It's Time We Stood Together – Its Time To Eliminate SOL Laws
Statute of Limitations rules mean getting justice varies wildly across America
EDITOR'S NOTE: Here at NAASCA we're only too happy to promote and support this effort to eliminate Statute of Limitation Laws across the country. Our members know all too well the difficulties encountered by child abuse survivors in bringing both criminal and civil cases that are related to the period of time since their trauma happened and being ready to take an action against a predator. We continue to speak out on this issue regularly, both on our NAASCA.org web site and on our "Stop Child Abuse Now" talk radio show.
by Together We Heal -- October 12, 2013
My friend and colleague, Marjorie McKinnon, director of The Lamplighters, posted this saying and I believe it sums up everything we should do as organizations working toward the same goal – “We must all stand together, so that no one must stand alone.”
I've been speaking with Marci A. Hamilton, because I was thinking of forming a 501(c)(4) in order to work more in the area of changing/reforming statute of limitation laws that dealt with sex crimes against children. But since, as a 501(c)(3) we are allowed to use up to 20% of our time/resources to work in this area, she brought up a great point and I wanted to share it with you. Before I do, you should know why I called Marci.
She is a nationally recognized professor, religion/state scholar, and a leading attorney in major clergy sex abuse cases. She is the leading national expert on child sex abuse statutes of limitations, and maintains the cutting edge website, http://www.sol-reform.com, which contains up-to-date information on this vital social movement in all 50 states. She is frequently asked to advise Congress and state legislatures on the constitutionality of pending legislation and to consult in cases involving important constitutional issues.
Professor Hamilton is the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge University Press 2008, 2012) and God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005, 2007), which won the Silver Medal, Foreword Magazine Political Science Book of the Year Award, Political Science in 2005 and she is a visiting professor at Princeton University, New York University School of Law, Emory University School of Law, and the Princeton Theological Seminary.
She suggested, rather than starting over, why not pool our resources and work together with other groups already established to change the laws. So with that in mind I'm reaching out to everyone. Join with us to eliminate SOL laws that protect pedophiles/sexual predators and impede justice for survivors of CSA.
Rather than working alone and at times even against the grain, I believe we, and all survivors would be better served by this combination of resources. I'm so tired of a few organizations being more worried about “eyeballs on websites” and who gets what donor money. Isn't this supposed to be about our fellow survivors of CSA? If so, if you really believe this, then email me and Marci so we can add your name and organization to the list and website of those already working together and lets get this done!
I am going to send some direct emails to those of you I believe will be on board but I also wanted to get this out there for everyone. Please join us in changing these outdated laws that protect the criminals and re-victimize those who've already suffered.
Let me say this again, if you really believe as we do, then step up and join us in this fight. This is an area we can make meaningful change, long-term, in the lives of survivors past, present and future. For those in the past, like myself, it shows our efforts and what we been through won't be in vain. And for those present and future…the results will be self-evident.
We need your company name, logo, primary contact name and email address.
To see what is happening on SOL reform, visit Prof. Hamilton's website -- http://www.sol-reform.com
It is regularly updated.
Email either of us at:
If not for yourself, then do this for those now and in the future.
Brown vetoes bill giving sex abuse victims more time to file lawsuits
His veto comes after a heated opposition campaign led by the Catholic Church. Groups representing victims condemn the decision.
by Ashley Powers and Melanie Mason
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have given some childhood sex abuse victims more time to file lawsuits, after a heated opposition campaign led by the Catholic Church that stretched from Capitol hallways to Los Angeles church pews.
In an unusually detailed three-page veto message released Saturday, the Democratic governor, a former Jesuit seminarian, said the bill raised questions of equal treatment of public and private employers. Pointing to a centuries-long tradition of limiting the period when legal claims can be filed, Brown said institutions should feel secure that "past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits."
He also argued that the legislation, which would have in part lifted the statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims for one year to allow some childhood victims to file lawsuits, was "unfair" because it singled out private organizations, such as Catholic dioceses and the Boy Scouts. Public schools would not have been affected by the bill, something Brown called "a significant inequity."
"The children assaulted by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or the teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles are no less worthy because of the nature of the institution they attended," Brown wrote, referring to two recent abuse scandals at public institutions.
Sen. James Beall Jr. (D-San Jose), who introduced the bill, called Brown's veto "a retreat in the fight to protect our children."
"I am sad for the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who have been denied the opportunity to have their day in court to confront the people who knowingly allowed their employees to harm children," he said in a statement.
Groups representing abuse victims and plaintiffs attorneys also condemned the governor's decision.
"We hope that victims only see this as one lost battle in a long war to punish wrongdoers and keep California's children safe," said Joelle Casteix, western regional director of SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The bill was modeled after one that passed in 2002, during the height of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, which gave alleged victims a one-year window to sue employers who may have failed to protect them from known molesters.
That legislation resulted in the church paying $1.2 billion in settlements. The church was also forced to release a slew of internal records that showed its leaders, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, discussing how to shield admitted molesters from police.
Beall's bill would have applied only to accusers who were 26 or older during the last window in 2003, did not file a lawsuit and later discovered abuse-related psychological problems. A California Supreme Court decision barred them from suing.
It is unclear how large that group is. During the 2003 window, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles expected fewer than 100 people to sue; about five times that many did.
Only three other states — Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota — have approved temporary suspensions of the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse claims. Similar efforts in some other states have been thwarted in part by the church's ability to rally lawmakers to its side.
In Sacramento, the church led the campaign against Beall's bill, though it also drew opposition from the YMCA, USA Swimming and some private schools. Bishops lobbied lawmakers and urged parishioners to press their representatives to scuttle it. A group affiliated with the church spent tens of thousands of dollars on an effort to quash the legislation.
Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, president of the church's political arm, welcomed the governor's action. "We hope the way the Catholic Church in California has responded to the abuse crisis over the last 10 years and 'walked the walk' with respect to protecting young people and reporting allegations to law enforcement helped play a role," he said in a statement.
Debate over SB 131 was fervid and at times emotional. During several hearings, two lawmakers — Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) — spoke about their own abuse as children. So did a well-known lobbyist, Paula Treat. They argued that victims need extra time to file suits because it often takes decades to admit that they were molested.
"I was alone trying to understand what happened to me for many years," Lara said during a floor debate in which he disclosed he was abused by a family member. "I couldn't go to anyone."
The bill's opponents, including private schools and nonprofit groups, argued it is difficult to mount a defense against decades-old accusations because of lack of evidence and the death or infirmity of key witnesses. They also said the bill would be a boon to trial attorneys.
The bill passed out of each chamber on a razor-thin margin. In the Assembly, it was three votes shy of passage, until backers extended the final vote for nearly an hour to round up supportive lawmakers.
"You could, on the floor, see people almost visibly struggling with the issue," Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), who voted for the bill, said afterward. "Nobody believes that someone who has perpetrated sexual abuse, especially against a child, should escape accountability for that kind of behavior."
But he added, "Many of them were very torn between that first sense and that second sense of belief in, and loyalty to, institutions that they hold in high regard."
New law creates minimum sentence for ankle bracelet violators
by Kelly Goff
A bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday will put convicted sex offenders back in jail for a minimum of 180 days if they cut off court-ordered GPS ankle bracelets.
The new law requires that offenders who remove their monitoring devices to serve the additional felony sentence in county jail before returning to parole.
Paroled sex offenders have received lighter sentences for cutting off the devices since the implementation of prison realignment. Prior to the passage of AB 109, paroled offenders who discarded the ankle bracelets faced up to a full year in state prison. But since 2011, parolees who violated the terms of their release are housed in overcrowded county prisons, where sentences are often shaved by days or weeks to ease the overburdened system.
“When sex offenders know that there are little or no repercussions for cutting off their GPS monitoring devices, it's time to strengthen the deterrent,” Sen Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, said in a statement.
Lieu authored the legislation, Senate Bill 57.
After serving the additional time, offenders will again be released and monitored by GPS.
“Real deterrents for sex offenders drastically reduce the likelihood they will commit another crime. SB 57 now gives these sex offenders second thoughts about roaming free while on parole,” Lieu said.
Why we must teach our kids danger can also lie at home
We warn about 'stranger danger' but how do we explain the unthinkable to a small child
by Shane Dunphy
JIMMY was eight when I worked with him. He was new in care, and had been placed under the auspices of the Health Service Executive (HSE) due to neglect rather than the more dramatic physical and sexual abuse experienced by some of the other children in the care unit.
I was immediately struck by his bravery and quiet dignity – he was small for his age and softly spoken, and so very alone in that strange and chaotic environment, but he faced every challenge with determined stoicism.
One evening, we sat together in the living room, watching cartoons on the television.
"Y'know Paddy?" he asked, referring to the eldest boy in the house, a youngster of 17.
"Of course," I answered.
"He told me that he's here 'cause his dad did bad sex things to him."
"He told you that, did he?"
"Yeah." There was a pause. "Is that true? Cause he says the same thing happened to George and Katie." These were a brother and sister who also lived at the unit.
I was momentarily at a loss for words. Jimmy had managed to escape the horrors of sexual abuse, and enjoyed a strained though slowly blossoming relationship with both his parents, whom he saw at weekly access visits.
How do you begin to explain the unthinkable to an already damaged child? Or an undamaged one, for that matter?
Last week, as I read the details of Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence: Towards a National Response, a report by the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland that presented information compiled by 16 frontline services, I couldn't help but remember Jimmy's questioning.
According to the RCNI, a child under the age of 13 is most likely to be abused by a family member, a statistic that challenges our ideas about the importance of 'stranger danger' – teaching children to cry for help and run away when approached by someone they don't know is just not sufficient any more.
This, however, leaves us in something of a quandary: how exactly do we address this reality with children as young as four or five? Is it reasonable to inform them that mum or dad are potential risks? That kindly uncle Bob might have ulterior motives?
Another finding of the report that could prove problematic is that 37 per cent of all perpetrators of sexual violence against children are, themselves, under the age of 18 – in short, children are abusing children. Peer abuse (as it is euphemistically called) places massive obstacles in the path of child protection workers.
Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard finds new arena as sexual abuse victim helping other survivors
An Olympic gold medal may bring fame and fortune, but immunity from the darkest corners of human nature is not included. Beneath Leonard's sweet face and dazzling athletic skills was a deeply troubled man.
by Wayne Coffey
MIAMI BEACH — It's a little after 9 p.m. and lightning bolts are splitting the south Florida sky, but the champ pays no mind. He is too busy creating a charge of his own, feinting here, juking there, daring you to catch up to him, a bobbing and weaving work of art even at 57 years of age.
Sugar Ray Leonard isn't in a ring, but a luxury hotel suite overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He isn't wearing gloves, but bare hands. You ask him how it is that his still-boyish face can be so unmarked, his skin so smooth, almost four decades after he became one of the most famous Olympic gold medalists in history, and a quarter-century after he won his last world championship, in an unprecedented fifth weight class.
He feints once more, and then again.
“You just don't let them hit you,” Sugar Ray Leonard says. He pauses and smiles and talks about how safe he always felt inside the ring, how protected.
“I knew I was ready, because I'd prepared for it,” Leonard says. “There were no surprises.”
Outside the ring, of course, was an entirely different matter. Outside it, there was an abundance of surprises, sometimes horrific surprises, and a day later, before some 1,200 corporate listeners brought together by Burger King, Ray Leonard spoke about them, sharing a whopper of a story, full of soaring inspiration — and one terrible truth.
Ray Leonard didn't want anybody to leave the room without knowing that he was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
It is a message that Leonard is intent on shouting from the proverbial hilltops these days, as the newest and most high-profile, board member of the Let Go . . . Let Peace Come In Foundation, an ambitious and increasingly effective organization that seeks to raise awareness of, and establish treatment models for, victims of childhood sexual abuse — a problem that both Leonard and foundation founder Peter S. Pelullo refer to as “a pandemic.”
An Olympic gold medal may bring fame and fortune, but immunity from the darkest corners of human nature is not included. It was one of the points Leonard made when he spoke to students last fall at Penn State, where the wreckage of the Jerry Sandusky scandal may have done more to spotlight childhood sexual abuse than any event in American history.
“Nobody wants to talk about it,” Leonard says. “It's so ugly, so toxic, that people can't even envision it happening. But it is happening, and it won't stop until we speak up, and until we speak out. It's an obligation. It's a personal obligation. (Because) if you keep silent it will kill you. It will just take you apart piece by piece until there is nothing left.”
Five-and-a-half years after launching the foundation, Pelullo, 62, a survivor of serial sexual abuse that started when he was 7 and that he kept secret for almost 50 years, exudes a missionary's zeal when he speaks about the issue. His vision includes a $25 million capital campaign that will help fund research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and begin establishing a network of meetings where survivors can go and get group treatment under the direction of a trained trauma therapist. Just as such people as Queen Latifah, Todd Bridges and R.A. Dickey have had a significant impact after going public with their own stories of childhood sexual abuse, Pelullo believes Ray Leonard is precisely the fistic front man the foundation needs.
“Here's a five-time world champion coming forward, (basically) telling countless men and women who are afraid that it's okay for them to come forward, too,” Pelullo says. “I believe Ray will help open the doors of corporate America, where literally millions of survivors are working every day.”
* * *
Ray Leonard won his Olympic gold medal in Montreal with a 5-0 decision over Cuba's Andres Aldama, and won his first world title, over Wilfred Benitez, little more than three years later. He would capture four more titles, split two big-money fights with Roberto Duran, outpoint Marvin Hagler in one of the most heralded bouts in memory before winning his last title, the light-heavyweight crown, over Donny Lalonde 25 years ago next month. He was named the fighter of the decade for the 1980s, and after multiple retirements and unretirements, left the ring for good with a mansion in Pacific Palisades, a soon-to-be-famous god child, Khloe Kardashian (her stepfather, Bruce Jenner, and Leonard were the two breakout stars from those Montreal Olympics), and seemingly nothing but prosperity ahead of him, except that beneath the sweet face and dazzling athletic skills lay a deeply troubled man.
Johnny Gill, the R & B singer and former member of the New Edition, is one of Leonard's closest friends.
“He was one of the most famous boxers in the world and he couldn't find any peace,” Gill says.
Gill observed what seemed to be a growing torment in his friend, one that was exacerbated by alcohol. Leonard would drink and emotions would gush out of him like blood from a gashed face, tears coming in torrents.
“I could never figure out what was at the root of all the crying,” Gill said. “As much as I knew something was wrong, he'd never tell me what it was.”
Leonard, it turned out, was addicted to alcohol, and had problems with cocaine, too, and later admitted he had been physically abusive to his first wife, Juanita, mother of their two children. Leonard went through treatment and says he has been sober for seven years, though he believes the substance abuse was triggered by his efforts to medicate a much deeper pain, which he chronicles in his 2011 memoir, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” Leonard writing about how he had been sexually abused as a teenager by both an Olympic boxing coach and a benefactor in his native Maryland. The coach, who has since died and whom Leonard declines to name, initially had Leonard and another young boxer bathe in front of him. Leonard thought it a bit odd, looking at the trainer eying them, but had no reason to distrust the man. Then came a second episode, according to the book, co-written with Michael Arkush. Leonard and the coach were in a car in an empty parking lot, outside a recreation center. The coach began to talk about Leonard's potential, about the life-changing possibilities of an Olympic gold medal. Then the coach, the architect of young Ray Leonard's boxing career, made his move:
“Before I knew it, he had unzipped my pants and put his hand, then mouth, on an area that has haunted me for life. I didn't scream. I didn't look at him. I just opened the door and ran.”
Not long after, Leonard was in the office of a man who had provided him with cash now and then, who had always supported him. The man came from behind his desk and started rubbing Leonard's shoulders and his chest, and then slipped his hands down Leonard's pants.
“Oh no, not again,” Leonard thought, and off he ran once more.
Leonard kept the secret for nearly 40 years, until the release of his book. His wife, Bernadette, did not want him to go public, concerned that the revelation would stigmatize Leonard and their two children, but Leonard says it was that very stigma that made him want to come forward. He wanted other survivors to know they were not alone. And he didn't want to pretend that being victimized was easy.
When some critics expressed doubt about Leonard's account, and others accused him of sensationalizing his story to sell books, Leonard was furious — but more convinced than ever that he'd done the right thing. The reaction also heightened his appreciation for why so many victims keep their shame locked away, and deepened his resolve to share the depth of his pain.
“The first thing that happens is that the trust factor is destroyed,” Leonard says. “This is someone I trusted completely. When you lost that it's very hard to get it back.”
With the help of Pelullo, Leonard has started working with a therapist who specializes in the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. The sessions focus on peeling back layers of numbness and escape to get at the wound, in all its rawness. The work is not easy. Leonard was driving down San Vicente Blvd. in west Los Angeles recently, returning from his kids' school, when he suddenly, inexplicably, was overcome with sadness. He pulled over. He started to sob. He cried for a long time before he was able to continue driving.
“What he is doing is taking his life back,” Johnny Gill says. “It's nothing short of a miracle.”
Ray Leonard and Peter Pelullo met through a mutual friend and spoke for the first time two months ago. The talk lasted 45 minutes, and the more they shared their stories, the more convinced Leonard was that it was time for him to play a leading role in lifting the veil on a silent scourge that afflicts tens of millions of Americans.
Pelullo estimates that one-third of girls and one-fourth of boys under the age of 18 are victimized by sexual abuse, and though Elizabeth Letourneau, founding director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health's program to prevent child sexual abuse, cites lower rates of incidence (19% of girls and 9% of boys), she believes the shame associated with abuse may well lead to significant under-reporting.
Whatever the numbers, when Leonard and Pelullo met in the restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Orlando on Aug. 31, 100% of the men at the table were adult survivors. Leonard had fish, Pelullo had steak and an immediate bond was forged, Pelullo sparing no details of the horrors he chronicles in his own book (“Betrayal and the Beast”), Leonard astounded by the depth of Pelullo's commitment to attack the problem, getting treatment for adult victims and working with Letourneau's program to create preventive public-health policies.
Pelullo shared his three-year, $25 million plan, his belief that nothing short of a sweeping shift in social consciousness — making it okay to talk about sexual abuse — was essential.
Wrote Leonard in a text message:
“Pete, it was an incredible synergy in some way with you with our conversation. Looking forward to getting together with you to help eradicate what happened with us and continues to happen every day.”
Sugar Ray Leonard returned home to California, to Bernadette and their two children, Camille, 16, and Daniel, 12, a changed man. He started therapy and is going after the pandemic as if he were training for a fight.
“This isn't about me,” Ray Leonard says. “It's about helping others. I know how this kills people, like it could've killed me. If you don't find a way to deal with it, it's going to wipe out a part of our society. It's not a joke. It can happen to anyone. It cuts all the way across (every demographic).”
In his waterfront suite, Sugar Ray Leonard, finished with his feinting and juking, takes a sip of water and looks out toward the ocean. The lightning show has stopped. His new arena has no ropes, and no round limit. Coming up on 40 years since he won gold, Sugar Ray Leonard is aiming higher than ever. He likens the problem to dirt that we don't want to see, so we sweep it under the rug. It piles up, and up. It only gets worse, until the rug is pulled back, and the filth is dealt with.
“This happened to me,” he says. “It has happened to millions of others. There's a story coming out every day, but it goes away; it's big news, and then it's gone. But the epidemic doesn't go away. It only get worse.”
'Baby Hope' has a name, a suspect in her death, NYPD announces
by Melissa Gray
Twenty-two years later, she has a name.
The little girl known only as "Baby Hope," whose abused and decomposed body was found in an ice chest by the side of a New York roadway in 1991, is 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo, New York police announced Saturday.
Police also announced the arrest of the man they say killed Anjelica and dumped her body along the Henry Hudson Parkway. The man, Conrado Juarez, 52, is the girl's cousin. He has been charged with murder.
Detectives from the New York Police Department's Cold Case Apprehension Squad never stopped searching for answers in the case. Each year, on the anniversary of the July 23, 1991, discovery of her body, they would canvass nearby neighborhoods, handing out fliers and asking people for information.
Who was the girl? Who was her family? Who killed her?
It was an anonymous tip called in after the latest canvass in July that helped crack the case, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. It led detectives to Anjelica's sister, now an adult; from there, they identified the woman believed to be the girl's mother, he said.
"That individual's actions were the catalyst for this most recent lead," Kelly said, referring to Juarez's arrest. He is Anjelica's cousin on her father's side.
Police arrested Juarez after questioning him near the Manhattan restaurant where he worked as a dishwasher, Kelly said. He was expressionless as police led him in handcuffs past reporters.
Juarez admitted to the crime Saturday morning, Kelly said.
"Today, NYPD investigators have given young Anjelica her due justice," said Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski.
Construction workers found the body of Anjelica -- who was never reported missing -- bound and in a garbage bag, hidden under some soda cans inside a blue and white cooler. She had been smothered and sexually molested, and her body was so badly decomposed that several sketches were made to suggest what she looked like.
Two years after she was found, the girl was laid to rest in a donated plot, buried in a white dress bought by a detective's wife, with a tombstone paid for by detectives. "Because we care" is the inscription at the bottom of the tombstone, Pulaski said.
Juarez, who was 30 at the time of the crime, said he went to an apartment in Queens shared by seven of his relatives and saw Anjelica in the hallway, Kelly said. Juarez told police he smothered her with a pillow while raping her.
When the girl went motionless, Juarez told police, he summoned his sister from another room. It was the sister who told Juarez to get rid of the body and who provided the cooler, Kelly said. He then "folded the girl in half," tied her, placed her in a garbage bag inside the cooler and placed soda cans on top of her body, said New York Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges during Juaraez's arraignment Saturday night.
Juarez and his sister hailed a cab to Manhattan, dropped the cooler off in a wooded area near the parkway, and then went their separate ways, authorities said.
The sister, Balvena Juarez Ramirez, is deceased, Kelly said.
Retired Det. Jerry Giorgio, who worked on the case from the start, said he was "elated" at news of the arrest.
"You know the expression, 'I'm on cloud nine'? Well, that's where I am right now," Giorgio told reporters.
Giorgio told CNN the killer's identity was out of the blue. He said he was certain the killer was Anjelica's mother, father, or both.
Changes in forensic science also helped propel the investigation, Kelly said. The girl's body was exhumed in 2006, and a DNA profile was built in 2011. Earlier this month the office of the chief medical examiner made a DNA match between the girl and her mother.
From there, investigators constructed a family tree, and the trail led them to Juarez, Kelly said.
Kelly praised the "phenomenal persistence" of the detectives who originally worked on the case and those now working with the cold case squad. "They were unrelenting," he said.
Police Say 4 Boys From NM Youth Camp Back Home
by JUAN CARLOS LLORCA
Authorities say an Amber Alert will remain in effect for five teenage boys reported missing from a rural New Mexico ranch for troubled youth until they can confirm they're OK.
By later Saturday, four of the nine young people that had been missing were back with their parents and removed from the alert notice, New Mexico police said.
Police said they believe the five others are in danger, while an attorney for the ranch said all are safely with parents.
A search warrant was executed Friday as part of the investigation of abuse at the Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program, located at a 30,000-acre compound in high desert country, about 7 miles from Hillsboro. Officials said that the teens, ages 13 and 17, weren't at the property in Sierra County, nor was program operator Scott Chandler, who has been named a person of interest in the case.
The search comes after the Albuquerque Journal reported last week that state authorities were investigating claims that teenage boys were beaten and forced to wear leg shackles and handcuffs for minor violations of rules at the unlicensed program.
Ranch attorney Pete Domenici Jr. said in a statement Friday that the boys had been "on a previously scheduled activity away from the ranch for several days. They are safe and have already been picked up by their parents, or their parents are en route to pick them up."
Domenici accused the state of escalating the situation by failing to agree to an emergency hearing in a lawsuit the ranch filed this week over what the suit contends was an improperly handled investigation.
However, authorities issued an Amber Alert for the teenagers minutes after Domenici's statement was released.
State police said in a statement Saturday night that the parents of the other five boys have made contact with authorities, but the Amber Alert will remain active until an official physically confirms their location and well-being.
Jim Moffat, whose step-son was attending the ranch when he was killed in a rollover accident off the property last month, said Saturday that he has no reason to doubt that the boys are safe.
He said he sent his son — 18-year-old Bruce Staeger — to the ranch after he could no longer deal with him misbehaving at home, running away and getting into trouble with police.
"We didn't know what was going on," he said. "But we saw some great results. He turned into an awesome young man."
Program operators had been ordered to send the kids back to their parents or surrender them to the state after staff members were accused of beating and shackling students.
The operators of the ranch, Scott and Collette Chandler, deny any children have been harmed and filed a lawsuit this week accusing investigators of targeting the ranch for closure following a fatal car crash involving students.
The operators also said investigators have been illegally interviewing students and telling parents to pull their children from the program by Friday or face abuse charges. Their lawsuit said at least one family was contacted directly by Gov. Susana Martinez, a claim her office denies.
At a news conference earlier this week, Chandler said Tierra Blanca has been operating for nearly 20 years. Its website promises a program for unmanageable kids that offers a balance of love, discipline and structure.
Feds: Houston sex trafficking ring prostituted undocumented girls
by Mike Glenn, Susan Carroll
Federal agents arrested 13 suspects in connection with an alleged sex trafficking ring in Houston that prostituted underage, undocumented girls from Mexico for up to $500 an hour, according to an indictment unsealed Friday morning.
Federal prosecutors allege the ring operated out of several Houston bars and brothels and the suspects charged "premium prices" for sex with underage girls. The girls were locked up and beaten and charged for condoms, the indictment alleges.
The FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies raided clubs in the southeast Houston area Thursday night, including one in the 5600 block of Telephone Road.
Neighbors said they saw 20 or more young girls being led out of the Nuevo Amanecer nightclub after the raid.
The girls were taken away in a bus.
The indictment names 14 suspects including one man who remains a fugitive: Alfonso Diaz-Juarez, aka "Poncho."
Prosecutors described a woman named Hortencia Medeles-Arguello, aka La Tencha, as the "matriarch" of the ring, alleging she employed her daughters and other relatives in the brothels. The suspects relied on pimps known as "padrotes" to recruit, smuggle and supply the young women prostituted in the bars.
The girls were kept locked in a second-story room above a bar now called Nuevo Amanecer, and the ring charged a $20 fee for a condom and $15 to use a prostitution room, according to the indictment. The room and condom fees topped $1.26 million from February 2012 to August.
The charge for the sex acts ranged from $65 for 15 minutes to up to $500 per hour.
The indictment alleges the ring has operated since at least 1999, when "Tencha" ran a bar in east Houston called Las Flores. The family business expanded to include several other cantinas, including one called Las Palmas, where a witness told investigators that she saw eight girls under age 18 working as prostitutes, the indictment shows.
The indictment alleges that when clients came to the room above Las Palmas, Techa and her daughter told them the girls were ages 14 to 17. They also allegedly told customers which girls "had been used more and which ones were 'fresh meat.'"
The prices charged for the sex acts were based on the girl's age and how pretty she was, the indictment alleges. The indictment lists 12 victims, the youngest of whom is now 17 years old.
The clients were allowed to choose from a wide range of sex acts and spank or hit the victims "as long as they didn't hit them in the face," the indictment alleges. The girls were punched or beaten when customers left dissatisfied, prosecutors charge.
The victims told prosecutors they were not allowed to keep the money from the sex acts.
Duluth men's group calls for action against sex trafficking
A men's forum on sexual trafficking in Duluth won't just discuss the issue, an organizer said. It also will call for practical steps to address the problem.
by John Lundy
A men's forum on sexual trafficking in Duluth won't just discuss the issue, an organizer said. It also will call for practical steps to address the problem.
“Understanding that the demand for trafficking is predominantly through men, it fits right in with Men as Peacemakers' mission to take a look at how men can join women in being part of the solution,” said Ed Heisler, executive director of the nonprofit Duluth organization.
Men as Peacemakers is collaborating with the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, the American Indian Community Housing Organization and Mending the Sacred Hoop to host the Men Against Trafficking Forum at 6:30 p.m. on Monday in Wellstone Hall of the Labor Temple, 2002 London Road.
The issue cuts close to home. Heisler cited the Duluth Trafficking Task Force survey released in April in which 63 people — 49 of them female — identified themselves as trafficking victims. Two of them said they were 9 or 10 when first exposed to prostitution.
It also has been exposed in recent criminal cases:
In July, a St. Paul man and a Northfield, Minn., woman were found guilty in Ramsey County District Court of sex trafficking a woman and a girl from Duluth.
In September, a Duluth man was found guilty of sex trafficking a teenager for nearly seven months in Duluth, the Twin Cities and the Chicago area.
Last week, three Milwaukee women were charged with child sex trafficking a 14-year-old runaway girl in Iron County, Wis.
Behind the statistics and the court logs are victims who are beaten, stalked and intimidated, said Chuck Deery, co-founder of the Gender Violence Institute in Clearwater, Minn., and the Minnesota Men's Action Network.
“We listen to survivor stories, and it's just unbelievable,” said Deery, who will attend Monday's forum. “It's torture. That's the closest word I can come up with.”
It will be up to the men at the forum to decide what to do, Heisler said, but there will be a call for action.
Among possible approaches that have been tried elsewhere:
“The Mending Project,” in which “male-oriented or male-run businesses provide goods and services that women and children need,” in Deery's words.
The idea, he said, is to help women emerging from being trafficked or other forms of sexual violence at a time when they are economically vulnerable.
A group called “Beyond Tough Guise” initiated a Mending Project in Winona, Minn., about nine months ago. Joe Morse, president of the organization's board, said an optometrist offered no-cost or low-cost eye exams, a tire company offered a set of tires for one vulnerable woman and a handyman service offered home repairs.
Establishing a “clean hotel policy,” in which businesses, public and private organizations and municipalities refuse business to hotels and conference centers that provide pay-for-view pornography in their rooms.
The porn industry is linked to trafficking, Heisler said.
“There's a good chance that what you're watching could have a lot of pain and harm behind the scenes, because there is a lot of trafficking that bolsters the pornography industry,” he said.
Winona County government established a clean hotel policy three years ago, Morse said. The one-line policy says that no county employee will be reimbursed for a hotel stay if that hotel offers pay-for-view pornography in its rooms.
Such a policy can be effective, Morse said. For example, after that policy was established the county's chief deputy called a major metro hotel and said his county's delegation would not be able to stay there during a convention. Within a few weeks, that hotel removed access to pay-for-view porn, Morse said.
Monday's forum is open to all, including women, Heisler said. But the idea is to get men into the discussion.
Deery said men tend to sit on the sidelines unless they're specifically called to action. He's seeing that to start to happen across the state, he said.
“It's very heartening to see the current level of discussion about trafficking,” Deery said. “And it's heartening to see more men stepping up because we don't want to take pleasure in women's pain.”
On the Web
Men As Peacemakers: menaspeacemakers.org
Gender Violence Institute: genderviolenceinstitute.org
Beyond Tough Guise: beyondtoughguise.org
Many hotels in Duluth and the Northland already are listed as “clean hotels.” You can click on a list at: menaspeacemakers.org/mn-clean-hotels-policy/
Helping the victims of American sex trafficking
by Peter Edelman and Rebecca Epstein
Friday marks the International Day of the Girl. The United Nations has set aside October 11 to focus on the discrimination and abuse that women and girls suffer throughout the world.
One brutal crime that demands a far more intensive worldwide response is commercial sexual exploitation. This problem is of crisis proportion, and each time it happens it amounts to selling the rape of a child for profit.
This illicit global industry has begun to receive some of the attention its victims desperately require. But a blind spot remains: American girls on American soil.
It is happening here, to our girls. By conservative estimates, 100,000 American children are trafficked each year. Many, though not all, of these victims lived at the margins of American life before they were trafficked. They were struggling against poverty, and often had histories of trauma, abuse, violence or neglect.
So although October 11 has been designated as a day of international focus, Americans should also turn their attention inward — where it is often most painful to look.
Marginalized girls are more vulnerable to being lured by a pimp's promises of money, food, shelter, drugs, admiration or love. Others are forced — kidnapped in their own neighborhoods, shopping malls or other public places that pimps target with cunning care. Once girls have entered the circle of trafficking, it is difficult to escape — whether they are physically held captive or bound by threats to themselves or their families, or pimps' other, often sophisticated, tools of psychological manipulation.
Whatever path leads them there, most of the victims in this country share one characteristic: They are American. So when we envision only foreign victims in a distant location, we are seeing sex trafficking through a distorted lens — perhaps because that distortion helps distance ourselves from the crime.
It is far easier to absorb the horror of young girls being raped for profit from the comfortable perch of moral certainty that it can't happen here, it can't happen to us.
But these girls are among us — sometimes just down the street. They attend our schools, live in our communities, reside in our foster care homes and move in and out of our child welfare system and juvenile justice system. They are our collective responsibility.
The fact that these girls are all around us means they are within reach. We can help them. But only if we identify who they are, understand their needs, and form multi-agency teams to help them.
Some public systems have already begun this work. Innovative efforts are underway in Connecticut, Ohio, California, Massachusetts and elsewhere to train staff about the commercial sex trafficking of children in their communities and to work together in task forces to identify victims, provide treatment and placement programs and help them build a viable path forward.
It is crucial that we scale up these efforts. Across the United States, child welfare systems, juvenile justice systems, schools, hospitals and other public systems need to work together in the fight against domestic sex trafficking. With local, multidisciplinary teams, they can develop ways to address victims' immediate needs in their community and, in the longer term, to gather data and monitor progress.
Government at all levels must fund these efforts. We must raise public awareness through media campaigns and ensure that anti-trafficking legislation helps foreign and American victims equally.
Each of us must raise our voice to insist that our government end the treatment of sex trafficking survivors as criminal offenders. We must instead view them as child victims of serial sex abuse — who need, and deserve, specialized support to help them rebuild after their trauma and live healthy, successful lives.
'Break Every Chain' Program Raises Awareness of Sex Trafficking
by David Sinclair
The fight against illegal sex trafficking is so big that it will have to waged “one life at a time.”
That was the message Saturday night from Emily Fitchpatrick, founder of an Asheville-based nonprofit organization called On Eagles Wings Ministries and Hope House Shelter.
She spoke at event called “Break Every Chain” in Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College sponsored by Changing Destinies, an outreach ministry of Seven Lakes Baptist Church to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking.
“There is a lot of work to do in terms of prevention,” Fitchpatrick said. “It will take everyone getting involved. It is so big. We have to think of it as one life at a time.”
Moore County Sheriff Neil Godfrey was also among the speakers, pledging his support for the new effort in Moore County.
“It really can happen anywhere,” he said. “As your sheriff, let me express my appreciation for the work you are doing. I assure you we will support you in your efforts.”
The evening also featured a firsthand story from a sex trafficking victim and praise music from the Seven Lakes Freedom Band.
“It is literally slavery without bars and chains,” said Jillian Mourning, a rescued survivor of human trafficking. She started a nonprofit group in Charlotte called All We Want Is LOVE, which helps victims.
Mourning told how she was a 19-year-old student at UNC-Charlotte and part-time model who had everything going for her. She said her agent, a man she had come to see as a father figure, and two other men raped her one night, recording the entire attack. The next morning, the agent threatened to publish the video online if she reported what had happened.
Fearful her friends and family would see the video and that people would think she had somehow brought the rape upon herself, Mourning remained silent. But the horror did not end there. Over the next six months, she was plunged into a world of sexual servitude. The agent raped her repeatedly, always recording it and, unbeknownst to Mourning, selling the videos online.
Mourning said it is scary how easily something like this can happen.
“All you need is one thing that is exploitable,” she said. “If you trust the wrong person, you can be exploited
After the man was convicted of criminal charges, Mourning was freed from that bondage. She wanted to help other victims.
“I want to give them hope,” she said. “All they want is love. We can change the world one girl at a time. There is that light at the end of the tunnel. You will get through it. It doesn't have to be my life forever. You feel like there is no way out. They need to see those who do make it out.”
Fitchpatrick said during her talk that after God saved her from a life of drugs and alcohol, she went to work for Billy Graham Ministries. In 2008, she decided she wanted to do something more with her life to make a difference.
Her calling was to help girls trapped in a life of working at strip clubs.
“I had no clue what God was going to do,” she said. ‘We took the girls gift bags. Some were minors. We tried to share hope with them”
It was this work that opened her eyes to the world of sex trafficking. Fitchpatrick learned that the average age of girls going into prostitution was 13.
She also discovered another problem: few agencies were helping get girls out of that life. With the help of many people, she started her shelter in Asheville in 2009. The first girl to come there was 14 at the time and had been trafficked since she was 12. That girl is now in college on a full scholarship.
“She was so broken, so angry, so full of shame,” Fitchpatrick said. “They are all so deserving.”
Fitchpatrick said this problem “is happening everywhere.” She referred to a sex trafficking website that had some 230 ads for girls in the nearby Fayetteville area.
“It's huge,” she said. “The Internet is a huge tool in trafficking.”
Fitchpatrick said the misconceptions about prostitution must be changed in order to get the public involved.
“Prostitution is not a choice,” she said. “Circumstances of life land them there. I want to challenge you about the way you look at prostitution. The level of guilt and shame these girls carry is so heavy, so hard. We need to keep these issues in your prayers and in the forefront.
“It's everybody's issue. We can't keep pawning these kids off. God calls us to lookout for these girls”
Fitchpatrick praised the work done by Changing Destinies, which someday wants to open a safe house here. She said that is desperately needed.
“It's hard work,” she said. “Across the USA, we're scrambling for beds. It's so hard to find nice places that can keep them.”
She said Changing Destinies will need “tons of help” to make its goal a reality.
“God sent loving people to help me,” she said. “I want the same thing for Changing Destinies. North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 10 in the country in sex trafficking. Every two seconds somewhere in the world, a child is sold.
“It is so big. Do not leave here discouraged. Leave here filled with hope. There is something you can do.”
Realty of human trafficking is taught with film 'Sex and Money' at Kean
Union County College's Counseling Department has partnered with Kean University to raise awareness of human trafficking in the United States. On Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m., in Kean University's Little Theater, a screening of Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth will be held.
The issue of human trafficking is of particular risk in New Jersey in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, a time when human trafficking is expected to increase significantly. Quotes in USA Today in 2011, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott referred to the Super Bowl as “the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
Following the screening of the film, a panel of community leaders will be in attendance to further discuss points of the film. Union County Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski will be a member of the discussion panel. The film is shown with the hope that students and community will leave the event with a better understanding of how common and dangerous human trafficking is for our youth and communities, and what can be done to help eliminate slavery in our lifetime.
There is no admission fee and the public is welcome to attend. To alleviate parking and transportation issues, Union County College is offering complimentary shuttle service between Union's Cranford campus and Kean, and Union‘s Plainfield Campus and Kean.
For more information, or questions regarding the event, contact Amy Armstrong at 908-791-4911 or Armstrong@ucc.edu
Sexual Abuse: Is Your Child or Grandchild at Risk?
A Wake-Up Call
by David Kanegis -- Certified Professional Coach, CMO Marketing Network, Inc., & Educator
Once you become a parent, you never stop worrying about your child. It goes along with the job. Accept this fact; it's never going to change. But you can make it easier. You will keep your family safer!
Over the past 48 hours, Huffington Post users have read about sexual abuse of an infant and sexual assault of a college student. Both are virtually inconceivable and unpalatable.
Surprising? No! Acceptable? No! Actionable, Yes!
We live in unprecedented times. There are lots of good things happening.
Unfortunately, our world also has much to make us fearful and even more that's downright dangerous. Can we really make a difference? You bet we can!
If you're a baby boomer, now might be a great time for a Family Communications Tune-Up.
If you never communicated as well as you wished, that's fine too, call it an overhaul!
We get so caught up in the daily grind of living that sometimes we overlook small but vital things.
Baby boomers have the benefit of having lived a little longer and the maturity to take a step back and reevaluate.
Have we become so engrossed in the daily grind of working, taking care of children grand-kids or parents that we've overlooked the one important characteristic we all share in common? We're family.
If we were great communicators in the past, that's wonderful, if we were a bit remiss, it's never too late. However communicating is organic. It doesn't just cease at a given age or point in time.
Communication is perhaps the least expensive, most effective tool we possess to ensure the emotional and physical well being of those we love most.
Sometimes, we have to hear or read about a travesty to remind us just how important our family is. A negative event can be a catalyst for positive change!
If you shuddered when you read about the alleged abuses, you are halfway home. You're aware. Now mobilize that new-found consciousness into affirmative action.
Many older Boomers grew up in an age where authority was taken for granted. Schools were safe havens. While we attended, our parents were relatively worry-free and could get on with their daily activities. They rarely questioned authority. The church was sacrosanct. Hindsight informs us. Action empowers us!
We've learned a lot through throughout the years.
These articles on sexual abuse are a potent reminder.
So, what to do now?
Schedule a family meeting, make a telephone call, visit, send an email or text... whatever the method, communicate with those whose care is directly or indirectly in your charge. It's never too late! It's rarely an inopportune moment.
If you've got grandkids in private nursery care, talk to your children about closer monitoring. Have them or help them cover every base possible to ensure your grandchild is in a safe environment.
If your children are in elementary or middle school, become more involved. Make surprise visits to the school. Look for changes in your child's behavior that may signify potential danger alerts. If it's your grandchild, talk to your child. Help them to keep on top of things. Make suggestions, offer support.
Remember; younger children may not know what or how to communicate, or may be too scared. They may sense something's amiss, but not understand its implications.
College aged students may be scared, intimidated or ashamed. They may feel you'll blame them for perceived indiscriminate behavior, whether valid or not. Refrain from being judgmental. You might think you have a totally open relationship... it's rarely 100%... no matter how positive you are.
Talk to your child. More important listen to what's being said... and read between the lines to hear what's not being said!
As a life coach, I've met time and again with parents who believe they are "totally in touch" with their child. Often, the more positive they are, the further off base are their beliefs.
I've coached college students who suffer from peer pressure, self despair, loneliness, free floating anxiety and a host of symptoms of which their parent's are totally unaware.
When the emotions are so strong, I'll recommend a psychologist or psychiatrist better equipped to help them through a rough period. Once symptoms are alleviated, I can step back in as a coach and help students pursue and achieve their goals.
The bottom line is this. It's the reason I wrote this article:
Awareness leads to prevention. Communication with family members strengthens bonds and supports integrated action to keep all family members both physically and mentally safe.
Don't let this opportunity slip by.
Set a goal for the coming week. Check in with those whom you care about most. Don't just accept the word "fine," when you ask how things are going. Become a master at subtle yet not too intrusive probing. It's your right and responsibility. Though it may cause short term tension, it will cause long term trust.
Many young people balk at "interference," but deep down appreciate the care and concern.
Things have a way of falling through the cracks. Don't wait. Take action now!
Be a good bystander - Enumclaw Domestic Violence Awareness
by TRIP HART
LINCCK civility, compassion, kindness helps people care for each other so that domestic violence will have no place in our community. We must care for the victims, and even those that victimize. Einstein's words “The world is a dangerous place, not from those who do evil, but from those who look on and do nothing” should be the guiding light for bystanders ending domestic violence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. LINCCK hopes the entire community will be good bystanders, since domestic violence affects all social and economic levels. Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behavior over an intimate partner using physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse. Some abuses cause physical injury, some don't. Some are criminal, some aren't. All domestic violence creates psychological harm. Research suggests sustained verbal abuse could have more long-term implications than physical abuse.
Domestic violence is a learned pattern of behavior that may include breaking of objects, hurting of pets, isolating the victim from family or friends, and threatening violence or suicide. Children are hurt intentionally or coincidentally. They are always hurt. Since that is the world they know, even though hated, it may be mirrored when growing into adulthood.
For awareness, focus on purple around town. The Purple Light Nights campaign, started by an Enumclaw resident seven years ago, reminds us of those who lost their lives to domestic violence, supports the survivors, and brings hope to those still being abused. This campaign has spread to 28 other states, three Canadian provinces and the Territory of Guam.
Dealing with victim issues, while essential, is partly treating symptoms. To avoid future victims, it is critical to address issues of the controlling partner. First, they must be accountable to the justice system. But if you are a true friend of the controlling partner, you'd stop the abusive behavior by critically speaking out and encouraging correction. Offering appropriate resources or guidance to get help might make the difference. The controlling partner needs to learn that they are not held in high esteem, but are actually a ‘smaller' or ‘lesser' person for acting that way.
Are you aware of two individuals in a relationship where one puts down the other with criticism, name-calling, or humiliation? Is one constantly checking up on the other, asking for whereabouts, continually texting or calling? Realize abuse generally escalates. If hurtful controlling actions are caught early, they can be stopped before seriously damaging the victim.
You might notice someone's unexplained absences or bruises, lack of concentration, depression or anxiety. Are you going to ask about this? If you observe domestic violence warning signs, tell the person you notice a problem and that you're concerned. If the person wants to talk, ask what help would be most useful. Victims have to be ready to want help. You can't ‘rescue' a victim that doesn't want rescue.
The Domestic Violence Leave Law allows a victim (or someone helping a child, intimate partner, parent or grandparent who's a victim) of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to take time off from work, no matter the size of the company, without impact to their employment status.
You can help victims by just being there. Offer a ride, your phone, groceries or babysitting – just listening and believing can make a difference. Don't criticize or be judgmental, even if victims choose not to leave their controlling partner. Show you care, and are concerned for the victim's physical and emotional safety. They are not to blame themselves, and are not alone.
For both the victim and controlling partner, encourage them to stay connected to friends and family and to participate in activities apart from each other. When you come across domestic violence, ask questions in private, and respect confidentiality. Call 911 if you hear screaming or violence from a neighboring residence, or know if someone is in immediate danger. Protect yourself.
Domestic violence involves police, courts, jails, behavioral training, counseling, medical assistance, and the loss of productive people. Costs are staggering. The impact to our community's health is mind numbing. Educate yourself on domestic violence, and keep your senses alert. Think of our community as a complete entity. If one part suffers, we all suffer.
As bystanders we must not remain neutral, but take action. Only then will domestic violence have no place in our community.
Domestic violence prevention woman's clubs - an important partner
Domestic violence awareness and prevention is an important part of the work of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC). Not long ago, GFWC known as the oldest women's organization dedicated to community improvement through volunteer service designated domestic violence prevention as its national signature project.
The GFWC manual instructs groups to do this by supporting existing activities, working with various established programs, and initiating educational opportunities for club members and local citizens. The overarching goal is to increase awareness and prevention of the widespread occurrence of domestic abuse in communities across the nation. In addition to intimate partner abuse, GFWC also works to combat child abuse, teen dating violence, and elder abuse.
In support of local efforts to eradicate abuse, the GFWC Woman's Citizenship Club has partnered with Tu Casa, Inc., a community-based program serving child and adult victims of domestic violence and sexual assault/abuse. Projects such as remodeling apartments that house clients, donating pajamas and socks for victims and their children, and nominating individuals for the GFWC “Success for Survivors” scholarship are just a few of the ways the club has been involved. More recently, the Woman's Citizenship Club began selling pinwheels for the Pinwheels for Prevention program that is sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse America. The money raised from the sale of these pinwheels support Tu Casa's Children's Advocacy Center of the San Luis Valley (SLV CAC) Program. Pinwheels purchased will be displayed in a pinwheel garden at the grand opening of Tu Casa's newly renovated space in the fall of 2014.
Personally, I remember an event that helped me realize why these issues matter so much.
When I was in college, I attended a series of seminars sponsored by local law enforcement about rape prevention. As a young student, I learned various techniques to avoid the possibility of an attack of this kind. Ideas shared were as simple as changing the route walked home at night and letting someone know your whereabouts. One comment was made which I will never forget to this day. Even if a person were to walk on campus totally naked late at night, it did not give anyone the right to attack them. Rape is an act of violence.
There seemed to be this feeling at the time that wearing provocative clothing, being in a bar or certain types of behavior could cause something like rape. Movies like “The Accused,” a true life story about a gang rape where the case was almost dropped highlighted this misconception. I realized how horrific and lonely this experience might be especially if people around you believed you had caused it yourself.
I realized then as I do now that it is important that everyone knows there is no excuse that exists that will ever be good enough to justify abuse of any kind. That is why GFWC and our club support legislation, education and events like the upcoming “Drumming for Peace” event. Tu Casa along with partners like the GFWC Woman's Citizenship Club has been and will continue to be a voice for those who feel they don't have one. When we all speak up we can make an amazing difference in the lives of people all around us.
Partnership to Address Domestic Violence
by Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund
Trenton, NJ - Today, New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie joined officials from Verizon, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women (NJCBW) at 180 Turning Lives Around in Hazlet to announce a new partnership to address domestic violence. The partnership seeks to increase public awareness of domestic violence programs and services, especially among those most affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Today's announcement was made at 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc., a Monmouth County based non-profit organization that provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. They received a grant award of $157,000 from the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund for mental health and counseling services related to the storm. The award allowed 180 Turning Lives Around to provide support to more than 400 families and conduct outreach to over 200,000 students in 352 schools affected by Hurricane Sandy .
"Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women in their lifetime and over 3 million children each year." said First Lady Mary Pat Christie, chair of the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. "Don't let a member of our community become another statistic. I commend these organizations for spotlighting this difficult issue and proudly count 180 Turning Lives Around among the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund's more than 80 grantee partners supporting the recovery efforts in storm impacted communities."
Anna Diaz-White, executive director of 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc., said: "Hurricane Sandy unleashed devastation in our community that runs deeper than the obvious physical damage that the storm created. Depression, anxiety, violence and abuse have increased as the months have passed and families struggle to deal with the after-effects of the storm. We are so grateful to partner with the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, the Verizon Foundation/ Verizon Wireless and the State's Department of Children and Families to address the increased needs of domestic violence victims, many of whom were affected by Sandy."
The partnership's efforts are being funded through a $30,000 Verizon Foundation grant and a $20,000 Verizon WirelessHopeline grant. The NJCBW'S plans include, improving its website, developing domestic violence awareness and prevention brochures, and producing a video public service announcement featuring First Lady Mary Pat Christie promoting New Jersey's domestic violence services for victims, survivors and their families.
"This generous Verizon Foundation and Hopeline of Verizon grants and the ongoing support of DCF and foundations such as the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, enables NJCBW to increase the community's awareness of available resources, inform survivors that they are not alone, and ensure there is a safe place for them to go, wherever they live in New Jersey," said Jane Shiva, NJCBW's interim executive director.
NJCBW is a statewide association that provides leadership, support and resources on the prevention of violence against women in New Jersey.
Verizon has a long history of supporting domestic violence abuse victims. Since 2000, Verizon and the Verizon Foundation have provided more than $65 million in grants to domestic violence prevention organizations and shelters across the county. They have funded training for healthcare practitioners and law enforcement officials; supported initiatives that encourage adult men to serve as role models to young men; and assisted in programs that teach teens about healthy relationships and prevention of teen dating violence.
Through its HopeLine initiative, Verizon Wireless puts the company's technology - and the nation's most reliable network - to work in the community by turning no-longer-used wireless phones and accessories into support for domestic violence victims and survivors.
Pat Devlin, president of Verizon Wireless' New York Metro region, said: "Superstorm Sandy sadly brought physical and emotional damage to many New Jersey families, and Verizon continues to work every day to support their long road to recovery. Thanks to the generosity of our customers who recycle their old cell phones through our Hopeline program and our Verizon Foundation, we are able to help non-profit organizations like 180 Turning Lives Around so they can continue to provide the critical services that many domestic violence survivors need in order to move forward from an unhealthy relationship. We hope this initiative will empower New Jersey's domestic violence survivors and their families who have been most affected."
DCF Commissioner Allison Blake said, "Families affected by natural disasters face enormous stress that can outstretch their ability to cope. We know from previous natural disasters that the product of this stress, which includes an increase in the incidence of domestic violence, can be seen for up to two years after a disaster. Thanks to Verizon's support to the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, information and awareness of domestic violence programs and services will reach an even greater audience, especially those affected by Superstorm Sandy."
DCF is dedicated to ensuring the safety, well-being and success of children, youth, families and communities. DCF's Division of Family and Community Partnerships oversees the state's domestic violence programs. There is at least one DCF-designated lead domestic violence program, including a shelter with a 24-hour hotline and response, in each of New Jersey's 21 counties. Information and referral, counseling, support groups, financial, legal, housing, children's services, community education and general advocacy are also provided. To learn more and to view a list of services by county, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dcf/families/dfcp/index.html.
The New Jersey Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free number is 1-800-572-SAFE (7233).
Radiothon to End Child Abuse marks 20th year
Event is set Dec. 5-6
The 20th anniversary of the Radiothon to End Child Abuse is scheduled for Dec. 5-6.
For two decades, Crow Wing County has been coming together for 24 hours in December to raise funds to help prevent child abuse. The Radiothon is a joint effort of B.L. Broadcasting, Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota and local Child Protection Teams.
The Radiothon has two components: an online auction, plus a pledge line where individuals can call and pledge a cash donation. All pledge monies raised from the Radiothon are shared between the local Child Protection Teams (60 percent) and Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (40 percent), with 100 percent of all money raised from the auction staying in Crow Wing County. Since its creation, the Radiothon has raised nearly $1.2 million.
The mission of Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota is to “empower individuals and communities to stop child abuse and neglect before it starts through education, advocacy, and family support.” Locally, the Crow Wing County Child Protection Team is the recipient of Radiothon funding. This team is a multi-disciplinary group comprised of 30 members each representing a different professional discipline. In addition to funding various community efforts which seek to prevent abuse, the local Child Protection Team also provides monthly case consultation services to professionals in the field.
With dollars raised, Crow Wing County provides financial support to Bridges of Hope for the Parent Support Outreach program, Crisis Nursery services, and financial crisis programming for families. The Child Protection Team has also funded respite services, healthy parenting education programs, training for community members and professionals, and the “Let's Prevent Abuse” puppet program presented to all second grade students in the county.
In addition, Radiothon dollars support the ParentWorks program, an intensive group therapy program for children and parents in Crow Wing County that are involved in the child protection court system. The goal of the ParentWorks program is to facilitate the permanency of children in foster care in a timely manner, whether through reunification with their parents, or through permanent placement in an adoptive home.
Feedback from each funded program is provided to the Child Protection Team which allows for an evaluation of the program's effectiveness. The Child Protection Team believes families who receive consistent community support early and often are much less likely to resort to abusive or neglectful parenting practices. Because ending child abuse and neglect is a complex challenge, the responsibility to keep children safe must involve the community as a whole, according to Kris Ott, child protection specialist with Crow Wing County Community Services and a member of the Child Protection Team.
“Over the years, hundreds of children and their families have been directly served by a variety of community programs supported by Radiothon dollars,” Ott said.
The Radiothon would not exist without the ongoing commitment of BL Broadcasting and financial support from families, individuals and businesses in Crow Wing County, Ott added.
“The community outpouring is an annual inspiration and testament to the truth that it takes all of us to support and strengthen families,” Ott said.
Additional information about the Radiothon can be found at www.brainerd.com/radiothon or on Facebook.com/ Radiothon to End Child Abuse — Brainerd region.
How to report suspected child abuse
by Detective Tim Bates
In the past two weeks we discussed the issue of filicide, the act of a parent killing their child. This week we will continue with that subject and explain how to spot signs of abuse, and how you can report possible abuse of a child.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse as “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” or “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
These abuses can take several different forms, but are most commonly classified under physical abuse, neglect/abandonment, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and substance abuse.
Physical abuse of a child is defined as non-accidental physical injury. These injuries can be anything from minor cuts or bruises to broken bones, internal injuries or even death. These injuries can be the result of punching, kicking, shaking, burning or otherwise harming a child. Spanking or paddling a child as a form of discipline is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and does not cause injury.
It can be deliberate or accidental, but if it causes injury to the child it is abuse nonetheless. Many times, physically abusive parents or caregivers lash out in anger, or are using the abuse to obtain control. They may also be using abuse to instill fear as a means to control the child's behavior.
Warning signs that a child may be physically abused include frequent and or/unexplained injuries, and a pattern of watchful behavior, or shying away from touch or sudden movement.
The child may also seem afraid to go home, have patterned marks or bruises (such as might occur from a belt or brush) or they may wear long-sleeved shirts or pants on hot days in an attempt to cover up their injuries.
The parent or caregiver may offer conflicting or unconvincing explanations for the injuries, when speaking of the child may describe them negatively, and may have a history of being abused themselves as a child.
Neglect of a child is a pattern of behavior of the parent or caretaker to fail to provide for the needs of the child. This includes basic needs such as food, water, proper hygiene, clothing and shelter, but also includes failure to provide medical care or proper supervision.For instance, a parent or caretaker who allows a child to use drugs or alcohol is guilty of neglect. It can also include the failure to provide education or ignoring a child's emotional or mental health needs.
Signs that a child may be suffering from neglect can be clothes that are dirty, ill-fitting or wrong for the weather, or bad hygiene such as noticeable body odor, or matted or unwashed hair.
They may have consistently untreated illnesses, or frequently be left alone to fend for themselves or in unsafe situations. The child may often be late or missing from school, or they may be overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn. They often beg or steal food or money.
The parent may show little concern for the child, and may deny that the child's problems exist, or blame them on the child. Emotional abuse of a child is behavior that negatively affects a child's emotional welfare or self-esteem.
They may be repeatedly criticized, threatened or rejected by the parent/caretaker, who may also withhold their love and support from the child.
The child may be excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious, or may act much older or much younger than their age.
They often have inappropriate reactions to everyday situations, and may seem detached from their parent/caregiver. The parent may seem equally detached or uncaring, and may constantly berate or belittle the child.
The child and the parent/caregiver may rarely touch or look at each other, outwardly state their dislike for each other, and consider their relationship entirely negative. Emotional abuse is almost always present where any other type of abuse is found.
Substance abuse is an element of child abuse that can cover several situations.
These include: prenatal exposure of a child to danger based on the mother's use of an illegal drug or other substance; manufacture and/or distribution of drugs in the presence of a child; giving illegal drugs or alcohol to a child; or use of a controlled substance that impairs the caregiver's ability to adequately care for the child.
Substance abuse commonly leads to physical abuse, and the child often eventually turns to alcohol or drug abuse as well.
Signs may include a parent who behaves bizarrely or irrationally, and a child may exhibit symptoms and signs of neglect.
If you suspect that a child may be abused, reporting that abuse can help to protect that child and get the family help. Parents or caregivers who may fear they are abusing a child in their care, or children who need assistance can all contact the National Child Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). In an emergency situation, dial 911 immediaately.
The other side of sexual abuse: More boys victims
by Sharadha Kalyanam
Child sex abuse is at least 10 per cent more among boys than girls. The cases are just not reported, according to activists.
The recent incident of a Class 4 student from a popular CBSE school in the city forced Bangaloreans to take note of the fact that male children are just as much in danger of being sexually assaulted as girls. In August, a boy was sodomised by his seniors at a four-day Scouts and Guides camp in Vasco, Goa.
“Parents are not as careful about their male children as they are about their girl children,” says Meena K Jain, chairperson, Child Welfare Committee (CWC). She stated that cases of boys undergoing abuse is much higher than girls, but not reported at all and attributes it to ignorance among parents.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Hemant Nimbalkar agrees. He says that boys aged 8 to 12 years were the most vulnerable to sexual abuse and parents should watch out for unwanted attachment towards certain elders. “The psycho-social setup completely sidelines the protection of boys and ‘virginity' is always associated with girls only,” he said.
Jain said: “As much as parents take pains to teach their daughters that they could be sexually abused and molested, the boy child is never informed. The concept of child sexual abuse is highly gender-based. Only the girl child is focused upon, as she is the key reproductive individual.” Further, she pointed out: “When abused, the male child can be as physically hurt and traumatised as a girl child.”
Dr John Vijay Sagar, associate professor — Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) — said that there was an increasing trend of juveniles sexually abusing younger boys. “While it is assumed that a girl child is unsafe, some parents also hush it up when their male child may complain about sexual abuse because they think of the consequence: which is that a girl child may become pregnant, while a boy won't,” he said. “When parents take a stance of disbelief, children are discouraged from disclosing their bad experiences.”
The abuse could occur among child labourers, kindergarten boys, in shops, schools and even at home. Abuse also occurs in institutions like detention homes, orphanages and residential care facilities.
In most cases the perpetrator is known to the child. “The abusers are all not men,” Jain warned.
As boy children may not think it appropriate to cry, and are less open about their feelings, they may not open up to their parents, she added.
Cultural and social reasons force parents to think that protecting a daughter is more important than protecting a son, former DG & IGP S T Ramesh said.
“It is generally believed that only girls need protection and boys do not. So, we take their security for granted. We protect only our girl children and ignore the fact that our boys may be abused by a person who enjoys the confidence of the family and the child himself,” he said.
Although there is no data being collected presently of the number of child abuse cases in the state, the only available data is Prayas - a 2007 study on child abuse by the Ministry of Women and Child Development done across 13 states. Of the 12,447 child respondents, 53.22 percent reported facing one or more forms of sexual abuse. Of these, 52.94 percent were boys and 47.06 percent girls.
When a study was done on severe forms of sexual abuse which included sexual assault, children being forced to fondle private parts and exhibit their own private body parts and photographing them in the nude, it was found that the percentage of male victims was 57.3 and 42.7 percent were girls - a clear margin of almost 15 percent.
“Contrary to general perception, the overall percentage of boy victims was much higher that girls. Of the 13 states that were surveyed, nine states reported higher percentage of sexual abuse among boys compared to girls,” said the report, that surveyed children aged between 5 and 18 years.
Court rules that 16-year-old foster child is ‘not sufficiently mature' to have an abortion… forcing her to become a single mother instead
|~ Nebraska's Supreme Court agreed with a district judge that the foster girl was not mature enough to choose to have an abortion
~ Evidence of maturity included fact that she's raised her siblings and plans to graduate high school early, plus she brought the case to court
~ Legal expert underlines problems with the case, which is likely to be used as a precedent to block other minors from choosing abortions
by HELEN COLLIS
A Nebraskan appeal court has banned a 16-year-old foster girl from having an abortion - forcing her instead into a position of teenage motherhood.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, brought the appeal case to court after an initial ruling in July by a lower court where Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon refused her the right to choose an abortion.
Then a majority vote of 5-2 in the Supreme Court upheld this decision.
The case has caused a flurry of reaction online, with one legal expert pointing out that in this case judges are using their judicial influence to promote their own ideology with disregard to the dire consequences for the most vulnerable.
In Nebraska, a person under the age of 18 must obtain written, notarised consent from a parent or guardian before undergoing an abortion.
However, there are three cases in which this can be waived, allowing for a judicial bypass. These are: for a medical emergency, evidence of abuse or neglect in the home, or if the court determines there is 'clear and convincing evidence that the pregnant woman is both sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion'.
In this case, the girl had been placed in foster care because she was indeed being abused by her chemical-dependent biological parents. But this was incidental to the proceedings, because she was arguing that she was mature enough to have parental consent waived due to her maturity, according to an article in RH Reality Check, a news service dedicated to reproductive and sexual health justice.
The girl also did not want her new religious parents knowing about her pregnancy in case they rejected her, since they opposed abortion.
In any case, legal guardianship had failed to have been officially transferred to her foster parents when they took her on, so this role then falls to the state - the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Without having a parental guardian, the girl was not in a position to 'forgo parental consent' - electing this option triggers the decision on the girl's maturity to fall to the court. This was one problem with the case, according to RH Reality Check.
Despite hearing evidence that the girl had effectively raised her two younger siblings, planned to graduate high school early, had undergone counselling relating to her decision to terminate, as well as bringing the case and subsequent appeal case to court herself, district judge Bataillon ruled she was not mature enough to choose to have an abortion.
Jessica Mason Pieklo, a senior legal analyst at RH Reality Check, says in her article: 'It's impossible to fathom how a court could determine a minor is not mature enough to decide to terminate a pregnancy but is mature enough to become a parent. It becomes even worse when the court shouldn't have been ruling on a bypass to begin with.' The article explains that since she was in effect a 'ward of the state' she had the right to consent to an abortion herself, but needed to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of that decision. But this was not an option on the multiple choice form she had to initially file to the court to begin proceedings.
The appeal court upheld the lower court's decision, the article goes on, and did not have to consider that rule, 'because the girl hadn't made it in quite the right fashion at the lower court'.
Therefore the ruling fell to the subjective opinion of one judge on whether she was mature enough to choose an abortion.
District judge Bataillon, who has defended anti-abortion protestors accused of trespassing and also stalking an abortion provider, told the girl: 'When you have the abortion it's going to kill the child inside you,' before ruling she was not mature enough to make her own decision.
The RH Reality Check article questions how many more cases have left minors without guardianship at the mercy of ideological lawmakers when in fact they had the right to make their own decision with the correct legal advice.
SFCC Hosts Project Unbreakable, Starts Own Photo Project
by Sofi Goode
The picture is set in a park; fall leaves blur in the background of a large, white poster that reads in big, bold letters, “You wanted it, though.”
Project Unbreakable Founder Grace Brown posted this photograph on Tumblr on Nov. 6, 2011. It was the first image in the Project Unbreakable collection, a series of photographs aiming to help survivors of sexual violence heal through art. On Oct. 7, 2013, Brown and Project Unbreakable Director Kaelyn Siversky came to the University to present the now-famous collection and explain its purpose.
Photographs for Project Unbreakable depict survivors of sexual assault holding signs with words said to them by their attacker or by someone in whom they confided about their assault. Brown takes a number of these photographs, but survivors can also submit their own through the Project Unbreakable website. Siversky explained how these images help survivors of sexual violence in the healing process.
“There's a grace in it, in offering survivors a platform to say exactly what needs to be said while requiring very little from them,” Siversky said. “It's a place where their stories are believed without hesitation.”
While these photographs were originally limited to pictures of the survivors' signs, over time some survivors have asked to include their faces or bodies in the frame. The project does not require survivors to identify themselves, but Brown hopes that showing survivors will help break down misconceptions surrounding sexual violence.
“We're often taught that it matters what we wear, what we do, or what we say,” Brown said. “But the fact is that our society is teaching us ‘don't get raped' instead of ‘don't rape.' Another stereotype surrounding sexual assault is that it's someone we don't know, that it's a stranger hiding in an alleyway. But so often it's someone we do know, someone who loves us.”
Kara Wernick '14 and Sexual Assault Response Team intern Rachel Verner '15 organized the event through Students for Consent and Communication (SFCC). Verner hoped that bringing Brown and Siversky to campus would help students connect with the project and understand its power within the survivor community.
“It wasn't just this [blog] that some genius came up with,” Verner said. “It was a student that was going to school, studying photography, and ended up dropping out to pursue this. It was what she wanted to do, and it was what she was passionate about. It meant something to her, and that in itself is often greater than the power behind some of these bigger campaigns that might be run nation-wide, but there's not the personality behind them, not the realness or the raw emotion there.”
Wernick explained that SFCC hoped Brown and Siversky's talk would have an educational aspect as well.
“The whole point of the project now is that it really does a great job of humanizing the statistics surrounding this issue,” Wernick said. “It incorporates everything from childhood abuse to one-time events, everyone from young children to people in their adult lives.”
Wernick added that the project breaks down stereotypes regarding sexual assault.
“It challenges a lot of the myths regarding consent,” she said. “You'll have people holding signs with quotations from their spouses who assumed that by virtue of being married, you don't need to seek consent. There are people holding up signs that reference the fact that they were drunk and challenge the fact that people think an intoxicated individual can give consent. You'll have male survivors, female survivors, queer survivors, non-queer survivors. You'll have a whole spectrum.”
Counseling and Psychological Services Therapist and Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren was present at the event and available for support both during and after the lecture. Warren hopes Project Unbreakable can foster discussion and action on campus.
“[Project Unbreakable] provides an opportunity to engage more people in the conversation about prevention,” Warren wrote in an email to The Argus. “We don't just want them to join the conversation though, but to get truly engaged and to begin think[ing] about ways that they can work on sexual violence prevention in their spheres of influence. It doesn't have to be complicated; it can involve becoming an active bystander or changing behaviors that subtly reinforce rape culture.”
Warren believes that the project emphasizes rhetoric when speaking to survivors.
“It highlights the impact of language,” Warren wrote. “Some of the signs depict things that people said while presumably trying to be helpful—it challenges us to be mindful of language and to think before we speak so we're not reinforcing aspects of rape culture like putting the onus on the survivor to prevent an assault or [...] expecting survivors to respond in a certain way.”
Although the photographs help raise awareness about sexual violence, their primary purpose is to help survivors. Brown concluded her presentation with the belief that every survivor and every photo in Project Unbreakable helps others gain control and heal.
“Project Unbreakable, and the participants involved, is a symbol of hope,” Brown said.
Kimberly Berry '15 attended the presentation after seeing Project Unbreakable online and noted that meeting Brown and Siversky changed her perspective on sexual violence.
“Before, it was just photos of women, and it's kind of sad,” Berry said. “To hear [Brown] spin the positive aspect of it, to hear how people started to show their faces or how other people reacted to their sexual violence experience, it was really amazing.”
The lecture also served as the kickoff event for the University's own version of Project Unbreakable. SFCC will begin working to photograph survivors of sexual violence on campus holding signs with the words of their attackers on them. It aims to put the pictures on display by Thanksgiving.
“We'll be putting up [the Wesleyan photos] in some sort of safe space,” Verner said. “Students can choose to enter it. The hope is that by doing so we'll be able to make students who aren't necessarily involved with the issue realize just how pertinent it is in our community. Maybe that's their friend holding up a poster of something that their other friend said to them.”
Berry thinks this will be helpful to the campus community.
“Project Unbreakable exposes a lot of rape culture that a lot of people on this campus think is gone, but it's really not,” Berry said. “It shows the campus that this is a thing that's happening and we should be aware of it. There are still people that are making excuses; there are still victims hiding. It's important that it spreads the message to campus that these things are real.”
WEconSent Educates Community About Sexual Awareness
by Matthew Shelley-Reade
Wednesday, Sept. 26 marked the beginning of WEconSent, a seven-part sexual violence awareness and prevention series taught by Counseling and Psychological Services Therapist and Sexual Violence Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren. Warren will take on the bulk of the training and teaching, but other students, faculty, and administrators are welcome to contribute their own expertise on particular topics.
“The first session provided an overview of sexual assault and explored rape culture on Wesleyan's campus, specifically, and in society,” Warren wrote in an email to The Argus. “A number of topics will be discussed throughout the series including community organizing as a prevention strategy, intimate partner violence, stalking, bystander intervention, survivors from traditionally marginalized communities, best practice in sexual violence education ,and how to facilitate challenging discussions.”
Warren decided to incorporate student input into the organization of the series. She worked with Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) intern Rachel Verner '15 to gain a student's perspective on the program.
“After speaking with a number of students last semester about sexual violence programming on campus, I developed the idea for the series to provide a venue where students could learn more about the issue of sexual violence, best practices in sexual violence education, and learn skills to facilitate challenging conversations,” Warren wrote. “I spoke with Rachel Verner…and a number of other students to gauge interest and gather feedback. I received overwhelming support for the series. I'm very excited to offer it this semester and can't wait to see where it goes in the future.”
As the SART intern, Verner acts as a liaison between students and resources for sexual violence, both on and off campus. She underscored the importance of the WEconSent series.
“This series is important because it will train students to address the issue of sexual violence on a broader scale,” Verner wrote in an email to The Argus. “The focus on preparing students to run and organize programming will hopefully help to break down rape culture on campus and in the broader community.”
Combating rape culture and sexual violence on campus is what drew Chloe Jeng '15 to the program. Jeng has signed up for the series and attended the first session.
“I chose to take part in WEconSent because sexual violence is such a prevalent issue at Wesleyan, and it has impacted so many of our lives,” Jeng explained. “The number of students on this campus who either know someone who's been sexually assaulted or who have experienced sexual assault themselves is much too large. While Wesleyan has taken huge strides in recent years to try to combat sexual violence, I think there's still a lot of work to be done to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are better supported in dealing with the aftermath of such an earth-shattering event.”
Vice President of Students for Consent Communication Billy Donnelly '15 said that he hopes WEconSent can build off the success of previous consent-oriented workshops.
“Last year we hosted some consent workshops to educate people on how consent can be communicated in relationships,” Donnelly said. “Alysha [Warren] has always been doing really great work. I think the WEconSent workshops will be beneficial in spreading awareness and educating people.”
Verner believes that the series will equip attendees with the necessary skills to combat sexual violence on campus through bystander intervention.
“The program will hopefully leave students with strong bystander intervention skills, and all students that participate will lead and develop programming over the course of the semester,” Verner wrote. “The goal is to create a more empowered community, and one in which members recognize that this is a serious issue for all.”
Jeng affirmed Verner's vision for fighting sexual violence.
“I hope to gain a better understanding of best practices in sexual violence education and programming, and to build skills for facilitating the difficult conversations that surround the topic of sexual violence,” Jeng said. “Also, I would like to bring attention to the issue of rape culture and try to make our community safer via education about preventing sexual violence.”
Andrew Trexler '14, Vice President of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, will also be attending the series. Trexler started a Consent Pledge last year as part of the efforts to combat rape culture and sexual violence.
“WEconSent is a more comprehensive training program,” Trexler said. “I'm hoping that it will widen the range of people who have the tools to work through issues related to this topic on a person-to-person level. Many people on campus have done a lot of great work, but that's not everybody. It's an issue that's relevant to everybody, whether or not they recognize that.”
Momfession: I Do Time-Outs & Sometimes I Yell Too
by Selena Mae
This isn't really a confession. There are things that I do as a parent that up until recently I never really felt guilty about. I especially don't think that I'm doing any long-term real damage to my kids. I'm a good mom who happens to lose her cool every once in a while and who delivers ‘Time-Outs.' Or, ‘Quiet Time,' as I or my partner sees fit.
I'm okay with the fact that I'm not an impenetrable, forever sweet, and calm mother. In the very least, I'm not raising any self-entitled kids.
It's all too easy as a writer/blogger in the sphere of the honest, of the martyrs, of the sanctimommies, to judge oneself. Which, if we're talking about re-analyzing how I do things as a parent, testing my own boundaries and being a kind mother, even when it's really really hard… I'm all for that. Debates are good. Challenge is good. Shutting each other down, however, is not.
What I'm not down with is the trending amount of pretentious diatribes that I've been coming across as of late. All of the moms who never yell, never give their kid a time-out, and are surely going to tell you why you should never be doing those things either. I don't care about Pinterest-worthy birthday parties or how clean you keep your house. You go on with your bad self in that regard. Not gonna hate on that! But enough with the mommy-shaming. There is a difference between a person who isn't in touch with their emotions, who can't control their own reactions around their children where kindness is lost and true damage can occur, and someone like me. And others like me, over here waving HIIII!!!! I'm a real human being! Sometimes my kids see how their behavior affects me, in real time.
There's always a better way, we're led to believe. How we're doing it is wrong, or would be better if done this way, or that way, or another.
Just no to all of that. Most of us? Most of us are doing the best that we can. I know that personally, as a survivor of childhood abuse, I am very conscious of my triggers everyday. Kindness and patience are my nearest and dearest characteristics. With my children, with myself. So here's where the “myself” part comes in. I allow myself to breathe deep and accept myself, even when my toddlers have continued to throw food at me, or sat down in the middle of the grocery store aisle and flipped their lid, sauced me times a thousand, hollered and cried and whimpered and whined at me to the point of all my insides curdling and I just boil over.
Because that happens. Not in the holy hell of wrath sort of way that us yelling, time-out giving mommies are depicted as, but rather as a human with emotion. A human who loves her kids and just yelled, “ENOUGH! THAT'S IT!” Or, “WYNDHAM! ABIGAIL!”
I find myself shouting their names more often than not. (When I do raise my voice, that is.) There has been the even more rare occasion that I have cursed. (The horrors!) And I work very hard everyday to better myself in that regard. I don't want to swear around my kids out of frustration and hurt. That's a part of my work. Not theirs. It's not like they are intentionally hurting me, right? They're not really sucking my brains dry, right? (This is the sort of self-talk I give myself when I feel I've been perhaps a little too real.)
I know how to apologize to my kids. And sometimes, sometimes when I've raised my voice, or slammed the door a little too hard when sending them to their room after a particularly FANTASTICAL good row, I don't feel the need to apologize at all. I don't think for a split second that I'm doing anything wrong. I actually tend to think that it's okay for my children, when it warrants, (and I'll be the judge of that thank-you very much!) for them to know when I'm angry or sad or hurt. I believe that these things can be positive teaching as well. Listen, there are a myriad of ways we can teach our children to be compassionate, empathetic human beings. I'm not saying that yelling at my kids constantly is how I think I'm doing that.
I'm more challenged every day to not yell, not lose my cool. Because I am developing (trying anyways), to develop a relationship with my children that is based on love and respect, not fear. So before you think I'm some raging, hollering mama who throws her kids in their room constantly, then you haven't been listening.
One of my favourite tactics to employ when I'm in an escalated situation with either or both of my kids, is deep breathing and getting down on my knees. Oh, you bet I get down on my knees for my kids. I get right down on their level and try to appeal to them with soft spoken, true, and honest words. I find that those two simple physical responses, deep breathing and getting on my knees to hold their hands and look in their eyes when I speak to them is all I need to do to turn a situation around. For me and them.
Then there are the other times, that no amount of sweet talk, real talk, or talking AT ALL is going to help. What everyone needs is some time to calm the eff down. Toddlers, in the heat of the moment when they're wailing and throbbing and pulsating and kicking; can't be controlled. I don't want to try and control that. I want to give my kid space and time to breathe it out. Heck, I need some breathing time to cool down too!
The thing is? Time-outs work for us. Or whatever else the heck you want to call it. The key is, that I'm not just banishing my kid(s) to their room. I give them some time to calm down a bit, in fact we love this technique (thanks Shirley!) After a few moments, or, you know, when the wailing/screaming subsides, one (or both) of us parents goes in the room to talk and hug things out. We are a very affectionate family. Especially when things spiral out of control (Which, my friends, is daily because HI THERE! We're parents of toddlers!), I find the best way to talk out the difficult stuff is to do so when cuddling, so that's what we do. It feels good. It feels natural. Nothing contrived, nothing fancy. (Except for those calming glitter bottles, those are pretty fancy!)
With my eldest, who will be 4-years-old in November, it has gotten to the point in his experience with Time Outs that he verbally expresses his appreciation for them. I kid you not. Perhaps not when going in, and definitely not always, but after he's calmed down, Zombie boy is gone and Sweet Boy hath returned. He gives me kind eyes and touches both my arms (he learned that from me!) and says he's sorry, and why. We both express remorse over what just happened and express to each other that we'd much rather be laughing and having fun than fighting. He gets it. There is an honest stage of development happening right now for my guy, wherein he's truly learning about his emotions. How his emotions, displays of those emotions, and his subsequent behaviours affect other people. He is wading through complicated feelings of remorse, guilt, anger, frustration, helplessness, displacement, and anxiety – to name a few. I think it's my responsibility as a parent to focus on the development of how my young children experience and deal with those less than joyful, positive, hunky-dory feelings too.
In our home, time-outs aren't a punishment. They are a consequence. A time for my children to experience their feelings without feeling shamed or silly. I'm not trying to make work out of teaching my kids how to internalize their emotions when they are less than desirable. Now that's what I call intentional, connected parenting.
I know a thing or two about the sort of childhood that can cause a grown adult to end up in therapy. Getting yelled at occasionally and being put in time-outs with glitter bottles ain't it.
California man to use ‘Ambien defense' in Casper child molestation case
by MEGAN CASSIDY
A California man plans to use the “Ambien defense” in an upcoming trial in which he is accused of molesting a 10-year-old Casper girl.
Glynn Howard Johnson's attorney Tom Fleener on Thursday had two requests for Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking. He asked to be able to use the defense of automatism — when a defendant claims unconsciousness during the time he or she committed the alleged act. Fleener additionally asked for his client to be able to change his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of mental illness.
The controversial defense strategy has been employed across the country to varying degrees of success.
A South Carolina man was recently sentenced to prison despite claiming that he didn't remember a shootout with deputies due to Ambien. A California jury, though, found a man not guilty of driving under the influence and resisting arrest after "sleep driving" on the drug.
Johnson in April pleaded not guilty to second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
Police say the abuse took place in April 2012. The girl would later tell interviewers at Casper's Children's Advocacy Project that Johnson rubbed her privates and repeatedly asked her to take off her pants.
Casper police read text messages reportedly sent from Johnson to another man.
When Johnson was asked if he admitted to the actions, he responded “… I will live with that till the day I die,” the affidavit states.
On Aug. 13, Johnson filed a notice of defense of unconsciousness, automatism or traumatic automatism. It specifically claims that he took Ambien and Xanex on the night in question, both according to the prescribed dosage. Johnson says that if the alleged event took place, he has no memory of it.
Fleener said at Thursday's hearing that Johnson had taken a polygraph test that indicated he had no recollection of committing the alleged crime. Fleener told the Star-Tribune later that Johnson is a retired law enforcement officer with no criminal record.
Johnson participated in the hearing by conference call, and only briefly spoke when asked if he could hear the attorneys' statements.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Stensaas argued that the defendant's notices were not filed in a timely manner and said the defense showed no good cause as to why the court should grant these requests.
The trial has already been rescheduled twice, partially because of Johnson's health issues.
Wilking granted both of the defendant's motions, albeit acknowledging that it would create difficulties for the state.
The trial is currently scheduled for Oct. 28.
NMSU center trains lawyers, law enforcement to fight child abuse
by Lindsey Anderson
LAS CRUCES >> Fake rats, dog poop, bugs and weapons sit in boxes a dim four-bedroom apartment in New Mexico State University's Cervantes Village. Empty bottles of wines and cigarette butts are ready and waiting for the scene-setting to begin: the scene of child abuse.
Child abuse is all too common in Las Cruces, home to Baby Brianna Lopez's death of horrific abuse in 2002, Kalynne Flores' suffocation in a laundry basket while her father bought beer in 2007 and countless other cases across New Mexico.
"What we haven't done as a society is recognize it's not OK to abuse and neglect our children," Shelly Bucher, program operations director with NMSU's Extension Family & Consumer Sciences, said while Bucher is one of three women seeking to stem the continuous flow of child abuse in the state by training law enforcement, attorneys, advocates and more on the intricacies of investigating and prosecuting child abuse and sexual assault.
Their Southwest Region National Child Protection Training Center, based at NMSU, trains attendees from San Diego to San Antonio. It is only the second such center in the country, in addition to one in Arkansas and the national center in Minnesota.
The boxes of fake bugs, bottles and butts are part of their mock house, where trainees and Child Advocacy Studies students practice collecting evidence in child abuse cases.
"Everyone can't afford to go to Minnesota," said Esther Devall, an NMSU Family and Consumer Sciences professor and department head. "The idea of a regional training center is it makes it much more affordable."
Earning the designation took years of planning and applications. Gov. Susana Martinez made the official announcement in January, and the center held its first training in late August.
"It's something that is very, very badly needed and
'More child abuse'
In New Mexico, 5,601 children were victims of verified maltreatment in 2011, the latest available data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That's 1 in every 100 children.
That same year, 15 children died from maltreatment, according to the department. In 2010, the 19 children who died made New Mexico second in the country for deaths per capita.
In Doña Ana County alone the District Attorney's office took in 242 child abuse cases from September 2012 to September 2013. That number doesn't include existing cases at various stages in the legal system.
Child abuse happens in homes across geographic, economic and social strata, said Bucher, Devall and Susan Samuel, the center's program director. Certain factors -- teen pregnancies, single parents, live-in boyfriends or stepfathers who aren't the child's father and poverty -- do raise the possibility of child abuse, however, they said
"We're (New Mexico) higher than the national average on those things alone, so we expect more child abuse," Devall said.
The center is still in need of dedicated funding.
A 16-hour training session costs $100 per person in speakers fees, room space and more, the women said.
The local Sir Optimist club donated $500, matched for a total $1,000. The Family and Consumer Sciences Department has supported the center indirectly through grant funding. A partnership with the NMSU Foundation lets employees donate a portion of their paycheck to the center.
The women have presented to the state legislature and has hopes for state, grant and private funding.
Bucher and Devall have full-time jobs at NMSU, in addition to their fundraising, legislative presentations and training duties, they said.
"If we could do that (run the center) full-time, we would do it better," Devall said.
The first training, on investigating and prosecuting child protection cases, had more than 100 attendees from the region.
It focused on how to interview children without leading them to answers, communicate with young victims and improve opening and closing statements.
"We know that all of the professionals are trained to do their jobs, but they're not always trained to have the extra piece, the few extra tools to know how to interview a child," Samuel said. "We're value-added training."
Sgt. Jose Sanchez with the Grant County Sheriff's Department, where officers cover a variety of cases, said he wished more trainings like this existed.
The August session facilitated interactions between law enforcement, prosecutors and representatives from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department while providing specialized information.
"That's their speciality, so it's good to talk to them," he said.
Cynthia Clark, an attorney with the Third Judicial District Attorney in Doña Ana County, often deals with juvenile cases.
"I would definitely want to attend some more (training sessions) because it was helpful for me and my practice," she said.
Future sessions will include a session on investigating and prosecuting civil child abuse cases, to be held in Albuquerque in February; a five-day training forensic interviewing in Las Cruces; and a two-day training "Crime Scene to Trial" in Las Cruces.
The center also promotes NMSU's Child Advocacy Studies minor in the School of Social Work, one of few such programs in the country. The program also led to an "Introduction to Child Abuse" course that can be taken for general education credit.
New Mexico is one of 18 states that requires anyone who suspects potential child abuse to report it. Many states merely require teachers, nurses and other professionals to report suspected abuse, though anyone can do so voluntarily.
Despite New Mexico's law, people "do a miserable job of reporting," Samuel said.
Everyone must report their concerns about potential abuse, and it is up to investigators to determine whether the abuse occurred, Devall said.
Often times, after a child dies from abuse, "somebody saw something prior to the incident that killed the child," she said. "Somebody saw a mark, somebody saw a bruise, and no one did something."
She mentioned the Transportation Security Administration's slogan "If you see something, say something."
"I think that ought to be our motto with children and families," she said.
Child abuse won't ever be eradicated, Bucher said, though the center aims to significantly decrease it in three generations through education, advocacy and training.
"It's not that it's going to be gone forever. It's more like polio," she said, noting the disease's virtual eradication in many countries. "To create a culture where it's not OK to beat and abuse your children."
DCF Receives Increased Grant Award For Child Abuse Prevention
Press Release: The Department of Children and Families
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—The Department of Children and Families (DCF) today announced that in spite of a five percent reduction in federal funding, Florida received more money for child abuse prevention. The funds come from the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) federal grant which was impacted by sequestration. DCF received a 12.7 percent increase in funding over last year due to increased efforts to leverage additional dollars for prevention.
“We will not be discouraged by diminished financial support from the federal government, because we know the needs of the children and families we serve have not decreased,” DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said. “Our state has shown a commitment to prevention initiatives and that has paid off with increased funding for programs that keep children and families from ever having to know DCF.”
DCF was able to increase the state's grant award this year by showing Florida's financial commitment to prevention initiatives. In the past year, Florida funded initiatives aimed at supporting groups of homeless veterans and their families, child sexual abuse prevention awareness and family violence prevention.
In keeping with the federal requirements, additional funding will be directed toward public awareness and education about preventing child abuse and neglect. In addition, programs will target services to vulnerable families that are at risk of abuse or neglect. The additional funding will also be used to support evidence-based and evidence-informed child abuse prevention programs and practices.
The purpose of the CBCAP program is to support community-based efforts to develop, operate, expand and enhance initiatives to prevent child abuse and neglect. The program supports the coordination of resources and activities to strengthen and support families to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.
Child abuse prevention focus of Step Up, Speak Out rallies
by Ryan Saylor
It was a saga that captured the interest of people across America two years ago – the arrest and trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on multiple counts of molestation of minor boys.
While watching coverage of the trial, First National Bank of Fort Smith President and CEO Sam T. Sicard heard a statistic that stuck with him. One in four females and one in six males have been sexually abused before turning 18 years old.
"I had no idea. I mean I was a Girls and Boys Club basketball coach, football coach. (I) worked with kids, had two kids of my own and I was clueless. I wanted to find out if that's really true."
Sicard said he did some online research, confirmed the facts and started learning about how children in the Fort Smith area were affected by abuse.
"I got connected with Jackie Hamilton at the Hamilton House here in Fort Smith, a child safety center that sees these children that have been abused, the vast majority of which are sexually abused," he said. "And she told me over 600 kids are going through, just from this region, are going through the Hamilton House and the vast majority are sexually abused."
It was at that point that Sicard decided to do something about what some have called an epidemic in American society. What he created was an organization called, "Step Up, Speak Out!" The goal of the organization is to raise awareness of abuse, both physical and sexual.
The organization hosted block parties with free food and drinks, along with entertainment, on Wednesday (Oct. 9) at seven different sites across Fort Smith, Greenwood and Lavaca with another block party planned for tomorrow in Poteau, Okla.
Sicard said he expected some 3,000 children and their families to attend the events, including 700 at the block party he attended at Tilles Elementary in Fort Smith.
"We're trying to equip parents and kids (with information about) how to report," he said. "It's hard to measure why they reported, but we hope with this outreach that we're educating them."
For children in abusive situations, it is important to come to an event like this and learn about how to get assistance.
"A lot of kids, they're either scared or if they're really young, they may not know what's normal and what's not normal if it's been going on all their life. So we want to at least educate them and make them aware and (let them know) we want them to report and it's safe to report and we'll address it if you just tell someone."
Overcoming the fear that keeps many victims from reporting is part of the reason for the block parties, as well, according to volunteer Daysi Rosales, a branch manager for First National Bank.
"The block parties are just one of the ways that we have found to make children and those that have been victims to feel comfortable because our main goal is to make everyone feel welcome and to let them know that there is help. There is help for anybody that has been through this. There is no (reason) why someone should keep this and grow and live with it," she said. "You know it's something horrible and I just cannot just see a person living their life and holding all that stuff back."
As part of the block parties, volunteers and participants were wearing shirts with the numbers of hotlines victims, or an adult who is aware of abuse, could call to report it.
When a victim or an adult calls, Sicard said the calls go to the state police, who investigate claims and remove the victim from the abuse.
"That's the best way that we think to report," he said.
The National Child Abuse Hotline number is 1-800-482-5964.
Abuse victim organizes child-safety program
Experts to speak Friday in Lake Hopatcong
by William Westhoven
A former victim of child abuse who later established a nonprofit group and website dedicated to awareness on the topic is bringing her message directly to Morris County on Friday.
Morris County resident Rose Morrisroe, founder of Soldiers Against child Abuse, will present a child abuse and child safety seminar beginning 7 p.m. Friday at Camp Jefferson, 81 Weldon Road, Lake Hopatcong. Speakers will include Grace Rhinesmith, director of recreation, senior and veteran services for the Jefferson Recreation Department and Capt. Eric Wilsusen of the Jefferson Police Department.
“I founded Soldiers Against Child Abuse because I was sexually abused myself (beginning at age 4) by someone who supposed to be caring for me,” Morrisroe said.
Referring to two high-profile child-abuse cases in New York City, she said. “I was outraged when I heard about children like Lisa Steinberg dying, but it wasn't until the death of little Nixzmary Brown that I decided to do something about it. I used social media, particularly the Internet, to gather support and ultimately started holding organized rallies to spread the awareness that this abuse must stop.
According to Morrisroe, a first-grade teacher, Soldiers Against Child Abuse chairs seminars at school districts and town-hall meetings, which encourage parents and students of all grades to freely speak out about abuse. she says she is the first person to create an age- and grade-grade appropriate curriculum for child physical and sexual abuse education for grades K to 5.
She also written a soon-to-be published book on the subject, “No Secrets Between Us,” geared toward grades K to 3. The book includes an endorsement forward by Michael Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan, who has admitted to experiencing child abuse committed by one of his former camp counselors.
According to Morrisroe, that endorsement from Reagan reads: “Rose Morrisroe: one of the top educational instructors for the state of New Jersey and founder for one of the leading non profits on child abuse prevention, Soldiers Against Child Abuse. She encompasses vision, awareness, passion and accomplishment to the world she touches.... She saves the world around her and embraces the hurt with healing, guidance and compassion.”
“This country has a problem and it's the silenced and ignored epidemic of child abuse,” Morrisroe said. “I am educating the public and empowering children on how to protect themselves from abuse.”
In addition to her public programs, which also have been presented in Rockaway, Morrisroe wages her war through the SACA website, which provides news and media coverage of child-abuse cases, informative resources, links and tips about intervention and prevention, guidance to government agencies and information on shelters and safe havens.
The group also conducts a rally in New York every April (which is Child Abuse Awareness Month) featuring educational resources, personal testimonies from survivors, and entertainment to attract audiences, and recently produced a video that can be found on YouTube.
Sheldon Kennedy talk and panel discussion to focus on child sexual abuse and social change
Sheldon Kennedy, former professional hockey player and international child advocate, will be speaking about his personal story of abuse and recovery and how he became a leader of social reform in Canada.
Kennedy's talk titled, "Tragedy to Triumph: Overcoming Child Sexual Abuse and Leading Social Change" will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday October 10(th) in the Bennett Pierce Living Center, 100 Henderson Building, on the Penn State University Park campus.
Students, faculty, and community members are all invited to attend both Kennedy's talk and the panel discussion and Q&A that follows.
Sheldon Kennedy skated for three teams in his eight-year NHL career but is best known for his courageous decision to charge his Major Junior Hockey league coach with sexual assault for the abuse he suffered over a five year period while a teenager under his care.
Sheldon has become an inspiration to millions of abuse survivors around the world and a committed, outspoken child advocate. His life story was made into an award winning movie, he has appeared on numerous TV shows including Oprah and ABC's Nightline, and he was named Canada's newsmaker of the year in 1997.
In 1998, Sheldon in-line skated across Canada to raise awareness of child abuse and donated all $1.2M proceeds from the skate to the Canadian Red Cross - Respect ED program.
In 2006, Sheldon wrote "Why I Didn't Say Anything" a riveting account of the many psychological impacts of abuse. He has received several awards for his tireless work including the Canadian Red Cross Caring Award, Scotiabank Humanitarian Award, and 2012 Calgary Citizen of the year.
Sheldon has influenced changes in Canadian law, and in policies in Canada's youth-serving sports organizations targeting the prevention of child sexual abuse, and has taken his message to the International Olympic Committee and the US Senate.
Sheldon is Honorary Chair of the National Advisory Committee for 1in6 Canada, an advocacy group for male survivors of child sexual abuse, and he serves on the Board of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, the first-of-its-kind in Canada.
Sheldon continues to influence social change through Respect Group, the company he co-founded that provides empowering on-line education for the prevention of abuse, bullying and harassment in youth serving organizations, schools and the workplace.
Four panelists will join Kennedy after his talk to engage with the audience in an extended question-and-answer discussion session. Each panelist brings a different expertise in child maltreatment to the discussion but have in common their strong advocacy for children.
Jennie Noll, Ph.D, an internationally recognized researcher and professor of HDFS, is one of the new faculty hires in child maltreatment by Penn State University. Dr. Noll has been part of a research team involved in a 30-year longitudinal study of female survivors of incest, and is now serving as the Director of Research and Education for the Penn State Network on Child Protection and Well-Being.
Teresa Smith, Ph.D., LSW, has spent her entire career working with children in distress as a caseworker at Children and Youth Services, Director of a Children's Advocacy Center, and currently as the Outreach and Training Coordinator of the Northeast Regional Children's Advocacy Center.
Pam McCloskey, M.Ed, is a licensed child psychologist who has worked with abused children for over 20 years, and is a nationally certified child forensic interviewer. John Soubik is a Penn State HDFS alumnus and a former child welfare investigator who currently works for the state government as the PennDOT workforce and succession planner.
Sheldon Kennedy's talk, the panel discussion, and the reception to follow are co-sponsored by Penn State's Justice Center for Research and the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being.
Chris Brown Was Raped. Does It Matter If He Doesn't Think So?
The singer said in an interview that he had sex at age 8
by Lily Rothman
The Chris Brown narrative has, until recently, been pretty easy to package. On one hand, the musician has legions of rabid fans. On the other, he's probably just as well known for his 2009 arrest after assaulting his girlfriend, singer Rihanna. That latter claim to infamy—and the disturbing reaction to the news from the former camp —is still the one that gets the most attention in Chris Brown news. To wit: a major profile of the artist that appeared in the U.K. paper The Guardian on Oct. 4 quoted his take on the incident (“It was the biggest wake-up call”) in its headline.
But that part of the Guardian story—in which he pretty much tells writer Decca Aitkenhead that being abusive is part of being immature—isn't what's been racking up headlines in the days since.
Earlier in the story, while Brown is talking about his childhood, this passage appears:
He lost his virginity when he was eight years old, to a local girl who was 14 or 15. Seriously? “Yeah, really. Uh-huh.” He grins and chuckles. “It's different in the country.” Brown grew up with a great gang of boy cousins, and they watched so much porn that he was raring to go. “By that point, we were already kind of like hot to trot, you know what I'm saying? Like, girls, we weren't afraid to talk to them; I wasn't afraid. So, at eight, being able to do it, it kind of preps you for the long run, so you can be a beast at it. You can be the best at it.”
So, in the last few days, headlines about Chris Brown have changed. For example: Jezebel ‘s ” Chris Brown Didn't ‘Lose His Virginity.' He Was Raped .” And PolicyMic ‘s “ Don't Ignore That Chris Brown Was Raped Just Because You Hate Him.” And Flavorwire ‘s “Why Is No One Talking About the Fact That Chris Brown Was Raped?” (Brown has not responded to these articles, unless they're what this cryptic tweet was about.)
The fact that what Brown describes was rape is indisputable: though attitudes may or may not be “different in the country,” the laws in Brown's home state of Virginia were clearly broken. According to Virginia law , any person who has sexual intercourse with a child under age 13 is guilty of rape, and the penalty for that violation is five years to life in state prison. Virginia's statutory rape laws don't even look at children under the age of 13, since “a child under the age of thirteen years shall not be considered a consenting child,” which means that even if an 8-year-old thinks he wants to have sex, he is not legally capable of consenting to it. (Brown would have been 8 around 1997; the relevant section of the law has not changed since before that time.) And rape isn't the only abuse Brown is saying he experienced: showing pornography to a child is also considered abusive behavior.
Some who have drawn attention to Brown's admission have focused on reconciling their feelings about Brown's behavior toward Rihanna with the knowledge that he was a victim of child abuse. But, while this is a big addition to the Chris Brown story, that mental conflict nothing new. The ability to condemn a person's actions while still recognizing that he or she has experienced hardship is basic-level empathy. It's also something that's already out there in direct relation to Chris Brown—when the hardships in question were the effect of racial prejudice on his treatmen t after his arrest and the fact that his stepfather was physically abusive —and it's barely even a conflict of narratives, since boys who experience childhood sexual abuse are more likely to be violent later in life.
What's more illuminating, then, is attempting to reconcile Brown's own way of discussing what happened to him with the knowledge that he was a victim of child abuse.
Reading Brown's description of the event—grins and chuckles, not being afraid, early access to pornography, attributing early experience to “a beast at it” later—it seems that Brown himself is ignoring or ignorant of the fact that he was raped. And he's not the first male celebrity to publicly describe childhood sex as a positive experience: Josh Brolin was 11 and lumps that experience in with general teen wildness and Dave Navarro was 13 and “felt like a king.” The director Federico Fellini even said that his experience having sex at age 8 was the inspiration for his cinematic masterpiece 8 1/2 .
So Brown may see himself adding a third celebrity narrative to his public story, as possessor of hyper-masculine sexual prowess. He wouldn't tell The Guardian how many lovers he's had, but says the number is high and that the women “won't have complaints if they've been with me.” Some early responses to the Guardian article played along with that attitude; Perez Hilton, for example, wrote that the singer “started boning the ladiez at a crazy young age.”
Brown might truly have felt like his experience was something to brag about or, as a thoughtful essay at Colorlines.com points out, Brown's boasting might allow him to see himself as in control rather than as a victim. But — while there are plenty of people talking about how the circumstances of his losing his virginity and that it happened at such young age — bloggers and others are (understandably) sticking to either acknowledging that Brown was raped or being impressed by his skill with the “ladiez,” not both.
So why isn't Chris Brown getting left alone to decide how he feels about his own first sexual experience? It happened to him, so why doesn't he get to say what it was like?
For lots of reasons, says Liz Roberts, chief program officer at Safe Horizon, a victims'-services agency that works with child victims of abuse and adult survivors.
For one thing, she says, Chris Brown is a public figure, so his cavalier attitude toward his experience needs to be questioned. He's already made his rape public knowledge, and the way he discussed it runs the risk of normalizing the idea of an 8-year-old consenting to sex, she says. It's particularly important to talk about what happened because of Brown's gender; Roberts says that sexual abuse is almost as common for boys as for girls but because of the “culture of masculinity” people generally have trouble acknowledging male victims, even though it's just as bad when it happens to them. “Bottom line, 8-year-olds are not ready, developmentally or psychologically, to be involved in sexual intimacy,” says Roberts. “That's why it's illegal.”
In addition, while creating categories of rape is problematic, there is something fundamentally different about child rape, as it involves victims who are incapable of giving consent, rather than victims who didn't give consent at a particular time. And that means a child doesn't get to say whether or not what happened was rape. “We always want survivors to come to their own understanding, in their own way, in their own time,” says Roberts. “But in this case I feel like there has to be public dialogue about this. There are systems and laws in place to protect children, so they don't necessarily get to define their experiences. When somebody is an adult survivor they have that right.”
In fact, Roberts says, it's not uncommon for victims of child abuse to be confused about the experience at the time. “It can absolutely feel good physically and there may also be a real emotional connection to the person who's abusing you. Children process those feelings in different ways depending on who they are and what their families and their peers tell them about this kind of experience,” she says. In her experience, however, children who reframe their stories as victories rather than victimization are generally helped in the short run; acknowledging what happened and finding ways to deal with it is a better long-term strategy.
Finally, talking about whether and why Chris Brown doesn't get to decide whether he was raped may help prevent it from happening to some other boy: “If the conversation is a real one, and not just salacious,” Roberts says, “there could be some benefits.”
Mission Kids celebrates fourth year
by Dan Clark
Mission Kids in Montgomery County celebrated its fourth year as a resource for families and children who are abused the morning of Oct. 3.
“The story of Mission Kids started with a child who was terribly abused by family members,” Executive Director Abbie Newman said.
Newman explained that prior to Mission Kids, the experience for child abuse victims in the legal system was often a bad one and needed a change.
“As a victim's mother said, ‘What happened to my child is bad but your system is even worse,'” she said.
That victim was present at the ceremony and gave a speech on the importance of Mission Kids and similar organizations.
“It's such a beautiful place that is helping so many children,” said abuse survivor and filmmaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger.
Neulinger, 24, formerly of Lower Merion but now living in Montana, was abused by three people in his family and told his parents about the abuse when he was 7 years old.
“When I told my parents I thought the nightmare was going to be over, but really the hard part was just beginning,” Neulinger said. “When I was sexually abused, my life changed. I was afraid of everything and everyone.”
Neulinger explained that the beginning of his long journey consisted of interviews with strangers, doctors, detectives and psychologists, all of whom wanted to know in vivid detail how he was abused.
“I am so blessed that I had an incredible support system to help me heal, but for all of the children that don't have the support that I had, Mission Kids has to be there,” he said.
Neulinger went on to say that child advocacy centers are the way for a better future.
“They find the courage to explain to adults what that abuse was like. Their interviews are recorded and a healing plan is created for those kids. This is the first huge step towards healing our children and fixing the issues.”
After everyone spoke, Neulinger said he hopes catching the problem early will prevent further abuse from happening in the future.
“The only difference between my abusers and myself is that I got help,” Neulinger said explaining that his abusers were also sexually abused when they were younger.
“I was there with him and his family when he was a little boy and saw how harrowing the system was,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, who helped prosecute the three adults who abused Neulinger.
“It was because of him I was driven to open a child advocacy center,” Ferman said.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler was thankful Montgomery County had an advocacy center for children and explained why the other counties in Pennsylvania needed one.
“As a judge, I asked 40 potential jurors for an abuse case if they had any kind of experience in this and nearly all of them raised their hands,” Heckler said.
Heckler commended Ferman and the people of Montgomery County for creating Mission Kids and said there should be more organizations like it in the state.
Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro agreed.
“Our work to get Mission Kids up and running was phase one. Now we're ready for phase two: the responsibility of all Pennsylvania residents to recognize the need for child advocacy centers,” Shapiro said.
While many would like to see more child advocacy centers open up in Pennsylvania, funding is a large issue.
“We can't even get a few million dollars, even though that money has been identified as sitting idle,” Heckler said.
Neulinger, who is currently working on a film about his experience as a survivor of sexual abuse, said he would one day like to see centers like a child advocacy center within an hour and a half drive from every child in America.
“If they go out into the world as beautiful adults, they're starting to shift all of the pain and we open ourselves up to a beautiful future. Hopefully we can continue to grow, but it starts right here in Pennsylvania with Mission Kids,” Neulinger said.
In its four years of service, Mission Kids has provided service to 1,450 children in Montgomery County and expects to be providing services to 450 children in 2013. Ferman along with other members of Mission Kids asked the media not to reveal the location of the center for the safety of the families that come in for help.
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.
Many sex abusers under 18 - study
More than a third of children sexually assaulted or raped are attacked by another minor, it has emerged.
Research has revealed 37% of all perpetrators of child sexual violence are under 18 and more than half are a friend, acquaintance or neighbour.
Another quarter are related to their victim, and 97% are male.
The statistics were revealed by Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) and Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI), which analysed 200 allegations made by 192 children and teens they supported last year.
Fiona Neary, RCNI Director, said the rate of sexual abuse by children has been underestimated up to now.
"We do our boys and young men a grave disservice if we do not talk to them about consent, sexual activity and sexually harmful behaviours in a sustained and structured way at every opportunity afforded to the state and society," she said.
"If we do not support, challenge and educate the boy child, we fail both the boy and the girl child.
"This is a much more valuable focus that teaching 'stay-safe' lists for girls, which are often impossible to achieve and can result in victim blaming attitudes."
The study of 16 support centres found:
:: young children are most vulnerable to sexual assault, perpetrated over many years by a male family member in their home.
:: teenagers are more likely to be raped by a friend or neighbour over a number of hours outside the home.
:: 75% of girls and boys aged 13-17 had been raped.
:: 70% of children were under the age of five when first sexually assaulted.
:: 73% of girls aged 13-17 were abused outdoors or away from their home, with 85% stating the attack lasted hours.
:: six out of ten child survivors also experienced other forms of violence.
:: the average age of the perpetrator was 26 years and 98% were male.
:: child perpetrators abused those of similar age or younger who were usually non-family members.
The study, Hearing Child Survivors of Sexual Violence: Towards a National Response, will be launched today by Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
It is said to provide new data which can reduce child sexual violence crimes and protect vulnerable children more effectively.
CARI's Mary Flaherty called for a national service for the growing numbers of children who are reporting abuse each year.
"It is clear that adults' services are trying to meet the needs of children as young as 14 due to the absence of any alternative," she added.
"The report also highlights the fact that much abuse is perpetrated by young people themselves.
"This corresponds to a marked increase in referrals to CARI to work with children who engage in sexually harmful behaviour."
Court: Spanking improperly labeled child abuse
by Bob Egelko
A Santa Clara County woman who spanked her 12-year-old daughter in the rear with a wooden spoon should not have been labeled a child abuser, said a state appeals court Tuesday, ruling that social workers and judges must consider a parent's right to impose "reasonable discipline" on a child.
The Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose stopped short of deciding whether Veronica Gonzalez had acted reasonably and legally when she swatted her daughter several times in 2010, hard enough to leave bruises, after the child stopped doing most of her schoolwork and lied to her parents.
But the court said the Santa Clara County Department of Social Services had violated Gonzalez's rights by disregarding parents' authority to discipline their children and refusing to allow testimony by the daughter, who disputed many of the social worker's accusations against her mother. The court said the department must either hold a new hearing or dismiss the case.
Neither the department nor the Superior Court judge who upheld its finding that Gonzalez had abused her daughter gave "any weight to the right of a parent to impose reasonable discipline on his or her child," Presiding Justice Conrad Rushing said in the 3-0 ruling, published as a precedent for trial courts statewide.
Although beating a child may amount to abuse, Rushing said, it depends on the circumstances, including whether the parent intended to inflict bruises. No evidence was introduced showing that Gonzalez intended her daughter to be bruised, Rushing said.
Gonzalez's lawyer, Seth Gorman, declined to comment on the ruling. The county's lawyer was unavailable for comment.
The case is part of a broader debate on corporal punishment, child well-being and parental rights. California law prohibits schools from beating or spanking children, but when then-Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, proposed in 2007 to extend the ban to the home for children younger than 4, she quickly backed off in the face of overwhelming opposition.
Parents can be prosecuted for inflicting "unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering" on their children, under laws that take into account their intent and the extent of the injuries.
Gonzalez was not charged with a crime, but the Department of Social Services' finding of a substantiated report of abuse, which the court overturned Tuesday, would have entered her name in a statewide registry permanently.
The court said Gonzalez and her husband were concerned in April 2010 about their daughter's failure to attend many of her classes or do her schoolwork, the friends she hung out with and the lies she told to her parents. The daughter, in a statement quoted by the appeals court, acknowledged the misbehavior and said lesser punishments, like being grounded, hadn't worked.
A warning first
After a warning, Gonzalez said, the parents spanked her, first the father with his hand, then the mother five or six times on one occasion with a wooden spoon, which she said she used because she was too small and weak to do it by hand.
She said the girl had been fully clothed, but a social worker later quoted the daughter as saying her mother had forced her to take off her clothes and bend over - an account the girl has emphatically denied in a sworn declaration.
School officials learned about the incident after the daughter told some of her friends, and the parents were called in for questioning by a county social worker and police. Gonzalez's city of residence and the school are not disclosed in the court records.
The Social Services Department upheld the social worker's finding of child abuse after a hearing in which the presiding officer said the mother's intent was irrelevant and barred the daughter's testimony.
Reasonable force OK
In Tuesday's ruling, the appeals court said the chid abuse law does not apply to parents who act out of genuine disciplinary motives, have a "reasonable occasion for discipline" and use only reasonable force. The court said Gonzalez had intended to discipline her daughter, but not to bruise her, and that the girl's conduct was reasonable cause for discipline.
Rushing also noted that the hearing officer who refused to let the daughter testify had later rejected her version of events. That was unfair, the justice said, to both the girl and her mother, "upon whom he intended to fasten a lifetime stigma as a child abuser."
Child Sex Assault Suspect Not Given Background Check
The Cedar Park Police Department is releasing new information about a teenager accused of assaulting two young kids.
According to police, former football standout Greg Kelley was staying at a Williamson County home, which was also operating as a daycare, because he was friends with the caregiver's son.
Kelley faces charges of indecency with a child and sexual assault with a child.
KEYE TV has learned state childcare licensing has also finished its investigation into the daycare operation.
"Childcare licensing found that there was abuse in the home, and also background checks weren't done to all those that were 14 years and older living in the home at the time," said Department of Family Protective Services spokeswoman Julie Moody.
They were also cited for operating over a listed capacity, meaning there were too many children in the home.
KEYE TV tried multiple times to talk with the woman who was listed as the operator, but no one would come to the door.
On Tuesday, someone outside the home yelled, "There's nothing to talk about. Go. Get off my property."
State records show the Cedar Park house is classified as a listed family home.
That means the caregiver must be at least 18-years-old and pass a background check.
"People who are living in the home, the daycare provider is required to have background checks on everyone who is 14 years or older," said Moody.
According to the state's website, there are no minimum standards, orientation or training requirements for listed family homes. They are simply listed with the state.
There are many different types of licensed childcare providers, the state says listed family homes are not licensed or registered by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"Listed homes aren't regulated in the sense that childcare licensing does not visit the home unless there is a complaint made," said Moody.
According to 2012 data, there are more than six thousand listed family homes in Texas.
In 2012, investigators looked into more than 500 complaints, and denied, revoked or suspended the permits of 95 operations.
Experts want to remind parents that background checks are only provide past information. It can't protect from future concerns.
"One of the most important things parents can take from this is to pay attention and ask a lot of questions," said Moody. "If someone is living in the home that may only be there temporarily or could be there permanently ask the caregiver if they filed out the paperwork necessary and do the background check that is required."
In the case of the home in Cedar Park there was no license, so there was nothing for the state to revoke.
However, the daycare is no longer operating.
Film gives voice to life after childhood sexual abuse
Amesbury businessman aims to bring awareness of the problem
by Mac Cerullo
AMESBURY — Since coming forward publicly in 2002 to discuss his abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, Gary Bergeron has seen a marked improvement in people's attitudes toward victims of childhood sexual abuse.
But while people have become more aware of the problem, one aspect that he said is still often overlooked is life after abuse, and how difficult it can be for victims to come to terms with their experience and live the rest of their lives as survivors.
“One of the things I've learned over the past decade is that there is no easy life, there's only life,” Bergeron said. “And I think it's important for all survivors of childhood sexual abuse to understand that what happened to you is a part of who you are, but it doesn't necessarily define who you're going to be.”
Bergeron, who runs the Mill 77 consignment store on Route 110 with his wife, has become one of the nation's most outspoken proponents of childhood sexual abuse awareness since the clergy abuse scandal first exploded in Boston 12 years ago.
He said that at this point the most important thing he can do is continue to raise public awareness, and to help do that, he recently filmed a documentary that delves deeper into the issue from a survivor's point of view.
“One of the things I've found was that [most documentaries] really focus on what happened to you as a child, and I think that's a major piece of my story,” Bergeron said. “However, there's also life after abuse, and I don't think anybody has really looked at it that way.”
The documentary is titled “Basta,” which is Italian for the word “Enough,” and it focuses on the aftermath of the clergy abuse scandal, Bergeron's own personal journey and how adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse increasingly began to speak out once it became apparent that they weren't alone.
The film is composed primarily of news broadcasts, statistics and footage taken by Bergeron during his trips to the Vatican in 2003 and 2010, with the intent being just to tell the story without trying to sensationalize it.
“I've always said just tell the story, let the public judge what they take away from it, but tell the story as it is,” Bergeron said. “It doesn't need to be sensationalized, it doesn't need to be changed, just tell the facts. And that's what I'm hoping to do with this film.”
The film opens with a series of reports about Father Joseph Birmingham, an abusive priest who left behind a trail of victims as he was cycled from parish to parish over the course of three decades. Birmingham died in March of 1989, but not before sexually abusing at least 54 children in six different communities, including Bergeron.
The film then cuts to a series of news broadcasts detailing the crisis, including the day Bergeron first stepped forward and spoke publicly about Birmingham's abuse, and then a large portion of the film is devoted to Bergeron's trip to the Vatican in 2003, when he, his father and another survivor unsuccessfully tried to discuss the issue directly with Pope John Paul II.
While Bergeron was met with a wall of red tape upon arriving at the Vatican, his efforts that week and over the next few years did not go unnoticed. He was able to successfully secure a meeting with the Vatican secretary of state after several days of getting the runaround, and when he returned seven years later to organize the first international gathering of childhood sexual abuse survivors, hundreds of people from around the world showed up.
“There were hundreds of Italian survivors, and the American survivors, our T-shirts said ‘Enough,' and we had T-shirts made of all the different languages,” Bergeron said. “And at one point the Italians started saying ‘basta,' and I thought that was a great title for the film.”
Bergeron recently screened the film at the Lowell Telecommunications Corporation, where all of the production work was done and not far from where Bergeron grew up, and he said his intention is to submit the movie into some film festivals as well.
Beyond that, he hasn't decided what the next step would be, but for now his goal is simply to help change the way people think about the issue and hopefully help other survivors know that there is hope.
“I'm just one person and I'm just one voice, but my goal is to let other survivors know that they're not alone, that there's hope,” Bergeron said. “And hopefully my film will help lend a voice.”
Denver parents accused of keeping 4 boys in filth
by Colleen Slevin
DENVER (AP) — Even before a police officer opened the door, he could sense the strong odor of what smelled like a decomposing animal coming from the apartment.
Once inside, he found a thick layer of cat feces on the floor, and flies seemed to cover every surface. But most troubling of all were the occupants of the home: three boys ranging in age from 4 to 6.
A Denver couple accused of keeping their four malnourished young sons in the filthy dwelling made their first court appearance Tuesday on felony child-abuse charges.
When police found them last month, two of the children were wearing only diapers, and none could speak. Instead, they communicated with one another using “infant-like noises,” authorities said.
A fourth sibling, a 2-year-old boy who was being treated at the hospital at the time, was also unable to speak, according to an arrest affidavit.
Their father, Wayne Sperling, and his wife, Linda Bailey, told police that the children have their own language and grunt at each other. But the couple insisted the children were able to speak to them.
In the courtroom, Sperling appeared calm and nodded at the judge alongside a public defender. His long gray hair was pulled into a ponytail, and he wore a long gray beard and yellow jail uniform.
Bailey, who is free on bond, appeared without an attorney and was stoic, answering “yes” to a question from the judge. She left the courtroom after the hearing, saying she had no comment but also yelling at reporters outside the courthouse.
The children were placed in protective custody. Hospital exams showed they were malnourished, not toilet-trained and were considered “nonverbal.”
It's not the first time Sperling and Bailey have been accused of mistreating children.
Both pleaded guilty in 2007 to a single misdemeanor count of child abuse by neglect for an incident in 2006, according to court records. That was before their 6-year-old son was born, indicating that they once had other children in their home. They were placed on probation for two years and ordered to take parenting classes. Sperling was ordered to undergo a mental-health evaluation. The records do not say whether they fulfilled the requirements.
The details of the alleged abuse are not listed in the records, but it occurred in October 2006, when the family lived in the same apartment where police found the squalid conditions last month.
Police were also called to the home on April 12, 2012, after children were reported hanging out of a first-floor window.
At the time, officers said the children appeared well-fed and there was food in the home, but they described the apartment as “messy and crowded,” according to a police report.
Sperling was cited for allowing the children to hang out the windows. Bailey told police then that she had lost parental rights to three of her children in 2009 but she was able to get one back. There was nothing immediately available in the court records to confirm that.
Lawyer David Littman, who has an office across the street from the apartment building, said he called to report the children hanging out of the window in 2012. He said the boys were dressed in diapers, throwing toys outside and seemed angry and defiant. After that, the boys seemed to be confined to the house.
“If there's a regret that I have, it is perhaps that was a cry for help. And while we made a report, we didn't go beyond making that report,” he said.
Since then, neighbors said, they have called Denver Human Services with concerns about the family.
A spokeswoman for Denver Human Services, Jamie Bradly, said confidentiality laws prevented her from confirming any reports about the four boys.
The latest charges came after an investigation that began Sept. 29, when Bailey took her youngest son to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital for a cut on his forehead that she said happened after a fall.
An emergency room doctor informed authorities that the 2-year-old was unwashed and smelled like cigarette smoke, prompting a welfare check by a Denver Human Services caseworker. Bruising behind the child's right ear appeared consistent with pinching, the doctor said.
Denver police officer N. Rocco-McKeel accompanied the caseworker to the apartment in a brick building near downtown.
The officer noted that flies covered every surface in one room and that he couldn't determine any age or developmental differences between the three children at home. He saw a single mattress and a bunk bed set, but none had any sheets or pillows. He said he couldn't find the source of the decaying smell but believed it came from a room at the back of the apartment.
The mother said she did not think the apartment was unsafe and denied the boys had any developmental delays. She said she had been living alone in a separate unit of the building for the past two months, but still saw the children every day except Saturday and Sunday, when she worked. Officials confirmed that she worked as a parking lot attendant at a nearby event hall.
Sperling told investigators he was unemployed and has been the boys' primary guardian. He said he mopped frequently but that it's hard to keep a house with four boys clean. He also said he intended to begin home-schooling the 6-year-old.
The affidavit said there was up to 2 inches of cat feces under the bunk bed where the boys slept, and the floor was soaked with cat urine.
Neighbor Jaime Scott said Sperling managed the building and sometimes answered the door naked.
Advocacy born after Chester baby's death
by Jonathan McFadden
YORK — Never again.
Patricia Noe never wants to hear news of another child being killed by an adult. Kimberly Stewart never wants what happened to the blue-eyed baby girl she babysat to happen to another child.
Samantha Redmond and Jennifer Noe never want another family to experience the same anguish that's rippled through their lives these past several weeks.
“We don't want another kid to go through this, or even anybody that lost someone to go through this,” Redmond said.
To make sure everyone knows child abuse and this family don't mix, some of Madison Stewart's relatives are donning t-shirts with the baby's face emblazoned on the back and a blue ribbon on the front that utters a message they hope to spread: Stop Child Abuse.
“There's child abuse out there and it can happen to you,” Patricia Noe said. “You never think it will happen to you...but it can.”
Eleven-month-old Madison Stewart died Sept. 20 after police say she suffered severe head injuries inflicted by Jeffery Todd Bradley, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran now charged with homicide by child abuse. He is being held at the Chester County Detention Center without bond.
Deputies and family members have said that Bradley was the boyfriend of Penny Stewart, Madison's mother. They had lived together since April in a mobile home on Hardin Strait Road near Lowrys.
On Sept. 18, Madison Stewart was taken by helicopter to Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. Bradley initially told police she had been electrocuted after putting a phone charge cable in her mouth. He later told investigators she had fallen.
After he called for help, Bradley performed CPR on Madison for about 11 minutes, according to a recording of the 911 call he made. Police charged Bradley when his account of what happened to Madison was not consistent with her injuries – a fractured skull, internal brain bleeding and kidney injuries.
Madison died two days later.
Patricia Noe was at church praying that Wednesday night when an emergency call flashed on her phone. She quietly walked away and learned what happened to the baby she loved “with all my heart.”
Before Madison's burial, Patricia Noe said bruises —impressions from Bradley's fingers— were clearly seen on Madison's face.
Her theory: Bradley grabbed her the baby's face and slammed her against the floor or some hard surface, cracking her skull “from front to back,” Patricia Noe said.
Now, left with only memories and a makeshift wreath of pink and white ribbon surrounded by pictures of Madison, members of the girl's family have taken to advocacy.
Their message is educational, they say: Know who you allow around your children.
But, Jeffery Bradley had never been abusive to Penny Stewart or Madison as far as family members knew.
“We didn't see this coming,” Patricia Noe said.
“It took a long time for (Penny Stewart) to trust him,” Redmond said, because she had already been in several bad relationships.
When Penny Stewart went to work, she dropped off Bradley and Madison at her sister-in-law's house. Kimberly Stewart would then be responsible as Bradley watched Madison.
“He was good with Madi when we were around,” Patricia Noe said.
Bradley was the only adult at home with Madison the night she was injured, police said. Her mother, a certified nursing assistant at White Oak Manor in York, was at work.
Nearly a week after Madison died, Tony Stewart, her grandfather, said the family thought they could trust Bradley because he served in the Armed Forces.
According to Army officials, Bradley received at least 10 awards and commendations in his nine-year military career that included service in Afghanistan and Iraq. He worked as a combat engineer and was last stationed at Fort Riley in north-central Kansas. He left the military last year as an E1 private.
“There are several reasons why he could have been an E1 ... anything from him ... having a reduction to him re-enlisting, a break in service,” or disciplinary actions, an Army spokesman said last month. “He could've gone AWOL.”
Army officials would not comment on any possible disciplinary actions imposed against Bradley. Efforts to reach Bradley's family have been unsuccessful.
“I've met with him, talked with him, talked with his family,” said Sixth Circuit Public Defender Mike Lifsey, Bradley's lawyer.
He declined to comment further aside from saying he's “looking at all facets of the case.” It's unclear when Bradley will next appear in court.
Whatever day that may be, Patricia Noe and her family plan to be there.
“I want to wear the shirt,” she said, but “every time I see it, I want to cry.”
Still, she'll wear it.
“I do not want anybody on God's green earth to go through this crap,” she said. “It's awful...I don't think me and her grandfather will ever get over it.”
Penny Stewart and her mother have gone to Florida to get away, Patricia Noe said. Penny told Patricia Noe, her stepmother, that “she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to trust anybody else again.”
“She wanted that baby for so long,” Patricia Noe said. Penny Stewart had been trying for at least six years to have a child.
And, while she hopes the shirts spread the message, the grieving mother has told family she doesn't want to profit from them, Redmond said.
“It's really rare for a family of survivors to go to the extent that they say, ‘I can't help what happened to my child or my loved one, but I want to help others,'” said Laura Slade Hudson, executive director for the S.C. Crime Victims' Council.
“That's a very selfless thing to do,” she said.
Though everyone deals with grief differently, Hudson said victims often “choose to go within themselves, and it may take as many as eight years to really come out of a major depression.”
“Many people will give it a year or two...wait until somebody is convicted,” she said, “then they're done because it becomes too painful to deal with other people's pain. They have to sit it down and drop it and not continue because it's just too painful...to help other people because it opens those wounds.”
Holidays, birthdays and special occasions make the pain “almost unbearable,” she said.
Victims experience plateaus after a loved one dies. Those plateaus can come when an arrest is made, if a body is found or if a defendant is convicted, Hudson said.
“Then, you go through all the rehashing of going through parole hearings every two years,” she said. “There's really not an end to it. It's never really over. You can't ever get over it, but you do learn how to cope.”
“All loss is significant,” Hudson said, but “the loss of a child seems to cause the most pain with crime victims because you don't expect to outlive a child.”
“You think, ‘I'm going to leave this world before they do. You have all these dreams of the potential of that child. Not only have you lost a child, you've lost the experience of them coming out of the first grade, watching them play soccer, their first girlfriend, their first boyfriend, marriage, them having children —all that is gone.”
Madison was just learning how to walk when she died, family said.
“We're coping,” Kimberly Stewart said.
“Trying to cope,” Patricia Noe added.
Month has special meaning to some
by DAVE GOSSETT
STEUBENVILLE - After 20 years as the executive director of the A.L.I.V.E. Shelter, domestic violence is still very personal for Jodi Scheetz.
"Just last week we had an 18-year-old girl who had relocated to Steubenville about a month ago at the request of a man she met on the Internet. When he started touching her inappropriately she got scared and got our number from someone on the street and then contacted us. We were able to help her with bus fare and send her home again. She was lucky because she wasn't assaulted and was able to go home. But that's not always the case," Scheetz related.
October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month and a time when Scheetz increases her efforts to raise public awareness of an often behind-the-scenes issue.
"When I first started here I was young with a degree in psychology and I thought I was going to save the world. But I have learned to separate myself from work. I am on call 24 hours a day. And too often I bring my work home with me. But sometimes I need to step back," explained Scheetz.
One case that Scheetz hasn't been able to separate herself from was the 1999 murder of "Maggie," a Mingo Junction woman.
"I still think about "Maggie" because I really stood up with her when she came to our shelter. Fortunately we don't have a lot of domestic murders in Jefferson County. "Maggie" had stayed at the shelter but left both times after her husband tried to commit suicide. When "Maggie" went home the second time in 1999 she obtained a Civil Protection Order for her husband to stay away from her home. Her father-in-law called her to say his son was talking about killing her and she should leave the house but she said she wasn't going to run anymore," said Scheetz.
"She barricaded her doors but her husband forced his way into the house and stabbed 'Maggie' 20 times and then threw her down the basement steps. All this in front of her children who were pleading for him to stop. Her husband is now serving life in prison and her son and daughter were adopted and have grown into beautiful adults," Scheetz said.
"We are the sole provider for domestic violence victims in Jefferson County. We know 95 percent of domestic violence victims are females. But there are also male victims who are often too embarrassed to come forward. We provide help to the male victims, but they can't stay at our shelter," said Scheetz.
"We work with female domestic violence victims and offer to help them with different services. We do a lot of court services. And we act as a liaison between the victim and the prosecutor's office. We help the victims through the court process. We also testify as expert witnesses," Scheetz explained.
"A lot of people think they have to stay here at the shelter. But we can offer other services, including an initial assessment, determine their needs and then determine their best options. We have learned the first 10 to 14 days after a victim leaves the abuser is the most critical. The abuser has lost control and can be quite angry and manipulative," Scheetz noted.
"When the victim leaves, they don't know where their abuser is at or what they are up to. That creates a sense of uncertainty. It is a very scary decision for a victim to leave their abuser. The victim may leave seven to 10 times before they can end the relationship. The abusive relationship didn't start overnight and it takes time to end the relationship because the victim has emotional issues, financial issues and there may be children involved," Scheetz explained.
"We offer a support group for women because you are a survivor. We also offer support for children because domestic violence is a form of child abuse. Women are caregivers. We like to give a person several chances to change. But an abuser can be manipulative. We see some women over and over. Because it usually takes an average of seven times before the woman will stay away for good from her abuser," said Scheetz.
"The cycle of domestic abuse can start with the honeymoon phase. A woman doesn't get punched on the first date. But as time goes along, isolation from family and friends starts. The victim is slowly prevented from having contact with her family and friends. There is the tension building phase and that is followed by the explosion phase. Then the verbal and mental abuse starts and that is followed by the physical abuse," said Scheetz.
"We have learned women with a college education are 30 percent less likely to be an abuse victim. That's one reason why we do a lot of public speaking on the issue - telling young boys it is not right to abuse someone else and telling young girls they do not have to put up with abuse. And also telling them to get a college education," Scheetz explained.
"Unfortunately domestic violence can also be generational. I sometimes see the children who once stayed at our shelter now in adult court. We also offer domestic violence workshops in our schools. Ohio now has a law requiring public schools must have a class on domestic violence in their curriculum," she explained.
"Not all domestic violence is a serious but all cases should be taken seriously," stressed Scheetz.
Brighter futures at Crossroads
by Tammie Weyker
Penny (not her real name), just in her early twenties, is already a survivor of sexual abuse by a family member.She became suicidal and was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the abuse she suffered. While in treatment, she dropped out of school and left her home to live with friends. Penny's risk of becoming homeless caused a member of her treatment team to suggest, and help her apply for, the Transitional-Age Youth Crossroads Program. Since entering the program, Penny said her life “has changed radically.”
The Crossroads Program is funded by the voter approved Mental Health Services Act or Proposition 63. Crossroads is a unique and strategic program focusing on recovery, resiliency, and wellness principles targeted toward transitional-age youth ages 18-25 who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Like Penny, many of these youth have been left out in the cold when it comes to developing adult skill sets like budgeting, how to interview for a job, accessing options for higher education, banking, using public transportation and adopting adult behaviors.
Although there were programs for children and adults with mental illness, prior to the passage of Prop 63 there was a wide gap in services for these youth. With no access to assistance, these young adults run a high risk for homelessness and psychiatric hospitalization. The Prop 63-funded TAY Crossroads Program now stands in that gap by providing a place where needed mental health services and residential support services co-exist. “MHSA has empowered mental health agencies to address serious mental illness issues with a focus on prevention and early intervention, partnered with supportive medical care,” said Tulare County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and Mental Health Board Member Pete Vander Poel.
The TAY Crossroads Program is administered by MHSA contractor EMQ Families First and focuses on “decreasing risk factors while increasing proactive behaviors,” says Christi Lupkes, MHSA Manager with the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency. Under this model of wellness and recovery, medical or pharmaceutical support and the identification and development of goals are undertaken simultaneously, once a diagnosis of mental illness has been made. The paradigm is shifted from “an illness-centered treatment to a person-centered model,” explains Lupkes.
This shift to a person-centered model is challenging at times, as it involves changes to traditional methods and core ideas about treating the mentally ill, including careful attention to cultural competency and the inclusion of the voices of the client and client's family members in developing the treatment plan. The concept follows the broad mission of the MHSA, which incorporates strengthening community services and supports for those with chronic and persistent mental illness; prevention and early intervention models to catch mental illnesses before they become severe; increasing the mental health workforce; more locations for provision of services; technology to manage a complicated system; and the development of novel ideas or practices that have the potential for being adopted by mental health programs.
To date, a total of 133 transitional-age youth have received housing and supportive services through the program (21 in FY 2008-09; 35 in 2009-10; 41 in 2010-11; and 36 in 2011-12). Since the inception of the program, approximately 85 percent of those who have completed Crossroads have received a GED or are pursuing continuing education. In 2012 alone, this education rate increased to 88 percent. Importantly, involvement in the Crossroads program greatly reduces the rate of psychiatric hospitalization. For the total population being served at Crossroads, 71 percent maintained zero hospitalizations and 21 percent saw a reduction. Moreover, approximately 60 percent have transitioned to living independently while 20 percent live with biological or adoptive parents, and 10 percent live with a relative. That step of integration into the community is the end goal of the Crossroads program.
Crossroads provides support groups, exercise, and classes on grocery shopping and budgeting, along with learning how to schedule a day. Penny says she was upset at first by having to adhere to the program schedule and could not understand the structure she was asked to abide by. She also says it was a difficult transition, but she started to attend peer meetings and soon became involved with a local community group for women and girls, which led to her participation in the ACT Female Leadership Academy.
Penny's success story has just begun. She has received her high school diploma and has begun a community college program for an AA degree. Penny has also graduated from a local women's leadership academy and has been awarded an internship as an advocate for LGBTQ and immigration issues. She recently obtained her driver's license and now helps out with volunteer coordination for the TAY program. This courageous survivor smiles proudly and confidently as she talks about her young son whom she has taken care of independently. Though Penny was the beneficiary of the MHSA-funded Crossroads program, her son is also benefiting. Penny has chosen to take parenting classes and volunteers with her son's T-ball team. Penny is confident that without the Crossroads program, she would not be where she is today.
Tammie M. Weyker is spokeswoman for the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency.
Labor of Love: New Sheboygan treatment center aims to help batterers change
by Janet Ortegon
When new clients come into Laurie Lawrenz's new treatment center, Labor of Love, they're often surprised when she offers them a beverage and asks them how they are.
After all, batterers aren't accustomed to being treated kindly by authorities.
“My biggest thing is when they walk in my office I treat them like a person,” said Lawrenz, 51, who opened Labor of Love in March. “It's not about what you did, it's who you are. First, you've got to get to know who the person is and what's going on.”
Labor of Love is Sheboygan County's only treatment program for batterers certified by the Wisconsin Batterers Treatment Providers Association.
The center also provides other kinds of counseling services, including mental health counseling and other treatment programs for adults, teens and children.
The WBTPA is part of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, a statewide organization that promotes education and advocacy to end domestic violence.
“Batterers treatment itself is an important resource to have in communities so that criminal justice professionals, the criminal justice system, have resources to help perpetrators change their behavior and to facilitate perpetrators accepting responsibility and accountability for their actions so they can change their behavior,” said Tony Gibart, public policy coordinator at End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.
Gibart said programs like Lawrenz's grew out of the the increasing awareness of how to effectively combat domestic violence.
“The first thought was, ‘How do we protect victims?'” Gibart said. “Not too long after that came the understanding that there should be programming for perpetrators, both because victims and survivors said they wanted that ... but also because there needs to be a tool of the criminal justice system to effectively respond to domestic violence.
“The lack of certified batterers treatment providers in Wisconsin communities is a gap, a hole in our resp to domestic violence,” he said. “It's certainly an important step that those services are established in Sheboygan County.”
Dione Knop of Sheboygan County Victim/Witness Services, said her office makes referrals to Labor of Love, along with many other treatment programs and services.
“Ideally, if the perpetrator gets treatment, it's going to stop some of the behaviors ... and lead to more safety for victims,” Knop said. “Sometimes victims will ask what resources are available. Certainly, we try to be aware of different services in the community and we make referrals based on what's available.”
Lawrenz, who opened another Labor of Love center in Wausakee this summer, is a licensed social worker with an affinity for helping people who are in trouble.
“Once you start talking to people, once you figure out what they're about, people are people,” she said. “Usually, there's a story behind it. I really believe that you can always make positive out of a negative.”
Lawrenz's passion for her work comes from a major trauma she suffered in February of 2012, when she had a massive heart attack just weeks after starting the job of her dreams with a state subcontractor.
“I died on the table and was brought back with paddles,” she said. “When I came back to work, I was still on probation with the job and they let me go.”
That led to a lot of soul searching.
“‘Why didn't I just die, why am I here?'” she asked herself. “I was still working with the criminal population and sex offenders. What I see is that that population is really the ones that I can relate to the best.”
After researching what kind of care is available for that population, Lawrenz discovered that there was a gap in treatment options for batterers.
“Once you have a life-changing experience like that, you basically look at life differently,” she said. “I'm a certified domestic violence and sex offender treatment specialist. Those things were really important to me.”
Many of Lawrenz's clients come to her through a court order, and about 65 percent of her total caseload is made of up batterers. She also gets referrals from attorneys as well as from the Sheboygan and Manitowoc county court systems.
“I think the population I deal with is so used to ‘suits:' social workers, probation, things like that, especially if they've been in prison, they're not treated like a human being,” she said. “There's always some kind of trauma in the middle of things that happened in their life. There's always something that's at the center.”
Many batterers Lawrenz sees come from backgrounds where abuse goes back generations, where “They learned that from Dad — this is how a man treats a woman,” she said.
Still, Lawrenz said, most of the accused batterers she sees really want to break the pattern of violence.
“Even people who are court-ordered, I would say 90 percent really want to change,” she said. “Some of it is they don't know how to change. Nobody's really ever worked with them on how to change. I believe in them.”
Tuscaloosa Children's Center marks 25 years of helping abuse victims
Nonprofit started as comfortable place for kids to report abuse
by Jamon Smith
The Tuscaloosa Children's Center Inc. is marking its 25th year of helping child abuse victims in Tuscaloosa County.
The center is a nonprofit advocacy agency that provides child abuse prevention services to community groups and support for children who have been abused.
“Once a child abuse report is made by any local law enforcement or by the Department of Human Resources, they contact us to conduct a forensic interview,” said Ebony Johnson, executive director of the center.
“We have two people here that can ask developmentally appropriate, non-leading questions in a legally defensive manner to the children so that whatever evidence they uncover can be used in court,” she said. “We see children between the ages of 3 and 18 years old.”
The concept of a child abuse advocacy program was started in Alabama in the 1980s by former Madison County district attorney Bud Cramer, Johnson said. Cramer noticed that children suspected of being abused weren't being treated with the right amount of care and sensitivity during the interview processes.
“There was a need for a child-friendly facility for children to feel comfortable at and make statements about abuse one time,” Johnson said. “Before the centers were created, children would have to go to a police officer and tell their story, then DHR and tell their story, then go to a medical examiner's office and also tell their story.
“Going to the different agencies was causing some emotional distress, and it was frightening and intimidating for the child,” she said. “And so the center was created, and it's a one-stop shop.”
There are more than 30 child abuse prevention centers in the state and more than 900 across the nation. The first was started in Huntsville in 1985. The Tuscaloosa center was started in 1988.
Johnson said the Tuscaloosa center serves about 250 kids a year. Not all of their cases go to court, but about one-third do, she said.
Reports of child abuse in Tuscaloosa have decreased through the years, but that might not be because of fewer incidents of child abuse happening in the county, Johnson said.
“Historically, if a child was abused, they went out and talked about it,” Johnson said. “Now, the abusers will typically manipulate the abused, and they know more ways to cover it up.
“Our numbers are pretty high compared to cities of similar size, but when we look at Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville, their numbers are really high,” she said. “We're behind them.”
About 85 percent of the cases that the center handles involve sexual abuse, she said. The rest are children who have endured extreme physical abuse, witnessed a homicide or witnessed domestic violence.
“One of the most important things we do is go out and encourage parents to have an open line of communication with their children about anything and tell them to tell their children not to be fearful,” she said. Johnson said the signs of child abuse vary greatly, so cases can be difficult to identify.
“Just like you have a child who never wants to be around the alleged suspect, you also have kids that the only person they want to be around is the abuser,” she said. “Again, it's because they've been coerced, given gifts or threatened for so long.
“Last summer we had a young man come in with a sweatshirt on in the middle of the summer, but when he took it off, he had welts all over his arms,” she said. “Some kids may be withdrawn, fearful. You may see some change in behavior, unexplained bruises, welts, a pattern of marks.”
All of the center's cases that go to court are prosecuted by the district attorney's office.
Outrage, little action taken to protect adopted children from abuse
More than two years after the death of Ethiopian teenager Hana Williams, few meaningful steps have been taken by state policymakers to reduce the chances of other adopted children suffering abuse.
by DAVID CRARY
Half a world away from her birthplace in Ethiopia, teenager Hana Williams died on a rainy night in the backyard of what a prosecutor called a “house of horrors” — the rural home of her adoptive family in Skagit County.
The official causes of her death, after being forced outside as punishment, were malnutrition and hypothermia. Authorities said Hana, during three years of adoption, had been beaten repeatedly with switches, starved and made to sleep in a locked closet.
The parents, Larry and Carri Williams, have been convicted of manslaughter and face sentencing Oct. 29.
Yet more than two years after Hana's death in May 2011, few meaningful steps have been taken by state policymakers to reduce the chances of other adopted children suffering such abuse. A task force offered detailed recommendations, and one limited bill was introduced in the Legislature but died in committee this year after raising some concerns that it might infringe on parental rights.
“We really are struggling to find something that will be both effective and constitutional,” said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood, who plans to continue her efforts.
While most adoptions are successful, the Williams case is among several recent grim adoption developments around the U.S., prompting urgent calls for better safeguards and more post-adoption support. Many admit to frustration, having sounded alarm bells before, and hold out little hope for prompt, sweeping responses that would strengthen international and domestic adoptions nationwide.
A key reason is the nature of adoption in America — marked by inconsistent laws, incomplete data and the lack of any central authority. There are no authoritative statistics on the number of adoptions that fail, no reliable source of federal funding for post-adoption services. And there is a multitude of passionate groups with often diverging views on how to maximize success stories and minimize tragedies.
“There are so many different perspectives — the rights of the child, the rights of the family, the rights of the states,” said Sharon Osborne, president of the Children's Home Society of Washington, who would like to see some form of post-adoption assessments in her state.
“What we are advocating for is the best possible situation for a child and his or her newly formed family,” she said. “We can't seem to get through the political challenges to make it a reality.”
Hana Williams' death, while notable in its sad details, was far from an isolated tragedy. A report compiled after her death documented 14 other cases of severe abuse or neglect of adopted children in Washington state from 2009 to 2011.
Other cases of adoptions gone wrong have been highlighted by Russia, which last year banned adoptions of Russian children by Americans. The move afforded Moscow the opportunity to complain about mistreatment and lack of post-adoption oversight. About 20 Russian adoptees have died at the hands of their American parents, and in 2010, a Tennessee woman sent her 7-year-old adopted Russian son back to Moscow on a plane alone after losing patience with his behavior.
Articles by the Reuters news agency in September detailed a phenomenon known as “re-homing” in which adoptive parents who are frustrated with a child — often adopted from abroad — arranged through Internet sites for another family to take the child.
The websites were not regulated by any government authority and the families taking the children were not subject to any screening, in some cases leading to mistreatment. Advocacy groups want such child-swapping to be outlawed or subject to oversight by state child-protection workers.
“It makes you wonder: Is anyone going to want to do adoptions with us?” said Susan Jacobs, the U.S. State Department's special adviser on children's issues and the Obama administration's point person on international adoptions.
Some adoption advocates worry negative developments will result in fewer adoptions, consigning more children to lives in foster care or foreign orphanages.
“The reality is that adoption is a vastly successful solution for nearly all of the children who find families,” said Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council for Adoption. “For someone to conclude falsely that adoption is not the worthwhile endeavor it is, then tens of thousands of children will suffer similar or worse fates than these.”
Some improvements are expected starting next July, when higher standards take effect for all U.S. adoption agencies that handle international adoptions. Among the many provisions of the Universal Accreditation Act is one requiring parents to receive training before the adoption to prepare them for future challenges.
The law does not specifically address post-adoption problems. Children adopted from abroad generally become U.S. citizens without delay, and thus it would be problematic to conduct any special tracking of them unless it was voluntary.
Though the State Department doesn't have direct responsibility for international adoptions once they're completed, Jacobs expressed interest in working with others in the adoption field to improve support services.
“We need to help parents to find resources when they are having trouble ... so they don't turn to the Internet to get rid of their kids,” she said. “This is a horrible practice that can only lead to abuse and neglect.”
During the pre-adoption process, Jacobs said, parents should be given accurate information about a child's medical and psychological condition.
“A lot of people say they have a heart for adoption. But you also have to have a head for it,” Jacobs said. “You think love will solve everything. It doesn't.”
Under State Department policies, U.S. agencies that arrange international adoptions are subject to accreditation by the independent Council on Accreditation. Its president, Richard Klarberg, wants to tighten the standards for how the agencies screen and educate parents, notably in cases involving children with special needs.
“Our goal is to force or cajole the providers to demonstrate they are providing very intense training and preparation,” Klarberg said.
He acknowledged that screening is challenging.
“It's sometimes very difficult for agencies to pick up on the signals that would lead them to believe, ‘Uh oh, this family is going to be abusive,'” he said.
While the State Department helps process international adoptions, domestic adoptions are under the states' jurisdiction. There are financial incentives for states to increase the number of adoptions out of their foster-care systems, but often there's little or no funding to support families who encounter difficulties later.
A leading think tank, the Donaldson Adoption Institute, has issued reports in recent years making the case for expanding post-adoption support and tightening oversight of now-unregulated adoption transactions conducted via the Internet.
The institute's executive director, Adam Pertman and counterparts in other groups are frustrated as many states, rather than increasing post-adoption support funding, are cutting it.
In Washington state, there was an effort to respond substantively to Hana Williams' death — namely the task force composed of top child-welfare experts and advocates. In May 2012, it issued recommendations, including a proposal for rigorous screening and training of parents before they could make any adoption, domestic or international.
The bill that emerged contained little of the recommendations' substance. It proposed procedures for tracking failed adoptions and said prospective adoptive parents should be questioned about their approach to child discipline — but not disqualified unless their planned practices were illegal. Despite its modest scope, the bill died.
Among those expressing dismay was novelist David Guterson, a resident of Bainbridge Island, the author of “Snow Falling on Cedars” and the adoptive father of an Ethiopian child. “Current laws are patently insufficient and in dire need of overhaul,” he wrote last month in a Seattle Times op-ed.
Guterson and Roberts, the sponsor of the failed bill, said efforts should focus on better pre-adoption screening. Both cited the legal hurdles for any mandatory post-adoption scrutiny.
“Once the adoption is declared final, we have no rights to go fishing around and asking how are things going,” Roberts said. “If it were possible legally, we should give it a try. But there's a point of finality, when the court says this child is now yours, and the state — unless there's a complaint or evidence of abuse or neglect — has no role.”
Melanie Chung-Sherman, an adoption therapist in Dallas who was adopted from South Korea, said post-adoption monitoring would not be feasible unless parents volunteered for it. “The families are ready to move on and become independent of all these third parties that have been involved in their lives.”
However, she said families considering adoption should be made aware of the potential challenges. “It's hard to tell somebody, ‘I want you to expect the worst,'” she said. “The reality is, not everyone should adopt.”
Blunt pre-adoption conversations can be crucial because many of the children are psychologically troubled. Mental-health services for adoptive families are widely viewed as inadequate — too little funding and too few professionals trained in adoption-related trauma.
Adoption advocates say it's shortsighted to skimp on post-adoption support.
“You have children who have already faced so many adversities,” said Nicole Dobbins of Voice for Adoption. “When their needs are not being met, those unaddressed issues are costing our society so much more on the back end. It's frustrating when we don't want to put the money up front.”
Dobbins' organization was part of a coalition issuing an appeal to Congress and state officials in September. Its statement said in part:
“Parents who adopt must understand they are making a lifelong commitment to a child. But forcing families to struggle without support, trying to raise children they feel unable to parent, is also unacceptable and harmful to children.”
Among the coalition's recommendations:
• Establish a reliable federal funding source for post-adoption services.
• Ensure that these services offer support from professionals trained to work with traumatized children.
• Reconsider policies that sometimes require parents to give up custody before a child can receive state-funded services.
• Provide access to post-adoption services regardless of the adoption type, in contrast to some existing state programs that don't support international adoptions.
By and large, these long-standing recommendations haven't translated into policy.
There are some new proposals in Congress aimed at providing more funding for post-adoption services, though prospects for passage are uncertain.
Three women set out to help victims of sex trafficking
by Kevin Parrish
Step by step, Lisa McHenry is trying to turn a dream into reality.
She wants to open San Joaquin County's first shelter for girls and young women trying to escape the sex-trafficking trade. Her sister and a longtime friend are helping.
Their work is not for the faint of heart.
Interstate 5 is the main artery in California for transporting trafficking victims. Stockton was caught up in a Northern California prostitution ring that was busted earlier this year. Leaving the sex trade and a pimp behind can be dangerous for those victims.
Human trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department, is one of the fastest-growing illicit industries and enslaves 27 million people worldwide. It is a $32 billion industry worldwide.
"(Victims) are innocent people who are groped, molested and coerced against their will," said Roxanne Nunis, McHenry's younger sister and co-founder of Starting Point. "It's not fair. When you give birth, you never anticipate that your child might be the next victim."
The sisters are working with longtime friend Rhoda Tamarra. They are promoting Starting Point as "the only safe house for rescued victims of human trafficking in the Central Valley."
They have invested heavily to get the home - hidden on the back roads of central San Joaquin County - ready as a secure, inviting haven. They hope to open it Jan. 15.
Financing has been and continues to be an issue. A series of fundraisers are planned for this fall.
"I am not an inside-the-box thinker," said McHenry, a married 46-year-old mother of five sons. "Every woman should stand up for what's right. For justice. I want to leave my mark. It's not about me; it's the cause.
"My heart is in the right place, and God is directing me."
McHenry, a Lathrop resident, previously operated a family-owned mobile tax business. She said that so far she has sunk $33,000 of her own money into creating Starting Point.
The shelter feels like a home with a lot of personal attention. A butterfly theme - built around the idea of new beginnings - is carried throughout the dwelling. There are three bedrooms with two single beds in each and a common living area with an adjoining, remodeled kitchen. Everything has been repainted, and there is new flooring.
"It's homey and doesn't feel like an institution," said Tamarra, also 46, the single mother of two girls. "We wanted something comfortable."
In addition to the structure, McHenry and Nunis, who is coy about her age, have invested of themselves. Each has received training and the requisite state licensing to operate an adult residential facility.
All that's left is an operating license, which costs $15,000. The upcoming fundraisers are important, but McHenry said she'll dip deeper into the family's savings if necessary.
Starting Point already has developed a network of supporters. The three co-founders have made connections with Sacramento lobbyists, the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office, local lawmakers and some of McHenry's former tax clients.
The future sex-trafficking group home sits on three acres that are being rented from David and Esther Signs. David Signs is manager of Manteca's ABC Transmission. The couple also have helped financially.
Tamarra, who lives in Salida, used to live in Lathrop. She said the three women have been friends for more than a decade. Tamarra is originally from Hawaii. On a recent visit to Honolulu, she and her daughters counted 17 prostitutes in a two-block area of Waikiki Beach.
"It's bad," she said. "Sex trafficking is all around us. I know now what I want to do with my life. I want to make a difference."
McHenry and Nunis agree. And they want Starting Point to provide structure and hope for young, displaced and hurting women. Among their goals:
» Long-term services (up to three months) that will allow their clients to learn occupational and life skills. "We don't want them back on the streets," McHenry said.
» Psychological counseling to help them heal.
» Online educational courses.
» Off-site volunteering and internship opportunities.
Why create a group home for victims of sex trafficking?
"Why not?" responded Nunis, a recent University of the Pacific graduate who lives in Manteca. "I believe you have to give back. If not, you are selfish. I don't want to leave the world untouched and undone."
Added McHenry, her big sister, "I don't want this dream to die. I will tap into our 401(k) if I have to. I am willing to take that risk."
» Pimps: Traffickers are known to recruit at malls, fast-food restaurants and schools.
» Duration: A person spends seven years, on average, in the sex trade.
» Beginning: The average age of a girl or boy lured into human trafficking is 12 to 14 years old.
» Interstate 5: The freeway cutting north to south in San Joaquin County is the main artery for transporting victims.
» Destinations: California, New York and Texas lead the nation in where trafficking victims are taken from.
Sources: Shared Hope International, Polaris Project
• Oct. 12: Applebee's Flapjack Fundraiser breakfast, 8 to 10 a.m., 2659 W. March Lane in Stockton. Tickets: $12. Also benefits Sierra High School band.
• Oct. 19: Booth at Harvest Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 10th Street Plaza in downtown Modesto. Festival is free.
• Nov. 1: Human Trafficking Awareness concert hosted by Inner City Action, 5 p.m., Empire Theatre, 1825 Pacific Ave. with Breaking Chains 209 & Love Never Fails. Tickets: $5. T-shirts and bracelets for sale.
How to help
Starting Point, a haven for adolescent victims of sex trafficking, aims to open its doors Jan. 15. The fledgling organization is trying to raise an additional $15,000 by that date. Here's how you can help:
• Phone: (209) 612-3435
• Mail: P.O. Box 148, Manteca, CA 95336
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Human Trafficking Response Team formed
from Williamsport Sun-Gazette
A case of beer.
That's what one sex trafficking victim's pimp traded her for, according to Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape Criminal Justice Training Specialist Krista Hoffman.
"It's a horrible topic but I promise you, there's a lot of hope in this area," Hoffman said at a recent seminar for the newly-established Northcentral PA Human Trafficking Response Team.
The hope may lie with the seminar's attendees: judges, detectives, police officers and victim's advocates from Bradford, Lycoming, Northumberland, Snyder, Tioga and Union counties. Each came to learn how to effectively respond to what they say is a local problem.
"With this training, our eyes will be a lot more open. I'll notice things I wouldn't have noticed before," Officer Jason Serfas of the Athens Township Police Department said.
In human trafficking, a person performs labor or services under force, fraud or coersion in exchange for something of value. Typical situations of human trafficking in the state have included minors and adults being sold sexually at places like truck stops, hotels and Asian massage parlors.
"Please keep in mind that not all Asian massage parlors are fronts for brothels," Hoffman said.
But some are.
Potential indicators that a business is a front for sex trafficking include all-male clientele, covered windows, backdoor entrances and advertisements that emphasize the newness or attractiveness of the girls working there, Hoffman said.
"One of the big problems with sex trafficking is our cultural acceptance of prostitution," Hoffman said.
Whereas a prostitute willingly engages in sex acts for money, a human trafficking victim is forced against his or her will. If law enforcement doesn't know the signs to look for, they can mistakenly treat a victim as a perpetrator.
"If you threaten them with criminal charges, they shut down. Why should they be charged for their own rape?" Hoffman said.
Physical indicators of victims include injuries from beatings, malnourishment and torture, such as cigarette burns.
"[Pimps] don't mind beating girls up around the face," Hoffman said.
One study found that purchasers, more commonly referred to as "Johns," actually like the appearance of bruises and cuts.
"When it looks like girls are beaten up a bit it heightens the excitement for them," Hoffman said.
Tattoos, brands or scarring indicating ownership also is a sign a victim might be being trafficked.
"We had a group of girls come in and they were branded. They were 15 or 16 years old, from the Reading area. I didn't know it was human trafficking at the time but now I see," said Erin Butler, of Lycoming County, who used to work at a residential facility for homeless youth.
Runaway minors especially are at risk to be trafficked. If a child runs away four or more times in a 12-month period, there's an 80 percent probability that they've already been sex-trafficked, according to Hoffman.
"How will they eat? Stay warm? There are exploitative adults who are looking for kids like this," Hoffman said.
Runaways often are physically or sexual abused at home.
"Traffickers are smart. They target people who are the most vulnerable," Hoffman said.
Hoffman told the story of one woman pimp who used to fix her victims a large "family" meal each night before sending them on the streets to meet their nightly quota. After she was arrested, one of her victims told police that he was going to miss those family dinners.
"These kids really need a connection," Hoffman said.
Food is used as a means of control. Traffickers also sometimes will administer drugs to keep their victims docile and compliant. By the same token, victims sometimes take drugs to self-medicate.
The connection between drugs and human trafficking is strong. When drug-addicted parents have no money for a fix, they might trade their children for drugs, Hoffman said.
"Heroin and human trafficking go hand-in-hand. It's definitely something that is here," said Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joy Reynolds McCoy.
While one might think of human trafficking in terms of sexual exploitation, victims also can be exploited for labor. Serfas criticized the gas industry for causing not only an influx of drugs but also trafficked labor.
"We had a case with Lowes in Sayre on Elmira Street. They had hired a bunch of Mexicans," Serfas said.
Hoffman pointed to worker encampments on drilling sites as a possible venue for sex trafficking.
"Whenever we see large populations of transient males with no family connection in the area, we see an increase in the demand for prostitution," Hoffman said.
If demand outstrips the number of willing prostitutes, traffickers will look for new victims, Hoffman said. These victims could be imported from other states or countries.
"Trade routes used for regular commerce can be used for trafficking," Hoffman said.
There is no state statute for human trafficking - all such cases are tried at the federal level, according to McCoy.
"There's definitely been some cases in Children and Youth that could be defined in terms of human trafficking. I didn't think of it that way at the time. They were charged criminally with endangering the welfare of a child," McCoy said.
Promoting education and awareness among prosecutors, detectives and other officials likely to make contact with human trafficking victims is crucially important, Hoffman said.
"It's not so bad, so big that there's nothing you can do about it," Hoffman said. "Nothing is insurmountable."
Bills to combat human trafficking unveiled in Troy
by CHARLES CRUMM
A 19-bill package of legislation against human trafficking severely increases penalties for offenders and strengthens help for victims.
The legislation was highlighted by a news conference in Troy Friday afternoon. A similar event was held in Lansing last week.
Lawmakers say human trafficking is the world's second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry. In Michigan, it is estimated that every month up to 150 girls under the age of 18 are sold into the world of sex trafficking.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has formed his own task force to tackle trafficking, and Sen. Judy K. Emmons, a Sheridan Republican, is the point person for the effort in the Michigan Senate, where she chairs the Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee.
Here's a summary of the 19 bills in the proposed package provided through Emmons' office:
Affirmative Defense — Would allow a victim of human trafficking to introduce evidence of being a victim of trafficking as a defense to certain types of crimes.
Adult Entertainment Business Customer Fee — Would require the business to pay a $3 fee for each customer who enters. The fee money (at the moment) is deposited into the domestic violence and sexual assault fund.
Municipality Ordinances for Adult Entertainers — Would allow municipalities to adopt ordinances requiring anyone working at an adult entertainment business to obtain a permit from the municipality. Some requirements for the permit would include background check.
Creation of Human Trafficking Board — Would establish a human trafficking board to ensure that the issue is taken seriously and continuously, and to allow the board to apply for federal grants.
Eliminating Statute of Limitations — Eliminate the statute of limitations for trafficking offenses and commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses.
Prohibit Use of the Internet to Solicit a Minor — Michigan does not expressly criminalize the use of the Internet to lure, entice, recruit, or purchase commercial sex acts with a minor. However, the use of the Internet to communicate with a minor while intending to commit, or attempting to commit a violation of specified sexual offense laws is illegal. Specifically prohibiting the use of the Internet to lure, entice, recruit or sell commercial sex acts with a minor as a separate crime adds another penalty for traffickers.
Additions to grounds for termination of parental rights — Include offenses including sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses in order to remove the children of traffickers from their control and potential exploitation.
Racketeering — Would add another provision of a commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) offense-enticing a female away under 18 years of age (MCL 750.13) to the racketeering definition.
Require "Johns" to Register on the Sex Offender Registry — Requiring the purchasers of sex to register on the sex offender registry
Safe Harbor — Increases the minimum age from 16 to 18 for prostitution-related crimes and prohibits local units of government from enacting ordinances that establish lower minimum ages. A police officer must immediately take into custody if they believe the person committing prostitution is less than 18 years old. The court then can determine if the individual is a victim of human trafficking and refer them to DHS for services.
Safe Harbor Probate Court — Probate court would have jurisdiction and continued jurisdiction concerning a juvenile less than 18 years of age found to be violating sections in the prostitution chapter.
Safe Harbor Department of Human Services — DHS shall perform assessment/psychological evaluation and medical examination when the juvenile is referred to the department. In addition to any reunification, adoption or other services provided to a child under DHS' care counseling services appropriate for the victim.
Criminal Convictions Cleared — Would allow individuals to apply to have their criminal convictions cleared from their record if the offense was committed due to their status as a victim of a human trafficking violation.
Allow Victims to Sue Captors — To be known as the 'Human trafficking victims compensation act', it would allow victims to sue their captors for damages that result from physical and mental suffering, damage and destruction of property and expenses incurred.
Medical and Psychological Treatment for Victims — Expands the social welfare act to include victims of human trafficking on the list of potential recipients for medical assistance benefits and psychological treatment.
Modify Victim Status for Foster Care Minors who are Human Trafficking Victims — Would allow DHS to use a different status for children who are victims of human trafficking in order to provide them with additional services or to give special consideration that traditional foster care services may not be suitable for the victim.
Training for Medical Professionals — Would require medical professionals be trained to identify the signs of human trafficking in patients.
Wire Tapping — Two bills would allow a prosecutor to utilize wire tapping.
Our take: Make 611 the child abuse hotline
The York Daily Record -- This editorial expresses the opinions of the York Daily Record
The state Senate's passage of child abuse bills last week nicely coincided with the state Superior Court's decision not to grant a new trial for serial molester Jerry Sandusky.
It was a good decision on the court's part. Mr. Sandusky has a right to pursue the appellate process, but his trial was fair and the evidence the jury considered in convicting him was overwhelming.
The Senate also made good calls on passing child abuse laws proposed by a state task force created in the wake of the Sandusky and Catholic church scandals - though it has taken a surprisingly long time.
A slate of bills was passed unanimously that would, among other things:
· Increase the punishment for people found guilty of covering up child abuse.
· Require medical professionals to report a case of suspected child abuse immediately to county child welfare agencies and require those agencies to disclose certain information to certain medical professionals.
· Ensure the identity of an attacker does not need to be determined before a case of child abuse is included in the state's official statistics.
It's a good start, but there's still legislative work to be done, enacting suggestions made by the task force. Advocates for victims are rightly pressing lawmakers for other reforms.
Perhaps the most important is lowering Pennsylvania's threshold for the sort of injury or pain that is consider abuse.
Another is just common sense: Come up with an easier-to-remember child abuse hotline number.
The number of that hotline - called ChildLine - is 1-800-932-0313.
Not exactly memorable.
What if we treated child abuse like the emergency that it is and gave it a 911-like number?
In this case, the task force recommended designating 611 as the number to call to report suspected child abuse.
That makes sense.
A public service advertising campaign could drill that number into people's heads. And if they witnessed abuse while out and about they could whip out their cell phones, hit three keys and do their civic duty.
Of course, people can already use 911 to make such reports. But a three-digit number coupled with a public service campaign could really make this issue top of mind, encouraging folks to report their suspicions.
If someone had reported such suspicions in 2008, little Darisabel Baez might not have been beaten to death by her mother's boyfriend in a case that served as a horrific wakeup call for the York community on the issue of child abuse.
A Senate bill - co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury - would establish a three-digit number for the ChildLine.
The Senate should have passed that bill last week along with the slate of abuse bills, but it can still pass the legislation and include it in a comprehensive child abuse reform package lawmakers said they hoped to have on Gov. Corbett's desk by Thanksgiving.
Come to think of it, why wait that long?
Halloween should be the target to better fight the horror of abuse.
Parental child abuse
Let's not leave behind a generation which is as much mentally crippled as we are
by Dr Irfan Zafar
John Lennon, an English musician, singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a founder member of The Beatles, the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed band in the history of popular music said “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.” As the saying goes, do not educate your child to be rich, educate him to be happy so that when he grows up, he will realize the value of things not the price.
Ever wondered what we are teaching our children? More importantly, what about the systematic attacks on Childs emotional well-being and sense of self-worth instigated by the parents without realizing its fallouts? Parents unknowingly exhibit a pattern of behavior that attacks a child's emotional development. These attacks include violent verbal onslaught, or simply put, chronic, excessive, aggressive and unreasonable demands that place expectations on children that are beyond their developmental capacity.
The violence of parents can manifest itself in many ways which can include verbal attacks, judgments, shame, blame, guilt, comparing, criticizing, teasing, name-calling, insulting, rejecting and evaluating children's behavior. We somehow can't expect a child to grow into a better human being who has passed through the traumatic experiences of encountering criticism, isolation, punitive consequences, negativity, shame, blame or guilt.
However the most damaging aspect of killing a child's development pertains to the silent epidemic of emotional abuse which is generally overlooked. We unconsciously tend to blame our children for the countless conditions we themselves have created.
The most common “demand” by majority of the parents relate to expecting their children to sit quietly for an extended length of time without realizing that they just do not have the physical control of their bodies nor the coping skills to always manage listening to the requests to behave. This ultimately renders the parent to frustrating feeling of lack of compliance.
If we look at the pattern of statements we make every day to our children, the realization will obviously lead to the conclusion that there is something terribly wrong with our own mental state. The day starts with a typical judgment “you are acting like a baby”. For goodness sake, he/she is a baby. Then comes the next one; “you are not being nice”. Every wondered asking the kid how nice we are to him?
You are making me angry, you stupid trash, you constantly disappoint me, I can't trust you, you have no respect for me, get out of my face and the list goes on and on. If put in a similar position instead of the child; our journey to the lunatic center will be obvious outcome. But stop it, we are adults and we are always right.
The fallout of all this leads to child's self-destruction, withdrawing from the people, making negative statements about himself, overly aggressive, shy or passive, overly demanding, overly compliant, cruel to others or delayed mental, physical and emotional development.
Lastly, killing creativity is the worst abuse which can be done to a child. We tend to impose our own set of established set patterns and mindsets. We act like worst kind of dictators. You will become a doctor. You will become an Engineer. Monetary considerations are supreme. Writer? No way. Artist? Have you ever thought about the moral values of our forefather? You will have to step over our dead body to become one. The poor child can't even say, when?
Failure to provide the emotional nurturing, love, support or guidance necessary for a child's psychological growth and development can lead to grave consequences which can severely affect healthy development of brain functions. Let's not leave behind a generation which is as much mentally crippled as we are. Teach them to find happiness in whatever way they want to conduct their lives. Looking inwards first is the starting point.
The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King's College London and a social activist. He is life member of the Pakistan Engineering Council and senior international editor for IT Insight Magazine. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living In The Grave and several research papers.
Bullying: Abuse Goes Digital and Finally Meets Its Match
by Lance Ulanoff
Sometimes I wonder where the Internet was when I needed it in 1973. Like many of my nerd and geek compatriots, I was the victim of schoolyard bullying. There was no social media or personal computers back then, so bullies relied on brute force. I must say: It was very effective.
I was reminded of those days by Instagram's new #AwkwardYears campaign, which launched as part of October's National Bullying Prevention Month: People take Instagram photos of themselves holding pictures of their former, bully-baiting selves. I could relate to that. As a child and teen, I was everything a bully desired: thin, small, weak and smart. If a bully was metal, I was their magnet.
Bullying is as old as humankind.
Bullying is as old as humankind. In history class, they called bullies “dictators.” In film and literature, they've long been a popular archetype, but rarely did anyone ever side with bullies (unless they were misunderstood and ripe for transformation). In real life, however, most people are so afraid of bullies that, while not actually siding with them, they would often gather to see the bully pummel his latest victim. They weren't really cheering on the violence as much as protecting themselves. No one else wanted to catch the bully's eye.
A New Day for Bullies
In our current knowledge-economy era, bullies still exist, but they've gone underground. I did a little anecdotal survey of anti-bullying books written between 1964 (a totally arbitrary year) and today. Prior to 1989, it was difficult to find any books with the word “bullying” in the title. There are thousands of references to bullying in academic papers and books about broader topics — just nothing exclusively dedicated to "bullying." (I only found this scholarly tome, which is available in libraries.) Things started to change in the late 1980s and early 1990s; but it was really at the end of the last century — just as the Internet was truly taking off — that the number of books on bullying exploded.
This heightened awareness changed society's perspective on bullying. When I was growing up, my father — with the foresight of a survivor — assured me that I would be picked on in school, and advised me to simply stand up to the leader. I'm sure you can guess how that turned out. It's unlikely any modern parent would say something similar.
Changing attitudes were obvious in book titles such as 1998's Quit It: A Teacher's Guide on Teasing and Bullying for Use With Students in Grades K-3. I'm pretty sure the books my teachers read were called, Ignore It! Eventually They'll Stop Torturing That Youngster .
As the 20th century ended, the message was clear: Bullying is not a fact of life, and it could and should be stopped.
By then, as an adult with small children of my own, I watched these developments with some skepticism. In my heart, I still believed my children would be bullied: I come from a long line of victims, and am convinced real bullies can smell fear. Even so, the fact that bullying was not at all cool — or, by the time my kids hit grade school, even remotely tolerated — was a remarkable cultural shift.
For a moment, I believed I had witnessed the end of bullying.
What I did not anticipate was the impact of the Internet and, especially social media, on bullying.
I can't decide if bullies are born or made, but I do know that whether or not they're operating in public, bullies will always exist. So imagine what it was like for them after nearly a decade of diminishing outlets for their anger and abuse — all that pent-up bullying has to go somewhere.
It turns out that social media gave your run-of-the-mill bully an outlet, as well as something they never had before: anonymity. As a child, I thought bullies got the dual pleasure of seeing me cry and having everyone know that they were the scariest people on the playground. Name recognition meant something to my tormentor Charles, who would just as soon poke you in the eye as he would look at you.
Today's bullies, though, know that the risks of being known are simply too great.
Today's bullies, though, know that the risks of being known are simply too great. Cyberbullies can attack online — via Facebook, Tumblr, Keek, Instagram, Snapchat and more — without anyone else seeing their dirty work or, if they mask their online identity, without the victim even knowing who they are.
Social-media attacks are, in some ways, completely different from what I experienced, and in other ways, are all too familiar. Aside for the occasional filmed beat down, most of these attacks are completely devoid of physical violence: They are mostly verbal or written attacks. Old-school bullies favored violence. Cyberbullies use words to paint especially painful pictures.
I would also argue that social media sometimes encourages gang behavior. Instead of one bully, we have ten or more. Instead of the natural bully, we have the casual joiner — weak-minded souls who follow the pack.
If you're 13, or even 18, you're what I like to call a digital native. You grew up in a digital world, surrounded by technology. You're a citizen of the web, and a social-media user. You may also be a follower and part of the pack.
Remember those kids I told you about? Not the bully — the ones who gathered around to watch. They're still around today, but instead of standing by wordlessly, watching while you get beaten, they step in and add a kick of their own. One cyberbully calls a teenage girls a "slut” on Facebook, and before you know it, others are joining in, verbally tearing down the victim in the most public (at least to her peers) way.
Suddenly, everyone has the potential to be a cyberbully and, like before, few of us are brave enough to stand up — even digitally — and just say “no.”
Things Have Changed
Bullies will never, ever truly go away. They will always seek their path, their entry point to your soft, emotional underbelly. Social media is simply that latest avenue. The difference between then and now is that it's actually cool (and even fun) to be a nerd or geek, and the fight against bullies in the real world and online has become an actual movement, resulting in anti-bullying months like this one, and campaigns such as Instagram's. The same platform that makes it so easy for bullies to casually attack their victims is helping to spread the anti-bullying message like wildfire. Bullies, whether they're born or simply followers, can no longer hide in plain sight.
Like I said, where was the Internet when I needed it in 1973?
Out of the dark: Domestic abuse victims find voices through art in Reno
by Katrina Raenell
We've all been told that monsters don't exist. That our fears of what is lurking in the closet, under the bed or in the shadows is simply a figment of an overactive imagination.
For adults and children living with abuse, monsters are very real, scary and part of everyday life.
The art exhibit “Monster in Me” features 30 pieces of artwork created by children and adult survivors of domestic abuse and includes a small caption that details what the survivor was thinking when they were creating it. With the help of art therapy, domestic abuse survivors were able to describe and release their monsters through narration, painting, drawing and coloring, and work on moving forward.
The exhibit comes to Reno via the Committee to Aid Abused Women from the Los Angeles-based organization, A Window Between Worlds. The AWBW gives domestic abuse training on using art therapy for survivors, CAAW executive director Denise Yoxsimer said.
“The artists in this exhibit were encouraged to create an image of a monster that would describe the feelings of helplessness and hopefulness that they had while living in those abusive situations and then coming out of those situations and receiving help and support,” Yoxsimer said.
In one piece from the exhibit, “Monster in Me,” an angry face can be seen beneath scribbled black lines and cross-hatchings of red and blue. The mouth is filled with jagged teeth.
The artist writes, “My monster is bad. My monster takes his face off because underneath he has no face. My monster's dad sewed his face and now he can't talk.”
In another drawing, “Silence the Survivor,” a woman's face is represented, eyes downcast with a diagonal black line running across red lips. “Shhh ...” is written around the woman's head.
It narrates, “SHUT UP ... you have no say ... you do as you're told not as you want! I'm so sick of not being able to be that free, independent, special woman I once was because I've been taken hostage. My soul, my mind, my body, and my heart have been held captive. I didn't mind for a long time. ... Creating the monster makes me realize there is a light at the end of this tunnel. It makes me think back and remember why I left and how much I hated that life....”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and the exhibit was selected to be shown now to increase awareness about domestic violence, Yoxsimer said.
During the 2012-13 fiscal year, CAAW saw more than 10,000 bed nights (one person in one bed for one night) in emergency shelter and transitional housing facilities; 2,381 people assisted by the Domestic Violence Advocate at Child Protective Services with 1,603 of those being children; and 213 people residing in the emergency shelter and transitional housing facilities.
CAAW provides support services for adult and children survivors of domestic violence at five different locations throughout the community, including a confidential emergency shelter that will house up to 25 individuals for 60 days.
It also offers an art therapy program to its residents, which initially began with children and, in recent years, has expanded to adults. Yoxsimer said that using art to help survivors express themselves offers CAAW an opportunity to start a conversation about their experiences that is less threatening than saying, “Tell me what happened to you.”
“So often, the trauma, abuse and challenging situations that our survivors have been through create feelings of shame, humiliation, fear,” Yoxsimer said. “All of those kinds of feelings are hard to start talking about with a virtual stranger. The art gives us a tool to start a conversation, find out where our survivors are and what kinds of needs they have.”
The proceeds from the exhibit reception will fund AWBW training for CAAW staff and a representative from Safe Embrace, another domestic violence program in the community, later this year. Yoxsimer said that one of CAAW's goals is to further formalize its art therapy programs.
“It's something we can all relate to; even if you don't see yourself as an artist, everyone enjoys sitting down with a piece of paper and some paint or crayons, or making music or whatever kind of art it is,” Yoxsimer said. “It's a nonthreatening way to begin the conversation.”
Salt Lake City
Elizabeth Smart details kidnapping in new memoir
by Michelle L. Price
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Minutes after 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was snatched from her bedroom in the dead of night, a police cruiser idled by along a neighborhood street as she was forced to the ground at knifepoint. “Move and I will kill you!” her captor hissed.
It was one of several fleeting times Smart watched a rescue slip away during her nine-month ordeal, she recounts in “My Story,” a 308-page book being released by St. Martin's Press on Monday.
She writes that she was so terrified of the street preacher who kidnapped her that when she was rescued by police in a Salt Lake City suburb in March 2003, she only reluctantly identified herself.
Between the heartbreak of missed chances, Smart writes, she was treated as a sex object by Brian David Mitchell and as a slave by his wife, Wanda Barzee. She says they denied her food and water for days at a time.
A U.S. attorney called it one of the kidnapping crimes of the century. Smart, a quiet, devout Mormon who played the harp and loved horses, vanished without a trace from her home high above Salt Lake City. Her case galvanized attention just months after Salt Lake City took the world stage with the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Smart, now 25, is married, living in Park City, finishing a music degree at Brigham Young University and traveling across the country giving speeches and doing advocacy work. She created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to bring awareness to predatory crimes against children. For her, the book was another way to help bring nine months of brutality to a close.
“I want people to know that I'm happy in my life right now,” Smart told The Associated Press in an interview. “I also, even more so, want to reach out to people who might not be in a good situation. Maybe they're in a situation that was similar to the one that I was in.”
Smart said she hopes the book, which The AP received in advance of its release from the publisher, will help other victims know that it's possible to be happy and move forward with their lives and will shed some light on what was going through her head during what she called “nine months of hell.”
Her account was written with help from Chris Stewart, a congressman from Utah who has authored books with religious and patriotic themes.
Smart says she doesn't care to understand Mitchell, yet her book opens a window on his personality. He was a downtown Salt Lake City fixture in a robe and sandals who first laid a crooked eye on Smart when her mother offered the man $5 and work at the family home.
At that moment, he resolved to take her as the second of a hoped-for five wives, he later told Smart.
Smart says Mitchell believed that anything in the world was his for the taking, and that he was a man who never cared for anyone even as he ranted about God. His mother had taken out a protective order against him. He felt entitled to any vice and often binged on alcohol. Smart calls him a “manipulative, antisocial and narcissistic pedophile.”
Against that backdrop, the book chronicles a series of near-rescues, notably by a homicide detective who questioned Mitchell at a library in downtown Salt Lake City. From under a table, Barzee clamped “iron” fingers into Smart's thigh. Smart, disguised in a dirty robe and face veil, remained silent as she remembered the couple's repeated threats to kill her family if she tried to save herself.
Her book reveals another near-rescue. Only days into the kidnapping, a helicopter hovered over the makeshift camp in the mountains just five miles from Smart's home where she was kept tethered to trees by steel cables.
She was forced inside a tent as the wash of the helicopter's rotors bent trees around them. After an eternal minute, she watched the helicopter slowly glide away, inching down a canyon. “They had to see our camp,” she thought. “They had to be looking for me!”
It never returned. The crew didn't spot the tents, tarps, a dugout or scattered camping gear. Mitchell took it as another favorable sign from God.
“Why didn't I cry out for help?” Smart reflects. The answer “comes down to fear. Fear for my life. Fear for my family.” Mitchell's constant threats weighed on her. Part of her paralysis came from believing she had lost “everything worth having” — her innocence.
The young girl believed Mitchell invincible. Despite years of misdeeds, he had never served more than a few days in jail.
When he wasn't feeling lazy, Mitchell tramped into town for what he called “plundering.” He would reappear hours later with bags of groceries and liquor from shoplifting, and he would force her to get drunk.
She writes that he was a manipulator who sneered after the library encounter about fooling the police officer, “He believed everything I told him. ... God has provided another miracle!”
After Smart's rescue, Mitchell wheedled his way through state courts for more than six years, leaving them hopelessly bogged down in hearings over his mental competence. Federal prosecutors took over, and a judge ruled Mitchell was faking mental illness.
Mitchell is serving two life terms after he was sentenced in 2011. A year earlier, Barzee was given 15 years for her role in Smart's kidnapping and sexual assault.
Mitchell managed to convince some psychiatrists he was insane. He shouted hymns and songs in court and ordered judges to “repent.” Smart described a moment in his federal trial when Mitchell feigned collapse, with paramedics rushing into court.
Between gasps and moans on a gurney, Mitchell locked eyes with Smart for the first time in years. He offered an “evil grin” to show he could still control others, she writes. “I returned his cold stare, never looking away.”
It was outside San Diego, where Mitchell took Barzee and Smart for winter at a homeless camp, that Smart devised a plan for freedom. She convinced Mitchell that God intended them to return to Salt Lake City.
On their arrival outside the city, police stopped the odd-looking trio, a middle-aged couple and young girl wearing filthy clothes, a gray wig and dark sunglasses, walking along a major metro street. Smart writes that before she identified herself, police seemed to know they had found her, asking, “Are you Elizabeth Smart?”
From survivor to warrior
by Jackie May
The joy Campaign is an unlikely name for a campaign associated with rape.
We know the ongoing horror. A rape occurs every 17 seconds in South Africa. Countless cases go unreported.
According to a study done by the Medical Research Council, a quarter of the men interviewed admitted to raping someone. Without exact numbers, it's safe to say there are many traumatised men and women walking our streets.
Charlene Lau has been raped at three different times in her life. As a young child, she was sexually abused by her father. When she was 13, still a virgin, she was gang-raped by a group of older teenage boys. Then a few years ago, when she was 26, a friend locked her in his house and raped her.
''Most women don't talk. Like my family, the coping mechanism is to keep quiet and move on," Lau said.
Recovering from her repeated traumas has been a long process. As a young adult Lau developed bulimia, and at university she lost her mind.
''I went off my rocker. I completely and utterly fell apart. My pain and confusion manifested as insanity. There was no outlet for the pain. It took me the better part of four years to recover from that."
Lau was living and working in East Africa when she met an older man.
''We went to a function together, but on the way to drop me at home, he went to his house instead."
After that incident, Lau moved to Pretoria, away from her family.
''I didn't want to see anybody. I felt empty. There was nothing more to break."
Michelle Smith, a counsellor working for the Jes Foord Foundation , which supports victims in KwaZulu-Natal, said: ''Every healing journey is different. Every rape is different. But most victims of rape suffer from self-blame, loss, a sense of guilt. Women often feel something has been taken away from them."
Recovery can be slow and lonely.
''Rape will never be forgotten, but people get to a point where it no longer affects their daily lives," said Smith.
After a long process of counselling and gentle care from her husband, Lau now feels like a survivor, rather than a victim.
''As a rape survivor I am so tired of feeling like a victim. When do I get to feel empowered? When do I get to feel my joy?" she said.
A few months ago Lau decided to walk from Johannesburg to Cape Town as a way to express her survival, to start a conversation, and ''to encourage other survivors to take responsibility for their healing".
On October 20 she will begin her nine-week journey along the N1.
''The walk is an expression of not being a victim. It's about taking back our lives."
On her website, she says the walk is a way of reconnecting with her joy and, once that is done, ''we can address the rape crisis with courage, compassion, creativity and countless other powerful qualities.
"This puts us back in the driver's seat and makes us more than survivors; it makes us warriors."
For more information about the walk see http://charlenela.wix.com/thejoycampaign