomas said, calling the crime “nothing short of modern-day slavery.”
Knabe said: “We must address the ‘demand' side of this crime and make the penalties severe enough so that these ‘johns' don't continue to be nameless and free of any criminal record, while the girls are criminalized.”
A Department of Justice study estimates that nearly 300,000 children nationwide are “at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.” Authorities have identified victims as young as 9 years old and estimate the average age of child prostitutes when first sent out on the street at 12 to 14 years old.
Many are runaways from foster care, McDonnell said.
“The victims that we're seeing are victims over and over again, not only on the streets, but often, unfortunately, in the system,” he said.
Other abuses are common, as child prostitutes are often raped, tortured or beaten by either their pimps or their customers, according to Michelle Guymon of the county Probation Department.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey told the board it was difficult to catch perpetrators, but that vice officers posing as children have had some success.
“This represents a change in our view of who are the true victims,” Lacey said. “These children feel they have no other place to go other than into the arms of their abusers.”
The county's top prosecutor supported the harsher penalties and suggested another change to the law to take away the most common defense by johns that claim not to know prostitutes are underage.
A woman who identified herself as a survivor of child prostitution said the best deterrents would include jail time and publicizing customers' names, while community service sentences would do little to stop those who exploit children.
The board voted unanimously to send a letter to the Legislature advocating the tougher sentences and adding Lacey's recommendation to eliminate a defense of ignorance.
The supervisors also directed its lobbyists to support state and federal bills seeking to increase penalties for sexual crimes against children.
A bill proposed by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale, would require adults who solicit sex from minors to spend a minimum of 90 days in jail.
Pending federal legislation would make soliciting sex from children a federal crime and allocate more resources to fight such crimes.
Both the state and federal bills are awaiting votes by legislative committees.
“Children are our most valuable asset and they should not be treated as commodities,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown said.
The supervisors' action came four days after two girls were found being held against their will and forced into prostitution.
The victims, one from Missouri and the other from Louisiana, were found last Friday afternoon as the result of an investigation by a deputy and detective from the Compton Sheriff's Station, said Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Modica.
One of the victims was located in a motel in Artesia and the other in a home in South Los Angeles, he said.
“The victims were taken into protective custody pending notification of their families,” Modica said, adding that they received medical examinations and were found to be in good health.
Four men and a woman were arrested in connection with the case and are facing possible charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, false imprisonment and sex crimes against children. They were booked at the Century Regional Detention facility in Lynwood where each was being held on bail topping $300,000, he said.
Four of the suspects are residents of South Los Angeles and one resides in Long Beach, Modica said.
Their names were not disclosed because the investigation is ongoing, he said.
Assisting in the investigation was the vice unit of the Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau, Modica said.
Schools Plan for Erin's Law
(Video on site)
ROCKFORD (WIFR) – As kids head back to school, there's some new curriculum on the agenda for elementary students in Illinois – sexual assault and sexual abuse.
“It's very scary, you fell you don't have anyone to turn to.”
Catherine Young has been a victim of sexual abuse.
“There's so much shame, there's so little help out there to actually deal with it in the long term because the side effects are long lasting,” Young says.
The State of Illinois is trying to offer more help through Erin's Law. It requires all public schools to teach elementary students about sexual assault and sexual abuse. In the Belvidere School District, administrators are waiting for a specific polity to figure out how they'll implement the curriculum, what they do know, is staff will be there for students.
“They need to know that their school teachers and their principals, and their counselors are going to be their biggest advocates and they're going to be supportive of them.”
Young believes that kind of support is important because victims can't always turn to family.
“You feel judgment and non-belief,” Young said. “I think it gives them an opportunity to seek outside of the family, it gives them a third party to be able to turn to and confide in.”
Victims may not want to tell family because it may be a family member doing the abuse. Illinois senator Jacqueline Collins who helped pass this law says more than 90% of child sex abuse comes from a person the victim already knows.
We also checked in with Rockford Public Schools. They'll be working with the Carrie Lynn Children's Center to help teach the curriculum to pre-K through 5th graders. The center received a grant so it won't cost District 205 extra money.
California Assembly passes bill to allow childhood-sex-abuse lawsuits
by LAURA OLSON
SACRAMENTO — The state Assembly has approved legislation that would open a one-year window for some victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue private or nonprofit organizations.
The bill from Democratic Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose is similar to a 2002 measure passed amid the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal.
SB131 would lift the statute of limitations for a group of alleged victims who were 26 and older and missed the previous window to sue their abuser's employer.
Opponents, including Catholic Church leaders, say the bill is unfair because it does not include public institutions.
Democratic Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley says she was abused as a child and that it took her years to address what happened.
The legislation cleared the Assembly on a 42-14 vote Wednesday and returns to the Senate for a final vote.
Viewpoints: There should be equal justice for sex abuse
by Victor Garza -- Special to The Bee
“To create a distinction between private and public entities would make a mockery of the Legislature's stated intent to ‘ensure that victims severely damaged by childhood sexual abuse are able to seek compensation from those responsible.'”
That's a quote from a legal brief filed by Irwin Zalkin, one of the attorneys and co-sponsors of Senate Bill 131, authored by Sen. Jim Beall.
It's doubly ironic, because discrimination against public victims of childhood sexual abuse is at the center of SB 131. It's why the bill has developed such a broad and surprising coalition of opponents.
On the surface, SB 131 looks like serious legislation to deal with the rights of victims of child sexual abuse to sue their abuser by reviving claims that have died because the statute of limitations has expired. But scratch the surface and people should have serious concerns about how it addresses the problem. Why?
Because SB 131 isn't about victims. It's about lawsuits. If it were about victims, it would focus on the perpetrators of abuse and give new rights to all victims of sexual abuse, not just some of them.
Instead, SB 131 discriminates against the poor and less well off by reviving legal claims for child sex abuse only against private and nonprofit organizations like private schools or groups like Little League or youth soccer, but not against public schools, public agencies or government workers of any kind.
So if someone had been abused at Stanford or Santa Clara or some other private school or college, they could sue. But if they were abused by someone associated with a public school, or a city-run day care or a community college, they're out of luck. The bill makes sure public schools and local governments have complete immunity — i.e. they cannot be sued — for any incidents of child sex abuse that took place before 2009.
SB 131 is written so poorly, in fact, that it won't allow lawsuits to be revived against the actual perpetrator of abuse — just his or her employer.
This creates a two-track system of justice. If someone is from a family that can afford to send their children to private schools or participate in club sports, then SB 131 may provide them relief. On the other hand, if someone is poor or less well off, and they go to public schools and public daycare or participate on city-sponsored sports teams, they get nothing.
SB 131 is also a major retreat in how state government deals with child sex abuse. In 2008, the Legislature unanimously passed SB 640, by Sen. Joe Simitian, which eliminated any distinction between public and private victims of child sex abuse, starting Jan. 1, 2009. SB 131 would turn that policy of non-discrimination on its ear and tell victims who were abused in public schools that they are second-class citizens.
Pretty sad that the sponsors who so passionately argued for including victims of public schools are leading the charge to exclude them.
With Latino children comprising the majority of K-12 public school students in California, this is an unacceptable double standard. It's why we have opposed SB 131, along with the California Association of Private School Organizations, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, the California State Alliance of YMCA's, the California Council of Non-Profit Organizations, the California Catholic Conference, USA Swim and dozens of private schools, religious groups and non-profit organizations throughout the state.
Victims are entitled to equal justice and equal protection. Until SB 131 is amended by Sen. Beall to allow public sector victims access to the courts under the same terms and conditions as private victims, we believe anyone concerned about fairness should oppose this bill.
Victor Garza is Chair of the La Raza Roundtable de California. Rose Amador is a La Raza Roundtable Board Member.
Texas Leads Nation In Child Abuse Deaths
by Alex Boyer
Texas leads the nation in the number of child abuse deaths.
Perhaps even more disturbing, most child abuse cases take place right here in Central Texas.
"We do see high numbers of child physical abuse," said Sheilah Priori.
Priori is a pediatric emergency room nurse at McLane Children's Hospital in Temple. She's seen it all.
"We actually see 40 to 60 cases per month specifically for sexual abuse concerns. That's pretty high," added Priori.
An emergency room physician points to drug abuse, specifically methamphetamines.
"We know that's correlated to child sexual abuse," said Dr. Eric Stern.
When it comes to cases of physical abuse, Stern claims risk factors -- like limited social support and young parents who lack coping skills -- are at least partly to blame.
"It's often a disease of frustration," claimed Stern.
Isolation can play a major role as well. Stern claims military families, where mom is left to care for multiple kids, are at risk of becoming an abuser.
But whatever the reason, the child suffers -- often in silence.
"I think it's a problem that needs to be addressed," added Stern.
I-Team: CCSD Changes Procedures to Protect Children
by Colleen McCarty
LAS VEGAS -- Twice during the previous school year students, who told Clark County School District employees they were being abused, went home without help and later died.
To prevent another tragedy, the district has spent nearly a year examining how it responds to child abuse. The result is new policies and procedures that may save a life.
The Clark County School District's current child abuse reporting policy is a single page. When compared with the policy from the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is 30 pages, it looks thin.
CCSD has been reviewing various policies as it overhauls its reporting procedures with the hope the changes will better protect kids.
Roderick Arrington's voice fell silent late last year allegedly at the hands of his mother and stepfather. According to reports obtained by the I-Team, the second grader told school personnel, he endured regular beatings with a broom handle, a television cord and a belt. He also lifted his shirt to reveal "extensive scarring" on his back.
School officials contacted Child Protective Services but allowed RJ to go home before investigators responded. Police believe his parents shook and beat him into a coma that night. Two days later, he was dead.
"Something like the RJ Arrington case is just a tragedy. It's terrible," said Kirsten Searer, chief of staff and external relations for the Clark County School District.
"We want to make sure we provide the best training to our employees so that they are empowered and informed when they encounter these sort of situations because unfortunately they see abuse everyday," Searer said.
RJ's death, and before him the death of 12-year-old Austin Mercado from medical neglect, prompted the district to review and revamp its child abuse reporting policies. Going forward, all employees, not just licensed professionals will be required to report child abuse and neglect immediately.
The district also plans an internal hotline for those with questions. Later this year, all 38,000 CCSD employees we be re-trained with a mandatory video, produced in cooperation with the district's counselors, nurses, school police and Clark County's Department of Family Services.
"I think one of the worst positions you can be put in is if a kid tells you something awful and you want to help that student and you don't know what to do or you can't get anyone to listen to you. So we want to make sure that it's all spelled out clearly for them and that we have plenty of methods for them to contact outside people for help," Searer said.
Among those contacts will be school police officers. While school police don't have jurisdiction to investigate abuse at home, they can and now do respond whenever a school reports physical or sexual abuse to Child Protective Services.
"This is minimal when it comes down to the safety and security of a child," said Sgt. Mitch Mackiszak, CCSD Police Department.
"Our idea with having an officer standby is, should someone not be able to respond due to other emergencies, we can take a look at that child, access the situation and make sure this child will be safe going home that day," he said.
"I can't imagine what work we have that's more important than protecting our kids," Searer said.
The Department of Family Services believes the partnership with the school district will not only benefit both entities, but will improve the outcomes for kids.
Mental Health: Child abuse impacts brain
by SCOTT MENDELSON
The effects of childhood sexual and physical abuse last a lifetime. Abused children grow up to be adults who are prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders. They are more prone to suicide. However, in recent years we have learned that abuse does more than wound self-esteem and break the spirit. It damages the very substance of the brain and how it functions.
A major way by which childhood abuse disrupts normal brain activity is by diminishing its capacity to handle stress. Stress is more than the worry and distress we experience when the circumstances of life push us beyond our limits. The body's response to stress is a complex biological mechanism.
When the brain senses that the body is being taxed beyond its usual capacity, it initiates the stress response by releasing a substance called corticotrophin releasing hormone, or CRH. CRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release a substance that, in turn, triggers the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, from the adrenal glands. Cortisol marshals the body's resources to provide the extra energy and endurance to meet the demands being placed upon it.
Once, this might have been escaping an angry mastodon. Today, it would more likely be getting used to a new job, a nasty divorce or recovering from surgery.
The stress-induced switch into physiological overdrive is designed to be brief. In fact, among the many things that cortisol does in the body, one of the most important is to feed back to the brain and start to shut the stress response down. Cortisol does this by binding to specific receptors in the brain. Cortisol fits the receptor, like a key in a lock, and turns off the response. One of the problems in those who have suffered severe childhood abuse is that the brain's turn-off switch for the stress response is disabled.
Instructions for how each cell in the body operates are in the DNA of those cells. Although every cell in the body has an identical copy of DNA, these cells can be very different. One means by which a cell becomes a skin cell instead of a liver or muscle cell is that certain genes in its DNA are turned off by the addition of a molecule called a methyl group. The addition of methyl groups to specific sections of DNA is an essential process in embryological development. It may also be involved in learning and other adaptive brain processes throughout life. However, DNA methylation can be abnormal.
A study published in 2009 in the journal “Nature” revealed part of the reason why adults who were abused as children have abnormal stress responses. The grim details of the study included comparisons of the brains of individuals who had committed suicide versus those who had died natural deaths. Among those who had committed suicide were some who had suffered severe childhood abuse and others who had not. It was found that among those who had suffered abuse, there were fewer of the special cortisol receptors in the brain that allow cortisol to turn off the stress response. It was further found that the section of DNA responsible for maintaining adequate numbers of these receptors had been methylated. They were no longer in full operation.
When the stress response won't shut off and cortisol levels remain high in the brain, bad things happen. Whereas bursts of cortisol help bolster the brain's supply of glucose and chemical messengers, sustained high levels of cortisol cause damage. Cortisol diminishes the brain's response to the chemical messenger serotonin while it enhances the response to norepinephrine. Persisting high levels of cortisol also decrease levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a substance that is necessary to maintain and replenish neurons in the brain. These and other changes alter mood, disturb sleep, heighten anxiety and cause irritability. Consequently, the individual becomes more prone to major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.
The emotional upheavals suffered by adults who were abused as children continue to wreak havoc on jobs and schooling. They lead to substance abuse. They devastate marriages. Thus, the innocent victims of child abuse continue to suffer as adults. Perhaps the most tragic effect of child abuse is that adults who were abused as children, either physically, emotionally, or sexually, have a higher than expected risk of becoming abusers themselves. Thus, the cycle of abuse and suffering perpetuates itself.
We as a society must pursue every means to end this social cancer that reaches deep into the brains of children and across generations. The problem must be addressed by government and in schools, in churches and synagogues and by community organizations. Doctors and other health care providers must redouble their efforts to spot child abuse and give the victims the help they need. Though it may be difficult to have sympathy for those who abuse children, they must be helped as well. Many of them were victims as well. If nothing else, treating the perpetrators may prevent creation of still more victims.
Scott D. Mendelson of Roseburg is lead psychiatrist at the VA Roseburg Healthcare System. He can be reached at email@example.com. Questions cannot be answered directly, but may serve as subject matter for future columns.
Ariel Castro's lawyer says suicide not 'happy ending' as victims remain silent
by Lateef Mungin
We may never know what Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry feel about the death of Ariel Castro.
The man who snatched them off the street, chained them in his house and raped them repeatedly, was found hanged in an Ohio prison Wednesday.
While there were strong opinions about Castro from many, the three women who may harbor the most gut-wrenching, conflicted emotions about Castro were silent.
A spokeswoman said Wednesday the three women would not make a statement.
Maria Castro-Montes, Castro's cousin, said she cried when she heard the news and immediately thought of the victims. Would they be glad or angry about Castro's death?
"I just hope these victims can move past this now. I know they wanted him to live out a life sentence, but really, was he suffering behind bars?" She said. "I mean, getting meals, sleeping in a nice, warm, soft bed. You know, those girls didn't even have that luxury when they were being held captive in his home. They were being raped. They were being tortured. They were being beaten."
Castro, 52, was found hanged with a bedsheet, Coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak said Wednesday. He was being held at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient.
Prison medical staff tried to revive him but failed.
Castro was taken to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.
The Cuyahoga County prosecutor had tough words in the wake of Castro's death.
"These degenerate molesters are cowards," Timothy J. McGinty said. "... This man couldn't take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade."
Attorney questions the suicide
Castro was not a part of the general prison population, officials said.
"He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals," JoEllen Smith of the corrections department said in a statement.
"A thorough review of this incident is under way," she added.
At least two investigations will be done, according to another corrections department statement.
The prison director commissioned a review team, to be made up of legal, medical, mental health, security and operational professionals not directly involved in the incident, to analyze Castro's death.
But Castro attorney, Craig Weintraub, said more precautions against a possible suicide should have been taken.
Castro's attorneys had requested permission for an independent forensic psychologist to evaluate their client, but were denied by officials, he said.
If Castro was believed to be suicidal, he should have been under stricter protection, he said.
Some will see his death as "a happy ending to this story, and a quick ending and justifiable," Weintraub said. "But we're in a civilized society and no one should really be celebrating this."
No place in the world
In handing down a sentence last month, Judge Michael Russo told the kidnapper there was no place in the world for his brand of criminal.
Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.
The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of Knight, abducted in 2002; DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Berry; abducted in 2003.
Castro is the father of Berry's 6-year-old daughter.
All three women kept diaries with Castro's permission, providing many of the details of their abuse.
"I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried what would happen to me and the other girls every day," Knight, 32, said, as she addressed her abductor head-on during his sentencing. "I will live on. You will die a little every day."
Former Mont. teacher could get more prison time after prosecutors appeal 30-day rape sentence
BILLINGS, Mont. – A former Montana high school teacher sent to prison for 30 days over the rape of one of his students could face more time behind bars after prosecutors appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.
Attorneys for the state and Yellowstone County say a minimum of two years in prison is mandated under state law for former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold, 54. They could seek even more prison time for the defendant as the appeal proceeds.
The case garnered widespread attention after District Judge G. Todd Baugh said last week that the 14-year-old victim was "older than her chronological age."
Baugh's comments came at a hearing in which he gave Rambold 15 years in prison with all but a month suspended for his months-long sexual relationship with student Cherice Moralez, who committed suicide before the case went to trial.
Moralez's mother and many others, including Gov. Steve Bullock, condemned Baugh's remarks, and the judge has since scrambled to undo his actions.
Baugh said two days after the Aug. 26 hearing that his statements about Moralez were inappropriate. And earlier this week, he scheduled a resentencing hearing in the case for Friday.
In that order, the judge agreed with the state's determination that Rambold's original sentence conflicted with Montana law.
Prosecutors on Wednesday filed notice that they want the resentencing canceled so the appeal can proceed. Though Baugh's bid to resentence Rambold is "well-intentioned," Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Rod Souza wrote, the judge lacks the authority to take back his original sentence.
In a brief interview, Baugh said he would have no comment on the cancellation request, either publicly or through court filings, until he hears from Rambold's attorney.
"Right now it's still on the calendar," Baugh said of Friday's hearing. "I'll be there."
Rambold last week began serving his monthlong term at the state prison in Deer Lodge. It wasn't immediately clear if prosecutors would seek to keep him in custody pending the appeal. The case could take between six and 18 months to work its way through the state Supreme Court, attorneys involved said.
Moralez's mother, Auliea Hanlon, said through her attorney that she welcomed the appeal.
"She's pleased that the county attorney's office and attorney general's office understands that the most significant date to be considered in this sentencing is Cherice's birthday. She was 14," said Hanlon's attorney, Shane Colton.
Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the case. His office said Wednesday he had no plans to do so.
Court documents and transcripts show Lansing sought a short sentence for his client based in part on Rambold's lack of prior criminal offenses other than a traffic ticket.
Lansing said the former business teacher accepted responsibility for his actions through a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement, in which Rambold admitted his guilt and agreed to seek treatment as a sex offender.
If Rambold had not violated that agreement by getting kicked out of treatment, he would have gotten off with no prison time once his program ended this year.
Prosecutors, who sought 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended for Rambold, have described his actions with Moralez as the "ultimate violation" of her trust in him as a teacher.
Court documents show Rambold and Moralez had three sexual encounters — once each at school, in his car and at his home. The relationship was still going on when authorities were notified in 2008 after Moralez confided in her youth counselor, the records state.
"Law enforcement intervention ended the relationship, not the defendant," prosecutors said in a presentencing memorandum.
Moralez's 2010 suicide left prosecutors without their main witness and led them to strike the deal with Rambold that allowed him to avoid prison.
Souza, the county prosecutor, previously argued before Baugh that Rambold "already had his shot" at a more lenient sentence through the deferred prosecution agreement.
"That's a tremendous break on a case like this, and all he had to do is make the appointments, go through the program, keep his treatment provider informed," Souza said at the Aug. 26 hearing. "He has miserably failed at that."
Rambold's violations of the sex offender program included unauthorized visits with family members' children and a sexual relationship with a woman that he didn't report to a counselor. After those events landed Rambold back in court, he was convicted this summer of sexual intercourse without consent.
Whether Baugh's comments about Moralez will become an issue during the appeal is not yet known.
The judge's actions in the wake of the original sentencing have done little to sway his critics, including hundreds of protesters who rallied outside the county courthouse last week to call for his resignation. Even Baugh's belated acknowledgement that the sentence he handed down might be illegal was met with disdain.
"I wish the judge had been thoughtful enough to get it right the first time," said Eran Thompson with Not in Our Town, a Billings group that promotes diversity and works against hate crimes.
Another activist who helped organize the rally, Sheena Fox, said 45,000 people have signed a petition seeking Baugh's resignation. She said a formal complaint would be filed against him with the state Judicial Standards Commission.
Baugh, 71, was first elected to the bench in 1984 and has been re-elected every six years since without an opponent. He's up for re-election in 2014.
He said following the criticism of his remarks that Rambold's sentence was based on the defendant's violation of the 2010 deal he made with prosecutors, rather than the original crime. Baugh also said his statements about Moralez were "irrelevant" and did not factor into his sentence.
City raises awareness on what to look for in Sex Trafficking
by Rita Garcia
HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Forced into prostitution, chained to a basement, or sold for drugs.
It's the story of human trafficking survivors but you'd never know it unless you knew what to look for and we have it, directly from a 20 and 27 year old.
Both admit despite being rescued and deprogrammed they still live in fear but have to break their silence for the sake of other victims.
"The first three years I stayed chained up in the basement. I when I was allowed to go upstairs I was beat everyday" says "Danielle." She was only 15 years old when her mother sold her to pay off
a debt. "I was pretty much a sex slave he put me in a room blindfolded me, tied me up and I wasn't allowed to talk to the guy." We've concealed the now 27 year olds identity since she's not only a survivor of child domestic human trafficking but her captor considers her missing.
"There was a little hole in the floor that's where I used the bathroom. No showers... like he would bring down buckets stuff like that and let me clean myself up" says Danielle who explained who when she turned 18 she and the man who controlled her hit the road. The pair committed all sorts of thefts and burglary crimes before the two ended up in jail. Danielle was eventually released and that's when she decided to come to Houston, "it always didn't feel right to me but I never spoke up about it."
Danielle is still in the recovery process and now admits to battling alcohol addiction as a coping mechanism but says, she knows there are better ways to deal with her pain, like sharing her story to help "shine a light on human trafficking" as part of Houston's month long campaign.
"Our goal is to shine a light on all these different aspects of human trafficking to try to make a difference" says Mayor Annise Parker before attending another even with Senator John Cornyn.
He too is joining forces through a bill he's supporting in an effort to fight child sex trafficking. The issue with that though is often times minors don't realize what's happening says Kathryn Griffin-Grinan, an advocate for victims, "A lot of these children have been brainwashed to think that their captors are there boyfriends and once these children age out boys and girls then they're just considered regular prostitutes but they all have some kind of history of being some type of sex slave."
Like "Julie" she's now 20 but forced to prostitute at 17 and says she always felt like the older sister and would even take beating for protecting them. "I would make more money than the other girls and I would try to sneak it to her so they wouldn't beat her because she didn't make that much money at the end of the day." Julie eventually ended up in jail where she admits to finally getting a good nights rest and for most of the girls it seems jail is their best option. It's where most of them find Grinan and help through her organization "we've been there done that."
"Sometimes I still feel kind of like down because there are still things that I can't let go what they did to me... you know I still have scars" says Julie.
Embattled Montana judge orders new sentencing for teacher convicted of sex with student
by M. Alex Johnson and Elizabeth Chuck
The Montana judge who created a national uproar when he sentenced a teacher to 30 days in jail for having sex with a 14-year-old student backed down Tuesday and ordered a new sentencing hearing.
Former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, will be back in court Friday after state District Judge G. Todd Baugh said Tuesday that he'd misread state law and that he now believed Rambold should have faced, at minimum, two years in prison.
In that case, Baugh said, the 30-day sentence — which set off protests outside the Yellowstone County last week and led to the creation of a nationwide petition demanding Baugh's resignation — "would be an illegal sentence."
"Illegal sentence" were the magic words, because the only avenue prosecutors have to contest the penalty is to show legal error. Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito told NBC News on Tuesday that "my job right now is to figure out if this case can be appealed."
Until Tuesday, Baugh had continued to insist that the 30-day sentence — actually, 20 years, but with all but a month suspended — was appropriate, even as he apologized for comments he made in court that were interpreted as having blamed the victim.
Baugh last week described himself as a "blithering idiot" for having said Aug. 26 that the victim was "older than her chronological age" and was as much in control of the situation" as Rambold was.
The girl committed suicide after the assault came to light.
More than 45,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that Baugh, 71, resign, arguing that he has "engaged in the worst kind of victim shaming."
"We will no longer stand by while individuals speak about victims in this way," said Kate Olp, the petition's organizer.
Judge G. Todd Baugh apologized for saying a 14-year-old victim of sexual assault by a teacher was "older than her chronological age." Before Baugh ordered a new hearing later Tuesday, prosecutors said they were looking to change the sentence. NBC's John Yang reports.
The victim's mother told NBC's TODAY that Baugh's original sentence and language left her "horrified."
"I don't believe in justice anymore. It was a joke," she said.
Rambold, a technology teacher, was originally charged with three felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent in 2008 when school officials first became aware of the sexual relationship.
The girl committed suicide in February 2010, denying prosecutors their lead witness. Prosecutors agreed at the time to defer prosecution for three years and dismiss the charges if Rambold completed a sex-offender treatment program.
But Rambold was kicked out of the treatment program for violations, including missed meetings and having unsupervised visits with his nieces and nephews, who are minors. In April, he pleaded guilty to a single felony count.
At his original sentencing hearing last week, prosecutors asked the judge to put Rambold behind bars for 20 years, but Baugh said he didn't think the violations were serious enough to merit such a long prison term.
Ohio man who held 3 women captive commits suicide
by Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The man who held three women captive in his home for nearly a decade before one escaped has been found dead and is believed to have committed suicide, a prison official said.
Ariel Castro, 53, was found hanging in his cell around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, located south of Columbus in central Ohio, JoEllen Smith, Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman, said early Wednesday.
Prison medical staff performed CPR before Castro was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
He was in protective custody because of the notoriety of his case, meaning he was checked every 30 minutes, but was not on suicide watch, Smith said.
Castro's attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have a psychological examination of Castro done at the Cuyahoga County Jail, where Castro was housed before he was turned over to state authorities following his conviction, his attorney, Jaye Schlachet, told The Associated Press early Wednesday. Schlachet said he could not immediately comment further.
In an interview last month after Castro's conviction, Schlachet and attorney Craig Weintraub said their client clearly fit the profile of sociopathic disorder and that they hoped researchers would study him for clues that could be used to stop other predators.
The three women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They escaped from Castro's Cleveland home May 6, when Amanda Berry, one of the women, broke part of a door and yelled to neighbors for help.
“Help me,” she said in a 911 call. “I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now.”
The two other women were so scared of Castro that they held back initially even as police officers began to swarm the house. But quickly they realized they were free.
“You saved us! You saved us!” another of the captives, Michelle Knight, told an officer as she leaped into his arms.
Castro was arrested that evening.
Messages left for the women's lawyers were not immediately returned early Wednesday.
Castro was sentenced Aug. 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years on his guilty plea to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape.
In a rambling statement, he told the judge he was not a monster but a man suffering from a pornography addiction.
Knight was the only one of the three who appeared in court at his sentencing.
“You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back,” she said in the hushed courtroom. “I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning.”
This is the second high-profile suicide in an Ohio prison in a month.
On Aug. 4, death row inmate Billy Slagle was found hanged in his cell just days before his scheduled execution. He was condemned to death for fatally stabbing a neighbor.
Sex abuse survivor Ana Montero-Pugin tells her story for White Balloon Day to support child safety
by Sean Fewster
WHEN she was 12, Ana Montero-Pugin read a library book about sexual abuse and learned her father's way of "showing affection" was actually a crime.
"My way of confronting my father was to throw that book at him and walk away," Ms Montero-Pugin, now 42, told News Limited this week.
"The abuse stopped and, after that, there was pretty much no speaking about it - but it affected the rest of my life."
Ms Montero-Pugin is telling her story of abuse, trauma and triumph for the first time to promote White Balloon Day this Friday.
Hundreds of schools, day care centres, businesses and councils around Australia will join with child protection group Bravehearts to raise awareness of sex abuse and its consequences.
Fundraising events will be held, and white balloons tied to buildings, doors and letterboxes to promote open discussion of abuse and predators between children and adults.
Research shows that, annually, 59,000 Australian children are abused before their 18th birthday - and 85 per cent of those by a relative or trusted friend.
Ms Montero-Pugin said that, prior to finding the book, she had no idea her father's actions constituted abuse.
She said she told her family doctor, school counsellor and church leaders about her father's crimes but was "either not believed or ignored".
"Child abuse isn't like a car crash, where you know something has gone wrong and you have been injured," she said.
"It's something that seems normal to some victims, a part of day-to-day life for others and a taboo subject for adults.
"That's why awareness campaigns are so important - schools spend a lot of time teaching 'stranger danger', but it can and does happen with people you trust."
After years of relationship difficulties and emotional turmoil, Ms Montero-Pugin filed charges against her father - he pleaded guilty and was jailed for five months.
"Watching him go to jail, I had extremely mixed emotions - he's still my father," she said.
"Being a victim of sexual abuse is, in some ways, worse than being orphaned because you've lost your parent through betrayal.
"Your father is still alive but he's the one who betrayed you, despite being the person who should have loved and protected you the most."
She said she had chosen to shun anonymity to encourage other victims to come forward.
"Being named humanises this, makes it real, makes it something people can't ignore," she said.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of and I've nothing to hide ... I have taken the cloak of blame off my shoulders and handed it to my father so he can take responsibility for what he has done."
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said White Balloon Day was a symbol of hope for survivors of "devastating crime".
"It's about encouraging kids to come forward and break the silence, while we raise the necessary funds to ensure vital support networks and programs can continue," she said.
"Silence, secrecy and shame are the sex offender's best friends and the child's worst enemies."
For more information, visit www.whiteballoonday.com.au
Ambitious program aims to end child sexual abuse
by BILL DEVLIN
Ro Molyneux hits you with numbers that are as staggering as they are unsettling: “One in 10 children (in the United States) will be sexually abused before the age of 18.”
Molyneux doesn't wait long in the conversation before hitting again
“At this point, there are 39,000 survivors in the United States that we know of, but, unfortunately, the facts show that there are less than 5 percent of children who disclose (sex abuse).”
Molyneux, the chief operating officer of the Central Bucks Family YMCA, has put the power of the local Y behind a nationwide program whose goal, she said is “to stop this epidemic.”
“Stewards of Children” is one of a number of programs originating with Darkness to Light, a national organization formed to end child sexual abuse.
The stewards program is designed to teach adults to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. A handful of people in Bucks County, including Molyneux and her administrative assistant, Debbie Tettemer, are facilitators who can train others in the Stewards of Children program.
Their goal is to train 5 percent of Bucks County residents — about 31,350 people — in the program by the end of 2014.
A big first step to achieving that goal was taken last week, when 18 more facilitators were schooled to train others. The participants were from YMCAs in Bucks, Montgomery and Berks counties; the YWCA of Bucks County; Big Brothers Big Sisters; The Peace Center in Langhorne; the Sarah's House Child Advocacy Center; and First Savings Bank.
The facilitators training, held at The Intelligencer building on Broad Street in Doylestown, was presented by Cameron Frantz, director of community outreach for the YMCA of Centre County.
Frantz said her YMCA joined with other organizations to focus on preventing child sexual abuse in the wake of the scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is in prison after he was convicted of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
“Because of everything that happened in Centre County with Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, the YMCA, Youth Service Bureau, the Women's Resource Center and the United Way partnered up and said we clearly need education in our community,” said Frantz. “We need to let people know that this is not one incident and that there will never be another incident. There are other children in our community that are still going through this every single day.”
The sexual abuse of one child causes a ripple effect in the entire community, Frantz said.
“It affects the school the child goes to; it affects the church that the child goes to; it affects the neighborhood kids that the child interacts with.” Frantz said.
Since summer 2012, the Centre County consortium has trained 3,000 people in the Stewards of Children program. The goal, just as it is in Bucks County, is to train 5 percent of Centre County residents, which is about 5,800 people.
“We're not going to stop once we reach our goal,” said Frantz.
Molyneux is talking to Central Bucks School District officials about training district staff in the Stewards of Children program.
“The topic is tough, but we're ready to do this,” Molyneux said of the stewards program.
Appeals Court: Bruises not necessary to prove child abuse
by ABBY SIMONS
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected a Fridley woman's claim that her child abuse conviction should be thrown out because there was no proof that she physically hurt her 12-year-old daughter, despite the fact that she shaved the girl's head and forced her to dress in a diaper as discipline for poor grades.
In an opinion released Tuesday, the court said that a conviction for malicious punishment of a child does not require proof of bodily harm and can include emotional or mental injury.
An Anoka County judge found the 39-year-old woman guilty of the single gross misdemeanor for the May 2012 incident, in which police were called by a neighbor to find the girl running wind sprints outside wearing only a diaper and a tank top with her head shaved while dozens of neighbors looked on. According to court records, the girl's mother, whom the Star Tribune has not named to protect her daughter's identity, said that she didn't understand what the problem was and that she “was simply disciplining her child by embarrassing her.” The girl's 35-year-old stepfather added that the girl had been warned several times that she would be forced to have her head shaved and wear a diaper if she did not start listening in school and getting better grades.
The mother was sentenced to 90 days in jail and was ordered not to have contact with the girl. Her husband, who was convicted of the same count, received a six-month jail sentence.
The mother contended that the malicious punishment statute is constitutionally vague and has been interpreted to apply to cases of “physical abuse” under previous rulings. However, the statute prohibits acts that include “unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances,” Judge Edward Cleary wrote for the unanimous opinion. He added that the law has no language that requires proof of bodily harm for a conviction, only an upper limit to differentiate between gross misdemeanor and felony child abuse.
The court also rejected the mother's argument that her conduct in forcing her daughter to run outside inhibits her freedom to act as a parent, comparing her actions to punishments such as “having a child cut off his Mohawk or making a child wear a shirt stating ‘I stole from this store' at a place of business from which she had shoplifted.”
The situations aren't comparable, Cleary countered.
“The extreme nature of her conduct, which included shaving her 12-year-old daughter's head, forcing her to wear a tank top and diaper, and requiring her to run around outside in front of a crowd of people that included classmates and adults, is demonstrated by the reception this humiliating spectacle received — the gathering of a large audience and multiple 911 calls to report the incident.” he wrote. “A person of ordinary intelligence would be on notice that such an act constituted cruel discipline that was excessive under the circumstances.”
The Select Committee on Child Abuse and the Women's Caucus in the West Virginia Legislature have been spending the past few months digging deeply into the gritty facts behind the major problem of abuse toward minors in West Virginia.
We applaud them for bringing in specialists, State Police and other experts to discuss the many factors that contribute to every facet into reporting and prosecuting cases of child abuse.
Recently, one of the members of the caucus, Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, spoke to The Register-Herald expressing how West Virginia state code is limited in what it can do to protect children.
Thankfully, they are bringing this issue to light by proposing a new level of legislation that will provide a set of laws that will charge potential abusers with misdemeanors.
The article reminds us that occasionally, a parent might get embroiled in household activities, and may for one moment lose track of their child. That child may find itself in a precarious situation that is pointed out by a neighbor to authorities. We understand that for some parents, this one moment can be terrifying and a complete accident.
As the law stands now, such an incident can only be charged and tried as a felony. Hardly a fair consequence for a parent who is trying hard and has made a mistake they are not likely to make again.
This new proposed legislation would create an opportunity for a “wake-up” call by authorities. Now the local law enforcement is aware of potential issues and Child Protective Services is on alert. Prosecutors have more in their pocket when it comes to prosecuting these types of cases.
It's a good level of legislation that could help put proper authorities on alert for a child's well-being and can only benefit children who may be in harm's way.
Additionally, the committee is looking at making the penalties even tougher when abuse leads to a child's death.
The SCCA and the Women's Caucus have found some puzzling things in state code that hinder law enforcement from properly completing their investigations in their battle against the abuse of West Virginia's children.
Attention child abusers: the committee's good work has just begun.
Group seeks to address child abuse
by DON LEHMAN
A grass-roots coalition of local residents is starting a parental mentoring program to address a cycle of child abuse that has played a part in three child homicides over the past 18 months.
A bi-county group calling itself Community Child Abuse Prevention Task Force organized in recent months and is seeking ways to help parents and children.
Made up of volunteers from around the region, and guided by Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, state Sen. Elizabeth Little, Glens Falls YMCA, Wait House, school leaders and other regional organizations, the task force is exploring ways to address the child abuse problem in Warren and Washington counties.
The first product of its efforts will be a mentoring program designed to help young mothers by having volunteers work with them and provide guidance, Hogan said.
One of the co-organizers, Deb Piro, associate executive director of the YMCA, said the program will reach out to women who may not have experienced good parenting during their upbringing by offering guidance for giving their children better lives.
While the program is in its infancy, and there is no timetable for the mentoring effort to start, Piro said the group will work with schools, Sexual Trauma & Recovery Services, Warren-Washington Child Advocacy Resource and Education (CARE) Center and others to get the word out to those who can benefit from the program.
“We're still very early in the process, but we think this is a wonderful opportunity for our community,” Piro said.
Hogan said the goal is to give young parents positive role models who can help them make good decisions. It is based on programs used successfully in other parts of the country, including one started through a YMCA in Greensborough, N.C.
“The sad part is a lot of people have no idea what good parenting is because they never had it,” Little said.
The effort began late last year, after the death of 5-year-old Glens Falls resident Gary Carpenter at the hands of his mother's boyfriend. Hogan said it became clear Carpenter's mother, Jennie Mattison, could have benefitted from positive role models who could have helped her make better choices.
The group, consisting of 15 or so volunteers, has met periodically, and the killing last month of a 3-month-old Fort Edward boy, allegedly by his father, has reinforced the need for intervention.
Little, R-Queensbury, said she has worked to pass legislation to address child abuse with more comprehensive laws. She said funding may be available to help the new mentoring program, and a similar program exists in Clinton County.
Hogan said the task force's efforts began in the fall when Rick Emanuel, publisher of The Post-Star, contacted her after Carpenter's death, looking to work toward addressing child abuse.
Hogan said she also was contacted by representatives of the Glens Falls YMCA, who sought to offer assistance to address the issue, and the effort was born. Emanuel also sits on the YMCA's board of directors.
Emanuel said a “very passionate group of people” has been put together that is dedicated to bringing attention to the problem and combating it.
“The issue of child abuse in Warren and Washington counties has become so prevalent that everyone must stop and take notice,” he said.
Study to Explore Better Reporting Of Child Abuse And Neglect Deaths
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A University of Missouri researcher will spend more than a year looking into better ways to track cases of child neglect and abuse.
An estimated 1,700 children die of maltreatment annually in the U.S., but researchers including Associate Professor Paula Schnitzer think nearly that many more deaths should be attributed to abuse and neglect, and are not.
She wants to look for ways to identify cases of abuse that wouldn't be evident on death certificates alone.
"What we think are missed primarily are deaths that are neglect related. Physical abuse is often easier to identify and determine … such as an inflicted injury to a child."
The project will cross-reference data from the child death review efforts of 10 states in cases of children of age 5 and younger, with death certificate data maintained by the National Center for Health Statistics.
By linking reports of abuse to death certificates for the children involved in those reports, a clearer picture could emerge of cases in which abuse or neglect contribute to death.
Schnitzer says having a more accurate count could make a difference. "The ability to monitor over time what that number is so that when you have prevention programs you can then see if in the big picture those deaths are going down."
Schnitzer says her earlier research has shown that some cases defy easy definition. "Drowning is a really classic example. A one- or two-year old toddler who … mom thinks dad's watching Johnnie, dad thinks mom's watching or dad goes to the store, the child wanders off into a cow pond and drowns. Is that neglect, or is that just a really horrible accident?"
Schnitzer says she hopes to use the results to develop a weighting system to be applied to child deaths and reveal a better picture of how many children die in the U.S. from abuse or neglect.
The project will run for 13 months.
Acting Older Isn't Being Older: How We Fail Young Rape Victims
by Jessica Valenti
Last year, a defense attorney called an 11 year-old gang rape victim a “spider” luring men into her web. When The New York Times covered the case, they reported that she “dressed older than her age,” wore make up and hung out with teenage boys. It wasn't a new framing; when young girls are raped— especially young girls of color —they're frequently blamed for “enticing” adult men or painted as complicit in the attack because of their supposed sexual maturity. From the criminal justice system that re-traumatizes assault victims to a media that calls rape cases “sex scandals” or insists statutory rape isn't ‘rape rape', we are failing young sexual assault survivors every day.
One young woman we have failed is Cherice Moralez. When Moralez was 14, she was raped by her 49-year-old teacher. She killed herself a few weeks before her seventeenth birthday. Last week, a Montana judge sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold—who admitted raping Moralez—to just thirty days in jail. Judge G. Todd Baugh said Moralez was “older than her chronological age,” and was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. Baugh also said the assault “wasn't this forcible beat-up rape.”
While state prosecutors are seeking to appeal the sentence and the case has generated justifiable outrage, some believe the thirty days was too much. Former lawyer Betsy Karasik, for example, used the case as an example to argue for the decriminalization of student-teacher “relationships” in The Washington Post. Karasik insisted that no one she knew who had sex with teachers was “horribly damaged” and that “many teenagers are, biologically speaking, sexually mature.”
But biological maturity or “acting” mature is not the same thing as being an adult. Roxane Gay writes, “People often want to ‘complicate' the statutory rape conversation by talking about the sexual empowerment of adolescents and this and that. These exercises in intellectual masturbation are pointless.”
“I was a teenager, we were all teenagers and we all felt empowered in our youthful seductions. We maybe were and we probably weren't. We like to tell ourselves we know exactly what we're doing, even when we don't.”
When I was a sophmore in high school, my social studies teacher—who was his 60s or 70s—asked me to come to the board because “everyone wants to see how you look in that shirt.” I stopped going to class, too ashamed to return. Before the semester ended, the teacher cornered me in the hallway and told me if I gave him a hug, he would give me a 95 in the class. I did it.
At the time, I laughed with my friends about the “pervy teacher who gave me an awesome grade.” I reacted the same way when I was 17 and a man in his 30s who had been my teacher since I was 13 years old called my home the week I graduated to ask me out. Because that's what teens do—deflect pain with humor.
I thought my blasé reaction made me mature, but the truth is that it epitomized my immaturity—a testament to the fact that I didn't know how to handle unwanted advances of much older men.
Teenagers can act unhurt over sexual harassment and abuse for all sorts of reasons, including trying to reclaiming agency from an abusive situation. That does not mean what is happening is not abuse, or rape, or assault. And no matter how grown teens act, it's the responsibility of teachers and adults to remind us that we're not adults, not to lasciviously bolster a myth that says otherwise or worsen it with blame.
Sexualization of young girls is not just something that happens as part of abuse, it's something that's part of their everyday lives. A report from the American Psychological Association shows that even the personal relationships girls have with peers, parents and teachers can contribute to this sexualization through daily interactions:
Parents may contribute to sexualization in a number of ways. For example, parents may convey the message that maintaining an attractive physical appearance is the most important goal for girls. Some may allow or encourage plastic surgery to help girls meet that goal. Research shows that teachers sometimes encourage girls to play at being sexualized adult women or hold beliefs that girls of color are “hypersexual” and thus unlikely to achieve academic success.
For girls like Moralez—who are depicted as “troubled” or deserving of the abuse done to them because of racism and their perceived sexuality—the consequences are acute. One study, for example, showed that Latina girls are likely to stop attending school activities in order to avoid sexual harassment—a survival technique that is more likely to result in a label of deliquency than victimhood.
Cherice Moralez deserves more justice than thirty days. She deserves more humanity than being fodder for an intellectual argument that supports rape. And no matter what she looked like or acted like, she was a child.
As Cherice's mother Auliea Hanlon told CNN, “How could she be in control of the situation? He was a teacher. She was a student. She wasn't in control of anything. She was 14.” Cherice was described as “gifted” by her teachers. She loved poetry. She was 14.
A call to crack down on those who pay for child sex
by Christina Villacorte
Saying not enough has been done to crack down on people who exploit children forced to become prostitutes, Los Angeles county officials will launch a campaign Tuesday to make California the most expensive state in the country to be convicted of soliciting sex from a minor.
Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas are set to introduce a motion asking the state legislature to stiffen penalties for so-called “johns” from $1,000 to $10,000.
“Over the last 18 months, we have worked really hard to protect young victims of sexual exploitation,” Knabe said. “But to stop this horrific crime, we must address the ‘demand' side, and that is why we are asking the state to establish harsh consequences for those who solicit sex with young girls.
“I think that any scumbag who buys a 12-year-old should pay a severe penalty for what amounts to the rape of a child,” he added.
“These are children who are being exploited for the enjoyment of unscrupulous men, and it is our duty to protect them,” Ridley-Thomas said.
The two want to send letters to the state Senate and Assembly, as well as to Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, to urge them to amend the state penal code to make paying for sex a felony — rather than a misdemeanor — if the victim is a minor.
They said it should also require that “customers” register as sex offenders and that the penalties be used to pay for programs that work to prevent the sexual trafficking of children. If they cannot afford the penalty, their assets should be seized, Knabe and Ridley-Thomas said.
The motion would call on Congress to strengthen federal laws as well.
According to the California Child Welfare Council, kids as young as 10 are being peddled for sex every day in Los Angeles County. Many of them come from troubled families and have previously been under the jurisdiction of the Department of Children and Family Services.
The council said child sex trafficking has become more profitable than selling drugs, noting that a pimp can receive $162,500 tax-free annually for each child he forces into prostitution and that the average life expectancy of children who enter the sex trade is seven years. This means, on average, a child forced into prostitution at age 12 will be dead by 19.
By law, children cannot consent to sex, and adults who exploit them are guilty of statutory rape. However, kids forced into prostitution are often criminalized, while their customers face lighter penalties.
“This is a loophole that must be closed,” Knabe and Ridley-Thomas said in their motion. “There should be no ‘get out of jail free' card for people who violate children.”
Definition of sex trafficking expands to prostitution
by MARTHA IRVINE
CICERO, Ill. — Police in the Chicago area call it a “track,” a stretch of street known for its steady sex trade.
Women in tight, scant clothing stand in high heels on street corners along an industrial strip in suburban Cicero. Customers, usually men, slow their cars and roll down a window.
“How much?” they ask.
Some might see these interludes as exchanges between consenting adults, or at the very least, consenting criminals, if the prostitute is, indeed, an adult and seemingly free to come and go as she pleases.
They may call it a victimless crime, seeing domestic prostitution as something very different from human sex trafficking — with its cross-border abductions and brutal coercion — a scourge that's come to the forefront of news in recent years.
But are they so different, after all? Increasingly, experts in the field are saying no, and applying the label human trafficking to homegrown prostitution.
And now, more lawmakers, police and prosecutors across the country are starting to shift their view on this, too. Increasingly, they are focusing on arresting traffickers and customers (pimps and johns, as it were) and on getting help for prostitutes.
“It's almost similar to a domestic violence issue,” says Michael Anton, commander of the Cook County sheriff's vice unit, based in the Chicago. “A lot of (people) say, ‘Well, they can just get out.'
“Well, it's not that easy.”
As of this year, Illinois became one of several states where prostitution is no longer a felony. It's also one of a growing number where a minor cannot be charged with prostitution, even as a misdemeanor.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Cook County, which includes Chicago, have set up a human trafficking unit and, in recent years, have been using new state laws to put more traffickers in jail.
Cook County sheriff's police also run regular sting operations to ticket customers who proposition undercover female police officers, or who use popular escort websites. The johns must pay a fine. Police also impound their cars.
“Dear John,” read billboards the department has posted near various tracks, “If You're Here To Solicit Sex, It Could Cost You $2,150. We're Teaming Up To Bust You.”
The money funds a rehabilitation program for prostitutes, and Anton says his vice unit officers have never arrested the same customer twice.
“I'm not saying we've stopped it,” he says. “They might be going to other areas. But we haven't seen them again.”
Elsewhere, a law passed in New York state in 2010 allows women who can prove they were coerced to have prostitution convictions wiped from their records — a move that advocates say allows them more options for housing and employment.
And in California, voters recently passed Proposition 35, which increases prison terms for human traffickers, as well as fines, which also are to be used to pay for services for victims.
It's progress, experts say. Yet a question often persists: Who is really a victim?
“We've got this idea of an ideal victim — someone who is physically locked in a room, chained up and who makes no money,” says Catherine Longkumer, a Chicago lawyer who works with victims of trafficking to help them get their lives back together.
Certainly that classic example of the locked-up trafficking victim exists on our shores, too.
But others, she says, are forced into prostitution with more subtle, yet equally paralyzing coercion.
While it's not always obvious to the outside world, intimidation and drug addiction become tools for control.
“The reality is that traffickers are very smart,” Longkumer says. “You can use a lot of psychological coercion to keep a person bonded, things like threats, or ‘If you try to leave, you'll be deported, or your family will be harmed.' ”
But the matter of victimhood can get even murkier than that.
Bridget Carr, a trafficking expert and clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan, sees it all the time.
She is director of the law school's human trafficking clinic, where students get credit for representing clients, many of them teens and young women who are trying to break free from traffickers and start new lives.
But can people be “victims” if they sell their bodies for sex — and keep some of that money or trade it for drugs? Are they victims if a pimp provides cellphones, buys them clothes, or even cars, or places to stay? In some instances, a prostitute might even have children with her pimp.
“Do we believe that people who make bad choices are victims?” Carr asks.
Often they are, she believes. But sometimes she says the public — and the people who are supposed to enforce these new laws — still have a difficult time seeing prostitutes as victims, even when they're young.
One recent Friday morning in a stuffy, crowded classroom at the Cook County jail in Chicago, a few women shared stories at a meeting of a group called Prostitution Anonymous. If they agree to get help, the women usually are not charged with prostitution in Cook County, though they may face other charges, from drug use to disorderly conduct.
Sheila Johnson, a 33-year-old inmate, told her peers how she had a difficult time breaking free from a boyfriend who was also her pimp, even though she feared him. She was addicted to drugs — and, she admitted, “the money.”
“As a regular person, I wouldn't dare do the things that I did because I was on drugs,” Johnson said after the meeting, as tears streamed down her face. “Being sober, I wouldn't DARE prostitute.”
Tiffany Schipitz, a 35-year-old inmate, said she eventually escaped from a pimp who threatened to kill her if she didn't work for him.
“I'd never been put out on the street. I'm a white suburbanite girl. That was unheard of growing up,” Schipitz said, describing how she fled the car of the first man who came to pick her up for sex.
Eventually, though, she ended up back on the street, high, looking to earn more money for drugs.
“The next thing I know, I'm out on that corner, taking cars — one, two, three — like it's nothing,” she says.
These are the sorts of stories Sgt. Craig Friesen, head of the vice unit for the police department in Anaheim, Calif., hears often.
“I never met any prostitute who said, ‘This was my ultimate goal in life,'” Friesen says. “They've all been brought into this life by someone. They've been exploited by someone.”
When determining who's a victim of trafficking, though, his officers are trained to look for signs of coercion. They might ask a hotel clerk if the prostitute was not allowed to speak, or seemed frightened, when checking into a room. They look for bruises and other signs of abuse and bring in former prostitutes to do the interviews.
“You can dig more deeply and ask specific questions,” say Friesen, whose department began working with a local social service agency in 2010 in hopes of getting help for prostitutes and cutting the number of repeat offenders.
Department statistics show that from August 2011 through October 2012, Anaheim police arrested and charged 38 pimps. In that time, the department also got help for 52 women who were determined to be victims of human trafficking — and thus, were not charged. Of those, four are known to have returned to prostitution.
Carr, at the University of Michigan, says she hopes more departments will focus on screening prostitutes, female and male, and training officers to recognize the signs of trafficking.
“Really good screening can't take place 10 minutes after an encounter with a law enforcement officer. The victim needs to be put in a safe place,” Carr says.
“There are lots of incentives to not say what's happening to you.”
But even when officers determine that help is needed, there's often not much they can do.
“Victims assistance is the weakest link in the chain,” says Mark Ensalaco, a trafficking expert who's director of the human rights studies program at the University of Dayton.
He recalls one case, in recent years, when a young woman was rescued after an Ohio state trooper stopped a car on the interstate and recognized that she was a victim of sex trafficking. Beyond abuse, those signs can include malnourishment, having few possessions, avoiding eye contact and not having control of personal identification, such as a driver's license or a passport.
This woman, too, was addicted to drugs, Ensalaco says, but never got the help she needed. Eventually, she committed suicide.
Even in states such as Illinois, long-term help — housing, mental health counseling and trauma services that are survivor-led — are lacking, says Lynne Johnson, the policy and advocacy director for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
“We have little pockets of progress,” she says, noting that much of it is aimed at minors. In Chicago, for instance, there's now a long-term safe home with space for eight girls that is funded by a private donor. A drop-in center for youth on the city's West Side, funded by federal grants, is open a couple days a week, Johnson says.
The Salvation Army, as it does in other cities, also helps for victims of human trafficking through its STOP-IT initiative. Those services might include giving victims cell phones, clothing and food, items traffickers may have provided to keep them dependent.
The victims also have access to counseling, but aren't required to attend.
“We don't tell them what to do. Our goal is to build independence, both from traffickers — and from us,” says Elyse Dobney, STOP-IT's volunteer manager in the Chicago area.
Brenda Myers-Powell — a former prostitute who now works as a peer specialist and counselor at the Cook County jail — agrees that independence should be the goal.
Early in the process, it's good for the public to understand that victims are victims, she says.
“But you can't stay a victim forever,” she says. “At some point, you become a survivor.”
As a hand-made sign on the jail wall where the Prostitution Anonymous group meets says: “It's never too late to be what you might have been.”
On the Internet:
Salvation Army STOP-IT initiative: http://sa-stopit.org/
Local Nonprofit Shines Light on Human Trafficking Crisis in Sarasota/Manatee
A new nonprofit rescues victims of the modern-day sex slave trade.
by Philippe Deiderich
“No girl ever says, ‘When I grow up I want to be a prostitute,'” says Laurie Swink, vice president and residential director of Selah Freedom, a Sarasota-based nonprofit organization that works with victims of the sex trade. But every day in this country thousands of young girls are forced into a life of prostitution by a heartbreaking combination of neglect and abuse. Swink says the vast majority of victims in the modern-day sex trade were sexually abused early in life, usually by someone they knew, typically by a family member.
That's what happened to Heather, a Bradenton woman who has been working with Selah Freedom, seeking help recovering from her life as a prostitute. (Her last name is being withheld for her protection.) Now 36, Heather has a young and innocent-looking face and is quick to laugh as she tells her story.
But the story she recounts is unrelievedly grim—a story that began at the age of 3, when she was raped by her stepfather, the first of legions of men who would rape, punch, drug, and brutalize her in infinite cruel and demeaning ways, robbing her of her childhood, an education, freedom and any understanding of what a normal life might feel like.
There is no way to verify all the dark details in Heather's story, but experts say much of what she says she experienced is all too familiar to those who work with victims of sex slavery.
“It absolutely rings true,” says Connie Rose, founder of the Tampa nonprofit Victims2Survivors. Rose has interviewed Heather herself, and she says, “Other victims have gone through pretty much the same things.”
Selah Freedom—selah is a Hebrew word that means to pause, to rest—helps people like Heather reclaim a normal life. The organization was born three years ago, when Elizabeth Fisher, president and CEO of Selah Freedom, attended a meeting of women interested in supporting charitable causes. “I learned that human trafficking is not like the movie Taken ,” she says. “And it's not something that only happens somewhere else. Our own local boys and girls were being sold into lives of slavery, and people didn't know what that looked like.” As she learned more, she recognized the desperate need for a safe place in the Sarasota-Bradenton area where victims of human trafficking could get help. “In Florida there are more than 100 animal shelters, and less than a dozen for survivors of human trafficking,” Fisher says.
Today, Selah Freedom provides support and counseling services to victims of both sexual abuse and the modern-day slave trade and connects them with other organizations that offer medical treatment, GED classes and job training.
It's served 36 women so far, about a third of them former sex slaves. This fall Selah will open its first residential facility, giving victims a 12-month restorative home. The group also works to increase understanding of human trafficking, which is now second only to drug trafficking in illegal global businesses, Fisher says.
The human trafficking epidemic has deeply infected the Sunshine State, always a magnet for tourists, migrants and runaways. Florida is one of the top three states for human trafficking (behind Texas and California), says Nestor Yglesias, public information officer for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) office in Miami. Yglesias says that human trafficking takes many forms, from domestic and agricultural service to the sex trade. In Florida, he says, trafficking is on the rise, and victims of the sex trade range from domestic runaways to undocumented immigrants from Central and Latin America and girls from Eastern Europe who are promised a golden future if they'll come to the United States. “People don't think it is really happening in their neighborhood,” he says.
But even in wealthy resort cities like Sarasota or Naples, where a trafficker was recently arrested for operating a brothel in an affluent neighborhood, victims may be living in hellish parallel worlds that few of us even realize exist.
It's hard to know the exact number of victims, says Carissa Cutrell, public information officer for Tampa's ICE office, which serves the region from Sarasota-Bradenton to the Panhandle and Jacksonville. “We say the victims are hidden in plain sight,” she says. “They can't speak freely or move freely.”
According to Fisher, the Tampa Bay, Bradenton and Sarasota area is the third-largest hub for human trafficking in the state after Miami and Orlando, and Manatee ranks first among Florida counties in prostitution arrests.
How do local children find their way into the hand of traffickers? Usually by running away from home, says Fisher. As they approach their teen years, many children who have been abused at home decide to escape. But instead of finding safety on the streets, they become prey. Predators descend—usually within 48 hours, says Fisher—and lure them into a life of abuse, drugs and prostitution.
Heather was 11 when she fled from her Bradenton home. “She is a complete textbook case,” says Fisher. After the first rape, her stepfather continued to sneak into her room at night while she slept to fondle her, and have sex with her and her younger sister. He beat and raped her mother in front of them. By the time Heather turned 10, she says, she was drinking alcohol, smoking pot and sniffing paint to “escape reality,” she says. But when she ran away, Heather ran right into the hands of a man she calls Canon, a 30-year-old friend of friends.
Predators lurk in every city, in the suburbs, everywhere. They find children on the streets, on social media, through their friends. And once a child is caught in their web, they're merciless. A Tampa girl, one of several interviewed for this story, said she was taken from Tampa to Atlantic City several years ago, where she was kept chained to other girls, accompanied even to the bathroom, and kept drugged or drunk to keep her submissive.
Predators give runaways what they need or come to need—shelter, food, alcohol, drugs and the appearance of caring. At first, Heather says, she saw Canon as her rescuer, “my boyfriend.” She continued to believe he loved her, even when he beat her and the other girls. At different times Canon kept more than a dozen girls in his house behind Manatee Elementary School, Heather says. All of them were young, all were runaways—and all became prostitutes.
Unlike drug or arms trafficking, where the supplier needs a constant supply of new product and the penalties are stiff, says Yglesias, human traffickers can resell a single victim over and over again with little risk. A pimp with 10 girls can often make $1,000 a night with each. That makes it a hugely profitable business. “That's why we're seeing organized crime getting involved,” says Yglesias.
Canon groomed Heather for prostitution. He allowed his friends to do whatever they wanted with her and the other girls. If the girls didn't comply, he'd beat them or lock them in a closet, breaking down whatever sense of self-worth they might have had. Then he drove them to the migrant camps in East Manatee County, Palmetto and Ellenton.
“There was this one migrant camp on Gillette Road,” Heather recalls. “We called it the chicken coop. It was a blue room, real dingy with just a bed. Canon would stand by the door while the men would wait their turn.”
Sometimes they would go to two camps in a single night. Afterward they'd go back to Canon's house and the girls, some of them still preteens, would get high and watch cartoons on TV.
Heather would stay with Canon for a while, then return home, then go back to his house again. Even while she worked as a prostitute, she attended middle school, where she was diagnosed with a learning disability and placed in a special class. Yet no one seemed to realize how traumatized she was or thought to ask about what was happening to her at home. Eventually, she became pregnant. Desperate, she threatened suicide and was forcibly admitted to a local hospital under the Baker Act.
There, she says, she finally opened up about the abuse by her stepfather. Local police gave her stepfather a lie detector test, she says, but he passed. No one believed her, she says—not her mother, not the police, not the hospital staff. Heather says she spent a month at the hospital, but other than performing an abortion, she says they did little for her.
With a troublesome daughter she didn't know what to do with, Heather's mother decided to send her to Tupelo, Miss., to live with someone Heather had never met before: her biological father. If things were bad in Bradenton, they got worse in Mississippi amid the drinking, drugs and fighting at the home of Heather's father and his wife. The couple encouraged her to continue prostitution and introduced her to crack cocaine and crystal meth. After her father fled drug dealers he owed money, Heather, who was pregnant again, suffered a rape and beating by the dealers that ended in the loss of her unborn child.
By the time she turned 18, Heather was back in her mother's house in Bradenton, but like so many young girls who spend their formative years in the sex trade, she wasn't able to function properly. She had a sixth-grade education, and had suffered serious physical and mental trauma. She didn't know how to find a job or to perform even simple tasks, like balancing a checkbook.
She quickly fell back into old habits, smoking crack and walking 14th Street, where one day a pimp picked her up and took her to Miami. The first thing he did was to have his name, Eugene, tattooed on the side of her neck to proclaim his ownership— pimps call this “branding.” In Miami, Heather lived in motels on Biscayne Boulevard and Le Jeune Road. Sometimes it was just Heather and Eugene; sometimes there were as many as 14 girls, all of them property of Eugene.
“I was 18, and one of the oldest girls he had,” Heather says. Eugene made Heather his “bottom girl.” She stayed in his room at the motels and took care of the other girls, cooking for them and buying essentials. Most importantly, she recruited other girls, convincing them to become part of Eugene's “stable.”
Eugene beat the girls, kept them captive and prostituted them, but he would also take them out for dinner and shopping. He took Heather to Disney World once, but after spending the day in the theme park, he made her spend the night walking Orlando's Orange Blossom Trail to pay back the money he'd spent.
While Heather hated her life, she had no idea how to escape and didn't trust anyone. Their captors keep sex slaves on the move, says Yglesias, transporting them up and down Florida's coasts and into Northern states. “They're living out of suitcases, and they're not allowed to establish rapport with anyone,” he says. Indeed, their deepest bond is often with their captor. They're not only too “petrified with fear” to try to escape, he says; they often believe, against all evidence, that the trafficker loves and will care for them.
Heather had criminal records in different states and there were warrants out for her arrest. She says she ended up preferring jail to life on the outside. Finally, Heather was ordered to enter a 24-month residential program for troubled young women at Teen Challenge in Davie, Fla. She stayed for eight months, and then ran away, back home to Bradenton.
She began using crack again, walking the streets to pay for the drugs. One day she got into a man's red pick-up truck and they drove to his trailer, where he had a cache of drugs stolen from a dentist's office, including a cyclinder of nitrous oxide. Heather was already high on crack when the man filled a trash bag with the gas and put it over her head. Heather says she remembers falling out of consciousness. When she came to, the panicked man was stuffing her legs into a trash bag. He'd thought she was dead.
That was the last time she did drugs, Heather says. But she continued walking the streets, until she was arrested again. And this time, at age 30, something changed for her. She began to pray and read the Bible. And after she was released, she started working with counselors from Selah Freedom, who helped her to realize that she was redeemable and deserved a different life.
Experts in human trafficking say it can take years for victims to recover. It's been almost seven years since Heather stopped working the streets. Once a “bottom girl” recruiting prostitutes for her pimp, she now convinces other victims of the sex trade to join the support groups at Selah Freedom. She is getting her tattoo removed pro bono. The name “Eugene” is slowly fading from her neck,
Heather's story has a better ending than most stories of those who are enslaved in the sex trade; many end up in prison, descend into illness and addiction or die brutally. But she still faces many challenges. She lives with her mother and stepsister in Bradenton, but they can do little to help her achieve a productive life. In the future Selah hopes to have apartments where victims at her stage of recovery can live with mentors who can help strengthen their identity and independence.
And though Heather recently finished beauty school, her criminal record has been an enormous obstacle in getting a job. Fisher and other advocates say it will take changes in our legal system to give victims of the sex trade a fighting chance to recover. And their efforts are beginning to pay off. Earlier this year, Florida's Safe Harbor Act went into effect. It allows young victims to get help from child welfare professionals instead of being sent to juvenile detention. And in May, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law two bills that would help human trafficking victims by keeping their records private and allowing the criminal records to be expunged.
Police and other first responders frequently come in contact with sex slaves, yet until recently few understood what they were seeing. In Selah's support groups, women sometimes recall times when their captors were questioned by police without anyone asking why a suspicious-looking adult was accompanied by one or more silent, provocatively dressed young girls. The office of Florida's Attorney General recently created training programs to help police spot cases in which slavery could be involved.
At the federal level, victims are also getting more recognition and care. “We're changing the way we investigate human trafficking,” says ICE's Cutrell. “Now we make sure the victim is taken care of first. Prosecuting the trafficker is our second priority.”
Heather was ensnared in slavery, drugs and prostitution until she was 30, losing all the years in which young people learn to be productive, self-supporting adults. If victims can be rescued at much younger ages, they can recover faster and more fully. It's also critical to stop childhood sexual abuse, which so often paves the way to the sex trade, says Fisher. Selah Freedom is working with Sarasota's Child Protection Service and other members of Sarasota's Human Trafficking Task Force to find ways to spot and protect children who are being abused. “After our last training, one of the detectives told me he'd just written up five cases wrong,” says Selah Freedom's Swink. “And now that we're out there speaking, churches, law enforcement and other groups are beginning to funnel people to us.”
Their work can make a dramatic difference, says Fisher. And despite the dark and disturbing stories of the women they serve, she declares there is every reason to hope—and to help. She has seen young women climb out of the most hellish existences imaginable and restart their lives, earning degrees, succeeding at work, getting married and having children they are determined to love and protect.
“When you sit with someone and they realize that what they've been through wasn't their fault, and you see that light bulb go off, it's beautiful,” Fisher says. “To know that they can dream again, it's amazing.”
Sarasota writer Phillippe Deiderich has reported for regional and national publications, including Traveler's Tales Anthology , The Miami New Times and The Dallas Morning News . His short stories have appeared in The Houston Literary Review , Quarterly West and other publications and he won the 2013 Chris O'Malley Fiction Prize from The Madison Review .
How You Can Help
Local businessman Mark Pentecost and his wife, Cindy, will match gifts up to $250,000 for Selah Freedom. That's enough to build two complete houses, including assessment housing and a long-term facility for up to six girls at a time—limiting the numbers to two per bedroom allows for a sense of stability and a chance for staff and mentors to focus on each girl individually. The money would fund operations for at least two years, including room and board, mentorship and recovery programs and continued efforts to raise awareness. For an update on the grant and to find out how to give, visit selahfreedom.com.
New Philly facility helps victims of child abuse
by Helen Ubinas
ANTHONY SMITH was 7 when he was lured from his bike and sexually assaulted.
Nearly every day after school, he and his best buddy would finish their homework and chores and then ride their bikes around their South Philadelphia neighborhood until it got dark.
But one day, Smith finished his work early and went to the nearby gas station alone to work on his bike so that he'd be ready to ride when his friend was done.
He was just a few blocks from home, on 25th and Ellsworth streets, when a man he didn't know seemed to appear out of nowhere. The man, his clothes stained with engine grease, started chatting him up. "You can ride your bike good," Smith recalls the man saying. "Bet you can't ride it over here. No way you can ride it over here." They wound up in a secluded spot in the back of a tractor-trailer.
"He told me that if I did what he asked, he wouldn't hurt me," Smith said. As to what happened next, Anthony doesn't talk about the actual abuse.
"He helped me get dressed and walked away, and I never saw him again."
Smith, now 48, vowed that he would take the secret to his grave, and when he spiraled into drugs and alcohol to numb his pain, he almost got there.
"I was afraid of breaking my mother's heart," he said.
Because Smith was assaulted by a stranger, he isn't a typical victim of abuse - usually children know their abusers, and are abused over an extended period of time. But the silence Smith kept is very typical.
So is the shame and fear that keep many victims from speaking out. Chris Kirchner, executive director of the Philadelphia Children's Alliance, said that when Smith was assaulted in 1972, children were often questioned at a police station or at home, sometimes in the very home where the abuser lived. Even as awareness and intervention improved, she said, children were often forced to relive the trauma as they were questioned by multiple agencies in multiple settings over several days.
But not anymore, not in Philadelphia. As of last week, all the city agencies that deal with the 1,600 reports of child sexual abuse each year will be located under one roof. That includes the nonprofit Philadelphia Children's Alliance, the Police Department's Special Victims Unit, the Department of Human Services and the District Attorney's Office.
From the outside, the new Philadelphia Safety Collaborative on Hunting Park Avenue looks like any other government building. But inside, it has been carefully laid out to coordinate investigations, provide forensic interviews, and offer medical and mental-health services for victims and their families. Now, when a victim and caregiver are in one of the facility's several interview rooms, they just have to walk down the hall for a medical exam or to set up an appointment with a therapist.
"When you have the number of people who have to talk to children who have been abused and who are mandated to investigate, combined with the number of reports in a city like Philadelphia, trying to affect collaboration without being co-located" - in the same place - "was almost like pushing a rock uphill," Kirchner said. "This changes all of that."
Smith, who works for the Gift of Life Donor Program, finally broke his silence when his secret began to affect his family relationships. He first told his older sister, who cried and said it explained so much about his isolation. He went to therapy, and quit drinking and taking drugs. And then last October, after a screening of a movie about men surviving childhood sexual abuse, Smith did what was once unthinkable. He shared his story publicly. He's been sharing his story as often as he can ever since.
"I want people to know that there is a way out of the darkness, that they can regain their power through their voice."
Is there a Sikh code of silence on sexual grooming?
by Zack Adesina
Six men were jailed at Leicester Crown Court last week for offences including facilitating child prostitution. The convictions are being heralded as a legal landmark because it is the first high-profile case involving a Sikh victim of sexual abuse which has led to convictions in the UK.
However, Inside Out London has uncovered evidence that there are potentially dozens of other young Sikh victims of sexual exploitation and few of these cases have come to court.
The Sikh Awareness Society (SAS), a charity which focuses on family welfare, claims it has investigated more than 200 reports of child sexual grooming in the UK over the past five years.
However, there are no official statistics to support this claim, because incidents of sexual abuse featuring Sikh minors are rarely reported to the authorities.
End Quote Sue Berelowitz Deputy Children's Commissioner for England
According to Det Supt David Sandall of Leicestershire Police, "when it comes to faith-based communities' sexual abuse is woefully under-reported. We know it is going on but it is difficult to launch investigations when the victims and their families are refusing to talk.
"We want more victims to come forward because we are here to help."
The reason Sikhs rarely reveal incidents of abuse to the authorities has to do with family honour.
"Our community is very honour based," says Mohan Singh of the SAS.
As part of this code of honour, virginity before marriage is held sacred by Sikhs.
For girls in particular, in order to ensure they can get married and maintain dignity in the community, their virtue must remain unquestionable.
So when cases of abuse occur "the majority of parents just want to shut up shop as if nothing has happened because they know that a girl who is tarnished with this kind of thing will never actually get married," says Mr Singh.
In fact the stigma around sexual abuse is so detrimental to a Sikh girl's future that children who are the victims of rape have been told by their own parents to keep quiet about it.
Members of the Sikh community in the West Midlands claim girls as young as nine are being targeted for grooming
Inside Out London has spoken to a girl whose own mother told her not to go to the police, even though she had been subjected to sexual abuse by countless men.
Fifteen-year old Jaswinder was under the control of a groomer for nearly two years.
The man charged countless other men to have sex with her and took obscene pictures which he used to blackmail her into silence.
When she finally broke away and told her mother what had happened, she was warned against going to the police and forbidden from ever telling her father the full details.
Other victims of grooming have been removed from the family home in order to ensure the wider community does not find out or to place the child safely away from those who are abusing her.
But these methods of dealing with child victims of sexual abuse are causing growing concern amongst mental health workers.
Counsellor Emma Kenny says that, over the past few years, she has noticed the number of Sikh girls requiring help after enduring sexual abuse is on the rise.
"We have cases where Sikh children have actually been forbidden from speaking up or removed from their home environment when they talk about the fact they are being sexually exploited or groomed," she says.
"Parents may be doing these things out of the best intentions but the problem here is that firstly, by telling the child to keep quiet, they will not get a chance to recover from the ordeal.
"Secondly, removing them from the home, from their original support network, gives a very strong message that they are the problem and that can lead to enormous long-standing emotional and psychological issues."
Inside Out has also discovered that groomers are actually exploiting the fact that Sikh families are less likely to report incidents of abuse.
The programme has spoken to one man who recently broke away from a grooming gang and is now campaigning for greater awareness of the problem.
He says there are groomers who specifically target Sikh girls because they feel they can get away with it.
They see Sikh girls as 'easy targets' because they know codes of honour mean the child will be too scared and ashamed to tell their parents about the abuse and "their parents would not even report it if they were to find out".
Yet even when some Sikh parents are brave enough to risk family honour and do report incidents of sexual grooming to the police, there are concerns that their cases are poorly investigated.
Deputy Children's Commissioner for England Sue Berelowitz, admits that "there is quite a way to go in terms of police forces around the country waking up to the fact that there are ethnic minority victims of sexual abuse".
Birmingham parents Gureemt and Ranjit believe their daughter, Javeen, has been the target of a group of groomers since she was 12 years old.
They claim that they have struggled to get the police to proactively investigate.
"I've lost count of the amount of times I've tried contacting them," says Ranjit.
"There have been incidents where we have rang several times a day to get information and they've just had a blasé attitude."
Jim Gamble, the former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, has witnessed similar problems with other cases.
"I have seen victims who have not been well served because of police sensitivity about engaging a community whose tradition is all about honour and shame," he says.
"That sensitivity can be overplayed and I think in those cases where it is, perhaps police and other statuary authorities pause for too long.
"But in the end we need to get over these cultural misunderstandings because what ultimately matters is the safety and welfare of the children."
Some names have been changed to protect the identities of victims.
Help for victims of sexual abuse
by Charles H. Ramsey, R. Seth Williams, Anne Marie Ambrose, and Chris Kirchner
In Philadelphia, there are about 1,600 reports of child sexual abuse every year. These children have had their innocence stolen and their lives changed forever.
These cases present a challenge to responding professionals who understand that their response can significantly impact a victim's recovery.
Since 1989, the nonprofit Philadelphia Children's Alliance (PCA) has been working with the Special Victims Unit of the Police Department, the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the District Attorney's Office to coordinate investigations, provide expert forensic interviews, and offer support services for victims and their families.
Before this model of working together was the norm, things were done differently. After an allegation of abuse, a child would be questioned repeatedly by different professionals in various settings because of the number of agencies involved. Multiple, separate investigations were confusing to children and caregivers, and forced children to relive the trauma each time they talked about it.
It became clear that we all needed to be in one facility, or, as we call it, colocated. Colocation allows for immediate intervention and collaboration on all allegations of child sexual abuse. It has made a difference in cities like New York, Chicago, and Houston, and it was obvious that Philadelphia, with its large volume of child sexual abuse reports, should follow suit.
This month, after years of working toward this centralized goal, we have moved into a new facility, the Philadelphia Safety Collaborative, at 300 E. Hunting Park Ave. The office houses DHS child-welfare social workers, the entire Special Victims Unit, an assistant district attorney, and PCA's entire staff and operation. The facility also houses a pediatric medical clinic, mental-health services, and the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center, sponsored by Drexel University, which provides medical services for adult sexual assault victims.
Now, when an allegation of child sexual abuse is made, a team consisting of a social worker, a police officer, PCA forensic interviewers, and victim advocates will respond jointly. The forensic interviewers will conduct interviews with victims while the social worker and an officer watch through a one-way mirror or on closed-circuit TV. All child interviews are recorded for use by the assistant district attorney in court proceedings. Soon, medical exams will be available on-site.
Because of our team approach and streamlined services, child victims will be able to tell their stories and start therapy within days, instead of weeks or months later. It will allow the various agencies to work more closely together and bring a new level of service to child victims and their families.
The colocated facility is designed to be as warm and welcoming as possible for children. And, as a team, we will meet regularly to track cases and ensure no child falls through the cracks.
Our new facility gives us an opportunity for unparalleled collaboration, but it also sends a clear message that Philadelphia cares about its children. This new era of service has been a long time coming, and we thank Mayor Nutter and other city leaders for making this a priority. The improved effectiveness that comes with a colocated response will now be available to every child victim in our city.
Charles H. Ramsey is police commissioner of Philadelphia. R. Seth Williams is the city's district attorney. Anne Marie Ambrose is commissioner for the city's Department of Human Services. Chris Kirchner is executive director of the Philadelphia Children's Alliance.
4 of 5 schools beef up policy after Penn State
by EDDIE PELLS
As they watched Penn State struggle to contain a child sex-abuse scandal that ruined its once-pristine name and took down the mightiest of college coaches, schools around the country realized they needed to examine what they were doing so they wouldn't see their reputations destroyed, as well.
At Mississippi, administrators passed a rule stating nobody 18 or over could have one-on-one contact with a minor.
At Kansas, they rewrote the language in their bylaws stating, in no uncertain terms, that any employee who didn't comply with rules about reporting sex crimes could be fired.
To keep better tabs on who comes and goes from its campus, Stanford started running all its kids camps in-house instead of letting coaches run them independently.
And Southern California brought in none other than Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who wrote the report on the failings at Penn State, to brief top brass on what good policies and rules should look like.
In all, 55 of 69 BCS football schools — 79.7 percent of those playing at the highest level in college — either reviewed or strengthened their policies regarding minors on campus in the wake of the case involving Jerry Sandusky, an Associated Press review found.
“The conversation started the minute the Penn State situation was made public,” said Mississippi associate athletic director Lynnette Johnson, who called the 18-and-over policy the lynchpin of the changes at their campus in Oxford, Miss. “We've been looking at our policies for quite some time and we wanted to build something that's comprehensive, manageable and can actually be enforced.”
While schools were rewriting their rules, no fewer than 32 state governments were also reviewing their statutes, with at least 18 of those adopting new laws, most of them adding university employees and volunteers to the list of those required to report child sex abuse.
In November 2011, Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach, was arrested on 40 child sexual abuse counts. Additional counts were included in December, and some were dropped at the start of his trial. In the end, he was convicted on 45 of those counts and is serving a prison term of 30 to 60 years. Within days of his arrest, coach Joe Paterno was fired and the school president, Graham Spanier, was forced out.
A July 2012 report authored by Freeh detailed the flaws at Penn State and offered recommendations for change at the university. Penn State established a “Progress” website detailing the multiple changes it is making in response to the scandal and the report.
But Penn State was hardly the only school that performed an unflinching review of its policies.
The AP canvassed the 69 schools in the BCS conferences in 2012, along with Notre Dame, and found that, in addition to the 55 that said they reviewed or changed their rules in response to the Sandusky case, another 12 had recently done that work in response to a push from the U.S. Department of Education, or because of incidents that occurred on their own campuses or laws passed in their states.
“We didn't want to be in a position where we could say it couldn't happen here,” said Mark Land, spokesman at Indiana University, one of the universities that reviewed and beefed up its policies. “Penn State is a great university and does great things, and it happened there, so we felt like if we didn't learn something from Penn State, that was on us.”
Two schools, Oklahoma and South Carolina, reported no action: South Carolina sent AP a copy of its sexual-harassment policy, last revised in 2010; Oklahoma said its policies are under constant scrutiny, though events elsewhere don't trigger changes.
Not that rules can prevent everything. Before the scandal at Penn State, the university had a long list of rules on the books that were in line with what existed at other schools. Despite that, the Freeh Report noted that 234 of 735 coaches paid to work at summer sports camps in 2009 didn't have their required background checks completed before their camp began.
David Finkelhor of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center said anecdotes like that help explain why new policies and laws are important, but maybe not as important as the light shed on the issue of child sex abuse because of the Sandusky case.
“I don't think the problem at Penn State was that they didn't have enough rules, or that they didn't have a mandatory law that required this reporting,” Finkelhor said. “I think the problem was that they didn't have a higher level of awareness about the problem itself and they thought they could kind of get away with the way they were handling it.”
In searching the states, AP reporters across the country checked databases from the last two years of legislation. The AP also referred to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which has tracked Sandusky-related bills.
In Florida, the Legislature passed what many are calling the most expansive reporting law in the country. It includes fines of up to $1 million on any university whose administration or campus police knowingly fail to report child abuse on campus. Several campuses around the state reacted, as well.
“As an institution, we had very sound policies in place,” Miami athletic director Blake James said. “I think it was obviously a real reminder to everyone of the need to make sure that all policies are being followed, and in certain cases there was the elevation of analysis that was put in place.”
The overwhelming number of schools and states that made changes in a relatively short amount of time runs counter to the normally slow-moving wheels of state governments and university boardrooms. The action reflects what Mark Chaffin, who directs research at the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect at University of Oklahoma, said was a much-needed continuation of moves to protect children that have been triggered by sex scandals at child-serving organizations, including the Catholic church and the Boy Scouts.
“Given everything that's been in the news, it's not too surprising that universities would start to put out some policies and do some education,” Chaffin said.
When the universities did their reviews, some administrators were surprised at the number of minors who come to their campuses for a variety of programs that extend well beyond football camps.
At Minnesota, for instance, up to 300,000 minors visit campus — 114,000 of them for 4H club events. A 10-year review of campus crime statistics there revealed four cases involving minors. One of those cases resulted in charges in 2000 when the victim came forward.
“We thought this was a pretty safe place,” university general counsel Bill Donohue said.
Nevertheless, the school beefed up its policy and added language that specifically applied to the safety of minors on campus.
In Texas, state legislators passed guidelines in 2011 — before the Sandusky case made headlines — for minors attending camps. The law applied to camps with at least 20 campers who spend four days on campus.
“That's a big loophole,” Texas Tech athletic department spokesman Blayne Beal said. “We wanted more stringent than that.”
So, in May, the school passed a tougher rule putting the guidelines in place for any program that brings minors in, regardless of the number of children or duration of their stay.
“I think everybody took a look at themselves and what they were doing, what they weren't doing, to make sure that the policies they had in place were the best for young people and were best to protect the institution,” Beal said.
In addition to bringing in Freeh, who has a child enrolled at the Los Angeles school, USC also hired an outside consultant who helped put in place an awareness campaign for people on facilities staff and janitors — the so-called “first eyes” — who might be the first to witness a crime involving children.
At Auburn, and a handful of other schools, the review found departments across campus had several rules on the books but had never consolidated them in one place.
“Unfortunately, at times, it takes a shocking event happening somewhere else to make you aware that you may have some deficiencies that need looking into yourself,” said Chris O'Gwynn, who heads Auburn's risk management and safety department. “Penn State did cause us to want to look at that and do something from a generalized campus approach.”
Adrienne's House offers respite for domestic violence survivors
by TAMMY LEYTHAM
Eat. Breathe. Sleep.
Those basics can be out of reach for people living with domestic violence.
That's why Adrienne's House, a women's shelter in Jackson County, offers that respite to those who need it.
"It's a safe place to go," said director Stacey Myers. "They don't have a fear of what's going to happen."
Coming to Adrienne's House is a "last ditch effort" for survivors of domestic violence, she said.
"They have a fear of losing their lives the next time it occurs ... they want to get their children out of the situation," she said. "They are leaving a life they've been accustomed to forever ... change is a very scary word."
Adrienne's House, part of the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence, opened in 2011. It's a nice home in an location that's not publicized for security purposes.
There are three bedrooms that can house up to 16 people, including children.
On a recent day, there were 12 residents, six adults and six children staying at the home.
How long people stay at Adrienne's House is different for each. "We want them to have time to recuperate before they make major decisions," Myers said.
Some women have stayed a few hours, others for three months. The average stay is about 30 days.
Since opening, 114 women and 96 children have sought shelter at Adrienne's House.
"There's still a huge issue of domestic violence in this community," Myers said.
And it's a misunderstood issue, which is why Myers is happy to speak to community groups about what the Center does.
"The huge thing people ask is, 'Why does she stay?'" Myers said. "But the real question is 'Why does he abuse?'"
Adrienne's House serves families in Jackson and George counties.
The Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence offers more than just a safe place to sleep.
Survivors are connected to resources such as medical aid, GED training, Food Stamps, family therapy and comprehensive counseling.
Life training classes like balancing a budget or dressing for a job interview are offered.
If a survivor wants to press charges against the perpetrator, someone will "go with them every step of the way," Myers said. But it's up to them.
In addition, the Center for Nonviolence has about 25 volunteers in its sexual assault program that will go to hospitals to provide support when a sexual assault is reported -- whether the victim is an adult or child.
There also is a support group for survivors of homicide, as well as advocates who help survivors navigate the court system.
How to help
Adrienne's House needs help right now building a ramp, widening bathroom doors and putting rails in the bathroom in order to adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
There's also a shed in the backyard that needs shelves installed.
While the shelter has plenty of children's toys and games, there is a need for toiletries for children -- things that give them a sense of comfort, like children's shampoo or kids' toothpaste.
There's also a need for school supplies, as well as household supplies. "Everything it takes to run a household we need here," Myers said.
People from the community provide programs for the residents, such as crafts or art classes, and skills training. "People from the community bring a sense of fresh air into the program," Myers said.
Some groups come out to do programs specific for the children at night so their mothers can participate in other activities. "It's having someone show an interest when no one has shown an interest before," she said.
DCS brings in TBI to improve caseworkers' training in child abuse investigations
Academy will help teach caseworkers to detect abuse
by Anita Wadhwani
Department of Children's Services investigators are often the first — and sometimes the only — responders to reports of child abuse or neglect.
But child protective services workers in Tennessee undergo the fewest hours of on-the-job training of any professional first-responder in the state.
In fact, cosmetologists, manicurists and massage therapists are required to take more job-specific training than DCS protective caseworkers.
DCS caseworkers must have a college degree and a year of experience in social work, but often have little knowledge or experience in their primary role — investigating allegations of abuse, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and recommending whether police and prosecutors become involved with a case.
“In many cases, DCS makes the determination whether a crime has been committed,” said TBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Margie Quinn, who oversees TBI investigations into sex trafficking. “But in some cases, you may not have a worker trained well enough to make that determination. I think DCS caseworkers are geared toward services and protecting children, but they're not police officers, and they're expected to do both.”
Now a new joint venture between DCS and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is intended to beef up the level of instruction for child protective services workers.
The CPS Investigators Academy, taught by TBI agents including Quinn, as well as national child abuse investigation experts, will graduate its first class in December.
The three-week classes are truncated versions of courses taught to TBI recruits. But the training was tweaked after instructors from TBI's training academy shadowed DCS caseworkers making home visits. Quinn said the goal is to equip caseworkers with law enforcement skills.
Caseworkers will learn TBI interrogation techniques, how to spot signs of sex abuse, document investigations effectively for prosecution and testify in mock courts to gain practice.
Right now, new caseworkers undergo 287 hours over a nine-week “preservice” training when they start the job, and are expected to take 40 hours per year of continuing education.
In contrast, police officers must undergo a six-month training academy and five months working with a training officer, while TBI agents also attend a similar law enforcement training academy, followed by 11 weeks of TBI training and further specialized training.
Scott Modell, deputy commissioner at Department of Children's Services, said the problem isn't unique to Tennessee. “It's no secret that across the country CPS investigators have some deficits in their training.” Modell said. He said there are investigators doing good work, but they need more training because DCS is facing “more and more drug-exposed infants and more families with significant drug issues.”
The academy is part of a larger overhaul of the agency's approach to child abuse investigations. DCS eventually will require all CPS workers to have two years' experience in child welfare, instead of one, or a master's degree in a related field and a year of experience.
The agency also is requiring all CPS workers to report directly to supervisors in Nashville, rather than regional supervisors, and putting a cap on how many new cases they are assigned. And DCS is creating new continuing education courses for caseworkers to take on an ongoing basis.
More abuse reports
The changes come nearly a year after public criticisms by sheriffs, child advocates and lawmakers about lax investigations into severe child abuse in Cumberland and Dickson counties and reports of tense working relationships in other counties between police and DCS caseworkers.
The internal changes are taking place as Tennessee is experiencing a steep rise in reported child abuse reports. Last year, DCS investigated 60,000 reports. This year, the agency is on track to investigate 72,000 cases.
The CPS Investigators Academy gets underway Nov. 18 for about 30 child protective services caseworkers. The academy will train all 480 DCS investigators by late 2016.
Child abuse laws
If only a law could put a stop to child abuse.
But as we've seen with drunken driving, making laws more comprehensive and penalties more severe can reduce the number of offenses, but won't eliminate them.
We support the initiative of county prosecutors who are advocating for a new class of crimes packaged together as the Child Protection Act, that would address holes in current laws on child abuse and child murder.
If the new laws prevent one child from being beaten, one baby from being killed, they're worth the legislative and bureaucratic effort.
But we're afraid the laws won't have much effect. If child abusers — most of whom are parents or other caregivers — could be prevented from their crimes by concern over legal consequences, the laws now on the books would suffice.
Child abusers don't generally plan their crimes, and child abuse doesn't happen in isolation. Most often, it's a chronic criminal behavior engaged in by people who were themselves subject to abuse.
As with drunken driving, societal disapproval can be a stronger force than law in curbing child abuse. A willingness to step in when we see or hear children being mistreated — express disapproval, call the police — creates an atmosphere in which people prone to violence against family members are forced to think before they act.
Laws can be reflections of popular will, however, and buttress good intentions. In several recent local cases, the shortcomings of the laws on child abuse have been exposed. It makes sense to reform them.
To get a conviction on a second-degree murder charge, current law requires prosecutors prove a suspect acted with "depraved indifference," which is a high bar to clear, especially since most child abuse takes place in the home, in private.
Under the Child Protection Act, suspects in a position of trust and with a duty to protect a child who recklessly cause injuries that led to the child's death could be prosecuted for murder. "Depraved indifference" would be removed from the law.
The act would also bump up the level of other violent crimes against children, increasing the seriousness of the charges and the severity of the penalties.
But preventing abuse, not punishing abusers, is the more important task.
- Glens Falls Post-Star
A mighty spirit
The horror of sexual abuse and the weight of her decision to prosecute her father nearly cost a young Norfolk woman her life.
By Bill Sizemore
(Video on site)
The colors of life are fading
As the soul descends into nothing
Alongside an illustration of tears falling from an eye, those words begin a series of drawings Christa Clemons created in her sketchbook over the course of a week in June 2009.
A little later that week, she wrote:
The pit is empty
Beginning to fill with darkness
No hope, no light, no life
Just a lonely loveless world
Soon after that, against a black background, she drew a pile of pills beside an open medicine bottle on a table with these words:
No way out
Clemons left work early that day and drove to a local psychiatric center. She told the intake worker she was having suicidal thoughts. She was given a statement to sign, promising to call a 24-hour crisis line before she harmed herself.
That evening, she called the number and got a recording. She left a message, but no one called back. Typical, she thought. No one wanted to help.
She could almost feel the peace she was longing for. In her sketchbook, she drew a single black flower with a two-word message: • I'm sorry
The next morning, she grabbed a Pepsi from the refrigerator, got into her car and downed 40 to 50 pills.
Then she drove to her workplace, a commercial shipyard in Norfolk, went into a warehouse, lay down and went to sleep.
An hour later she woke up, unable to walk. She crawled to a restroom. As she began to vomit, a co-worker found her, half-carried her to his truck and drove her to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
She drifted in and out of consciousness as doctors flushed her system.
Back home after the ordeal, she scrawled one more entry in her sketchbook:
I'm still here
Clemons' desperation that week in 2009 was rooted in a childhood steeped in verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
She grew up in Ohio, the second oldest of four girls. She remembers her father, David Clemons, as an authoritarian who belittled her in front of her siblings and subjected her to humiliating punishments. Clemons' mother left her father, remarried and dropped out of her life after her father won custody of the two oldest girls.
When she was 16, she says, her father tried to force her to touch his genitals after a night of drinking. She pulled away, ran into her room, locked the door and cried herself to sleep.
Not until she was 24, however, did she find out how widespread the abuse was. Living in Norfolk after a stint in the Navy, she reconnected with a childhood friend who told her she had been abused by Clemons' father as a teenager.
Then she reached out to her younger sisters. They told her that their father had done things to them, too.
The day of that revelation is burned into her memory. “No, no, no!” she remembers screaming. “Why? They were innocent!”
After her hysteria calmed, she called the Belmont County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department and reported her father as a suspected child sexual abuser.
Making the call was painful, she says.
“He and I were really, really close. He had a lot of psychological control over me. It was very conflicting, turning him in. I didn't want him to hurt anyone else, but at the same time it was really heart-wrenching to accept that my father had done these things.
“I lived to make him happy, because I was scared of losing his love and affection. He was the only person who hadn't abandoned me.”
By the time her father was arrested in November 2008, Clemons was overwhelmed by a welter of emotions. She felt ashamed, isolated, worthless. She seriously considered changing her name.
“It seemed everything he told me my whole life was a lie,” she says. “I felt completely alone.”
She felt anguish, too, over her younger sisters – for failing to protect them from the abuse and then forcing them to face a past they weren't ready to deal with.
The criminal proceedings moved at a ponderous pace. With each delay in the trial date, Clemons fell further into a spiral of depression.
Trying to numb the pain, she began drinking too much. She had bouts of fatigue and wild mood swings. She became sexually promiscuous. She started burning herself with a cigarette lighter, as if inflicting physical pain would overcome her emotional distress. She still has the scars on her arms.
It was all a silent cry for help, she sees now.
“The signs were there, but no one picked up on them,” she says. “Nobody knew what was going on inside me, because I put on a mask.”
Her suicide attempt only intensified her feelings of shame and worthlessness.
“I felt like a failure on top of everything else,” she says. “It was like, I can't even do this right.”
Nine months later, at his trial in February 2010, David Clemons was convicted on two counts of raping a child – his youngest daughter, who was age 4 at the time – and eight counts of sexual conduct with a minor, later amended on appeal to corruption of a minor – the family friend, who was 13 at the time. He was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison.
For Christa Clemons, who had undergone months of therapy after her suicide attempt, testifying against her father was liberating.
“Being able to face him and point him out to the jury – as scary as it was, it gave me closure,” she says. “After I stood up and said, ‘You did this,' I was able to begin healing.
“It was like I faced my demon and confronted it, and I didn't have to be afraid anymore.”
In a strange way, she says, her five years in the Navy helped steel her for the challenges ahead.
Military service wasn't her idea. She wanted to go to culinary school. But her father, who served five years in the Navy in the 1980s, pushed her in that direction.
One day soon after she graduated from high school, she remembers, “He said, ‘Let's have some father-daughter time.' And he drove me to the recruiter's office.”
As an engineman, a traditionally male job in the Navy, she faced repeated sexual harassment from higher-ranking male sailors, she says. Three times, she reported the perpetrators to her chain of command, but none was disciplined. In some cases, her complaints brought retaliation.
Ultimately, she received a medical discharge for chronic costochondritis, a painful inflammation of the cartilage between the sternum and the ribs. Doctors have told her it is stress-induced. She has only occasional mild flare-ups now.
“It all made me stronger and able to stand up to my father,” she says.
Likewise, her childhood friend who was victimized by Clemons' father seems to have gained strength in the aftermath of the abuse.
“She got married and has a beautiful family,” she says. “She's not letting it destroy her life.”
Clemons' youngest sister, on the other hand, has had a rockier path, marked by brushes with the law and bouts of mental illness. Clemons doesn't know where she is now, which tears at her heart.
Victims of sexual abuse are at high risk of suicide, according to Chris Gilchrist, a Chesapeake social worker and founder of Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide, a support group.
“It's a violation,” she says. “The victim feels shame. And when the abuser is a trusted person, the shame is heightened.”
Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, Gilchrist says.
“Trauma can change your brain chemistry. You can't think your way out of it. Any thinking that leads someone to suicide is depressed thinking. It's not reality-based.”
Counseling, often accompanied by medication, can help the sufferer get to the source of unresolved trauma and develop healthier coping skills, Gilchrist says.
“When emotional wounds are treated, they heal,” she says. “And they leave scars that empower you.”
Some people seem inherently better equipped than others to handle the stress, Gilchrist says, and Clemons seems to be living proof of that.
“There was something mighty in her spirit,” she says.
Clemons credits a constellation of other people for her recovery: Her boyfriend, who has been a consistent source of support. The detective in Ohio who pursued the case against her father with a relentless passion. Her sisters, who had the courage to come forward and confront their past.
Above all, she credits God. She has joined a church and found strength in its community of believers. God, she says, “has placed people in my life who were there when I needed them.”
She went back to school to pursue her original career path, culinary arts. She has nearly completed work on a bachelor's degree in food service management and has landed a job with a local bakery.
The Virginian-Pilot does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse. But Clemons wanted to tell her story.
“I want people to know there is hope,” she says. “You don't have to stay down in the pits and feel that life isn't worth living.
“Bad things happen. It doesn't mean it's your fault, and you're not alone. No matter what you're going through, there's somebody who's been there, and they've made it out.”
Next Saturday, Clemons will walk in the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk sponsored by Survivors of Suicide to help foster the healing of others touched by depression and suicide.
She has reconciled with her mother and is in regular contact with her. She has forgiven her, she says – and her father, too.
“It's not for them, it's for me,” she says. “Now I can let go of that weight that was holding me down.
“It was hard, life-and-death hard. But it was worth it.
“It was worth fighting for.”
Out of the Darkness Community Walk
When 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7
Where Mount Trashmore, Virginia Beach
Sponsor Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide
For whom Anyone who has been touched by depression or suicide
Mission To bring the treatable disease of depression and the preventable tragedy of suicide into the light
Information and registration www.SOS-Walk.org