Gov. Jerry Brown's Recent Veto of Child Abuse Legislation and What It Tells Us About the Civil Rights Movement for Children
No civil rights movement worth pursuing happens overnight or easily, because it is always a fight against the entrenched powers that resist and detest change. The ups and downs are sometimes steep, with the oppressed facing devastating losses and heady triumphs along the way. In the civil rights movement for children, which is transforming children from property into persons in the United States, a critical element is giving child sex abuse (CSA) victims meaningful access to justice.
Until relatively recently, most child sex abuse victims in the vast majority of states did not have access to justice, because the statutes of limitations (“SOLs”) cut off their claims before they could make it to the courthouse. A confluence of ignorance meant that these victims were cut off from simple justice:
(1) had underestimated the amount of child sex abuse that actually occurs;
(2) were unaware that child sex abusers typically tend to be the “nice guy” or gal that adults trust with their children and, therefore, had no idea that so many are hidden amongst us; and
(3) did not know that most CSA victims need decades before they are capable of coming forward.
The result has been that the legal system has unintentionally favored perpetrators, rather than victims. The perpetrator's best friends have been short SOLs and public and private institutions that act to protect their image, wallets, and adults' reputations rather than the welfare of children.
We now know, based on hundreds of scientific studies and experience in many states, that a CSA victim needs a great deal of time to enter the judicial system. In addition, the delay in filing charges or filing a lawsuit does not mean that the perpetrator has stopped harming children. Perpetrators will molest children into their elderly years. Letting a survivor have access to justice at any time dramatically increases the odds of identifying hidden perpetrators among us. Thus, survivors' access to justice dovetails with the rights of children right now.
Opening the SOLs does not guarantee victims that their perpetrators will be convicted, or that they will win civil lawsuits for damages and other remedies. The SOLs only create access to justice, but access is what marks a rights-holder.
For children to no longer be treated as property, and instead, like persons, we must treat the crimes they suffer as real, and quite publicly hold those responsible accountable. Children, like adults, have a right to bodily integrity, and when state laws aid perpetrators and their institutional abettors to disable the victims, that basic right of children is violated. SOL reform is not about helping prosecutors or trial lawyers, but rather about vindicating the rights of victims to obtain redress for the harm they have suffered, and to grant them the power, through the criminal justice system, to see their perpetrators and those who conspired against them go to jail.
We have seen this movement make tremendous strides in recent years, led by the likes of Delaware, which eliminated its civil and criminal SOLs prospectively and enacted a window to revive claims for the many shut out of the system. Many states have dramatically increased or eliminated civil and criminal SOLs. California, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Guam have enacted windows and many states are now considering it. These are signal achievements that are historical markers of this civil rights movement.
But there have also been setbacks as the enemies of victims' access to justice, largely fueled by the Catholic bishops, obtained a veto of the first Hawaii window, and blocked legislation in many other states, particularly those in which the bishops exercise extraordinary power over willing state legislators. These legislators remind me of George Wallace, who had no shame in taking a very public position against the civil rights movement for African Americans of the 60s. They are eager to shore up the status quo and can't see the history writ large in front of them.
The Most Recent Battle for Children's Civil Rights Lost in California
Last weekend, child sex abuse victims in California received a cruel blow when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed SB131, which would have opened a window to sue private organizations that had made the victims' abuse possible. Both houses of the California legislature had passed the bill, and all that was needed was for Gov. Brown to sign it. Waiting until the last minute, he refused to do so, and disseminated a “veto message.”
Brown's Veto Message Is Filled With False Statements of History and Fact
Brown's message appears to have been written by the lobbyists who have opposed to giving victims enhanced access to justice as it is filled with false statements of fact and specious reasoning. For those who have not been following these issues closely, the opponents of such legislation are the religious organizations, primarily the Roman Catholic bishops, and the insurance industry, which resists paying out on policies collected on years ago.
Brown starts with the nauseating statement that SOLs were hallowed in Roman law. Under Roman law, adults also owned slaves, and had the right to have sex with their young slaves. It was common practice. Thus, this is not the culture I would look to for guidance on how to deal with the laws surrounding child sex abuse.
Brown then justifies limits on child sex abuse SOLs, saying: “[A]ll jurisdictions have seen fit to bar actions after a lapse of years.” Not true. Many states have eliminated SOLs and a number of those passed the “window” Brown vetoed. As Brown himself notes, California passed an SOL window in 2003. This deeply flawed summary of state SOLs makes it apparent that Brown (or his aides) didn't study the issue themselves, but rather took the lies handed to them at face value.
Brown Misses the Mark on “Fairness”
Then Brown trots out “Fairness.” Let's talk some real fairness. As I discussed above, victims need decades to come forward. It is patently unfair to keep them out of court when the vast majority can't come forward before the SOL expires. That is the definition of justice denied. In addition, it is also unfair to our parents and children today to keep a muzzle on victims who know the identities of perpetrators, and know which institutions have harbored those perpetrators, but can't speak out for fear of being sued for defamation if they speak without having a live legal claim. Let's also pause for a moment to think carefully about Brown's call for “fairness” for the institutions that knowingly empowered perpetrators to sexually assault child after child. This is the mark of someone who is so ignorant on these issues, he can't find his moral compass.
Then, borrowing the Catholic bishops' signature move, Brown charges that the new SOL window is aimed at the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts. This is an outright fabrication, as the law has no such limitation. It is one thing for these organizations, whose behavior is already beyond despicable, to reach for the victim card, but it is quite another for a long-time politician like Democrat Brown to fall for it. Shame on Brown.
In fact, SB 131 was not perfect, because it did not cover public entities as well. But Brown is making the perfect the enemy of the good. If he (and the lobbyists who apparently drafted his statement) were sincere about access to justice for victims, he would have signed SB 131 with a strong message to California legislators to introduce legislation that would cover the victims that SB131 did not cover. Let's be clear here, the bishops and the Boy Scouts have no interest in affording access to justice for the victims of public entities. Their only concern is to ensure that they are not in the crosshairs of the legal consequences of their evil and illegal policies that endangered children.
Brown Miscalculates Who Has Paid More for Child Sex Abuse
Finally, Brown says the Church has paid enough already, so basically, let's leave it alone. The 2003 SOL California window was defective, though, because it lasted only one year and many survivors never heard about the law, or understood that their SOL window was closing. There was no public educational push; there were no PSAs that would have informed victims that they needed to act fast. A year is a very short time. The new window would have been highly publicly visible and would thus have accorded more victims access to justice.. Brown, instead, chose privilege for the Church and the Boy Scouts, and every other private institution that enabled abusers, as opposed to the needs of the California victims, whose hearts are now broken. There are thousands of victims who have paid the price for their victimization their entire lives, but Brown chose to insulate those who are responsible from their claims.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Put It Best
Three years before the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, he laid the foundation for his profound vision of true freedom. During a speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he pointed to the distance between the American dream and the reality for African Americans at the time. He blamed white supremacists for violating that dream, but did not stop there. He further charged that “our federal government has also scarred the dream through its apathy and hypocrisy, its betrayal of the cause of justice.” That describes you, Gov. Brown.
But survivors need to understand that this is just one step in the journey of this civil rights movement. Let's dream and fight on to find justice for child sex abuse victims in the states where legislators and governors will honor the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., and refuse to be co-opted by those who enslaved our children, deprived them of bodily integrity, and then sunk millions to block their paths to justice.
|Marci A. Hamilton is a professor of law at Cardozo School of Law, and the author of "Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children" which was just published in paperback with a new Preface. Her email address is: Hamilton02@aol.com
Ms. Hamilton is scheduled to be a special guest on NAASCA's Internet-based "Stop Child Abuse Now" talk radio show at 8pm EST on Mon, Oct 28th
Fight against child abuse loses another prominent voice
by Clare O'Toole
WASHINGTON , October 18, 2013 — The death in late summer of Fox News investigative reporter and producer Martin Burns, came as a heavy blow to the many child advocates and suffering parents who looked to Burns' award winning TV segments “Lost in the System,” to champion their fight for justice for child victims of abuse and trafficking.
His death has been added to a growing list of prominent child justice campaigners who all died just ahead of a planned release of either, a documentary containing highly sensitive information, or a bid for new legislation to contain child trafficking and abuse.
Burns died on August 25 while out hiking in the Angeles National Forest. The official autopsy report has been deferred for toxicology results. Early media statements attributed cause of death to a fall caused by a possible heart attack.
At time of writing, the LA County Homicide Department deemed it unnecessary to investigate. Some parents and child advocates fear the police are unaware of links between Burns' death and those of others who worked in a similar arena.
The LA County Coroner allegedly visited Burns' house on the day his body was discovered and reportedly told an inquisitive neighbor Burns had probably suffered a “catastrophic accident” but had only minor abrasions on his body from a fall.
According to a spokesman from the coroner's office, Burns' body was recovered from a location 30' east of the east edge of the Castle Canyon trail en route for Inspiration Point. Hikers familiar with the trail have commented they consider it unlikely Burns would have died from the fall alone and they suspect other factors were involved.
Blogs and social media comments by individuals who seek clarity on the circumstances of Burns' death draw specific attention to links with the deaths of three former Georgia state senators, Nancy Schaefer (R), Bobby Franklin (R) and Robert Brown (D) and documentary maker, Bill Bowen.
Although coming from a broad political spectrum, the three politicians were in agreement on child safety matters.
Schaefer was the most prominent investigator and supporter of issues affecting children's rights but also expressed reservations about rights for gays and lesbians that drew criticism. Shortly before her death, Schaefer agreed to an interview with “infowars.com” conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. Franklin was greatly derided for an extremist anti-abortion stance and for promoting legislation to criminalize miscarriages.
While some individual, extremist values stirred controversy, the sincerity of the three Georgia politicians' fight to combat child abuse has not been questioned.
All three were involved in exposing corruption and calling for legislation to control Child Protective Services (CPS) and remove unnecessary threats to child safety. The research, undertaken primarily by Schaefer, into the shortcomings of CPS when handling matters related to child abuse is widely considered valid.
All died within a two year period. Franklin was said to have died from heart disease while Brown, according to the coroner, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. Schaeffer died in an alleged murder/suicide incident said to have been perpetrated by her husband on March 26 2010. Many who knew the couple believe this highly unlikely and suggest an outside party was involved.
The deaths have been variously interpreted and details disputed. There have been many calls for further investigation to establish irrefutable cause of death in each case.
A few days before Schaefer's death, she announced the completion of a four-year documentary project she had personally funded to expose names and crimes against children. Following her death, the documentary failed to surface. Its whereabouts is still unknown.
Schaeffer was known to be friends with Bill Bowen, a former firefighter and federal law enforcement officer who released a 30 minute short documentary, “Innocence Destroyed.” Although a low-budget production, the film was greatly praised for overall professionalism and integrity toward subject matter. There was no question of political taint influencing Bowen's judgment. Bowen told a very credible story about systemic failings behind the prevalence of child abuse and trafficking.
“Innocence Destroyed” was intended as a precursor to a more probing, feature-length film. Some online chatter identifies Bowen's and Schaefer's documentaries as the same project. Washington Times Communities has so far been unable to confirm this theory. It is possible the full documentary was never finished since Bowen was discovered dead on a golf course mid-September 2010, six months after Schaefer's death, having allegedly gone there to meet someone interested in his work. He was found alone. Cause of death was said to have been a heart attack.
At the time, Bowen's sister Beverly responded to online speculation, writing;
|“While his death is untimely and because of his work, suspicious, it looks right now to be natural causes. I'm not saying that something would not have happened to him or that it wasn't possible. I'm just saying life intervened and got there first.”
As with Bill Bowen, Martin Burns was known to tackle the difficult subjects described by his colleague and Fox news anchor Araksya Karapetyan as; “investigative pieces on prescription drug fraud, welfare fraud, child care scams, illegal birthing centers, just to name a few.” His interests lead him to investigate drug cartels and individuals said to engage in child trafficking. He investigated alleged corruption in CPS and Family Courts.
Friends close to Burns have said he was aware he was investigating some dangerous people but it was typical of his personality to show a degree of nonchalance toward possible risk from anyone who might wish to harm him.
Karapetyan described working with Burns as, “ incredibly fulfilling – it's what being a journalist is all about- going out there, digging, researching, doing something for the community by uncovering abuses in the system and giving the voiceless a voice.”
Karapetyan's praise was echoed by a chorus of Fox 11 News personnel, whose comments on a special tribute page set up to remember Martin Burns, clearly showed he was respected, loved and valued and considered an inspiration and stabilizing influence by his colleagues.
VP and News Director Kingsley Smith described Burns as; “having made a personal difference in my professional life every day.” He wrote that whenever Burns stopped by to share a story, the deep passion and dedication in his work was obvious.
“Put simply, he was a caring soul. He never complained and always worked with grace and dignity. He is on the short list of people that no one ever complained about, ever. I will miss him. The newsroom will miss him. Our viewers will miss him.”
The station has not responded to speculative inquiries about Burns' death.
Tammi Stefano, Executive Director of the National Safe Child Coalition worked closely with Burns said, “Martin was one of the best investigative producers out there. He was covering issues too difficult for most to grasp, let alone cover, Children in danger by a flawed system, we were personal friends, I miss him every day.”
I Forgot What? Healing Through Memories
by Elisabeth Corey
A couple of weeks ago, my external life took a back seat to my internal life. Although my external life is pretty good these days, my internal life is pretty ugly. It is a series of traumatic experiences with emotions to match.
When it is time to pay attention to the internal life, it means my childhood memories are coming back.
And I had better pay attention. I had better be ready for some depression, some sadness, some anger that rivals a toddler's tantrums, some anxiety and some intense exhaustion. Needless to say, the external life starts to slow down a bit.
Don't get me wrong, the basic stuff still happens. The kids eat. They go to school. I go to work.
But phone calls get missed. The emails pile up. And obviously, the writing just doesn't happen.
There are entire nights of staring at the wall. There are a lot of naps. There are many self-care visits to therapeutic practitioners.
Over the years, I have learned what it takes to face the memories. These coping mechanisms are critical to my recovery. If I don't do them, there will be one result. I will get sick. I will get so sick that there will be no external life. Everything will stop. And as a single mother, that is simply not an option.
The latest memories are intense. As my coping mechanisms get stronger, so do the emotions I must address. These memories are clarifying a few things. First and foremost, I am accidentally alive. I already thought that. But now I know it for certain. The number of times I cheated death seem nothing short of miraculous. I was one heck of a kid.
More important, these memories are identifying some people in my childhood who may be helpful in putting my puzzle together. And for that, I am grateful.
I have been asked many times how the memory recovery process works. For me, it is a process. It is almost scientific. It starts the same way for every memory. I usually get joint pain. I call it “trauma body.” On the bad days, it can hurt to walk. When I was in my 20s, I thought I had arthritis. I probably did. It was arthritis caused by trauma.
Next, I get an unexplained burst of raw emotion. It could be any emotion. I will feel rage or extreme sadness which can provoke depression or suicidal thoughts. A turning point for my recovery process was the realization that these emotions were not associated with the present moment. Honestly, it is probably that realization that has saved my life.
Once the emotion passes, I start to get a glimpse of a place. It could be a place that I have already remembered. These days, after so many memories, it usually is. But the new memory will add a detail, a new person or a new aspect to the place.
The most surprising part of the internal process comes when my external life gets involved. Events from the present moment will serve as reminders of the past memory. I will try to remember a name only to hear it blurted out by a news anchor on the television. I will wonder what someone looked like only to meet an individual that looks just like him or her. I will drive by a house, and suddenly realize that the house is identical to the house in my memory.
When I least expect it, I'll remember something that will start to piece together a scenario in my mind. At first, it will seem relatively innocent. Maybe it will be a friend or a group of friends or a family event. Maybe it will be a party or a gathering.
Within a day of that understanding, the reality of the memory will hit me like a ton of bricks. It will leave me stunned. My first reaction is always the same: How could I forget that?
When I started my recovery, I would get frustrated when the memory recovery would start. I used to see the memories as a problem to be solved. I used to see them as reliving my pain. I don't anymore. Now, I see that my inner child feels comfortable enough to share new information with me. Now, I see memory recovery as another chance to heal from my trauma and integrate as a whole being.
Do I wish I could spend my adult life without this process? Sure. But I can't keep my head in the sand. With every memory comes physical and emotional relief. I am healing on all levels. I don't want to run away from that. I have been running for 30 years. It is time to remember. It is time to heal.
Elisabeth Corey is a survivor of family-controlled child sex trafficking and ritual sex abuse. Her education in social work and her personal experiences as a survivor inform her intimate discussion about the biological, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of trauma recovery, which she discusses on her blog at www.stolenchildhood.wordpress.com. She writes about breaking the cycle of abuse through conscious parenting, navigating intimate relationships as a survivor, balancing the memory recovery process with daily life, coping with self-doubt, and overcoming the physical symptoms of a traumatic childhood.
Mom of girl charged in Florida bullying suicide arrested on child abuse charges
by M. Alex Johnson
The mother of one of the two girls facing charges over the suicide of a bullied 12-year-old Florida girl was jailed Friday on child abuse charges in a case authorities say is unrelated to the felony case against her daughter.
Vivian Lee Vosburg, 30, of Lakeland was being held without bond in the Polk County Jail on two counts of child abuse with bodily harm and four counts of child neglect, the sheriff's office said.
Vosburg is the mother of one of two girls who are charged with third-degree felony stalking in the suicide of Rebecca Sedwick, 12, who jumped to her death from a third-story cement plant structure in central Florida last month after having been verbally, physically and cyber bullied throughout 2012 and 2013.
Both girls have been released into their parents' custody, and authorities stressed that the case announced Friday is unrelated to that investigation.
Polk County, Fla., Sheriff Grady Judd discusses the two counts of child abuse and four counts of child neglect brought Friday against Vivian Vosburg.
According to the sheriff's affidavit, deputies acting on several tips identified Vosburg on a video posted to Facebook showing a woman punching and screaming profanities at two 12-year-old boys who had been fighting.
Four other children are seen in the video, which was posted in July by one of the children, investigators said. The sheriff's office said Vosburg has "access" to all six children.
According to the affidavit, Vosburg told investigators Thursday that she was the woman in the video and acknowledged punching one of the boys in the face and the other in the back of the head and shoulders. She said she knew she shouldn't have hit them, according to the affidavit.
Sheriff Grady Judd said the was still on Facebook as recently as Friday morning.
"This clearly indicates to us that this appears to be a normal way of life," Judd said at a news conference. "They're laughing and cussing and throwing the F-bomb around, then they're posting that conduct for all to see."
Of Vosburg's daughter, he said: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
Vosburg was held pending a preliminary court appearance Saturday morning. She shook her head "no" when she was asked whether she had any comment as she was taken in handcuffs to be booked Friday.
Sugar Ray Leonard Joins the Board of Directors of the "Let Go…Let Peace Come in Foundation
Sugar Ray Leonard's goal is to Inform humanity of the impact Childhood Sexual Abuse causes throughout an adult's life.
Plymouth Meeting, PA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/18/2013 -- Olympic gold medalist and world-champion boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, who has been publicly sharing his own story as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse since the release of his memoir, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring, in 2011, has announced he has joined the board of directors of the“Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation” to help and support adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world.
“Nobody wants to talk about childhood sexual abuse,” Leonard says in his interview with the “Daily News”. “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 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.”
Like many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Leonard found himself turning to substance abuse to drown out the deep pain he felt within himself as a result of being abused by a former Olympic coach and a male benefactor while he was still in his early teens. In addition victims of child sexual abuse often manifest psychological and physical repercussions including:Anxiety disorders and depression, Suicidal ideation and attempts, Eating disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Sleep disorders and Multiple addictions.
“Many people do not understand just how devastating childhood sexual abuse can be,” says Peter S. Pelullo, founder of the “Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation” and author of “Betrayal and the Beast,” in which he reveals his struggles as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. But there is nothing innocent about one person forcing themselves in a physical or emotional manner on another human being—no matter what any of their ages are.”
Mr. Leonard, now retired, was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses and is the only man ever to win five world titles in five different weight divisions. He was given the Mark Grossinger Etess Award for being named the “boxer of the decade” in the 1980s by journalists and fans around the world.
“Sugar Ray is a major addition to our organization and board of directors,” says Mr. Pelullo. “Here's a five-time world champion coming forward, telling countless men and women who are afraid that it's okay for them to come forward too. I believe Ray will help open the doors of corporate America, where literally millions of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are working every day.”
Peter S. Pelullo is an entrepreneur and financier focusing on technology startups. During his journey in recovery, he created the Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation, which supports adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world.
For complete information, please visit: http://www.letgoletpeacecomein.org
The high cost of negligence
by Jamie Dean
BRADENTON, Fla.—From the floor-to-ceiling windows on the sixth floor of the Manatee County Courthouse, a sweeping view extends across the Manatee River as it spills into Tampa Bay. The skies darkened as heavy rains poured down here in Bradenton, Fla., on a September day. In courtroom 6-A, another storm brewed: Jeremy Bicha, 29, seated behind a wide defense table, heard testimony from two women he'd already admitted to sexually abusing when they were young girls.
The women gave shocking details about the abuse. When the district attorney asked the women to describe their relationship to the defendant, each gave equally shocking answers: “He is my brother.”
The tragedy of sexual abuse in a family once involved in local churches and stationed on a foreign mission field only deepens: Adults also connected to their community knew about the abuse while the girls were minors but didn't report it to authorities. Those adults include a Christian schoolteacher, a longtime pastor—and the parents of Bicha and his sisters.
As adults, two of Bicha's sisters he abused reported the abuse to police in 2010. Bicha pleaded no contest to charges of sexual battery. When Circuit Court Judge Thomas Krug sentenced him on Sept. 27 for crimes committed as a youth, he also castigated the adults who failed to report those crimes: “Frankly, they deserve to be in prison.”
Krug's statement carries legal weight. Florida state law mandates any adult who suspects or knows about a case of child sexual abuse to report it to authorities. Failure to report carries a maximum penalty of $5,000 or five years in prison.
Florida isn't alone: Eighteen states require adults who suspect child abuse or neglect to report it to authorities. Twenty-seven states specifically mandate pastors to report suspected abuse. In other states, schoolteachers, childcare workers, physicians, and other adults who interact with children are required to report child abuse.
In Bicha's case, the statute of limitations has expired to prosecute adults who failed to report the abuse when the children were minors. But the consequences of that failure persist.
Jennifer Bicha—one of the sisters who testified in September—spoke extensively with me about her experience and agreed to WORLD's reporting it. At 26, she hopes her story will help other abuse survivors. She also hopes it will motivate adults—especially those in churches—to understand the critical importance of reporting abuse when they suspect it.
High-profile sex-abuse scandals of the Catholic Church and at Penn State University disturbed many over the last decade, but a slate of churches and Christian organizations also face questions about confronting—or sweeping away—sexual abuse.
How those groups handle sexual-abuse cases has more than legal implications. For Jennifer, the failure of professing Christians to intervene inflicted spiritual damage common among other abuse survivors: It confounded her thoughts about God and damaged her trust in the church that should have protected her.
“When nobody dealt with it, it shattered my faith,” she said. “When you have so many secrets, it shatters everything.”
DEALING WITH CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE isn't a new challenge, but it's a massive one: The U.S. Department of Justice estimates an average of one child molester per square mile in the United States.
Statistics vary widely, but some estimates say as many as one out of four girls and one out of six boys endure sexual abuse by age 18. With 75 million children in the United States, that means nearly 15 million children could face sexual abuse in the next 18 years.
For Jennifer Bicha, abuse began early. She grew up with her brother and two sisters in several different states. Their father was a Christian schoolteacher, and the family regularly attended church, but home life was severe: During the September hearing, several family members testified that the siblings' father was physically and emotionally abusive. Fear ruled the home.
By the time she was 9, Jennifer's brother Jeremy, then 12, began a pattern of regular sexual abuse that grew aggressive, then violent, and escalated into rape.
She feared telling her father, but when Jennifer was 11 he discovered the abuse: Jeremy and Jennifer both testified their father walked in on an incident of serious sexual abuse in Jennifer's bedroom. Instead of intervening, her father punished both children. Neither parent reported the abuse to authorities.
Jennifer says her abuse spanned at least three years, but she first told a Christian schoolteacher about it when she was 15. The teacher told the family's longtime pastor in Florida. The pastor spoke with Jennifer's father and trusted him to respond. No one reported the abuse to authorities.
Jeremy joined the Navy, and Jennifer enrolled at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. She sought counseling from a university staff member for her trauma, but didn't find it helpful. Her symptoms, common among abuse survivors, grew worse: She had nightmares, flashbacks, and depression. “I couldn't eat and I couldn't sleep,” she said. “I was just crashing.”
By her junior year, Jennifer learned her brother had married, and he talked about having children. The possibility of him harming another child terrified Jennifer: “I couldn't live with that.”
For the first time, Jennifer spoke with her sisters about Jeremy's abuse. Her younger sister acknowledged similar abuse and agreed to file a police report in Florida in 2010.
Jennifer says most of her family shunned her for reporting, but the authorities in Florida took it seriously. She remembers a prosecutor telling her: “Every adult in your life has failed you.”
But even as her faith began to crack, Jennifer held onto hope. “The Bible talks about God being a father to the fatherless,” she says. “I clung to that passage, even though I didn't know how it applied to me.”
ADULTS MAY NOT INTEND TO FAIL victims of sexual abuse, but experts say churches make a common mistake of trying to handle abuse allegations on their own.
Sometimes that's because church leaders don't realize many states mandate they report suspected or known child sexual abuse. Even in cases where the law might not mandate a report, Victor Vieth of the National Child Protection Training Center says every adult should ask: “Even if I'm not mandated to report, is someone else going to be in danger if I don't?”
The question is relevant to current cases in some evangelical churches. Nathaniel Morales faces a November trial in Maryland for charges of molesting four teenage boys while a member of Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Md., in the late 1980s.
CLC was part of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) until it withdrew from the association of churches last year. In May, a Maryland judge dismissed a civil lawsuit against SGM that accused some church leaders of covering up rampant child sexual abuse. The case is on appeal.
The charges Morales faces this month in Maryland comprise a separate, criminal case. That case began in 2009 when a former member of CLC reported to police Morales sexually abused him as a teenager in the late 1980s.
The police report says the alleged victim first disclosed his abuse to his parents when he was 22 or 23 years old—about five years after he says the abuse ended.
The report says Grant Layman, a pastor at CLC, said he had “vague recollections” from 15 to 20 years ago of speaking with the alleged victim's father about the abuse. The report also states Layman and another CLC pastor, Ernest Boisvert, confronted Morales about the allegations, though it's unclear when those conversations took place.
If the conversations occurred after the victim was 18, it's likely church leaders weren't mandated by law to report the abuse. But apart from legal questions, it's unclear if the church attempted to advise other church members or other congregations about Morales' history.
When police arrested Morales in February on abuse charges that included 10 counts of molesting four boys, he was living in Nevada and working as a pastor. According to the police report, he had married a woman with five sons from a previous marriage.
A statement on the CLC website in February said the church didn't know about abuse allegations against Morales until “many years after the abuse when an adult who had been victimized as a child came forward.” CLC spokesman Don Nalle said he couldn't comment on questions about Morales because of the civil lawsuit against the church.
The Affirming Pentecostal Church (APC), a small association of Pentecostal churches that affirms homosexuality among its members, listed Nate Morales as an associate bishop in 2011. The group's website included a blog post and photo of Morales during the same year.
Earlier this year Prestonwood Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation of about 15,000 in Plano, Texas, faced questions about how it handled a past allegation of abuse. Its former youth worker, John Langworthy, pleaded guilty in Mississippi to five of eight counts of molestation involving five boys in the early 1980s. A judge gave Langworthy a 50-year suspended sentence.
Mike Buster, an executive pastor at Prestonwood, told a local news station in 2011 the church received an allegation in 1989 that Langworthy had “acted inappropriately with a teenage student.” The pastor said the church dismissed Langworthy, and that “the elected officers dealt with the matter firmly and forthrightly.” Buster didn't say whether church officers filed a police report. WORLD requested further comment, and Buster replied in an email, saying nothing had changed from the church's original statement.
Langworthy went on to work as a music minister at Morrison Heights Baptist Church and a high school choir director in Clinton Public Schools. He resigned both positions in 2011.
CHILD-SAFETY ADVOCATES say it's not uncommon for church leaders to try to handle abuse allegations themselves.
During a panel discussion at a recent conference on childhood sexual abuse at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, S.C., abuse experts said churches often worry about false allegations. But false accusations comprise a small percentage of reports on child sexual abuse.
The panel also addressed church leaders' concerns about Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18 to confront Christians about their sins first. North Hills pastor Peter Hubbard noted if a church member committed murder or robbery, pastors likely wouldn't feel angst about approaching the offender before reporting him to the police.
Hubbard also noted the command in Romans 13 to submit to civil authorities as those God appoints to inflict punishment on evildoers: “When we refuse to report abuse we are really hindering God's divine institution of carrying out His wrath against criminals.”
According to Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center, when church leaders conduct their own investigations before reporting abuse to authorities, they also may give offenders the opportunity to destroy evidence or threaten a victim into silence.
Experts say churches should develop robust child-protection policies (see sidebar below), but they should also prepare plans for how to respond to allegations.
To that end, Ryan Ferguson, an associate pastor at North Hills, has begun visiting the Julie Valentine Center (JVC), a local organization combating sexual assault and child abuse. On a recent afternoon visit, JVC director Shauna Galloway-Williams gave a tour of the facilities, including counseling rooms filled with toys and poster board, and an exam room where two forensic pediatricians conduct more than 200 medical exams each year on children dealing with abuse.
Galloway-Williams says she's encouraged to see churches reaching out to the organization, and says it helps her group point clients with spiritual needs in the right direction.
Ferguson says learning more about JVC's resources has helped the church better prepare and respond to cases of abuse. He encourages other church leaders to connect with local authorities before a crisis hits.
“We don't put our faith in the organizations themselves but in a sovereign God who has established government for the good of His people,” said Ferguson. “As soon as we feel like circling the wagons, we need to do the exact opposite.”
BACK IN FLORIDA, Jennifer Bicha was trying to move past adults who had circled the wagons. After she reported her brother's abuse to police in 2010, naval investigators questioned Jeremy, who was stationed overseas. He admitted everything.
In a statement to naval lawyers, Jeremy detailed the abuse of his sisters and admitted to inappropriately touching his third sister and two other non-family members when he was a teenager. He told investigators, “I have mostly dealt with this by putting it behind me and forgetting.”
Florida prosecutors weren't forgetting: The U.S. Navy discharged Jeremy, and when he reached U.S. soil, authorities arrested him. He eventually pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 while he was under 18. His defense attorney asked for less than a year in the county jail. The prosecutor asked for 15 years in state prison.
By the morning of the sentencing hearing, Jennifer gathered in a local hotel with a small group of friends who traveled to Florida to support her. One was John O'Malley, the director of her father's former mission board. The board dismissed Jennifer's father from the ministry around the time of her police report, and O'Malley came to Florida to offer personal support.
Jennifer asked for prayer for family members, including her estranged mother, who supported her brother's hopes for a light sentence. She also asked for prayers for peace: “I need to walk away knowing I did the right thing.”
O'Malley reminded her of the passage in Mark 7 when Jesus astonished a community by healing a man who was mute. “For years you've had no voice,” O'Malley told her. “For years no one listened to you. I believe that will change today. I believe the community will hear.”
By 1:30 p.m., a small community was listening. A handful of family members arrived to support Jeremy, including his wife, who brought their 1-month-old son—a sight that shook Jennifer.
Jennifer's younger sister testified via Skype from another state about the damage her brother's abuse caused. She used words like “sullied, impure, and worthless” to describe how she had felt: “You took away my innocence.”
Jennifer gave similar testimony. She used words like “terror, dread, panic?…?So many words, yet none can scratch the surface of fear that suffocates my life.”
The two sisters would prove the only witnesses on their behalf. Over the next six hours, an aunt, an uncle, Jeremy's wife, and his mother all testified on Jeremy's behalf for a lighter sentence. They didn't dispute his guilt, but they blamed a repressive upbringing and an abusive father.
When the sibling's mother took the stand, she admitted she knew about Jeremy's abuse: “I kept silent when I shouldn't have. I should have done more to protect my children.”
She also said she didn't want Jeremy to suffer for a difficult upbringing, and said he had not expressed anger at his sisters for pressing charges: “I've never heard him blame them.” She worried about his fate in prison and said, “He will never be free from this.”
As he took the stand late in the day, Jeremy made a similar defense. He admitted what he had done, but cited his difficult home life. He asked to avoid time in state prison and having his name placed on the sex-offender registry: “I believe punishment should have an end, and the sex-offender registry has no end.”
By the end of the day, Jennifer was absorbing her family testifying on her brother's behalf. “No matter what the sentence is, it's going to be hard,” she said. “I wonder: Have I made any kind of difference?”
TWO DAYS LATER, Jeremy arrived at court in jeans and a T-shirt—prepared to leave the courtroom for a jail cell.
After closing arguments, the judge acknowledged the gravity of the case: “It was almost unbearable for this court to hear that a mother and father exist who would raise children in this manner.”
The judge sentenced Jeremy to three years in state prison on each count of abuse, and ordered him to serve the sentences concurrently. He could be out on parole in two years. The judge also sentenced him to five years' probation and said Jeremy would be designated a sex predator.
The court remained tense and silent as bailiffs surrounded Jeremy and handcuffed him. He stood a few feet away from Jennifer as court officers fingerprinted him near an exit. Jennifer wiped away tears. A door opened, and her brother was gone.
A few minutes later, Jennifer sat in a small room processing the events. “Honestly I'm just trying to hold myself together right now. … But I know I fought as hard as I could to do what needed to be done.” She hopes her experience will help other survivors and the adults who could protect them from sexual abuse.
One person who's already persuaded is Wayne Golson, the childhood pastor who didn't report Jennifer's abuse when he learned about it years earlier. Now an interim pastor at a church in North Carolina, Golson says he realizes he was wrong.
Jennifer encouraged Golson to attend the conference in Greenville and hopes the experience will help bring positive change. Golson says he didn't know the laws and the procedures about reporting abuse, and assumed Jennifer's father would take care of it: “I didn't do enough. … I look back and I just think, I should have helped her more.”
The pastor says he spent a recent Sunday school hour outlining what he had learned at the conference about abuse and would recommend a policy manual to his church's advisory board for child-safety protections. If any other pastors wonder what they should do if they suspect abuse, Golson says his counsel would be clear: “Without a doubt, go to the authorities.”
For now, Jennifer plans to continue a career she enjoys as a hospital nurse. She hopes in time to find a church where she feels safe and can ask the questions that continue to haunt her. But she says she's still convinced: “I know my God is good and that He can heal. If there's a way He can bring beauty out of my story, then it's worth telling.”
Guarding the lambs
The Christian organization GRACE—an acronym for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment—offers several common-sense suggestions for developing child-protection policies at local churches:
• Consult child-abuse experts or local authorities when developing policies
• Make connections with local authorities and child-abuse organizations before a crisis strikes, and develop a strategy for how your congregation would respond to abuse allegations
• Consider background screening for adults regularly volunteering with youth or children
• Require at least two adults (from two different households) at functions for children or youth
• Offer safety education training in youth group settings
• Keep your antennas up: A reasonable eye for suspicious behavior isn't judgmental, it's protective
For more resources on child protection and mandatory reporting laws, consider:
• GRACE: netgrace.org
• National Child Protection Training Center: ncptc.org
• U.S Department of Health and Human Services for mandatory reporting laws at childwelfare.gov
Parishioner warned Archdiocese of priest's possible correspondence with minor
by Madeleine Baran
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A parishioner in Mahtomedi, Minn., warned a top deputy at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2004 that a priest's computer may have included inappropriate correspondence with a minor.
In a letter to then-vicar general Kevin McDonough, parishioner Kate Ternus described her concerns about the contents of the Rev. Jonathan Shelley's computer. Her family received Shelley's used computer in 2004, and the archdiocese later determined it contained "borderline illegal" pornography.
The letter dated Sept. 17, 2004 mentions a local Catholic high school and could indicate for the first time that Shelley's behavior may have gone beyond pornography. It includes the first name of the person with whom Shelley corresponded and raised concerns that that person might be Shelley's "boyfriend."
"What if [the individual] is a freshman soccer player? What if he's a recent graduate of St. Jude School?" Ternus wrote in the letter. "What if this actually is more than a matter of questionable taste? It feels like peeling an onion as layer after layer comes away."
Shelley, who remains on a leave of absence, has told MPR News that he did not do anything illegal. MPR News is not naming the person with whom Shelley may have corresponded because he may have been a minor at the time.
Ternus, reached Thursday, said she remains frustrated with church leaders.
"I am a parent first and a Catholic second and lately even more removed," she said. "If that had been a kindergarten teacher I would have been concerned."
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, following a series of investigative reports by MPR News. The reports detailed how top church officials failed to warn parishioners about a priest's sexual misconduct, did not report images on Shelley's computer to police that may been of minors, and gave extra payments to priests who sexually abused children.
A FAMILY'S DISCOVERY
In 2004, the son of Kate Ternus, Joe Ternus, turned on the computer to install video games for his children and discovered thousands of sexually explicit images. He and his family alerted the archdiocese.
When the archdiocese's private investigator found the computer contained "borderline illegal" images of young males, church officials did not call police and instead debated whether the images met the legal definition of child pornography.
Police learned of the images this year when archdiocese canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger called authorities. Haselberger, who resigned in April, said she showed several images that appeared to be child pornography to Archbishop John Nienstedt but he declined to take any action.
In response to Haselberger's report, St. Paul police asked the archdiocese to turn over evidence from Shelley's computer. Church officials provided three discs they said were copies of the images. Police never received the hard drive and couldn't find any child pornography. They closed the case a few weeks ago without charges. In a police report, lead investigator Sgt. William Gillet question whether the archdiocese turned over all the evidence.
"It should be noted I do not have the computer as we were told that was destroyed many years ago," Gillet wrote. "Whether these discs given to me were the actual discs or copies of those discs after first asking for them, I do not know nor will I most likely ever know."
Police reopened the case last week after receiving more evidence. A spokesman for the archdiocese said that it is cooperating with the latest investigation.
POLICE WIDEN INQUIRY
At a news conference Thursday, St. Paul Police Commander Mary Nash asked all victims of clergy sexual abuse to call police. "Based on this investigation and previous investigations, the St. Paul police department is seeking victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church," Nash said.
Nash wouldn't say why she took the rare step of asking victims of Catholic priests to call police. She declined to speculate on how many people she expected to step forward.
"We could have one, which is one too many," she said. "We could have 100. We will not know until people are comfortable enough to tell their story."
Nash said victims should call police at 651-291-1111.
St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents abuse victims, said the news conference shows St. Paul police are worried victims may contact the archdiocese instead.
"I think it's an authentic law enforcement attempt to reach the survivors directly and to invite them to know that they can come to them directly and safely," Anderson said. "They can trust them and they probably shouldn't trust the archdiocese to handle this."
In a statement released after the news conference, the archdiocese said anyone who has been abused or suspects abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult should contact law enforcement first.
The plight of male victims || New Israeli legislation aims to change the definition of rape as we know it
Unlike other Western countries, the definition of rape in Israeli law is narrow, specifying an act perpetrated by males on females. New legislation may help change that perception, which some claim ignores the plight of male victims of sexual assault.
by Lauren Gelfond Feldinger
For years, Israeli child-protection officials have looked on in despair as female pedophiles and incestuous mothers brought to court for molesting boys were never even charged with rape.
“It happened several times that teachers or mothers of boys were charged with [on the basis of] facts describing rape [i.e., forced sexual intercourse], and the offense could not be [referred to legally as] rape, and that's of course absurd,” said attorney Vered Windman, head of the legal department of the Israel National Council for the Child. “One mother had intercourse with two of her sons but was indicted for indecent acts, not rape.”
According to Israeli law, “indecent acts” is a less grave charge than rape and carries a less severe penalty. Article 345 of The Penal Law ?(1977? ) defines rape as penetration of a female by a body part or object, without consent. Therefore, only females can be the victim of rape, and females cannot be accused of raping a boy. In contrast to Canada, Australia, South Africa and Western European countries, Israel is the only country which in its laws specifies the gender of the victim of sexual assault.
According to experts, many male Israeli victims of sexual assault feel that the country's legal definition of rape is not only unjust, but also mirrors a broader problem: the fact that society does not recognize that males are frequently subject to sexual assault, and that it is an equally traumatic experience for them as female victims.
In this country, as elsewhere, rape is, of course, a particularly critical issue for women. According to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, the situation in Israel basically reflects that in the West: About one in three women has experienced some form of sexual abuse, and about one in five has experienced rape, the ARCCI says. But sexual abuse is also a critical issue for males. The National Male Hotline, which is operated by the association, reports that up to age 12, boys and girls in Israel are sexually molested at the same rate, and one in six males is molested during his lifetime. These are roughly the same rates reported in the United States.
While some research in the West shows a lower frequency of male molestation, all studies show that regardless of the gender of the victim, such acts occur frequently. The relevant studies present widely diverse data and conclusions, depending on how rape is defined, and on where and how information is collected. For example, some countries, especially in the Middle East, only collect statistics involving rape based on crime reports or convictions. However, many male and female victims alike do not want to report incidents of rape to the authorities, so the data are very inaccurate. In the U.S., the FBI changed its definition of rape to gender-neutral language earlier this year to help improve the accuracy of data collected.
To help Israeli boys who have been victims of sexual violence to get better representation in the courtroom, the Israel National Council for the Child, with the backing of MK Yariv Levin, is now preparing to submit a petition requesting that the Knesset and Justice Ministry put a 2010 bill back on the agenda. This legislation is aimed at changing the gender-limited language in existing rape-related laws. The petition will likely be filed in the coming days.
For more than a decade, the issue of gender in such legislation has been debated at the Knesset, at the urging of the NCC. Most recently, discussion of the 2010 bill stalled due to disagreements over whether a victim of rape should be called a “person” or a “minor.” The Justice Ministry has pushed for “person,” but women's organizations argue that the language proposed for “person” would allow adult male rapists to use the language that child victims can and claim that, “she made me do it.”
Windman said that this time she will press the Knesset and the Ministry of Justice to use the word “minor,” with the hope that both feminist organizations and the Justice Ministry will prefer “partial change rather than no change.”
If such legislation is passed, women could be indicted on the charge of raping a male minor ? (i.e., up to the age of 18 ? ), and said minor can be seen as the victim of rape if he is coerced into performing sexual intercourse.
The ARCCI will be promoting related bills this Knesset session, including one drawn up by MKs Michal Rosin ? (Meretz ? ) and Miri Regev ? (Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ? ) requiring the training of health, welfare and education professionals in how to identify and report female and male child sexual abuse as a requirement for receiving or renewing their licenses. The association is also working with Rosin on a bill proposing to lengthen the statute of limitations on charging a family member with child sexual assault, rape and sodomy.
The controversy surrounding the use of gender in local legislation relating to rape reflects broader gender-related attitudes in society, victims and experts say. According to Dr. Hanita Zimrin, founder of ELI: The Israel Association for Child Protection, sexual abuse was always considered here to be a female issue, and there is not yet enough awareness that it also happens frequently to males. Today, her organization gets about 7,200 calls a month regarding sexual assault, and at least half concern the molestation of boys. These cases, Zimrin noted, show a rate of “about 50-50” with respect to male vs. female perpetrators. About 20 percent of callers are perpetrators looking for help.
“The police, organizations and welfare authorities know sexual abuse of boys [is] a massive phenomenon,” Zimrin said. “Many of the boy victims are under age 10 and some are under age 5.”
She added that Israel's macho culture reinforces the idea that males should be able to protect themselves. “Girls are ‘allowed' to be victims, and boys are not. Society accepts reports [of abuse] from girls much more than from boys,” she said. “We have to increase awareness that victims are boys and girls, and they are not responsible [for what happens]. Their perpetrator is responsible.”
When seeking victims, pedophiles and other serious sexual deviants “hunt down” vulnerable children who are lonely, rejected or hungry for attention, but this has nothing to do with gender, she added.
Local child welfare organizations do not make the same distinctions as the law does between rape, sodomy and indecent sexual acts. “It is already emotionally hard enough for boys to be a victim of sexual assault, and especially when the semantics of law do not call it rape,” said Eran Hahn, head of the National Hotline for Men. “Men can't be raped, according to society's ‘mythology.' The law mirrors that reality and keeps the myth alive.”
The hotline receives about 1,500 calls a year, some from perpetrators seeking help, but mostly from victims ranging from ages 14 to 21, the majority of whom were molested by boys and men. If the victims are under 14, they are referred to ELI. There are also cases of men between the ages of 25 and 35 being molested, Hahn said, but often “male survivors make the phone calls [to report the incident] 10 to 30 years afterward; it takes time to process.”
Hahn: “Society believes that the person who is penetrated was always the one raped; when a boy has an erection he is seen as consenting. So if a mother forces her son to have sex [by physical or emotional threat or manipulation], by law he was not raped. But it is a wound if a boy is forced to penetrate. It's happening in every part of society secular and religious.”
But even if the definition of rape is changed, legislation relating to acts of sodomy should be merged with statutes concerning rape because, “the experience of violation is not different if it is an anus or vagina,” Hahn said. “In Israel, like in the U.S., most perpetrators are known ... Ninety percent are neighbors, family, teachers, school or community-center counselors.”
Speaking out on film
The year 2007 marked the first time a documentary film was made in Israel in which the story of a male victim of sexual assault spoke out. The movie, by filmmaker Isri Halpern, won critical acclaim and portrayed the victim - in this case, Halpern himself - seeking out his ? (male ? ) perpetrator on camera. In “Boys Do Cry” ? (“Yeled Mutar,” in Hebrew ? ), Halpern is searching for the once-beloved maintenance worker who attacked him at the age of 9, in the school locker room after a Scouts event.
Halpern, who earlier this year won the DocAviv best documentary award for “Pole, Dancer, Movie” ? (about pole-dancing artist Neta Lee Levy ? ), says today that he still gets mail from men and women saying that “Boys Do Cry” gave them courage to talk about their experiences, and that it changed their lives. After a recent screening, an older man who sells Halpern bourekas every morning grabbed his arm, with tears in his eyes.
“He said, ‘the same thing happened to me,'” Halpern said. “It is easier for people to identify with someone who has a career, looks normal ...”
Another local filmmaker, Menahem Roth, who grew up in a Haredi community, also documented his efforts to confront his molester - a rabbi who attacked him when he was 11 - in the 2012 documentary “Pursued” ? (“Raduf,” in Yiddish and Hebrew. ? )
“Rape has nothing to do with gender,” Roth explained. “In Israeli society ... men are expected and educated to be fighters and once you [can't protect yourself], you don't fit in.”
Because the law “minimizes the issue” of male rape, rapists can convince themselves and others that they are not acting as rapists when they force sex on males, he added. Traditional Jewish law also minimizes rape and makes it female-centered, such as in “Mishneh Torah,” where Maimonides addresses rape as constituting a loss of property to a father because of “damage” to his daughter, Roth said.
Chaim - not his real name - did not want to identify his family or community background. But since being molested in a yeshiva as a child, he has spent three decades thinking about why there is so much silence around the issue of sexual abuse in the religious community.
“People are ashamed to speak of problems their kids have. True, it could harm their kid's reputation if people knew the kid was molested ... but if they would have the manpower, money and organizational skills to deal with the problem, I wouldn't mind if they dealt with it secretly,” he said.
“Instead, boys are kicked out of yeshivas for sexual activity, and they end up on the street or secular. There is a [lack] of social workers. No one [who is young and Haredi] knows about the hotlines. We need to raise awareness, and there needs to be [someone to trust] professionals in every community that people can speak to, and maybe if the police would have more Haredi officers, you would feel they were on your side.”
Chaim, 41, who today defines himself as Orthodox, is now considering going back to school to become a social worker or psychologist to help the boys in his community in a way that he was never helped.
For more information, call the Rape Crisis Centers in Israel Hotlines - men: 1203; religious men: 02-532-8000; women: 1202; religious women: 02-673-0002; Arabic speakers: 04-656-6813. The Israel Association for Child Protection Hotline - 1800-223-966.
Domestic Violence Coalition has help for victims
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The local Domestic Violence Coalition theme for this year is Choose to Cherish.
The local domestic violence program is striving to support individuals who have experienced family violence and educate the community on the dynamics of intimate partner abuse.
Domestic violence impacts every neighborhood, school, and church the community. In 2012, there were 29 domestic violence related deaths in Utah; three of the 29 deaths were from the Carbon County area. Already, in 2013, Price has experienced two domestic violence deaths.
Domestic violence presents itself in different forms such as verbal, psychological, intimidation, the use of physical threats, bodily harm and stalking. Just as abuse may take many forms, eliminating the family violence requires different interventions.
Some interventions may require immediate separation between the victim and the offender in order to prevent physical harm. If this is necessary, there is a domestic violence shelter for individuals to go to if he/she is not able to obtain other accommodations.
Counseling and support group are also available for both the victims and the offender as additional interventions. In some instances, legal action may be required to protect the victim. In any event, the first step is to contact the professionals who are trained to help you assess the problem and the solution. Some options include victim advocates at our local police agencies and the domestic violence shelter.
The Colleen Quigley Women's Center is available for the protection of a domestic violence victim and their children. The goal of the shelter is to provide a safe place to stay, comfortable living accommodations, emotional support, education on the cycle of violence, court advocacy, and community referrals.
In addition, there is 24-hour support available on the Domestic Violence Hotline (435-637-6589). Accommodations are available for men who have been victimized.
When domestic violence continually occurs it causes serious emotional and/or physical damage to the entire family and there is a potential that the violence will escalate to a point where a parent may need to leave for the children's safety. Children who are living in a violent home are far more likely to become abusive adults and/or to become victimized themselves, it is crucial that all forms of family violence be stopped.
Family violence in the presence of a child is considered abuse and living in such an environment is extremely damaging to children.
If a protective order has been obtained, keep a copy with you at all times. Make copies of the protective or restraining order for employer, school, etc., and keep one in your car.
Once a person leaves an abusive situation, the separation actually increases the risk of serious injury for the domestic violence survivor. It is not uncommon for persons who have been abused to return to their abuser several times before they leave permanently.
If you or a loved one is experiencing an abusive relationship, please call the Colleen Quigley Women's Center, 436-637-6589, and/or the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, 1-800-897-LINK (5465), for support and assistance in breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
Child abuse policy improved in parts of Mid-Michigan
by Andrew Keller
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -- If the walls inside the Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Council building could talk, chances are you wouldn't want to hear the stories they would tell.
The two interview rooms inside the building hold the deep, dark secrets of child abuse.
"The majority are sexual abuse cases, we interviewed close to 500 children, and that's just the tip of the iceberg," said Suzanne Greenberg, referring to last year's numbers.
Greenberg is the CEO of the CAN Council.
On Thursday night, she and leaders from the local law enforcement community signed new policies and procedures that are geared toward improving how they handle abuse cases.
"The protocol signing is very important because it brings all the entities together that work on child abuse and neglect," said Kim Bejcek, director of the Bay County Department of Human Services.
Police chiefs, prosecutors and social workers from Saginaw and Bay County signed off on the improved policies. One of the biggest procedural changes that comes with Thursday's signing allows abused children to be videotaped while they are being interviewed by investigators. It's something Bay County already does and now Saginaw County will do.
"The idea here is to centralize our efforts, so people, victims, kids, families aren't put through multiple interviews and really put through the ringer with going through the process of prosecuting a perpetrator," said Saginaw County Prosecutor John McColgan.
McColgan said the weight of the story captured on video could help land more of the abusers in jail.
"This may enhance our chances and our ability to obtain pleas and be able to keep them out of court and keep them from being subject to being face to face with the perpetrator," said McColgan.
McColgan said children will have to face the person who assaulted them if the case makes it to court.
But with videotape evidence, he said he believes it increases the chances the perpetrator will plea.
Top prosecutor backs new guidelines on child sex abuse cases
NEW guidelines insisting victims should not be judged on clothes they have been wearing or what they have had to drink will prove key in the fight against child sexual abuse, says the region's top prosecutor.
Claire Lindley, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Mersey-Cheshire, said the new approach on prosecuting cases marks a “fundamental change”.
It confirms that action on child sexual abuse cases should be based on whether the allegation itself is credible rather than if there are any supposed weaknesses in the person making it.
The guidelines include a list of common myths and stereotypes that have impacted on these cases in the past, including the clothes a victim may have been wearing or if they had been drinking.
The guidelines were launched today (Thursday, October 17) by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, QC and follow a three month public consultation.
The CPS is also publishing a joint protocol for the sharing of relevant information about vulnerable children between all agencies, including the police, social services, schools and the family courts.
“This is one of the biggest changes in this area for many, many years," said Claire Lindley.
“This states clearly that a victim's experience should not be invalidated because of what they wore at the time of the alleged attack, or if they'd been drinking or had been in a relationship with the accused, for example.
“For too long, falsely held beliefs and misconceptions about what a victim should be like have got in the way of these cases. “These changes mean these cases will be investigated and prosecuted differently, whatever the vulnerabilities of the victim.”
The CPS has issued a list of the commonly held myths that surround child sex abuse cases so they can be actively challenged in court. These will also be sent to judges.
• The victim invited sex by the way they dressed or acted.
• The victim used alcohol or drugs and was therefore sexually available.
• The victim didn't scream, fight or protest so they must have been consenting.
• The victim didn't complain immediately, so it can't have been a sexual assault.
• The victim is in a relationship with the alleged offender and is therefore a willing sexual partner.
• A victim should remember events consistently.
• Children can consent to their own sexual exploitation.
• CSE is only a problem in certain ethnic/cultural communities.
• Only girls and young women are victims of CSA.
• Children from BME backgrounds are not abused.
• There will be physical evidence of abuse.
Launching the guidelines today, Keir Starmer added: “We know that child sexual abuse is not limited to any one type of community and that has been addressed.
“But prosecutors need to be aware of the additional barriers that some victims might face in coming forward and reporting abuse, such as fearing the shame that making an allegation of sexual abuse might bring upon their family.
“We know that offenders do all they can to deter their victims from making a complaint and we must be alive to the very nasty manipulation that can be used.
“The possession of indecent images of children has been found to be a common feature of these cases, to the extent that we will now ask the police to investigate this aspect in every case we look at.
“We know the way abusers operate, and police and prosecutors are now better equipped than ever to build strong cases for juries to consider.”
Berkeley workshop addresses sexual assault as reported rapes increase
by Judith Scherr
BERKELEY -- "Rape is rape. No is no." Sexual assault is never justified and the person assaulted is never to blame.
That was the clear consensus among the dozen or so participants at a sexual assault awareness workshop Oct. 12 at the south-of-campus Trinity United Methodist Church. Sponsors included Bay Area Women Against Rape; the Associated Students of the University of California; the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network; and Councilman Kriss Worthington's office.
"This is a culture that normalizes sexual assault," said workshop coordinator Ella Bastone, a UC Berkeley senior. "It's a culture that makes it OK for sexual assault to happen and makes it invisible when it happens."
In Berkeley, reported rapes jumped from 20 in 2011 to 39 in 2012; 18 were reported during the first six months of 2013, according to Berkeley police. (It's not clear how much the increase was due to more reporting or to a greater number of assaults.) Most of the incidents were perpetrated by someone known to the person who was assaulted.
A key element in stopping rape is bringing the subject out of the shadows, said Aquiela Lewis, a spoken word artist and survivor of both childhood and adult rape.
"I was raised not to tell anybody," Lewis said. "But if you keep it inside, you're not going to heal."
Lewis now speaks out about her trauma. Her healing began with writing. "I wrote out what I was feeling," she said, advising survivors, "Just start writing. It could be a word, a sentence. Sometimes you'll have those blocks when you can't write or you can't talk."
Bastone, trained as a rape crisis counselor, said the healing journey for survivors varies.
For some people, "reporting can be a really empowering journey," she said. But reporting may not be right for everyone because it means "having to relive those experiences as you go through the different bureaucratic avenues," she said.
A survivor may choose to advocate for others who have been assaulted. "It can be empowering to get involved in the activism," but the burden of educating the public shouldn't be placed only on the shoulders of survivors said Bastone, noting she has not personally experienced sexual assault.
Councilman Worthington said one way peers can address "rape culture" is by intervening before an assault occurs. At a party, for example, "if it seems like someone's being pressured, if it looks like someone's being forced and you're not sure, instead of ignoring it and walking in the other direction, you should intervene and make it clear that if somebody needs support, you're there to support them and that they can say yes or no," Worthington said.
Worthington's advocacy for rape survivors is not academic. As a teenage foster child, he was raped by an acquaintance of the family caring for him.
"It was one of the worst experiences of my entire life," Worthington said. "Being whipped and beaten (by foster parents) didn't hurt me anything like being raped did."
Worthington had no support at the time. "I was afraid to talk to anybody, to admit that it happened," he said. "I was afraid people were going to blame me; I was afraid of the guy who was doing it. It's one of the most horrible things that can happen to you short of death."
After seeing a younger foster child nude with the abuser, Worthington got up the nerve to tell his foster mother, who then kept the perpetrator away from the house.
Participants want to hold workshops throughout Berkeley. "It's a community health issue," Bastone said. "We need every single person to be engaged in the conversation." BAWAR's 24-hour sexual assault hotline is at 510-845-7273. To contact workshop participants, email Ella_Bastone@yahoo.com.
Let's all turn our focus to reducing domestic violence
by Art deWerk
October is "Domestic Violence Awareness Month," which should give pause to the nation's population to consider the impact that this kind of violence has on individuals, communities and the country has a whole.
The first consideration, of course, is the human suffering that results from domestic violence. Women and children are most often cited as the typical victims of domestic violence, but adult males are not spared from being victimized. Of course, statistics indicate that women are particularly subject to violence in the home. Children suffer as well but there are also specific laws that are designed to address the special circumstances of persons under 18 years of age. For the purpose of this column, women are the main focus of discussion. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed in 1987 in order to formally recognize the problem, heighten awareness and educate the public about this epidemic. Some years ago, President George W. Bush made the following statement: "As a Nation, we must prioritize addressing the problem of domestic violence in our communities every day of the year."
In addition to the physical and emotional damage suffered by the victims, the entire community loses when women are battered. Oftentimes, the victim cannot go to work because of physical pain or embarrassment of visible bruises and other injuries. This can lead to reduced productivity and even job loss. The costs of medically and psychologically treating victims is considerable, and for those who cannot pay, the larger population absorbs these costs. Victims often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with living in ongoing domestic violence situations which is yet another reason for the people of this nation to take this issue very seriously.
Between one and four million women "suffer a serious assault by a partner during an average 12-month period," according to one study I read. Even the high-end estimate of four million probably substantially under-represents just how big the problem really is. In law enforcement, conventional wisdom is that domestic violence incidents are severely under-reported, which means that the problem cannot be properly dealt with by the legal system or the mental health and medical communities. One difficulty with assessing the full scope of the problem is there are large numbers of women who do not report the violators out of fear of retribution. Many tolerate the assaults because they are financially dependent on their partner, or they may be afraid of having to go out on their own. Domestic violence results in physical injuries, many women are killed by out-of-control partners and the survivors usually suffer serious, long-term emotional and mental problems.
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides us with a special opportunity to emphasize that domestic violence is a crime, to warn abusers that they will be prosecuted, and to offer victims more aid and support. We can and must radically reduce and work to eliminate this scourge from our land. To succeed, this effort must be echoed by officials from every segment of the criminal justice system, federal, state, and local. Community leaders, health care professionals, teachers, employers and the media should continue to combat this serious problem with resolve and determination.
Domestic violence is not a race-based problem. It crosses all racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic lines. One thing is for sure, it is the law of the United States and all states of the union that makes domestic violence a serious crime. It appears that different countries have varying standards when it comes to domestic violence. The United States, itself, has only in the past several decades taken a strict stance against it, after years of treating domestic violence with tacit acceptance by the authorities. That is no longer the case, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month reminds everyone that women are not to be abused (95 percent of victims are women).
For battered immigrants, the problem can be even more daunting. If the victim does not speak English, or is otherwise intimidated by the thought of dealing with the authorities, they may find themselves unable to escape the violence. Many injured women do not contact the authorities because they feel they will not believe their stories.
Another point to consider is that how a society treats women and children, and how abusers are handled says much about how civilized that society really is. We like to think that our nation is among the most civilized in the world, but we are far from being able to claim that we are even close to achieving perfection. We have a long way to go and until such time that all persons find the abuse of women and children as being reprehensible, we cannot be too smug about where we really stand in the world in this regard.
The human suffering and economic impacts of domestic violence is almost incalculable, but we all know that it is a serious and pervasive problem in this society. It must be stopped, and the abusers given no leniency. I can assure the people of our community that our law enforcement officers take a zero tolerance stance against those who commit domestic violence. Those who assault or injure their partners will go to jail and face rigorous prosecution. If you are a victim, trust the system and call the police. For the violators, get involved in counseling and do whatever else is necessary to stop the cycle.
School board approves preventative child abuse program
by Emily Beckett
The Chilton County Board of Education voted Tuesday to implement preventative child abuse curriculum in county schools from the Family Sunshine Center of Montgomery.
In a work session Oct. 11, board members discussed allowing the FSC or a similar outreach group to visit all schools in Chilton County and conduct programs for students in grades 2–4 on domestic violence and abuse.
The board approved Superintendent Dave Hayden's recommendation to require elementary principals to schedule school safety programs with the Family Sunshine Center.
Could a child abuse registry have saved Adrian Peterson's son?
by Keli Goff
Few news reports are more depressing than those chronicling the death of a child. Perhaps the only thing more heartbreaking is when such a death was preventable.
While the full details of the death of NFL star Adrian Peterson's 2-year-old son are still being uncovered, here is what we do know. Joseph Robert Patterson, who was living with the boy's mother, has been charged with aggravated assault on an infant. He had previously pleaded guilty to assault in a case involving a woman and a young child. Among the most serious allegations, his former romantic partner accused him of injuring her child during spankings and becoming violent with her when she intervened. Patterson was also subsequently arrested for violating an order of protection instructing him to stay away from the woman and her family. By agreeing to attend counseling, Patterson was able to avoid jail time. One year later Adrian Peterson's son is dead.
Consider this: If Joseph Robert Patterson had been found guilty of a sex crime against a young child, he would have been listed in the National Sex Offender Registry, but presently no such national registry exists for child abusers.
Although the launch of such a registry has been discussed for years, efforts have consistently bogged down over concerns about cost, privacy and debates over states' rights. At present, each state has its own system for tracking abusers, but there is no national uniformity, meaning someone listed in a database in Nebraska can relocate to New York and his or her record is unlikely to follow. Further complicating matters, some states do not track abusers by state but by county, meaning an abuser doesn't even have to cross state lines to try to outrun his or her past. Because states often vary the language in their penal codes, creating a national registry would require a measure of cooperation and faith in the federal government that seems laughable given the current tone of discourse in Washington.
But a move toward a national child abuse registry could save lives.
When asked specifically what could possibly have been done differently to save the life of Peterson's son, Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, replied: “It's not just a matter of looking at what went wrong with this case. It's a matter of looking at what does this case tells us about what goes wrong for the 1,500 kids who are abused to death every single year. The dynamic isn't so different [for those kids]. Somehow a child was left with a caregiver who was completely overwhelmed and unable to care for that child and had shown no impulse control in the past.”
She continued, “I think that the takeaway ought to be for all of us that these deaths are preventable. If we know that someone has previously victimized a child, that should be our first clue that that person may not be able to be safely left caring for other children, and their contact with children may need to be supervised by another adult.”
Huizar added that the move toward “differential” strategies for addressing allegations of abuse and neglect has created new challenges in the movement to end child abuse. Because of concern that families were being broken up over abuse allegations that could have been resolved through parenting classes and family counseling, many states have begun to move away from cataloguing what are deemed minor abuse allegations. This means that if a parent or caregiver engages in what is considered a lower-level form of abuse or neglect, but eventually acknowledges the behavior was inappropriate and agrees to counseling or classes, then he or she may not be included in the state's abuse registry. From Huizar's perspective, this can lead to disaster.
“One of the things we know about child abuse fatalities is typically there's a pattern of escalating violence over time,” she said. “So it may start out with striking the child, then striking the child and leaving a bruise, then shaking the child, then eventually breaking a bone, and then eventually the child is killed.” Patterson's case showed precisely that kind of escalation.
Huizar drew parallels to domestic violence between partners. “We don't say, ‘Well, it's nothing because he only slapped her' or, ‘It's not important because he only shoved her,' because the shove or the slap today is the strangulation or homicide of tomorrow, and we have to think about child abuse the same way,” she said. “If there's repeated and escalating violence we have to be able to identify it, to track it, to intervene, so those children are protected.”
Huizar is hopeful that the passage of the Protect our Kids Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in January, will make a difference. The law establishes a national commission focused on reducing child abuse fatalities and should help reignite conversation about a national child abusers registry. Trying to prevent child abuse seems to be one of the few issues that leaders and legislators from both major parties can agree on. Huizar noted that the Protect Our Kids Act was championed by a bipartisan coalition that included Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.). Former Democratic Massachusetts senator John Kerry, now secretary of state, also was a lead sponsor.
“We are fortunate that there are people that care about this,” Huizar said. But then she added: “The unfortunate part is when there is partisan bickering on the Hill about other matters, whether it's budgetary or health care [or] these other things, the easiest thing to get pushed aside are children's issues. I think it's important for folks to remember that while all of these other big policies are important, there are still children dying every day in the U.S. from having been abused to death, and they deserve attention and they deserve the attention of the Congress.”
When to seek help: signs that a child is being sexually abused
by Emily Christensen
SALT LAKE CITY — According to the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute, at least 3 million children in America are reportedly molested before turning 13 years old.
Protective parents want to know if something has happened to their child, and there are many signs to help you know when to seek further attention and help.
Physical symptoms may include:
blood in their underwear
unexplained injuries or actual damage to the body
Behavioral symptoms may include:
Avoiding specific places or people. Most kids go through phases of separation anxiety, but when this becomes continuous and the child cannot be consoled, there may be a specific reason the child does not want to be there.
Wetting (or other behavioral regression) . Like other behavior regression, sudden return to bed wetting or soiling clothes after toilet training is often a red flag for high anxiety or trauma. Sometimes it is one or the other, sometimes it is due to biological causes. A visit with the doctor can help determine what is going on and help you know what to do about it.
Inappropriate touching. It is common at different developmental stages to be curious about people's bodies or want to explore and understand. It's a sign of something wrong when the child continues inappropriate touching (of themselves or others) despite redirection, especially if it mimics behavior they may have witnessed or experienced.
Emotional symptoms may include:
Sudden changes in mood or personality style. All kids have good days and hard days, different emotional responses, and different developmental phases of emotional development. But if a normally outgoing child suddenly becomes withdrawn or shy, or a normally well-tempered child suddenly becomes consistently aggressive, that may be a red flag.
Guilt or shame. If your child's normally happy temperament changes to that look the child gets when in trouble and doesn't bounce back to "normal," this is a red flag. It's often not just a red flag that children may have been abused, but also that they think it was their fault or that they were threatened into not telling.
Nightmares. All kids have nightmares, and some even go through phases of night terrors, but sudden onset or nightmares, or nightmares that won't go away or are specific in nature may be related to a traumatic experience.
You can teach your children basic safety without making them afraid. It is good to teach them that no one, other than a parent or a doctor, should ever see or touch the private places (or "swimsuit areas") of their body.
It is important to tell children to say no if they are ever uncomfortable with how someone is touching them. It is critical to teach them to tell a safe adult if they ever feel like they have been touched inappropriately or are uncomfortable with how someone has touched them.
However, depending on the nature of what has happened, the child may be too afraid or ashamed to tell anyone. It is important to know the signs that a child has been molested so that you can seek help immediately.
If the child needs immediate medical attention, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. You could also call your regular doctor, a counselor or a hotline like the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453).
Thursday vigil to remember victims of domestic violence
MOULTRIE — In recognition of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Serenity House is honoring survivors with a candlelight prayer vigil in an effort to raise public awareness about domestic violence. Also, several local pastors will be in attendance as attendees pray for the country.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is celebrated around the country by advocates, victim service providers, law enforcement, the judiciary, prosecutors and survivors.
This year's vigil will be held 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Colquitt County Courthouse Annex Commissioners large meeting room in the center of the second floor.
This year's theme is “Mourn, Celebrate, and Connect” and is meant to mourn those who have died due to domestic violence, celebrate those who have survived, and connect with those who work to end violence.
“Domestic violence is not discriminating,” said Blue Hackle, director of Serenity House, Colquitt County's women's shelter. “It can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender and it affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
“Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused,” Hackle said, “but it also has a huge impact on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children who grow up witnessing domestic violence are among those seriously affected by this crime.”
Hackle added that exposure to domestic violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life and, consequently, increases their risk of becoming society's next generation of victims and abusers.
“One study estimated that boys who are exposed to domestic violence may be four times more likely to perpetrate such violence when they become adults,” Hackle said.
She also noted that the community is not immune from experiencing economic cost as a result of this crime.
“Think domestic violence doesn't affect you? Think again.” Hackle said.
Other studies have noted that between one quarter and one half of the victims of domestic violence in the United States have reported to have lost their employment, in whole or part, because of the violence to which they were subjected.
Domestic violence costs employers in the U.S. as well, with one study indicating such costs to be in the vicinity of nearly $13 billion a year.
Information displays and packets will also be provided by Serenity House. The public is invited to attend and join together as a community to send a message to all victims of domestic violence that they are not forgotten, that they are not alone, and that the community is here to do whatever it can to help them in the rebuilding of their lives.
If you have lost someone due to domestic violence, please bring a framed picture to share (then take home) of your loved one for the “Remember Always” table. Refreshments will be provided.
If you have questions call Hackle at (229) 782-5394.
Child abuse victims ‘younger and more severely assaulted'
Victims of child sex attacks posted online are getting younger and the abuse is getting worse, MPs have been told.
Four-fifths of indecent images on the internet show children aged ten and under being assaulted, while half of all material showed the most serious levels of abuse, including rape.
Peter Davies, director of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, told MPs on Tuesday: ‘Regrettably, there are more images now than when you started sitting this morning.
‘We check trends in images and our experience recently is that victims appear to be getting younger and the level of abuse is getting worse.'
CEOP estimates 50,000 Britons may possess indecent images of children.
Family sues over alleged sexual abuse by adopted sons
by Peter Smith
A Kentucky woman says social workers should have disclosed that the boys had a troubling history with sexual abuse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Beverly and James Hilger of Shelbyville, Ky., had already taken in dozens of foster children since the 1990s — adopting six of them in addition to raising Beverly's two biological children — when they decided to open their home again in 2004.
Beverly had seen a local broadcast — "Wednesday's Child," featuring older foster children in need of permanent homes — and she and her husband decided to adopt two brothers, aged 11 and 15, they saw on TV.
But according to a new lawsuit in Jefferson Circuit Court, the Kentucky social-service workers responsible for overseeing the adoption never told the Hilgers — as required by law — that the boys had been sexually abused and had also engaged in sexual misconduct while in a foster home.
In the years after the Hilgers adopted them, according to the lawsuit, both boys sexually molested one of the Hilgers' younger daughters, Ashley Hilger, and one of the boys also molested two other daughters.
The suit was filed Monday by Beverly Hilger on behalf of her daughter Ashley, now 17, and seeks damages from two Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services workers who handled the adoption and their former supervisor.
"I'm shocked … that the cabinet didn't follow laws they were supposed to and disclose information that should have been," Ashley said Tuesday in an interview with her mother.
"It could have prevented a lot of things that have happened … if they would have just done their job," said Ashley, a Shelby County High School senior who agreed to speak publicly to draw attention to the state's handling of the adoptions.
Beverly Hilger added: "Our children were harmed. Our home was damaged because of this. It's important to know these boys weren't represented properly, either. ... They weren't placed in a home that could meet their needs."
The lawsuit alleges two of the plaintiffs — social-service workers Desiree Rhodes and William Hardin, based in Jefferson County — failed to abide by legal requirements that they disclose pertinent information to parents so they can make an informed decision about adopting a child.
Hardin and Rhodes did not reply to requests for comment sent through the cabinet.
The lawsuit also names Bonnie Hommrich — then a deputy commissioner in the cabinet, now in a similar position with Tennessee's Department of Children's Services — accusing her of failing to properly train and supervise employees handling adoptions.
A spokesman for the Tennessee department said Hommrich declined to comment.
Jill Midkiff, spokeswoman for the Kentucky cabinet, also declined to comment on the lawsuit, which doesn't name the Kentucky cabinet as a defendant because it is legally immune from such suits.
The family's attorney, William McMurry, said the goal is to hold the officials accountable.
The lawsuit cites federal subsidies of up to $8,000 provided to the state for placing older foster children in adoptive homes — children considered difficult to place. McMurry contended that the financial motive for the cabinet provides an incentive for workers to cut corners in making placements.
McMurry, a longtime personal-injury lawyer, oversaw lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Louisville alleging the coverup of sexual abuse. The lawsuit resulted in what was then a near-record U.S. settlement of $25.7 million in 2003.
James "Rick" Hilger said he hopes his family's lawsuit succeeds in "bringing some transparency" to Kentucky's adoption process "to prevent this from happening to somebody else."
McMurry said the Hilgers specifically asked the social-service workers if there was any history of sexual abuse involving the boys and were told no.
"They were very, very concerned about protecting those children," McMurry said.
McMurry said another state social worker, based in Shelby County and assigned to work with the Hilgers, tried unsuccessfully to get case files on the boys before the adoptions were finalized in late 2004 and early 2005.
The worker did get the files later in 2005, which documented the boys' past involvement in sexual misconduct, and provided them to the family, McMurry said.
When the Hilgers learned of the boys' past misconduct, Beverly Hilger said, they refused to renege on the adoption — but as precautions, they installed alarms, baby monitors and locks on the girls' bedroom doors, with keys that only the parents and girls had.
Only later, beginning in 2007, did they begin to learn that the boys had found opportunities to abuse the girls, Beverly Hilger said.
That's when the younger boy admitted to molesting Ashley and threatening her if she ever revealed it, according to the lawsuit. Another sister also told the Hilgers that the boy had molested two younger, developmentally disabled girls in the family.
Beverly Hilger said in an interview that she reported the abuse to the cabinet: "Their response was it was child-on-child and there was nothing they could do about it.
"We put our girls in counseling as quick as we could. We advocated for the younger boy to get into a sex offender's program to try to get him the help he needed."
Hilger said the younger boy has since apologized for his wrongdoing and is now living on his own as an adult in another state. He has not been charged with a crime.
In 2010, Ashley reported to her parents that she had been sexually abused by the older adopted son, Jose A. Rodriguez, who was by then an adult. He is now awaiting an Oct. 30 trial on a felony charge of sexual abuse against Ashley, according to the Shelby Circuit Court clerk's office.
Ashley said she initially didn't report Rodriguez, saying she was conflicted emotionally because he was her adoptive brother and she didn't want to damage his hopes of making a better life. She said she reported him after the abuse continued.
Beverly Hilger said she is emotionally torn, but justice needs to be done.
"When you adopt a child, you have to stand before a judge and raise your hand and swear ... you will care for this child as if born of your body," she said. "I took those words seriously. ... Unfortunately, our children can do wrong and have to be punished."
But state workers "need to be held accountable too," she said.
Beverly Hilger said the case illustrates a "cancer that has been eating away at our system under the guise of protecting our children.
"I'm not saying we've got the answer for what's right. I'm saying something's broken here that needs to be fixed. and the only way we're going to fix it is if everybody knows about it."
2 girls arrested in Florida death of bullied 12-year-old
by The Associated Press
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Two girls have been arrested in the death of a 12-year-old central Florida girl who authorities say committed suicide after being bullied online by several girls for nearly a year, a sheriff said Tuesday.
The girls are 12 and 14, and they have been charged with felony aggravated stalking, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Grady Judd scheduled a news conference Tuesday morning in Winter Haven regarding the arrests.
Authorities have said Rebecca Sedwick was “terrorized” by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts. Some of the girls' computers and cellphones were seized in the investigation.
On Sept. 9, authorities say, Rebecca climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death.
The bullying began over a “boyfriend issue,” and Rebecca had become depressed, Judd has said.
After the suicide, police looked at the girl's computer and found search queries for topics including “what is overweight for a 13-year-old girl,” ‘'how to get blades out of razors” and “how many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die.” One of her screensavers also showed Rebecca with her head resting on a railroad track.
Florida has a bullying law named after Jeffrey Johnston, a teenager who killed himself after being harassed by classmates. Amended July 1 to cover cyberbullying, the law leaves punishment to schools, though law enforcement also can seek more traditional charges.
Maryville Alleged Rape: Lawyer for teen accused in Mo. sexual assault case questions whether Daisy Coleman was drunk
MARYVILLE, Mo. - The lawyer for Matthew Barnett, a teen who was alleged to have sexually assaulted 14-year-old Daisy Coleman in Jan. 2012 in Maryville, Mo., says there is a question whether Daisy was incapacitated during the encounter, as she claims.
This seems to contradict a report by the Kansas City Star which said Barnett admitted to authorities that he had sex with Daisy on Jan. 8, 2012 despite being aware that she had been drinking. According to the paper, he insisted the sex was consensual. Missouri felony statutes define sex as non-consensual when the victim is incapacitated by alcohol.
In a statement obtained by Crimesider, Robert Sundell, Barnett's attorney, says "subsequent investigation and interviews raised substantial doubt about the felony charge, specifically including whether the young lady was incapacitated during the encounter."
Barnett was 17 when he was arrested and charged with felony sexual assault, and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly leaving Daisy in the front yard of her Maryville home in 22-degree weather. The charges against him were eventually dropped after the prosecutor on the case said there was insufficient evidence and witnesses refused to cooperate.
But Daisy's mother, Melinda Coleman, has said that isn't true.
Sundell backs up the prosecutor's claims, saying, "While charges were pending, counsel for the defendant sought to take the depositions of the accusers and others. ...After being sworn under oath, the accusers and family members refused to answer any questions citing their Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate themselves."
For that reason, Sundell says, the felony charge against Barnett was dropped.
According to the Kansas City Star, Melinda Coleman has said she only invoked her Fifth Amendment right after the felony charges were dropped.
The State continued to pursue the misdemeanor charge of child endangerment, but that charge was also dismissed after, Sundell says, Barnett and others disputed the claim that he left Daisy out in the cold. However, a sheriff's office report obtained by the Kansas City Star reportedly says a 15-year-old boy, who was also implicated in the case, did admit that the boys had left Daisy "outside sitting in 30-degree weather."
Sundell also attributes the dismissal of the misdemeanor charge to the fact that Daisy testified "with numerous inconsistencies and changes to previous statements."
"When the alleged victim's mother was questioned about these changes, she freely admitted that her daughter does not always tell the truth, particularly when she is in a stressful situation," Sundell said in his statement.
Sundell also pointed out that the police reports referenced in the Kansas City Star article were "selectively released by the complainant's family." He said the release violates Missouri statute 610.105 RSMo. which prohibits the release of closed records by law enforcement officials.
Boy Scouts' symposium on child abuse prevention begins in Grapevine
by NOMAAN MERCHANT
GRAPEVINE — Youth group leaders and child welfare experts met Monday for the start of a two-day Boy Scouts of America symposium about how to spot and prevent child abuse.
The closed-door meeting in Grapevine, near the BSA's Irving national headquarters, is part of the group's efforts to improve how it handles abuse cases after the release of internal documents showing incidents in which the Scouts didn't inform law enforcement about alleged abuse within its ranks.
BSA says it has made sweeping changes in the years since those documents were collected. Scout leaders are now supposed to undergo regular, mandatory youth protection training, and BSA also requires at least two adults present at any meetings with youth and that any suspected abuse be reported to authorities.
Most of the 100 attendees at the symposium were affiliated with other groups, not Scouting. Those with Scouts ties said they welcomed the chance to discuss the group's current issues and best practices with other youth group leaders.
“We're willing to put our experience, our knowledge, our policies on the table,” said Michael Johnson, a former police detective who is now BSA's national director of youth protection.
“We're going to be at this tomorrow, and we're going to be at this next year,” Johnson added.
Among those scheduled to speak were officials from the National Child Protection Training Center and the National Center for Missing Exploited Children.
One problem identified Monday was the unwillingness of adults sometimes to believe or understand children who are reporting abuse. Victor Vieth, executive director emeritus of the National Child Protection Training Center, told the audience about how some doctors initially dismissed research that suggested obese people abused as children had trouble losing weight later in life. Studies of “adverse childhood experiences” like abuse or neglect show they can do lasting damage to health and life expectancy, he said.
He said officials from groups for children who have faced adversity need to be particularly vigilant because predators often seek out such children because they might be less likely to be believed.
“It does not detract from a child's credibility,” Vieth said. “Usually, it enhances it.”
The release of the so-called “perversion files” that the BSA kept on alleged pedophiles from 1959 to 1985 badly damaged its reputation. The group faces lawsuits on more recent internal files in at least three other states.
Johnson argued that the issues faced by the Boy Scouts — which claims more than 2.7 million youth members in troops all over the country — apply to every group that deals with youth.
“This is an issue that we're all battling,” he said.
Group to help adult survivors of sexual abuse
by Bonnie Braida Dixon
She says that every day is a struggle. He came to her bedroom all too often. The terrifying memories come and go in flashbacks, with brief, vivid pictures of a blanket and dark wavy hair. The scent of cologne infuses her nose to this very day. When she did defy him and tried to tell someone, he threatened her, the family pet, and her little sister.
She slipped up one day and told a friend, and social services came to investigate. He denied it, and the investigation was dropped. He continued to come to her bedroom all too often. Now that she's an adult, she still feels as if she's not “right.”
“Her” story is, unfortunately, all too common for adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Many struggle with very real issues into adulthood, including depression, low self-esteem, drug and/or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, relationship issues, and self- destructive behaviors. The survivor may be doing just that; surviving.
To help survivors like this, the YWCA of the Sauk Valley is starting a new group for adult women survivors of sexual abuse/sexual assault. Group meetings will be in our Dixon office on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m., beginning on Nov. 6 and Nov. 20.
We are specially trained to work with sexual assault survivors, and our services are free and confidential. The group will help survivors feel less isolated, offer support, and allow sharing and validation of feelings. We will also be glad to create a list for a possible future men's support group, if interest is shown.
If you or someone you know could benefit from this group or services, please share our information with them. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 815-625-0333 and ask for Bonnie.
Note to readers: Bonnie Braida is a counselor at the YWCA of the Sauk Valley.
Calvert County Promotes Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Calvert County has often been ahead of the curve when it comes to domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Calvert County should stand proud of all the accomplishments the Crisis Intervention Center has achieved throughout the years in the battle to eliminate domestic violence in our community. The Calvert County Commission for Women is again partnering with the Calvert County Crisis Intervention Center to increase awareness of domestic violence. The Calvert County Crisis Intervention Center was the first agency to implement the pilot, ‘Maryland Lethality Assessment Program' which has been adopted nationwide as the ‘Maryland Model' It was the second agency in Maryland to provide the most domestic violence services and it was the second county in Maryland to form a Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team (DVFRT).
We should ALL be proud of these accomplishments as domestic violence negatively impacts our community. “The community must speak out against domestic abuse and help survivors. When we work together, our voice, our vision but more importantly our children and families will become stronger,” says, Corrita Myers, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Crisis Intervention Center.
The leadership of Commission Member Lynne Krause and Associate Commissioner Linda Bracey is a testimony to the fact that domestic violence is a vital issue of safety and well-being for women and children in Calvert County. The Crisis Intervention Center and Calvert County Commission for Women, would like to invite all of Calvert County to attend the events scheduled in October to support those who are living with domestic violence and to honor those who have left abusive relationships. The following are a list of activities throughout Calvert County:
• Clothesline Project-The Clothesline Project is displayed throughout Calvert County to honor those who live in or have escaped from domestic violence. The Clothesline Project is a program where T-shirts are made by domestic violence survivors with positive affirmations that life does get better. Locations for the Clothesline Projects include College of Southern Maryland, Calvert County Health Department, Prince Frederick Public Library, Solomons Public Library, Calvert County Court House lobby and the second Floor of the Calvert County District Court Building.
• October 1, 2013- The Calvert County Commissioners proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month during their meeting. The Commission for Women also unveiled a new perpetual plaque commending all past Calvert County Domestic Violence Awareness Month Honorees for their work to effectively address domestic violence in Calvert County.
• October 22, 2013-The Crisis Intervention Center and the Calvert County Commission for Women, will host a Candlelight Vigil at 7 pm in the Calvert County Circuit Courtyard located at 175 Main Street, Prince Frederick, Maryland 20678.
• October 22, 2013- The Crisis Intervention Center and the Calvert County Commission for Women will host a Recognition Ceremony at 7:30pm at the Albright Building Meeting room at 205 Main Street to honor individuals for their efforts to end domestic violence in Calvert County. Refreshments will be provided.
• October 26, 2013- The Calvert County Commission for Women and The Crisis Intervention Center, will host “ In Our Own Voice – Personal Perspectives on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Healing and Recovery”. Featuring speakers from NAMI (The National Alliance For the Mentally Ill). Moderated by Lynne Krause, Member of the Calvert County Commission for Women. This event will take place at the Prince Frederick Library 850 Costley Way Prince Frederick MD from 12 pm to 1:00 pm.
The Crisis Intervention Center is still accepting nominations to honor those who have helped others living in domestic violence. Please visit our website at www.calverthealth.org or contact Corrita Myers at 410-535-1121 for more information.
The Crisis Intervention Center is seeking community volunteers and volunteer victim advocates to help with community education and support. Please contact Corrita Myers at 410-535-1121 for more information.
The Calvert County Crisis Intervention Center provides short-and long-term counseling to domestic violence and sexual assault adult and child victims and their families. It also sponsors an abuser intervention program for abusing partners. Please contact the Crisis Intervention Center at 410-535-1121 for more information.
The Calvert County Commission for Women is the County's volunteer agency charged with developing opportunities for women and children; eliminating barriers that prevent women from realizing their full potential; and giving recognition to the contributions of women in Calvert County. For more information, please contact email@example.com
Clothesline Project on display at Adrian Branch Library
by Meredith Stanton Vaselaar
Beginning this week, the Adrian Branch Library will have on display T-Shirts covered with artwork done by survivors of domestic abuse. The artists - victims who suffered at the hands of people they knew, people they trusted, people they loved - express themselves through the drawings and messages they put onT-Shirts. As a national movement, the "Clothesline Project" began in 1990 by a group of women on Cape Cod, Michigan, because (synopsis) ". . . 58,000 soldiers died in the Viet Nam war, during that same time period, 51,000 women were killed by men who claimed to love them." It was this statistic, as well as women in the group who had also suffered from domestic abuse, that motivated them to start a movement to throw light on the issue of domestic violence.
The "Clotheline Project" is just part of what the SWCC hopes to accomplish throughout the month of October, which is National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. The "Clothesline Project" is part of a larger effort to draw attention to the serious problem of domestic abuse. Committed to the safety of victims - children and adult alike - the Nobles County Electric Cooperative has joined with the SWCC by providing an Operation Round-Up grant for a local "Clothesline Project" display. Stop by the library to view the five shirts on display there. There will be a larger display of T-Shirts from October 28 - November 1, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, at the Government Center (Courthouse) in Worthington. More information on the activities that week will be highlighted in a later issue this month.
Breaking the cycle of child abuse
by NICOLE HARBOUR
DECATUR — Pam Domash has enjoyed bike riding since childhood, and Saturday, she will get the chance to ride for a good cause as she takes part in the Stop the Cycle of Abuse Ride.
The 360-mile trek to raise awareness of child advocacy centers and help prevent child sexual and physical abuse throughout Illinois was born out of the efforts of John Frugo and Lynette Garrett, two Antioch residents who wanted to make a difference in children's lives.
“In 2012, John and Lynette were looking for something impactful they could do,” said Tony Holly, associate director of fund development and member services for Children's Advocacy Centers of Illinois. “John's sister-in-law works for a child advocacy center in Bloomington, so they decided they wanted to do a bike ride to benefit child advocacy centers throughout the state.”
Riding more than 2,000 miles from Bloomington to San Diego, Calif., Frugo and Garrett raised more than $12,000 for the state's 39 child advocacy centers, inspiring them to continue the ride this year but on a smaller scale.
“They decided they wanted to do an event in Illinois and to take people along with them, so this year, the ride is a six-stage bike ride that will stop at six different child advocacy centers,” Holly said.
Learning about the bike ride last month at a Child Advocacy Center fundraiser, Domash, 29, an assistant state's attorney with the Macon County State's Attorney's office, knew she wanted to help out.
“Tony Holly came by to talk to (the Macon County State's Attorney's Office) table at the (Child Advocacy Center) fundraiser, and he convinced us we should do the bike ride as a team,” she said. “But since no one in the office really bikes except for me, I decided I would ride and kind of represent our office.”
With the 360-mile ride beginning Wednesday in Hoffman Estates and ending in St. Louis on Oct. 21, Domash signed up to complete the fourth leg of the journey and will bike from Bloomington to Springfield on Saturday.
Having completed some longer bike rides throughout law school, as well as the 100-mile Hilly Hundred race in Bloomington, Ind., in 2010, Domash said she's eager to complete the 65-mile stretch.
“I'm really excited to meet the other people who are doing this and to also let people know about child advocacy centers,” she said. “They're so important.”
Child advocacy centers are child-focused, community-based centers that help coordinate interviews and make team decisions about the investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases and services for victims by working with law enforcement, child protection agencies, prosecutors and doctors.
Last year, more than 10,000 abused children were seen at child advocacy centers in Illinois, Holly said, making the funds the riders raise critical.
“Child advocacy centers normally get zeroed out in the state budget each year until the very last minute,” Holly said, noting that the centers are usually funded by federal grants and Department of Children and Family Services funds. “We never know what we're going to get, and services for one child usually cost $900. So in order to continue to service our kids, the funding we get from this ride is very important.”
With 70 percent of the funds she raises going toward the Macon County Child Advocacy Center, Domash said she hopes to meet her $1,000 fundraising goal.
“I'm about 78 percent of the way to my goal,” she said Friday. “And if I go over that goal, that's a bonus.”
Assistant state's attorney Elizabeth Dobson, who prosecutes the majority of Macon County's child sexual abuse cases, said she's proud of what Domash is doing.
“I'm so impressed with her enthusiasm and involvement,” Dobson said. “It's so important to have these centers because they not only coordinate the police interviews of abused children but also the counseling, medical exams and other services they need, in a friendly and comfortable environment. They play a very important role in assisting and comforting these kids, and so it's vitally important that we have this effort to keep those centers open.”
“Child abuse is one of the most serious crimes we deal with in the community, and the victims are completely innocent, so what (Domash) is doing is extremely important,” First Assistant State's Attorney Nichole Kroncke said. “We're so proud of her and hope to have a big group of us at the finish line in Springfield to meet her.”
Jean Moore, director of the Macon County Child Advocacy Center, said she's thankful to have Domash representing Macon County in the ride.
“It's wonderful to have someone familiar with what we do here devoting their time and doing this bike ride to help raise funds for us,” she said, noting that it usually takes $310,000 to run the Macon County Child Advocacy Center each year. “Last year, the number of cases of abused children we saw was up by 60 cases, and I'm guessing it will be the same this year, so it's so important for the public to see how essential we are. We have various funding sources but they're diminishing, so we're always looking for more ways to diversify, and to have Pam riding for us is huge.”
With more than 70 riders signed up for the six-day bike ride, including virtual riders, and $50,000 raised toward the event's goal of $150,000, Garrett said she and Frugo are humbled by how the ride is growing and hope that public awareness of child advocacy centers increases each year.
“Child abuse is not a subject anyone wants to talk about,” Garrett said, “but we need to keep the doors of these child advocacy centers open for the people who are brave enough to come to work each day and help the kids that are facing this abuse. I just know we've got to do something, and I hope this ride is a spark that continues to grow.”
Northwestern updates child abuse prevention policies
by Joseph Diebold, Campus Editor
Northwestern has updated its child abuse prevention policies to better align them with Illinois law, the University announced Monday.
The policy now requires all NU employees — even those who do not have regular contact with children — to acknowledge their status under state law as "mandatory reporters" of cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. All employees coming into contact with children must undergo a mandatory training.
Pam Beemer, associate vice president for human resources, led the University's Child Protection and Safety Task Force. Beemer said the University attempted to make the new requirements as easy as possible on employees.
“We understand that requiring that each employee of the University to complete the DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) Acknowledgement of Mandated Reporter Status form is a new obligation," Beemer said in a news release. "However, it is required by state law, and we have made it as easy as possible by having the form available online."
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services launched its "You Are Not Alone" campaign last month, in an effort aimed at curbing child abuse by publicizing efforts in schools.
Under the policy, any member of the University community with reasonable cause to believe a child may be abused or neglected is required to notify the department. In emergencies, they are also required to notify University or Evanston police.
"Northwestern is committed to the safety and security of everyone on our campuses, both members of our community and visitors, and especially children," Beemer said. "We hope everyone will join us in these important efforts."
Public Meeting on Sex Trafficking Planned Thursday
Attendees will learn what puts a girl “at-risk,” and the warning signs to protect her from being manipulated by sexual predators.
by Chris Jennewein
Parents and caretakers of underage girls are encouraged to attend a public meeting Thursday in Murrieta about the risks of sex trafficking.
Attendees will learn what puts a girl “at-risk,” and the warning signs to protect her from being manipulated by sexual predators.
Officials say the rise of the internet and increased use of technology is making it easier for pimps to befriend, exploit, threaten and eventually control young girls into the commercial sex trade.
According to the Department of Justice, the average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old.
The public meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 17, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Murrieta City Hall, 1 Town Square, Murrieta.
The keynote speaker will be Gabriela Baeza of the Student Safety & Well-Being Division of the San Diego County Office of Education.
Leaders across Southwest Riverside County have formed the Regional Family, Youth and Health Task Force committed to provide youth, parents and families information and resources to better understand and cope with issues faced in today's society.
A new tack on sex trade
THE ISSUE: A new court initiative changes the way we treat prostitutes.
THE STAKES: Considering prostitutes victims, rather than criminals, could actually reduce crime.
Prostitution may be the oldest profession, but a growing body of evidence suggests that it's rarely, if ever, chosen for reasons other than desperation or fear.
Law enforcement agencies across the country are increasingly realizing that those involved in prostitution are largely victims, the lowest rung in human trafficking schemes. In that view, they need help with social services, drug treatment, job training and other programs that can steer them away from a path that otherwise would have them circling society's drain.
So an increasing number of law agencies are focusing on the criminals who force or coerce these victims into prostitution. Earlier this year, the FBI shared a report from police in Orange County, Calif., that found most of the women charged with prostitution would not have chosen that career. As of late 2012, the last update the FBI shared from the study, 38 pimps had been charged and most had been convicted or were awaiting trial. Of the 52 human trafficking victims, only four were known to have returned to prostitution.
Now New York is about to shift its approach as well. Last month, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts will be established by the end of this month, to handle 95 percent of the prostitution-related cases that continue past arraignment. Using some strategies similar to drug courts, these will bring together law enforcement, advocacy groups and service providers to treat women and children engaged in prostitution as victims, not criminals, and help them redirect their lives.
"Human trafficking is a crime that inflicts terrible harm on the most vulnerable members of society: victims of abuse, the poor, children, runaways, immigrants," Judge Lippman told The New York Times. "It is in every sense a form of modern-day slavery. We cannot tolerate this practice in a civilized society, nor can we afford to let victims of trafficking slip between the cracks of our justice system."
This more holistic approach was recently supported by the Institute of Medicine in a report that focused particularly on sexually exploited children. It concluded that there is a need for more collaborative approaches, and one that deals with both the demand and the people who profit from these crimes.Judge Lippman's commendable announcement isn't the last action that needs to happen. In this instance, the legislative branch is trailing the judiciary.
While Judge Lippman says that setting up the courts is not expected to place an additional cost burden on the justice system, it will require more of human service and health care agencies, whose budgets are typically tight. The Legislature needs to be ready to back up this smart state policy with investments in those whose help is needed to carry it out.
Prostitution is not a victimless crime, nor does it occur in a vacuum. Because prostitution so often is a "gateway crime" to other offenses like drug trafficking, robbery and assault, this effort has the potential to reduce other crime, particularly in more desperate neighborhoods. It's not just a kind and enlightened approach; it's smart law and order.
Missouri rape allegation brings outcry, but no charges
by Matt Pearce
Hackers and activists across the country are threatening to upend a small northwestern Missouri town where two high school football players avoided rape and sexual exploitation charges involving two younger teenagers in 2012.
Charges were filed last year and quickly dropped. After that, a local social media storm helped drive one accuser's family out of Maryville, population 12,000.
But a larger social media storm is brewing, with Maryville likened to Steubenville, Ohio, a small Midwestern town synonymous with a high school rape case and local permissiveness.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Star published a months-long investigation about the alleged rape of two girls, ages 13 and 14, by older Maryville High School athletes on Jan. 8, 2012. The 13-year-old had been spending the night at the other girl's home, and the older boys are alleged to have taken them to a post-midnight party and supplied them with liquor.
The case had been no secret in Maryville. The older girl had previously spoken out about waking up outside, clad in just a T-shirt and sweatpants, her hair frozen in subfreezing temperatures. She didn't remember what had happened.
"We found out later, from the text messaging and from the phone calls, [the boys] picked the girls up just a few minutes before 1 [a.m.], and they dropped them off by 2 [a.m.], so they were pretty efficient," the 14-year-old's mother, Melinda Coleman, told radio station KCUR. "They knew what they were doing."
Coleman heard a scratching noise at the door in the early morning and discovered her daughter outside in the cold. The 13-year-old was in the bedroom. Coleman called 911 and took both girls to the hospital.
According to the Star, the 14-year-old's blood-alcohol content measured 0.13 -- almost twice the legal limit for a driving adult. Coleman said her daughter's genitalia and buttocks looked red and inflamed.
“I thought I was dead at first," the girl told KCUR. "I was really confused. I was like, what is happening? I couldn't even make sense of anything.”
Three of the boys were arrested, questioned and charged – two 17-year-olds as adults and a 15-year-old as a juvenile. Police said the younger boy had confessed to sexually assaulting the second girl, 13, after she'd repeatedly said no. He eventually accepted a plea bargain.
“Did a crime occur? Hell, yes, it occurred,” Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White said in a radio interview this summer. “Was it a horrible crime? Yes, it was a horrible crime. Did these boys need to be punished for it? Absolutely.”
But the Nodaway County prosecutor, Robert Rice, disagreed.
“They were doing what they wanted to do, and there weren't any consequences. And it's reprehensible. But is it criminal? No,” Rice told the Star.
Two months after the incident, he dropped charges against the 17-year-olds, both of whom were on the high school football team. One, the grandson of an influential local politician, was accused of raping Coleman's daughter, the other of making a felonious recording of part of the encounter.
The video was never found, and Rice declared there was not enough evidence to prosecute. The youth accused of rape said the sex was consensual. Missouri state law says rape defendants are not guilty if they “reasonably believed that the victim was not incapacitated and reasonably believed that the victim consented to the act.”
The boys' friends began joyously tweeting about the dropped charges, and some Maryville residents and students turned against the Coleman family, which experienced a rash of trouble.
Melinda Coleman, a widow, lost her job. Two of her four children transferred to another school district. The family left town, and after that, their home burned down under mysterious circumstances.
Her 14-year-old daughter started to hurt herself and has since made two suicide attempts.
“I was cutting and I would like light up a pen and put it against my skin as burning, so,” the girl said in her radio interview. “I just felt like if I'm this ugly on the inside, I might as well look it on the outside, you know? 'You're the s-word, the w-word, the b-word, just… After a while, you start to believe it.”
Even the sheriff criticized the Coleman family, which reportedly stopped cooperating with officials.
“What really fell apart were the victims and the victims' family,” White told KCUR. “They're the ones that actually absolutely destroyed this case, all on their own, all by themselves. At least the suspects were smart enough to keep their mouths shut after it all happened.”
White could not be reached for comment Monday evening, and the phone at Rice's office rang without answer.
Melinda Coleman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from the Los Angeles Times on Monday.
None of the five boys present during the incident have publicly commented, although one parent told the Star, “Our boys deserve an apology, and they haven't gotten it yet.”
After the Star's story went viral, commenters on sites like Gawker and Reddit urged readers to contact officials to look into why the case was dropped. Other commenters threatened to physically track down the youth accused of rape and began posting links to his Facebook profile, which was almost immediately deactivated.
Friends of the boys also moved to protect their social media accounts after the backlash mounted Monday, with the hacker collective Anonymous -- which played a critical role in making the Steubenville rape case go viral -- calling for justice for Coleman's daughter and announcing #OpMaryville.
As of Monday evening, the Facebook pages of White and Rice had vanished, as had Rice's Twitter account. The county's website was little more than a banner and a short message: “We are currently experiencing issues with our website.”
"If Maryville won't defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them," the group said in a statement tweeted out to more than a million followers. A rally asking for the case to be reopened was also planned in Maryville on Oct. 22.
A decision to reopen the case would rest with the county prosecutor, not with state officials, unless Rice asked for help or recused himself, a Missouri attorney general's office spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement.
“While we appreciate the concerns of those who have sent petitions to our office, the attorney general's office does not have the authority under the laws of the state of Missouri to review a prosecutor's discretionary decisions in particular cases,” spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said in an email Monday. “Charging decisions in criminal cases are exclusively within the discretion of elected county prosecutors in Missouri.”
Which means all eyes now fall on Rice, and on those who disagree with him.
Parental Mental Health Issues Impact Children's Quality of Life
by Jen Wilson
Children of parents with severe mental health issues (SMI) are at significantly increased risk for negative life outcomes and impaired quality of life (QoL). These children are presented with more challenges in nearly every area of life, including academic, social, and emotional due to the environments in which they grow up. Other risk factors that make them especially vulnerable to poor outcomes include low socioeconomic status, isolation, abuse, domestic violence, and genetic predisposition to mental illness.
SMI is used to describe a broad spectrum of serious mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, personality issues, and anxiety, among others. Although there are numerous avenues of treatment for parents with SMI, the fact remains that many of them do not adhere to their treatment and even if they do, their SMI still has an incredible impact on their children.
In an effort to find out exactly what needs these children have and what can be done to improve their QoL, Penny Bee of the Institute of Brian, Behavior & Mental Health at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom conducted interviews with 19 participants that included professionals from social, academic, volunteer, and health organizations, as well as six children and five parents who had lived with a parent who had mental health issues.
The responses from the interviews provided 59 specific themes that were classified into 11 categories. From these, three key areas of priority were identified. These included the elimination of the parents' mental health problems and associated symptoms, provide more problem solving and coping strategies, and to increase literacy and education pertaining to psychological problems.
Bee noticed that even though the answers provided were personal and quite insightful, they were not correlated with the priorities for QoL endorsed by national policies. For instance, child abuse, neglect and maltreatment, sexual and physical health and cognitive and academic development were not cited as priorities by the participants in this study, but are key initiatives and goals of larger public policies currently in place.
This disparity reveals a wide gap between what those in the field of mental health, and those with lived experience relating to SMI, think will improve QoL, and what politicians and policy makers believe will satisfy criteria for a satisfactory QoL. Bee said, “New, age-appropriate instruments that better reflect the life priorities and unique challenges faced by the children of parents with severe mental illness may need to be developed.” The next step and obvious challenge will be to implement strategies to address these priorities.
Killeen women survive domestic violence, fight for normal life
by Wendy Sledd
Although many people wear purple ribbons in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the stigma of domestic violence still continues.
Survivors are made to feel broken and ruined and most won't talk about it, said Morgan Farr, a rape crisis volunteer counselor.
Jamie O'Roke knows those feelings all too well. She met her boyfriend at a young age and never thought things would turn out like they did.
“He was really nice. I never imagined he would abuse me,” said O'Roke, 28. “First it was a push. Then he started hitting me after I became pregnant with our daughter. It was like walking on egg shells all the time.”
Out of embarrassment, O'Roke, who lives in Killeen, wore long sleeves to cover the bruises left by her abuser.
“I hid it from my mom. But she saw the effects in my daughter, Elizabeth,” she said. “The whole time he was hitting me, Elizabeth was there.”
O'Roke reached her breaking point when her boyfriend threatened to kill her and Elizabeth and put a gun to Elizabeth's head.
“When I left, I was still afraid, ‘Is he going to follow me? Will he find me?'” she said.
O'Roke's fears were realized when her boyfriend broke into her mother's house in a violent rage.
“As he entered the room, I held my daughter and prayed,” O'Roke said. “He was going to kill me. He raised his gun, and I felt something heavy and thick right in front of me. It was like (he) had seen the devil. He became afraid and ran out of the house.”
Her boyfriend was arrested and eventually sentenced to three years in prison.
The Killeen Police Department responds to an average of 200 domestic violence calls monthly, said Sgt. Candice Reyes of the major crimes section of the Criminal Investigation Unit. Many domestic violence incidents involve frustration with financial problems, raising children, custody issues and infidelity, she said.
“Many of the individuals tend to be the younger adult population,” Reyes said. “They don't have the maturity level or necessary skill to deal with the issues they face.”
Farr, who lives in Killeen, has volunteered as a rape crisis counselor for three years. She thinks of the women she counsels as friends rather than “cases.”
“I build a special bond with the survivors because I know what they are going through,” she said.
Farr, a domestic violence survivor, spent 10 years in counseling. She knew her attacker but still cannot discuss what happened to her without it being an emotional trigger.
O'Roke attended counseling while still in the relationship with her boyfriend and several years afterward.
Elizabeth, now 6, attended counseling for more than a year but may always be affected by the experience, O'Roke said.
“Sometimes, she still wakes up screaming. She will run and hide if someone knocks on the door. She shakes in fear. She is afraid of men and loud noises upset her. She doesn't like change.”
Three years later, O'Roke struggles for her normal life.
“He put so much ugliness in my head. His voice is still in my mind saying ‘You're stupid. You're not good enough. You're not a good mother,' she said. “But I remind myself that I am an amazing mother because I got Elizabeth out of that situation despite how frightened I was.”
Help other survivors
O'Roke is seeking a degree in social work. Like Farr, she wants to help other domestic violence survivors.
“To be able to bring something positive out of this situation would be amazing. If I can relate to the victims, that's huge,” she said. “For me, it was very freeing to know that somebody understood me and that I was not alone.”
Reyes encourages victims to help themselves by reporting incidents as soon as they occur, providing identification and contact information on any and all witnesses, providing a written statement detailing what happened, and allowing officers to photograph injuries, even if the victim is unsure about pursuing charges.
Sources for Domestic Violence Support
Crime Victim Liaison — Lisa Hatfield 254-501-7698
Victim Assistance Coordinators — Bell County District Attorney's Office — Jill McAfee and Dana Bettger — 254-933-5235
Victim Assistance Coordinator — Bell County Attorney's Office — Angela Swan — 254-933-5744.
Families In Crisis — Shelter and Outreach Services — 254-634-1184 or toll free 1-800-799-7233
Healthy Homes — Harker Heights Police Department — Kerry Ann Barronette, Healthy Homes Program Coordinator/Victim Liasion Coordinator — 254-953-5439
Lone Star Legal Aid — Helps domestic violence victims file for protective orders/divorces — 1-888-674-4529
HELP Center — 254-519-3360
Fort Hood Family Advocacy Program — 254-286-6775
Fort Hood Family Advocacy Crisis Line — 254-702-4953
Texas Legal Services Center VICARS (Victims Initiative for Counseling, Advocacy, and Restoration) — 1-888-343-4414
Texas Advocacy Project — 512-476-5386 — www.texasadvocacyproject.org
Family Violence Legal Hotline — 1-800-374-4673
Office of the Attorney General (Crime Victim Compensation Division) — 1-800-983-9933 — www.oag.state.tx.us
Texas Council on Family Violence — 512-794-1133 — www.tcfv.org
From the Streets to the ‘World's Best Mom'
by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
NASHVILLE — WHEN men paid Shelia Faye Simpkins for sex, they presumably thought she was just a happy hooker engaging in a transaction among consenting adults.
It was actually more complicated than that, as it usually is. Simpkins says that her teenage mom, an alcoholic and drug addict, taught her at age 6 how to perform oral sex on men. “Like a lollipop,” she remembers her mom explaining.
Simpkins finally ran away from home at 14 and into the arms of a pimp.
“I thought he was my boyfriend,” Simpkins remembers. “I didn't realize I was being pimped.”
When her pimp was shot dead, she was recruited by another, Kenny, who ran a “stable” of four women and assigned each of them a daily quota of $1,000. Anyone who didn't earn that risked a beating.
There's a common belief that pimps are business partners of prostitutes, but that's a complete misunderstanding of the classic relationship. Typically, every dollar earned by the women goes to the pimp, who then doles out drugs, alcohol, clothing and food.
“He gets every penny,” Simpkins explains. “If you get caught with money, you get beat.”
Simpkins periodically ran away from Kenny, but each time he found her — and beat her up with sticks or iron rods. On average, she figures that Kenny beat her up about once a week, and she still carries the scars.
“I was his property,” Simpkins says bluntly.
I met Simpkins here in Nashville, where my wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and I have been filming a segment about sex trafficking as part of a PBS documentary accompanying our next book. We were filming with Ashley Judd, the actress, who lives in the Nashville area and is no neophyte about these issues. Judd has traveled all around the world to understand sexual exploitation — and she was devastated by what we found virtually in her backyard.
“It's freaking me out,” she told me one day after some particularly harrowing interviews. It's easier to be numbed by child prostitution abroad, but we came across online prostitution ads in Nashville for “Michelle,” who looked like a young teenager. Judd had trouble sleeping that night, thinking of Michelle being raped in cheap hotels right in her hometown.
In this respect, Nashville is Everytown U.S.A. Sex trafficking is an American universal: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported in 2011 that over a two-year period, trafficking occurred in 85 percent of Tennessee's counties, including rural areas. Most are homegrown girls like Simpkins who flee troubled homes and end up controlled by pimps.
Of course, there are also women (and men) selling sex voluntarily. But the notion that the sex industry is a playground of freely consenting adults who find pleasure in their work is delusional self-flattery by johns.
Sex trafficking is one of the most severe human rights violations in America today. In some cases, it amounts to a modern form of slavery.
One reason we as a society don't try harder to uproot it is that it seems hopeless. Yet Simpkins herself is a reminder that we needn't surrender.
Simpkins says that she would be dead by now if it weren't for a remarkable initiative by the Rev. Becca Stevens, the Episcopal priest at Vanderbilt University here, to help women escape trafficking and prostitution.
Rev. Stevens had been searching for a way for her congregation to address social justice issues, and she felt a bond with sex trafficking survivors. Rev. Stevens herself had been abused as a girl — by a family friend in her church, beginning when she was 6 years old — and she shared with so many trafficked women the feelings of vulnerability, injustice and anger that go with having been molested.
With donations and volunteers, Rev. Stevens founded a two-year residential program called Magdalene for prostitution survivors who want to overcome addictions and start new lives. To help the women earn a living, Rev. Stevens then started a business, Thistle Farms, which employs dozens of women making products sold on the Internet and in stores like Whole Foods. This year, Thistle Farms has also opened a cafe, employing former prostitutes as baristas.
Shelia Simpkins went through the Magdalene program and overcame her addictions. In December, she will earn her bachelor's degree in psychology, and then she plans to earn a master's in social work.
She regularly brings in women off the street who want to follow her in starting over. I met several of Simpkins' recruits, including a woman who had been prostituted since she was 8 years old and is now bubbling with hope for a new future. Another has left drugs, started a sales job and found a doctor who agreed not to charge her to remove 16 tattoos designating her as her pimp's property. And a teenage prostitute told me that she's trying to start over because, “the only person who visited me in jail was Miss Shelia.”
Magdalene and Thistle Farms fill part of what's needed: residential and work programs for women trying to flee pimps. We also need to see a much greater crackdown on pimps and johns.
Simpkins figures she was arrested about 200 times — and her pimps, never. As for johns, by my back-of-envelope calculations, a john in Nashville has less than a 0.5 percent chance of being arrested. If there were more risk, fewer men would buy sex, and falling demand would force some pimps to find a new line of work.
In short, there are steps we can take that begin to chip away at the problem, but a starting point is greater empathy for women like Simpkins who were propelled into the vortex of the sex trade — and a recognition that the problem isn't hopeless. To me, Simpkins encapsulates not hopelessness but the remarkable human capacity for resilience.
She has married and has two children, ages 4 and 6. The older one has just been accepted in a gifted program at school, and Simpkins couldn't be more proud.
“I haven't done a lot of things right in my life, but this is one thing I'm going to do right,” she said. “I'm going to be the world's best mom.”
Secrets, lies and healing
by KALI SCHAFER
As a child I learned the art of keeping a secret, the weight of bearing a burden, and the captivity that lies in guilt. My story began much like the stories of many others. Innocence was lost at an age too young to understand to a person I should have been able to trust. While the details are not so important, the effect they had on my mind and spirit has withstood the test of time.
I have come to learn that these events have led to cycles and patterns that continue to play themselves out in my life, like continuing to allow myself to be treated unkindly by both myself and others. This is a reflection of what must be an apparent lack of self-worth obvious to everyone but me.
Sometimes our minds can be our worst enemies, especially when they've become poisoned by lies. The very tools we might use to survive are turned against us. While confidence and self-assurance can carry thoughts of encouragement and the determination needed to move forward, I have often found an insecurity that nags inside insisting it's all been my fault, that I'm not strong enough, I don't deserve to be better, to want more. But I do.
I'm speaking to everyone, victims of both domestic violence and sexual abuse as well as their families. You are not alone in this. The statistics sadly show an enormous number of people have been affected by this abuse. But many lips are tightly sealed, a result of the teachings of their perpetrators and the taboo light that society has cast on the subject.
It doesn't matter if it's one time, whether it's getting touched inappropriately or a fight with a significant other that takes a violent turn; when someone tells you they love you they aren't supposed to hurt you. As a human being, you maintain the right not to be violated by any other person. Period.
No one person's pain or struggle matters less or more than anyone else's. Pain is relative. Even the smallest pebble thrown into the center of a pond can carry ripples all the way to its edges. Every violation can have a profound effect on the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health of the victim.
Silence and isolation curb prevention. One lesson I've learned as an adult is to open my mouth and speak so that everyone can hear me. I am a survivor. I am not alone. That is a secret I don't plan on keeping.
Child abuse more than AP's tragedy
Minnesota and the rest of the nation were shocked on Friday when it learned that a two year old boy in Sioux Falls, S.D., who died after allegedly being beaten by his mother's boyfriend, was a son of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
It's a tragedy and a shame, and Peterson rightly asked for privacy as he deals with this intensely personal matter.
We should all respect his wish, but sadly, the issue of child abuse and neglect is bigger than even Adrian Peterson.
There are far too many news reports of similar deaths, stories of young, helpless children who die or suffer horrible torture at the hands of their parents, or step-parents, or friends of their parents who leave them for care.
According to statistics from Safe Horizon, the largest organization helping victims of crime and abuse in the U.S., 1,537 children in the U.S. died in 2010 as the result of abuse or neglect.?Nearly 80 percent were younger than four years of age, and nearly 48 percent were younger than one year old.
Many more who don't die can suffer physical injury, mental impairment from brain injuries, and a host of psychological problems as they grow up. Some are likely to become abusers themselves.
The terrible personal tragedy that Adrian Peterson and his family are suffering through could be a call to action to do more to help these children. Law enforcement and family service agencies do what they can, but we can all look for ways to do more to help children who are helpless victims of abuse and neglect.
Pedophiles exploit online adoption exchanges
A self-proclaimed "lil boylover" and a woman accused of neglect find a child on the Internet and pick him up hours later from his adoptive mother.
by Megan Twohey of Reuters
This is part 2 in a 5-part series, "The Child Exchange: Inside America's underground market for adopted children."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story contains language that some readers may find offensive.
APPLETON, Wis. — Online, she called herself Big Momma; he went by the name lovethemcute. And in the summer of 2006, housemates Nicole Eason and Randy Winslow were surfing the Internet with a common objective: Each was looking for children.
Winslow — lovethemcute — was 41, balding and paunchy. He swapped pictures of naked children and would later spend time in a chat room called baby&toddlerlove, where he described himself as a "lil boylover," court documents show. There, he would graphically boast of molesting boys and explain how to keep the abuse quiet: "Just have to raise them to think its fine and not to tell anyone," he wrote in a chat with an undercover federal agent. "What is done in the family stays in the family."
Part 1: Americans using Internet to abandon adopted children
Eason — Big Momma — was about to turn 28. She had moved to Illinois from two states where authorities had taken away her biological children years earlier. In one report, authorities noted that a child she and friends were watching had died in her care.
Living away from her husband, Calvin, and with Winslow in the Illinois town of Tilton, Eason wanted to be a mother again. A few hours on an Internet bulletin board were all she would need to find a new child.
On July 14, 2006, Eason connected online with Glenna Mueller, a Wisconsin mother ready to give up a 10-year-old boy she had adopted. Mueller, 46, was once a licensed daycare provider. Struggling in a second marriage, she largely supported herself by collecting government subsidies for the seven children she adopted. She had taken the 10-year-old about three years earlier. Now, his tantrums were too much, Mueller told Eason.
"I couldn't stand to look at him anymore," Mueller says today. "I wanted this child gone."
'HE IS ADORABLE!'
That's when Mueller turned to ConsideringDisruptinganAdoption, a Yahoo group for parents struggling to raise the children they adopted. (After Reuters asked Yahoo about the group, which has been active for nine years, the company shut it down for violating the terms of service.)
Most of the children mentioned on such bulletin boards come from overseas. Mueller's son — an African-American boy — had been adopted out of the U.S. foster care system. On the site, she posted a description of the boy and her contact information. Almost immediately, Eason reached out.
Early that July morning, the two began exchanging emails, and Mueller sent Eason a picture of the boy. "He is ADORABLE!!!!!!!!!!!" Eason replied minutes later. She quickly added: "Randy wants to know if u would like a visit today?"
By that afternoon, Eason and Winslow were heading north, driving five hours from Illinois to Appleton, Wis., where Mueller lived. They met in a hotel parking lot just off the highway, and Mueller brought the boy.
In an email, Eason had told Mueller that they need not involve a lawyer. No child welfare officials were notified, either. Along with the boy's birth certificate, Mueller handed Nicole a note: Eason and Winslow had her permission to care for her son.
Related: Craigslist adoption ads a growing trend
Mueller knew little about the couple. She wasn't certain where or if Eason or Winslow worked, or if they were married; she knew nothing about Eason's two biological children having been taken away, or of Winslow's affinity for young boys; she wasn't even sure of their address. She did know they were willing to take a child she could no longer stomach, and that was enough.
"I was desperate and sick to death of it," Mueller says of caring for the 10-year-old, whose name is withheld because Reuters could not reach him. "And I'm like, 'You know what? Take him for a visit. Let me know.'"
After less than an hour outside the Fairfield Inn, Eason and Winslow drove off with a young boy, a commodity in America's underground market for discarded adopted children.
As nations around the world make adopting overseas more difficult for Americans, the U.S. government has taken no measures to restrict informal "private re-homings," custody transfers of unwanted children that often start in online bulletin boards, a Reuters investigation has found.
The unregulated nature of this market makes it especially dangerous. Because the government doesn't oversee the bulletin boards, people like Randy Winslow can easily gain custody of a child, without authorities ever knowing. Scrutinizing those who want children is often left to parents who are eager to get rid of the kids.
"I would have given her away to a serial killer, I was so desperate," one mother wrote in a March 2012 post about re-homing her 12-year-old daughter.
"There's hundreds of people looking for new homes for kids," Mueller says of those who use the online bulletin boards. One participant referred to the re-homing forums as "'farms' in which to select children."
Many of the online posts say the unwanted children have physical or mental disabilities. In the group Reuters analyzed, more than half were described as having some sort of special need. About 18 percent were said to have a history that included sexual or physical abuse.
Such descriptions could serve as a beacon for predators. "If you advertise details of things like their substance abuse or sexually acting out, that's waving a red flag," says Michael Seto, an expert on the sexual abuse of children at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group in Canada.
Especially at risk are children described as troubled and lacking a consistent parental figure, says Eric Ostrov, a Chicago-based forensic psychologist who evaluates sex offenders. Those depictions, Ostrov says, would be a "tremendous lure."
The great majority of children on the bulletin boards fit that profile. Most were adopted from overseas and brought to America. But children born in the United States can end up in the underground child exchange, too. The case of the 10-year-old taken by Eason and Winslow illustrates how easily parents will turn children over to strangers met online.
"Nowadays, people are searching out other people," Nicole Eason said in an interview. "That way, nobody's judging nobody."
In early 2000, six years before picking up Glenna Mueller's son in the hotel parking lot, Nicole Eason came to the attention of child welfare authorities in Massachusetts.
Eason, then 21, had taken her biological baby daughter to a hospital in the city of Pittsfield. Doctors at Berkshire Medical Center determined that the girl, 9 months old, had a broken femur "for which the parents had no explanation," court records show. "A full skeletal X-ray" was done, and "two old fractures were discovered that were in different stages of healing," according to court records. "The parents had never sought medical attention for those fractures."
Rebecca Kickery, a former friend of Nicole's, says she remembers the incident that put the girl in the hospital. She says she told a child welfare worker what she witnessed.
The baby was "chasing her mom in the walker," Kickery says, and Nicole Eason "was cussing at her. She grabbed the tray of the walker and yanked her... When she yanked her, her daughter's leg went one way and her body went the other, and I heard it cracking like you crack a stick. And I just thought, this poor little girl."
In an interview with Reuters, Nicole Eason said no such incident took place.
A report by Massachusetts officials, dated Jan. 3, 2000, documents the baby's injuries. Subsequent court records show that "the child was removed from the parents at that time." Officials cited "neglect."
A month later, on Feb. 5, 2000, Nicole and Calvin Eason were at Kickery's Pittsfield apartment with friends. Kickery had asked her sister to watch her 18-month-old son, Austin.
That afternoon, Nicole later told police, the group was playing cards while Austin and his young cousin took a bath. Nicole said she heard a child crying in the bathroom and "thought that the water might have been cold because God knows how long they were in there."
Nicole went to the bathroom and saw Austin lying face down in the water, the police report says. She alerted Kickery's sister and left the bathroom without trying to pull the boy out. "I just freaked out," Nicole told police.
The report, dated Feb. 14, 2000, indicates that Nicole Eason was the last person to check on the children and the first adult to spot Austin face down in the water.
The child couldn't be revived, and the drowning was ruled an accident. Within days, police determined that there was "no reason to expect foul play but rather this appears to be a case of negligence." No charges were filed; under Massachusetts law, prosecutors must show that a caregiver's actions "went beyond mere negligence and amounted to recklessness," according to jury instructions offered in the state.
Today, Kickery wants authorities to reopen the investigation, but a spokesman with the Berkshire District Attorney's Office says that, absent any new evidence, the case is closed. Nicole Eason says she had nothing to do with the baby's death.
By 2002, Calvin Eason and a pregnant Nicole had moved to South Carolina. That March, Nicole gave birth to a boy.
Massachusetts child protection officials learned of the move and told South Carolina authorities about the Easons' history. They explained that Nicole's daughter was already in the foster care system. "The allegations," a report by South Carolina authorities recounted, "are abuse and neglect." (The couple's parental rights to the girl were subsequently terminated.)
Although the Kickery boy's death had been ruled an accident, Massachusetts authorities also brought Nicole's involvement in the matter to the attention of South Carolina officials. An incident report, dated Feb. 28, 2002 and prepared by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina, notes that a "child died in Subject's care."
About a week after Nicole's son was born, the state executed an emergency removal of the newborn from the Eason home in Summerville, South Carolina, sheriff's records show. Authorities cited the neglect investigation of the Easons in Massachusetts and the conditions in the couple's South Carolina home.
"The home environment was deplorable for an infant, trash, clothes, stale food and stagnant water," according to a March 27, 2002, report by the sheriff's office. "The parents have an open investigation in (Massachusetts) where their parental rights are being terminated due to physical abuse on another child. Parents have severe psychiatric problems as well with violent tendencies."
In interviews earlier this year at a house they were renting in Tucson, Arizona, the Easons said that both children were still living with them. No pictures of any child hung on the walls, but there were a half-dozen plaques with adages about parenting. One read, "Daughters hold our hands for a little while but hold our hearts forever."
Nicole said South Carolina officials briefly removed their biological son years ago after someone reported that she had killed the boy and stuffed him into a tote bag. But he was returned to them within a few days, she said, after officials determined she had done nothing wrong.
In truth, the Easons never got the children back. The boy was adopted out of foster care, a South Carolina child welfare official said. The girl has either been adopted or remains in foster care; a Massachusetts official would not say which.
Asked last month to explain why officials in two states reported that her children had been permanently removed, Nicole said someone was lying. "I haven't had problems with social services," she said. "That's what I'm claiming."
Her biological children gone, Nicole Eason babysat for other parents.
A neighbor in North Charleston reported to police in 2003 that she suspected Nicole had molested the neighbor's young daughter. The girl, who was 4 or 5, told her mother that Nicole had been showering and sleeping naked with the child, the mother told police. When authorities interviewed the girl, she "had not disclosed any pertinent information for criminal charges," according to a report by the North Charleston police, dated Feb. 27, 2003.
As police investigated the allegations, Nicole was being treated in the psychiatric ward of The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston for "an unrelated incident," according to the police report.
No charges were filed, but the mother secured a protective order against Eason when Eason left the hospital weeks later. Nicole says she never abused the girl.
In 2005, another allegation surfaced, this time against Calvin Eason.
A young boy who suffered from mental illness told his counselor that Calvin had touched him improperly while bathing the boy. The boy's mother didn't believe the allegation, according to a report by North Charleston police, and no charges were brought. The boy's mother couldn't be reached for comment.
When Reuters first visited the Easons, Calvin wore a sleeveless maroon T-shirt with the words GOOD DADS MAKE A DIFFERENCE. He said he never improperly touched the boy he had babysat, and added: "I've got kids of my own I could already do that to. So why would I even try to do that to another child?"
The Easons bounced between jobs. By the summer of 2006, Nicole moved from South Carolina to Tilton, Illinois. Calvin says she relocated for a job and he stayed behind.
Nicole lived with her friends Randy Winslow and Winslow's brother, according to Calvin. Later, Calvin joined her in the area, and the Easons moved to a different house.
Before Calvin arrived, Nicole had gone online and taken a child through the re-homing network.
'I CAN HANDLE HIM'
In July 2006, Nicole's pursuit of Glenna Mueller's adopted son was accomplished in a single day.
Ten years old, the boy had come out of the Wisconsin foster system small and underweight. He loved babies and animals but suffered emotional and behavioral problems, Mueller says. He would act out, attack other children and show no remorse, she recalls.
A stay-at-home mother in the paper-mill city of Appleton, Mueller was, in essence, a professional parent. Her income came from government assistance for her adopted sons and daughters. She says a Wisconsin child welfare officer told her that if she relinquished the 10-year-old to the state, the move might prompt an investigation that could result in her losing her other children.
Increasingly stressed, she turned to another Yahoo group, called ConsideringDisruptinganAdoption, to find the boy a new home. If she handled the matter privately, she reasoned, the state wouldn't have to know and therefore wouldn't investigate her for neglect or abuse.
Begun in 2004, the Yahoo group was an active online forum for adoptive parents seeking to re-home unwanted children. Mueller posted a description of the boy and asked if anyone was interested.
Nicole Eason responded by email: "OMG Glenna I CAN HANDLE HIMI HAVE the love, patience and time"
Mueller was eager to move forward but told Eason she couldn't afford an attorney.
They wouldn't need one, Eason assured her. She sent Mueller pictures of children she described as being "all part of my family" - including a daughter and stepson "from a previous marriage" and another boy and girl whom she described as Randy Winslow's niece and nephew.
Mueller responded by sending Eason additional pictures of the 10-year-old boy. Minutes later, Eason suggested they meet in person. She and Randy, she told Mueller, were willing to drive to Wisconsin that very day. Mueller agreed.
That afternoon, in the hotel parking lot off U.S. Highway 41, Mueller met Eason and Winslow for the first and only time.
Before the couple drove off with the boy, Mueller took a picture of the new family. The snapshot shows a small, lean child between the smiling pair. Winslow, wearing sunglasses, has his arm around the boy.
"I was a little concerned about Randy," Mueller recalls today. "He never said anything. He spent time with (the boy) and played with him but didn't interact with me.... But as long as they were on the up-and-up I was OK with them taking him. It was like, get him out of here.
"In hindsight, it was all wrong. I shouldn't have done it that way," she says. "But I did, you know."
Several months passed before the boy's caseworker in Wisconsin learned that Mueller had given the child to a couple in Illinois. Mueller says the caseworker insisted she take the the boy back. He told her that the transfer violated a legal requirement that authorities be notified when custody is transferred across state lines.
The caseworker "said I could be arrested," Mueller says. "It scared the bejesus out of me."
Mueller called Nicole Eason, who promised to meet her at the state line to give her the boy back. But on the day they arranged to meet, Mueller says, Eason didn't show. Today, Mueller says she cannot remember how the boy got back to her Appleton home. But she says neither Wisconsin nor Illinois authorities took action against her, Eason or Winslow for transferring custody illegally.
When the boy returned to Wisconsin in late 2006, he mentioned that he spent most of his time with Winslow, not with Nicole. "She left," he told Mueller. "I was there with Randy," Mueller recalls him saying.
As Mueller began searching online for another family to take him, Eason and Winslow also were back online, again looking for children.
While Eason worked the re-homing bulletin boards, Winslow spent time in a chat room called baby&toddlerlove. That's where an undercover federal agent named Kevin Laws found him in April 2007.
Laws, who works in the child exploitation investigative unit at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, posed as a single grandfather living in Alaska. He told Winslow he was caring for his two grandchildren, kids he said he would let Winslow molest.
In his messages to Laws, court records show, Winslow shared child pornography and claimed to have experience "sucking boys" who were 7, 9 and 11 years old.
"Its all fun man no matter their age," Winslow wrote in a chat. Winslow told Laws he would come to Alaska and work as the man's housekeeper; in exchange, Winslow would have access to the children. Their chat went this way:
Lovethemcute: its a shame they have to feel guilty or schools tell them its wrong
Laws, working undercover: yea but what are you going to do
Lovethemcute: I agree its wrong to abuse a child but we don't abuse them there is a difference
Lovethemcute: just have to raise them to think its fine and not to tell anyone
Lovethemcute: what is done in the family stays in the family
A 'FUN BOY'
When authorities searched Winslow's home and took his computer, the warrant allowed them to look only for items related to the sending and receiving of child-exploitation images and the chats and emails between Winslow and the undercover agent. Nicole Eason was no longer living with Winslow.
Not until he was contacted for this story did Laws, an agent who specializes in protecting children, learn about the Internet groups that facilitate private re-homing. At the time he caught Winslow, Laws says, authorities didn't know to look for anything beyond what was in the chats.
After a reporter told Laws about the 10-year-old whom Winslow and Eason had taken in, the agent re-examined his exchanges with Winslow. Among the items Laws discovered was a photo of the boy, clothed.
Reading from a transcript that wasn't made public as part of the criminal case, Laws says Winslow also described the 10-year-old. Winslow called him a "fun boy" whom he and his ex-girlfriend planned to adopt.
In February 2008, Winslow pleaded guilty in his criminal case and was convicted of sending and receiving child pornography from June 2006 through May 2007. The span includes the months that the 10-year-old spent with Winslow and Eason. Serving a 20-year sentence at a federal prison in Elkton, Ohio, Winslow declined requests for an interview.
After returning to Wisconsin, Mueller sent the child to another home after getting approval from child welfare officials.
The boy turned 18 a few days ago. In an interview, his new foster mother said he is one of 10 children with special needs that she and her husband are raising. She said he is often combative and uncommunicative. He once asked if he could attend a school for troubled children, she said, but she and her husband insist on home-schooling him and don't believe in therapy for children. The couple declined to make the boy available for an interview.
Asked recently whether she knew that Winslow is in prison for trading child pornography, Nicole replied "nope" and said she knew Winslow "for like a couple weeks." She also disputed that Winslow traveled with her to pick up the boy, despite the photographic evidence to the contrary.
In emails that Nicole Eason and Mueller exchanged shortly after the handover, Eason wrote that the boy and Winslow "are perfect together both playful kids which is what (the boy) needs."
In an earlier interview, Nicole Eason didn't mention Winslow but did refer to the child as "our sex boy." He often behaved perversely, she said: "He would try to walk around butt-naked."
When the boy misbehaved, she said, she had "no problems spanking an ass." Once, she said, she hit him when he insulted a customer at a Walmart.
"As weird as this sounds, I just unnaturally reacted and backhand him in his mouth," Eason said. "You know, busted his lip with his tooth and, you know, he started crying."
By early 2007, the boy had gone, and Nicole and Winslow had parted. She was again living with Calvin. And again, she had connected with two sets of parents who didn't want their children, a Russian boy and an American girl whom the Easons would take.
Big Momma also was becoming a bigger presence in the Internet re-homing forums. Soon, a woman who moderated one of the bulletin boards grew concerned about Nicole — so much so that she drove through the night to the Eason home. She was there to try to take the boy and girl away from them.