New child abuse hotline could protect more kids — in 2015
by Jenifer Brown
Child-welfare reforms now in the works come too late for four Denver boys raised in almost feral conditions, but could alter the lives of other abused and neglected children.
Colorado's system to prevent child abuse is in the midst of a massive overhaul, a transition so huge that state officials and children's advocates describe it as an ocean liner shifting course. Still, lawmakers and advocates are skeptical about whether the remake is enough.
A statewide hotline opening in January 2015 will capture and record every call regarding child abuse and neglect. And when a subsequent call is made about the same family, the call screener can listen to recordings of previous calls and more easily retrieve information about a family's history with child welfare.
The point is to prevent situations such as the one that recently horrified the Denver community.
Four boys were rescued Sept. 30 from an apartment filled with feces, maggots, flies and stray cats after their mother took the youngest to a doctor with a cut on his forehead. Previous calls to child-protective workers were ignored, even though the parents had lost three older siblings in 2006 and neighbors had called authorities concerned about the latest group of kids.
Both sets of children spoke only in grunts and were not potty trained.
Key to the hotline's success is a revamp of Colorado's caseworker training program. The state soon will require hotline staff to earn certification before fielding calls; currently no training specific to call screening is required. Caseworkers in every county must participate, and the state hotline number will route to each county.
Instead of placing newer caseworkers on the front line, more experienced caseworkers will answer the hotline.
"This gives me tremendous hope that we will respond better in the future," said Stephanie Villafuerte, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center and longtime critic of the current child-welfare system. "I am really heartened by this project, more than I have been heartened by anything in the last eight years. The time is right."
The state has yet to determine how much the hotline will cost.
Colorado also is requiring counties to set up six-member teams that will re-evaluate every call that comes through the hotline next year. That means a single caseworker will not decide to "screen out," or not follow up, on a call alleging abuse; that decision is up to the team.
Calls that don't rise to a level of abuse that requires further investigation and caseworker visits won't necessarily get ignored. Instead, under a new program expanding statewide in the next three years, parenting coaches can visit the homes of at-risk families to teach everything from how to put safety covers on electrical sockets to how to deal with temper tantrums.
The program, called SafeCare, began in 15 rural counties last month.
Most of the reforms are the result of a child-welfare agenda announced by Gov. John Hickenlooper after a Denver Post/9 News investigation last year that found 40 percent of kids who die of abuse and neglect in this state had caregivers who were known to child-protection workers before their deaths.
Last month's rescue of four boys — ages 2, 4, 5 and 6 — revived statewide conversation about whether the system to protect children is broken.
Sen. Linda Newell, a Littleton Democrat who helped push the reforms through the legislature last session, said she has received numerous calls from people who want to know why child-welfare authorities were not keeping closer watch on Lorinda Bailey, 35, and Wayne Sperling, 66. The parents of the four boys are out on bond and due in court this week to face four counts each of felony child abuse.
Among the questions: Why were the parents charged only with misdemeanors after their first three children were found playing in a busy street and were removed by child-welfare officials? Newell said she is looking at further reform, including strengthening criminal punishment for child abuse.
"How could this have happened to three children and then four more?" the senator asked. "Where was the breakdown? What can we do to catch this ahead of time next time?"
Colorado's child ombudsman, whose job is to keep watch on the child-welfare system, has opened an investigation into the case handled by Denver caseworkers. A Colorado Department of Human Services review team also is investigating. The findings of those investigations will help lawmakers determine what other reforms are needed, Newell said.
Before the hotline is live, Colorado plans to launch a child-abuse public awareness campaign unprecedented in this state.
In Colorado, just 10 percent of calls to child welfare come from the public. The rest are from "mandatory reporters," people including doctors and teachers who are required by law to report suspected abuse.
Compare that with New York, where 50 percent of all reports are initiated by the public.
"We need more eyes and ears on the street," said Julie Krow, director of the state Office of Children, Youth and Families.
A committee set up by the legislature is writing a plan for the hotline and training with help from a consultant, and has visited model programs in New York and Ohio. The legislature must approve funding in 2014 in order for the hotline to open in January 2015.
Besides recording calls, the new system will collect data Colorado has not had: the number of calls dropped because of long wait times, analysis of whether the right questions were asked and whether the caseworker looked up the family's history with child welfare.
"Once we roll out a hotline, we need to know if it's working or not," Krow said.
Child sex abuse makes up majority of CAC caseload
Children's Advocacy Center releases 2012/2013 statistics for St. Francois County
by PAT PRATT
Child abuse, specifically the sexual abuse of children, continues to be a serious problem in St. Francois County according to statistics released by the Children's Advocacy Center, or CAC, for 2012 and 2013 and local law enforcement.
"I think the public needs to know this is going on right here. They think, 'Well that happens in Kansas City or St. Louis.' But it's happening here in St. Francois County. And these are just the reported cases. We believe there are tons more we never hear about," said St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock.
So far in 2013, 59 children in St. Francois County have been interviewed by the CAC. Of those 59 children, 98 percent were victims of sexual abuse. Final numbers for 2012 show 76 children interviewed by the CAC and also reflect that 98 percent were victims of sexual abuse (see sidebar for individual city/county information.)
"The majority of these cases are sexual abuse. When there is physical abuse the evidence is there. On the sexual abuse cases a lot of times the disclosures aren't the next day. It may take kids three months for them to disclose what has happened. It may take several years. By then there is no evidence. Then we rely heavily on the CAC and the interviews they do and the reputation they have in the courts, to work our cases," said St. Francois County Detective Cpl. Matt Wampler.
Despite the best efforts of detectives and the CAC, as the sheriff said, many cases go unreported and many victims suffer at the hands of predators for years.
Barriers to battling child sex abuse
What are the reasons for incidents of sexual abuse going unreported? What barriers prevent crimes of this nature from being addressed by law enforcement? Detective Sgt. Kenny Wakefield says when victims refuse to speak out the problem becomes cancerous, and continuous.
"There are a lot of people, that if child sexual abuse occurs in their family they consider it embarrassing and something that they want to hide. And it does nothing to bring about a remedy to the problem. All they do is cloak it and the problem comes back at another time with another child. And another child falls victim," Detective Wakefield said.
Detectives and the CAC say in many cases sex abuse has occurred over several generations.
"It seems like a lot of people you interview - it's just an endless cycle. One that started two, three, four generations ago and the victims think it's natural because it happened to their parents and their grandparents. It's not natural," said Detective Wakefield.
CAC advocate Kelly Tesson expounded on this barrier. "I will get a lot of moms that bring their child in for the interview and they will tell me it happened to them when they were a kid. So I will ask them what happened. Did they go to court? And they say 'No. My mom just talked to him. It was a thing the family tried to take care of.' Then you have to ask, 'If you knew he did this to you, why would you let your child back around him?'"
Sometimes the perpetrator is also the family breadwinner, which causes a breakdown in reporting the crime and other obvious problems.
"We've had this happen numerous times, where the whole family gets torn completely apart. Dad's the breadwinner, but he's also the perpetrator. They (the rest of the family) have to leave the home and then they have nothing. They're living in the shelter or they're living with aunts or uncles. Then they are like, 'Um, I don't know. I shouldn't say anything,'" Tesson said.
Sheriff Bullock adds, however, that law enforcement strives to reduce situations where the family is split apart and tries to minimize harm to the victims. The suspected perpetrator is usually asked to find other quarters until the investigation is complete.
"It doesn't necessarily mean that they are not going to support the family anymore. Sometime we say, 'You are going to have to leave the house and go stay with your brother, sister, somebody, until the investigation is over,'" Bullock said.
However, if the suspect/breadwinner is found guilty and incarcerated, it will indeed leave a hole in the family structure. The remaining caregiver often has to get a job or find another means to make up for the lost income. Bullock says there are state and local resources that can help, and his department is committed to assisting victims any way they can.
"They can come to us. We want kids to know that if this happens to them and they need to tell someone we will protect them. If we don't, the next time we may not hear back from them. There's the Ministerial Alliance, the community partnership and other programs out there that we can try to get them some help through," Bullock said.
Who is a sex offender?
There is no cut and dry description for a sex offender.
"There is no ‘picture' of a sex offender," Detective Wampler said. "It would be a picture of everyone. It's the wealthy, the middle class and the bottom of the road. One thing the family can look for is if there is pornography. If a person is starting to view pornography, especially child pornography, if there are young kids in the home then families should be aware and take that into consideration."
The sheriff agrees.
"You can't paint a picture of what these guys look like," said Bullock. "It could be anybody."
Decreasing the likelihood of sex abuse
"Children are our most valuable asset in this country. If I gave you an ounce of gold, you would protect it and place certain security measures around it. But we don't do that with our children. And they're more valuable than any lump of yellow rock," said Detective Wakefield.
There are steps families can take to protect children from becoming victims of abuse.
"There are several small steps families can take. They should be aware where their children stay the night and who is going to be present in the home where their children are staying. More importantly, know the sleeping arrangements. You don't put ‘Sally' who's five in the same room with the friend's big brother and expected her to sleep on the floor and nothing to happen. And just because a child is asleep in the home, that doesn't necessarily mean they're safe. The majority of these cases happen during the night-time hours within the home," Detective Wampler said.
Detective Wakefield says with the advent of social media, parents should keep a watchful eye on their children's web activity.
"Those that actually stalk young victims use social media in order to locate and build a rapport with the future victim. We've seen that several times. Parents have to be heavily involved in their children's life. Know who they're involved with. Not just the names, but the background," Wakefield said.
Tesson expounds on this advice, saying "Facebook is not just being used by perpetrators. Our young girls are putting themselves out there as potential victims, because they want to be more grown up. It doesn't make them guilty of what happens to them, but if you're a parent you need to be monitoring those pages."
And while the kids may fuss and complain, monitoring Internet traffic may save them from becoming a victim. Authorities say if something is discovered, how parents handle the conversation is critical.
"Building a relationship where your kids are not afraid to tell you things is important. Don't jump to conclusions and don't get mad right off the start. If you don't have that relationship with your child, they are not going to tell you about these things," Wampler said.
"How parents react when a child does disclose can be key to whether they continue to disclose, or if they say 'never mind.' The non-offending caregiver needs to make sure their reaction is non-emotional when a child discloses," Tesson said.
Sheriff Bullock says, however, that resources to bring incidents to light have improved. Education through the schools and other civic and law enforcement organizations, have helped many victims to come forward with out fear of reprisal.
"When I was a kid, nobody talked about it," said Sheriff Bullock. "If it happened in somebody's family, if it was grandpa, they put him in the back room and it was never talked about in public. It's out there now. The information is available and the kids are more forthcoming."
Drugs and alcohol often go hand-in-hand with child abuse.
"When I was undercover, there were times when people who wanted to get money for their drugs would sell their children. My partner actually bought a child in Irondale at a restaurant over there. And that's a beginning step to some of these people. They didn't know who they were selling the child to, obviously, or they wouldn't have sold them to a police officer. All they wanted was the money so they could get the drugs," Detective Wampler said.
The CAC and detectives say victims usually know their abuser before the incident occurs. Perpetrators often "groom" their victims and use alcohol or controlled substances to lure victims in.
"We talked about pedophiles being the dirty old man in the corner with the raincoat on, a bag of candy in one hand and a claw hammer in the other. Get rid of the candy and put a bottle of alcohol in his hand, or a controlled substance. Then you've got a guy who's trying to look younger or women who are trying to look younger trying to entice these children into thinking 'You can trust me. I'm going to provide you something you're not going to get anywhere else.'
"Or if they (predators) know the kids are having family problems. They say 'Trust me. They (your parents) can't identify with your problems. I can help you work through this.' And it's more a psychological, than a physical profile, that lures kids in," Wakefield said.
Individuals with concerns about a child's safety should call the DFS hotline or a DFS supervisor or talk to a law enforcement officer.
You will need to report the name of the child; name of the parent or caregiver; name of the alleged abuser and where the child can be located.
You will be asked several questions.
Is the child in a life-threatening situation now? How do you know about the abuse/neglect? Did you witness the abuse/neglect? Were there other witnesses and how can they be contacted?
If you are not required by your occupation to report, you don't have to identify yourself when you make a hotline call, however being able to contact you later helps Children's Division workers do a more thorough investigation.
Not all calls to the hotline are determined to be abuse/neglect. However, the Children's Division can often provide services and assistance that can help families prevent abuse.
Why Facebook Shouldn't Let The World See Your Teens' Pictures
by ADAM LEVIN
Not a week goes by without another story of an adult doing something colossally stupid on social media and paying the price. So why in the world did Facebook think it advisable to allow 13-year-old kids to make their pictures and status updates public?
In a widely-decried move, Facebook announced last week that underage users — those between 13 and 17, as kids younger than 13 are technically not allowed to open accounts — would now be able to share their status messages and updates with the world and accept "Followers" on the site. In non-tech terms, that means that teenagers can now make their pictures and life updates accessible to a group of people they don't necessarily know ("Followers") and the world at large.
Adults more familiar with teenage behavior disagreed.
Tech-Savvy, But Susceptible
Claire Lilley of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in the U.K. Mail, "It's simply not acceptable for Facebook to expect children to take 100 percent responsibility for managing not just their settings but their levels of risk too; teenagers aren't always going to be careful about what they post."
Susan Linn, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School and the co-founder and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told NBC News, "Kids are familiar with a lot of different marketing and a lot of different brands, and they know how to use technological [sic], that's incredibly clear," but that "their judgment is still isn't adult and they're susceptible to manipulation."
Facebook responded to criticism by pointing to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project about teens' attitudes about social media. In it, teenagers told Pew that they believed that it was "not difficult at all" to manage their privacy settings on Facebook — which is not actual evidence that they are managing their privacy settings as well as they think, or that their ideas of appropriate privacy levels are similar to those of an adult. In another part of the survey, as noted by NBC News, only 9 percent of those same teens expressed much concern that advertisers and marketers might be gathering, let alone using, their data.
That's not the even the worst of it — The Daily Mail pointed to a 40-hour study by the Internet Watch Foundation that discovered more than 12,000 self-generated pictures and videos by teens on pedophile websites. Today's "cute" selfie — even when it's not inappropriate — can quite easily become tomorrow's pervert fodder, especially when one takes into account Facebook's new "graph" search, which allows users to more easily find any public content.
I'll be the first one to admit that a teenager can figure out all the new shortcuts in iOS7 faster than I can — which, like the joke about teenagers being the only ones able to program the family VCR so many years ago, makes them more intuitive about how the newest electronics and software work. This, however, does not make them more "savvy" about the implications of technology, privacy or the staying power of information the Internet. Few 13-year-olds are contemplating the repercussions of a Facebook faux pas on their job prospects after college.
But whether it's the teens who trashed former NFL player Brian Holloway's house and posted the evidence for all to see on social media sites, or the sad story of Amanda Todd, who was bullied by classmates on Facebook to the point of suicide after taking a topless photo surfaced, there's ample evidence that the technological skills of teens have little correlation to their ability to accurately assess the long-term consequences of their online actions. While Facebook has repeatedly denied a financial motivation behind the privacy changes, it's clear that the move is motivated by a desire to retain an audience thought to be abandoning the platform, and whose business model is accessing eyeballs and data for advertisers. For a company recently caught utilizing the image of an underage rape victim who committed suicide for online dating ads, you would think it would think twice about the implications of allowing underage kids' information, pictures and words to be part of the public record. After all, the people running Facebook aren't kids anymore.
Strippers converge on World Series to stop human sex trafficking
by Leisa Zigman
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - It is the underbelly of big sporting events that no one wants to talk about. But authorities and human trafficking experts believe dozens of girls and boys are being brought to St. Louis to be offered for sale during the World Series this weekend.
Those trying to stop it and play a role in rescuing girls from the sex slave trade work at area strip clubs.
Michael Ocello owns several adult nightclubs and founded COAST, adult club operators against sex trafficking. He has the backing of ICE and Homeland security. His group has earned credibility with law enforcement and is leading the effort to educate people on how to recognize a sex trafficking victim.
"There is a lot of concern that there is a tremendous amount of human trafficking going through St. Louis and being conducted in St. Louis," said Ocello.
Especially during major sporting events that draw big crowds, he said. Ocello printed 10,000 baseball cards that will be handed out by his employees this weekend. The front looks like a souvenir, while the back details signs of human trafficking and a number to call that could save a victim's life.
Stephanie Kilper, with Operation Freedom Taskforce in Akron, Ohio works to end to human trafficking. She says girls are being brought into St. Louis and Boston just for the World Series crowds.
"They have to sleep with 8,9,10 men through the course of an evening. These are girls that are 13, 14, and 15-years-old that are being brought in, and set up and forced to do things they wouldn't want to do," she said.
The attorney general in Texas called the 2011 super bowl the single largest human trafficking event in the United States.
No one has said how the World Series compares but with any large event, human trafficking experts say there is no doubt underage girls and boys will be sexually exploited this weekend in St. Louis.
Sex Trafficking and the Super Bowl
by Phil Gregory
New Jersey is preparing for what authorities believe will be an increase in human trafficking when the state hosts the Super Bowl in February.
Law enforcement and victim-services providers gathered Friday at a summit in Trenton to discuss ways to prevent that from occurring.
They heard from sex trafficking survivors who shared their stories to bring a message of hope to other victims.
Barbara Amaya said she ran away from home in Virginia at the age of 12 after being abused by family members. She was taken in by a couple who sold her to a sex trafficker in New York City.
"I tried to escape from him," she said. "I made it back to Virginia once. He came and got me.
"Everything that you could imagine happening to me on the streets of New York did happen to me. I mean, I grew up being trafficked," Amaya said. "The fact that I'm alive now really is a miracle."
After nine years, she managed to break free from her captor when he was sent to jail for drugs and weapons possession.
Shandra Woworuntu, who said she left Indonesia after seeing an ad for a seasonal job in the U.S., was kidnapped shortly after she arrived in New York City and was forced into prostitution.
"I realize it was organized crime that trafficked me and put me into the slave industry. It wasn't right," she said. "We are human. We have freedom to do anything if we are in control."
She managed to escape from the sex trade after two months by jumping out a second-floor bathroom window.
Amaya and Woworuntu are now advocates for other victims.
Increasing awareness about human trafficking can help prevent and detect it and provide information to prosecute the traffickers, officials said.
Protect foster children from sex trafficking
by Conna Craig
These girls and boys must be better cared for and watched over.
Recent sting operations revealed that more than half of the children being traded for sex come from foster care. The same children identified by our courts as most in need of protection from abuse and neglect are being bought and sold everywhere from truck stops and cheap motels to wealthy suburbs. They are being used, reused, and then discarded like trash.
When the U.S. House Subcommittee on Human Resources holds a hearing Wednesday on what can be done to prevent sex trafficking of youth in foster care it will be taking up an issue that is, tragically, more widespread -- and deeply entrenched -- than most anyone can imagine.
What makes it all the more appalling is that, in the vast majority of cases, no one even looks for these children when they go missing from the system.
"Research shows that most victims of child sex trafficking come straight from the foster care system. This is totally unacceptable," said Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. -- who called the hearing. "We owe it to them to ensure our nation's foster care system does all it can to protect them from predators so they can live safe, happy, and successful lives. For too many kids in foster care, we are not living up to that promise."
Reichert is absolutely correct. In order to keep the promise we, as a civilized society, have made to our most vulnerable children, we must mandate concrete, actionable steps. To begin with, let's look at what we know: state governments admitted they could not locate 4,973 foster children at the end of fiscal year 2012. Almost unbelievably, this is one of the numbers ("Status=Runaway") that states provide to secure federal funding.
These are real numbers, representing real children. Is anyone looking for them?
The youth at the highest risk of being lured into sexual slavery fall into several groups. First, those who have run away from "substitute care"—an umbrella term that includes foster care, kinship care, group homes and institutions. Then there are youth who "age out" of care with nowhere to go. Finally, the most overlooked are children missing from care but not formally counted by the state as "abducted" or "runaway."
Children missing from care are defined as those whose whereabouts are unknown to their state-appointed caretakers yet their status is not reported to the authorities.
These include children who have been informally (and illegally) returned to a family of origin or "re-homed" with another family (while the foster parents continue to collect payments for a child no longer in their care); children whose overburdened social workers are instructed by supervisors to "check the box" rather than pay actual visits to check on youngsters' safety; and children who walk out of group homes. According to The Oklahoman, youngsters in a foster care shelter were free to leave at any time and "if the child is above the age of 15, or sometimes if they are above the age of 13 and 'seem particularly mature,' the shelter staff will not follow the child nor will the police be called."
If the foster parents and social workers into whose care we are placing abused and neglected children are not keeping track of the children, then who is?
Every caregiver assigned by the state must be required to report every child who has run away or otherwise gone missing (think for a moment of the dangers of online predators alone) to law enforcement within 24 hours. Some foster parents are reluctant to report missing foster children for fear of being judged or even having their biological children taken from them. This is a practice issue that can be addressed in foster parent training and support.
In order for any federal law to stem the tide of foster girls and boys being lured into sexual slavery, several practices need to be implemented right away. Governors must enact executive orders requiring physical proof, such as fingerprints or photographs, of visitation by social workers every 30 days to children in state-run care. State legislators should extend mandated reporter requirements to include the reporting of children who are missing for 24 hours or more. Every adult who works with children in substitute care must report children who are missing to law enforcement, just as they would their own children.
Wednesday's hearing provides the opportunity to take critical steps toward keeping our promises to at-risk youth, and very likely even saving lives.
Conna Craig is a children's advocate and president of the Policy Institute for Children.
Ramsey County creates video to cut down on sex trafficking
by Shelby Capacio
By some estimates, thousands of people are forced into prostitution in Minnesota each day. Now, Ramsey County prosecutors and the lodging industry are teaming up to curb the growing problem.
According to prosecutors, most sex trafficking starts with online classified ads on sites like Backpage.com, but it ends in local hotel rooms. That's why they hope a new video they created will help train hospitality employees to spot the warning signs.
"I think it's a safety and security issue, which is always a concern for us," said Scott Henning, general manager of the Radisson in Roseville.
Hundreds of guests book rooms at the hotels and motels in Roseville each day, but some of those guests aren't in town for business or a trip to the nearby shopping mall.
"To have that kind of trafficking in our hotel rooms is alarming," Henning admitted. "Something against the law -- and we need to be aware of it."
That's the goal of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, whose office made a video to help hotel and motel employees learn to recognize the signs that someone is being bought and sold for sex.
The 20-minute DVD includes stories from sex-trafficking survivors and the case of Samuel Cozart, who is now serving prison time for pimping a 17-year-old out of a Roseville hotel. The video also highlights the red flags, such as paying in cash, having no luggage and refusing housekeeping or room service for days on end.
"I think the tools we've been given by Ramsey County will not only help hotels our size, but also smaller hotels who don't have the infrastructure to create such DVDs," Henning said.
Melanie Snyder, who started a campaign to shut down the Red Roof Inn in Woodbury following a hostage standoff there last fall, said she thinks the DVD is "a great start to help out hotels and motels in the area."
Prior to the standoff, the Red Roof Inn also had hundreds of other police calls, including calls for teen prostitution.
According to Snyder, the owners of the inn now require customers to have a credit card instead of allowing them to pay with cash, but she said she believes it'll take more than a video to make a dent in the sex trafficking trade in Minnesota.
"I think it involves everyone," she said. "Police, City Council and residents -- as well as people who manage the hotel; it's a group effort.
The Ramsey County Attorney's Office is sending 500 DVDs to hotels and motels across the state in the next couple of weeks.
To watch the video, click here: http://vimeo.com/77710308
Foster Care and Sex Trafficking Survivor Testifies on Hill
by Nicki Rossoll
This afternoon on the Hill a 24-year-old college student and sex trafficking survivor, Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, shared her experiences growing up in the U.S., where she was used for money in the foster care system and ultimately forced into sex trafficking.
“I spent for the most part, the first 18 years of my life in the foster care system. Seven of those years I was a child being sexually trafficked on the streets, internet, strip clubs, massage parlors and even in the back of express papers,” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew said in her written testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means's Subcommittee on Human Resources.
Now, she has dedicated herself to sharing her story in hopes of helping young people and changing the system she grew up in for the better.
Since the early 1960s, the federal government has reimbursed states for part of the cost of providing foster care to children from needy families. In FY 2012, the federal government provided states $4.2 billion to support monthly payments to foster parents, case management, staff training and data collection. The goal of this funding is to ensure that foster parents can support children from needy families when the child cannot safely remain at home.
But according to Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, this is not always the case. Instead, the funding intended is often used for the foster parents' benefits, thereby teaching youth in the system that they are just a means for financial gain.
“These caregivers will make statements like, You're not my child, I don't care what's going on with you, as long as you're not dead, I'll continue to get my paycheck,” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew explained in her written testimony. “This nothing-but-a-paycheck theory objectifies the youth, and the youth begin to normalize the perception that their presence is to be used for financial gain.”
Consequently, it's not far from the foster home to the streets, making youth in the system easily susceptible to sex trafficking.
“When youth are approached by traffickers, pimps, exploiters, they don't see much difference between their purpose of bringing finances into their foster home and bringing money to traffickers, pimps, exploiters' stable,” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew noted in her written testimony.
Statistics also support her claims. In 2010, officials in Los Angeles reported that 59 percent of juveniles arrested for prostitution were in the foster care system. In addition, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that of the children who are reported missing, who are also likely sex trafficking victims, 60 percent were in foster care or group homes when they ran away.
Additionally, youth in foster care are subject to an ever changing environment. According to Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, this has many consequences for youth, like the normalization of a stranger's controlling your life decisions, and a lack of opportunity to gain meaningful relationships and attachments.
“For myself, as unfortunate as it is to say, the most consistent relationship I ever had in care was with my pimp and his family,” the Human Rights Project for Girls board member explained.
Ortiz Walker Pettigrew has not lost hope in the system. She continues to share her story, and was honored by Glamour magazine as “The Bravest Truth Teller” in the 2011 Women of the Year issue. In her written testimony to the subcommittee, she provided three ways that the child welfare system can be improved. First, child welfare agencies can work with local programs that provide support and resources to children who have been sexually exploited, thus better providing a transition for these youth into a healthier lifestyle. Second, youth should be provided trauma-informed counsel and care, at all times. And third, child welfare agencies need to find a way to make these children visible when they go missing.
Ortiz Walker Pettigrew then urged the government to take action on the issue in order to help this very vulnerable population.
“Personally, I feel there is so much more that can be done; these are just a few places to begin in the longer process of our federal government's partnership with nationwide child welfare systems in their effort to end the vulnerability of this population” she said.
Ortiz Walker Pettigrew's remarks to the committee mirrored her written testimony.
Calif. Gov Allows Freedom to Woman Who Killed Pimp
California Gov. Jerry Brown has decided to allow freedom to a woman who received a life sentence when she was a teenager for killing her former pimp.
Brown decided late Friday not to take action on a state parole board's decision to grant parole to Sara Kruzan, thereby allowing the decision to go into effect, his spokesman Evan Westrup said Saturday.
Kruzan was 17 when she was sentenced to die in prison for the 1994 shooting death of George Gilbert Howard in a Riverside motel room. She contended that he sexually abused her and had groomed her since she was 11 to work for him as a child prostitute.
Her case became a high-profile example used by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who sought to soften harsh life sentences for juveniles.
"It is justice long overdue," Yee told the Los Angeles Times. He called Kruzan's case the "perfect example of adults who failed her, of society failing her. You had a predator who stalked her, raped her, forced her into prostitution, and there was no one around."
Kruzan's case garnered widespread publicity in 2010 after Human Rights Watch posted a six-minute interview with her on YouTube.
The year culminated with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuting her sentence to 25-years-to-life with the possibility of parole on his last full day in office. Schwarzenegger said he still considered her guilty of first-degree murder, but he sympathized with her defense that the man she killed had sexually abused her and served as her pimp for years.
"Given Ms. Kruzan's age at the time of the murder, and considering the significant abuse she suffered at his hands, I believe Ms. Kruzan's sentence is excessive," the governor wrote in his commutation message, "it is apparent that Ms. Kruzan suffered significant abuse starting at a vulnerable age."
This January, a Riverside judge further reduced her first-degree murder conviction to second degree, making her immediately eligible for release.
Yee's legislation to allow new sentencing hearings for juveniles sent to prison for life without parole became law in January. In September, Brown signed a second bill requiring parole boards to give special consideration to juveniles tried as adults who have served at least 15 years of lengthy sentences. Advocates estimate there are more than 1,000 prisoners already eligible for parole hearings under that new law.
Brown's decision on Kruzan's case came nearly two weeks before the deadline for his action, Westrup said. The parole board was expected to act on the decision on Monday.
Kruzan is housed at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.
Her aunt told the Associated Press she wasn't surprised by the governor's action.
"I just wondered why it took so long," Ann Rogen of Riverside said.
Mum raped by son goes public
by IAN STEWARD
A woman tracked down and raped by the son she adopted out as a child has successfully fought to have him named in public as a deterrent to him taking revenge on her.
Erin Wills, 44, has taken the unusual step of forgoing her name suppression as a victim of a sex crime so that her biological son, Adam Charles Pollard, can be named.
Pollard was convicted after he tracked down Wills on Mother's Day 2010 and entered into an abusive sexual relationship with her which ended with him being convicted last year of incest and rape.
"I have released my name because I don't own Adam's crimes so why should I carry the same that belongs to him any longer," Wills told the Sunday Star-Times.
Wills said she hoped having Pollard's name made public would help stop him offending again.
"He needs to be accountable and I hope it will be a deterrent from future revenge on me. Physically I have healed, but the fear of him and the memories of his abuse remain."
Pollard's lawyers fought his name being released, and took an appeal to the High Court after they were unsuccessful in the District Court.
They argued that identifying him would be distressing for his adopted family and they emphasised the unique circumstances of a son offending against his mother.
The District Court judge ruled these factors did not justify suppression and the High Court confirmed the ruling. Wills earlier told the Star-Times her son used guilt over the adoption to move in with her.
He hit her within three weeks of moving in and the first sexual assaults occurred soon after.
She said he had videotaped the assault and threatened to release the recording.
But the assaults continued and the relationship ended only when Wills went to work one day and "my face was so black and blue from the hiding I had received from Adam that a colleague rang the police and the police came and got me from my workplace".
The son was arrested that day and charged with assaults, rape and incest. The jury found Pollard guilty of one representative count of rape and several counts of incest.
The trial was traumatic and Wills frequently broke down in the witness box, but she said: "I am a survivor and do encourage other victims to put their trust in the police and our justice system as I did."
The promise of treatment for abused children
A relatively modest investment in treatment for abused children can pay dividends later, writes guest columnist Maria Chavez Wilcox
by Maria Chavez Wilcox
NO one wants to talk about child abuse. I know I didn't.
As a child, I was sexually abused by my stepfather. I lived with the fear and degradation for years. And for years, I stayed silent. Today I am a proud and public survivor. I'm thankful for the people who cared about me and helped me heal.
Even when a highly publicized death of a child occurs — like the tragedy of NFL running back Adrian Peterson's two-year-old son — we certainly sympathize, but we are not comfortable talking about the cause and prevention of abuse.
Peterson's son died from injuries after an alleged assault by the boyfriend of the child's mother, according to police. It is a sad fact that his death is not a rare occurrence. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 1,570 U.S. children died from abuse and neglect in 2011; 20 of those children lived in Washington state. Approximately 80 percent of children who die from abuse are under the age of 4.
Hopefully, the Peterson story will serve to point out the role we all have in recognizing and reporting suspected abuse and neglect. But the role we all have in preventing it is just as important.
The relatively modest investment we make now in prevention will not only save lives and generations, but billions of dollars in social, welfare and criminal-justice costs. Prevent Child Abuse America, a national advocacy organization, estimates the direct and indirect costs of child abuse and neglect are well over $100 billion annually.
That's because children who have been abused or neglected are more likely to have a host of problems later in life, including poor physical, emotional and mental health, difficulties in adult relationships, substance abuse, violence and aggression.
Yet with early treatment, young abuse victims can and do make remarkable strides. When treatment and education also embrace parents and guardians, the results are that much more dramatic. Research done locally by Childhaven studied children during their therapy and 12 years later as teenagers, and compared results to abuse victims who did not receive therapy. The research showed that the Childhaven children were six times less likely to have committed a violent juvenile crime, were better adjusted in school and less disruptive in classrooms, and two-and-a-half times less likely to abuse drugs.
As members of the great human village, we have an obligation to help not just children, but their struggling parents and guardians as well. We can reach out to that mom, dad or grandparent who's overwhelmed. We can get involved in our schools and in community organizations. We can support programs that help at-risk children and their families.
The vast majority of the parents we see here at Childhaven love their children and want to be good parents, they just don't know how; they never learned from their own mothers and fathers. Some were physically abused and neglected themselves. Some have experienced domestic violence, homelessness, and drug and alcohol addictions.
No one should ever, under any circumstances, hurt or neglect a child. But every parent, no matter his or her background or experience, knows how difficult parenting can be and how easy it is to reach the end of your rope and find yourself dangling.
We do not know the circumstances or details about what led to the death of Peterson's son, or what could have been done to avoid this heartbreak. What I do know is a young child's life has been cut needlessly short and thousands of other children are living in fear of what the day will bring. That's why we need safety nets and spotters. It's why we need everyone to care and do something about abuse and neglect — before one more tragedy occurs. It's up to all of us.
Maria Chavez Wilcox is president of Childhaven, a 104-year-old Seattle nonprofit that provides therapeutic child care, treatment and parenting programs.
Bill would extend rights of child sex-abuse victims to sue
State Rep. Mark Rozzi said he was talking to a group after a taxpayer rally in Harrisburg last month when someone asked him what else he was up to.
He told them about legislation he is co-sponsoring to raise the statute of limitations on the filing of civil suits in cases of child sexual abuse.
Afterward, one woman stayed behind and began crying.
Rozzi recalled her words: "Mark, I'm 75 years old. I was raped and abused by my uncle when I was 15. It was 60 years ago, and I have never forgotten one thing. I never told anybody."
"We cannot forget," said Rozzi, who alleges he was abused by a priest when he was 13. "It's in your mind every single day."
The legislation would allow adult victims of child sexual abuse to file civil suits against their abusers or the institutions that employed the abusers until the victims are age 50. The current age is 30. The legislation also would open a two-year window for victims to re-file cases thrown out of court because the statute of limitations had expired.
It wouldn't be retroactive; victims 51 or older would still be unable to file suits.
Still, some sort of change is needed because most victims don't come forward until later in life, Rozzi said.
Several states have increased their limits. Others are debating increases.
Pennsylvania's proposal has been stalled in the House Judiciary Committee since it was introduced in January. Chairman Ron Marisco, a Dauphin County Republican, has said he won't allow a vote because the proposed legislation is unconstitutional.
Apparently, Delaware lawmakers had no such concerns. They eliminated the statute of limitations, and victims there have won millions of dollars from the Catholic institutions that employed their abusers.
But this is not just about abuse by priests, said Rozzi, a Muhlenberg Township Democrat. Teachers, coaches and others use positions of trust to abuse children, he said.
"This is about justice denied, and we will not stop until we can get this done," he said.
Next week: Spring Township attorney Jay Abramowitch, who has handled numerous civil cases filed against priests and their dioceses, provides his opinion on the proposed legislation.
Nonprofit plans central Palm Beach County residence for adult women who escaped from sex trafficking
by Jorge Milian
Christa earned her college degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University when she was nearly 50. She's a thriving real estate appraiser with two children and a loving husband of 23 years.
The 55-year-old woman is also a former prostitute and a victim of the sex trafficking business.
“I'm a success story with a lot of cracks,” said Christa, a Palm Beach County resident who asked that her last name not be used.
It's been more than three decades since Christa was sold to a pimp by a man who later would become her first husband. She heals the wounds that fester inside her by working on the board of directors for Hepzibah House, a nonprofit aiming to start a residential treatment facility in central Palm Beach County for women rescued from the sex industry.
Christa grew up in New York in a family that was the definition of dysfunctional. She said her mom was an alcoholic and her father began sexually abusing her “before I could speak.”
She left home as a teenager and moved to Florida where life as a sex slave awaited her. Christa said her stint on the streets was relatively short in comparison to others, but long enough “to go through all the trauma.” That included savage beatings from her pimp, the effects of which linger to this day and recently required surgery on her neck.
After 35 years of keeping her prior life a secret, Christa has chosen to go public with her experiences in order to help girls and young women with a similar past. Last Sunday, Christa spoke to an audience for the first time about her days in the sex trade, bringing many of those in attendance at the New Life Alliance Church in West Palm Beach to tears.
“I have a deep need to be heard,” Christa said. “When your voice is taken away from you before you can speak, it plagues you.”
Christa is aiding the effort to open the residential treatment facility in Palm Beach County. The project is the brainchild of Becky Dymond, founder and president of Hepzibah House and a licensed mental health counselor who works with Christa and other survivors of sex trafficking.
The eight-bed facility is on a horse farm and will be funded through donations and proceeds from equine-assisted therapy Dymond intends to provide residents and others from the community.
“There's nothing quite like taking care of an animal who is also voiceless and helpless to empower someone who has been there to say, ‘I know what that feels like,' ” Dymond said.
Katherine understands that feeling intimately. Following a childhood filled with “a lot of molestation,” 53-year-old Katherine was “turned out” by a pimp at 13.
She was repeatedly raped and beaten, sold to a brothel in Nevada and was rescued only after she was arrested by the FBI for forging checks.
“I felt so trapped and I couldn't get away,” said Katherine, a Palm Beach County resident. “There was no help back then. It's by God's grace that I'm alive.”
Like Christa, Katherine is a member of Hepzibah House's board of directors. Along with Dymond, the two women are putting their efforts into opening the residential treatment facility, whose name in Hebrew means, “My delight is in her.”
While shelters exist in South Florida for younger victims of sex trafficking, no such facility currently is available in the area specifically for adult survivors, Dymond said.
The plan, Dymond said, is to help women trapped in the illegal sex trade to “develop the life skills they need not to go back.”
“Even now, our culture goes, ‘Oh, they're just whores and prostitutes. They do that because they want to do that,' ” Dymond said. “But not so much.”
Domestic violence: 'These things are real and they are happening here in Kingman'
by Kim Steele
KINGMAN - Lee Williams High School Resource Officer Phil Hudgens got up close and personal with the school's freshmen Tuesday during a day-long presentation to physical education and health classes about the dangers of domestic violence.
Hudgens, also an officer with the Kingman Police Department, described two local fatalities that were caused by domestic violence. His speech was part of a forum sponsored by the nonprofit agency Kingman Aid to Abused People. KAAP provides free support and services to families dealing with domestic and other types of violence.
"These things are real and they are happening here in Kingman," said Hudgens. "That's why if you're involved in a relationship that could get dangerous, you need to let others know. My goal as a school resource officer is to make sure students are safe and successful. I'm here for a reason and my office is always open.
"I don't want to have to come back up here 10 years from now and use one of you as an example of a domestic violence fatality."
The forum was part of Lee Williams' focus during October on bullying prevention and domestic violence awareness.
On Oct. 9, students participated in National Unity Day by wearing orange, the national bullying prevention color. On Oct. 17, they observed National Megan's Pledge Day in honor of 13-year-old Megan Meier, who hung herself after being cyber-bullied, and heard a presentation about cyber-bullying from the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women.
The second annual Lee Williams Students Against Violence Everywhere Club's slippers and socks donation drive will take place Nov. 1-20 at the school. Donations of slippers and socks, sizes infant to adult, can be dropped off at the school's reception office. The donations will be given to KAAP for victims of domestic violence.
As students listened, Hudgens discussed the law enforcement side of domestic violence, noting it happens between more than just husbands and wives.
It can include parents and grown children, brothers and sisters or boyfriends and girlfriends. It also takes time to escalate, said Hudgens, and domestic violence arrests are made because of extenuating factors, such as disorderly conduct or criminal damage.
The two local fatalities are prime examples of how domestic violence situations sometimes end, said Hudgens.
Darrell Ketchner was convicted of murder March 7 in the 2009 fatal stabbing of his long-time girlfriend's daughter, Ariel Allison. Ketchner also shot and stabbed the girlfriend, Jennifer Allison, who is the mother of three of his children.
The other fatality involved Holly Mack, a Kingman High School graduate who died Aug. 2, 2009, after she was fatally shot by her husband at a friend's house four months after filing for divorce.
He shot Mack as she handed their 15-month-old daughter, Bailey, to police officers who responded to the scene, then killed himself. The uninjured toddler was adopted by Mack's sister and is now 5 years old.
During the forum, KAAP employees explained the definition of domestic violence, which is behavior that includes threats of violence or intimidation to gain power and control over another person.
They also read from a list called "Love Is, Love Isn't," which detailed some of the attributes of love, including respect, commitment, and trust. It also listed some actions often passed off erroneously as part of love, such as obsession, fear and dependency.
Students also studied a power wheel, a device that shows how abusers gain power and control through their actions, including the use of isolation, intimidation, blaming, economic power and emotional abuse.
Jennifer Frey, a victim's advocate with KAAP, said that while the power wheel doesn't list all the behavior exhibited by abusers, it includes the most common techniques to control their victims.
According to the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in 12 men are victims of domestic violence each year in the state.
Almost one-third of female homicide victims in Arizona are killed by an intimate partner.
In 2012, there were 139 domestic violence-related fatalities in Arizona.
Kristin Finch, 14, a freshman, listened intently to the speakers, including Brett, a female survivor of domestic violence who moved to Kingman with her four children ranging in age from 5 to 13 years old to get away from her third abusive relationship.
She quickly sought help from KAAP, which provides a pet-friendly emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis line, crisis counseling, legal and personal advocacy, and a children's program.
"I've heard of domestic violence before, but this training has really increased my awareness of it," said Finch. "I could relate to the officer's stories about the victims because they were personal.
"They made me realize that domestic violence could be really bad and that I don't want it to happen to me. And that there are people to talk to if you find yourself in such a situation. No one has to live that way."
Teen parties: Gansler case stirs debate on parents who condone drinking
by Donna St. George
It's one of the fault lines of modern parenting: What do you do when you stumble into a teenage drinking party? Look the other way? Shut it down? Call the police?
Susan Burkinshaw, a PTA mom from Germantown, Md., admits that she would want to close her eyes, plug her ears and back right out the door. “I think that's what we would all want to do, but that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do,” she says, urging parental courage.
What is very often a private conversation behind closed doors between parent and erring adolescent became fodder for broader debate this week as the public parsed the most recent controversy surrounding Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D).
In a vivid photograph published Thursday, Gansler is shown walking through a throng of teen revelers at a party held at a rented beach house where his son was the DJ. Three teens are dancing on a table. At least one red plastic cup is in view. Gansler said at a news conference that the red cups at the party might have contained Kool-Aid but probably contained beer.
Gansler has acknowledged that he did nothing to stop the apparent underage drinking at the house.
A month into a campaign for governor, Gansler — Maryland's top law enforcement officer — has described his inaction as a mistake. But he also invoked the conflicts of parenthood: “How much do you let them go? How much do you rein them in?” He said he was “no different from any other parent.”
Some parents understand his conundrum, having grown up in the 1970s and 1980s and recalling all too clearly their experiences with teen parties. They turned out all right, the thinking goes. And how wrong can it be to look past some transgressions, especially just months before kids head off to college?
All parents don't see it the same way.
“I would have ended the party,” said Deidra Speight, a mother of four in Upper Marlboro, Md. “Absolutely. Just think: If something would have happened, it could have been horrible. I don't think he was thinking of that.”
Added Speight: “I always feel like parents are responsible. Period. End of story. As soon as you figure it out, you need to fix it.”
Not every parent navigates the experimentation of the teen years the same way. Some parents say kids need rules that don't bend. Others say many high schoolers are going to drink anyway and might as well do it with the benefit of parental supervision. Still others don't think that their teens would try something illegal.
Gansler's moment of decision in South Bethany, Del., came June 13 at a party after his son had just graduated from the Landon School in Bethesda. Locally, many seniors cut loose after graduation with trips to Maryland and Delaware shore towns for “Beach Week.”
Takoma Park parent Jeffrey Hopkins, whose daughter went to Beach Week in 2012, said many parents are torn about the celebration. “You want to give them freedom,” he said. “You want to reward them for a successful graduation from high school. But at the same time, you realize there's real risk there.”
Girls are just latest victims of child abuse
by CINDY SCHARR
COLLINGDALE — The two young girls found malnourished and living in squalor in a home in Upper Chichester earlier this week are only the latest victims of their abusive parents, Carole and Vincent McDonald, authorities said.
Both Carole and Vincent McDonald lost custody of six of what sources now say are their 14 children back in 2002. Both pleaded guilty to child endangerment charges in Middletown, Bucks County, and served jail time for their crimes and the children placed in foster care, court documents indicate.
Several years later, in 2005, the couple was living on Blackstone Avenue in Collingdale when Carole McDonald was investigated for abusing their 6-year-old daughter. The child was one of the McDonalds' several children living with them at the time, according to authorities. Court documents for Carole McDonald's arrest indicate that the little girl had been burned numerous times with cigarettes, forced to sleep alone in a closet at night and made to fight off the family's dogs for food.
According to the affidavit of probable cause written for her arrest, the girl told a therapist that it was Carole McDonald who burned her with the cigarettes and hit her with a baseball bat in the head and back. The child's statements were consistent with an evaluation conducted by a pediatrician, the affidavit states.
Sources said the 6-year-old girl weighed 42 pounds when police arrested Carole McDonald for abuse. After she was placed in foster care, the child had to have 11 of her 22 teeth pulled because of gross decay, according to court document in the case.
It is unclear how many children were living with the McDonalds at that time, or if any of the six children who were taken away from the couple in 2002 were among them.
The couple appears to move about frequently. Available court records indicate they have lived in Collingdale, Folcroft, Upper Chichester, Philadelphia and Middletown, Bucks County. Several different child services agencies were involved in past cases concerning the McDonalds.
Vincent McDonald, who has several prior theft convictions, was not charged in the 2005 case, which eventually made its way through Delaware County Courts.
Carole McDonald entered a guilty plea to endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor. Common Pleas Judge Charles Keeler, who is now retired from the bench, sentenced Carole McDonald to two years' probation with the stipulation that she completed a parenting class, according to county court records.
Seven years later, it is two other little girls, ages 5 and 7, who are the alleged victims of the McDonalds' abuse.
When police and caseworkers from Delaware County Children and Youth Services went to the McDonalds' Bethel Avenue home Tuesday, they were horrified by what they saw.
The little girls appeared malnourished and told the caseworkers they “were very hungry.” The children said they had only consumed a bit of milk and juice over the past few days. Carole McDonald appeared under the influence of drugs, police said.
The CYS caseworkers had asked for a police escort to the McDonald's home because Vincent McDonald had acted aggressively toward them in the past, authorities said. The couple reportedly refused to cooperate with the investigation, which was launched when the 5-year-old was found, alone, on busy Market Street near Meetinghouse Road.
The conditions in the McDonald's home were sickening, forcing township officials to condemn the structure. Animal feces and urine was found throughout the house, which also had structural and mold issues. The children were found in the back yard, barefoot and filthy.
Noting that the McDonald's had been through the legal system in the past, Detective John Montgomery on Friday vowed to leave no stone unturned in the current investigation.
“We're going to do everything in our power do make sure this is a thorough and complete investigation,” he said.
Officials from Delaware County Children and Youth Services were contacted about the case. They referred calls to Trish Cofiell, communications officer for Delaware County government.
“Pennsylvania juvenile law prevents Children and Youth Services from commenting on specific cases,” Cofiell said.
The couple is tentatively scheduled to appear before Magisterial District Judge Diane Holefelder on Oct. 30 for a preliminary hearing.
Jurors wanted child abuse charges against JonBenet Ramsey's parents
by P. SOLOMON BANDA
DENVER — Grand jurors who reviewed evidence in the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey indicted both of her parents for child abuse resulting in death and being an accessory to a crime, including first-degree murder, according to documents released Friday.
The Daily Camera reported earlier this year that the grand jury had issued an indictment, but the documents for the first time revealed the charges against the Ramseys. The grand jury accused both John and Patsy Ramsey of helping someone who committed murder, but the document did not identify the alleged killer. The documents alleged both parents intended to delay or prevent the arrest of the alleged killer.
The district attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, who presented the evidence to the grand jury, declined to pursue charges saying: "I and my prosecutorial team believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time."
Only pages that had been signed by the grand jury foreman and were considered official action of the jury were released. The numbering of the charges implies that there were other charges the jurors considered but rejected.
Hunter did not return a phone message left Thursday by The Associated Press in anticipation of the documents' release.
The grand jury met three years after the beauty queen's body was found bludgeoned and strangled in their home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996. The indictments alleged the crimes occurred between Dec. 25 and Dec. 26.
The Ramseys maintained their innocence, offering a $100,000 reward for the killer and mounting a newspaper campaign seeking evidence.
Former prosecutor and law professor Karen Steinhauser said grand juries sometimes hear evidence that won't be admitted during trial that can form the basis of indictments. But she added that prosecutors must have a good faith belief that they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before pursuing charges.
"I'm not sure that the release of this indictment is going to change the fact that there has not been able to be a prosecution and probably won't be able to be a prosecution," she said.
Lurid details of the crime and striking videos of the child in adult makeup and costumes performing in pageants propelled the case into one of the highest profile mysteries in the United States in the mid-1990s. It also raised questions about putting children on display in beauty contests long before the popularity of reality shows such as "Toddlers & Tiaras" and "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," which features moms and their child beauty pageant contestants.
Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006, the same year a globe-hopping school teacher was arrested in Thailand after falsely claiming to have killed JonBenet. Former District Attorney Mary Lacy cleared the Ramseys in 2008 based on new DNA testing that suggested the killer was a stranger, not a family member.
Lacy did not return a phone call.
Over the years, some experts have suggested that investigators botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.
Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the case remains open but it's not an active investigation. He predicted the indictment's release wouldn't change anything.
"Given the publicity that's been out there, many people have formed their opinions one way or another," he said.
Earlier this week, John Ramsey asked officials to release the entire grand jury record if the unprosecuted indictment was made public. However, the judge said transcripts of grand jury proceedings and evidence presented to it are not considered "official action" under the law governing criminal court records. He also said releasing such information could hurt other grand juries, whose work is secret.
An attorney representing John Ramsey, L. Lin Wood, has said he's confident that no evidence in the grand jury case implicated the Ramsey family and the public should be able to see that for themselves.
Pedophile coaches more than just a hockey issue
by Kelly Egan
A hockey coach, curiously, is ideally placed to become a sexual predator.
Few know this better than Theo Fleury, the former NHL star who is perhaps the highest-profile hockey player to speak out about sexual abuse at the hands of a coach, the now-notorious Graham James, who remains in jail.
“These guys have brilliant minds,” he said Thursday, describing a typical serial offender. “They're very charming, lovable guys and that's all part of the grooming process. Once they get themselves in a position of power and trust, that's when the abuse starts to happen. They prey on kids whose parents aren't available, or from single-parent families.”
Indeed, here is Sheldon Kennedy, the former NHL-er, writing about prolonged sexual abuse by James at the junior hockey level in his book, Why I Didn't Say Anything:
“Graham was very good at picking out his victims. He would feel them out first, looking for weaknesses and insecurities before he made a sexual move on them. He looked into a prospective victim's family situations, looking for boys who didn't have a very solid home, boys whose fathers were angry and had drinking problems.
“Kids with single moms were on the top of his list of potential victims.”
Both men went on to have serious problems with alcohol and drugs and shared a difficulty in maintaining normal, stable relationships with women. As teenagers, after all, the most important adult presence in their lives had turned their values upside down.
And they both know why the abused are afraid to speak out. “There's shame attached to it,” said Fleury. “It takes a long time to realize that the shame is not yours to bear in the first place. The shame belongs to the abuser. In no way, shape or form did you play a part in anything that is happening to you. It's very difficult to come to that realization.”
It is especially difficult for a teenager, he added. “Who are you gonna tell?”
Fleury was speaking in the wake of the case of Kelly Jones, 57, an Ottawa man who is facing more than 30 criminal charges after 11 complainants have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, some dating back decades. The former hockey and baseball coach is alleged to have abused children aged seven to 15.
Fleury is no longer surprised when he hears this kind of news.
“It's the biggest epidemic on the planet,” he said, claiming as many as one in four people have been sexually abused in their lifetime. He also said it is a recognized fact that a pedophile, typically, might prey on as many as 125 victims before being stopped.
Both Fleury and Kennedy paint a detailed picture of how complicated the relationship between abuser and abused can be. Kennedy, in particular, writes of a weird comfort he had in being with James, because he knew “the secret” and the secret bound them together. It was in the company of others, he writes, that he had to pretend to be someone else.
They both write of the suffocating control James exerted over their lives while, as teenagers, they were junior players in Western Canada, living away from home, dreaming of the bigs.
Nor did the demons flee when they became adults. Fleury's book, Playing With Fire, is an absolutely hair-raising account of a young man at the top of his professional game but binging on the wild side with cocaine, booze, strippers and all manner of exotic toy.
“Seriously,” he writes, “if someone handed you a cheque for $400,000 every two weeks, what would you do? Stay home and make popcorn?”
He writes about drinking with winos around a burning barrel in New York after a game — him in a tailor-made suit — and benders in Atlantic City, $30,000 strip-club bills, much of his lifetime earnings of $50 million up his nose and down the drain.
“Drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, food, spending. You go to the dark side of life, right?”
Now living in Calgary, where he was a star with the Flames, he is clean and sober and working on several projects related to healing from trauma and abuse.
He has often been approached by men, even elderly ones, who will confide about episodes of abuse that occurred decades earlier.
“It's not really a hockey issue. It's a society issue.”
Fleury doesn't even like calling the Ottawa complainants “victims,” because of the connotation.
“They're not victims, you know. Let's get that straight. It happened to them. Why are we labelling them a negative thing?”
He concludes his book by saying survivors need to rely on a kind of mantra: “You were just a kid. It was not your fault! I say it over and over again.”
Jones is due back in court on Friday for a bail hearing.
YMCA Launches Community Initiative to Protect Children From Sexual Abuse
LIVINGSTON, NJ - The YMCAs of New Jersey recently announced that they are launching an initiative to protect children from sexual abuse.
According to YMCA research one in every 10 children, or 400,000 kids each year are abused before the age of 18.
To educate adults in the community about how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, including the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, have joined forces with Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization and creators of the award-winning Stewards of Children™ child sexual abuse prevention curriculum.
Training for child abuse will be offered through the Metro YMCA and through in-person, facilitator led trainings which will be open to the public and are especially recommended for youth sports organizations, school districts, faith centers and non-profits. Businesses are also encouraged to participate.
New Jersey residents can also access free online training from Oct. 23 to April 23, 2014, and can receive continuing education credits for professionals in various fields.
“As Social Responsibility is one of the Y's key areas of focus, we are committed to developing community-based solutions that unite people to participate in and work for positive social change,” said Richard K. Gorab, President and CEO. “By partnering with Darkness to Light, we will educate and empower adults to become agents of change to protect children from sexual abuse.”
According to the Y, Stewards of Children is an evidence-based program designed to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child protective behaviors.
Darkness to Light training includes a five step action plan: learn the facts (one in 10 children are sexually abused. Over 90% know their abuser); minimize opportunity (eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse); talk about it (have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex and boundaries); recognize the signs (know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm); and react responsibly (understand how to respond to suspicions or reports of sexual abuse).
“Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic that crosses every socioeconomic boundary and does not discriminate,” said Gorab. “We, as adults, need to take responsibility and protect children in our community. By offering Stewards of Children training, the Y hopes to empower and mobilize adults to take action and prevent child sexual abuse.”
To date, the Metro YMCA has trained two facilitators, 19 instructors and educated nearly 800 people and are working to reach a goal to train 83,000 adults by 2017. The Y is eager to work with community partners including schools, volunteer groups and local government to meet the goal and help facilitate change.
According to the Y, research has shown that at 5 percent, positive change can be seen in the community.
“The YMCA and New Jersey YMCA State Alliance continue to be incredible partners in the fight against child sexual abuse. Their commitment to protect children in YMCA programs, facilities and in the community should serve as an inspiration to all youth serving organizations across the country,” said Jolie Logan, President and CEO of Darkness to Light.
About Child Sexual Abuse
Crime and behavioral studies have long cited child sexual abuse for its devastating impact on society. Statistics are startling:
Experts estimate one in 10 children are sexually abused.
Over 90 percent of child victims are abused by someone they know and trust.
73 percent of children do not tell anyone for at least one year. Many never tell, making this a silent epidemic that can result in lifelong consequences.
Child sexual abuse is linked to a host of societal issues including teen pregnancy, depression, anxiety and suicide.
Victims are three times more likely to have substance abuse issues, two times more likely to drop out of school, and are at greater risk for physical illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other serious medical conditions.
In the U.S., alone, there are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse ranks second to murder as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S., where immediate and long-term costs exceed $35 billion annually.
“We can make a difference step by step, and these steps add up to happier, healthier children and stronger communities,” said Gorab.
For more information and to learn about Stewards of Children workshops or online training sessions, contact Maureen Simons at (973) 758-9622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Child sex abuser sentenced to 690 years for recording himself raping boys as young as 10 and beating them if they resisted
by Alex Greig
A convicted pedophile has been sentenced to 690 years prison by a Florida judge.
Judge Chet Tharpe handed Christopher Renshaw, 28, the maximum sentence on Wednesday for sexually abusing three boys, the youngest of whom was 10 at the time.
The six-foot-three-inch 240lb Hillsborough man threatened the boys, sexually abused them and recorded the acts on digital video cards.
The abuse began in 2009 when the three young boys, relatives of Renshaw's, moved with their mother into Renshaw's mother's home.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Renshaw sexually abused the boys, aged between 10 and 15, and beat them if they resisted.
He also taped the abuse and made threats to prevent the boys from telling their mother about it.
The three boys, the youngest now aged 14, testified in court about their ordeal.
They spoke of their lives since the abuse and their constant fear of being alone, their questioning of their own sexuality and terrifying flashbacks to the abuse.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Renshaw cried and tried to block his ears while his victims spoke.
Renshaw's attorney told the court that his client was a victim of sexual assault himself.
'This young man has problems that are not of his own making,' attorney Scott McCluskey said.
'Judge, punish him. But don't make him die in prison.'
McCluskey told the court that Renshaw had been sexually abused from the age of five, as had almost all his 17 brothers and sisters.
A psychologist told the court that Renshaw is intellectually disabled and the abuse he suffered as a child led to substance abuse issues.
Prosecutors sought the maximum sentence for Renshaw, whose crimes 'made seasoned investigators cringe.'
'Christopher Renshaw did horrible things to these children,' said Assistant State Attorney Aaron Hubbard.
'I believe he's a monster. I don't believe he deserves to ever be out of prison ever again.'
Renshaw lived in Valrico until he was arrested in 2011. In August, he pleaded guilty to more than 30 sexual abuse charges.
Before he was sentenced, Renshaw spoke for himself to the judge.
'I would like to have some help,' he said through sobs, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
'I'm sorry for the things I've done. I just ask for a chance. Please.'
Judge Tharpe was unconvinced.
'If ever there was a person that society needs to be protected from, it's you, Mr. Renshaw,' Judge Tharpe said.
'I have an intervention for you and it's long and it's called Florida State Prison.'
Renshaw was given the maximum sentence on each count, a total of 690 years prison.
Dave Herman, Radio Personality, Tried to Arrange Sex With Girl, 7
A well-known New York City radio personality is accused of attempting to transport a 7-year-old girl from New Jersey to the Virgin Islands to have sex with her, according to federal prosecutors.
Dave Herman, 77, who hosted "The Dave Herman Rock and Roll Morning Show" for 27 years, allegedly had been communicating online for several months with an undercover law enforcement officer posing as the mother of a young girl.
In one conversation, he allegedly asked the undercover if she was sexually active with her daughter or was interested in people who had sex with children.
He allegedly said "age 6 is the perfect time to start her being loved that way," and discussed how he was attracted to the innocence of young children.
The pair continued communicating, with Herman allegedly trying to set up a meeting with the woman and her daughter.
He allegedly suggested last month that they fly to his vacation home in St. Croix, and that he would pay for it. He then bought plane tickets for them to travel there on Thursday, continuing to "discuss his plan to engage in sexual activity" with the girl, prosecutors said.
Herman was arrested at the airport in St. Croix, where he was set to have a court appearance. Lawyer information was not immediately available.
Newborn girl found dead on Victorville recycling plant conveyor belt
by Doug Saunders
The body of a baby girl was discovered wrapped in a blanket on a conveyor belt by workers at a recycling center Thursday afternoon, sheriff's officials said.
“Homicide investigators have been dispatched but until we know more, it's a death investigation and not classified as a homicide,” sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.
An autopsy is planned, she said.
The baby was found at Burrtec Waste Industries in the 17000 block of Abbey Lane, sheriff's officials said.
Sheriff's officials are asking for the public's help to find the baby's mother. They're asking if anyone in the High Desert is aware of a woman that recently gave birth to a girl and doesn't have the child in her possession to call Detective Bryan Zierdt at 909-387-3589 or sheriff's dispatch at 760-956-5001.
1999 indictment to be released in JonBenet slaying
by P. Solomon Banda
DENVER — A grand jury indictment issued in 1999 in the JonBenet Ramsey investigation will be released Friday, and should shed more light on why prosecutors decided against pursuing charges against the little girl's parents.
In this May 24, 2000, photo, Patsy Ramsey and her husband, John, parents of JonBenet Ramsey, appear at a news conference in Atlanta regarding their lie-detector examinations for the murder of their daughter, 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. Patsy Ramsey died in 2006.
The grand jury reviewed evidence against John and Patsy Ramsey three years after the 6-year-old beauty queen's body was found bludgeoned and strangled in their home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996. A series of possible charges were considered by grand jurors but it's not clear whether they voted to charge one or both parents.
The Ramseys maintained their innocence, offering a $100,000 reward for the killer and mounting a newspaper campaign seeking evidence.
The district attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, who presented the evidence to the grand jury, declined to pursue charges saying: “I and my prosecutorial team believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time.”
Hunter did not return a phone message left Thursday by The Associated Press.
Former prosecutor and law professor Karen Steinhauser said grand juries sometimes hear evidence that won't be admitted during trial that can form the basis of indictments. But she added that prosecutors must have a good faith belief that they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before pursuing charges.
“I'm not sure that the release of this indictment is going to change the fact that there has not been able to be a prosecution and probably won't be able to be a prosecution,” she said.
Lurid details of the crime and striking videos of the child in adult makeup and costumes performing in pageants propelled the case into one of the highest profile mysteries in the United States in the mid-1990s. It also raised questions about putting children on display in beauty contests long before the popularity of reality shows such as “Toddlers & Tiaras” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which features moms and their child beauty pageant contestants.
JonBenet Ramsey's mother, Patsy, died of cancer in 2006, the same year a globe-hopping school teacher was arrested in Thailand after falsely claiming to have killed JonBenet. Former District Attorney Mary Lacy said in 2008 that DNA evidence suggests the killer was a stranger, not a family member, and she announced that she planned to treat the Ramseys as victims of the crime. Lacy did not immediately return a phone call.
Over the years, some experts have suggested that investigators botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.
Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the case remains open but it's not an active investigation. He predicted the indictment's release wouldn't change anything.
“Given the publicity that's been out there, many people have formed their opinions one way or another,” he said.
Earlier this week, John Ramsey asked officials to release the entire grand jury record if the unprosecuted indictment was made public. However, the judge said transcripts of grand jury proceedings and evidence presented to it are not considered “official action” under the law governing criminal court records. He also said releasing such information could hurt other grand juries, whose work is secret.
An attorney representing John Ramsey, L. Lin Wood, said he's confident that no evidence in the grand jury case implicated the Ramsey family and the public should be able to see that for themselves.
Archdiocese paid $11 million for misconduct by priests
by TONY KENNEDY
Payments from 2003 to 2012 went to victims of abuse, as well as to priests, lawyers and therapists
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis spent nearly $11 million from 2003 through 2012 to cover costs directly associated with sexual abuse and other misconduct committed by priests who were removed from active ministry, according to church documents obtained by the Star Tribune.
The archdiocese wrote checks directly to victims of abuse, in cases involving children and vulnerable adults, in every year of the period covered by the reports, totaling more than $476,000 over the decade. Also, $1.5 million was paid on behalf of victims to cover counseling, therapy and other medical services.
Additional money was distributed to child victims via a trust account funded by the archdiocese and managed by the St. Paul law firm Meier, Kennedy & Quinn.
A source close to the archdiocese said victims' payments detailed in the documents applied only to cases handled inside the archdiocese, not to those adjudicated in the courts.
Some children, for instance, have received tuition money to attend Catholic schools, including St. Agnes in St. Paul and DeLaSalle in Minneapolis.
Other substantial payments went for therapy and treatment. In 2007, for example, when total payments ran to $1.62 million, one of the biggest single categories was $303,882 in support of child victims. Those funds paid for the cost of psychiatric care and other treatment through such providers as Life Healing Center in Santa Fe, N.M., North Metro Psychiatry, Hazelden Foundation and University of Minnesota Physicians.
Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said late Wednesday that checks written directly to victims were related to out-of-court “priest suit settlements'' in which “many'' of the victims were represented by attorneys. He also confirmed that other victims were paid out of settlement funds distributed by Meier, Kennedy & Quinn under a legal trust account arrangement.
Accurso said the payments to victims were made in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a document adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 in response to the rising number of sexual abuse allegations. Article 3 of the charter says that dioceses “are not to enter into settlements which bind the parties to confidentiality unless the victim/survivor requests confidentiality and this request is noted in the text of the agreement.''
Accurso said the church never asked victims or their families for confidentiality when a settlement involved a minor or vulnerable adult. However, he said, when a minor or vulnerable adult has requested confidentiality in writing, the archdiocese has consented to those requests, as the charter allows.
The archdiocese accounts detail spending in two separate budget categories. One covers costs associated with priests who have been removed from active ministry due to abuse of children or vulnerable adults. The other deals with costs associated with priests who have been removed from active ministry due to adult sexual misconduct or other misconduct, including financial misdeeds. Each budget category contains subsections addressing various payments to priests and victims.
Total annual payments over the 10-year period have ranged as high as $1.7 million, in 2006.
The documents show that priests received substantial financial support regardless of their acts. After being removed from ministry, they receive a continuation of their salary, financial support for room and board, and continued annual contributions to their pension fund. In addition, some received education payments, income supplements, and funds for rehabilitation, psychological treatment, counseling and legal expenses.
Payments to priests who are removed from active ministry are not uncommon, according to Terry McKiernan, president of Bishop Accountability, a Massachusetts-based group that tracks clergy abuse. If a perpetrator does not step down from the priesthood, canon law requires that the diocese care for him. The thought is that it is better “not to have the priest destitute,'' McKiernan said.
Some entries in the documents address special payments to priests without explanation. In 2003, for example, under the heading “Priest Support — Other,'' there are $28,165 in expenses in a section that names an L. Krautkremer. The source familiar with the expense documents said that refers to the Rev. Lee Krautkremer, a priest who was sued for child sexual abuse in a case that revealed he was moved to different parishes as a priest after the allegations against him first came to light. He was asked by the archdiocese in 2002 to resign as chaplain at North Memorial Medical Center, and he did.
The source said the 2003 expenses relating to Krautkremer included paying off more than $20,000 of the priest's personal loans. The expense category includes the priest's last name and a line-item payment to U.S. Bank.
In most years covered by the documents, the archdiocese also incurred costs for investigation expenses. In 2003, for instance, those costs totaled $46,473.
Nationally, legal settlements with abuse victims and payments to accused clergy cost U.S. dioceses nearly $113 million last year, according to a 2012 report prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That includes $56 million in victims' settlements, $7.2 million for victims' therapy and $35 million in attorneys' fees. The figure has been declining since its peak of $499 million in 2007.
Sex Charges Dropped Against Philly Priest After Accuser Dies
Alleged victim, 26, died of a drug overdose last week
by Vince Lattanzio
Prosecutors dropped sex abuse charges against a Philadelphia priest on Wednesday, one week after his accuser died of a drug overdose.
Sean McIlmail, a former alter boy under Fr. Robert Brennan, came forward in January with allegations that the priest sexually abused him 15 years ago. McIlmail was found dead last week at age 26.
"Sean suffered in silence for over a decade," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said on Wednesday. "Sean found his own way of self-medicating, which unfortunately led to his death."
The district attorney said he dropped rape and sexual assault charges levied against the 75-year-old priest because there was no longer enough evidence -- direct or circumstantial -- to continue a trial.
"In many cases of sexual assault whether they be victims or adults or children, really the testimony of that victim is paramount to getting a conviction," he said.
Standing alongside McIlmail's family during the announcement, Williams called the man courageous and a voice for child sex abuse victims. Both the DA and McIlmail's family chose to release his name with the hope that other victims will come forward. It is NBC10's policy not to name victims of sexual abuse.
"It is my hope that other victims of child sexual abuse get the help that they need, the help that Sean did not get," Williams said. "Every victim doesn't have to come forth in a public way."
One-in-six men and one-in-four women in the United States are sexually abused by the age of 18 and 90 percent of the child sex abusers are known to the child's family, according to Williams.
In a statement following the announcement, Fr. Brennan's attorney, Trevan Borum, said they are saddened and disappointed by the recent developments.
"Obviously, we are saddened someone is dead," he said. "We are disappointed Fr. Brennan didn't get to vindicate his name in court."
Fr. Brennan was arrested in Perryville, Md. on Sept. 25 and later charged with the rape of McIlmail. The priest, who was 60-years-old at the time and serving as assistant pastor of the Resurrection of Our Lord parish in the Rhawnhurst section of the city, allegedly assaulted the man for a period of three years starting when he was 11-years-old.
Williams said the assaults took place in the sacristy of the church, Fr. Brennan's bedroom, in the rectory, a storage area and off church property in a movie theater.
Fr. Brennan was also previously named in a 2005 grand jury report that investigated clergy abuse in Philadelphia. No charges were ever brought forth following that investigation however, because the statute of limitations for those alleged assaults had passed.
Following McIlmail's death, his attorney Marcie Hamilton called him a wonderful man.
"We have lost a wonderful man who overcame great odds and made it through college, battling his demons all the way -- demons that came into his life as he sought escape from the abuse he suffered at the hands of Fr. Brennan while he was an altar boy," Hamilton said.
Asked for comment on the dropping of charges, Kenneth Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said the church has nothing to say.
"The archdiocese was not paying for or organizing Fr. Robert Brennan's defense and we won't be commenting on the fact that the charges against him were dropped today," he said.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group for abuse victims, had more pointed words not only for Fr. Brennan, but also the archdiocese.
"This is dreadfully sad. A predator priest walks free and kids are at risk. Despite Fr. Robert Brennan's age we still feel he is dangerous," David Clohessy, Director of SNAP.
"And it is clear what [Archbishop Charles Chaput] should do: personally visit each parish where Fr. Brennan (starting with the most recent one) and beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call the police. It is also clear what everybody who saw suspected or suffered Fr. Brennan's crimes should do: speak up now."
Study shows Oklahoma ranks #3 in rate of women murdered by men
by Darla Shelden
Oklahoma is ranked third in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men, with a rate of 1.99 per 100,000, according to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) report When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data .
After #1 ranked South Carolina, the top 10 states are Alaska, Oklahoma, Delaware, Arizona, Tennessee, Idaho, West Virginia, Louisiana and New Mexico.
“The sad reality is that women are nearly always murdered by someone they know, said VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “Many elected officials and community leaders are working tirelessly to reduce the toll of domestic violence. We need new policies in place from local communities to the federal government to protect women from harm.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has found that women are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than men, especially when a weapon is involved. In addition, women are most likely to be victimized at home when a weapon is used.
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Their annual report is released in October to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
In 2011, according to the report, 1,707 females were killed nationwide by males in single victim/single offender incidents. For homicides in which a relationship could be identified, 94 percent of the female victims were killed by a man they knew.
In homicides involving a weapon, 51 percent of female killings were committed with firearms.
“Nine women each week are shot to death by their husband or intimate partner, said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “That's nearly 500 domestic gun violence deaths each year – more than twice the number of servicewomen killed in military conflicts since the Korean War.”
A nonpartisan grassroots movement, in just nine months since its beginnings, Moms Demand Action has gained more than 100,000 members with a chapter in every state in the country.
Sabine Brown, Moms Demand Action Oklahoma Chapter leader said,” We are participating in a national campaign to raise awareness of the link between lax gun laws and domestic abuse against women. We are pressuring our legislators to pass background checks which would close loopholes that would keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
A 2003 study about the risks of firearms in the home found that females living with a gun in the home were nearly three times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun in the home.
Oklahomans pay a cost of $4.1 billion per year due to domestic violence, more than $4 billion of which is medical fees. However, it is estimated that only about 50 percent of domestic violence incidents are reported.
Recently the Domestic Violence Awareness Month Wreath of Hope Ceremony, co-sponsored by YWCA Oklahoma City, was held at the State Capitol south lawn.
Metro area resident, Ashlee England was there. She said, “The sun was in our eyes, shinning down bright upon us. I'm so proud of my brave and courageous son. We have both suffered at the hands of the same person, but we are stronger than ever today.”
“As a survivor of domestic violence as an adult, and sexual child abuse as a child, I founded Healing With Hope in 2011,” said England. “We opened our first office in September 2013.”
YWCA OKC provides the only certified shelter for battered women and children in Oklahoma County and the surrounding area.
In 2012, the shelter served 530 women and children, offering counseling, case management, support groups and economic guidance, as well as childcare and children's programs. YWCA OKC has served more than 18,000 women, children and men.
Janet Peery, YWCA OKC CEO said, ”“One of the things we know from the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Report is that when there's a death from domestic violence, there is also a pattern that 95 percent of those victims had never accessed services.”
“We have an ethical responsibility in this community to say to those families, ‘we believe in you, we believe in your safety.”
On Tuesday, October 29, Jacqueline Steyn YWCA OKC Chief Programs Officer, will deliver a lecture on “Domestic Violence: The Hidden Epidemic” as part of OKDHS' Practice and Policy Lecture Series at the Oklahoma History Center. This free event, from noon to 1 p.m. is open to the public. To register, call 405-948-1770 or visit www.okdhs.org/ppls
For more information, visit www.ywcaokc.org
FL law: child discipline vs. child abuse
FORT MYERS, Fla. - How far is too far when it comes to punishing your child ? Under Florida law, parents do have the right to discipline their children, but only to a certain extent. As we learn more about the death of a 3-year-old who was wrapped tightly in a blanket as a form of "discipline," when does discipline cross the line and become child abuse?
Dating back to the late 1800s, Florida parents have been able to legally discipline their misbehaving kids. "You are allowed to discipline your children and what is non-excessive corporal punishment," Attorney Devin Mace with Fried and Fried, P.A. In Fort Myers. "There was a case where a child was beaten with a belt, then a shoe. Not okay. What is not excessive? A typical spanking."
Mace says as long as no harm is done, like bleeding, bruising, burns, broken bones, or suffocation, it's legal. But, in the case of Michael McMullen who died after investigators say he was wrapped tightly in a blanket as a form of "discipline," Mace says, "That is so far beyond from what we are talking with a typical spanking. I've not seen anything that suggests that you could wrap your child up like cattle or something like that."
"This is very new to me," Child Psychiatrist Dr. Omar Rieche said. "From time to time, I have parents ask me about corporal punishment as far as spanking, when it should occur and what not. But, this is really a bizarre case."
Rieche has never heard of the punishment method of "wrapping." He says parents who turn to physical discipline when they're angry tend to get carried away. If that happens, the law doesn't always protect them.
"You cant just say black or white," Mace said. "It's not absolute just because you say corporal punishment, I am allowed to discipline my child doesn't mean you still won't be prosecuted and ultimately found guilty of child abuse once you cross that line."
We asked DCF how they determine if discipline against a child has gone too far. A spokesperson said that decision is only made by law enforcement.
Pike child abuse program Saturday
by David Hulse
A Child Abuse and Safety Symposium will take place on October 26 from 1 to 3 p.m., at the auditorium of the Dingman-Delaware Middle School on State Route 739.
The free program's goals include breaking the cycle of silence about child abuse, and promoting empowerment and prevention through awareness. The program sponsor, Pike County United Women, is asking the public to “work together now to stop events that could change the course of a child's life forever.”
The program comes as new legislation has been introduced in Harrisburg to change the definition of child abuse.
Scheduled symposium participants include state Senator Lisa Baker, state Representative Rosemary Brown, Pike County Sheriff Phil Bueki, Diane Quintiliani and David Bever of Safe Haven of Pike County, child advocate Tammy Gillette and Brian Goldsack for the child safety puppet program Spotty Mcgoo and Friends, seen on Facebook.
The creation of Brian Goldsack and his mother, Yolanda Goldsack, Spotty Mcgoo and Friends features puppet video programs for children ages three to 10, to teach them about taking ownership of their bodies and that their voices will be listened to.
One of the program's puppet characters, General Sparky McPatton, has a military mission to eradicate child abuse in the video “This is War.” Pike County Commissioner Rich Caridi performs McPatton's voice in the video.
Caridi told the commissioners' meeting audience that he has been told, and colleague Karl Wagner confirmed, that he has military style in his speech, which prompted the invitation. “I was proud and honored to participate. Child abuse is an epidemic,” he said.
Visit Pike County United Women on Facebook for more on the program.
Violent sex offender who fled Canada for US going back to court
by Mike Baker
SEATTLE — Days after Canadian authorities decided not to extradite a violent sex offender who crossed into the U.S., the man is in custody, suspected of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy.
Michael Sean Stanley will appear in a Seattle court on Wednesday after being jailed for investigation of harassment for an incident Tuesday morning.
Authorities say Stanley is also being investigated for assault after Seattle police said he met a boy at a west Seattle grocery store, struck up a conversation and walked with him to an alley where he plied the teen with alcohol and attacked him. The boy pulled a knife and was able to escape, police said.
Stanley had registered as a sex offender with the King County sheriff's office and listed his address as an intersection just a block away from Seattle's Pike Place Market, a scenic destination for both tourists and locals. It's also near a preschool, even though he had been ordered to stay away from children in Canada.
Ilene Stark, executive director at Pike Market Child Care and Preschool, said the community felt threatened by Stanley's arrival in the area. The preschool reviewed its lockdown plan, kept in constant contact with security in the area, and provided images and descriptions of Stanley to teachers and parents.
“It's been intense,” Stark said. “It felt like there was a threat in our community and that we needed to be much more vigilant — more than in everyday life. It was disconcerting.”
Stark said she was saddened that something horrible apparently had to happen before Stanley was collected by U.S. law enforcement. At the same time, she said her sadness was coupled with relief knowing that there is more legal control over Stanley's whereabouts.
Detectives believe the attack on the teen happened before police received several calls reporting noise in an alley and Stanley threatening someone who asked him to be quiet. When police arrived, Stanley became combative and said he had a knife. He appeared intoxicated, according to authorities. He was arrested and jailed for investigation of harassment.
Stanley was released from jail in Canada in April 2011 after completing a 32-month sentence for kidnapping two boys from a school playground, according to the Seattle Times. He also has a rape conviction for assaulting an 82-year-old disabled woman in Canada, according to the newspaper.
He was being monitored by police under a peace bond, which Canadian authorities can get to impose conditions on individuals in the community. Stanley's peace bond has 20 conditions, including one ordering him to stay away from children.
Police in Canada issued a public alert earlier this month after Stanley cut off his electronic-monitoring bracelet. Officials described him as an untreated, violent offender who posed a significant risk.
An American citizen, Stanley crossed the border and was located in the Seattle area last week. Canadian officials decided not to seek extradition.
Before Tuesday, there was no reason to arrest Stanley since Canada hadn't pursued an extraditable warrant and he wasn't wanted for any crimes in the United States, authorities said.
Edmonton, Alberta, police spokesman Chad Orydzuk told The Associated Press that Stanley's arrest in Seattle was “unfortunate but we can't provide comment. It's not our file.”
“If he continues to break the law down south you can imagine how difficult it would be for us to comment if he broke the law in different jurisdictions in the States. For us to comment on that, we couldn't keep up with that, if this was to continue,” he said.
Orydzuk said when Stanley breached the monitoring conditions in Edmonton, officials searched for him and notified the public and other agencies. Unconfirmed sightings of Stanley led schools in several west-central Saskatchewan communities to lock their doors and keep children inside.
Spanking hurts kids in the long run, too
by Michael MacKenzie, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Michael MacKenzie is an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work. His research involves stress and risk in early parenting and the effects and reasons behind children going into and through the child welfare system.
(CNN) -- In my first job in high school stocking the shelves with fresh produce at the grocery store, I often saw parents struggling with misbehaving children. Some would scream, while others would spank their kids.
It was always awkward to witness, because I felt sympathy for both sides. Were the children choosing to act out because the parents were busy and stressed buying food? But surely the parents could think of a better way to handle a defiant child?
I'm now a researcher at the Columbia School of Social Work and a specialist in child welfare, and I have just completed a study of this very issue. Columbia colleagues Eric Nicklas, Jane Waldfogel and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and I published findings in the journal Pediatrics (PDF) this week showing that the children who are spanked by their parents are at greater risk for later problems in both vocabulary and behavior.
We found that children who were spanked by their mothers at age 5, even relatively infrequently, went on to have higher levels of behavior problems at age 9, even after taking into account other family risk factors that also affect child behavior. Given the chicken vs. egg cyclical nature of this, we also controlled for earlier problems with the children to ensure that it wasn't just that kids who acted out were simply being spanked more.
And 5-year-olds who were spanked frequently, defined as two or more times a week, by their fathers also went on to have lower vocabulary scores at age 9, even after controlling for an array of other risk factors and earlier child vocabulary. This is an important finding, because few studies in this area have examined effects on cognitive development.
A leading researcher on child spanking, Elizabeth Gershoff from the University of Texas at Austin, correctly suggests that some of these cognitive effects may be indirect rather than a result of spanking only. Parents who spank may not talk to their children as often, or kids with behavioral problems may be more distracted at school. To account for some of these possibilities, we did control for a host of other family factors, such as the mom's IQ, the child's earlier verbal intelligence, the child's behavioral problems as well as a measure of how cognitively stimulating the home environment was. So, it appears that spanking is having an effect on vocabulary above and beyond those other factors.
Changing people's minds about something they care about by presenting data is a tough thing to do, particularly around something so emotionally laden as spanking.
Thinking back to my times in that grocery store and what the parents were going through, spanking actually worked for immediate compliance: It gets the child to stop misbehaving. The child stops grabbing food off the shelves; at home, the child stops touching the outlet or breaking his sister's toy, providing parents with immediate feedback that what they are doing is working. But that makes it more difficult to see what is happening in the long term.
How parents discipline their kids is intimately tied to cultural, religious and family traditions, including the meaning parents attach to their own experiences. Many of us say to ourselves, "I was spanked as a kid, and it made me a good person. So what's wrong with spanking my own kids?"
This is a very sensitive topic. That might explain why, even though the evidence is mounting that spanking leads to the very acting-out behavior most parents want to stop and even hurts a child's development, many parents in the United States continue to spank. More than half of the parents we questioned reported spanking their kids at age 3 and at age 5, even though our question just focused on spanking in the past month. Studies that simply look at whether children have been spanked at all find that the vast majority of American children are still spanked today.
Parents who are interested in exploring alternatives to spanking that might be a good fit for their family can talk to their pediatrician about effective strategies. They can also check out healthychildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has some guides for parents on communication and discipline techniques.
Perhaps we researchers need to get better at telling the story. Families sometimes think we are accusing them of abusing their kids and challenging who they are as parents, and in turn they dismiss our findings as coming from out-of-touch academics. Most parents are doing the best they can by their children and must contend with advice from many corners, whether solicited or not.
Researchers and health practitioners must not lose sight of the burden and stress faced by so many families today, particularly since the tools we hope to see replace spanking sometimes require more upfront effort and consistency in implementation, which can be difficult to maintain without support.
We also need to do a better job of conveying to parents what they could do instead of spanking. Parents have a host of tools they can use -- talking, using time-outs and so on -- and all of us who see young parents and children can help demonstrate how effective these other forms of discipline can be.
Local YMCA to host child sexual abuse prevention training
by Hunterdon County Democrat
YMCAs in New Jersey have a vision of a world free of child sexual abuse. A world in which all children are loved, protected, nurtured and able to grow up healthy. According to experts, one in 10 children — or 400,000 each year — will experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. To educate adults in the community about how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, including the Hunterdon County YMCA, have joined forces with Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization and creators of the award-winning Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention curriculum.
Through the initiative, the Hunterdon County YMCA is offering Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training to adults in the community. In-person, facilitator led trainings are open to the public and can be of specific interest to youth sports organizations, school districts, faith centers and non-profits. Local businesses, large or small, are encouraged to participate. Our next scheduled in-person training is on Nov. 6 at the Round Valley branch in Annandale. Free online training is also available for state residents from Oct. 23 through April 23. Continuing education credits for professionals in various fields can be obtained through this training. “As social responsibility is one of the Y's key areas of focus, we are committed to developing community-based solutions that unite people to participate in and work for positive social change,” said Bruce Black, Hunterdon County YMCA CEO. “By partnering with Darkness to Light, we will educate and empower adults to become agents of change to protect children from sexual abuse.”
The evidence-based program is designed to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child protective behaviors. Darkness to Light training covers a 5-step action plan: learn the facts (1 in 10 children are sexually abused. Over 90% know their abuser); minimize opportunity (eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse); talk about it (have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex and boundaries); recognize the signs (know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm); and react responsibly (understand how to respond to suspicions or reports of sexual abuse).
“Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic that crosses every socioeconomic boundary and does not discriminate,” said Black. “We, as adults, need to take responsibility and protect children in our community. By offering Stewards of Children training, the Y hopes to empower and mobilize adults to take action and prevent child sexual abuse.” To date, the Hunterdon County YMCA's six trained facilitators and instructors have already educated over 100 people towards our community goal of 4,500.”
As research has shown that 5% is the critical point for positive change in the community, the NJ YMCA State Alliance has a goal of training 83,000 adults statewide by 2017. The Y will work with local community partners including schools, volunteer groups and local government to meet their goal and help facilitate change. Hunterdon County YMCA will send a trainer free of charge to conduct the program for community groups.
“The YMCA and New Jersey YMCA State Alliance continue to be incredible partners in the fight against child sexual abuse. Their commitment to protect children in YMCA programs, facilities and in the community should serve as an inspiration to all youth serving organizations across the country,” said Jolie Logan, President and CEO of Darkness to Light.
Crime and behavioral studies have long cited child sexual abuse for its devastating impact on society. Statistics are startling:
Experts estimate one in 10 children is sexually abused.
Over 90% of child victims are abused by someone they know and trust.
73% of children do not tell anyone for at least one year. Many never tell, making this a silent epidemic that can result in lifelong consequences.
Child sexual abuse is linked to a host of societal issues including teen pregnancy, depression, anxiety and suicide.
Victims are three times more likely to have substance abuse issues, two times more likely to drop out of school, and are at greater risk for physical illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other serious medical conditions.
In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse ranks second to murder as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S., where immediate and long-term costs exceed $35 billion annually.
“We can make a difference step by step, and these steps add up to happier, healthier children and stronger communities,” says Black. For more information and to learn about Stewards of Children workshops or online training sessions, contact Lu Ann Aversa at 908-483-4327 or email@example.com.
Renowned author details his experience with child abuse
by Rick Tarsitano
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. Last year, in Michigan alone, there were more than 33,000 confirmed cases. Marquette's Women's Center and Harbor House brought a world-renowned, award-winning author to NMU to shed light on the often-neglected issue.
Gregg Milligan is an ardent abuse prevention advocate. He spent the better part of his childhood enduring physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of his mother.
“She sexually abused me, but I was also prostituted out by my mother for a few dollars,” noted Milligan, author of God Must Be Sleeping. “It would depend on whatever the individual had to pay. This abuse was rampant and lasted for eleven consecutive years. When I was finally removed from that environment, they abuse didn't end, just the sexual abuse did. The physical abuse continued because abuse begets abuse, and I was placed with family members who did not break the cycle.”
After being housed in a series of foster homes, Milligan eventually ended up on the street. He considers himself the exception to the rule, having made it through college and a Master's Program on a probationary athletic scholarship before becoming an IT executive in Southeast Asia. That's why he speaks around the globe free of charge, to break the cycle and save one another.
“Stopping abuse is the right thing to do. It's the moral thing to do. Those are solid arguments. But, it's also socioeconomic, medically speaking, in a functional society the right thing to do. We all know what the economy is today. If you look at it, it's not just the money that were losing in regard to non-productivity. You look at a pool to draw from of individuals who are educated and skilled; if those individuals are abused they're not worried about going to school. They're not worried about learning an education. It's pure survival,” Milligan added. “When you remove organizations like the Women's Center, what you're literally doing is increasing the taxes.”
Milligan donated all the proceeds from any book sold at his seminar to the Women's Center and Harbor House. They are always in need of supplies from toilet paper to coffee. You can help the cause by volunteering, donating money, or dropping off supplies to the Harbor House on Baraga Avenue.
Survivor overcomes childhood sexual, physical abuse
by MARA KNAUB
Cassandra Russom was both sexually and physically abused as a child. From 9 to 13 years of age, her former stepfather sexually molested her.
She felt she couldn't tell anyone. Although he never threatened her, he had created an atmosphere of secrecy within the family.
“You didn't say anything, you didn't talk about family secrets,” Russom recalled.
And she didn't want to be responsible for breaking up her family or be separated from her younger siblings.
“The thought of losing the kids or my mom was unbearable,” she said.
Even if she had tried to tell, she didn't know how to say it.
“I knew the word rape, but he hadn't raped me. So what do you call it? I just knew it wasn't right.”
Her stepfather was also physically abusive -- beating her, locking her in for extended periods of time without food. The punishments often didn't fit the offense. And what he considered an offense kept changing from week to week.
As the oldest of four siblings, Russom took the brunt of it.
He didn't work much of the time and mostly played video games. It fell on her mother to work and make enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills.
So Russom took it upon herself to take care of her siblings. Sometimes the only things she could find to put in their school lunches were two pieces of bread.
Then one day, while hanging out on the porch with her mom, the then-17-year-old suddenly felt the need to tell her secret.
If you don't say it right now, you will regret it the rest of your life, she thought.
As she told her mother, she felt “ashamed, dirty and gross, like I did something wrong.”
Her biggest fear was that her mom would not believe her. But her mother, who by then was divorcing her husband, went into “mama lion mode,” Russom said. She took her daughter to Amberly's Place, a crisis center for victims of abuse, the next morning.
Police asked Russom to call and confront her former stepfather in a recorded conversation. He didn't deny it. Rather, he offered excuses, saying he was sick and had been having problems with her mother.
He was found guilty of two counts of child molestation and, in 2009, was sentenced to 17 years in prison per count.
Russom had mixed feelings. “As a Christian, I felt I needed to forgive, but I was really happy he had been held accountable."
She was also relieved that he wouldn't be able to harm more children.
As is often the case, Russom could have easily fallen into drug addiction or other destructive behavior.
“It had the real potential to ruin my life. But I didn't let it. I chose to rise above it,” she said.
At 25, she's now happily married and uses her experience to help other victims.
“I'm in a really good place now. I'm married to a great husband. I have a job I love. I'm emotional healthy.”
She's administrative assistant to Estrella Fitch, CEO and founder of The Healing Journey, a nonprofit organization that offers support to victims of abuse.
Russom went through the healing program for a year. She now leads a support group, using her experiences to help other girls. She can relate to them.
“We have a feeling of solidarity. ‘Hey, me too. I'm not crazy. I'm not making it up. What you feel is normal. I can survive too. It's not going to kill me. She went through the same thing.'”
Fitch met Russom when she became her victim advocate, a position she held for almost 11 years in the Yuma County Attorney's Office.
She helped Russom and her mother understand their rights. During the trial, she offered them emotional support.
“She was my rock. She kept me sane,” Russom said.
By the time the trial was over, they had become friends.
In 2011, Fitch left the attorney's office to start The Healing Journey to help victims heal after the trial.
“Women are so broken in the beginning,” Fitch said.
A victims fund allows up to $5,000 for counseling, but Fitch worried that victims did not have enough support once those funds ran out. The Healing Journey offers peer-support groups as well as classes and materials to all victims of sexual and physical abuse – men and women, children, tweens, teens and adults – in English and Spanish.
Funded by grants, the organization teaches life skills and “how to live without abuse and go on.”
The groups and classes are held at a local church. Fitch works out of her home office and is currently looking for donated office space.
“We've outgrown our resources. The numbers are exploding,” Fitch said, referring to the number of victims needing help.
The goal is to help those victims transform into survivors. Russom wants them to know that they can “survive because you are strong.”
Russom will perform the song “Brave” at the Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil Thursday at West Wetlands Park. She chose the song because of the “empowering” words.
“This vigil is different. Usually people mourn loss. This is an empowering vigil. We want people to know, you can get out,” Fitch said.
With the theme “Strength, Survive, Thrive,” the vigil is sponsored by the Yuma County Attorney's Office, Yuma County Victim Rights Week Committee and The Healing Journey. It will start at 5:30 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chair. Refreshments will be provided.
For more information, call The Healing Journey at 928-920-3760.
If you go:
The Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil will be held Thursday at West Wetlands Park. It will start at 5:30 p.m.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chair. Refreshments will be provided.
Online child abuse study examines nasty new trends including sextortion
by John Hawes
A report by a European expert group on the commercialisation of child sex abuse online suggests that sexual images and videos shared between youngsters may become a major target for traffickers, who are using increasingly aggressive tactics to gain remote power over vulnerable kids.
The study was put together by the European Financial Coalition against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Online (EFC), a group headed by Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) with members including child protection organisations and commercial firms such as Google, Microsoft and PayPal as well as law enforcement bodies.
It focuses on more than just paid-for online child sex abuse material, which is thought to make up only around 7.5% of the total out there, but may be becoming more widespread and more sophisticated.
The bulk of material is currently shared freely between offenders, some of whom are highly sophisticated and tech-savvy, making use of all manner of techniques to cover their tracks and remain hidden from law enforcement.
Tor is mentioned as a widely used stealth technique, while BitCoins and other online money-transfer systems are also common. Sharing is mostly done over peer-to-peer networks, but many other methods are used including cloud file storage services and more old-school networks such as BBS, newsgroups, IRC and private forums.
There are also less cautious players, using traceable credit cards to make payments and relying on search engines as an "entry level" means of finding material.
As we've seen in the past, not everyone involved in online child abuse is particularly bright.
At the commercial end of the scale, some of the more worrying trends include a cluster of prolific and organised "Top Level Distributor" groups, responsible for a large number of "brands" hosted on multiple websites. Free hosting services are popular, with the bulk of sites hosted in the US, and Russia and Kazakhstan also making a notable contribution.
There is also a nasty trend towards "pay-per-view" live streaming of abuse, mainly from South East Asia. This represents a tricky issue for law enforcement as images and video are often not retained by the viewer, or even the abuser, circumventing the most common laws prohibiting the ownership or distribution of abuse material.
One area highlighted as a place for likely future growth is linked to the growing tendency among young people to share sexual images between themselves, and the steady increase in young people's access to webcams and mobile phone cameras.
The problem of blackmail and "sextortion" - using images intended to be private - has been around for some time, with services such as Snapchat offering a spurious sense of safety and hacking of webcams also common.
Child abusers have also long been known to "groom" targets over time, posing as other youngsters, but lately these techniques have evolved, with an increase in "the use of aggression and coercive tactics to ensure victim compliance."
It seems grooming has become much faster and more efficient, putting ever more young people at risk.
There's also a growing trend of using so-called "lover boys", real kids hired to befriend victims and persuade or coerce them into performing sexual acts on camera, the footage or images then being passed on to the online child abusers.
It's feared that all these trends may become increasingly widespread and commercialised in future.
So parents, please, make sure your children know about these dangers. Remind them that there is no real privacy on the internet, and that anything they share, even with people they think are their friends, may leak out to the wider world and possibly get into the hands of some seriously nasty people.
Above all, make sure you keep yourself educated on the dangers and what you can do to minimise your family's risk.
And kids, please, try not to succumb to peer pressure or bullying. The need to "fit in" and keep up with your peers may be important, but try to take the long view and think about your future.
If someone's trying to make you do something that makes you uncomfortable or that you really don't want to do, don't give in to them, tell someone about it and get some help.
Learn and follow good advice on staying safe online - be careful out there.
Port Byron, Scipio to host seminar on child sex abuse prevention
The Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County will present two public seminars on protecting children from sexual abuse.
Topics include child abuse statistics in the county, risk factors, how sexual predators operate and how to create a safe environment for children.
The seminars take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Port Byron Library, 12 Sponable Drive, Port Byron, and at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at the Scipio Fire Department, 3554 Route 34, Scipio Center.
Admission is free.
For more information, visit cacofcayugacounty.org
Pennsylvania Child Sexual Abuse Case Highlights Need for Statute of Limitations Reform
by Tara Murtha
A 26-year-old man who, along with a number of other individuals, accused Father Robert L. Brennan of raping him as a child died of an accidental drug overdose last week. Now, the chance to finally put Father Brennan behind bars may have died along with him, despite a paper trail of abuse accusations stretching back 25 years.
The 26-year-old told authorities that the abuse lasted for three years, beginning when he was an 11-year-old altar boy and Brennan, then 60, was assistant pastor at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. All told, more than 20 boys from at least four Philadelphia parishes have filed complaints about Brennan, now 75, according to the second of three grand jury reports investigating the Philadelphia archdiocese. However, the 26-year-old's allegations were the first to lead to legal charges, thanks to Pennsylvania's statute of limitations on child sexual abuse. (In Pennsylvania, victims have until age 50 to open a criminal prosecution and age 30 to file a civil suit.)
In September, Brennan was arrested in his Maryland home and charged with rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, and aggravated sexual assault.
But Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who publicly identifies as Catholic, said his office is reviewing whether the prosecution will continue. “The decades-long demons and scars the victim in this case endured ended this weekend,” Williams told the local CBS affiliate.
Research has long linked the trauma of childhood sexual abuse with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
A Brief History of Father Brennan
When the first grand jury was impaneled in Philadelphia to investigate rape in the Catholic Church in 2001, they expected to review “a small number of isolated incidents that occurred decades ago.” Instead, they uncovered evidence that “over the past 35 years more than 120 priests serving the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had been accused of sexually abusing hundreds of” children, and that with “rare exceptions” the archdiocese didn't contact authorities. According to the grand jury:
Child molesters purposefully select the most defenseless children. They should not be rewarded for their deliberate selection of vulnerable victims by a statute of limitations that, given the severity of the harm they inflict … makes it very unlikely their crimes will be timely reported.
The grand jury discovered so much evidence that they exceeded the two-year sitting limit, and had to fold their findings into a 2005 bombshell report, which singled out Father Brennan as one of several case studies of priests with long histories of suspect behavior.
Cardinal Bevilacqua (then archbishop of the Philadelphia archdiocese) assigned Brennan to St. Ignatius parish in suburban Philadelphia in 1988. According to records, the assistant pastor at St. Ignatius expressed concern over Brennan's “actions with young boys and teenagers” since Brennan's first day on the job.
The assistant pastor characterized Brennan's interest in young boys, whom he reportedly often “forced” to sit on his lap, as “extreme”; he was even said to host sleepovers in the rectory.
When the mother of the first complainant, a 13-year-old boy, met with Brennan, he gave her an autographed photograph of himself, according to the report. When Brennan was sent to the archdiocese-owned hospital for a psychological evaluation, church officials lied to parishioners and told them their pastor was on retreat.
From the report:
Since that time, the Archdiocese has learned of inappropriate or suspicious behavior by Fr. Brennan with more than 20 boys from four different parishes. He was psychologically evaluated or “treated” four times. Depending on the level of scandal threatened by various incidents, Cardinal Bevilacqua either transferred Fr. Brennan to another parish with unsuspecting families or ignored the reports and left the priest in the parish with his current victims. The Cardinal's managers advised Fr. Brennan to “keep a low profile,” but never restricted or supervised his access to the youth of his various parishes.
Cardinal Bevilacqua died last year, a day after a judge ruled him competent to testify in the trial of his one-time right-hand man, Monsignor William Lynn. Lynn was ultimately convicted of child endangerment, making him the first administrative church official found criminally liable for sexual abuse crimes committed by a priest.
The first grand jury was correct to worry that, combined with the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, the church's strategy of rotating priests and lying to parishioners would hamstring justice. Although the 2005 grand jury said they documented evidence of child sexual abuse by at least 63 priests, and have “no doubt” there are “many more,” not one priest faced legal charges.
“The biggest crime of all is this: it worked,” they wrote.
Shuffling abusive priests strategically exploits the way victims process trauma and frequently delay reporting, especially when the abuser is a trusted authority figure. In the largely working-class Catholic neighborhoods of Northeast Philadelphia in the 1980s, there was no bigger authority figure than a priest. The grand jury even noted a case wherein a boy who told his father about his younger brother's abuse was beaten to the point of unconsciousness for telling “lies.”
Meanwhile, as the Philadelphia district attorney's office has been investigating child sexual abuse and its subsequent cover-up by the archdiocese, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affairs arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been lobbying state legislatures against reforming the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.
The Fight Over Statute of Limitations Reform
Criminal and civil statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse vary state by state, but have generally been expanding, or liberalizing, since the explosion of the 2002 Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Boston.
Advocates of statute reform generally want to expand or abolish the time-frame wherein victims can file both criminal and civil complaints. In Pennsylvania, in the wake of child sexual abuse problems exposed in the church, at Pennsylvania State University, and in Boy Scout troops in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, advocates are focused on pushing for a bill that would establish what a “window”—a temporary period of time, usually one or two years, wherein victims can file civil complaints based on incidents that otherwise already timed out of the statute.
California passed a window bill in 2002. The resulting flood of lawsuits identified 300 perpetrators, which resulted in the church paying $1.2 billion in settlements. (Gov. Jerry Brown just vetoed a bill that would have implemented a second window, a decision applauded by the California Catholic Conference.)
Delaware, Minnesota, and Hawaii have implemented pieces of window legislation.
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitation has been viciously fought over for years, but the Penn State and Philadelphia church sexual abuse scandals forced the issue into the forefront last year. State Rep. Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia) helped bring even more attention to the issue by coming forward as a sponsor of a statute of limitations reform bill and, for the first time in her life, a survivor of child sexual abuse. Bishop, a minister and accomplished radio DJ, had been silent about her abuse for 66 years.
Still, after an elaborate and messy game of brinksmanship, the bills were once again left to die of neglect.
One of the main arguments the Catholic Conference has made against the window legislation is that over time, evidence is lost or can't be found. But evidence has been found, again and again, and it's the statute of limitation that prevents that evidence from seeing the light of day in the courthouse.
Optimistic About Reform
Advocates for survivors of child sexual assault in Pennsylvania have a fierce new ally in their corner: state Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), who recently spoke out about his own abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest at a press conference in Harrisburg.
Rozzi says he didn't start speaking out about his own abuse until four years ago, so he knows first-hand that often, by the time victims are ready to speak out, they have already timed out of civil litigation. In Rozzi's case, he came forward after a friend who was allegedly abused by the same priest committed suicide.
“We just want to be given a chance to have our voices heard in a court of law and to expose the perpetrator,” Rozzi said in a September press conference. “I think the community has a right to know that these men and women are still out there.”
Rozzi announced that yet another Pennsylvania bill would be introduced to try and reform the state's statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. The legislation would raise the age wherein a victim can file a civil suit to 50 years old, establish a window for civil suits (window legislation is not possible for criminal complaints), and eliminate sovereign immunity, which means the law would apply to both public and private organizations.
For years, the problem has been that legislators against reform—namely state Reps. Ron Marsico (R-Lower Paxton) and Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks)—stonewall such bills by refusing to allow them to get to the floor for a vote.
Last year, lawmakers supporting statute of limitations reform had to resort to a rare parliamentary procedure to force the bills to the floor for a vote. But the fight ultimately led nowhere. Chad Schlanger, chief of staff for Rep. Rozzi, says reform-supporting lawmakers are prepared to use the same procedure—a discharge resolution—again if necessary. He also says the bill will pass if it makes it to the floor. “If Marsico, Caltagirone, and [Republican House Majority Leader Mike] Turzai would get this to the floor, this would pass,” Schlanger told RH Reality Check . “I have lists of every single member.”
As the legislative fight continues to brew in Harrisburg, Marci Hamilton, co-counsel for the recently deceased 26-year-old, is hopeful that a survivor who falls within the current statute of limitations can continue the work started by her client. “I am confident there are survivors out there who will be able to carry on the legacy started by this brave young man,” said Hamilton, a constitutional law scholar and professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law who has represented other alleged church sexual abuse victims and is one of the most outspoken advocates for abolishing the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.
Hamilton speculates that her client's fate may have been brighter had he not been forced to bear the burden of being the only person to press charges against Brennan. “Perhaps if many [individuals] had been able to come forward together, he might have felt the support of other survivors through the process,” Hamilton said. “I hope the many still in [the statute of limitations] will now come forward to bring Brennan to justice and complete what our survivor started so heroically.”
Brennan's next preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 14.
What's the impact of porn on kids?
by Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA, National consultant for child sexual abuse prevention programs for Prevent Child Abuse America
If your children have access to a device with Internet access -- and it's a good bet that they do -- it's an equally good bet that they've been exposed to pornographic images.
A major study found that almost all boys and two-thirds of girls over age 13 have been exposed to online porn. Most exposure happens between the ages of 14 and 17, but thousands of children 13 and younger are exposed to sexually explicit images daily. Boys are more likely to report that they sought out pornographic images while girls were more likely to report involuntary exposure.
Impact of porn on kids:
Sexually explicit images and erotic art have had a place in almost every culture, so observing a sexual image is not necessarily harmful. But it's all about context. Pornographic images are often reflections of sex that have nothing to do with real life and young people lack the context to know that. The very fact that such a private act is being shared with the world obliterates the concept of intimacy, and intimacy is an important aspect of sexual health and safety.
Early images influence a young person's fundamental understanding of sexuality. People develop "sexual archetypes" or fundamental beliefs about sex, and viewing sexual images can become part of this development. If the people in the images look like people who could be a friends or neighbors then the acts may appear acceptable and an involuntary feeling of sexual arousal may make the act even seem more agreeable.
Archetypes become like shorthand the brain uses to immediately put things into categories prior to gathering additional information. For example, if you were bitten by a German Shepherd, the image of such a dog may become part of your archetype for fear. Sexual archetypes are developed when our brain stores information about the characteristics of images, experiences and/or people that lead to our sexual arousal, and the earliest associations with sexual arousal are very important.
The type of images kids see can influence their sexual archetypes and later sexual behavior. One study found that kids who had seen violent pornography were more than five times as likely to have forced or coerced someone into sex as kids who reported watching only non-violent porn. An association of sex and with violence or coercion threatens the sexual health and safety of your children and their future partners.
So what can a parent do?
First, use every technological resource available to limit your children's access to pornography, including spam filters and parental controls on devices, software and browsers. If your child knows more about technology than you do, call your school or local library and ask if the resident technology professional can offer a workshop to parents.
But don't count on technology; no measure is foolproof and purveyors of pornography and curious kids are both likely to figure out a way around them. This takes active parenting. Open a discussion about online pornography and consider it a great opportunity to share your family's values about sexuality and pornography. Don't start by asking their child if they've seen sexual images on line; assume that they have.
Concepts to explore
Ask about the content of the images using medically accurate terms for body parts and sex acts. Acknowledge that curiosity is normal, and share that these images are fictional and have nothing to do with real life love, sex and intimacy. Then consider exploring these issues:
- Consent: Did the people in the pictures look like they'd both agreed to the sex act? Did one participant appear to be coercing or otherwise threatening the other? Impart the healthy value that in real life all sex requires explicit consent.
- Emotions: What feelings did the people in the images seem to be experiencing? Make it clear that that the emotions associated with sex should be love, affection, warmth, and respect.
- Intimacy: No matter what was going on in the image, the very fact that it was being recorded and shared shows that there was not intimacy; share that healthy sexuality is an expression of deeply private and intimate feelings between partners.
- Arousal: Involuntary physical arousal from viewing sexual images may leave a youngster both exhilarated and shamed. Sexual arousal is instinctual and autonomic, and people of any age may find their body responding with arousal to an image they intellectually find repulsive. A discussion about the feelings associated with the arousal caused by the sight the pornographic image will break the secrecy and with it the power the images have over the child's perception of sex.
Finally, while a demand that the child not watch porn is likely to be met with overt or covert resistance, suggest that the child's future sex life will be much happier and more satisfying if he or she avoids it. Maybe use the analogy that learning about sex from pornography makes as much sense as learning to drive by watching a NASCAR movie. And, it can limit the ability to find the satisfaction that comes from sharing experience with a partner.
The thought of this conversation may make any parent uncomfortable, but here's the win: when you make an active effort to counteract the messages from online porn, you have a golden opportunity to replace the dysfunctional values with your own. And -- research shows us that kids keep listening, even when acting like they're not!
Rosenzweig is also the author of The Sex-Wise Parent. For more information, see her website, read her blog, follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Janet Rosenzweig is a member of the NAASCA family, and appeared recently on our "Stop Child Abuse Now" talk show. Click here to listen to the show "on-demand": Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) - 683 - special guest Janet Rosenszweig
Judge Weakens Rules to Allow Pedophiles to Unsupervised Access to Kids
Paedophiles have won unsupervised access to their own children because it would breach their human rights to keep them apart, judges have ruled.
by David Barrett , Home Affairs Correspondent
The Court of Appeal has torn up powers which previously allowed judges to ban convicted paedophiles from unfettered access to their families.
They ruled that the "right to a family life" must be taken into account before the "sexual offences prevention orders", known as SOPOs, are issued.
The ruling, issued after a legal challenge by a group of men convicted of using the internet to view child pornography, significantly weakens the ability of the criminal courts to place restrictions on paedophiles.
It means judges cannot impose blanket bans on men and women convicted of child sex offences spending time with their own children because they breach the right to a "family life".
The development comes amid a review by ministers of the way the Human Rights Act has had a "chilling effect" on British law.
The judges also tore up other restrictions on what convicted child sex offenders can do under the SOPO system.
The orders were brought in by the last Government in an attempt to protect children from abuse.
The judges said total bans on surfing the internet and coming into contact with teenagers aged between 16 and 18 cannot be imposed after a paedophile has been found guilty.
Last night the ruling was described as "very worrying" by MPs.
The ruling was made after a group of sex offenders challenged their SOPOs.
* Wayne Clarke, 34, who was convicted of child pornography offences in 2006, and after serving a jail term breached his bail conditions and was listed as a wanted man.
He was traced to North Wales where he was found to have a stash of electronic equipment containing hundreds of photographs and videos of young girls engaged in sexual acts, including two still images assessed to be of the most serious "level 5" category, which depict sadism or bestiality. He had been communicating with a mother of a four-year-old girl and had sent the adult a child pornography image.
* Bryan Hall, now aged 54, was caught when he took a bin bag full of child pornography magazines, photographs and CDs to his local tip in 2009. Police traced him from a housing benefit letter left in the same bag.
Hall, a mobile disco operator, of Beaconsfield Street, Darlington, was found to have more than 6,000 child abuse images, mainly of girls aged between five and 12, on his home computer.
* Steven Smith, now 36, who admitted having child pornography and had a previous conviction for raping a boy aged under 16.
Philip Davies MP said: "This is very worrying. What concerns me is that the criminal justice system always seems to put the rights of the criminal ahead of the rights of the law-abiding public and the victim.
"It risks creating a terrible victim of crime, which could be completely avoidable. That to me is unforgivable."
The cases were considered together by a panel of three senior judges, headed by Lord Justice Hughes, because of their significance.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the terms of Clarke's SOPO were "wider than necessary", particularly that a blanket ban on Clarke using the internet was "wrong".
Conditions of the SOPO which prevented any social contact with boys was also "unnecessary and unrealistic" because it would prevent Clarke from having "ordinary family contact with his brother and nephews", the judges added.
The judges said in their ruling: "Care must be taken in considering whether prohibitions on contact with children are really necessary.
"It is not legitimate to impose multiple prohibitions on a defendant just in case he commits a different kind of offence."
Restricting a paedophile's access to his or her own children would be a breach of human rights, said the appeal judges.
"The defendant may have children of his own, or within his extended family," the ruling went on.
"If his offences are within the family, or there is a risk that offences of that kind may be committed, then those children may need protection.
"But if they are not, and there is no sign of a risk that he may abuse his own family, it is both unnecessary and an infringement of the children's entitlement to family life to impose restrictions which extend to them."
In another controversial move, the Court of Appeal also said judges will no longer be able to impose total bans on paedophiles accessing the internet.
"A blanket prohibition on computer use or internet access is impermissible," the appeal judges concluded.
"It is disproportionate because it restricts the defendant in the use of what is nowadays an essential part of everyday living for a large proportion of the public."
In previous periods, if a paedophile had kept printed images of children being forced to have sex "it would have not have occurred to anyone to ban him from possession all printed material", the judges said.
They added: "The internet is a modern equivalent."
Clarke's SOPO was modified to prevent him accessing the web unless his internet "history" was stored intact, and that he agreed to allow police to inspect any electronics used to access the internet.
His wife, a Thai national, has two children - including an eight-year-old daughter - and the couple are attempting to gain visas for the youngsters to live in Britain.
Hall's original SOPO, imposed by Teesside Crown Court, banned him from "living in the same household as any person under the age of 18".
But his lawyers successfully argued this was too broad and the new SOPO now bans him from living with girls under 18 without the "express approval of social services".
Smith's SOPO was quashed as he is serving an indefinite sentence.
Staten Island Father who puts child in oven gets 4 months of weekends
(video on site)
STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- A Staten Island man who beat his son, burning his hands on a stove and stuffing him an oven, will spend four months of weekends in prison.
Earlier this week, James Moss, 53, pleaded guilty to all seven counts of the indictment against him, including two counts of second-degree assault. On Friday, he was sentenced to four months of weekends at Rikers Island and five years probation.
Surprisingly, the victim was most influential in helping Moss avoid the maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Moss' son, 11-year-old Christopher, has reportedly forgiven his father and cried while speaking on his behalf. The boy's also spoke in favor of the father.
The incident happened on May 12, 2010 in Graniteville after Moss believed then 9-year-old Christopher stole $20 from his wallet.
Moss, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs more than 270 pounds, first threatened to kill his small son, then brought the boy to the basement and stripped off all of his clothes.
He then dragged the naked boy to the kitchen, where he beat him on the back with a spatula.
After heating two burners on the stovetop, he forced the boy's hands on the burners and held them there until some of the charred skin began to peel off.
He then punched the boy in the face and shoved him into the oven.
Despite his son screaming and pleading to be let out, Moss held the oven door shut and threatened to turn it on.
He finally let the boy out and threw him, still naked, outside the front door.
The boy was eventually allowed back inside the house, but forced to sit on the floor, naked and crying, until his mother came home and took him to the hospital.
The boy was treated at the hospital for second and third-degree burns and abrasions on his back and knees.
"In over 15 years as a district attorney and an assistant district attorney, this was one of the most shocking and sadistic cases of child abuse I have ever prosecuted," Richmond County district attorney Daniel Donovan said.
Nova Scotia, Canada
Facebook Ban on Autistic Child Due to Bullying
A 15-year-old Canadian girl from Nova Scotia has pleaded guilty to a vicious, planned attack on a female, autistic student, and an attorney is seeking to ban her from social media as part of her sentencing.
Steve Drake, Novia Scotia Crown attorney, said that the girl should be barred from online venues including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, lest she perpetrate cyber bullying, according to CBC News:
Social media is a reality. Facebook might be a staple in the social lives of young people but if it's used as a vehicle for the commission of crime, what I said to the court is that someone should take away the key.
Drake said that the 15-year-old - whom, Drake said, police described as the "bully of all bullies" - planned the attack for lunchtime.
She forced a second student to film the attack and to post it on Facebook.
The prosecutor's description of the assault, which took place at Sherwood Park Education Centre in Sydney earlier this year:
The accused stood and waited for the victim to come through the hall at lunchtime, stated her name and then sucker punched her, knocked her on the floor and proceeded to grab her by the hair and kick her in the head and facial area.
It all happened in approximately 10 to 12 seconds. It was brutal.
It was mere luck that the victim only suffered bruises, Drake said.
CBC News reports that the Crown and defence have requested a lengthy probation period for the girl. A sentence is expected on 30 October.
Nova Scotia has been shaken in the past year by cyber bullying, including the tragic death of Rehtaeh Parsons.
Rehtaeh, of Nova Scotia, committed suicide in April at the age of 17 after allegedly being gang-raped by four boys.
Two 18-year-old Canadian men were arrested in August and charged with child abuse images crimes over allegedly cyber bullying the young woman.
Three weeks after Rehtaeh's death, Nova Scotia legislators announced the new Cyber-Safety Act.
Part of the act was an anti-cyber bullying law, put into effect in August, that enables victims to apply for protection orders and gives them the ability to identify and sue alleged cyber bullies.
The law's intent, of course, is to protect victims and to hold bullies - and even their parents - responsible.
It has come under fire, however, for being overly broad, threatening the rights of free expression, and for giving already difficult children the tools to financially ruin their parents.
Jesse Brown, writing for Macleans, said this is how the Cyber Safety Act will attempt to stop online abuse:
Someone feels that you're cyberbullying them. They visit or phone the court and request a protection order against you (minors, or some reason, cannot do so, only adults). A judge decides if their claim meets the law's definition. The definition of cyberbullying, in this particular bill, includes 'any electronic communication' that 'ought reasonably be expected' to 'humiliate' another person, or harm their 'emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation.'
If this is the standard, I don't know a person who isn't a cyberbully.
Drake believes this is the first time in Nova Scotia that a social media ban has been requested in such a case, but said that a judge ordered a 12-year-old Manitoba girl to stay off Facebook while she spends a year on probation for online threats against two other girls.
As far as whether social media bans are enforceable, Drake likened it to banning a drunk driver from climbing back behind the wheel or from taking another drink.
In this case, social media can be monitored by a vigilant public, he said:
At some point in time if you're on Facebook, people will know and if someone who's interested in making sure that this probation order is enforced sees that the person's on Facebook, no different than someone driving along the highway and calling in a drunk driver.
There are many well-intentioned efforts at play in this case. It's a relief to see such efforts devoted to protecting children before a victim turns into yet another suicide, such as the recent, heartbreaking case of Rebecca Ann Sedwick.
It strikes me as common sense that the earlier the intervention, the more likely that cyber bullying won't result in suicide.
It might be a natural reaction to vent fury at the parents of bullies, but perhaps a more effective approach to cyber bullying would be to demand that social networks such as Facebook or Tumblr respond quickly and decisively to shut it down as soon as it's discovered.
I'm thinking here of a 2011 case wherein a Facebook page was set up to bully a New Zealand college student.
As the New Zealand Herald reported at the time, the page - called "Putting your stick away after a hard day of being a social outcast" - was set up by a fellow student and featured a photo of the targeted boy.
It was taken down after sparking internet furor, the paper reported.
Supporters and anti-bullying campaigners took to online parenting forums, urging people to contact Facebook to have the page removed. The supporters posted hundreds of responses decrying the bullying, resulting in the Facebook page being taken down.
That happened, the paper said, within the span of 3 hours.
Unfortunately, many of the anti-bullying posters themselves used bullying language on the bullies.
This has been a hard week, between this case and the arrest of two Florida girls, one of whom bragged about cyber-bullying Rebecca Sedwick.
Before you vent your fury at this 15-year-old Nova Scotia girl, or at her parents, or the Florida girl or her parents, or anybody, for that matter, please, maintain calm.
Remember people can be good.
It's up to all of us to keep an eye out for bullying and to address it quickly, firmly, and to do so without becoming bullies ourselves.
Eugele, Oregon - Boy Scouts
Judge ponders sexual abuse statute of limitations
by Greg Bolt, The Register Guard
NOTE FROM NAASCA family member Marci A. Hamilton of SOL-reform.com: The reporter here is misguided. This only seems uncommon because most states shut out survivors well before they can get to court. Most need decades.
A judge will decide next month whether time has run out for a $5.25 million sexual abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts filed by a former Scout from Eugene.
At issue is whether the statute of limitations has expired for claims raised by the plaintiff in the case, who is known only by the initials F.D. A Lane County judge heard arguments on the issue last week and set another court date for mid-November.
The case is unusual because it involves allegations of child sexual abuse that took place almost 50 years ago, starting in 1964. Even more unusual is the fact that the alleged abuser, a one-time Scoutmaster named Ed Dyer, was shot dead by one of his teenage victims in 1986.
The lawsuit claims that the national, state and local Scout organizations should pay damages to the unnamed victim because they failed to protect him from Dyer's abuse. But because so much time has passed since the abuse took place, the two sides are first arguing whether the statute of limitations has expired.
It's a more complicated issue than it at first appears. Oregon law allows victims of child abuse to file suit against alleged abusers — and, by extension, any organizations that employed the abusers and knew or should have known about the abuse and failed to take action — at any time before the victim reaches age 40, no matter how much time has elapsed since the abuse occurred.
After age 40, victims can file suit only if they show that the connection between the past abuse and any current illness or injury only recently was discovered. In such cases, victims have five years from the time they make that connection to file a lawsuit.
The law is written to protect victims who are abused as children and because of the traumatic nature of the abuse don't realize until they are much older the harm that was done to them.
In the F.D. case, the victim claims that he suffered debilitating mental and emotional injury, trauma and permanent psychological damage. He admits that he has known for some time that the abuse caused the injury and that his abuser was a Scout leader.
But he claims that he didn't know until recently that the Scouting organizations allegedly share some blame for the abuse. That claim appears to relate in part to the more recent discovery of documents kept by the Scouting organizations about Scout leaders accused or suspected of having sexually abused boys in their troops.
Attorneys for the victims argue that the clock on the statute of limitations didn't start ticking until their client realized the Scouting organizations knew about abuse by some Scout leaders and failed to take action to protect their victims. They say the suit was filed within the five-year limitation following that realization.
But attorneys for the Scouting organizations say the victim was aware long ago, or reasonably should have been aware, that there was a connection between those groups and the victim's abuse-related injuries. They also argue that the language of the state laws governing statutes of limitation bar the lawsuit this long after the victim became aware of his injuries and their connection to the Scouts.
Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen, who is hearing the case, appeared to be struggling with the argument presented by the victim's attorneys, Stephen Crew and Peter Janci. He said it appeared that under their reasoning there is effectively no statute of limitations for such claims.
He gave Crew and Janci until Nov. 1 to submit additional written arguments. Attorneys for the Scouts will have until Nov. 8 to reply, with oral arguments set for Nov. 15.
Children, Safety, and Sex Offenders
by Denise Womer
Child safety is paramount and legislation is important to protect our children from sex offenders. Most parents believe that legislation will protect their children. In the United States, convicted sex offenders are required to register their residence with law enforcement. In some states their email addresses, work information, vehicle registration data, and school enrollment are also required. In addition, many jurisdictions have added residential restrictions to keep sex offenders from living or hanging out near parks, day cares, schools, and other areas where children congregate.
Studies that suggest that many sex offenders did not make contact with their victims in these protected areas, but more often through a family acquaintance or as family members. Research has shown that child molestation is perpetrated by family members and/or acquaintances more so than by strangers.
So, we may monitor a stranger who is a registered sex offender within our states and we do this very well, but do we do monitor those who are invited into our homes?
The police are monitoring sex offenders online and regularly checking residences where sex offenders live. When laws that are meant to protect our children seem to fail in society's view, citizens cry for more legislation or imply police do not do enough.
There are some inadequacies with state sex offender registries. For example, sex offenders moving from one state to another are responsible to notify the police agency where they intend to live within 48 hours. This is relying on the sex offenders to be honest and obey the law, instead of a nationwide tracking database of offenders who are mobile. Next, some offender's locations are inaccurate on one registry as compared to another.
We can continue to pass more legislation to restrict convicted sex offenders from living within our communities and rely on sex offender registries to protect children. However, parents must also start supervising their children when they are outside the home or inside with unlimited access to a computer. Last, parents need to exercise better judgment when they leave their children in someone else's care, either a family member or an acquaintance.
Dr. Denise Womer is a retired Florida LEO, residing in the Orlando area. She is Professor of Criminal Justice at Kaplan University.
Male Survivor - Hope, Healing, Support
by Chris Anderson, Exec Dir at MaleSurvivor.org
In most of my writing, I usually try to share messages of Hope, Healing & Support. Tragic news, troubling statistics, and gloomy research on the long-term impacts of abuse need to be countered with positive messages. Therefore I consciously choose to share hopeful information and offer concrete suggestions for things we can do either as survivors or supporters of survivors to help people make progress on the healing journey.
Today, I do have good news to share - in a few weeks we will be holding our first professional trainings and Dare to Dream events in Los Angeles. If you are in the Southern California area (or can get there) I hope you'll join us for one of these excellent events. For more information on these events and/or to register for one of the trainings, please email Trisha Massa or visit this page.
However, sometimes in spite of good news we may not be happy or hopeful. For men it is especially important that we be empowered to speak openly about our troubles. Even though we all get overwhelmed at times, we are rarely given permission to talk about our diffiulties. Our email inboxes overflow with unanswered messages while challenges at work and home hang heavy on our minds. Worse, triggers are all around us and can push us into darker emotional spaces and sap our resilience. Too often, men shy away from openly talking about these darker feelings, not because we want to, but because we fear the repercussions of seeming "unmany."
Men are expected to keep moving and keep our mouths shut, not ask for help when we feel lost or vulnerable. Most men internalize pressure ("never let them see you sweat" as a once common advertisement chastened us).
But what happens when we follow that advice? Eventually the strain of all our burdens will overwhelm even the strongest man. When overwhelmed, many of us begin to shut down or disconnect. We pull back from the world and turn to any distraction that takes us out of the present unhappiness. But disconnection comes at a high price. It often leads to a sense of passivity. Passivity, in turn, leads to feeling trapped, powerless, and without hope. From there can be a pretty short step to destructive behavior unless we find a way to seek out the help and support we all deserve.
For men, asking for that support is not easy. "Strong men" are expected to vanquish their fears and conquer their enemies without empathy and compassion. Many men refuse to speak of the harms they've suffered for fear of being stigmatized or ridiculed. In certain hyper-masculine cultures, disclosure of any kind of weakness or vulnerability can actually put a man at risk for serious harm. In many communities, when a man does find the courage to ask for help, he is told there are no resources to support him. It can be exponentially more difficult to get help when the perpetrator of harm is female. The harm caused by abuse and trauma does not discriminate, nor can we in the work to help ALL survivors heal. Trauma and abuse are staggeringly common experiences. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study has shown that 2/3 of the population reach adulthood having experienced at least one significant form of adverse harm. And a growing wealth of research shows that the changes in the brain caused by abuse and trauma (especially when experienced as children) won't be overcome by being tougher and stronger, but rather by becoming more connected.
The depression and anxiety borne of trauma and a buse do not give way to strenuous effort; we cannot simply will our way out of these dark places. The man's mantra to "be tough" is terrible advice that actually increases suffering by keeping us isolated from others who might be vital sources of support. Real healing does not happen in isolation.
During MaleSurvivor's Weekends of Recovery, we learn that speaking openly about our pain and vulnerability is an important part of the healing process. It helps us shatter the stigma that a wounded man is less of a man. It also helps us to authentically connect with other people. But it is never easy. Being open and vulnerable runs counter to what we've been taught is "manly." It also requires us to do today precisely what may have led others to taunt, bully, and abuse us for in the past.
Some of us are lucky. We have family and friends who support us, even though it may be hard for us to stay connected sometimes. Some of us also have something that far too few men have - excellent mental health support including great therapists who can help us process these challenges and give us tools to be better able to fight through the dark times. When I am confronted with bouts of depression, I know I will make it through because I've lived through these cycles before, and because I have others in my life who help lift me up. However, there are far too many of our brethren in similarly dark places who need help seeing the light.
We cannot continue to accept a paradigm of masculinity that praises silent suffering while stigmatizing those men who courageously seek help. The way out of the darkness requires men to be open, vulnerable, and "unmanly." Smashing outdated stereotypes won't be easy, but we have no choice if we want a world with less pain, less trauma, and less abuse. The strongest and the most powerful men I know are NOT those who impose their will on others. Rather, they are open to their pain while remaining connected to the world. That is compassion, and that is a source of real power to which we can all connect.
Have any thoughts or questions you'd like to share with me? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Firefighter Breaks Lifetime of Silence and Tells All in Gut Wrenching Memoir
Ohio Firefighter and Paramedic Jim Marrelli has spoken out for the first time on the traumatic childhood that left him fighting years of depression.
New York (PRWEB UK) -- “I hope this book will give inspiration to the thousands of individuals who have suffered abuse and violence at the hands of their parents,” said Jim Marrelli at the launch of his new book, ‘Walking On Eggshells.'
Being a firefighter and paramedic involves having to make life or death decisions under very difficult circumstances. It is a job that demands a sense of calm and confidence under pressure, skills that James Marrelli never dreamed he would gain and now he holds the coveted Firefighter of the Year Award. His revealing, and at times heartbreaking, memoirs detail the long time psychological damage inflicted by years of mental and physical abuse. Damage that followed him through into early adulthood and beyond. The book chronicles his struggles to fight back and undo the damage caused, even to the point of joining The National Guard to gain self confidence and respect.
In the end, it was the love of a good woman that finally gave him the strength he needed and with her patience and understanding, Jim finally left the trauma behind and carved a successful career in one of the most demanding environments imaginable.
"Walking On Eggshells" has just been published by Mirador Publishing and is already achieving wide critical acclaim for its uncompromising look at the damage parents can do to their children.
“We were humbled by Jim's courage in putting this book forward,” said Sarah Luddington, Mirado's Commissioning Editor. “His bravery in speaking out will be an inspiration to thousands of others and we are privileged to be able to help promote awareness of this dreadful abuse of our children.”
Jim's story is ultimately one of hope and inspiration and shows how the damage wrought by bad parenting can be left behind and the survivors of abuse can find loving and fulfilled lives despite the difficult start.
"Walking on Eggshells" is published by Mirador Publishing and is available in all good bookshops and online stores both as a paperback and eBook in all the major formats.
Mirador can be contacted via their website at: http://www.miradorpublishing.com
UK / US
Internet child abuse 'clampdown' by new UK-US agency
Criminals who trade in child abuse images are to be targeted in a new British-American task force.
Police Minister Damian Green will fly to the US later to formalise arrangements for the new body.
The agency will be co-chaired by Mr Green and US Attorney General Eric Holder.
Mr Green said: "Child abuse and exploitation online are not restricted by borders and our efforts to combat them should not be either."
He went on: "British and American parents rightly expect us to do all we can to protect our children and that is why I want to agree to a much closer working relationship in this area.
"This agreement will only strengthen our ability to crack down on this sickening crime."
Mr Green will sign a memorandum of understanding between the two countries in the next few days.
The Sun on Sunday reported that as part of the trip Mr Green will meet senior figures within the FBI, Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies.
Internet companies are also being called on to share information with their British counterparts.
Keeping children safe
The move follows the 22 July announcement from Prime Minister David Cameron that most households would have sexually explicit material blocked by the internet provider unless they chose to opt out.
Joanna Shields, UK business ambassador for Digital Industries and a former Google and Facebook executive, will be the industry lead for the project.
She told the Sun on Sunday: "The US-UK Taskforce will play a critical role in taking forward the Prime Minister's commitment to eradicating exploitative material from the internet and keeping our children safe online.
"I strongly believe that industry and government can successfully tackle this problem together.
"I look forward to working with the brightest minds in the industry to develop truly innovative and creative technical solutions that will help protect the most vulnerable in our society."