From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Participates in Child Cyber Safety Night at Nationals Park, Sat, Sept 21st
Child Cyber Safety Night at the Ballpark is the latest effort by the Justice Department and its law enforcement and community partners to encourage parents to speak with their children about online and cell phone safety and provide prevention materials. As part of the event, the Department will receive the Washington Nationals Spirit Award. Deputy Attorney General James Cole will be recognized in an on field ceremony at Nationals Park along with Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Administrator Robert L. Listenbee, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Valerie Parlave and public outreach organization I Know Better founder Steve Schankman.
The spirit award will be announced at 6:20 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, before the 7:05 p.m. Major League Baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Miami Marlins.
In a new public service announcement to be released at the game, Attorney General Eric Holder will emphasize the importance of creating an ongoing dialogue with children about safe use of technology.
“As a parent, I understand the opportunities – and the challenges – that new technologies present for America's young people. It's up to each of us to start a dialogue with our kids about safe Internet and cell phone practices,” said Attorney General Holder in the public service announcement. “Together, we can ensure that our kids are safe and protected – both online and off.”
Resources for parents and children will be available at the Community Clubhouse at the Center Field Plaza when the gates open Saturday through the 3rd inning of the game.
OJJDP provides national leadership, coordination and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization.
For more on Internet and cell phone safety, please visit: www.projectyouthsafety.org/cybersafe
Press inquiries regarding logistics should be directed to Alex Schauffler at Alexandra.Schauffler@nationals.com and Kelly McMahon at kelly@INOBTR.org.
Woman speaks on parent's worst nightmare
JAMESTOWN — Outside of a restaurant on a cold afternoon in December 2005, Patti Marlowe learned a secret her daughter had kept from her, from everyone, for 10 years.
The family — Marlowe's new husband, stepchildren and her 16-year-old daughter — was at a restaurant after church.
Marlowe's daughter was urgent. “Mom, I have to tell you something.”
They went to the bathroom to be alone.
It wasn't private enough.
They went outside.
What Marlowe's daughter told her changed her forever.
“My knees just buckled. My heart felt like it had been ripped out of my body. I wanted to take justice in my own hands.”
The teen told her mother she'd been sexually abused by Marlowe's ex-husband.
Marlowe's daughter, whom Marlowe asked not to be named, decided to tell her mother her secret that day because of a lesson during Sunday school. The lesson mirrored the abuse Marlowe's daughter had endured, and she knew it was time to trust in herself, her mother and the Lord.
Marlowe said her ex-husband began abusing her daughter when they got married. Her daughter was 6 years old. He adopted Marlowe's daughter when she was 8 and continued to abuse her for another four years.
“He controlled her with the fear that if she told me, I would kill him and then she'd be alone or in foster care,” Marlowe said. “Looking back, once you know, you see things differently. She used to ask me what I thought were random questions like, ‘Mom, what would you do if someone hurt me?,' and I'm sure I'd answer her like, ‘I'd hurt them,' which then confirmed her fear.”
Marlowe said her daughter would ask her questions like that often to gauge her reaction.
“Kids want to tell somebody,” she said. “The last thing they want to do is suffer in silence. But perpetrators instill that guilt and that fear in them, and for a lot of victims, it controls them for the rest of their lives.”
‘I NEED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT ALL THE STUFF YOU DID TO ME'
From 2005 to 2008, Marlowe and her daughter were fighting for legal justice. Marlowe's ex-husband was charged with eight felonies which included rape and sexual offenses, in Davidson and Surry counties, and two counts of indecent liberties in Forsyth County.
The turnaround point in the case was when Marlowe's ex-husband's stepfather died. Marlowe's daughter was close to her stepfather's stepfather, and his death gave her a reason to call her stepfather for the first time in two years, with help from the Davidson County Sheriff's Office.
“She called from the Davidson County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Division, and they made it look like she was calling him from her cell phone,” Marlowe said. She told him about his stepfather and then said, ‘I need to talk to you about all the stuff you did to me.' The district attorney got several minutes of damaging audio.”
Marlowe was able to get the three counties into one venue so her daughter wouldn't have to relive her horror over and over in different courthouses. Marlowe's ex-husband was put behind bars for 13 years.
“My daughter's carrying this load that most adults couldn't handle, but she's also gone through having night terrors, panic attacks ... she was cutting, and at an elementary-school age, she was contemplating suicide before I knew anything, before I had any idea she was suffering,” Marlowe said, looking at her hands in her lap. “I had no clue.”
Raising a child in the 1990s, Marlowe thought she had to worry about strangers in the park or people lurking in vans offering her daughter candy. She never thought the person who was a danger to her daughter was the man she was sharing her life with.
“He adopted her when she was 8 because her father wasn't in her life, at least I thought that was the reason,” Marlowe said. “Our marriage was just a way to get to my daughter. He was a pedophile.”
A MONSTER INSIDE HIM
From Jan. 1 to Sept. 16, 71 sex offenses have been reported in Guilford County, according to the sheriff's office. According to the N.C. Department of Justice, Guilford County has the second-highest number of registered sex offenders with 710, behind Mecklenburg County with 803.
“They don't look like monsters,” she said. “They look like everyday people, but there was a monster inside of him. With the statistics we have, it sort of invites perpetrators into Guilford County. I want to reverse that message. Our sheriff B.J. Barnes does a fantastic job of getting them behind bars and making that a priority. I want perpetrators to know that Guilford County is not a safe place for them to live. ”
While Marlowe's daughter is thriving in college, Marlowe is handling it her way by becoming a facilitator of the Darkness to Light program and the program's coordinator with the YMCA of Greater High Point.
Darkness to Light is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse. The organization has trained more than 3,000 facilitators, including Marlowe and David Ozmore, CEO of The Y.
“Our goal is to equip our adults in the High Point area with the tools needed to prevent this from happening to our kids,” Ozmore said. “It is an adult's responsibility to protect kids. We think that when our schools, churches, youth sports organizations and community organizations are educated and aware of this cause, we will make High Point a stronger community for our kids.”
The Y will host a Community Kickoff event on Sept. 26 at noon at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. The public is invited to attend by RSVP. The event is free.
“It's all about being a survivor, about giving my daughter as normal of a life as she can have,” Marlowe said. “We went through a tragedy. But what's even more tragic is when we don't reach out to help others that may be going through what my daughter went through or what I went through. While we can't change our story, we can change someone else's.”
email@example.com | 888-3617
|At a glance:
What: Kickoff event for Darkness to Light program to end child sexual abuse
When: Sept. 26 at noon
Where: Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 1225 Chestnut Drive.
The public is invited to attend by RSVP and the event is free.
Mission to stop child sex trafficking
by Cristina Rendon
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – The dangerous and vicious cycle of child sex trafficking is happening in Utah and you may not even realize it.
Any child can be a target of sex traffickers, but the ones most vulnerable are those in child welfare and foster care systems.
Madi Palmer, a 17-year-old from Holladay, Utah, is part of a national movement called “Backyard Broadcast” to stop the sexual abuse of children after a scary experience.
Palmer is a senior at Cottonwood High School and spends her time raising awareness about child sex trafficking.
“Most people don't realize it's happening in America, let alone Utah and in our schools and communities,” she said.
Palmer saw the problem through her own eyes two years ago. She posed as a homeless teen on the streets of Cottonwood Heights as part of a project with a non-profit organization. Police and parents watch Palmer from a distance to ensure her safety.
Palmer said a man approached her and offered her a place to stay. When she refused, the man later returned to offer her food. Authorities said that is a common ploy of sex traffickers.
“At the time it didn't seem that scary, but it really is,” Palmer said.
Authorities told Palmer the man drove a car without any identifying logos and the license plates were stolen. He was likely a sex trafficker.
Palmer said the experience made her realize what homeless youth go through. She said she probably would have gone with the man if she didn't have another option.
According to U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, up to 60 percent of sexually-exploited children are recruited out of the nation's child welfare and foster care systems. Hatch recently introduced legislation to combat domestic youth sex trafficking.
“We owe these young people better than this,” Hatch said. “This legislation that I am introducing addresses some of the endemic and wide spread conditions in the child welfare and foster care systems that make children and youth particularly vulnerable to being sexually trafficked.”
Hatch's legislation requires states to show that they have policies in place to identify youth who are believed to be at risk of being trafficked.
“ There's really not a lot [trafficked teens] can do to get out of it unless an outside force helps them, which is why legislation like this is really necessary,” Palmer said.
Palmer is making a difference at Cottonwood High School through her local chapter of “Backyard Broadcast.” The youth driven movement is aimed at stopping child sex slavery.
A handful of chapters are active at high schools across the Wasatch Front. Palmer said other students plan on launching chapters at Weber State University, University of Utah, Westminster and Brigham Young University within the next few months.
“If you don't find trafficking in your neighborhood, you're not looking hard enough,” Palmer added.
For more information on joining “Backyard Broadcast” or becoming an ambassador, click here.
MORENO VALLEY: Human trafficking victim receives free car
by STEPHEN WALL
Cody Foute sat behind the wheel and burst into tears.
“Everything's perfect in this car,” the 27-year-old Moreno Valley resident said after composing herself. “It's a total blessing.”
Foute drove away with a free 2010 Toyota Corolla after a ceremony at Ben Clymer's The Body Shop in Moreno Valley on Sept. 12.
A human trafficking survivor, Foute won the car in a giveaway made possible by The Body Shop and other community partners.
The Clymer family gives away a car a year at each of its three locations in Moreno Valley, Riverside and Yucaipa.
“It's because of the community that has helped us that we're more than happy to give back to that community,” said Ben Clymer, CEO of The Body Shop.
Nonprofits and other groups nominate individuals who are in financial need, lack reliable transportation, have turned their lives around and are making a difference. Community Connect, a Riverside nonprofit, screens the applications. Employees at The Body Shop pick the winner.
“Cody was selected because she has a gut-wrenching story as a human trafficking survivor and dedicates her free time to publicly speak out about human trafficking,” said Ben Clymer Jr., vice president of The Body Shop.
The Automobile Club of Southern California donated the car, which was recovered at a salvage yard. It was repaired by Body Shop employees, who donated their time and labor. Parts, paint and materials were donated by area businesses.
The car came with one year of insurance, a trunk full of groceries and coupons for free oil changes and other repairs. Foute's vehicle registration fees were also paid.
Foute was nominated by L.I.G.H.T., Liberating the Imprisoned and Giving Hope to the Taken, an anti-human trafficking ministry of VantagePoint Church in Eastvale. Foute attends the church.
“God turns all the bad into good,” said Foute, a single mom of a 4-year-old girl. “My life has changed because of him.”
Foute had a difficult childhood.
Her biological father, David Foute, was convicted of arson and sentenced in 1998 to four years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, according to Texas prison records.
Her mom was a drug addict. She turned around her life and now works as a drug and alcohol counselor, Foute said.
Growing up, Foute said, she lived in group homes. She turned to drugs to forget her problems.
When Foute was 15, she said she met a girl at a Riverside group home. The girl convinced her to run away by promising her a better life. The girl turned out to be a recruiter for two pimps.
“They gave us drugs, bought us new clothes and treated us nice for two weeks,” Foute said.
To pay back the men, Foute said she was forced into a world of sex trafficking.
“I thought that was all I was ever good at,” she said.
The men hit other girls in front of her to show her what would happen if she didn't cooperate, she said.
Two years ago, Foute said, she was badly beaten in front of her daughter.
“I remember my daughter screaming and crying,” Foute said. “I knew that wasn't OK. I knew I needed to change.”
She saw an opportunity to escape and got away with her daughter. She ran to a gas station and called her mother and the police.
She said her faith, family and friends have helped her stay on the right path. She singles out Jim Baldwin, her “spiritual dad” who runs a Riverside nonprofit called Smile Seekers. The organization assists inner-city youths and senior citizens.
“If it weren't for him and the churches and nonprofits that believed in who I am as a person and helped to build me up, I wouldn't be here today,” Foute said.
In the past year and a half, Foute said she has earned the equivalent of a high school diploma, found a job and moved into transitional housing. She said she has been sober more than a year.
She is a volunteer speaker for Runaway Girl, an organization devoted to educating at-risk youths and combating human trafficking. She gives presentations to law enforcement agencies, nurses, probation officers, social workers, first responders and youth groups.
Foute said she gave her old car, a 1991 Nissan Sentra, to another single mom who doesn't have a vehicle.
The Nissan, which has more than 250,000 miles, broke down often. She said that made it hard for her to travel long distances to spread her anti-trafficking message.
“They're not just helping me by giving me this car,” she said. “They're helping countless others because I will be able to share my story with many more people.”
4 Reasons Why Human Trafficking Is on the Rise
Despite Increasing Awareness, Victims' Numbers Continue to Increase, Researcher Says
Rather than diminishing, reports of children victimized by human traffickers are increasing. Worldwide, children comprised 20 percent of all victims from 2003 to 2006 – that rose to 27 percent over the next three years.
The report estimates 20.9 million adults and children are trafficked every year , and that 1.5 million of them are within the United States, says Sharon Buchbinder. They're sold for forced labor, organs and sex.
“Prostitution, statutory rape and kidnapping are all illegal, so we must have quite a robust criminal underworld,” says Buchbinder, an award-winning, multi-published novelist who recently published “Obsession,” (www.sharonbuchbinder.com), which deals with international kidnapping.
The FBI recently announced the biggest sex-trafficking bust in U.S. history, featuring the arrests of 150 alleged pimps and the rescues of 105 children. However, this is by no means a rare occurrence in our country, Buchbinder says.
“If you're not familiar with these cases, you may ask yourself, ‘How is this possible?' ” says Buchbinder, who reviews some the major, enabling factors.
• Sexually exploiting women and girls is big business. A human trafficker can potentially earn 20 times the amount paid for a girl. Unlike drugs and guns, the same girl can be sold over and over again. Poor girls can be found in all corners of the world, and a wealthy country like the U.S. is a prime market. Once a girl has been sufficiently frightened by her victimizer – told that she'll be found and punished if she flees, or that the lives of her family in another country may be at stake – she will follow a pimp's demands.
• The internet is a free channel for the criminal underworld. According to one estimate, 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the internet. A website called Backpage.com is thought to be the largest U.S. forum for sex trafficking of these girls. While the site connects many consenting adults, it's also rife with girls and women forced into prostitution. A New York Times expose revealed the site is owned by private equity financiers, with a 16 percent stake formerly owned by Goldman Sachs. It sold its shares after the newspaper's inquiry. The internet also allows traffickers to find and “befriend” girls who reveal through their postings the characteristics traffickers are looking for.
• Diplomats can take advantage of immunity. Diplomats to this country are allowed to obtain special visas to bring workers from their home country. Some of these officials take advantage of this and exploit workers. After confiscating passports, an abusive diplomat may force workers to toil for long hours with little or no pay. Several women have been sexually abused under these conditions. And, because of diplomatic immunity, these officials are not prosecuted.
• Major events provide opportunity for traffickers. As reported by Forbes, the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas included 133 underage arrests for prostitution; more than 10,000 prostitutes were packed into Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010. These are facts that officials know about; however, former victims say they were trafficked to various major events throughout the United States decades ago.
“Human trafficking is not a foreign problem; it's a sad fact throughout the world and in our own backyards,” Buchbinder says.
Amazon service 'used for child abuse pictures'
Technology firms under increasing pressure to act after steep rise in reports of extreme images online
by Josh Halliday
Amazon is top of a "hotlist of targets" drawn up by the leading internet child abuse watchdog in a fresh attempt to tackle what it says is a steep rise in reports of extreme images online.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which polices child sexual abuse material, said it had seen a tenfold increase in reports to its hotline about graphic images on third-party pages hosted on computer hardware provided by the retail giant.
Websites using Amazon Web Services' online storage facilities were used to distribute at least 372 unlawful abuse pictures of children in the first half of this year, according to the IWF. A third of these images were categorised as "the worst of the worst", showing rape and torture.
Amazon is one of a number of leading technology firms – including Apple and the blogging site Tumblr – being targeted by the watchdog as part of a renewed assault on paedophilic images online.
But the sites complained of are independent of Amazon, simply paying for website hosting services it provides.
Figures seen by the Guardian show that the number of reports by members of the public to the IWF rose to 3,706 last month, one of the highest numbers since records began in 1996. That is also a 55% increase compared with last year.
Reports of pictures showing abuse of children under 10 have risen by almost a third in the past year, and alerts about the most graphic material have increased by 61%.
Authorities believe the huge spike is linked to heightened sensitivity among internet users since the murder of five-year-old April Jones in October last year. Mark Bridger was jailed for life in May for the sexually motivated attack, which he carried out after looking at child abuse images online.
Web firms have been under pressure to do more to tackle the problem since the culture secretary, Maria Miller, demanded a fundamental change in the way the industry approached child abuse images after Bridger was jailed.
The industry-funded IWF, which is leading the clampdown alongside the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), is hiring seven analysts to help tackle the issue – but will still be stretched, with only 11 officials dealing with around 123 images a day.
Susie Hargreaves, the IWF chief executive, said: "This is a significant time for the IWF as we undertake our biggest expansion since our establishment in 1996. Increasing our hotline team enables us to respond to public reports quicker and become proactive in our fight against paedophilic images on the web."
The IWF is to warn Amazon, Apple, Samsung and other web firms, including the blogging platform Tumblr and file-hosting service Dropbox, that their products are being used to share unlawful pictures of child sexual abuse. "For some like Amazon, Dropbox and imgur, their services are being abused by those who wish to distribute images of children being sexually abused," she added.
"Therefore, we can offer them practical services to help them deal with the issue quicker and more effectively, as well as the benefit of being seen to be doing the right thing."
Hargraves also called for manufacturers of webcams, USB sticks and cameras to join the body, saying they had a corporate social responsibility to act because their products were being abused "to create and distribute criminal images".
Many major internet firms, such as Google and Facebook, are members of the Cambridgeshire-based IWF, but others, including Amazon, Apple and Samsung, are not.
How to ensure your school can spot the signs of child abuse
Rigorous policies must be in place to help create a supportive culture in which teachers can report their concerns
by Louise Tickle
The serious case review into the ways in which four-year-old Daniel Pelka was failed by numerous agencies will have made devastating reading for the only professionals who were in touch with him every day of the week: his teachers.
Review after review highlights an unwillingness to acknowledge that abuse can be inflicted on children. Every time a case like this is brought into the public eye, professionals are urged that they must "think the unthinkable". So why do they fail to expect the worst? And how can we make our schools safer places for vulnerable children?
Understanding why trained professionals fail to see and link signs of abuse is complex, says Emma Davies, an academic psychologist and child protection professional based at Liverpool John Moores University. "The process of cognitive dissonance can come into play, when conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours make us feel uncomfortable," she explains.
Questioning a parent can be particularly challenging for teachers because the education system relies on trust and mutual support. Over the years that various siblings attend a school, a strong relationship will often have built up. For a teacher to suspect a parent in such circumstances questions their earlier judgment. The simplest and most obvious psychological option is to deny anything that undermines that opinion.
"For example, a parent is convincing and engaging in interactions with the teacher," suggests Davies. "The child in question has extensive bruises and appears neglected which raise conflicting thoughts about the parent. To reduce this discomfort, we might be tempted to disregard the bruises.
"If the child is acting out and is difficult to contain in class – or at the opposite extreme, is very withdrawn, which is more likely if they're being maltreated – the teacher may find the child hard to deal with, helping to excuse the behaviour of the parent."
Liz Yardley, lecturer in criminology at Birmingham City University, says it is important for teachers to remember that parents "present a version of themselves" to the school. "Doing something [about a concern] calls into question the very notion we have of what parents are. We have a very idealistic notion of the family and to acknowledge that this is not true can be painful," she says.
If school systems are sufficiently rigorous then teachers will feel supported if they report inappropriate behaviour or niggling worries to senior management. But child protection campaigner, Jonathan West, says such a culture is not always fostered.
A survey West carried out of a sample of school child protection policies checked them off against 10 basic criteria of safeguarding good practice (see below). On this system, he says that Daniel Pelka's school, Little Heath, would have scored just two our of 10. He judged the safeguarding and child protection policies in place at the time of his death – and still available on the school website – to be "of extremely poor quality". He adds: "I've seen worse, but not much."
Poor safeguarding procedures also make schools easy and desirable targets for adults intent on sexual abuse. "I worked once with a man who got himself a job in a nursery with the specific intention of finding opportunities to molest children," says Joe Sullivan, director of Mentor Forensic Services and former head of the Behavioural Unit at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
"Every single day for 18 months this man told me he went into work with that intention, but he didn't succeed, because policies and procedures did not make it possible," recalls Sullivan. "So he went elsewhere and subsequently – yes – he did offend."
If school culture is not supportive of teachers and staff around intervening to protect children, it makes it much harder for responsible professionals to act. "It may be as important to train staff how to deal with conflict and use their critical thinking skills as to ensure that they know about child protection procedures and protocols," says Davies. "Perhaps most important, there is something about finding the courage to intervene. The process of denial of the child's pain serves to protect us adults from something that we can't cope with."
Effective child protection requires absolute commitment from senior leaders. "At an intellectual level people can accept that a popular person could [abuse], but they never really think through the process of what that might look like in their world," Sullivan says. "A teacher who makes an allegation or even raises a concern is likely to be worried that they're smearing the reputation of another person. What I say to senior management is that the ethos needs to come from the top down, so that people are aware that raising a concern is not going to be seen as a negative thing, but welcomed."
The 10 basic criteria of good safeguarding policy for schools
1. The policy names and briefly describes the kinds of abuse that is covered: physical, sexual, emotional and neglect.
2. The policy describes the signs of abuse that staff should look out for.
3. The school has a named designated teacher for child protection.
4. The school also has a named designated governor for child protection.
5. The policy instructs all staff to promptly inform the designated teacher of allegations or incidents of abuse, and sets out the procedure for doing this.
6. It requires that designated teacher to inform the local authority designated officer promptly of all allegations or incidents of abuse.
7. All conversations informing the local authority designated officer are backed with written confirmation.
8. The school commits to periodic safeguarding training for all staff, with advanced training for the designated teachers and head teacher.
9. The policy does not depend on external documents for a description of any reporting procedures to be carried out by the school.
10. The school policy has a revision and publication date, and has been updated within the last 12 months.
Grandmother says she warned county about abuse of dead boy
The grandmother of the 5-year-old Buffalo boy beaten to death earlier this week said she had asked Erie County child protection officials to remove the accused killer from the child's life several times prior to the boy's death.
“I looked straight in the face of the Child Protective Services worker and said, what … is it going to take?” said Robin Hart, the maternal grandmother of Eain Clayton Brooks. “Matt has been beating Eain and also chemically burned him. What is it going to take? And now Eain has been killed by him.”
Eain died from blunt force trauma to the head and body Tuesday, following an attack in his mother and her boyfriend's West Side home Sunday, according to police.
Matthew Kuzdzal, 26, the boyfriend, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Police were called to the boy's home on Albany Street after someone placed a 911 call, saying the boy had fallen down the stairs. He was taken to Women and Children's Hospital, where he died.
As police investigated, they uncovered inconsistencies in what they were being told.
Erie County officials declined to comment specifically on the case, except to acknowledge they are investigating the boy's death.
Peter Anderson, spokesman for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, issued this statement:
“There are currently two ongoing investigations into this tragic death, one being conducted by Child Protective Services, as required by law, and one a criminal investigation.
“We are prohibited by law from commenting on any aspects of this case at this time, or for that matter any other CPS case. Like all people, we grieve the passing of this child and we thank the Buffalo Police Department for its rapid, professional response and quick arrest in this matter.”
Proposed bill looks to give prosecutors more options on second degree child abuse
by Amanda Emery
GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- A Clio state representative is working on a bill that will give prosecutors the tools necessary to charge felony murder against people that commit second degree child abuse, if the abuse causes a child's death.
State Representative Pam Faris, D-Clio, and Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt Township, introduced the bill on Friday, September 20. Faris said the bill is changing just a few words in the penal code to hold those responsible for a child's death accountable. She said prosecutors can choose whether to seek felony murder charges against the abusers depending on the cases.
"This is about children being abused; partisanship is out the door," said Faris in a statement. "We need to give prosecutors another tool for making sure these horrible actions stop."
According to the Michigan Legislature, second degree child abuse is when a person is guilty of causing serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child, knowingly or intentionally commits an act likely to cause serious physical or mental harm, or knowingly or intentionally commits an act that is cruel to a child regardless of whether harm results.
Faris said currently if a person if found guilty for the first time for second degree child abuse, the person could receive as little as 10 years -- she said for two or more offenses the person could receive a maximum of 20 years.
Genesee County has seen fatal child abuse cases including 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun, who was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend, and 9-year-old Shaylae Thomas, a quadriplegic who was found dead from neglect inside a storage unit.
The bill was introduced Friday, from there Faris said it will be referred to a committee where there will be hearings to discuss the bill further. She said after the committee votes on the bill, it then makes its way to the House and if it passes there then to the State Senate.
‘Blue out' vs. Kent State to raise awareness of child sex abuse
by Britney Milazzo
UNIVERSITY PARK — Last Saturday's football game against the University of Central Florida was deemed a student “white out.” But Saturday, there will be a “blue out” as a way to celebrate both Penn State and a way to spread awareness about child sexual abuse.
Spokeswoman Tori Smith said the “blue out” was initiated two years ago as a public response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
She said students Laura March and Stuart Shapiro started the movement to “blue out” Beaver Stadium for the Penn State game against Nebraska on Nov. 12, 2011.
“March and Shapiro campaigned to have all fans wear blue, the color of ribbons displayed in support of child abuse awareness,” Smith said. “They designed a Blue Out T-shirt, whose proceeds went to Prevent Child Abuse PA.”
The second Blue Out was held on Sept. 22, 2012, for the football game against Temple, and Smith said that event benefited the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape's Vision of Hope fund — aimed directly at combating child sexual abuse.
Saturday's game against Kent State will be the third.
“The mission of the ‘blue out' is to raise awareness about child sexual abuse while also raising funds to combat the issue,” Smith said.
Money is raised through donations and sales of official “blue out” T-shirts.
Smith said $9 of the $15 price of a shirt goes to PCAR's Vision of Hope fund. The shirts can be found at the Penn State Bookstore or Family Clothesline. She added that State Shades is also selling sunglasses, and 20 percent of the proceeds from that also goes to the “blue out” campaign
Additionally, she said volunteers would be canning at the gates of the stadium for two hours leading up to kickoff.
“We have some 60 volunteers signed up to help can, and the stadium will be filled with fans clad in blue, hopefully in the official blue out T-shirt,” Smith said.
She said that given the poor weather forecast for Saturday, the stadium may be a little emptier than usual, but she still expects about 80,000 people to participate in the Blue Out.
PCAR's Vision of Hope fund is a national organization that supports critical research and effective prevention strategies, services to victims and programs that increase adult responsibility and accountability of child sexual abuse, Smith said.
PCAR CEO Delilah Rumburg said for the last couple of years, the funds received through the “blue out” game have helped support the Situational Prevention Approach project that works with youth service organizations like the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs on doing a safety assessment of the environment.
“The people from Penn State were specific on making sure the money went toward child sexual abuse programs,” Rumburg said. “That's our primary focus. Our partnership with the university the last couple years has been wonderful.”
To date, Smith said more than $120,000 has been raised. The first year, she said about $47,000 was raised, and a year later, the event raised about $79,000.
Masha Allen's fight to help other child sex assault victims
Now grown up, famous victim of child abuse on web files groundbreaking class action suit
by Julian Sher
For the past eight years, the framed photo has stood prominently on his desk at Toronto police headquarters: an American teenage girl with long hair and a beaming smile leaning against the burly Canadian cop.
Ever since Det. Bill McGarry helped turn Masha Allen into one of the most famous victims of child abuse and Internet pornography, he has kept a special place for her on his desk and in his heart.
“She gave me the strength to keep doing my job,” said McGarry, who heads the Toronto Police Identification Unit, spending days unearthing gut-wrenching images of child sexual assault on the web. “I look at her picture and say: if I don't do this, who is going to hunt for these kids?
Now a grown-up, Masha is using an American law named after her to go after the hundreds of men who have downloaded and traded her pictures of abuse.
Masha was adopted as a 5-year-old Russian orphan by an American millionaire named Matthew Mancuso, who sexually abused her for years and posted her pictures extensively online until she was rescued by the FBI in 2003.
She went on to testify before the U.S. Congress and appear on Oprah's TV show, inspiring then senator John Kerry to bring in “Masha's Law” in 2006 to make it easier for victims of child pornography to sue for civil damages.
Last month, Masha filed a class action lawsuit in a federal court in Pennsylvania, seeking potentially millions of dollars from Mancuso and the other men convicted of possessing and distributing pictures of her abuse.
“She's a very strong young woman, but it's obvious she has been through a lot and has the scars,” Leighton Moore, one of her lawyers, told the Star.
“It's a very compelling cause to help her get some justice under the statute she helped create.”
He said even though in recent years pictures and videos of Masha as a public campaigner for victims' rights are in wide circulation, she is living under an assumed name and filed her lawsuit as “Jane Doe” to protect her privacy.
When McGarry first came across the disturbing pictures of Masha more than a decade ago, she was a thin waif of a child known as “Angeli,” one of the most popular series of child abuse images that circulated widely like pornographic trading cards across the Internet.
Over the years, Masha was displayed in suggestive poses on a Harley, naked and chained to exercise equipment in a gym or spread across a hotel bed.
“She was helpless,” McGarry recalled. “It's like we were watching this little girl grow up exploited.”
McGarry spent two years trying to figure out who and where the girl in the pictures was.
Frustrated by law enforcement's inability to identify her, Toronto police in 2005 took the unprecedented step of releasing sanitized photos of the crime scenes at one hotel — with Masha removed from the images — in the hopes of enlisting the public's help.
The hunt became a North American media sensation. The location was quickly identified as one of Walt Disney World's hotels in Orlando, Fla., which earned Masha the nickname “the Disney Girl.”
It then turned out that the FBI had already located Masha two years earlier in Pittsburgh and jailed Mancuso, but flaws in police databases and file sharing meant other agencies did not know.
Still, Masha decided to use her newfound freedom and fame to speak out on behalf of other child abuse victims and the men who traded in their misery.
“The people who are doing this should be afraid,” she told Congress in May 2006. We know who they are. A lot of the people downloading these pictures are professionals. They are doctors and teachers and ministers.
“You have to do something … If we can put a man on the moon, we can make the Internet safe for kids.”
Kerry – who praised Masha for “a maturity and strength that defies her years – got “Masha's Law” passed, tripling the potential civil penalties for anyone who downloads child pornography to $150,000.
Other legislation also obliges U.S. authorities to notify victims like Masha every time their abuse images turn up in a criminal case for illegal possession of child pornography.
Masha's lawyer said his client has received more than 2,000 such notices, so for a long time she was wary about launching legal action against that many offenders.
The problem, Moore explained, is that filing a couple of thousand of lawsuits against all those defendants could tie up Masha for years in court, possibly forcing her to testify countless and relive her horrors.
“They have already taken away her childhood,” said Moore. “She shouldn't have to spend her adult life testifying to get justice.”
So Masha's lawyers came up with a novel legal tactic, a sort of reverse class action lawsuit that names Mancuso and about 13 other men in a single case as “representatives of a class” of defendants, opening the door to potentially going after hundreds of additional targets.
Moore said he hoped a judge would certify the class action proceedings as early as next year.
For his part, Toronto police detective McGarry is proud the American girl he helped turn into a heroine is standing up once again on behalf of survivors of child abuse.
The last time he saw Masha was seven years ago in New York just before she appeared on CNN. He had his picture taken with her and gave her a gold necklace the Toronto squad had bought for her, with a cameo of an angel and a diamond set as a star in the sky.
On the back were inscribed the words “Always watch over me.”
“We deal with hundreds of children around the world and we don't know the fate of most of them,” said McGarry. “I've always held this investigation close to my heart.”
To this day, many people mistakenly assume the picture on his desk of a smiling Masha is his daughter. McGarry corrects them – sort of.
“We treat her as one of our children,” he said. “We could fill a wall with the pictures of the kids we rescued. But that one was special.”
South Dakota perpetuates child sex slavery
by Albert Bender
A sex scandal that can be characterized as the selling of Native American children into sexual slavery has been perpetrated by South Dakota.
I reported firsthand in August on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) crisis in that state. I felt that the tragedy should be shared with local readers, both native and non-native.
The background is the genocidal abduction of Sioux children from their homes and placing them with white foster care families. All of these removals by the state are illegal under federal law. The state removes more than 700 native children each year, on the flimsiest pretexts. Indian children account for 13.8 percent of the state's child population but represent 56.3 percent of the foster care population. Of the hundreds of native children in foster care, 87 percent were placed in non-Indian homes while native foster homes are empty. Once the children are removed, state courts routinely keep them from even seeing their families for at least 60 days.
The placements become inhumanly horrific as many of these helpless children become victims of physical and unspeakable sexual abuse. The most outrageous involves the Mette case (Sioux children were placed with Richard and Gwendolyn Mette in 1999), in which South Dakota, during 2001-10, covered up the repeated, ghastly sexual abuse of several native children under its authority. Those within the state apparatus who tried to help these children through official channels were prosecuted by the state and lost their jobs.
After the foster father pleaded guilty to rape of a female child under the age of 10, the remaining children were returned to the foster mother who had originally also been charged. The foster parents made the children watch pornographic videos with them, and there was a sex dice game. The mother told the children “to make Daddy happy.” The state received repeated complaints over the years but kept the children in the home. This was tantamount to sexual slavery.
The state's actions are defined as genocide under United Nations conventions. Aside from the genocidal racism, there is a financial motive. South Dakota gets $79,000 from the federal government for every native child it places; $9,000 goes to the foster home. The remaining $70,000 is deposited in state coffers. This amounts to $100 million kept by the state each year. There are high suicide rates among native children taken from their families.
This genocide and dreadful perversion must stop!
Albert Bender, a Cherokee activist, historian and grant writer, lives in Antioch; firstname.lastname@example.org
Raintree House helps troubled young women create sweet success stories
by Sheila Stroup
The first time Ashley Dewey ever felt safe was when she sat down and talked to Sharon Richard at Raintree House. She was 16 and had come to the home for abused and neglected girls after her mother kicked her out of her house, and then her father kicked her out of his, and told a Juvenile Court judge: “I don't want her. Keep her.”
“When I got to Raintree, that's when my childhood started,” Dewey, 23, says.
In the beginning, she kept to herself. “I tried to put up a shield, so if I was disappointed, I wouldn't be hurt,” she says. “I just listened to my CD player.”
But when the batteries in her trusty companion died, she was not allowed to get new ones. “So I had to talk and interact,” she says, looking at Richard and smiling. “Ms. Sharon was the first one I opened up to.”
Richard is a residential counselor at the stately group home in the Garden District, where the grounds are dotted with golden rain trees.
“I'm here to counsel the girls and let them know they're safe and that someone cares about them,” she says. “The best part of my job is, I get an opportunity to mentor them and see them grow up to be nice young ladies and be successful.”
I met Dewey and Richard at Raintree House one recent Saturday. Dewey is an honor student at Southern University in Baton Rouge and will graduate in May with a degree in accounting. She also works at Chase Bank, but she finds the time to come back to Raintree to mentor the young women who are where she was six years ago. She tells them: Don't let your situations get you down.
'I'm a survivor'
“I tell them, ‘There are resources all around. Just use them. There is free counseling and free tutoring. Use all of it,'” she says.
She also tells them, “My mother told me I would never be nothing, and look at me.”
On Oct. 3, the third annual Kenner Food and Wine Event, a casual poolside party featuring 100 different wines and food from 25 local restaurants, will benefit Raintree Services, the nonprofit organization that helped Dewey change her life.
“I went from the bottom of the barrel, and I'm still climbing up,” she says. “I'm a survivor.”
Dewey didn't meet her father until she was 12. “Before that, I thought he was dead,” she says.
He stood her up the first two times he was supposed to come and get her, but the third time, he finally showed up. “It was a happy moment to know him,” she says.
When she visited him, he would give her money or have somebody take her shopping. “He always palmed me off on his wife or one of his girlfriends,” she says.
When she was 13, she told her mother she wanted to spend Christmas with her father, but her mother wanted her to stay home and take care of her four younger siblings.
“I told her, ‘You should be happy my dad is in my life,' and she jumped up and grabbed me and slit my neck on the side with her super-long nails,” Dewey says. “I still have a little scar.”
Then along comes Raintree, and everything was calm." -- Ashley Dewey
By the time she was 16, she was failing all her subjects because she had missed so much school to take care of her sisters and baby brother. She tried drinking and smoking pot, but she didn't want her sisters to think that turning to drugs and alcohol would solve their problems.
“So I quit,” she says.
'Mama, I forgive you'
The greatest sadness in Dewey's life is not being able to see her siblings, especially Isaiah, who was in her care from the time he was a baby.
“When he got circumcised, I was the one who changed his diaper and took care of that,” she says. “He would eat off my plate, and I was there when he started to walk.”
She didn't think of him as a burden, though. “Once my little brother came, that was my fun time. He was my alarm clock. He followed me around,” she says. ”I wanted him to be, like, the smartest person in the world.”
When she left her mother's house for the last time, Isaiah was 20 months old. She smiles through tears as she tells me what he did as she was leaving.
“He came out carrying a little grocery bag with some clothes in it,” she says. “He wanted to go with me.”
After staying with friends, she went to her father's. But two days later, when he was high, he beat her up and pulled some of her braids right out of her head. “He gave me the licks he was planning to give his girlfriend,” she says.
He called her mother and told her to take her daughter back, but she refused, so he took Dewey to the parish courthouse in Gretna and she became a ward of the state. She had no possessions until her case worker took her shopping.
“I still have the overnight bag she bought me,” Dewey says. “I still have some of the jeans and shirts.”
While she was waiting to find out where she'd end up, she wrote poems, and she wrote down her goals and aspirations. She wrote out the names and ages of all her siblings, and she wrote, “Mama, I forgive you.”
She went from one temporary foster home to another until her court date.
“Then along comes Raintree, and everything was calm,” she says.
Once she learned to open her heart to the other girls and the counselors at Raintree House, Dewey began to blossom. She had to redo her junior year at a new school, and she earned straight A's at Cohen Senior High. She became Student Government Association president and joined the Big Brother Big Sister Club. She met Edward James, and he has been her boyfriend since March 18, 2008.
“He's the reason I went to Southern,” she says. “He's graduating in December, so it's perfect. He can start making some money.“
At Raintree, Dewey had computers to use and a library. She went to the zoo and the aquarium for the first time. She took a swamp tour. She has done things she had never had the chance to do as a child.
She remembers getting in trouble with Richard once when the Raintree girls were on a field trip in the French Quarter and Dewey wasn't listening. “She pulled me to the side, and then I couldn't see my boyfriend,” Dewey says.
“It was tough love,” Richard says, smiling at her.
Raintree House and tough love were what Dewey needed.
“I loved it here. It was the first time I ever felt that family presence,” she says. “It's awesome that I can still come here and get free comfort.”
One of her favorite things about Raintree House was sitting at the table with the other young women for dinner every night. “I know when I have my kids, this is how I want my family to be,” she says.
When Dewey turned 18, she went into the Young Adult Program. She lived in an apartment in Metairie and learned about budgeting and cooking. The young people in the program also get a computerized “baby” to take care of.
“That baby was a disaster,” Dewey says. “It was crying every two hours. It was not like my brother.”
Although she no longer lived at Raintree House, she felt a connection there and often visited. Even when she went off to college, Richard was a constant presence in her life, and they still talk frequently and send text messages to each other.
“Her freshman year, I called Ashley every morning, and I sent her inspirational words every day,” Richard says. “I didn't birth her, but she's my daughter.”
On Sept. 30, Dewey will be in Washington at the Children's Defense Fund's 40th anniversary celebration, where Hillary Rodham Clinton will be honored. Dewey and another Beat the Odds Scholarship recipient will represent Louisiana. Dewey wrote her essay, “How I Beat the Odds,” in 2009, and she won the scholarship and the all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
“I've never been to Washington, so this experience will be exciting,” she says.
Dewey's favorite quote is by David Brinkley: “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”
Those words certainly apply to this beautiful young woman. She has an impressive foundation to build on, and she and her boyfriend look forward to a happy family life together.
“We're waiting to have kids until we're married and are financially able to do it,” Dewey says.
She's not sure where they'll settle after graduation, but as long as she's not far from New Orleans, she'll keep showing up at Raintree House to inspire young women.
“This was my vacation place, my rehab place,” she says. “You can see why I still come back here. It was my first true home.”
Raintree Children & Family Services benefit
What: The third annual Kenner Wine and Food Event, showcasing local wine purveyors, restaurants and businesses.
Where: Chateau Country Club, 3600 Chateau Blvd
When: Oct. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Admission: Buy tickets at the Chateau Country Club administrative offices or at Chateau Country Club's website. Advance tickets are $75; $65 for Chateau members. Tickets are $90 at the door. To order benefit tickets and raffle tickets by phone, call 504.467.1351 and ask for the administrative office.
More: Guests can sample 100 different wines and dishes from 25 local restaurants, and listen to music by the Groovy 7 band. Featured wines can be purchased at a discount. An auction and a raffle, including a trip to California wine country. Attire is dressy casual.
Child abuse experts to be featured on ‘Conversations LIVE'
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Recent news has been flooded with tragic reports of child abuse, but sadly, many other cases go unreported.
The next episode of WPSU-TV's "Conversations LIVE" features experts who will discuss how to recognize child sexual abuse, how to protect children and how to help victims recover. Host Patty Satalia will be joined by Jennie Noll, Lucy Johnston-Walsh and Mark Zimmer, whose expertise are in advocacy, protection and law.
The 60-minute show is interactive, taking viewers' phone calls, emails and questions via Twitter. Viewers can join the conversation by calling 800-543-8243 during the show, emailing email@example.com or tweeting @WPSU. "Conversations LIVE: Child Abuse" will air at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, on WPSU-TV, WPSU-FM, WQLN-TV in Erie and online at http://wpsu.org .
Noll has recently joined the Penn State faculty as a professor of human development and family studies, and is leading Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being. She is an internationally recognized researcher from Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and her work has examined the long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse.
Johnston-Walsh is the clinic-supervising attorney for the Children's Advocacy Clinic, part of Penn State Law, directing the clinic's operations and supporting its mission to advocate for legislative issues related to children in the welfare system. She has served as a state and federal lobbyist for these issues and is also the past chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Children's Rights Committee.
Zimmer, a private practice attorney and chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, is an influential voice in child abuse lawmaking and training. He has served on multiple committees surrounding these topics, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee and the Joint State Government Commission's Advisory Committee on Services to Children and Youth.
Children blackmailed into sex abuse online
LONDON (AFP) – Children as young as eight are being blackmailed into performing sex acts live on webcams, causing some of them to self-harm or even commit suicide, a British watchdog warned on Friday.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) said it had conducted 12 investigations over the last two years which involved this worrying trend -- and suggested British children are particularly at risk.
Paedophiles pretending to be children target their victims on open chat sites, before moving them into private areas where they persuade the child to send sexual images of themselves.
"Once the child has sent images, the offenders begin blackmailing them either for more indecent images or, in few cases, for cash," the centre said in a statement.
"And unless the child agrees, the offender threatens to share the child's pictures with family and friends."
In some cases, the children are also forced to perform other acts live on a webcam, including writing degrading statements on their body and cutting themselves, it said.
CEOP said it had identified 424 child victims of online sexual blackmail over the last two years, through its own work and that of its international partners.
Seven children were driven to serious self-harm and seven killed themselves, it said.
"The stories we hear are truly tragic and you cannot help but be touched by the emotional rollercoaster these youngsters must be going through," said Andy Baker, deputy chief executive of the centre.
A significant proportion -- 184 -- of the victims were from Britain, which CEOP operations manager Stephanie McCourt blamed in part on the popularity of the English language.
"They (the abusers) are able to threaten the children if they can communicate to them," she said.
She added: "The offenders have actually said that because they perceive the UK as a very free and open and liberal society, they think that they will have more success in targeting UK children."
No-one at CEOP was immediately able to give details on the nationalities of the other victims, or which other countries were involved in their research.
The centre offers support for victims online and said it was working with authorities around the world to catch those responsible.
Lawsuit Alleges Los Angeles Teacher Sexually Abused Up to 15 Children
The teacher was removed from El Sereno Elementary School in 2010 after allegations that he inappropriately touched students
by Christina Cocca, Jonathan Lloyd, Kim Baldonado, Toni Guinyard and John Cádiz Klemack
A former Los Angeles Unified School District teacher accused of molesting students is denying the allegations laid out in a new lawsuit against the school district.
"I would love to say things. All I can tell you is those allegations are not true," Armando Gonzalez told NBC4's John Cádiz Klemack in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
A lawsuit filed against the LAUSD on Wednesday alleges the former El Sereno Elementary School teacher may have sexually abused as many as 15 children.
Three former students said their teacher inappropriately touched them and kissed one of the girls on the lips between 2008 and 2010. The lawsuit also claims another student reported abuse in 2007 by the same teacher, but was ignored by the district.
"My belief is one of the kids came forward in 2007, but was ignored," said Carrillo, who also represents families involved in the Miramonte Elementary School sexual abuse lawsuits. "Then, he continued to do his abuse, which is the same pattern as Miramonte."
There might be as many as 15 victims, a number that attorney Luis Carrillo told the Los Angeles Times was based on information provided by the school district to parents. The families contacted his office when the girls were asked to testify at an LAUSD administrative hearing, according to Carrillo.
The three girls ranged in age from 8 to 10 years old at the time of the abuse.
The district was in the process of firing Gonzalez last year, but he officially resigned last week after first protesting the firing, an LAUSD spokesperson said. Gonzalez has not been at the school since mid-2010, according to El Sereno Elementary School Principal Cheryl Morelan.
"In 2012, we began dismissal proceedings against this teacher for alleged misconduct," the district's attorney said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we are required by law to go through a set of potentially lengthy proceedings to make the dismissal final."
LAUSD officials became aware of the allegations in 2010 and removed Gonzalez from the classroom, according to the statement. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that Gonzalez was arrested in 2010.
"As soon as we were made aware of the allegations of misconduct against Armando Gonzalez in March 2010, we immediately reported it to law enforcement," the statement issued Thursday morning continued. "Gonzalez has not been in the classroom since. We remained steadfast throughout that process to not settle with this teacher."
The statement went on to criticize state officials for creating a "cumbersome and costly" teacher dismissal process. Gonzalez resigned during the dismissal proceedings on Sept. 11, 2013.
A bill designed to streamline the process was forwarded to California Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. The original bill died in committee in July, but a resurrected version passed the Legislature.
The LAUSD statement issued Thursday said the bill does "not provide adquate protection for our students."
LAUSD must pay millions in 61 settlements to families involved in a sexual abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School. The district paid $27 million in those cases, but other claims involving Miramonte Elementary School families remain unresolved.
Sheehan victims, officials press on
DA says no trial; but many seek answers to why child molestor was allowed to get away
By Frank Mortimer
Foxboro bears an old mark of shame for allowing a town employee who molested numerous boys decades ago to slip away to Florida, free to harm other children.
The town today also wears new shame for its continued silence.
That is among the viewpoints voiced following Norfolk District Attorney's announcement Friday that former Foxboro teacher, Boy Scout leader and swimming coach William E. Sheehan, 74, has been found unfit mentally and physically to stand trial.
Masked as a state-certified Bible teacher, Sheehan continued his assaults on children in Florida, records suggest. The Boy Scouts suspended his registration there in 1989 and the Florida schools in 1990 revoked his teaching certification for "gross immorality" involving a student.
"I'm frankly disgusted with the way everything has been handled," said David Lutkus, 47, who lived in Foxboro until 1984 and was one of more that 20 men who over the past year or more reported Sheehan's sexual assaults on them as children.
"Somebody helped him disappear and we pushed our problem to Florida and I don't think that's fair," said Lutkus, adding that he believes there are still individuals who have knowledge of Sheehan's activities and flight from Foxboro and that those persons have a moral duty to speak up.
Selectman James DeVellis agrees.
In an editorial column published in today's Foxboro Reporter (Page 4), DeVellis, who has met with a group of victims, calls for anyone with information about the Sheehan era and his move to Florida to take heart from the victims who have come forward.
"I do not believe that the Foxboro police are finished and I do believe that they have been working diligently," DeVellis, who has met with a group of victims, writes. "...if there is any insight you may have, please know that you will be supported and it will tremendously help the kids of yesterday and today. Think about it please."
School superintendent Debra Spinelli, who notified police last year when an employee told her of suffering years of sexual assaults by Sheehan as a boy, said 352 staff members were trained in August in the Darkness to Light child protection program.
Previously, about 40 staff members received that training, through a two-year-old partnership initiated by Ed Hurley, president of the Hockomock Area YMCA .
"Child sexual abuse is one of the most important issues of our day," Spinelli said this week. "It is an uncomfortable topic. As such, we did not feel we were adequately prepared to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse and to address concerns proactively. At the time, we had no idea how personally this issue would hit our community. Going forward as a school system, we want to do the most we can to protect our students.
"As D. A. Morrissey points out, child sexual abuse is a terrible violation of trust in the adults who are supposed to protect and care for children. Those brave enough to step forward and share their stories helps us move one step closer to a more educated society that truly understands that this problem is real. Armed with knowledge, will, and determination, we must be unafraid to confront this issue."
One of the concerns is that Sheehan records seem to have vanished.
“School Administration has been unable to locate William Sheehan's personnel file after a very thorough search,” superintendent Debra Spinelli confirmed Wednesday. “If any records are found, they would be immediately turned over to law enforcement.”
Morrissey's associates called the victims in advance to let them know of the coming announcement that Sheehan, who has been found to have advanced Alzheimers and lives in a Fort Myers nursing home, will not face prosecution in his current state of health.
Police chief Edward O'Leary has kept open the warrants for his arrest, in the event that Sheehan's condition improves to the point that he is found fit to understand the charges and participate in his defense.
Kevin Corliss, 57, a long-time maintenance employee of the Foxboro Public Schools, said he was told Sheehan hasn't recognized his own family in three years.
"Quite frankly, I was glad to hear from them finally," Corliss said of the D.A.'s office. "It's taken some time. It did give some relief. We asked them to make sure he's in full dementia."
Corliss, who several months ago made a searing public statement to selectmen of how Sheehan's attacks wounded his life, said "dozens" of people have come to him saying that Sheehan's behavior was "no secret" while he was a town employee and scout leader.
Corliss said Sheehan molested him from about age 8 to 14, and that he is convinced that one or more Foxboro school administrators in the 1960s to 1980s were aware of Sheehan's pedophilia. Some of those persons may be dead now, he said, and he does not wish to "throw dirt on people when they can't defend themselves."
He said he disclosed Sheehan's long-ago attacks to Spinelli when interviewing for a promotion to maintenance foreman.
Although he didn't get the job, he said he received something more valuable: care, concern and action. Spinelli went to the police, ultimately leading to Morrissey's statement last week validating the experiences of the victims.
"The determination that he is not fit to stand trial in no way diminishes the truthfulness and importance of the victims who have come forward to present their testimony. We are grateful for their courage," Morrissey said.
Rev. Bill Dudley, pastor of Union Church, last year reported his own boyhood trauma, having warded off an assault by Sheehan, the town's swimming coordinator, near Cocasset River Park.
Dudley, who stood beside Corliss when Corliss poured his heart out to selectmen, said this week that the announcement that Sheehan cannot be brought to trial comes as no surprise, given that his Alzheimer's was reported months ago.
"It's still an emotional blow in a sense, because we all had an admittedly unrealistic hope that perhaps he could be charged, or maybe I should say I did. An emotional wish more than a logical thought. But for some time the survivors have pressed for a wider look at this: did Sheehan have connections to other pedophiles, are they still operating, why did he leave town and did he have help or was he confronted?"
"Maybe some will still be willing to talk in the privacy of the police station."
Associate pastor sexually abused female parishioners at Norwalk church
by Brian Day
Sheriff's officials Thursday announced the arrest of a Norwalk associate pastor accused of molesting as many as 20 female church members over the past eight years.
Jorge Juan Castro, 54, of Norwalk is charged with six felony counts in connection with the alleged sexual assaults of four women between ages 18 and 39 while he worked as an associate pastor and counselor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church, 11910 Alondra Blvd., according to Sgt. Al Garcia of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Victims Bureau.
The alleged crimes took place between 2004 and 2012, sheriff's officials said in a statement.
He was placed on leave in April, immediately after 20 women came forward to report they had been sexually assaulted by Castro, Garcia said.
“Multiple victims reported the sexual abuse to a church official, who in turn, reported it to us,” the sergeant said.
But only four of the women were willing to speak with detectives as of Thursday, Garcia said.
Castro's alleged victims were primarily Spanish-speaking, undocumented immigrants, the sergeant said. He was believed to have threatened them not to come forward.
“The suspect, after the assaults, threatened to have the them deported,” Garcia said. “He also threatened to subject them to public ridicule.”
Castro also worked as an associate pastor at an affiliated church, the Oasis Community Church in Moreno Valley, Garcia said. Authorities in Moreno Valley have been notified of the situation, however no victims from Riverside County have been identified, Garcia said.
After more than five months of investigation, deputies served an arrest warrant and took Castro without incident Sept.??13 at his Norwalk home, Garcia said.
Prosecutors charged him the same day with one count of rape, four counts of oral copulation by force and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales. The charges involve two victims, and the charged crimes occurred in January of 2004 and April of 2010.
“The criminal complaint includes a special allegation of multiple victims and states that the defendant committed the offenses by use of force, violence, duress, menace and fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury,” Davila-Morales said.
Castro started working for the Las Buenas Nuevas church in Norwalk shortly after immigrating to the U.S. from Argentina in 2004, Garcia said.
Garcia said Castro took advantage of his position of authority to sexually assault the women.
“Some crimes occurred at the church, some crimes occurred at the victims' homes,” Garcia said.
Detective encouraged the 16 other alleged victims already identified, as well as any others who may not have come forward, to cooperate with investigators to bring Castro to justice.
“We're here to tell the victims, and other potential victims, that law enforcement is here to help them. We will not report (them to) immigration. We're not going to deport them.” Garcia said. “We want to help them deal with these heinous crimes and prevent him from doing it again.”
Garcia said Castro had no criminal history in the United States that investigators were aware of, however he did not know if he had a record in Argentina.
Castro was initially scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court for an arraignment the day of his arrest, however the hearing was continued to Oct. 16, Davila-Morales said.
According to county booking records, Castro was being held in lieu of $2??million bail.
Group tries to raise awareness about human trafficking in Houston
by Katie McCall
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Houston making the top a not-so-great list. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Houston is one of the nation's largest hubs for human trafficking. And one organization is doing what it can to shine a light on the problem often left in the shadows.
The group is holding a three-day summit to organize what it calls warriors in the fight against human trafficking. They tell us many of the victims are too afraid to escape, for fear of deportation by authorities or violence at the hands of their captors.
You've likely driven by them. The signs say "Studio," "Lingerie Modeling," even "Stress Relief." But the group Elijah Rising says they're all the same thing: Houston brothels selling enslaved girls for sex.
"The Ship Channel area is a huge hot spot. The Galleria area, just south of the actual Galleria, is probably the epicenter for human trafficking," Elijah Rising Mobilization Director Adam Chaney said.
Chaney directs bus tours to show Houstonians just where this is happening. Elijah Rising says it has rescued 12 girls so far and identified 300 suspected trafficking locations in Houston alone.
Helping are people like former human trafficking bodyguard Ohad Shaul, who wants to expose the atrocities he saw.
"They get sold 10 times a day, on a good day. On a bad day, they'd get sold 20 or 30 times a day," Shaul said.
Victims include women smuggled from Southeast Asia, South America and Mexico. There are an estimated 21 million human trafficking victims in the U.S. Houston is one of the top cities for the crime.
"The I-10 corridor here has been labeled as part of the No. 1 human trafficking corridor in the nation," said Mike Book, the Homeland Security assistant special agent in charge of our area.
And those who know say the life that awaits them is a living hell.
"I wouldn't say the living condition of a dog because your dog you take out once or twice a day," Shaul said.
In 10 years, the U.S. Attorneys Office says it has rescued 500 human trafficking victims in Houston. The average age of girls entering the industry is 13. After that, their life expectancy is just seven years.
New Shelter In San Bernardino Helps Victims Of Human Trafficking, Prostitution
SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — A new shelter in San Bernardino is helping victims of human trafficking and prostitution.
Pastor Paula Daniels founded Rachel's House to save lives.
“I like to tell people there are two types. There are the girls who are forced into it and there are the ones who are doing survival sex,” she said.
Debra Dolce, the head of the house, was once a victim of human trafficking herself.
“I was pimped out of a drug house for 10 years and my oldest child came and rescued me,” she said.
She added, “When you care for somebody, you accept them in their difficult times and in their good times. Whatever it takes to get a girl to that place, I'm willing to do.”
CBS2's Tom Wait spoke with a woman off-camera who said she was a prostitute by choice.
She said the women who frequent Baseline Street in San Bernardino, which is known for prostitution, are just trying to make money.
Lorie Gott, a thrift shop manager along Baseline, said the issue is cutting into business.
“It's caused our business to really take a dive because families will not come in,” she said.
Columbus Police Focus In On Sex Trade At Area Hotels
by Glenn McEntyre
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Columbus police say state Route 161, near interstate 71, has become an area where prostitution is overlooked and even allowed.
Investigators say there are things about the area that just invite criminal activity -- a cluster of hotels and easy access in and out via the highway.
But they say some hotels aren't doing enough to close their doors to the sex trade.
They're hoping a recent sting sends a message.
It starts with an online ad.
Then a phone call:
"Hey Kendall, this is Mark. I saw your ad, and I was hoping to maybe meet up with you later on tonight."
Mark isn't a customer -- he's an undercover Columbus Vice Detective.
"She said she was full service, which means to me that she offers sex for money," he says.
Renee has an ad online, and Thursday she was busted by Columbus police.
"I feel like such a letdown,” she said through tears. “I feel like a letdown to my family, my kids, myself."
She says she has three children and a degree in accounting.
She also has an addiction to heroin.
Officers found boxes of used needles in her room.
She's been used, beaten and raped, all, she says, for her addiction.
"I woke up on the floor. I'd been knocked out for six hours,” she recounted. “He raped me. I've been raped a few times."
"I think that the vast majority of women involved in prostitution are, or at some point, were victims of human trafficking," said Lt. Mark Lang of the Columbus Vice Squad.
He says the Columbus Division of Police has come to recognize these women and girls as victims, turning its attention to the men behind them.
"Those are really the people that we're after,” he said. “The pimps that are out there, the ‘Johns' that are making this a worthwhile business for those pimps."
But investigators say the pimps and Johns aren't the only ones playing a role.
They say so are businesses that turn a blind eye to what's happening.
"You can only arrest so many drug dealers and prostitutes from the same hotel before common sense takes over, and you have to say that that hotel, if they don't know what's going on, they're in on it," said Lang.
In the past three days, police told 10TV that they've found two human trafficking victims, one of them 17 years old.
They've arrested two women for solicitation.
Those women will be referred to the CATCH Court prostitution docket.
And they've arrested one man they identify as a pimp or trafficker -- 32 year old Wayne Miller.
He is charged with felony promoting prostitution.
10TV News spoke with one hotel manager, who would only say that they recognize prostitution is a problem in the area, and that when they suspect it's happening, they order the people involved to leave.
She insisted it is not something they're tolerating or looking past.
Was Sex With Children Ever Okay?
In an interview with TIME this week, biologist Richard Dawkins talks about being molested as a child, which he says was not a particularly big deal. “What's happened now is that society has developed a horror of it, and rightly so. But I do think it's important to not be too judgmental of past ages by the standards of ourselves,” he says. “You have to look at history through contemporary eyes rather than through today's eyes.”
Similarly, the long-ago victim of Roman Polanski's predations has released a book, in which she is not as hard on her famous rapist as many people expected. “Not everyone will understand this,” Samantha Geimer writes, “but I never thought he wanted to hurt me; he wanted me to enjoy it. He was arrogant and horny.”
Dawkins was molested by a master at his primary school while he watched a squash match. True to his scientific bent, he describes it pretty clinically in his book An Appetite for Wonder : “He did no more than have a little feel, but it was extremely disagreeable (the cremasteric reflex is not painful, but in a skin-crawling creepy way it is almost worse than painful) as well as embarrassing.”
After it was over, young Dawkins ran off to tell his friends. Many of them had had the same unfortunate experience. In his telling, it seems to have been more or less regarded as bad luck, rather like having been bowled for a duck (having scored no runs) in cricket. “I don't think he did any of us lasting damage,” he notes.
But Dawkins has not put that last hypothesis through rigorous scientific testing. The studies on any child-adult sexual contact are pretty clear, whether it is so- called “consensual” or not. It can be toxic for the child. There are thousands of sexual abuse survivors who struggle with what happened to them decades after the event.
Dawkins seems to be suggesting that in making a huge deal of sex offenses against minors that happened long ago, we may be overreacting. And perhaps making things worse for the victims. Indeed, Geimer has claimed that the media victimized her by constantly invading her privacy every time Polanski popped back into the news.
Certainly, things have changed since the Pill first unshackled sex and pregnancy and folks threw sexual caution to the winds. What had once been regarded as an unfortunate moral failing—a penchant for young children—is now universally seen as predatory and dangerous to others. But the degree of damage sexual abuse causes may have less to do with the public attitude towards it, as Dawkins seems to suggest, and more to do with the personality, life experience and relative health of the abused. Whenever humans are wounded they heal differently, even if the injuries appears similar. Some need rest, others exercise; some respond better to therapy, while others benefit from something more invasive.
RAINN, the well-respected Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, has a list of possible symptoms of adult victims of child sexual assault. They range from problems setting boundaries to full-blown alcohol or drug addiction. Dawkins was lucky to have got off so lightly. Samantha Geimer could not be called lucky, but she healed. (She says she was definitely not all right for a year after the event.)
In other words, just because some people have come through sexual abuse with no more injuries than an “extremely unpleasant” memory doesn't mean that childhood sexual abuse should be taken lightly. This isn't simply a matter of a shifting moral climate that may well shift back again. We also know the damage isn't just to the victim. While Dawkins was still at school, the master who molested him committed suicide.
Center supports families traumatized by child sexual abuse
by Scott Aiken
ST. JOSEPH — The disclosure by Ann's 7-year-old son that he had been sexually abused by a relative came as a devastating shock to her.
Within a short time the Berrien County woman's teenage daughter also revealed that she had been sexually assaulted for years.
The children's father, Ann's ex-husband, was later charged with abusing both, found guilty in a trial and sentenced in December to a long prison term.
“Looking back now, I can see the signs that were there,” Ann said. “It was more devastating because I didn't ask my children a lot of questions.”
Initially afraid and uncertain of the legal process after the sexual assault revelations were made, Ann came to count on support and counseling from the Children's Assessment Center (CAC) of Berrien County.
The center in Royalton Township played an important role during the police investigation, doing forensic interviews with the children to help authorities determine if the sexual assaults had occurred.
Later, the center's therapists provided free counseling to Ann and her children, helping them work through the traumatic events and bring normalcy to their lives.
Ann said she got an important bit of encouragement from a therapist at a terrible moment early in the process — immediately after her son disclosed facts to an interviewer about the sexual abuse he had endured.
“She said someday this won't be the only thing you think about,” Ann said. “This won't dominate.”
“I was thinking there's no way, I'd never get past this.”
But after a few months, with support and counseling, the trauma subsided.
“I thought, OK, we can think about soccer practice,” she said.
And after six months, Ann said, “it wasn't consuming us anymore,”though she feels there's still a way to go.
“They were incredibly kind to me,” she said.
The case is one of more than 500 in 2012 in which the CAC interviewed children to determine if they were sexual assault victims.
Operated by the Berrien County Council for Children, the center coordinates the work of police, the prosecutor's office, the Michigan Department of Human Services and others responsible for investigating child sexual abuse.
The facility, a remodeled school along M-139, serves children ages 2-18. The aim is to assist law enforcement while reducing the trauma on children.
Crisis and ongoing counseling are provided to young victims and members of their families who are not abusers. The CAC coordinates case reviews of every child seen at the center. Cases are tracked through an investigation and prosecution until final disposition.
The National Children's Alliance has accredited the center and does periodic reviews.
One of the most important parts of the work is doing forensic interviewing with children who may have been sexually abused. The interviewing technique, which requires training, poses questions in a friendly but unemotional way, one that does not suggest answers.
The interview is one on one and conducted in a pleasant room with decorations appropriate for the child's age.
While the interview takes place, a police officer, prosecutor and DHS employee watch through one-way glass. They can communicate with the interviewer, who wears a small headset, sometimes suggesting a question.
“We're looking for a lot of detail,” said Barbara Welke, recently retired CAC director and a forensic interviewer. “You're not supporting anything but encouraging to give detail.”
Typically, 90 minutes is set aside for the interview. Afterward, the police officer, prosecutor and DHS worker who were present meet with the child's parent.
Children disclose that they were sexually abused in about half of the cases, and the majority of those result in prosecution.
In some cases abuse may have occurred, although a child does not disclose what happened or tells only some of it, not enough information to bring charges.
In other cases, suspicions of abuse are shown to be unfounded, occasionally initiated by a vindictive spouse in the context of divorce or custody proceedings.
The forensic interview process has come into use to replace a problem-prone method that relied on multiple interviews.
Under that system, a child would sometimes be interviewed three or four times as a case proceeded from police to the prosecutor's office and through the court system.
Interviews might take place in a police station or in the home where the suspected perpetrator was nearby. The multiple interviews tended to add to a child's trauma or leave the impression that nobody believed him or her.
In the forensic interview the child is encouraged to do most of the talking.
“It may be the first time an adult has listened to them,” Welke said.
With the police and others watching and listening from another room, all get the same information at the same time, and rarely there is a need for a second interview.
Therapy is another key element of the Council for Children's program, said Brooke Rospierski, a forensic interviewer and therapist. The service may continue for a long period of time.
“There's no fee, no time line, no insurance companies to deal with,” she said, which can relieve some of the family stress.
During 2012, the CAC conducted 526 forensic interviews, up from 476 in 2011 and 463 in 2010. The numbers were 372 in 2009; 330 in 2008; and 338 in 2007.
Therapy sessions also are on the increase. There were 552 in 2012, compared with 398 in 2011; 384 in 2010; 292 in 2009; 244 in 2008; and 326 in 2007.
The center sometimes interviews children who may be victims of physical abuse or neglect.
Child sex abuse victims come from all ethnic groups and economic backgrounds. In 2012 a large percentage of the suspected abusers were parents, stepparents, boyfriends or girlfriends of a parent, other relatives or others known to the victim.
About 26 children's assessment centers operate in Michigan, which means not every county has one. The Berrien County CAC also serves children in Van Buren and Cass counties.
A step forward
Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic said development of the CAC, which opened in a different building in 2002, has meant better outcomes in investigations of child sexual abuse.
But the incidence of such abuse does not seem to be declining.
“I think we're getting better at prosecuting them,” Sepic said. “I don't think it's stopping.”
Accurately determining the number of cases is not possible because so many sexual assaults on children go unreported.
The nonprofit organization Darkness to Light says studies suggest that 10.7 percent to 17.4 percent of girls are sexually abused, while the rate for boys is 3.8 percent to 4.6 percent. The organization's goal is to reduce the incidences of child sexual abuse through awareness and education.
Nationally, about one in 10 children are abused before they turn 18, according to Darkness to Light.
A 2005 study by London, Bruck and Cici found that 60-70 percent of adult survivors of child sexual abuse do not recall ever disclosing to anyone about the abuse when they were children. Of those who did tell as a child, only 10-18 percent remember their cases ever being reported to authorities.
“We only see the tip of the iceberg,” Welke said.
Studies by David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, maintain that one in five girls, and one in 20 boys, have been sexually abused.
Over a one-year period in the U.S., 16 percent of children ages 14-17 had been sexually abused, one of the center's studies shows.
Assistant Berrien County Prosecutor Patricia Ceresa says children who have been abused sometimes come forward to prevent the same thing from happening to a sibling.
In one case, a 13-year-old girl reported how she had been abused only when it seemed to her that a younger sister was about to become a target. A family member was prosecuted, convicted and sent to prison.
A new approach
The Children's Assessment Center of Berrien County went into operation as the result of a committee's work to find better ways to investigate and prosecute child sex abuse cases. The CAC moved into its present building in 2005.
Sepic, who helped get the ball rolling, said changes were sorely needed in the interview process — which was not child-friendly — to help victims.
The committee decided to set up a center using forensic interviewing, a technique which had been around for almost 15 years at the time, Sepic said.
At first, some police officers who had training in victim interviewing were skeptical. Then, the Benton Harbor and Benton Township police departments started using the professional interviewers and liked the results.
From that point on, Sepic said, “it just sort of blossomed.”
A protocol on child sex abuse investigations developed by law enforcement, the Michigan Department of Human Services and the prosecutor's office requires that the CAC interview alleged victims who are under 13.
Lincoln Township Chief of Police Dan Sullivan, who worked as a detective when the center opened, said it has solid support among law enforcement agencies.
“This allows us to have an independent, professional person with no bias in the case, other than concern for the children, to do the interview,” he said. That way, police investigators do not inadvertently cause mistakes that could affect the outcome of a case.
“We don't want to mislead or ask leading questions of children,” Sullivan said. “They are trained to do it. They're trained interviewers.”
Defense lawyers also support the center, Ceresa said, because the forensic interview process reveals cases that are groundless.
“It really filters those out,” she said.
After eight years of operation in its current building, the CAC has run out of room.
“It's getting crowded in there,” said Ceresa, also president of the Council for Children.
The CAC is the council's largest program. The council is an umbrella organization that works to reduce child sexual abuse through prevention, assessment and intervention. Plans are being developed to provide additional space for therapists and to have separate waiting rooms for people whose children are there for interviews and others getting counseling.
The building now being used has one waiting room, and it can be a busy, confusing place. There is no debriefing area for parents waiting for the outcome of a child's interview.
“We tell the parent the worst thing that's ever happened to their kid,” Executive Director Jamie Rossow said, then send them back to the waiting room.
The nine staff members work in tight quarters, cubicles with no locked space for records and other documents. The employees include two interviewers, two therapists, two family advocates and a front-desk, child-care person.
Officials are developing plans for expansion, either an addition to the current building or, if need be, a building somewhere else.
Ceresa said the organization has managed its finances well over the years and should be able to expand.
The center's annual budget is $425,000. In addition to government support, the center receives funding from several foundations and other organizations.
Funding sources are: Crime Victims Services, through the state Victims of Crime Act; the Michigan Department of Human Services; Berrien County prosecutor's office; United Way of Southwest Michigan; Children's Trust Fund; National Children's Alliance; Upton Foundation; Berrien Community Foundation and individual donors.
A World For Girls
by Rachel Lloyd
(PSA on site)
When you're the head of a non-profit organization, there is a constant, ever-present drive for growth; more programs, more funding, more resources, all which translates into more people served, more lives impacted, more success in achieving your mission. As the Founder and CEO of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), I know that by all standards we've accomplished a significant level of growth. I started GEMS 15 years ago on my kitchen table with $30 and a mission of serving girls and young women who had experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Today, we're the nation's largest provider of services to victims and survivors of domestic trafficking and exploitation, we've gone from a staff of one (me), to a staff of almost 40. We have comprehensive programming that includes housing, educational support, crisis care and counseling and last year GEMS provided intensive services to over 350 girls and young women. This month marks our 15th anniversary and while there's a part of me that feels incredibly proud of what we've accomplished over the years, I can't help thinking about what success in this work really means.
I started GEMS in 1998 and today we've created a place where girls who've been commercially sexually exploited can come for safety and support. Some of the girls that are walking in our doors now were born in 1998. Some were born in 1999, 2000. I'm glad that GEMS is here for these girls, these children, and that they're able to get intervention and services that weren't available if they had been coming out of the life fifteen years ago. But there's still something incredibly sad about the thought that when I was starting this work, these girls were just being born, were learning to walk and talk, were entering kindergarten and first grade and were just in the last few years recruited into the commercial sex industry. Even as we were continuing to grow, and being proud of our successes.
At this anniversary mark, I keep thinking about the next 15 years and where GEMS might be at our 30th anniversary; I'm sure we'll have a big party. Ideally, we'll have a brand new building, more housing, more staff, more services, but that begs the question, exactly who will we be serving in 15 years? The sobering answer to that is it will be girls being born right now, this month, next month, next year, in the next 3 or 4 years. And that answer leads to a larger question -- is that how we'll define success?
Surely success has to be about decreasing the need for services, preventing little girls growing up right now from ever needing to walk through the doors at GEMS, ensuring that our girls and young women get safety and support in their homes, in their communities, in their schools, in society, not in a program that serves girls who've experienced such intense trauma and violence. The true measure of success would be for there to eventually cease a need for GEMS to exist at all. We exist because children are being recruited into a billion dollar sex industry, because adult men buy and sell girls and young women, because most people still don't recognize what's happening to our girls as a crime, because even when girls get out they're still struggling with issues of employment, housing, education and because they need a place like GEMS to be there to provide love, support, and practical resources. I'm a pragmatist and I don't believe that there will ever not be a need for programs like GEMS when we live in a world with poverty, abuse, racism, sexual violence, greed, and oppression. I do, however, strongly believe that we can significantly decrease the commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of girls and young women, but it will not come through salacious news coverage, huge stings, or rescue-focused work, but through the infinitely less sensational work of building resilience in the lives of vulnerable children, creating resources and support for under-served communities and ultimately addressing the inequities that girls and young women face.
The commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of girls doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens in a world where girls aren't valued, empowered and provided with the critical educational and economic opportunities they need in order to thrive. We live in a world where girls are viewed as property, as sexual objects, as less valuable than boys. On a global scale, we know that being born female puts you at risk for many things. The Coalition for Adolescent Girls estimates that out of 130 million children who are not in school, 70 percent are girls; nearly half of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls 15 and younger, and 82 million girls in developing countries who are now between the ages of 10 and 17 will be married before their 18th birthday. Closer to home, girls especially low-income girls and girls of color, face myriad challenges. One in four girls will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18; overall, one in four girls will not graduate high school and for black and Latina girls that number climbs to four out of every ten.
Prior childhood abuse and neglect make girls and young women vulnerable to recruitment into the commercial sex industry, lack of options, education and employment keep them there. Trafficking and exploitation is a symptom of the larger systemic inequities that girls and young women face in our society and while we can't change all of that overnight, we can begin to build the support systems necessary to prevent girls from ever experiencing commercial sexual exploitation in the first place.
There are little girls being born this year, a block away from where you live, who deserve to never have to experience the trauma of being trafficked, who deserve to grow up without ever being sexually abused or experiencing dating violence, who can, and will, given the right support not only graduate from high school but from college and go on to be anything that they envision.
Today, we're launching A World for Girls campaign to begin to shift the conversation about trafficking and exploitation from one of rescue and prosecution to one that focuses on empowering girls and changing the world that our girls are growing up in. Over the next few months, we'll be highlighting specific actions that you can take to begin to shape a different world for all of our girls and we'll be asking you to commit to standing with us as we work to redefine what success in this work looks like. Help us create a world for girls where they're empowered, valued, respected, safe from violence and not for sale. Imagine a world where no girl being born this year needs to walk through GEMS' doors in 2028 -- now that would be real success and something to celebrate.
Agency's ads put focus on child abuse
by Angela Ward
An East Texas nonprofit agency is rolling out an advertising campaign designed to help raise awareness of child abuse.
The “No Excuse for Child Abuse” ads for The Martin House Children's Advocacy Center will soon be showing up on billboards and in publications throughout Gregg and Harrison counties.
John Green, who helped design the advertising campaign, said his family has been involved in a case in which a teacher at his children's school was sexually abusing a student, and one of his children was interviewed at the center. The incident occurred about 10 years ago, and the perpetrator is in prison, Green said.
“My family is one of many affected by child abuse,” Green said. “We have a tremendous law enforcement system and courts here that handle these cases very well, but it takes a phone call from someone in the community to get the process started.”
Nobody wants to think about child abuse or consider that it might be occurring in their home, school or church, he said, but it's a rampant problem, and ignoring a situation of possible abuse makes the situation worse.
“I know what the devil looks like now,” Green said. “He doesn't have pointy red horns, but I've seen him in stripes when he was sentenced to prison.”
Green said he has no illusions that child abuse can be completely eliminated, but he wants to be part of raising awareness and educating people about some of the warning signs.
“In our situation, we weren't aware of what to look for,” he said.
The advertising campaign is made possible by a $32,400 grant from AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co.
Keith Honey is the external affairs manager at SWEPCO and a member of Martin House's board of directors.
The children's advocacy center is an avenue for children to be heard and counseled and, ultimately, to prosecute predators, he said.
The Martin House primarily serves children in Gregg and Harrison counties, and the billboards will run from Gladewater to Marshall. The center also assists in cases from other counties that don't have a venue for interviewing children who may have been victims of abuse.
Roxanne Stevenson, executive director of Martin House, said the center conducted forensic interviews with 474 children during fiscal year 2013, which ended in August.
“This campaign will help us raise awareness about child abuse issues and prevention strategies so that all children in East Texas have an opportunity to grow up in a safer environment,” Stevenson said.
There is also a television commercial running as part of the advertising campaign. The children featured in the commercial are not clients of the Martin House, she said, as those visits remain confidential.
To report a case of suspected child abuse, call (800) 252-5400.
Naperville opens Jeanine Nicarico Children's Advocacy Center
by Hank Beckman
In officially opening the Jeanine Nicarico Children’s Advocacy Center Tuesday, DuPage County found a measure of hope in an unspeakable tragedy.
Nicarico was a 10-year-old from Naperville who was abducted and killed in 1983 on a day she stayed home sick from school.
The case spurred reforms to the method and process of investigating and prosecuting crimes against children, county officials said.
To that end, the Jeanine Nicarico Children’s Advocacy Center is designed to provide a comprehensive response to allegations of child abuse and to help children who are the victims of crime. DuPage officials said the facility is truly needed, as child abuse cases are on the rise in the county.
‘Years of work’
“This is a wonderful thing,” Jeanine Nicarico’s mother Pat said Tuesday during the opening ceremonies for the new center. “We want to thank .... the entire community.”
Pat Nicarico’s husband, Tom, stood at her side during the event, joined by DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin, former DuPage State’s Attorney Joe Birkett, current State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, and County Board members James Healy (R-Naperville) and Grant Eckhoff (R-Wheaton).
The 15,000-square-foot Children’s Advocacy Center at 422 N. County Farm Road in Wheaton was built for $5.6 million. Healy, along with former County Board member Deb Olson, took the lead to replace the old Children’s Center located right next door with a new, modern facility.
Healy said Tuesday’s grand opening was the result of an eight-year process, a “culmination of years and years of work.”
“This is fabulous,” Olson said. “It really permits us to see what was on paper come to life. It’s even better than I expected.”
‘There is a need’
The objective of the new center is to provide a facility on the DuPage County government campus for a comprehensive approach to dealing with allegations and the treatment of child abuse in DuPage.
Berlin said the need for such services in on the rise. He said there were 400 cases referred to the county’s previous Children’s Center in 2012, representing an 11 percent increase in cases over the previous year.
He said the issue of child abuse crosses all lines.
“It has no boundaries,” Berlin said. “It’s in every economic sector of the county.”
Berlin said a special center to deal with child abuse is a necessity. He said child abuse is a crime that requires a special set of skills to deal with, and a level of sensitivity not necessary in some other cases.
“It requires extensive experience, but the experience absolutely makes a difference,” he said.
Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall echoed Berlin’s comments about the increase in child abuse incidents.
“What we’ve seen is similar to what Bob just said,” he said.
Cronin said that child abuse is a problem that DuPage County needs to face.
“These crimes are among the most horrific and repulsive ... unfortunately there is a need (for this facility) in our community.”
He also wanted to make sure that Jeanine Nicarico is not forgotten.
“Jeanine’s death was a tragedy that we will live with in DuPage County forever,” he said.
But the opening of the new Children’s Advocacy Center provides a new chapter in that sad story, he said.
“We’ve turned that horrific event and experience into a positive today,” he said.
$250k Spent to Block Sexual Abuse Bill in California
by John Hrabe -- Investigative Journalist
You'd think that a bill to give victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to file a lawsuit would be the sort of non-controversial legislation that politicians would rush to champion. Well, you'd be wrong.
A California bill to let a small group of sexual abuse victims bring forward lawsuits has faced intense opposition from the Catholic Church. Senate Bill 131 by State Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose, passed the state Senate without a single vote to spare. It now awaits a decision by former Jesuit seminarian Gov. Jerry Brown.
Why would state lawmakers block an effort to aid sexual abuse victims? Money.
Organizations that harbored abusers are fearful that they will be held civilly liable for their role in covering up cases of childhood sexual abuse. Catholic dioceses in California have already paid out $1.2 billion in abuse settlements. Instead of facing a new round of lawsuits and more settlements, the church decided that it was better to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lobbying campaign to block SB 131.
In August, the Orange County Register first reported on the elaborate, high-priced lobbying scheme to defeat the bill. According to the Sacramento Bee,
|The newly created California Council of Nonprofit Organizations poured $258,000 into fighting the bill in the first six months of this year. The California Council, an umbrella organization of the California Catholic Conference, hired five lobbying firms, including heavyweight Lang Hansen O'Malley and Miller Governmental Relations.
These high-priced lobbyists did what they do best. They distorted the facts and spread misinformation about SB 131. One red herring raised by the hired guns: the bill is unfair because it does not revive cases against perpetrators or public entities. It only targets private institutions.
The argument is a distraction from the issue. Perpetrators are covered by criminal law. Public entities are held liable under a separate code section. And it's irrelevant to whether the state should hold private institutions accountable, some of which, even today, remain in denial.
"Today, there is no institution in the nation that has less of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church," claimed William A. Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a letter of opposition to SB 131. "In California, in particular, there has been so much progress that priestly sexual abuse has long since ceased to exist."
Ceased to exist? Donohue doesn't understand that the threat of sexual abuse is ongoing. It never ceases to exist because there are always more predators. Victims will always face an uphill battle to be taken seriously. For that very reason, big institutions must remain ever vigilant and adopt procedures that encourage an ongoing discussion about sexual abuse.
Eileen King, an expert on child abuse and the executive director of Child Justice, an outstanding nonprofit organization that advocates for abused, neglected and at-risk children, recently explained just how difficult it can be for victims to confront their accuser.
"The survivor may feel enormous shame, conflicts of affection and loyalty, or may feel pressure to 'forgive and forget' -- especially when the perpetrator is a minister, priest, rabbi, or counselor who the survivor has held in awe and for whom he/she still feels strong ties of affection or obedience," she told me.
But, of all the red herrings concocted by Sacramento lobbyists, my personal favorite: The bill helps the greedy trial lawyers . Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, the bill's most vocal opponent, said, "It ought not to be just about reopening wounds and feeding trial attorneys."
Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse take umbrage with Harkey's argument. Joelle Casteix, Western Regional Director for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, pointed out that some of the worst sexual abuse happened in Orange County, Harkey's backyard.
"Saying that SB 131 is 'feeding trial attorneys' is a slap in the face to the brave victims in Harkey's own district who were able to use the 2003 civil window to expose men like Denis Lyons, Michael Pecharich and John Lenihan -- men who had escaped exposure because of the concerted actions of church officials to silence victims."
As for reopening wounds, Casteix said,
|The only way that old wounds are opened is when abuse is kept secret and wrongdoers are allowed to continue in abuse and cover-up. Victims are re-traumatized when lawmakers with no knowledge of the subject spout hurtful and incorrect rhetoric about the victims' rights movement in an attempt to keep more victims silent and disenfranchised.
Casteix raises another important point.
"If Governor Brown signs SB 131 into law, victims can move onto the next step: eliminating sovereign immunity for public institutions that cover up child sex abuse," she said. "But if we lose SB 131, we will never have the momentum to tackle that huge feat."
I'm betting a former "Catholic rebel" like Jerry Brown will stand up for the silent and disenfranchised.
A ‘Grim Tally': Abusers, Guns, and the Women They Kill
by Andrea Grimes
Karen Cox Smith worked a little later than usual on January 8, 2013, typing up the minutes from a board meeting at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the prestigious training hospital in a sprawling medical district on the west side of Dallas where she worked as an administrative assistant. Smith was the kind of worker who liked to do things right the first time, and she wanted to type up those notes while they were fresh on her mind.
As board members and doctors left for the evening, they asked her, “Why not walk out with us, like usual?” Ever since her estranged husband, Ferdinand Smith, had assaulted her in December, she'd been leaving work with others, just in case he showed up to cause trouble.
“No,” Smith told them. She'd be fine. She said she'd call security before she left, so they could escort her out.
A few weeks before the recent Christmas holiday, Ferdinand Smith cornered his wife on her way to work, dragging her out of her car in her own driveway. He strangled her and told her that he'd been thinking about it for a while, and he'd decided “today is the day you're going to die.”
Desperate, she'd talked him down with pleas and promises of reconciliation, then got back in her car and drove to her office as if nothing had happened.
As it happens, on that January day when Smith was working late, she had called police to confirm her husband's address. She believed they were on their way to finally arrest him. So when Smith finished up for the day—it was nearing 7:30 p.m.—she didn't call security, because she didn't believe she'd need to.
As Smith sent one last email to police, thanking them for finally taking action to pick up her husband, he waited for her out of sight in the hospital parking garage, hidden behind a bank of elevators between a skywalk and her silver Mustang.
This time when he confronted his wife, he was armed with more than a bad temper and brute strength. He came with a gun, and he wasted no time using it on the woman with whom he'd fathered three children. The can of mace that Smith always carried was no match for her husband's weapon.
When Karen Cox Smith was laid to rest, the only parts of her body made visible were her arm and her hand.
When police finally arrested Ferdinand Smith in the early morning hours of January 9, it was not for shooting his wife to death in a parking garage hours before—which he ultimately confessed to doing—but for that earlier assault in her driveway, back in December.
Ferdinand was asleep when cops knocked on his door. If they'd arrived a few hours earlier, they might have caught him on his way to murder his wife.
Karen Cox Smith's story is full of might-haves, should-haves, and could-haves, but her mother says she can't think about it that way, even as she remembers the warning signs she'd seen, but not always recognized, throughout the couple's 19-year marriage.
“We can second guess ourselves to death,” Sara Horton told RH Reality Check , as she recounted the last few hours of her daughter's life, as reconstructed for her by Dallas police. “If this had been done or if that had been done.”
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that, on average, more than three women a day are killed by current or former intimate partners in the United States, and many of the should-haves and could-haves that pepper Smith's relationship with her estranged husband are the same should-haves and could-haves thrown at the thousand or more women who are killed by their partners in this country each year: should have gone to a shelter, should have taken a lethality risk test, could have filed charges, could have testified against him.
The problem with that should-have, could-have conversation is the popular implication that the ability, and the responsibility, to change the behavior of abusive men lies not with the abusers, but with the partners they strike, strangle, and shoot.
It's why the question “Why didn't she leave?” is far more common than, “Why did he abuse her?”
But research shows us why she, whoever she might be, didn't leave: she didn't have the money, she didn't want to take the kids out of school, she couldn't find a shelter, there was no shelter, she was embarrassed, her pastor or her mother or her father or her sister told her a good wife doesn't give up, her self-esteem was in shreds, she had literally nowhere to go, or she knew that, in leaving, she would put herself in more danger than if she stayed.
But if women can't be blamed for inciting violence in their partners, or at least scolded for not bailing at the first red flag, the problem of why intimate partner violence happens in the first place, and what to do about it, becomes much more complicated than asking the broken-record question, “Why didn't she leave?”
What hard evidence does show is that while the “why” may never be satisfactorily answered in every situation, we know, definitively, how most U.S. women killed by abusive partners meet their end: They are shot to death.
According to a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, the risk of homicide against women increases 500 percent when a gun is present in domestic violence situations, and the FBI estimates that in 2010, 64 percent of women murdered with guns were killed by a current or former intimate partner. The Violence Policy Center reports that in 2010, the number of women shot and killed by partners was six times higher than the number killed by strangers using all other weapons combined.
In Texas, the numbers echo national estimates: the Texas Council on Family Violence reports that, in 2011, firearms were used in 64 percent of 102 cases where women were murdered by current or former intimate partners. The FBI also estimates that, in states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot and killed by abusive partners. Texas is not one of those states.
When it comes to the should-haves and could-haves of domestic violence murders, one “should” appears to be clear: Domestic abusers should not have access to firearms. But abusers can easily sidestep background checks by purchasing from private sellers, or shopping for weapons at a gun show, and efforts to close those loopholes have been thwarted.
Earlier this year, pressure from the national gun lobby overshadowed the overwhelming evidence connecting domestic violence homicides to guns when the U.S. Senate rejected tougher gun laws that would have expanded those background checks and banned some semi-automatic weapons.
Paulette Sullivan Moore with the National Network to End Domestic Violence says that the Second Amendment and tougher gun laws are not mutually exclusive, which makes the Senate's rejection of the firearms bill that much more heartbreaking.
“The reality is that responsible gun owners also want other gun owners to be responsible,” said Sullivan Moore. Her organization has been speaking with senators who voted to renew the Violence Against Women Act but who are against gun reform, senators who she says are seemingly “unable to make the connection between prior armed violence and violence against women.”
In their 19-year relationship, there's no evidence that indicates Ferdinand Smith threatened his wife with a gun before he shot and killed her on January 8. But, according to an affidavit written by Karen Cox Smith in her own hand in 1999, he had often hit and strangled her and stalked her in her own home, and he had threatened her with knives on multiple occasions. He also raped her.
Sara Horton said she wished she'd been able to do something to stop her son-in-law over the years, before he got the gun.
“People like him should not have access to guns,” said Horton. “Guns don't kill people. They don't shoot themselves.”
What if men with a demonstrable history of domestic violence—men like Ferdinand Smith—couldn't just walk into a firearms shop or a gun show and purchase a weapon?
Each year, the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) releases a report, “Honoring Texas Victims,” that names each woman killed by an intimate partner that year. Sixty-six of the 102 women killed by male partners in 2011, the most recent year for which TCFV has data available, were shot to death. Four of those victims had active protective orders out against their killers; two of those murders involved a firearm, despite the fact that persons with protective orders against them are prohibited from possessing firearms in Texas.
“Firearms are a definite problem in intimate partner relationships,” said TCFV Policy Director Aaron Setliff. He calls his organization's report a “grim tally,” meant to “change the conversation a little bit,” to tell the stories of women killed by abusive partners.
Female victims of domestic homicide come from across the state, and are of all races and ages, according to the TCFV report: In San Antonio, Aileen Harbridge, 27, was shot and killed at her workplace by her ex-boyfriend, and Antoinette Haynes, 70, was shot and killed by her husband on Thanksgiving Day. In Dallas, 25-year-old Autumn Carey was shot and killed in front of her two children by her ex-boyfriend, who also killed Carey's stepfather and her sister's boyfriend.
In far West Texas, Destiny Ann Pickett, 39, was shot and killed by her husband, Clifford, at a motel. He also killed one of her co-workers. In Houston, 45-year-old Lisa Campos was shot in her car by her husband while “in the process of ending their relationship.” Ricky Campos also shot himself. In East Texas, Micah Brown shot his 35-year-old ex-wife in her car while her children were riding with her.
In Corpus Christi, 18-year-old Viviana Amaya and two of her friends were shot and killed by Amaya's boyfriend. In Fort Worth, Michael Nichols shot his 56-year-old wife, Patricia Jean, as well as her mother. In Austin, 37-year-old Sylvia Richardson was shot and killed by her boyfriend in front of her four children in their home. In Port Arthur, 33-year-old Anna Tran was shot and killed by her boyfriend, Vinh Le, who later shot himself.
These women, coming from a vast array of backgrounds and circumstances, all had one thing in common: They were unable to escape abusive partners who had access to firearms and who used those weapons to kill their partners and, in many cases, the people who tried to intervene.
Aaron Setliff noted that Texas has a five-year prohibition against owning firearms for anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, and while federal law places a permanent prohibition on that same group, the loopholes offered at gun shows and through online purchases make it relatively easy to sidestep that law.
And with some of the most permissive gun laws in the nation already on the books, the Texas legislature this year passed 13 laws making it even easier to obtain and carry firearms.
The occasion was called “Gun Day,” and the new laws ranged from allowing students to carry weapons on state university campuses to reducing the number of classroom hours required to obtain a concealed handgun license from ten to four. The legislature also passed a state law that would “refuse enforcement of any new federal gun laws.”
As a state, says Aaron Setliff at the TCFV, “Texas has a very robust sense of the average person's ability to possess a firearm.”
In light of “Gun Day,” that may be an understatement.
Where Ferdinand Smith obtained the gun that he used to shoot and kill Karen Cox Smith is, so far, unclear. According to arrest records, he told police in his confession that he obtained his weapon as part of his job as a security guard at a Dallas faith-based charter school, but school officials told RH Reality Check that they never issued Smith a gun as part of his duties. Horton said police told her that they have not recovered the weapon used to kill her daughter. Dallas police have refused to comment on any aspect of the case, citing the ongoing investigation.
What is clear is that for the majority of her 19-year marriage to Ferdinand Smith, Karen Cox Smith lived in fear of her husband. The two had known each other growing up in small-town Daingerfield, Texas, but it wasn't until college, after Karen had moved back home from Texas Tech University to attend community college near her family, that they began seeing each other. When she became pregnant with their first child, who is now 18, they married.
According to court documents, over the course of their relationship Karen Cox Smith filed for two protective orders against him, the first after he raped her in 1998 at knifepoint in their home county.
Later, in an April 1999 Dallas County affidavit seeking her second protective order, Karen Cox Smith detailed years of abuse, written in two pages of tight cursive:
- “In 1993, Ferdinand threw a can of starch at me, my arm was so swollen I went to RHD [a local hospital] for examination.”
- “When I was pregnant in 10/97, Ferdinand took a butcher knife, pointed it at my stomach, and told me he would kill the baby and I if I ever went to sleep.”
- “Once, he choked me with his hands to the point I lost consciousness. He left me laying in the bathtub while he tried to decide what to do with my body.”
- “I have suffered black eyes, knots on my head, blurry vision, headaches, busted lips, soreness and hoarseness in my throat, handprints on my neck, and cut [sic] on my arm requiring stitches, bruises on my body and legs.”
Then, on March 30, 1999, when the Smiths were separated, Karen came home to find Ferdinand, dressed all in black, hiding in her closet. In her affidavit, she wrote:
“I told him to leave. Ferdinand was in the house for an hour using the phone to call for a ride. I was very afraid. Ferdinand finally left on foot when the ride never appeared. I went around and locked all of the doors that had been unlocked. When I looked on the back porch Ferdinand had come back and was standing there. I was even more afraid.”
Smith let her husband in, telling him she was about to leave. But he blocked her exit. She tried to call the police. Then:
“Ferdinand grabbed me by the shirt and put the knife, a long steak knife, against my throat. He said, ‘I'm going to kill you and kill myself.'”
Ferdinand Smith told his wife that if her mother came to the home, “there would be two dead bodies.” He stabbed a Styrofoam cup that Karen had been holding and told her to sit on the couch, where she pleaded with him to let her go. She wrote that he had two more knives in his pocket as he was “pacing back and forth, crying and screaming that I was taking his children.”
Finally, Smith's mother, Sara Horton, telephoned as Ferdinand Smith held his wife at knifepoint, and Horton then called 9-1-1. When they came to arrest him, police found another knife that Ferdinand Smith had hidden on his wife's back porch.
A little over two weeks after the March 30 assault, Karen Cox Smith discovered what she described as “hand restraints” taped to the bed she slept in. After that, she filed for the protective order.
“I believe that the physical violence will continue if I do not receive protection,” she wrote.
It did, but this time the abuse was kept secret as the couple reconciled after Ferdinand Smith spent time in jail and underwent counseling for domestic abusers—“The kids wanted their Daddy, she wouldn't testify,” remembers Sara Horton. The family began attending a megachurch in South Dallas. Ferdinand Smith volunteered as an usher, said Horton, and he sang in the choir. “From the outside in, it looked like he'd gotten it,” she remembered. “But he hadn't.”
Karen Cox Smith started spending as much time as possible at work, said Horton. She knew her daughter had a good work ethic—all three of her children did, it was a point of family pride—but looking back now, she realizes it was one of her daughter's survival tactics.
“[Karen] would work late a lot, and I finally realized after the fact that it was because she didn't want to come home,” said Horton. “To prevent a fight from happening. Anything to prevent a fight.”
Over the years, Horton and her husband—she divorced Karen's father in 1994 and moved to Dallas—always planned their bills around whether Smith would need money for her family. Horton said that Ferdinand Smith would often spend great deals of money on himself, leaving his wife with very little in their shared bank account. He never really managed to keep a job. Instead, said Horton, he relied on his wife to be the breadwinner, and when he'd go on spending sprees, he always made sure to bring home shoes or other expensive items for the kids to smooth things over.
Horton said the pastor at the church the family attended, the Inspiring Body of Christ, was no good for her daughter. She said whenever she tried to talk to Karen about the ongoing trouble she suspected at home, Karen would tell her, “I'm just trying to do what my pastor tells me.”
That was frustrating, said Horton, because she doesn't believe, as that church does, that “any husband in the home, father in the home, is better than no father in the home. That's not right.”
By late 2012, the couple had separated again, and Karen Cox Smith was living in a home next door to her mother in Dallas. Horton laughed when remembering drive-time phone calls between mother and daughter as they took similar routes to and from work.
“If I'd be ahead of her, I'd tell her, don't go this way!” Horton said. “I just miss talking to her. I miss her terribly.”
But protective orders and counseling and religious intervention never turned Ferdinand Smith from a violent abuser into a loving husband. And when he got a gun, he became a murderer.
Despite time spent in jail for missing a hearing, Ferdinand Smith received an adjudicated sentence for the 1999 knife assault of his wife, which meant that domestic violence charges would never have shown up on a gun background check after he finished his ten-year probationary period.
It's possible that Smith purchased the gun he used to murder his wife on the black market, but Texas gun laws are so lax that, even as a convicted domestic abuser, he'd likely have had no need to go to those lengths.
In Texas, where there are no required waiting periods for the purchase of firearms, Smith could have purchased the weapon at a gun show, ordered it online, or purchased it from a private seller without ever going through a federal background check. If he had a concealed handgun license, he could have purchased it directly from a gun store in the state without a background check. Concealed handgun license records are not available to the public in Texas, and there is no statewide gun registry.
Smith's ability to carry a weapon was a twofold failure. Not only would current gun regulations have allowed him plenty of leeway to obtain a firearm, but checks currently in place would have missed his violent history.
At least in Dallas, in the wake of Karen Cox Smith's murder, the conversation around domestic violence and guns is changing. In March, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings officially launched an initiative called “Dallas Men Against Domestic Violence” at a rally attended by thousands, featuring former Dallas Cowboy football players, religious leaders, television personalities, and corporate representatives from Verizon and Mary Kay cosmetics.
Volunteers and workers from local domestic violence shelters helped staff booths at the rally, and Paige Flink, executive director of Dallas' Family Place, says she's glad to see city leaders come out strong against domestic violence, not in urging women to do more to report it, but in urging men to stop it before it starts. Part of doing that, she says, is to focus on taking guns out of the hands of abusers.
“It's absolutely concerning that a person who has committed a violent crime can keep a gun and the gun isn't removed,” she told RH Reality Check . “It is easier to kill someone with a gun than it is to beat someone with a cinder block.”
Jan Langbein, executive director of Dallas' Genesis Women's Shelter, said that “the courts have to get the guns away from these guys. It's so much easier to pull a trigger, plus they can shoot everybody in the room.”
That's just what Aaron Setliff at the Texas Council on Family Violence, is working on: gun surrender. Instead of working legislatively to change statute, Setliff says his organization works more “programmatically,” on “policies and procedures that work at the local level,” and he's specifically enthused about programs that create a system for convicted abusers to surrender their weapons to law enforcement.
“This is one area … where we can get both sides of the aisle to move a little bit away from where they have been in the overall gun debate,” said Setliff. “People aren't necessarily feeling like they are targeted in terms of gun rights when we're talking about batterers.”
Setliff cited the work of Judge Patricia Macias in El Paso, who in 2005 organized the Domestic Violence Firearm Surrender Advisory Committee to create protocols for the surrender of weapons possessed by domestic abusers. The impetus for the project was not specifically a domestic violence murder, but the death of an El Paso police officer who was shot by an abusive husband while responding to a family violence call. Now, the committee is working on “integration and institutionalization” of the surrender protocols, which detail where, when, and how firearms can be retrieved by law enforcement, whether or not a firearm was used in a particular incident.
“Fatality is the ultimate when it comes to domestic violence, and it's pretty easy to link it to firearms,” said Setliff. But police need to know when and how they can confiscate weapons, and convicted abusers need to know when and where they should surrender their weapons.
“One of the best indicators of a victim being murdered is a previous instance of domestic violence, so you already have a predictor,” said Setliff. “But going forward, if they haven't been convicted, the gun issue becomes even more poignant at that level.”
If Ferdinand Smith had somehow been flagged—despite his adjudicated record for the 1999 assault—he might have been stopped from purchasing the gun he used to kill his wife.
Until legislators at the state and national levels draw the connection between the presence of guns and domestic homicide, we can expect to see many more Karen Cox Smiths in the news—though, as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates, 1.3 million women experience physical abuse at the hands of their partners every year in the United States; it's more than likely that the newspaper is not the only place Americans will come to know the names of domestic violence survivors and victims.
They are our coworkers and our friends, our relatives and ourselves. And the culture of shame that surrounds domestic violence—that erases the responsibility of abusers and places the blame on their partners—obscures the fact that one in four adult women are beaten or raped by a partner.
Sara Horton told RH Reality Check that she has to believe that her daughter's murder, as violent as it was, happened as it did for a reason, and that she wants to do whatever she can to raise awareness around domestic violence in the aftermath of her daughter's death. Horton says that after 19 years of abuse, she believes her daughter may have finally reached peace, where she could never find it in her life with Ferdinand Smith.
“I think God scooped her up and took her immediately to heaven,” said Horton. “I think she was gone before she ever hit the concrete. That may sound like Pollyanna, but that's how I have to look at it in order to get up and go to work every day.”
Rosenblum: Panel that helps prevent child abuse needs more voices
by GAIL ROSENBLUM
Relentless stories of child abuse and neglect eat at us. So, if you had a unique opportunity to create a safer world for vulnerable children, would you grab it?
The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is seeking “everyday citizens” for a Hennepin County panel formed to find the best ways to strengthen families in crisis. There is urgency in their request, as the panel shrinks in size.
The work is voluntary and often tough on the gut. But panelists say they'd sure rather be on the inside than on the outside feeling helpless.
“As a citizen, this isn't something you usually get to do,” said panelist Cletus Maychrzak of Minneapolis. “Neglect, abuse, kids. How much more emotional can you get?”
The concept came from a congressional mandate in 1996, requiring states to establish at least three citizen review panels to receive Child Abuse and Neglect State Grants Program funding. Panels also operate in Chisago, Ramsey, Washington and Winona counties. They, too, seek volunteers.
Panelists are selected after an interview process and are appointed by the DHS commissioner or county commissioners to two-year, renewable terms. While many members have years of experience in social work or related fields, this is far from a requirement.
DHS assistant Commissioner Erin Sullivan Sutton said a variety of cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds makes for “a richer panel.”
Panelist Denise Graves agrees, encouraging those “who don't trust the system” to apply. “It would be helpful to see how the system affected them and how they want to improve it.”
A volunteer guardian ad litem with three grown children, Graves said there was a huge response when the Hennepin County panel formed in 2009, leading to as many as 20 members. Since then, it's shrunk to eight. Volunteers, who must live in the county where they serve, are trained, then charged with evaluating different aspects of the child protection system and making recommendations to the counties and DHS.
Some panels have taken on prevention campaigns or helping kids stay in school, since truancy is considered neglect.
Sometimes the DHS response is, “No thanks,” Maychrzak said with a laugh. But he's feeling bullish about real changes he's seen since joining the Hennepin County panel at its start.
Maychrzak, who grew up in North Dakota, is the single father of a 21-year-old son with special needs. He also served as a Kinship mentor for 10 years. He saw a posting for the panel and wanted to apply but assumed that his business background — he's a manager at ING U.S., a financial services company — would disqualify him. Far from it, he began as vice chair and is now serving his third term.
The panel includes a school psychologist and a few attorneys. Most members are in their 40s to 60s. Younger voices would be welcome.
Maychrzak said his biggest struggle is accepting that his definition of child abuse and neglect isn't universal. “It's very regulated by statute. If kids have clothes and aren't starving to death, it's not neglect.
“It's hard for me,” he said, “but if the government stepped in every time a kid was possibly being neglected, there would be outrage. But when they don't step in, there's outrage.”
The panel steps in to see the forest through the trees. Sometimes those on the inside “are too close to the thing,” he said. “I'm not questioning them education-wise. But it helps to bring someone in to say, ‘This is crazy. Why are you doing this?'?”
Graves and Maychrzak agree that their proudest accomplishment is a huge change in how families are assessed after a report of possible child abuse. Formerly, at-risk families were sent to outside agencies, where few followed up on services. Thanks to recommendations by the panel, all family assessments are now done in-house, leading to greater oversight, attention to families' unique needs and fewer families circling back.
Sullivan Sutton is pleased that this change occurred through a focused collaboration between citizens, community agencies and child protection professionals.
“What we've learned over the years is that the safety and well-being of children is based on the safety and well-being of their families,” she said. Some families do need foster care. But the majority are likely better served by addressing underlying issues, such as poverty, chemical dependency and mental health struggles.
“They are more likely to avail themselves of services if they don't fear they'll lose their kids,” she said.
Meetings are held the second Monday of the month, beginning at 4:30 p.m. to allow working people to attend.
“Sometimes it's frustrating because you feel like, dang, this is just going nowhere,” Maychrzak said. “But you just keep plugging away.
“At least I'm doing what I can and not staying home and complaining about it. I like to be part of a solution.”
WRC to show domestic violence movie
by Wendy Holdren
BECKLEY — As a part of its awareness campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Women's Resource Center will host two free screenings of a documentary that highlights childhood domestic violence.
“The Children Next Door” will be shown Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at The Ritz Theatre in Hinton and Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Raleigh Playhouse and Theatre in Beckley.
“According to UNICEF, 275 million children worldwide experience childhood domestic violence (CDV) each year,” said Dee Sizemore, PR and Fundraising Development Coordinator for the WRC.
“Combined with the adults who used to be these children, close to 1 billion lives are impacted globally. You may have never heard of CDV before, at least not in that sequence, because it has never before existed to frame a category that so many people around the world belong to.”
She said researchers believe that CDV is as damaging as physical child abuse, if not more, but this issue has not been widely discussed.
“There is currently less than 10 percent awareness of the children, and since most scars are on the inside, this perpetuates lack of awareness and true understanding, leaving this issue largely unspoken about. It remains veiled in silence and reinforced by the social stigma that surrounds this topic to begin with, as many view it as simply a private matter.”
Sizemore also said Chelsea Waldroup, 16, the eldest daughter from the documentary, will be a special guest at the Oct. 3 screening in Beckley.
“People look at me as a victim — but I'm a survivor,” Chelsea said. “What I went through has made me so much stronger than I would have been otherwise. I've been through the worst, so what can possibly stop me now from achieving all of my dreams?”
“The Children Next Door” chronicles her family's struggle with domestic violence and the journey to overcome the darkness.
A professional panel will also be available after each screening to discuss and answer questions about domestic violence and its effect on children.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for all who care about the well-being of children to join a movement that aims to share the secret, heal the hurt and break the cycle.”
For more information, contact Dee Sizemore at 304-255-2559.
Speaking out is power
'Having found my voice I want to continue to speak out. Speaking out is power. Hearing my story will make it easier for the next person'
People say 'Oh you've got closure now – you can move on'. I don't think I will ever get closure ...
by Ed Power
The laughter is a surprise. Fiona Doyle has a wry, flinty manner and a ready smile. If you didn't know – and at this stage everybody in the country DOES know – you would never guess that she suffered, throughout her childhood, the most horrific sexual abuse. Aged 47, she greets the world with a determined grin and an informal manner. She doesn't strike you as a victim. She is a survivor.
Doyle, from Dun Laoghaire, in Co Dublin, has written a book about the abuse, which her father Patrick O'Brien began to inflict upon her the night before her First Communion and which continued for a decade.
'Too Many Tears' is a wrenching read and some of the darkest chapters concern the high-profile sentencing of O'Brien last February, how it threatened to descend into farce when the judge suspended three quarters of the 12-year jail term and allowed a convicted child abuser to walk free on bail, pending appeal.
Sitting near the front of the courtroom, Doyle felt as if she was suffering the abuse all over again. Initially, she had hesitated in seeking justice against her father, worried that he might be found not guilty. What would she do with her feelings then? But this was worse in a way. He had admitted to his crimes and, aged 72, a judge had let him stand up and walk out of the courthouse.
"I fell to bits," she says. "At the start of the case, I told myself, 'it doesn't matter what he gets as long as it is proven that he is guilty – as long as I am vindicated'. And all of a sudden, it DID matter what he got. As he was let walk free, it brought back a whole load of the feelings – the sense that you are worthless, that nothing you do is right. You are stupid and hopeless at everything."
Doyle returned to her home in Gorey where she lives with her husband, Jim. She locked herself in her room and cried all evening. That night something extraordinary happened. She switched on the television and discovered there was a national outcry.
"Strangers, people who had never met me, were standing up and fighting my corner. I thought, the least I can do is stand up and fight myself too. They gave me a kick up the backside, which I needed on a day I was dangerously low. It was like everybody had picked me up and carried me aloft."
Revulsion at the verdict – and at the scenes of O'Brien exiting court – was universal. Two days later, O'Brien was summoned before the judge once again and told bail was withdrawn.
"It gives me hope," says Doyle. "I hope I can encourage others who have gone through what I did. Going public was the best thing I could do. I am now living my life and everyone knows about me. I don't have to lie to anyone – the shame and the guilt is gone. I would love to be able to bottle up what I feel and give it to every abuse victim out there. To tell them that there is a difference [after you go public and pursue justice] – your life DOES change afterwards."
Penn State football coach Sandusky seeks new trial in child sex abuse case
A Pennsylvania appeals court was set to hear arguments on Tuesday for a new trial for Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach serving at least 30 years in prison for sexually abusing boys for more than a decade.
Sandusky, 69, who is being held in solitary confinement, will not attend the hearing although members of his family are expected, said his attorney, Norris Gelman.
A three-judge Superior Court panel will hear oral arguments in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania from Gelman and prosecutors for and against granting him a new trial.
Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 on 45 counts of child sex abuse for molesting 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football team's showers on campus. His victims accused him of fondling and oral and anal abuse.
In arguments for a new trial, each side has 15 minutes to argue its case. A decision by the judges could take months.
Gelman told Reuters he will focus his argument on instructions given to the jury by trial Judge John Cleland and whether the judge failed to tell jurors about the victims' failure to make prompt reports to authorities.
Some of the abuse dated back years, and Sandusky's defense attorneys argued at trial that the victims were motivated by money and only stepped forward when there was an opportunity to sue Penn State for damages.
Pennsylvania State University has reached settlements or tentative agreements with more than two dozen claimants.
The school, a powerhouse in the world of college football, has approved spending $60 million for the payouts.
Late last month, Penn State reached a settlement as well with Sandusky's adopted son Matt, who is among the men who said they were sexually abused by him, a source said.
Sandusky's attorney said he also will argue prosecutors made improper comments about Sandusky's decision not to testify and that the defense was not given enough time to prepare its case.
Prosecutors at the trial in Centre County Court said the victims had reasons for not mentioning the abuse earlier, from shame to the fact they were young boys showered by gifts and that they feared Sandusky would be seen as more credible than his accusers.
The scandal shined a light on child sexual abuse and raised pointed questions about the motivation of people who knew about Sandusky's behavior but failed for years to report a top coach vital to Penn State's successful and lucrative football program.
Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I college football history until he was stripped of more than 100 victories because of the scandal, lost his job at Penn State for failing to report Sandusky to authorities.
He died early last year at age of 85, about two months after he was fired.
National Academy of Sciences
Researchers: 'Immediate, coordinated' strategy needed to understand child abuse
In the first major study of child abuse and neglect in 20 years, researchers with the National Academy of Sciences recently reported that the damaging consequences of abuse can not only reshape a child's brain but also last a lifetime.
If untreated, the effects of child abuse and neglect, the researchers found, can profoundly influence victims' physical and mental health, their ability to control emotions and impulses, their achievement in school, and the relationships they form as children and as adults.
The researchers recommended an “immediate, coordinated” national strategy to better understand, treat and prevent child abuse and neglect, noting that each year, abuse and neglect costs an estimated $80 billion in the direct costs of hospitalization, law enforcement and child welfare and the indirect costs of special education, juvenile and adult criminal justice, adult homelessness, and lost work productivity.
In Utah, according to a 2008 report from Prevent Child Abuse America, the annual cost for child abuse is $2.8 million, taking into account similar factors, such as hospitalization and law enforcement.
Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah Trina Taylor agrees with the report's finding of the long-term damage that follows child abuse and the related costs.
“When kids are abused, we see more addiction problems and more mental issues. Even the physical effects are devastating, such as heart conditions,” she said.
Taylor said Utah is in line with the national rates of child abuse and may even have more because the state has more children. Every 38 minutes a child is abused, she said.
“Child abuse and neglect is a serious public health problem, which requires immediate, urgent attention,” said Anne Petersen, a professor at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan who chaired the research committee for the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academies. “The consequences can last into adulthood, with significant costs to the individual, to families and to society.”
The report, produced at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that while rates of physical and sexual child abuse have declined in the past 20 years, rates of emotional and psychological abuse, the kind that can produce the most serious long-lasting effects, have increased. Rates of neglect have held fairly steady. Researchers said they do not know why.
“That's why we make that a research priority in our recommendations,” said Lucy Berliner, a professor at the University of Washington's School of Social Work and a committee member. “We need to understand better the reasons behind these trends.”
Berliner said the committee is proposing a coordinated strategy, because it found so much variation among states, in how abuse and neglect are defined and how local officials are trained to respond to it. “Some states had dramatic, 100 percent increases in cases of neglect,” she said. “And others had 100 percent decreases. That speaks to the complexity of the problem.”
Taylor said the best way to curb the effects of child abuse is to prevent it all together. Her organization works with families that are in a high-risk category of child abuse, even getting involved before the child is born. The group provides support and education for parents to keep the risk minimum and also educate kids to identify abuse and to seek out help.
Every year, child-protection agencies receive 3 million referrals for child abuse and neglect involving about 6 million children, the report found, though with unreported instances, the actual number is probably much higher, the researchers said. And, the report noted, about 80 percent of the children in investigated abuse and neglect cases are not removed from the home.
Child victims are equally likely to be male or female, the report found. The majority are younger than 5. About 80 percent of the perpetrators are parents, the vast majority biological parents. More than half of the perpetrators are female.
Angela Diaz, director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and another committee member, said the report found three risk factors that increased the likelihood of child abuse: parental depression, parental substance abuse and whether the parents had been abused or neglected as children.
The researchers did not find an association between rates of abuse and times of economic hardship, such as the recent Great Recession.
“Researchers found relationships that were hard to make sense of: increases in child abuse in relationship to mortgage foreclosure but not to unemployment rates,” Berliner said. “It's not all that straightforward. After welfare reform in the 1990s, there was a concern that as people lost their benefits, that would cause a spike in child-abuse referrals. Instead, that was a period of the greatest reduction in child-abuse referrals.”
While so much remains a mystery about the causes of abuse, and why some children respond to treatment and recover and others do not, the researchers said advances in brain science in the past 20 years show just how devastating and long-lasting the effects of abuse can be on the structure and the function of the brain.
Research has found that abuse and neglect can influence the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotions, particularly fear and anxiety. Abuse also has been shown to change how the prefrontal cortex functions, the part of the brain responsible for thinking, planning, reasoning and decision making, which can lead to behavioral and academic problems.
But there is hope, researchers said.
“The effects seen on abused children's brain and behavioral development are not static,” said committee member Mary Dozier, chairman of child development at the University of Delaware. “If we can intervene and change a child's environment, we actually see plasticity in the brain. So, we see negative changes when a child is abused, but we also see positive brain changes when the abuse ends and they are more supported. Interventions can be very effective.”
South Dakota covers up sex abuse of Native foster children
by Albert Bender
RAPID CITY, S.D. - Forced into sexually abusive foster care. Incredible and atrocious as it may sound, that is the fate the state of South Dakota assigned to several Lakota children through its Department of Social Services.
Few crimes resonate more strongly in human consciousness for condemnation than the mistreatment of vulnerable, defenseless children, but the state of South Dakota has sunk to the bottom of the deepest abyss of human depravity in its treatment of Indian children. The following case and others constitute a singularly shameful chapter in the annals of American history. Something has to be done about South Dakota!
National Public Radio first reported on South Dakota's Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) scandal in October 2011. Since then, People's World has carried several stories (here and here) on the issue.
This journalist had the opportunity in August to go to South Dakota to report on the crisis, in which Native children are seized by the state without proper cause and placed in non-Native foster care, in violation of federal law. This is the first of a series of articles reporting firsthand on this catastrophe based on interviews with Native people in the area. It was truly heartbreaking to listen to grandmothers and mothers recount what had happened, not knowing the whereabouts of their grandchildren and children abducted by the state's DSS.
South Dakota gets about $79,000 from the federal government for each Native child placed in foster care. After paying the foster family about $9,000, the state retains about $70,000 of the funds for each child. Hence, South Dakota Natives speak of the selling of children. "Our kids are not for sale" is a strongly held feeling here.
But the most outrageous, so far, of the child kidnappings and abuse is the Mette case. From 2001 to 2010, South Dakota covered up, and indeed was more than in part responsible for, in an accomplice capacity, the repeated sexual abuse of Native children under its authority. Further, incredible as it may seem, those within the state apparatus who tried to help or rescue these helpless children through official channels were prosecuted by the state and lost their jobs in the process.
In 1999, Richard and Gwendolyn Mette (Wendy in court records ) - a white couple in Aberdeen, S.D. - had five ( not seven as originally reported by other sources) Lakota children placed with them by DSS. The lurid narrative and timeline of sexual slavery began in 2001 when two male foster children complained to state authorities of "inappropriate touching" and physical abuse by Richard and Wendy Mette. DSS also found that pornography was being left in the open in the Mette home, in full view of all the children. Incredibly, DSS just required the Mettes to sign a contract promising to stop any further illegal behavior. That this was the only step taken is astounding.
Predictably, the Mettes did not cease their behavior. In 2007, six years later, DSS received another official referral regarding the couple. Investigating police were told by one of the female children that the foster father made her sit on his lap and sexually touched her. The child said she told the foster mother. No action was taken by the state. Again, DSS kept the children in the home, despite this illicit conduct.
In 2010, three years later, with more complaints from the children of physical abuse and sexual touching, an investigation was launched by Assistant State's Attorney Brandon Taliaferro. The police, upon searching the Mette home, found "enough pornography to pack a store." Much of the pornography was of incest and was entitled "Family Heat." Police reports confirmed the earlier testimony of the children that the porn was in the open in every room of the home where all the children could see it.
Eventually, Richard Mette pled guilty to raping one of the female children, a child under 10 years old. Mette was originally charged with 23 felonies, of which the state dismissed 22. The children told authorities that the foster mother knew that her husband physically and sexually abused them. In fact, testimony given at the trial brought out that the foster mother, Wendy Mette, encouraged the female children not to resist the foster father's advances. She told the children "to make daddy happy." It was disclosed that the Mettes had the children watch pornographic videos with them, after which foster father Richard Mette would engage in sexual activity with the children. The Mettes also had a dice game with porno pictures on the dice that would determine the type of sex to be engaged in with the children. Ms. Mette was obviously a willing accomplice in this horrific sexual abuse that continued for years.
Relatives of the children who attended the trial recounted that at times they simply had to leave the courtroom because the testimony was so graphic that they were physically sickened. Indeed, parts of the case read by this journalist are so graphic as to be omitted from this column.
But the epilogue to this unspeakable tragedy, in many respects, gets even more incredible. The state initially charged Ms. Mette with 11 counts of child abuse, all of which were felonies. Subsequently, the state dropped all charges against Wendy Mette. In August 2012, DSS took the four female children from the custody of their adult biological sister and, incredibly, returned them to Ms. Mette. This is beyond belief. The children were returned to the house of torment.
The entire country, in fact the entire world, should render a huge outcry of anguished protest to the federal government and the state of South Dakota at this continuing outrage. This case demands immediate action by the U.S. Justice Department, which so far has chosen to ignore this shocking tragedy. Continued disregard of this and other such cases can only brand the Justice Department as an accomplice in a moral and legal obscenity.
Daniel Sheehan, chief legal counsel for the Lakota People's Law Project, has termed this case "the crime of the century." Unfortunately it is part of a pattern of abuse other Native children are subjected to at the hands of South Dakota and its DSS. As one Lakota elder recently put it, "Indian children are not even being treated as human beings." Again, something has to be done about South Dakota!
42 arrested in sex trafficking investigation
by The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A total of 42 people have been arrested following a four-day investigation into sex trafficking in northeastern Oklahoma, state Bureau of Narcotics officials said Monday.
OBN's Human Trafficking Unit launched the investigation after learning that individuals, including minors, were being forced into prostitution in Tulsa, Rogers, Ottawa and Delaware counties, agency spokesman Mark Woodward said in a statement.
“OBN worked from Sept. 10 to Sept. 13 in multiple cities and several different locations to target and arrest individuals engaged in prostitution,” Woodward said. “Follow-up interviews with the defendants were conducted to identify minors as well as adults forced into prostitution as the result of human trafficking.”
A total of 13 people were arrested for engaging in prostitution and 20 were arrested for soliciting. Seven people were arrested for pandering, one for aiding and abetting prostitution and one for possession of methamphetamine.
In addition, Woodward said three women were identified as victims of human trafficking and taken to a shelter. One of them is only 15 years old, he said.
Agents who executed a search warrant at a massage parlor in Bixby found illegal sexual activity and heroin. Officials are still investigating that case and no arrests have been made.
“OBN is committed to dismantling organizations involved in the seedy world of prostitution and ultimately human trafficking,” agency director Darrell Weaver said.
FBI agents to speak on sex trafficking
by SUSAN EMERY
VALPARAISO | Between 2005 and today, 126 cases of human trafficking have been identified in Indiana by law enforcement and nonprofit organizations, according to the Indiana Attorney General's office.
First United Methodist Church of Valparaiso hopes to increase awareness of this topic with a presentation by two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agents will speak at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at the church, 103 Franklin St.
Debbie Wuebbling, a member of United Methodist Women, which is sponsoring the event, said her group has helped promote legislation that combats human trafficking.
In 2008, UMW joined others throughout the nation to advocate for passage of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law as H.R.7311.
“United Methodist Women has been active in fighting human trafficking for more than a decade,” Wuebbling said. “Human trafficking has become the second largest criminal activity behind the sale of illegal arms.”
Indiana and federal law regards a prostitute younger than 18 as a human-trafficking victim. Many prostitutes older than 18 likely started out as victims of trafficking.
Wuebbling said the FBI agents who will speak were involved in a case in Hammond. The Lake County Sheriff's police are creating a unit to target human trafficking, and the department is planning prostitution stings throughout the county.
“We are hoping to make people aware that this is happening right here in our backyard,” Wuebbling said.
As a follow-up to the FBI presentation, the church will host a discussion of the book, “In Our Backyard,” by Nita Belles at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9. The church also is considering hosting an event in January to coincide with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
While the FBI agents' speech will focus on the sex trade, human trafficking also includes forced labor by men, women and children.
“Hopefully this is just a start, and we will be able to bring awareness to all human trafficking with other programs at a later time,” Wuebbling said.
Affects of child abuse can last a lifetime: Watch the ‘still face' experiment to see why
(Video on site)
by Brigid Schulte
To even begin to understand just how profoundly child neglect – to say nothing of abuse – can shape every aspect of a child's life, I dare anyone to try and watch the two-minute experiment that researchers call “The Still Face.”
Ed Tronick, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, sent me a link to his still face experiments – click here to see for yourself – after I wrote about the National Academy of Science's first major report on child abuse and neglect in 20 years that found the effects of abuse and neglect could last a lifetime.
In one of the most sobering findings, the report highlighted that advances in brain research now show that child abuse and neglect damages not only in the way a developing child's brain functions, but changes the actual structure of the brain itself, in such a way that makes clear thinking, controlling emotions and impulses and forming healthy social relationships more difficult.
In the still face experiment, Tronick videotapes a mother or father cooing, talking and laughing with their infants as young as three and four months old. The infants are in car seats, and they gurgle with delight, coo right back, smile and clap their hands.
Tronick has the mother or father turn away for a brief moment, then face the child with a blank expression. And that's when it starts getting really uncomfortable. The infant coos, gurgles, smiles and reaches out to the parent, only this time, there is no response. In the video I watched, you see the infant pause a moment, as if not understanding what's going on, shriek a little, kick their feet and arch their back as if to get that loving attention back.
And then, in short order, the baby gets really upset. They fuss, they try to turn away, they begin to cry.
“What's really striking about the still face experiment is that the infants don't stop trying to get the parents' attention back,” Tronick said. “They'll go through repeated cycles where they try to elicit attention, fail, turn away, sad and disengaged, then they turn back and try again.
“When it goes on long enough, you see infants lose postural control and actually collapse in the car seat,” he continued. “Or they'll start self-soothing behaviors, sucking the back of their hand or their thumbs. Then they really disengage from the parent and don't look back.”
Some infants, however, become so distressed that that they're unable to console themselves. Tronick and other researchers have found that neglect leads to increases in the heart rate, a flush of the stress hormone cortisol and to cell death in key regions of the brain.
In recent studies, Tronick and colleagues in Milan, have found that four-month-old infants exposed to the still face will remember it two weeks later, rapidly showing physiological changes to negative responses that infants exposed to it for the first time do not.
“Infants, like all humans, are designed to be in interaction with other people,” Tronick told me. “When I began doing these experiments in the 1980s, we just didn't have any idea how powerful the connection with other people was for infants, and how, when you disconnected, how powerfully negative the effect was on the infant.”
In studies of infants at orphanages who are fed and clothed, but not held, talked to or played with have found that some neglected children, literally, fail to grow. “Some of them actually died,” he said.
If you can make it through the Still Face video, you may, like I did, experience a rush of relief when the mother finally breaks the stoney face and begins laughing and talking to her obviously upset infant again. And just as that infant's racing heart calmed down and other systems returned to normal, Tronick and others have found that even abused and neglected children, once surrounded by loving support, too, begin to thrive and the brain can rewire in a positive, healthy way.
The report found that one of the biggest risk factors for child abuse and neglect is if the parent him or herself was abused or neglected. So Tronick and others are working to train professionals and educate and treat parents in an effort to break the cycle. And, one hopes, put an end to the wrenching effects of The Still Face.
Historic Australian child abuse inquiry opens
An Australian inquiry into church and institutional child abuse began public hearings today, with warnings that widespread and "shocking" allegations would be heard against places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools.
Justice Peter McClellan opened the hearings in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, announced by the government last November, saying that thousands of people had so far come forward.
"It is now well known that the sexual abuse of children has been widespread in the Australian community, however the full range of institutions in which it has occurred is not generally understood," McClellan said in an address.
"Many of the stories we are hearing will shock many people."
The inquiry was established by former prime minister Julia Gillard in response to a series of child sex abuse scandals involving paedophile priests, though she insisted the probe would be much broader than the Catholic Church.
The commission formally began sitting in April and has since been taking confidential briefings from victims. Monday marks the first public hearings of evidence.
McClellan said a hotline set up for survivors of abuse to contact the commission had so far received 4,301 relevant calls.
Of these, 398 people had given a private briefing to the commission, 449 were awaiting their session and another 1,178 were yet to be assessed.
There were an average of 22 new callers per day - 10 of which typically went on to give private evidence - and McClellan said he expected the number to increase as the commission's profile was boosted by public hearings.
"Many people who have come to the commission have suffered greatly, both at the time that the abuse occurred and subsequently through their lives," he told the commission hearing in Sydney.
"Many have received counselling at various stages of their lives, many have thought of suicide and some have attempted it.
"Many people including those who suffered abuse 30 or 40 years ago break down in the course of telling their story and require the assistance of support persons to be able to continue."
McClellan said the commission faced a mammoth task and would have to be selective in the matters it took to a public hearing, limiting them to "systemic issues and policy matters" or where a "significant cluster of abused individuals" was uncovered.
Some "preliminary themes have already emerged", he said.
In residential institutions such as orphanages and boarding schools, for example, he said the commission had established that "sexual abuse is almost always accompanied by almost unbelievable levels of physical violence inflicted on the children by the adults who have responsibility for their welfare".
The events would often set off a domino effect, with a victim's schoolwork suffering, limiting their future employment prospects, and their ability to trust others and form relationships damaged beyond repair.
"The damage to an individual, be it a boy or girl, who was abused at a time when, because of their age, they are unable to resist an abuser or report the abuse to others, may be life-changing," he said, adding that even "low level" abuse could have "catastrophic" consequences.
Today's hearing, the first of five public sessions to be held before the end of the year, will examine the "case study" of convicted paedophile Steven Larkins, who headed an Aboriginal children's charity and was also a Scout leader.
Larkins pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two boys - aged 11 and 12 - in separate incidents in 1992 and 1997, and is currently in jail for child pornography offences and forging a declaration of his fitness to work with juveniles.
Child abuse survivor says inquiry 'a good start'
(Video on site)
by Chiara Pazzano
The President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, Dr Cathy Kezelman, says she hopes the Royal Commission into child sex abuse will lead to more accountability for perpetrators and increased support for child abuse victims.
Today, the first public hearings of the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse have begun in Sydney.
President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse Dr Cathy Kezelman says the inquiry is a great start.
"What we have for the first time is the possibility for people to be heard in private sessions and also for forensic inquiries into the impediments and blocks in institutions," she says.
"And that is formal, in terms of proceedings and informal in terms of culture. That has meant that children have not been protected, have been harmed, and that has meant that institutions have been protected and not children".
She says the inquiry is limited though, as it's only looking at child sexual abuse in institutions.
"It's not looking at other forms of abuse and it's not looking at abuse and trauma in childhood that occurs outside of institutions, in the family, in the home, in the community - external to institutions".
She says 63 per cent of people are abused by family members; 20 per cent by members of the extended family; 10 per cent by family friends; 18 per cent by institutions, and 2 per cent by strangers.
"We know that the vast majority of people are abused by someone they know and many of them are abused by members of their immedidate family".
Dr Kezelman hopes the inquiry will lead to more accountability for perpetrators.
"The best outcome is that we would have eroded a lot of the stigma around child abuse, that people can speak out, that there will be mandatory reporting of crime, that children who are at risk of harm, or being harmed, will be protected and be believed.
"That there will be justice for survivors. That there will be accountability for perpetrators and for people complicit in covering up crime and that as a society, we work to together to eradicate what is a massive scourge of child abuse".
Dr Kezelman, who is a survivor of child sex abuse herself, hopes the inquiry will also lead to better support for people who've experienced such trauma.
"All children and adults who are victims of all sorts of abuse need the right care, need professionals who understand the particular needs of survivors of this sort of trauma".
To hear the full interview, click on the video.
For Residential School Kids, a Legacy of Sex Abuse
Native leaders hope Truth and Reconciliation hearings will break the cycle of violence.
by Pieta Woolley
Jerry Adams hears "Just get over it," a lot. He hears it from some young aboriginal kids who say they're sick of talking about their grandparents' residential school experiences. He hears it from some non-native people, dismissive of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which is coming to the PNE Coliseum in Vancouver Sept. 18 to 21 to record the stories of residential school survivors and their descendants.
Just get over the past. Get over residential schools.
"We're trying to," he says, laughing, in his office on East Broadway, on the main floor of a no-frills three-story apartment building decorated with aboriginal art and smelling of freshly-baked buns.
Adams, 63, a stocky, cheerful former social worker and member of the Nisga'a Nation, is the executive director of the Circle of Eagles Lodge Society. He seems, on the surface, like a walking advertisement for getting over it.
Adams was the first of his siblings not be sent to residential school. Instead, he was raised by grandparents before being boarded out for high school. He went directly from there to Langara College, where he began studying social work. Eventually he earned degrees from UBC and UVIC. For the past 40 years, he's worked in youth outreach, in social work, and in administration with the Urban Native Youth Association and Circle of Eagles. His wife, his children and his grandchildren have not been abused, he volunteers.
Adams holds a wall of awards recognizing his work. Still, he admits that he doesn't know how he was able to break the cycle while so many people he works with and loves seem trapped. They're good people, he notes, who are struggling with pervasive, multigenerational horrors. Speaking only for his own experience, he said, it is the love of his grandparents and his extended family in his home village of Aiyansh that fill him with strength.
"Healing can't come from anyone else but our people," said Adams. "Parents teaching their kids that abuse is not okay."
That can be hard, he adds, when for so many aboriginal people abuse is so close it's still raw. His own brother survived horrific abuse, Adams said, but still won't talk about it. His niece committed suicide.
"It's really trying to unlearn the cycles, and be understanding that there is a possibility for us to be healed. It's so hard for us to trust one another still. Abuse has affected so many of us directly."
Disturbing pattern of sex abuse
Circle of Eagles is a home for aboriginal men transitioning out of prison. Some are sex offenders. Their crimes have usually been against the women and children closest to them, Adams said, which often leads to social workers taking their own kids away. The residents will be among those paddling from Kits Point to Science World as part of an All Nations Canoe Gathering to mark the TRC's hearings. They are part of the community as well as part of the story.
Sexual abuse is a leading reason for government child protection services to become involved in a family, which often results in the removal of kids. About one in 35 kids whom social workers confirm has been abused has also been sexually violated. Many more, Adams and others suggest, are never officially reported.
Adams is not sure how widespread incest and sexual violence are among First Nations in B.C., but he's sure they are much more common than most people are ready to acknowledge.
"There are programs [for sexual offenders] in institutions, but it doesn't stop it," he said.
He hopes story telling at the TRC this week will begin to crack open the conversation. But he also acknowledges that it will take time over generations before the community washes itself clean of the effects of chronic abuse.
Abductions then and now
Fifteen years ago, Sto:lo Nation activist Ernie Crey and journalist Suzanne Fournier wrote the book, Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities . It was among the first to make the argument that provincial foster care has become the residential school of the modern era.
In the book, Crey also suggested that stopping the chronic incest plaguing so many communities is the key to ending mass apprehensions of aboriginal children. Stop abusing them, he says in effect, and government will stop taking them away.
Unlike much child protection thinking in North America whose guiding principal is "the best interests of the child," Crey and Adams focus on helping adults -- especially those sexual offenders who were victims themselves.
"The community has never gone through a deep healing process to make it safe for men who were abused and men who became offenders to come forward and disclose and get healed," a man called Peter Joe told Crey and Fournier in Stolen from our Embrace . "Behind all the alcoholism and drug abuse, the family violence; men are hurting pretty bad. You know, all those scenes [in residential school] come back to me, the beatings and being so scared, in my nightmares and even when I'm awake."
At least one notable change has taken place since Crey and Fournier's book was published, but perhaps not entirely for the better. The province has handed much of B.C.'s child protection work over to aboriginal agencies. Formerly, most of these offered family support only, an approach that Crey believes had been working.
While Crey certainly supports the principal of aboriginals administering child protection, he says that mixing their mandate to include the power to remove kids introduced a distrust that has undermined their efforts. "Parents don't trust the agencies because they deliver both support and apprehensions," Crey told the Tyee Solutions Society. "What was once a helping agency now has a dual role."
Breaking the silence
Crey believes the only way to restore lost confidence is for both aboriginal agencies and the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development to separate family support programs from the function of taking children into foster care. Lifting the threat of child removal, he says, will rebuild trust and ultimately offer families and communities the help they need.
For his part, Adams proposes two approaches to ending the cycle of violence and apprehensions. Some people are able to make a personal decision to change their behaviour for themselves and their own families. Many of his staff, he said, have made that choice and been able to maintain it.
But abuse is not an individual problem either, he insists. It's a shared legacy of a dark era, a community-scale problem that demands community action. He urges a community return to the power of traditional spirituality: the drum, gatherings and dances.
Both men suggest that a critical first step is simply the acknowledgment that incest and sexual violence are widespread in aboriginal communities, and stem from a multigenerational cycle of abuse that started in residential schools.
That work has a chance to continue this weekend, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission listens to the stories of those who survived the residential schools, and now are struggling to rebuild lives and families.
When victims become the criminals
Many speakers at the Truth and Reconciliation hearings are expected to be "intergenerational survivors" -- people who didn't attend residential school themselves, but whose lives have been affected by the scars that parents, grandparents and communities bear from the residential school experience. Their testimony will shed light on the ongoing connection between abuse suffered at residential schools and the myriad social problems plaguing First Nations communities, including aboriginal over-representation in foster care. Some facts:
- In B.C., about five per cent of the population is aboriginal.
- Nationally, aboriginal children represent about 22 per cent of child protection investigations when abuse is suspected. Social workers are four times more likely to find substantiation for an allegation of abuse of an aboriginal child than for allegations of abuse of non-aboriginal children.
- In B.C., just over half of kids in the care of the Ministry of Children and Families are aboriginal.
- Of street youth in B.C., 54 per cent are aboriginal. In Vancouver, the figure rises to nearly two thirds (65 per cent). Forty percent of kids on the street have spent time in foster care. More than a third said they'd been sexually exploited and 15 per cent already had a child of their own.