Group forms to raise awareness of sex trafficking
A recently formed group of concerned citizens seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Invisible Innocence began May 20 and targets the rising issue of human trafficking in North Dakota.
“When we started researching information for (the state),” said Brandi Jude, co-founder of the organization, “we realized there was a bigger issue.”
Increasing accounts of human trafficking in North Dakota has inspired Invisible Innocence to raise awareness of the issue — a difficult task when facts are hard to come by.
“Although we have websites that can give general information for statistics in our state, it is still unknown exactly how many people are directly affected,” said Jude. “Human trafficking is (also) a big problem on reservations, which makes finding information more difficult.”
Despite the lack of information about the issue that could lead to a specific approach, Jude said individuals can still get involved.
“People can research local organizations and ask ... what their involvement is relating to human trafficking victims,” said Jude. “(They) can start participating in events, going to speeches and seminars and educating each other about what they learn.”
Invisible Innocence's first event, the “Haunted Hustle,” raised awareness for the cause. Sixty participants joined the “Haunted Hustle,” a charity run that took place Oct. 12. The Halloween-themed 5k obstacle course took place at McDowell Dam Nature Park.
Jude considers the run a success.
“We would've been excited about one person coming. Our mission is to raise awareness, and it just takes one person to make a change and be a voice for a human trafficking victim.”
Proceeds from the awareness run went toward informational material and future events assisting human sex trafficking victims and survivors.
Jude said that the biggest weapons against human trafficking are education and understanding.
“We have a tendency to pass judgment ... instead of trying to understand the ‘whys' for what people are doing,” said Jude. “The biggest crime is treating the victims like they are the criminals. Young girls and boys should not be receiving felonies ... for being pimped out, forced into free labor, raped and abused for someone else's greedy demands.”
Jude said that although awareness of the issue is rising, North Dakota does not yet have any safe homes or counseling programs specifically designed for human trafficking victims.
“We look forward to researching this topic more and sharing the information with the public,” said Jude. “We have bigger dreams that we now know are completely accomplishable, and victims have a voice, even if it's just a few.”
Invisible Innocence's mission statement is: “We are grassroots; we come from nothing but are ready to give everything.”
For more information about Invisible Innocence, contact Brandi Jude at (701)-226-9177, via email at email@example.com or visit invisibleinnocencend.org
Shared Hope raises awareness about human trafficking
by Jenny Doren
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJLA) – It's a scary reality that lurks in the shadows, but now an eye-catching campaign in downtown D.C. is exposing the facts about human trafficking.
At the corner of 14th and K Streets northwest, dozens of people are doing a double-take.
They're focusing on what looks like a life-size doll in a pink “for sale” box.
"It shocks you a little bit,” exclaimed 24 year-old Elias Dammann. “It does."
“We didn't know if a real person was inside until we got close and saw she was blinking," added Mary Liu of Arlington.
The young lady posing as a doll put the Esposito family's sight-seeing on pause Friday.
They zeroed in on a message on the box that read "children aren't playthings."
“I have a 12 year old daughter and we're always keep telling her to watch what she does and where she goes and who she talks to and you know it's a dangerous world out there and you got to be aware,” said Gary Esposito of New Jersey.
Shared Hope International is stepping up the awareness that kids are being sold for sex with several head-turning campaigns.
“It is serious,” said the organization's founder Linda Smith. “Your children are in danger."
The former U.S. congresswoman is hosting a three-day conference for hundreds of law-enforcement, educators and survivors from across the nation.
Each state got graded on how well it protects our children from traffickers. Maryland climbed from a "D" to a "C,” but the rest of area is nearly failing.
“Washington, D.C. and Virginia are still D's,” informed Smith. She says the problem is weak trafficking laws.
“They haven't defined that a child sold into commercial sex is a victim of trafficking and a man [who] would buy her is obtaining a trafficking child and therefore involved," she explained.
Human trafficking in America is a $9.8 Billion dollar industry. The average victim is just 13 years old.
“You can put yourself in their place and it makes you want to do something,” said tourist and University of Tampa student Lara Mellajansem.
“I know it's a big issue in Asia, but to see it right in the U.S., it hits home," added Liu.
Another campaign is also hitting home with metro riders. It shows a map representing the path prostituted children take every day, but they don't know where they'll end up.
MI AG unveils Human Trafficking report
"A victim-centered approach"
LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette Wednesday unveiled the 2013 Report on Human Trafficking by the first Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking, according to a news release.
Children are especially vulnerable, and existing data sources strongly suggest that the current reported human trafficking statistics do not provide a complete picture of the prevalence of human trafficking in Michigan.
This Commission already identified 312 confirmed victims by surveying a limited group of service providers. Coupled with the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Division's 2011 report of 29 human trafficking cases in Michigan and the FBI's recovery of 10 children in “Operation Cross Country” in July, the Commission's Report puts forth strong evidence that human trafficking is underreported in Michigan.
The 2013 Report on Human Trafficking (pdf)
" Every day in America, human traffickers prey on the vulnerable to force them into providing commercial sex or labor. We have seen human trafficking victims robbed of their childhood, their health, their dignity, their families, and even their lives,” said Schuette. “The work of the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking shined a light on these criminals, vividly illustrating that this is not just a problem for the world -- it is a problem for Michigan. And now the real work begins.”
“We want the pimps, johns, and human trafficking criminals out of our state,” said Representative Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth), chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee. “We will make it clear that human trafficking will not be tolerated in Michigan that you will be caught, and you will be punished.”
The Commission, co-chaired by Schuette and Heise, was bi-partisan in nature and included members of the state legislature, law enforcement, state government, and anti-trafficking activists.
The Commission met for more than six months, beginning in March. Members held more than 60 meetings and met with countless stakeholders, including victims, law enforcement, legislators, victim advocates and service providers, academicians, and national experts.
The Commission conducted a formal review of the following five areas:
Data collection -- Reviewed strategies to collect statewide data so policymakers and law enforcement can assess progress in their efforts to tackle this growing crime.
Victim services -- Reviewed victim needs and determined how those needs can best be met at the local and state level, including how to coordinate private and public sector assistance.
Professional training -- Reviewed existing training efforts and determine how they can be enhanced and expanded. “Professional” is broadly defined to include various groups who may encounter human trafficking: law enforcement, health care providers, social service providers, hospitality providers and those in code enforcement and regulatory agencies.
Raising public awareness -- Developed strategies to raise public consciousness and awareness of the crime of human trafficking.
Legislation and policy -- Reviewed the current legal framework governing human trafficking and determined whether new legislation or policy changes are required.
“I pledge my full support toward implementing this action agenda presented by the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking. We must pass legislation to improve our ability to bring traffickers to justice and to rescue and provide for victims' needs. We must raise public awareness about this crime and engage our local communities in the effort to combat it. And every step we take must revolve around a victim-centered approach, one that honors, loves and respects the children, women and men exploited through this terrible crime,” said Schuette.
After more than six months of review, the Commission developed wide-ranging recommendations as an action-oriented agenda for policymakers. The report's key recommendations include:
Strengthening legal protections for human trafficking victims -- The Commission calls for the passage of a Safe Harbor law to ensure minor victims are treated as victims in need of services, not criminals.
Expanding real assistance for human trafficking victims -- The Commission recommends expanding housing for trafficking victims who have nowhere to turn after being rescued from their trafficker.
Toughening laws to target traffickers and “johns” -- The Commission recommends increasing penalties for “johns” who solicit sex from 16- and 17-year-olds from a misdemeanor to a felony. The Commission also recommends strengthening state forfeiture laws to reduce trafficker's ability to profit from the exploitation of children, women and men.
Increasing public awareness -- The Commission recommends a statewide public awareness campaign and human trafficking poster law to elevate the discussion and awareness that human trafficking happens in the Great Lakes State.
Tracking our progress -- The Commission recommends the implementation of a standard, comprehensive method for capturing human trafficking data from entities that interact with trafficking victims.
“The recommendations contained in this report provide the roadmap for a comprehensive approach to Human Trafficking not presently existing in Michigan. If implemented, better intervention strategies, tools for the justice system, and protection of victims are within reach,” said Jane White, director of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.
“This report is the first time a broad coalition of stakeholders has worked to combat human trafficking in Michigan. These recommendations made by prosecutors, lawmakers, advocates, survivors, and academicians are the essential next steps that must be taken in the fight against human trafficking. I applaud the commission led by Attorney General Bill Schutte for issuing this report. However we cannot stop here. We must all now take up the report's recommendations and put them into practice in order to protect victims of human trafficking,” said Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic, University of Michigan Law School.
Upon taking office in 2011, Schuette launched the state's first Human Trafficking Unit in the Attorney General's Office to prosecute human traffickers under state law. Since then, Schuette's Human Trafficking Unit has arrested nine people on human trafficking charges, secured seven human trafficking convictions, with cases against one additional defendant currently pending.
Cambodian police break up major child abuse ring after an ITV investigation
Cambodian police have broken up an international child abuse ring that trafficked youngsters to British paedophiles following an ITV Exposure investigation.
Former police detective Mark Williams Thomas went undercover in Cambodia, a country struggling with its reputation as a haven for child sex offenders.
As a result of the programme, police from the country's anti-trafficking department carried out an operation and rescued two young girls.
The two young girls aged 12 and 14, are now in care after police arrested an alleged trafficker who reportedly planned on selling them for sex to an undercover officer.
Williams Thomas posed as a British sex tourist to highlight how UK sex offenders were travelling abroad to Cambodia to abuse children.
He said that after handing in a phone used to communicate with the reported traffickers to Cambodian police, they were able to arrest an individual, who is now facing trial.
This is brilliant result. It goes to show the importance of investigative work like ours and that you can go to another country and expose what is going on there.
It is great that two girls are now safe who were apparently being preyed on for abuse.
This shows just how vital the role of investigative journalism is - by making this Exposure programme we have been able to break up a child trafficking ring and rescue two children.
– Mark Williams Thomas, Child Protection Expert
A police source in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh told the Sunday Mirror that the investigation helped to launch their own operation, adding that more arrests were expected following the raid.
This was a significant operation which has seen one man arrested. Hopefully more action will follow thanks to the information we have been given.
Police went to a location to meet a man who was offering girls, after carrying out their own undercover work.
– Police source
Cambodian police have said the operation is still ongoing as a result of information supplied by Exposure.
Investigation launched into alleged child sexual abuse at Fort Meade center
by Joe Johns and Barbara Starr
Washington (CNN) -- The FBI has launched an investigation into an alleged incident of child sexual abuse at a facility that provides services to children of civilian and military personnel who work at the Army's Fort Meade in Maryland.
At present, there is one known allegation concerning the Youth Center, according to Chad Jones, spokesman for the installation that lies between Washington and Baltimore.
But officials are sending hundreds of letters to families whose children might have come in contact with an unidentified civilian man who worked at the center from 2005 until his resignation in 2012. They are publicizing the case to see whether others may come forward, Jones said Friday.
The man's position was not immediately known, but Jones said "he worked with kids."
A town hall meeting for families is scheduled for Thursday.
Mary Doyle, also with public affairs at Fort Meade, told CNN that the center generally serves children in grades 6-8 through sports programs and non-athletic activities, such as computer labs and arts and crafts. On weekends, younger children occasionally partake in activities.
About 20 staff members typically are at the center when activities under way, Doyle said. The Youth Center is not a school.
Schools at Fort Meade are operated by Maryland's Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The employee in question had no connection to any of the schools, she said.
A 24-hour family hotline has been set up for anyone who has more questions for base officials.
The FBI said it would have no comment. Civilian law enforcement alerted Fort Meade to the alleged incident, officials said.
George Wright with Army public affairs said the FBI is leading the investigation because the allegation involves a federal facility.
"Fort Meade is fully cooperating with the FBI's investigation and is providing support to families as necessary," he said in a statement.
Veteran "HEROs" join ICE efforts to bring child predators to justice
WASHINGTON — Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers today joined U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director John Sandweg, U.S. Special Operations Command Director of the Care Coalition Kevin McDonnell and National Association to Protect Children Executive Director Grier Weeks in a swearing in ceremony for 17 veterans – many of whom were wounded in the line of duty – as part of the inaugural class of Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Recue Corps, or HERO Corps.
The 17 "HEROs" are participating in a one-year pilot program, announced last month, to work with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices across the country where they will assist special agents with criminal investigations involving child pornography and online sexual exploitation. The HERO Corps program was developed jointly by ICE HSI, the Department of Defense and the National Association to Protect Children .
"DHS continues to focus on bringing perpetrators of online child exploitation to justice, with a priority on protecting children from these predators," said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers. "The goal of this initiative is to give our nation's military veterans a chance to continue to serve at home for a righteous cause. Through this program, they are trained to fight on a new battlefield to protect the innocence of children at home and around the world."
"ICE is on the front lines of the fight against online child exploitation and there are none better to join with us than veterans of the U.S. military," said Acting ICE Director Sandweg. "We are proud to work with these veterans to stand watch over the most vulnerable among us and to bring these perpetrators to justice."
After completion of the training, HERO Corps participants will be based at HSI offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Fairfax (Va.), Las Vegas, Memphis (Tenn.), Miami, New Haven (Conn.), New Orleans, Orlando (Fla.), Phoenix, Savannah (Ga.), Seattle (Wash.) and Tampa (Fla.) They will work under the direct supervision of HSI special agents, conducting computer forensic exams, assisting with criminal investigations and helping to identify and rescue child victims.
The HEROs have just completed seven weeks of training in computer forensic analysis and digital evidence collection at HSI's Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., in order to help identify and rescue child victims of sexual abuse and online sexual exploitation.
Prior to that, they attended four weeks of intensive training at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee where they learned about child exploitation cases and the federal and state criminal laws that they will be helping to enforce.
In fiscal year 2013 to date, more than 2,000 child predators have been arrested by HSI on criminal charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children. Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 29,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes.
The next recruitment for the program is expected to begin early next year. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or applying, should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All applicants are interviewed and vetted to ensure a good fit with the HERO Corps.
The HERO program is made possible by a five-year $10 million initiative funded by the private sector that underwrites training, logistics and equipment.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form . Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce , an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Amend law to clarify all must report child abuse
A recent decision by the state Court of Appeals puts a troubling limit on a law intended to protect children because it exempts relatives, among others, from being required to report suspected abuse.
The law says, “Every person, including a licensed physician; a resident or an intern examining, attending or treating a child; a law enforcement officer; a judge presiding during a proceeding; a registered nurse; a visiting nurse; a school teacher; a school official; a social worker acting in an official capacity; or a member of the clergy who has information that is not privileged as a matter of law, who knows or has a reasonable suspicion that a child is an abused or a neglected child shall report the matter immediately to” authorities.
Both Gov. Susana Martinez and Attorney General Gary King say the phrase “every person” makes it clear the requirement applies to all. However, the court's majority held that “…in our view the Legislature intended to strike a balance, imposing a duty on only those people who were most likely to encounter abused and neglected children in their professional capacities.”
Martinez called the ruling “terribly misguided,” while King said the court's interpretation of state law “could place children in jeopardy.”
Martinez plans to ask state lawmakers to alter the law so there is no question that all people who suspect child abuse must report it.
The Legislature should tweak the law so it is clear – any and all suspected child abuse must be reported to authorities. No exceptions.
Child abuse prevention training available this month for Clayton, Henry residents
by Johnny Jackson
HAMPTON — For those impassioned about the welfare of children and preventing child abuse, there is an opportunity to do more.
Christie Wooten, programs coordinator at the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center, said the center will be offering child abuse prevention training this month and next.
She said the training will be provided through the Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children program, which seeks to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child-protective behaviors.
Wooten said the program targets responsible adults who care about the welfare of children, but it is also appropriate for youth-serving organizations such as sports leagues, day care centers, afterschool programs, children's clubs and church groups.
She said topics in the program will include facts about the problem of child sexual abuse, the types of situations in which child sexual abuse might occur, strategies for protecting children from sexual abuse, the importance of talking about the prevention of sexual abuse with children and other adults and identifying signs of sexual abuse in order to help intervene and react responsibly.
Wooten said participants should come away with an increased awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child sexual abuse.
She said they will earn new skills to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse, and they will be empowered to be more proactive in giving and seeking positive input to change organizational policies and procedures of youth-serving groups.
Wooten added that three continuing education unit hours are available through the program for law enforcement, licensed social workers, counselors, nurses and attorneys.
Two dates are set for the program — Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., and Dec. 4, from noon until 3 p.m. — at “the Big Green House,” 2 West Main St. in Hampton.
Registration is $25. To register, call Wooten at 678-479-5189 or email her at email@example.com.
Learn more about Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children by visiting: www.d2l.org
Prosecutor emphasizes reporting suspected child abuse, neglect is everyone's duty
by Justin L. Mack
A father who sexually abuses his daughter. A mother who physically abuses her son.
A guardian whose negligence results in a child's death.
Most Hoosiers know that when such individuals are found out, local and state officials work to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
But family members, friends or care providers who are aware of the abuse and fail to report it also could faceg time behind bars.
“In the last year or two … we found out by talking to cops, law enforcement and teachers that a lot of individuals, both citizens and those who regularly come in contact with children, really don't understand Indiana law, because we see things on national TV and think that's the law,” Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington said. “Every person has a duty to report (child abuse and neglect), but some don't out of apathy, uncertainty or fear of retribution.”
This week, the prosecutor's office organized a pair of community presentations to educate citizens about Indiana's “duty to report” law.
Not reporting suspected child abuse or neglect is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days incarceration and a $1,000 fine. Individuals who make a report are immune from civil and criminal liability.
Harrington said he began making such presentations in local schools after the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal that led to sanctions against the university and landed Jerry Sandusky, a former longtime assistant football coach, in a state prison for 30 to 60 years.
In that case, Mike McQueary, the assistant football coach who witnessed the abuse in a campus locker room, reported it to his superiors but did nothing more to intervene.
Although not charged with wrongdoing, McQueary faced criticism for not doing more to alert authorities.
Harrington said that in the Hoosier State, McQueary would have faced more than just angry critics.
“If this had occurred in Indiana, he would have been charged for failure to report. It's just that simple,” he said.
During Thursday's presentation, Harrington was joined by Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Goodrich, Lt. Jason Huber of the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office and Dawn Gross, lead investigator for the prosecutor's office.
Goodrich covered signs of abuse to look for, how to interact with a child once you have reason to believe abuse has occurred, and who to call when making a report.
She explained that if you're dealing with a physical or sexual abuse situation that needs an immediate response, local law enforcement at 911 is your best bet.
On the other hand, the Indiana Department of Child Services might be better suited for tackling situations related to a unclean or unsafe living conditions or family behavioral issues that have developed over time.
Even if you're not completely sure who to call — state, city or county police, or child services — Goodrich stressed the importance of just picking up the phone and getting the ball rolling.
“Our agencies work together on a daily basis. It's a seamless process for us, so please don't use the excuse of ‘I don't where this happened' to not call the police,” she said. “Make the call and let us figure out who's handling it.”
She added that if you work at a school, a day care, a church or any other facility that provides child care, and if you suspect that abuse has occurred, follow that employer's reporting protocol but also call police or protective services.
“This is the big kicker. Following your employer's protocol does not alleviate your responsibility to fulfill your individual duty. ... You're still on the hook to call in and make that report.”
Huber advised that residents not insert themselves in a situation in which they might have to come face-to-face with an angry and potentially dangerous parent. Instead, call police.
“They are going to just freeze the situation, make sure the child is OK,” he said. Police will also want some preliminary information from the caller.
“Our main responsibility is to make sure that child is safe.”
Tippecanoe County has seen increased reports of abuse or neglect since the March 16, 2005, death of 4-year-old Aiyana Gauvin, who was beaten by her stepmother, Michelle Gauvin, and neglected and abused by her father, Christian Gauvin.
Michelle Gauvin is serving life in prison without parole for murder, confinement and neglect. Christian Gauvin, who was charged with Class A felony neglect of a dependent causing death, received a 50-year prison term.
A former county deputy who lied on a report saying he checked on the child's well-being — when in fact he never saw her — was convicted of perjury and spent time in jail, as well.
A civil lawsuit filed by Aiyana's mother and grandparents against the state was settled for $75,000. The lawsuit accused the state agency of failing to adequately investigate complaints that Aiyana was being abused.
The number of calls in Tippecanoe County has hovered around 3,000 to 4,000 every year since.
Kalamazoo County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council's 2013 Family Help Book available
KALAMAZOO, MI -- The Kalamazoo County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council's 2013 Family Help Book, a guide for parents and families, is now free of charge and available to community members in Kalamazoo County.
Kalamazoo County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council's 2013 Family Help Book is now available to the public, free of charge. KCAN Logo
The council is a non-profit organization that aims to prevent neglect and abuse of children through education and advocacy. Its last Family Help Book was published in 2008, and the new edition contains updated information on resources in the community.
“The new edition is more user friendly, and looks a lot better,” said Karen Hayter, executive director of the Kalamazoo CAN.
Hayter said the Family Help Book is used by “social workers, counselors, teachers, and the community at large.”
“We are pleased to provide the 2013 edition, at no cost, to all who need it,” she said.
The council has distributed more than 11,000 copies of the Family Help Book over the past two months, and Hayter added that families who request a single copy can have the booklet mailed to their address.
The Family Help Book provides information about “how to report and identify abuse and neglect, child care, food and nutrition, and substance abuse” in addition to other useful information.
Parents and families can request a free copy of the 2013 Family Help Book by calling 269-552-4430 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Siskiyou County effort underway to reduce child abuse
Training is underway to develop a group of trainers for Siskiyou County's Communities NOW – Connecting for Kids child abuse and neglect initiative.
As part of a new child abuse and neglect initiative in Siskiyou County, 25 applicants participated in the first of four days of training Oct. 15 in Yreka.
Lara Bruce and Misty Brammer from the University of Denver's Butler Institute for Families presented information and led activities and skills-building for the participants, who are learning to be trainers for their own communities on how everyone can be a part of the effort to prevent child abuse and neglect.
The Siskiyou Community Services Council hosted the training, as well as a webinar in September for the new "Communities NOW – Connecting for Kids" program.
A two-part article addressing the efforts to reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the county was published in this newspaper in July and August.
As stated by Child Abuse Prevention coordinator Jill Thomas in a press release: "The generous sponsorship of the Siskiyou Office of Education" made a comfortable facility available for the training, and Mount Shasta Rotary Club "provided a nutritious breakfast and lunch."
When the training days conclude later this month, Thomas said Siskiyou County will have its "own group of trainers that will then be able to conduct free Communities NOW – Connecting for Kids Community Trainings to members in all of our communities."
Those free trainings will be offered throughout Siskiyou County starting in 2014.
For more information contact the Siskiyou Community Services Council or Child Abuse Prevention coordinator Jill Thomas at 926-5927.
Keene-based center aims to introduce child sexual abuse prevention program to parents, schools
by KAITLIN MULHERE
A new program aimed at reducing sexual abuse strives to reach young children with healthy messages about sexual development — before they hear false information or learn harsh lessons about sexuality elsewhere.
The MCVP Crisis and Prevention Center's newest education program targets children between the ages of 3 and 8.
That's because waiting until the teenage years to start teaching about sexual abuse prevention is simply too late, said Robin P. Christopherson, the center's executive director.
Nearly 30 percent of female rape victims were first sexually assaulted between the ages of 11 and 17, according to statistics from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. And about 12 percent of female rape victims and 28 percent of male victims were first raped when they were 10 or younger.
The Keene-based center's new program, Care for Kids, was designed to teach children to respect others' boundaries and know their own, and talk to them about how to handle feelings of sexuality. There are six units: bodies, babies, feelings, touching, bedtime and asking for help.
The idea is to educate children when they're first beginning to receive messages about sexuality, said Kasey LaFlam, education and community outreach coordinator for MCVP.
The program also includes Nuturing Healthy Sexual Development training, or workshops and information for parents and people who work with children, so they can learn about the signs and symptoms of abuse. Among those is how to spot “grooming behaviors,” or the actions potential perpetrators take to make children more vulnerable to abuse, in the hopes of catching concerning behavior from both adults and minors before it leads to a crime.
There's information about facts and myths on sexual assaults on minors. For example, the rate of false reporting for child sexual assault is low, ranging between 0.5 percent and 8 percent, LaFlam said.
There are also charts of appropriate developmental behavior so parents can easily differentiate between normal and abnormal behaviors.
Most importantly, the classes teach adults how to answer children's questions, and what to do if a child tells them he or she has been assaulted, because there's little purpose in teaching children to speak up if adults around them don't know how to respond appropriately, Christopherson said.
Nationwide, the incidence of child sexual abuse has declined in recent decades, alongside drops in other violent crimes, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
A 2009 article by the center's director, David P. Finkelhor, found that sexual abuse substantiated by state child protection authorities declined 53 percent between 1992 and 2006.
But sexual abuse statistics always have been difficult to track because of the high rate of non-reporting. And rates of child sexual abuse are even trickier, due to the variations in the way agencies collect data, according to the UNH research center.
In New Hampshire, the Division for Children, Youth and Families found 915 children were victims of some form of child abuse or neglect in 2012. Of those, 121, or 13 percent, were victims of child sexual assault.
Yet those numbers only reflect part of the picture, since the department only gets involved when the offender is a relative or member of the household the child lives in, DCYF Director Maggie Bishop said.
Locally, Keene police have arrested two people on charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault on a person under 16 in the past six months. But that number also is clouded, since police sometimes investigate sexual assault cases and then hand them over to the Cheshire County Attorney's Office to handle before any arrests are made.
And cases tracked by the county attorney's office only reflect the sexual abuses that end up in court, which most don't, Christopherson said.
Statistics may be murky, but what's clear, Christopherson said, is that traumatic childhood experiences can have long-term, community-wide ramifications.
Those include effects on brain development and mental and physical health issues, including substance abuse, depression and obesity.
Women who come to the violence prevention center struggling to break the cycle of partner abuse often times are the victims of sexual assault at a young age, Christopherson said.
“Healing can absolutely happen ... but if (victims of child sexual abuse) don't get the help they need in a timely matter, that's difficult,” she said.
The Care for Kids program also is used in Vermont, which in 2009, became one of the first states to pass a law mandating child sexual abuse prevention in all schools. And since 2011, nine states have passed “Erin's Law,” which mandates sexual abuse awareness and prevention from kindergarten on, according to the website of the woman the law is named for, Erin Merryn.
New Hampshire, though, has no such mandate, which means individual schools and districts have control over whether they'll introduce programs like Care for Kids in their classrooms, Christopherson said.
The Monadnock center started offering the program after receiving a $20,000 grant from the N.H. Charitable Foundation. A $10,000 grant from money raised by the Keene Elm City Rotary Club through the Clarence DeMar Marathon will help maintain the program in its second year, Christopherson said.
So far, the center has hosted seven workshops with adults who work with children and is focusing on introducing classes in area preschools, LaFlam said.
The biggest barrier right now, LaFlam said, is getting parents involved. MCVP won't start its six-week program in the schools until parents understand the curriculum and receive their own prevention training.
The center was prepared to start with one preschool in the region, but had to push back the start date after receiving no response from parents to schedule a meeting.
Christopherson doesn't think there's any one reason that keeps parents from participating. Some are simply busy, either working or being involved in other community activities.
Some might find the topic uncomfortable. Others might find it painful if they are a victim of sexual abuse.
And then there's the belief among some that “it won't happen to my child,” Christopherson said.
But while part of the program is to teach kids, the burden is not on young children to protect themselves.
That's why the Monadnock center believes involving adults is just as imperative as involving kids, Christopherson said.
“It's everyone's job to keep children safe.”
Women began fight against sexual assault and abuse 30 years ago
by Warren Hughes
National statistics from the Rape Abuse Incest National Network indicate one out of four females and one out of six males will have suffered some form of sexual molestation by the age of 17.
Eighty percent of the perpetrators are not stranger dangers lurking in dark alleys, but individuals related to the victim or in another position of trust.
In the early 1980s, victims in the Midlands did not have an organization to which they could turn in the event of a sexual assault. WhileCharleston and Greenville had launched such agencies, there was an absence of help in Columbia.
A group of concerned women, who met regularly, saw the need and stepped up to fill the void. The cluster originally came together for fellowship, but fortunately, their number included motivated professionals from nursing, legal, social work, and other fields that were adept at mobilizing to fill a void. In 1983, the charter for Rape Crisis Network was issued. In 2000, the organization changed its name to Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands( STSM) to reflect the comprehensive services offered.
Ginny Waller, executive direct of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands The first goal was to train enough volunteers so that each had a trained advocate to accompany them through the evidence collection process. In the early days, Richland Memorial was the only hospital offering evidence collection kits for sexual assault survivors and STSM ( then Rape Crisis Network) was prepared to offer volunteer advocates to meet with survivors following the incidents. Now, STSM serves eight hospitals and provides a full spectrum of assistance across Richland, Lexington, Newberry, and Sumter counties. The holistic approach involves follow-up crisis intervention, individual and group counseling along with personal and legal advocacy.
On Tuesday, November 12, STSM will celebrate 30 years of service in the Midlands in recognition of how far the organization and community have come in three decades.
The event will also honor the inspiring group of women—the “Founding Mothers,” as they appreciatively are called—who recognized the need to help survivors, raise awareness, and inspire the community to join the fight against sexual assault and abuse. The celebration, featuring food, drink and music, will be from 7- 10 p. m. at 701 Whaley Street.
People who work with STSM often find that community members can be hesitant to ask more about the agency. The celebration focuses on taking the mystery out of STSM's work by highlighting some of the therapeutic techniques used each day at the agency. Pet therapy dogs Keagan and Max will be in attendance. There are also opportunities to contribute to a painting like those created in art therapy, a play therapy station, a candy station that highlights mindfulness, and more.
Ginny Waller, an attorney who serves as STSM executive director, reflected this week on the progress the organization has made in serving the needs of victims and the goals established to address current challenges. Waller is gratified the organization is now able to assist survivors through a comprehensive recovery process.
While taking pride in previous strides over the years, Waller says the current emphasis is on prevention. In addition to the team of professionals who work directly with survivors, STSM has two prevention educators who have made 9,000 educational contacts in 27 schools in 2012. STSM hopes to expand to meet the growing requests they receive from others.
Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands is a private, nonprofit, 501(c) (3) organization, incorporated in 1983. One of 14 rape crisis centers in South Carolina, STSM provides crisis intervention, advocacy, and support services to female and male child, adolescent, and adult survivors of sexual assault and abuse as well as education and prevention programs.
Its mission is to support survivors across the Midlands in recovery from the trauma associated with sexual assault and abuse and education of the community to identify and prevent sexual violence.
Its stated vision is to help survivors of sexual trauma heal and ultimately end sexual violence. As articulated, the organization embraces the following philosophy:
• respect individuals and their confidentiality, diversity, and self determination;
• believe in delivering high quality services in a caring and non-judgmental manner;
• believe survivors of sexual assault and abuse need immediate access to information and emotional support;
• value open communication, trust, support, autonomy and development which empowers individuals to realize their full potential and creates co-operative spirit;
• value our volunteers, their willingness to serve, and their spirit;
• believe in effecting change in societal attitudes and beliefs about the issue of sexual assault and abuse through education and collaboration with educational, medical, civil, and criminal justice systems and other community organizations;
• operate as good stewards of the resources entrusted to us and value our donors.
In 2012, STSM provided 14,121 direct services to 1,757 survivors of sexual assault. The agency responded to 409 hospital accompaniments, answered 709 hotline calls, and provided 3,678 follow- up services. In addition, clinical staff completed 1,338 counseling sessions, 394 crisis counseling services, and 1,174 group therapy services. The Community Education and Outreach program made 12,588 contacts, of which 9,082 were youth in our Youth Violence and Prevention Program.
STSM is supported through a combination of federal, state, municipal, corporate funds, individual contributions, as well as grants and special event fundraising efforts, like the 30th Anniversary Celebration.
Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands has several volunteer opportunities, making it easy for any interested volunteers to find something that will be a good fit for them.
For information, contact STSM at 3830 Forest Drive, Suite 201, Columbia, SC 29204, phone ( 803) 790- 8208, email email@example.com, website www.stsm.org. Hotline numbers are 803- 771-RAPE (7273) (Richland/ Lexington) and 1- 800- 491- RAPE ( 7273) (Newberry/Sumter).
Sex offender commitment law needs review
by Rekha Basu
When he was 19 and in college in Indiana, Galen Baughman was enticed by an undercover New York investigator into sending online pornography to a child. The agent, assuming the identity of a 14-year-old friend of Baughman's in New York, pretended to come out to Baughman, who is gay. He asked Baughman to send him pornography of people who appeared of high school age. When Baughman resisted, the “friend” threatened never to speak to him again.
“I'd been a 14-year kid who felt ostracized and had nobody to talk to,” Baughman explained. “I was doing what I thought was best for my friend.”
That set in motion a process that isn't over yet, and Baughman is now 30. He came to Des Moines recently to speak to the local chapter of a national group he's with, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE).
Its perspective on the legal overkill against some sex offenders may force even staunch victim advocates to reconsider some assumptions.
Baughman was arrested, his laptop was seized and authorities found messages he had exchanged a year earlier with another 14-year-old friend from Virginia regarding an uncompleted sexual encounter they'd had. Sexual involvement with a minor is a serious matter and Baughman, though a teen himself, was legally an adult. So he entered a plea bargain to “promoting the sexual performance of a child, carnal knowledge of a minor and aggravated sexual battery,” for which he served nine years in prison.
Before his release date, Virginia authorities decided, without an expert evaluation (Baughman refused one without a lawyer), that he was too dangerous and should be civilly committed to a special unit for sexually violent predators. This happened under Virginia's attorney general, the hard-line Ken Cuccinelli, who this week lost the governor's race to Terry McAuliffe. Baughman's doctor did not consider him likely to commit sexual violence, but his views were not considered.
Baughman spent two and a half years in civil commitment before becoming the only person in Virginia to win his civil commitment jury trial. He's still on probation.
Twenty-two states including Iowa have laws under which people convicted of sex offenses can be civilly committed indefinitely after completing their prison sentences. “Most do not escape this largely invisible American gulag,” wrote James Ridgeway in a Sept. 26 Guardian article about Baughman.
In 1993, the Register printed a piece by lawyer Andrew Vachss that challenged presumptions about the rights of offenders to repay their debt to society and be released. He said there were chronic sexual predators, sociopaths, who had incomplete or perverted childhoods, lack empathy and “can't step back to the other side.”
“And they don't want to,” he wrote. “ If we don't kill or release them, we have but one choice: Call them monsters and isolate them.”
Iowa did. It passed the Sexually Violent Predators Act and created the 100-bed civil commitment unit for sexual offenders in Cherokee in 1998. County attorneys or the state attorney general can petition to commit a sex offender at high risk of reoffending, after his sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled civil commitment is not unconstitutional if it offers treatment. Iowa's unit does, but that raises the question: If these are sexually violent predators who won't get better, what's the point?
Only two offenders out of the 123 men committed to the Iowa facility since it opened have been discharged after completing five required steps culminating in a court ruling to free them. Eleven were discharged through court actions initiated another way, three were moved to other services and seven have died there.
Sixteen new people were admitted last year.
Even the term “sexually violent predator” is problematic, argues Baughman, because it's not a medical designation and the process leaves too much discretion to the state's therapist.
At least one person has been in Iowa's unit since age 14.
Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, serves on a committee reviewing possible commitments. She said only those who have repeatedly offended despite an opportunity for rehabilitation are considered. Those are a small minority, extremely damaged and violent, she said. She believes layers of screening, a probable-cause hearing and a civil trial prevent the wrong people from being committed. But she has reservations about civil commitment. Iowa spends $8.5 million a year on the Cherokee unit ($79,211 per person), which Barnhill thinks might be better spent treating sexual assault survivors. She wonders if longer prison terms for the most violent wouldn't be better.
Rape and child sex abuse are devastating crimes from which some people don't recover. Offenders like Jerry Sandusky should never be around children. But others who get swept up under the rubric of sexual predators are far from that.
The state's actions have far-reaching consequences for public safety and the civil rights of an especially reviled group. Even as we try to build safer communities, we can't lump every offender into the same pot, and must let those who have paid their price and pose minimal risk move on.
It's time to take another look at Iowa's civil commitment law.
Former Foster Children Speak Out in New Book
More than 80 percent of all children in foster care have serious emotional problems, childrensrights.org
Carol Lucas's new memoir "Fostered Adult Children Together, On the Bridge to Healing... Will we ever get over it?" is comprised with more than 60 stories from former foster children, including Lucas's story, immersed with revelations and emotional journeys they experienced while being moved around the foster care system.
Fostered Adult Children Together, F.A.C.T., is an organization Lucas founded. This organization was created to gather former foster children together to help end their isolation and give each other courage, strength and hope in recovering from their unique issues.
"I wrote the book to help promote the support group I formed for former foster children," Lucas said. "I wanted the stories to be in the book for other former foster children to read and be able to connect to, to help them heal."
These foster care survivors wrote stories that involved a variety of subjects from domestic violence, malnourishment, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, drugs and loss of siblings.
"The purpose of the foster care system is to provide a safe haven for children without one, helping them to cross the bridge from foster care to aging out, but sadly the bridge often leads to nowhere," Lucas said. "Many former foster children end up homeless, dumpster diving for food , on drugs, incarcerated, at worst in body bags, at best, living on the fringes of life."
Lucas hopes that F.A.C.T. will help build a bridge to healing for former foster children.
For more information, visit http://www.factsupportgroup.com
|"Fostered Adult Children Together, On the Bridge to Healing... Will we ever get over it?"
by Carol Lucas
Retail price $31.95
Available in paperback and e-book.
Another Voice: To avoid tragedies, mandated reporters of child abuse must act
by Lois Reid
Years ago, during a training seminar on child abuse, the chief medical examiner, Dr. Judith Lohotay, said: “If you want to get away with murder, kill your children.”
She backed this up with slides of children who had been murdered by their parents, and the various ways by which the children were murdered and often tortured. I got the message.
Recently, I got a phone call from a friend who told me about a child in her elementary school class. The child told her that he was considering killing himself. He said that his father beats him and his brothers and sisters and mother. He said that sometimes his father does not let him eat and that he gets very hungry, but that his mother sneaks him food. Everyone in the home is terrified of the father.
I asked my teacher friend if she called the state hot line for suspected child abuse and maltreatment. She said that she did not.
Here are some of her reasons.
• The school social worker said that the hot line takes the call, but the county does nothing about it. It never pursues the case. So, what's the use in reporting it?
• She is afraid that there will be negative consequences for her by the school if she reports it.
• She has no proof, other than what the child told her.
This same child also told her that he lives next door to another child in the school. He told her the other child's name, and he saw that child's father knock him down on the front porch and drag him by the ankles down the front steps so that his head banged against each step.
My friend talked to that child's teacher. That teacher confided to my friend that she had been suspecting that her student was being sexually abused in his home, because of some inappropriate behavior in school by the child. Did that teacher report it to the hot line? No. She does not want to get involved either.
Kids get killed because mandated reporters do not report it, because investigators often do not meet with the children, but only interview the parents, or, they interview the children in front of the parents, or the parent(s) are influential and intimidate the investigators or their supervisors and threaten lawsuits or political repercussions.
Have courage. Mandated reporters need only suspect abuse/maltreatment. It is up to the investigators to gather evidence and determine if there is or is not abuse or maltreatment. Your name should be kept confidential. You should be held “harmless” if you had a legitimate reason for filing the report.
I do not know the names of these children, or I would report it.
Lois Reid of Amherst is a retired Family and Children's Services specialist for New York State and was trained as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse or maltreatment.
Protecting Kids with Disabilities from Sexual Abuse
Several Charlottesville non-profits are teaming up to prevent sexual abuse of children with disabilities. A workshop Wednesday night gave parents and caretakers a chance to bounce ideas and experiences off one another.
According to the Disability and Abuse Project, about 70 percent of people with disabilities say they have been abused. About 40 percent say they have been sexually abused.
"It's a scary topic, but it's such an important topic, and I think people avoid it because it's so scary," said Donna Cattell-Gordon.
Cattell-Gordon's son has autism.
"This was very helpful for me because I had a fear of it," She said. "One of the most important things for me was I didn't understand how a predator might think, so that was extremely helpful to think oh, well I can block that now I know that."
Rachel Thielmann, a prevention education specialist at Foothills Child Advocacy Center, led Wednesday's workshop. She says it can be difficult to know just may many children are being sexually abused because many of them can't speak up for themselves.
"We know that a lot of abuse goes unreported," said Thielmann. "We know that from adults that disclose much later on that they were abused as a child."
Thielmann's presentation highlighted the fact that children with disabilities are twice as likely to be sexually abused, and that the vast majority of abusers are people the victims know.
"About 80 to 90 percent of children that are abused are abused by someone they know, and that's why good prevention is really important," said Thielmann. "What we most times teach children about is to be aware of strangers and that's how you stay safe, but in reality what we need to teach children is how to be safe from the other adults in their life."
Thielmann suggests limiting instances where one adult and one child are alone together. When it is not possible, she says to make sure the situation is observable and interruptible, like leaving doors open or unexpectedly dropping in on the two.
She also says it is important to monitor your child's internet use, as perpetrators often seek victims online using websites children frequently use.
Other tips included listening to and observing the mood and stress of a child after they have spent time in the care of another adult, screening the staff and volunteers that take care of them, and teaching children skills to help keep the safe, such as learning to say 'no' when they do not want to be touched.
"We all need to be vigilant, we all need to be aware, and there are steps that everyone can take, every single adult, in the way you interact with children, whether it's your own children or whether it's children that you know and care about. There are ways that you can make sure that you are treating them to teach them safety," said Thielmann.
And parents say the education needs to be community-wide.
"I think it's important for the whole community to get over a sense of reticence of talking about sexuality and predators and disability and say this is really important," said Cattell-Gordon. "We have to learn to be better at this, and the only way we're going to learn is to talk to each other, share our knowledge, and come up with a really good curriculum that will keep our kids safe."
This is the first of a series of three workshops. A future workshop will cover disabilities trusts and guardianship, and a separate workshop will be held for the siblings of children with disabilities.
The Virginia Institute of Autism, Blue Ridge Care Connection for Children, the Virginia Region Autism Action Group and Foothills Child Advocacy Center are working together to provide the free workshops.
The devil you know: Cayuga County Child Advocacy Center discusses how to prevent child sex abuse
PORT BYRON | There's no easy way to describe a sex offender.
Child predators are not confined to a particular gender, race or economic class. They are found in all religions, and belong to both genders.
Connie Smith, an educator with the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County, told listeners attending a seminar on child sex abuse Wednesday evening that offenders' lack of easy definition makes them hard to spot.
"Offenders do not fit any profile," she said. "I wish I could walk out into the parking lot and say to you, 'This is what a sex offender looks like.'"
Advocates, law enforcement and psychologists do know how offenders operate. By arming residents with that information, Smith said, the CAC hopes to shield children from sexual abuse.
Speaking to attendees seated inside the Port Byron Library, Smith and Sherry Saben, a CAC volunteer, gave an overview of child sexual abuse — detailing different forms of abuse, offenders' patterns and the long-term impact the act has on victims.
Smith said the 20 years she's spent working with abused children and their families has taught her a chilling truth: Sexual abuse is unimaginably rampant.
"It's far more prevalent than I would've ever believed," she said. "It is prevalent, and something needs to be done."
To illustrate the epidemic, Saben shared statistics.
Between April 2010 and September 2013, 604 allegations of child sexual abuse were made in Cayuga County, she said. The majority of victims were between the ages of birth and 6 or 13 and 18, and included 424 girls and 180 boys. Nationwide, victims can be found among one in four girls and one in six boys.
Although low-income and single-parent families are more at risk, Saben said any child could fall prey to a predator.
"Who's not at risk?" she asked. "We're all at risk."
Despite popular "stranger-danger" stereotypes, Saben said, 95 percent of victims in Cayuga County know their abuser.
The majority of offenders do not act compulsively, she added. Instead, most offenders take the time to groom intended victims and their families, creating relationships that they later exploit.
Once the abuse starts, offenders use threats to keep their victims from speaking up. The children, feeling guilty and believing disclosure will cause loved ones harm, often keep quiet.
"They believe they're in a relationship with the abuser," Saben said.
Even when children do report abuse, Saben said, adults chose 52 percent of the time not to take action.
So victims grow up weighed down by misplaced shame. They wrangle with eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and promiscuity.
By staying informed and taking a few steps, Saben said Cayuga County residents can help protect their children.
She encouraged residents to keep electronics out of their children's bedrooms, and to check out adults who seem to take an unnatural interest in a particular child.
Most of all, Saben said, the community cannot pretend sexual abuse does not exist.
"It's very, very important to get the word out that it can't just be swept under the carpet," she said.
If the facts are spread, Smith told listeners the CAC believes the community can narrow opportunities for predators to commit abuse.
"It's a big dream; it's a big goal to create an environment where child sex predators cannot operate," she said. "That's why we need you."
If you go
WHAT: Seminar on how to prevent child sex abuse
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11
WHERE: Scipio Fire Department, 3554 Route 34, Scipio Center
COST: Free and open to the public
INFO: Visit cacofcayugacounty.org
• New York State Child Abuse hot line: (800) 342-3720
• SAVAR's rape/crisis hot line: (315) 252-2112
Are Lawmakers Neglecting The State's Abuse
by Adam Racusin
Waiting on hold can be the difference between investigating a case of abuse or missing the opportunity.
All reports of abuse and neglect involving children, emancipated minors, adults with disabilities or adults who are over the age of 65 in Texas come through the Department of Family and Protective Services Statewide Intake.
However, KEYE TV learned the average hold time for its English language system is 8.5 minutes. That's about eight minutes longer than the National Domestic Abuse hotline, which is also located in Austin.
"He would strangle me, and even though he would hold me down and say, 'I'm going to kill you,' I thought we were fighting," said Lisa Pous, a domestic violence survivor.
Pous believes getting out alive can be the difference between minutes and seconds.
"He always said that I wouldn't make it out alive with the kids, and he always said that if we got out, that we'd all be dead," said Pous.
Pous escaped 13 years of violence by reaching out for help, and having someone there to respond.
Many in Texas may never get that opportunity.
Statewide Intake is the front door to the front lines of the some of the most horrible acts against the most vulnerable in the state.
But with only 305 people to manage more than 770,000 phone calls and internet reports a year, many in Texas don't reach more than the hold music.
"We don't want to rush those calls. We want to balance the speed with the quality," said Ric Zimmerman, director of Statewide Intake. "We need to make sure that we get all the details and information that we can, so when we do pass it off to the investigator they have the information they need to do a thorough investigation."
The English language phone line receives more than 440,000 phone calls a year.
Unfortunately, 30 percent of phone calls to that line, or more than 100,000 people who call for help or to report someone in need of assistance, don't make it through to an intake specialist.
The average wait to speak to someone is 8.5 minutes.
State data reveals people who call typically hang up at about the 6.5 minute mark.
"I actually had to plug a phone into an outside line on a pole, because he had removed all the phones from the house and I grabbed a phone and snuck out the window," Pous said.
Under normal circumstances KEYE TV would never tie up the hotline.
For the purpose of this story, we needed to see for ourselves just how long it can take to get through.
KEYE TV called the hotline twice. Our first call was around 10 a.m., and the second around 5 p.m.
On the first call, we waited about the average 8.5 minutes, but when we called back the second time it took 16 minutes for someone to pick up the phone.
KEYE TV asked Texas Senator Carlos Uresti if 8.5 minutes was too long to wait on a phone for help.
"Unfortunately, I think it is," Uresti said.
Uresti is a member of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
During the most recent legislative session, he and other members of the legislature pushed for more money and services to be allocated to the Department of Family and Protective Services.
"When we're talking about a child's life it can be a lifetime," Uresti said. "I think Texas is doing a good job but we can do better."
This year the legislature did provide extra money to the department, which allowed the hotline to hire extra staff, but not enough to cut wait times, just maintain the average.
The DFPS self-evaluation report to the state's sunset committee stated: "(Statewide Intake) could reduce abandoned calls to the Texas Abuse and Neglect Hotline if DFPS were able to reduce average hold times to five minutes or less on the English queue, instead of 8.7 minutes. Under this scenario, abandonment rates would likely drop to 20 percent or less. House Bill 304, introduced during the 83rd Legislative Session would have mandated five minute average hold times for (Statewide Intake). DFPS estimated that it would require an additional 67.75 new intake specialists (FTEs) to reach the five minute average hold time for fiscal years 2014-15. Increasing the utilization of e-reporting would likely reduce the number of new specialists needed to reach a five minute average hold time."
House Bill 304 was filed by Texas Rep. Armando Walle.
Senator Uresti also filed a companion bill on the Senate side.
"We've come a long way and I'll be the first to admit that, but we can go further and we need to go further," Uresti said.
The report also went on to note: "Abandonment rates are dependent on hold times. Abandoned calls decline as hold times decrease. (Statewide Intake) is not able to determine if those who abandon a phone call eventually call back or use the e-report system to make a report."
Getting the hold times down, means fewer people abandoning their phone calls.
"If we reach out and there is nothing there, what does it teach us?" Pous said. "It teaches us that there is nothing there. That our abuser was right."
All of that takes money. Until that happens, Statewide Intake is forced to rely on what resources the state provides. Trying to be the best they can to help the most vulnerable in Texas with the staff they can afford to hire.
LOOKING IN DEPTH AT STATEWIDE INTAKE
Statewide Intake is not 9-1-1 -- however there are times when they deal with emergency situations.
During phone interviews, intake specialists obtain as much information from the reporter as necessary to determine whether someone has been abused or neglected and if their safety is in jeopardy.
They are responsible for interviewing and documenting the reporter's concerns or reviewing submitted information. They assess initial allegations, assigning roles to individuals referenced in the report, and assessing an initial priority in accordance with the Texas Administrative Code and CPS policy.
Intake specialists refer reports for possible investigation to the appropriate program and region, and forward all reports regarding children to CPS.
The number of calls to the hotline has consistently increased since 2008. The number of abandoned calls has consistently decreased during the same period.
The use of the Texas Abuse and Neglect Hotline website is also steadily increasing. The DFPS self-evaluation report says, "As more and more people file reports of abuse and neglect online, the limitations of the website are magnified. The e-report system and all its users (primarily professional reporters) would benefit from a redesign to improve reliability, performance, ease of use, and support more types of devices (such as smart phones). A complete redesign of the system will require a significant investment of time and money which may benefit if added to DFPS' four-year IMPACT modernization project."
Uresti tells KEYE TV he has worked to make changes to Health and Human Services as a whole and these issues need to be a top five priority in the state.
"We need to go further to be sure that we have a proper safety net in place to take care of these children regardless of where we find ourselves," he said.
To learn more about the Department of Family and Protective Services:
If you need immediate help or to learn more about the hotline:
Residential school abuse felt across generations, commission hears
by Michael Wright
Autumn Eaglespeaker never went to an Indian residential school, but she has felt their insidious reach.
As an eight-year-old she was sexually abused by a family member — the start of a four-year ordeal that threatened to derail her life and drove a wedge into her family when the offender was protected.
Eaglespeaker told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Indian residential schools of the lasting heartache she endured from her abuse.
“For the majority of my life I walked around with this painful shame,” she said.
“Ashamed of what happened so me and not understanding why a family would protect . . . this person.”
Eaglespeaker said her life “cracked” two years ago.
“I was deep into alcohol and trying to hide myself from all the shame that I'd been hiding for so long.
“I say this not for pity but to show the ongoing. My perpetrator was only (a victim) at the hands of another perpetrator, who was at the hands of another perpetrator and the source of all that was the (residential) school system.
“All these government policies . . . trying to save the child. They ruined families. They ruined my family and we've been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.”
Eaglespeaker said several older relatives returned to the grounds of their former residential school this year.
“They wanted to walk around the grounds and remember their friends that are still there. The ones that didn't make it.”
Eaglespeaker cannot speak her native language, Blackfoot. Her mother can, but chooses not to.
“She can understand it but she says she feels like when she's going to talk like her tongue would be cut off.”
The commission heard from several inter-generational survivors of residential schools.
Yvonne Henderson told of how, when she was a baby, her biological father got her mother drunk the night before a custody hearing, so she would appear an unfit parent.
Henderson was adopted, and only returned to her reserve to meet her family as an adult. There she saw her birth father, and learned he was driven to do what he did because he believed Henderson “deserved a chance in the world.”
“I told my dad, ‘I don't hate you. I understand why you didn't raise me and I thanked him.' ”
Her birth mother still struggled with the after-effects of residential school, she said.
“She's so broken from that system ... that she drinks away her pain. She wanders. Her spirit's lost. She has a lot of dark secrets that she deals with that she's not even ready to talk to me about.
“In our communities we have that same residential school mentality that we put our heads down . . . and we never speak out. We sit and accept everything that is shoved toward us and told that's good for us. We're scared to talk.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is in Calgary hearing survivors' stories from their time at Indian residential schools.
The schools operated throughout Canada from the 1870s until the 1990s, taking in more than 150,000 children.
Native children were removed from their homes and forced to attend the church-run schools as part of a federal policy of “civilizing” aboriginal peoples.
Isolated from their language and culture, many endured physical and sexual abuse.
The commission was set up as part of a 2007 agreement to allow people to share their stories of the school, collect records and establish a national research centre.
A Same-Sex Domestic Violence Epidemic Is Silent
Typical framing of partner abuse as a heterosexual issue—with men abusing women—does a disservice to victims in abusive homosexual relationships.
by Maya Shwayder
Two months into their relationship, Chris's boyfriend José pushed him to the ground in a fit of anger and ripped the clothes off his body. "We had gone out dancing, and when we got home, I was changing in front of him," said Chris, 34.
"I had on my favorite pair of underwear; it was the pair I had worn the first time we went out. He saw the underwear, and just flew into a rage, saying, 'How dare you wear those! Those are for me!'"
José threw him on the floor of their bedroom closet, and smashed the only light bulb in the room, leaving them in darkness. He loomed above Chris on the floor as he tore the underwear away. That was the first time things had ever turned violent between the two.
"I was in such a state of shock," Chris recounted seven years later, his fingers tapping at a wine glass stem and his brown eyes drifting. "I thought, 'Oh, he's just jealous; it's the drinking,' and I let it go. There was a lot of drinking in this relationship. No drugs, but lots of drinking."
The second time was worse. "He was angry at something—I can't remember what—and I was laughing," said Chris. José again became incensed, strode into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife. "He pulled me by my hair, had me on my knees and had the butcher knife at my neck."
Chris says he didn't react. At the time, his sister was pregnant, and he wanted to live to see his niece. "I talked him down, told him to give me the knife. I put my hand on his, and we put the knife back in place together," said Chris, demonstrating by holding his two hands together.
That night, José locked their bedroom door for fear that Chris would escape and tell someone. The next morning, he told Chris, "You know I didn't mean it, right?"
"That was his way of apologizing to me," Chris scoffed. The relationship lasted nine months, but continued to affect Chris for years after it ended.
Sam, 25, describes himself as having been "naive and impressionable," during the time he was dating David. "He's not a stupid person," Sam told me over Skype. "He never hit me or threw things directly at me, but he would frighten me enough to make me back down."
According to Sam, David became increasingly controlling after they moved in together, three or four months into their relationship. At that point, because of the apartment lease, he said, "it was too late to just up and go."
One of David's main methods of control was evoking pity and threatening to harm himself.
"He would get very sad and upset which, in hindsight, was a plea for compassion," Sam said, "As time went on, he became controlling through jealousy. Any attention that I didn't give to him—whether I gave it to friends, family, or other guys, even just other gay men who were my friends—he would get very upset if I hung out with them too much."
David eventually forced Sam to open a joint bank account so that Sam couldn't "stockpile" any funds and move out. He increasingly tried to cut off Sam's contacts with friends and family.
After two and a half years, Sam managed to end the relationship after David admitted he had returned to using cocaine.
LaTesha, 18, is a consummate Queens girl. Tough and stoic behind her soft voice and hooded sweatshirt, she is about to graduate from high school and wants to study criminal justice in college. She has already been beaten up by a girlfriend. "It only happened when we got into an argument," she said, her brown eyes getting serious. "If she felt like she was being disrespected, she would swing at me."
"We always argued," she continued. "But you know how a couple can argue and then just be back to normal? We would argue, be back to normal. When we argued again, she would bring up the last argument. And it would just build up.” There was always something to argue about and usually, LaTesha said, it was girls.
"She was so insecure," LaTesha recalled. "If I'd be hanging out with one of my friends who was a girl, she'd see me and say 'What's this? You cheating on me?' And I always told her, 'You need to stop.' And then we would get into it. It was a pattern. We would break up for one week, get back together another. We must have broken up about 20 times."
The final break-up happened when Monique landed several punches on LaTesha in front of the staff of Safe Space, an LGBT community center in Jamaica, Queens.
Chris, Sam, and LaTesha are smart people with educations, plans, and busy social lives. They all identify as homosexual, and they all have had experiences with physically or psychologically abusive partners who left them financially, mentally, or emotionally damaged. Domestic violence—or as it's often referred to today, intimate partner violence—is usually discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships. But partner violence is also an issue in the LGBTQ community, a fact that has only come to light in recent years.
Tre'Andre Valentine, the Community Programs Coordinator at The Network/La Red, a Boston-based domestic violence support group specifically for LGBTQ people, says that because domestic violence is still thought of as a heterosexual problem, there can be major hurdles when trying to find funding and conduct research, as well as when providing services to people who don't fit in the stereotype of a domestic violence survivor. "The idea that a woman can be the one who's abusive throws a wrench in the traditional view," Valentine said. "The idea that only men can be batterers makes it a lot harder for men to get access to shelter."
Yejin Lee, an associate at the Anti-Violence Program in New York City, said that the assumption of heterosexuality has been a huge stumbling block for gays and lesbians seeking refuge from an abuser. "One problem is the way domestic violence has been framed for the past 30 years," she said. Since the entire movement against domestic abuse started as a battered women's movement, Lee said, we are ingrained to think that victims are all are married, straight women.
As a mental health counselor with the Violence Recovery Program in Boston, Jessica Newman says that because the default assumption is that people are straight, there can be an attitude within shelters that a gay person somehow “deserved” the violence. "Same-sex relationships are often demonized or marginalized," she said, "So some people's attitudes are 'it serves you right.'"
But Newman, Lee, and Valentine all added that there are also internal factors that keep a cover of darkness over the issue of domestic violence in the gay community.
"There can be a fear of making the community look bad," said Newman. "Some people might have a real and legitimate fear of being looked down on, or not finding services through the police, judicial system, or a shelter. People don't want that negative image of the community out there."
Valentine added, "There's the idea that we'll be airing dirty laundry. It sort of discredits the community to say that abuse is happening, after all the work we've been doing [to enter mainstream society]. There's the feeling that we don't want to attach something additionally bad to us, so it's not talked about."
Sitting in a small restaurant near Madison Square Garden, Chris mulled over his past. "I know gay couples in the Bronx who beat the shit out of each other," he said. "The weird thing is, it's like fighting with your brother. You're going at each other, and you're not taking it seriously, and you don't think of it as a problem, it's just the fabric of your relationship. But you don't realize it's a piece of fabric you can cut out."
Raised in a conservative, military family, with a history of sexual abuse running on both sides, Chris said he always felt like the odd one out growing up. "I was raised to tolerate what was dished out," he remembered. "It was just dysfunctional. I grew up with a closeted uncle who died of AIDS and a mother who hit my father, who would then turn around and hit us."
Chris moved from Chicago to New York when he was 21 so that he could live life as an out gay man, he said. "I had a full time job, full time benefits, and my own apartment," he said. "That didn't last."
Chris met José at a lounge in Washington Heights in late September 2004, and for him, it was love at first sight. "I saw his eyes, the way he dressed," he said. "He made me feel secure. He was a husky guy. My ideal: a masculine Latino."
A honeymoon period ensued and within three months the two were living together. Chris said he doted on José, alienating friends and family in the process. But the honeymoon period ended soon after José moved in. He started taking over everything in Chris's life. "It started with verbal abuse," Chris said. "Little things: put downs about the apartment, about me, and then it turned into everything. He wasn't happy with anything."
"I grew up self-conscious. I was made to feel inferior at school and at home," Chris continued. "And I just lost all the self-esteem that I had found when I came here and came out. I'm smart! I graduated from college, I've won awards. And he just made me feel like so much less than I was. [But] the less happy he was, the more I would try to fix things."
Chris sensed José wasn't happy, but it never occurred to him that the relationship had turned bad, or would soon turn physically violent.
"I didn't tell anybody [about the violence in the relationship],” Chris said. “I didn't want to! They're just going to tell you what you don't want to hear."
The summer after José moved in, after those first incidents of violence, Chris was mugged on the street outside their apartment. The thief punched him in the nose, but when Chris went to run after him, José grabbed his arm and stopped him.
"He wouldn't let me call the cops," recalled Chris. "José didn't have legal papers to be in the U.S. and he was scared of what might happen."
Furious, traumatized, and gushing blood, Chris turned around and backhanded José on the street. The two stood looking at each other. Chris remembers this as the moment when the relationship truly began to go downhill.
"I didn't think about leaving until that moment," he said. "It got to the point where I was crying in public. I was crying at work. I couldn't speak my feelings."
The very last time José turned violent was close to the end of their relationship. "He was always on the phone a lot," Chris said. "So one time I reached for his phone to go through it and see who he was talking to, and he just grabbed my wrist and twisted."
By this point, Chris remembers, José was out all the time and coming home late, or not coming home at all. In August of 2005, Chris kept a promise to himself. "I told him, 'I can't count on these fingers how many times you've lied,'" Chris said, spreading all ten fingers out on the table in front of him. "And I promised myself once I couldn't count your lies on these fingers, it would be over.'"
That night, Chris went out without José. "I told myself if I could kiss someone else, then I didn't really love him. Well, I kissed someone else, and I went home and told him to move out."
Data on the rates of same-sex partner abuse have only become available in recent years. Even today, many of the statistics and materials on domestic violence put out by organizations like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Justice still focus exclusively on heterosexual relationships, and specifically heterosexual women. While the CDC does provide some resources on its website for the LGBT population, the vast majority of the information is targeted at women. Materials provided by the CDC for violence prevention and survivor empowerment prominently feature women in their statistics and photographs.
In 2013, the CDC released the results of a 2010 study on victimization by sexual orientation, and admitted that “little is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women and men in the United States.” The report found that bisexual women had an overwhelming prevalence of violent partners in their lives: 75 percent had been with a violent partner, as opposed to 46 percent of lesbian women and 43 percent of straight women. For bisexual men, that number was 47 percent. For gay men, it was 40 percent, and 21 percent for straight men.
The most recent statistics available on same-sex intimate partner violence from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which focuses on LGBT relationships, reported 21 incidents of intimate partner homicides in the LGBT community, the highest ever. Nearly half of them were gay men and, for the second year in a row, the majority of survivors were people of color—62 percent.
In 2012, NCAVP programs around the country received 2,679 reports of intimate partner violence, a decrease of around 32 percent from 2011. However the report noted that many of the NCAVP's member organizations were operating at decreased capacity due to limiting the number of cases they were able to take. The report said that excluding data from organizations, there was actually a 29 percent increase in reports of violence from 2011 to 2012.
"Statistics are very controversial," wrote Curt Rogers, executive director of the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Program, in an email. "And it's possible that men are underreported. The bottom line for me [is that] it happens to men, period, so we should be inclusive in our approach and not marginalize the male victim population."
Valentine, from The Network/La Red, said that in his experience, the rates of violence in the LGBTQ community seem comparable to those in the straight community. "The rate of domestic violence that has been documented is one in four women, and it's pretty much the same for LGBTQ folks," he said.
"Reporting can be really difficult, and historically we [LGBTQ people] have not had a very good relationship with police and law enforcement, so folks may not be reporting it."
In any case, he continued, the police might not believe the victims when they call, the attitude often being, "You're both men, work it out between yourselves," or, "Women aren't violent; they don't hit each other."
Indeed, according to the NCAVP report, only 16.5 percent of survivors reported interacting with the police, but in one-third of those cases, the survivor was arrested instead of the abuser. A mere 3.7 percent of survivors reported seeking access to shelters.
"We need to change the way we look at domestic violence," Rogers said. "I don't see it in any way as a gender issue. I see it as a power and a control issue."
Sam met his first and, so far, only boyfriend, David, outside of a club one night while he was in his second year of college. "The first thing I remember thinking when I saw him was 'Oh God, never,'" he said, laughing. "As in, I would never date somebody like that. He was very assertive; almost a purposely bitchy persona, which is not uncommon in the club scene."
But date they did. After a bit of flirting back and forth on Facebook, within three or four months, as Sam remembers it, they were living together.
"In hindsight," said Sam, "I sort of already knew things were off, which really should have been my chance to get away. But it wasn't until we moved in when I started to realize that amount of control that was going on."
David soon became aware that Sam was unhappy and, according to Sam, he increasingly tried to force a façade of a stable life and healthy relationship on him.
"He went from using emotions to manipulate me, to smashing things, to threatening to commit suicide, to threatening to harm our cat, to threatening to ruin me in various ways—socially, academically, that kind of thing. About a year in, I tried twice to get out of it. He would say 'Okay, that's fine,' and then he would smash up the apartment. He would smash mirrors or push the Christmas tree over or threaten to kill himself. That's usually when the threats became the worst, when he was trying to control me into staying," Sam said, recounting once incident when he tried to break up with David, and David smashed an entire rack of drying dishes, saying, 'Well I guess we don't need any couples dishes anymore.'"
Sam insisted that David was delusional and trying to cling to the idea of a stable, normal life with Sam. David, as it turns out, did not have a stable background. He came from a troubled family: His mother was alcoholic, and his parents, while loving, were dysfunctional and destructive. In addition, David told Sam that an older boy had molested him when he was 12 or 13. He developed a cocaine habit that, he told Sam when they met, he had kicked.
Both men eventually grew depressed, and Sam felt increasingly frightened and isolated by David's behavior—not to mention embarrassed that the neighbors could always hear when David flew off the handle. He had only one friend he felt he could turn to, who of course pleaded with Sam to break things off.
During this time, David began slipping back into cocaine use, and Sam buried himself in his studies. Focusing on earning an honors degree, he said, helped get him through.
"Often he would try to 'guilt trip' me about the time I spent doing school," Sam recalled. "But I was able to hang on to that as sort of a hope and a goal."
In December 2010, David forced Sam into an engagement. "I was so afraid of what he was capable of," Sam recalled. "It was less problematic to keep this up than to break it up." Then, in mid-August 2011, David came forward and admitted he had started using cocaine again.
"I was in the shower," said Sam. "And he came in the washroom and said, 'I have something to tell you. I've been doing cocaine again. A lot of it, and spending a good chunk of our money on it.' We'd been really struggling money-wise, like, probably below poverty line at some points."
Sam got out of the shower and went out, and David began making calls to friends and family, admitting his problem, telling them that he'd been lying to them and taking money from them.
"Years ago, he had had one slip up," Sam said. "And I said, 'Okay, I get it, you're a recovering addict. But you do it again, you slip up again, and it's over.' And that's the card I pulled. I'd been looking for a way out for two years."
The psychology of domestic abuse, both those who perpetrate it and those who survive it, has been studied for years. Multiple factors have been shown to contribute, including childhood abuse, mental illness, cultural norms, stress, and unbalanced power dynamics in the relationship.
Brian Norton has been a therapist in New York for 12 years, specializing in "challenges related to gay men (homophobia, coming out, etc.)" and couples therapy. He said that often a controlling or abusive personality forms in childhood.
"We all recreate the same dynamics over and over again. Ninety-nine if not 100 percent of the time, victims have had previous abusive relationships."
Abusive relationships are, of course, emotionally draining for the victim. "It's disorienting," Norton said. "One minute they're telling you they love you, and being strong, and loving and positive; then they're cheating on you, or not respecting you, and not paying attention to what you need."
Benjamin Seaman, also a New York-based therapist who has been practicing since 2001, specializes in polyamorous relationships and has also seen the "full spectrum" of gay couples. In Seaman's philosophy, violence and abuse are "usually the tools of someone who feels powerless." Seaman agreed that bad relationships fuel other bad relationships and that sometimes the lingering stress of abusive childhood incidents leads to an ongoing shame in adulthood. This can further contribute to stress in a gay relationship, said Seaman, when one or both of the people are "self-loathing" gays.
Norton gave the example of one couple currently in his care. "One person in the couple doesn't have his life together, and his partner does. He feels intimidated and threatened by the success and stability of the partner. So he became abusive."
LaTesha, the high-school student from Queens, admits that when she was in first grade, she used to "do things that we weren't supposed to do" with a next door neighbor's daughter. The first person she came out to was her best friend when she was 15. Her mother found out by reading her diary. "She was just like, 'You love girls now? Not in my house!' and she started bashing me. And so I told her I would never tell her anything ever again."
LaTesha was 16 when she met Monique, who was 18, in school. The two started dating, and soon after, started fighting. "This scar, on my neck? Her," she said softly, massaging the thin line with her fingers. "That's from her nails."
LaTesha insists the two didn't physically fight often in their 19 months together. "I'm not the type to do that," she said. "If I love somebody, I will never put my hands on them. I just figured that she got mad, and she swung. That's what happens when people get mad—I didn't see it as she was beating me. I didn't see it as that. But then I had to realize that's not always the answer for when we get into altercations.”
Others noticed. "People would come to me and ask what happened, 'cause I would usually have scratches or a little bruise on my face. I'd tell them I got into it with her and they'd say, 'I don't' understand why you're putting yourself through this.' I'd be like, 'Well, I love her, and I'm going to accept her for who she is.'"
Monique began trying to manipulate LaTesha, telling her who she could and couldn't hang out with. She bought LaTesha a cell phone and then took it back when she thought LaTesha was texting other girls. When they fought, Monique would hurl insults at LaTesha, saying, "I hope you die of AIDS," and calling her a slut. After the last time the two broke up, LaTesha said, "She just wouldn't let it go. She tried to get back with me. I was still in love with her [Monique], but I didn't want to be with her anymore."
At the time, LaTesha had started dating another girl. Monique didn't like this, tracked the pair down at Safe Space, and came in swinging at the new girlfriend. A final confrontation occurred in front of staff, counselors, and peers at Safe Space. LaTesha had begun volunteering as a peer educator there after she and Monique broke up for the last time. "I could have gotten banned from Safe Space," LaTesha said of the fight.
"We weren't even together, and she was, quote-unquote, in love with me. I was just like, 'No. You're not going to hit her. You got a problem, it's between me and you.' And she swung at me. She got in my face and said, 'What are you gonna do?' And she hit me, and then she did it again."
The Safe Space staff managed to separate the two, and LaTesha remained a peer counselor with the group.
Lesbian women can have a very hard time finding shelter. And sometimes, an abuser will call a shelter claiming to be a victim. "What may happen," said Valentine at Network/La Red, "is that both a survivor and an abuser can access services, so it might not be the safest harbor for a lesbian survivor."
Newman at the Violence Recovery Program said that proper screening techniques can help enhance shelters' safety. "We screen both parties," she said. "And we won't work with batterers. We'll refer them to a batterer's intervention program. But I've definitely seen it. People will see themselves as victims when they're not."
It's tough enough to get into a domestic violence shelter if you're straight, no matter your gender. Kristen Clonan is a spokesperson for Safe Horizon, which claims to be New York City's largest provider of domestic violence residence with nine shelters and around 725 beds throughout the city. Clonan said that in 2011, nearly 2,500 women, children, and men sought out shelter at Safe Horizon, and Safe Horizon's three hotlines field 163,000 calls annually.
That's a lot of demand for 725 beds. And shelters that cater to LGBT people are even more perilously few and far between. Cassildra Aguilera, the LGBTQ program coordinator for Safe Space, said there is one shelter in New York City that identifies as LGBTQ-specific, with 200 beds. Of the mainstream shelters, only 12 are LGBTQ friendly, and all are based in Manhattan. According to Network/La Red in Boston, only two of the 30 domestic violence shelters in Massachusetts are specifically geared toward LGBTQ people: Network/La Red, and the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Program. Of mainstream programs, only eight accept LGBT people. Many shelters, even if they say they're LGBT-friendly, reportedly fail when it comes to providing for LGBT safety needs.
Valentine of The Network/La Red said there's a lot of homophobia in shelters among shelter residents. "The staff might have a non-discrimination policy, but it's not enforced, and that definitely affects a lot of survivors."
Transgender people have an especially hard time, according to Newman. They might not find a shelter, because often neither men's nor women's shelters take transgendered people. If they find a place in a homeless shelter, they might be housed with the men, which could be dangerous, or with women, which can agitate shelter residents. Curious people may ask intrusive questions, or they might not be seen as "real" women or "real" men, which, Newman said, is tremendously demeaning.
A month after breaking up with José, Chris tried to commit suicide. He failed, and shortly after began a course of therapy that, he says, helped him come to terms not only with this damaging relationship, but also with his tumultuous family life. After a rough few years during which he suffered from depression and severely decreased libido, he has just begun to make his way into the dating scene again. He has a steady job working in children's after-school education.
Sam graduated from college and has begun a master's degree program. He and his friends work to actively ignore and cut David out of their lives, despite David's repeated attempts to be in touch and get back together. And Sam says he has begun to date again, as his mental health has slowly improved with the help of his psychiatrist and his counselor.
Soon after the last violent encounter with Monique, LaTesha met the girlfriend she is currently seeing and says that she has definitely learned from her experience with Monique.
"The girlfriend I have now, she's so much different than before. You know, if we argue, we just won't talk to each other. If we play-fight, and we know it's about to get serious, we'll stop."
LaTesha is still a volunteer peer educator with Safe Space. Every week, she works to educate the Queens community about the LGBT population and spread the message of safe sex and healthy relationships.
In May 2013, President Obama re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act. While the law still focuses on women in heterosexual relationships, it has a new section that includes coverage of same-sex partners —a big sign that attitudes are changing. Rogers and Newman both agree that circumstances are improving for gays seeking shelter and help.
"Twenty years ago there was nothing," Rogers said. "Now there are significantly more resources and a much higher likelihood of a positive response from mainstream providers and first responders."
As individuals and society come to recognize same-sex partner violence as an existing problem, there is hope.
Report Blasts State Over Child Abuse Deaths
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) — There's a scathing new report out regarding the state's efforts to prevent child abuse deaths across Florida.
The Department of Children and Families released the report Tuesday which was prepared by the private non-profit organization Casey Family Programs, a national leader in child welfare policy.
The review was ordered by Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo.
“Less than a week after being named Interim Secretary, I called for a thorough review of all child fatalities due to abuse and neglect in 2013 where there was prior involvement by the department,” said Jacobo.
“The report identified many shortcomings and potential improvements to our protective investigative practice,” wrote Jacobo upon release of the report.
The report found that most common cause of death for children was asphyxia, followed by drowning, and then physical abuse. The report found that investigators did not look at other family problems such as domestic violence or drug abuse that should have warned them that a child was in danger.
One of the children killed included 2-year old Antwan Hope from the South Florida area. He was nearly smothered with a pillow by his mother 2 years ago but DCF took no action at the time explaining the 2-year old never told investigators what his mother tried to do to him. Hope was given back to his mother this past summer and died.
The report says DCF workers should have seen this coming.
The report indicated investigators did not do everything they needed to for each case. The report stated,”domestic violence and substance abuse dynamics were woefully under explored.”It also stated,”the overall thoroughness of the investigations leading up to the child's death is highly questionable.”
The report highlights cases of what are referred to as”roll over deaths” where a drug using or drug addicted adult smothered infants in their care when sleeping with them. DCF workers were giving information on how to sleep and having parents sign agreements to refrain from co-sleeping with infants calling it ”highly risky” and a ”questionable basis for safety planning.”
The report also found”safety assessments” of families and children who subsequently died “did not appear to consider”the family's prior history.
Jacobo said the agency was undertaking a series of steps in response to the report.
Those steps include engaging critical partners such as Healthy Families Florida, Early Learning Coalitions, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Florida Council Against Sexual Abuse to strengthen their outreach and service delivery. Child Protective Investigators (CPI) will be required to thoroughly analyze protective capacities of the parent or caregiver and DCF will identify additional staffing resources needed to ensure CPIs can adequately follow up on safety plans and home visits. DCF will also develop a protocol for protecting siblings and other children in a household following a suspected child maltreatment fatality.
“I'm responsible for all those children, so trust me when I say I hope that no other children die,” said Jacobo.
There are 13 recommendations in the report. You can read the entire report here
Calculating the risk: child sexual assault
by Amy Mattson
Affluent girls residing in two-parent homes are much less likely to be sexually assaulted than other female youth, according to a new study from the University of Iowa. The research revealed that when family income reaches 400 percent of the poverty threshold, or around $92,000 for a four-person household, the risk of sexual assault declines by more than half.
The study conducted by UI School of Social Work professor Amy Butler examined sexual assault in more than 1,000 girls aged 17 and younger, across all income levels. It relied on data obtained from the ongoing Panel Study of Income Dynamics—a national survey of families begun in 1968 and directed by University of Michigan faculty.
Unlike other analyses that examine data gathered after a sexual assault has occurred, Butler's study looked at risk factors related to behavior, family history, and parental income that were measured prior to an assault, giving the work potentially predictive value.
“It's important to have clear before and after measures,” Butler says.
Published in the International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, the study showed that the risk of sexual assault for girls between the ages of four and 17 declined from 12.3 to 5.6 percent once income reached 400 percent or more of the poverty threshold.
Her analysis also confirmed previous research that showed girls whose mothers had at least a high-school education and whose biological parents were both present from birth to age one had a lower risk of sexual assault.
Nationwide, one in 10 girls is sexually assaulted, according to Butler's study. This compares to one in five girls who are victims of sexual abuse—a term often encompassing a broader range of inappropriate behavior that can include voyeurism or verbal pressure for sex—as reported by the advocacy organization, the National Center for Victims of Crime.
While reasons behind a decreased risk of sexual assault for young females in economically comfortable, two-parent households are not yet known, Butler notes there may be several possible explanations.
For example, factors that might enable some parents to achieve higher socioeconomic status—e.g. having children later in life—could be tied to personal characteristics like enhanced maturity levels that are then passed down to their children. Education appears to play a role as well.
“It is possible that educated, two-parent families can better afford to raise their children in safe neighborhoods, send them to safe schools, and ensure that their activities are well supervised, thereby decreasing their risk for sexual assault,” Butler writes.
“Alternatively, the personal characteristics that may enable some parents to achieve higher socio-economic status may be transmitted to the daughter through heredity and parental modeling, thereby reducing her risk.”
Butler's research helps establish that many risk factors identified in retrospective studies (those conducted after the fact) are accurate predictors of whether a girl will experience childhood sexual assault.
Her analysis found that girls with extremely low math and reading scores, and those referred to special education programs were more likely than their peers to experience an assault. It also confirmed that girls who—according to their caregivers—were shy, withdrawn, had impulsive tendencies or expressed feelings of worthlessness were more prone to sexual assault.
The study further outlined that many mental health disorders found in victims and survivors of assault appear to be a result of their experience with rape. Butler is conducting additional analysis to research this link and others. She is hopeful that her study will open the doors for more young women to discuss sexual assault, and encourage them to find support and assistance.
And though her research focuses on risk factors in girls, she is quick to note that victims are never to blame. “Perpetrators hone their skills to entrap girls. No one enters a situation expecting to be sexually assaulted,” says Butler.
Local reality show aims to help victims of sexual abuse
by Keitha Nelson
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The numbers are alarming. Studies show in the US about 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Here on the First Coast what started as a small church group to help council adults who were sexually abused as children, has grown into a national outreach.
A non-profit called ReClaim Global, Inc. is shooting a reality show. It features victims of child sexual abuse who have gone through what's called the Reclaim Program. It's founder Dr. Kaye Smith says one day she asked her pastor at the Church of Jacksonville if she could start a support group and it quickly grew.
Smith said, "20, then 40, then 100 and they just kept coming."
She says the response has been overwhelming. The group started inside the Church of Jacksonville back in 2007. She says by 2011 hundreds of people were crowding meeting rooms where she counseled. Things spilled out into the Jacksonville community, and now through the reality show.
"On the Couch with Dr. Kaye," she aims to go global.
"I want to shine a light in every community," said Smith. "Americans in the US should be scared for our children they are not safe anywhere."
Faith Joyner says she wasn't safe inside of her own home as a child, being sexually abused by her father from the age of 5 until she was 16.
"My biological mother knew of the abuse and didn't do anything to protect me," said Smith.
Through the ReClaim program Joyner says she's learned to protect others as a part of her healing process. Joyner as an adult decided to report her abuse to police. And her father is now serving time in prison.
"Because I was concerned about other children in my family, in our neighborhood I reported him," said Joyner. "I realized that forgiveness is not equal to the responsibility of holding accountable for his actions."
Dr. Smith says that's a big part of the program, making sure that perpetrators don't get away with the abuse and harm they've caused. So far Reclaim has helped victims expose over 400 perpetrators, and prosecute abusers in eleven states.
She says two networks are looking to pitch her reality show "On the Couch with Dr. Kaye."
First For You, if you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault visit Rape Abuse and Incest National Network website . There you'll be able to find local counseling centers, hotlines and other helpful resources. Dr. Kaye says the biggest thing is to not remain silent about your abuse because your voice can help others.
Because I Said So: Preventing child sexual abuse
by ALTHEA PETERSON
Preventing child sexual abuse is a difficult but necessary discussion topic.
Empowering Adults - Protecting Children, a non-profit organization committed to eradicating child sexual abuse, will host "Keeping Them Safe" 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the OU-Tulsa campus' Schusterman Learning Center Perkins Auditorium. The event is free and open to all adults.
For more information on stopping child sexual abuse, I asked a few questions to the group's executive director, Nancy L. Guard:
Q: Are boys or girls more often the victims of sex abuse? What is the most common age (range) of victims?
A: All children, boys and girls are at risk. Of the children who report sexual abuse, statistics show that 1 of 4 girls and 1 of 8 boys admit being molested before the age of 18. Researchers estimate that 30 percent of children never tell anyone about their abuses.
In addition, when asked about sexual abuse, 80 percent of victims will deny abuse or hesitate to disclose it. Research is inconclusive on whether any age is more vulnerable, but it is clear that children are at risk at any age, from 0-17 years old.
Q: Who are the most common sexual abusers and where do the abuses usually take place?
A: The most common child sexual abusers are people the families know and trust. Someone trusted by the parents and children perpetrate 90 percent of child sexual abuse. Research shows that acquaintances are most often the perpetrators, followed by family members and then strangers. Perpetrators of sexual abuse are overwhelmingly men, but not exclusively.
Abuse happens anywhere predators get access to children – at home, at school, in a car or in a park. Anywhere a perpetrator can isolate a child, abuse can happen.
Q: What are some of the warning signs that parents and caregivers can look out for?
A: While grooming a child, the perpetrator is actually grooming the whole family. Perpetrators want to be part of the ‘trusted circle' around children, for easy access.
One of the easiest potentially risky behaviors to spot is giving gifts to children without a parent's permission. It could be something very small, but it begins to create a wedge between the child and their parents or caregivers. Giving a gift is not the problem; it is giving a gift without the parents' permission.
Breaking the family rules is another behavior to look for. Predators start small, for example something like eating junk food or watching an unapproved TV show. They say things like, "Just don't tell your mother," which is a red flag.
We may have all done this at some point as an uncle or grandmother. But disobeying parental rules with one adult can make it seem to a child to be okay with any adult. All adults need to respect parental rules, to keep the children they love safe.
Q: There are also cases where people can be accused of not doing enough to prevent others from sexually abusing children. The allegations in the Penn State football case involving former coach Sandusky, for example.
A: As caring adults, we have a legal and moral responsibility to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities regardless of any uncomfortableness or fear of retaliation.
When we consider the abuser's feelings, the reputation of our community or anything else that makes us hesitate to report abuse, we are failing to protect children. In the Penn State case, and unfortunately many others, the needs of the children were never considered.
Adults need to protect children, not leave children to protect themselves. In the Penn State case, everyone failed to report the suspected abuse to the proper authorities so trained professionals could look into these cases. Penn State tried to ‘handle it' with no training on what to look for, and what to do about it. They simply didn't do what was legally required.
Q: What actions must adults - coaches, parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc. - to protect children from sexual abuse and if it is suspected, what actions are they morally and legally obligated to take?
A: Adults who spend time around children, any children, need to be trained to be an Alert Adult. Alert Adults know and recognize these potentially risky behaviors when adults interact with children. ‘Keeping Them Safe' teaches them to have a healthy suspicion of those behaviors. We are not looking at people specifically, but at behaviors. In addition, Alert Adults learn how to intervene appropriately.
This is key to protecting children. An Alert Adult sees a risky behavior, and then has the courage and understanding to have a straight, honest conversation with that person. If the adult is not a potential perpetrator, then the behavior stops. This actually protects the child and the adult involved.
Caring adults do not want any of their interactions with children labeled as risky. If the adult involved is a potential abuser, then they know you are paying attention to their interactions with children. Research tells us that when caring adults are paying attention, abusers leave the children alone. Either way, you protect the child.
Q: At what age should parents teach their children about sexual abuse and what methods do you recommend to approach this difficult subject?
A: We recommend you start talking to your children now, today -- whether they're infants or teenagers.
Teach your children the proper names for their body parts and that some of those parts are private. Perpetrators have told researchers that when a child uses accurate names for their body parts, it indicates that the family communicates openly, and they will look for a different child to prey on.
Teach your children safe touching rules from a young age and expand on that as they grow. Touching safety is a basic tool of a child's survival toolbox, much like looking both ways when he or she crosses the street.
Remember that children are at risk at any age. Parents and caregivers creating environments that encourage open family communication is key to protecting the children in your lives. Talk to the kids in your life and listen to what they have to say.
Q: If anyone witnesses or is a victim of child abuse, how can they report it?
A: In Oklahoma, reporting suspected child abuse is the legal duty of every adult. Reporting may be to a law enforcement agency or to the abuse hotline at (800) 522-3511. If you witness abuse, call immediately!
It's extremely difficult for a child to disclose abuse. Sexual abuse is very confusing and emotionally stressful. Offenders manipulate children by telling them that adults won't believe their stories or they'll be blamed for the abuse. So if a child of any age tells you they've been abused, believe them. Take care of their immediate emotional and physical needs. Report the abuse to the authorities. Then, concentrate on continuing to care for the child.
The citation for the Oklahoma statute that covers reporting suspected abuse is Oklahoma Statute § 10-7103. ( To read the citation click here )
Keeping Them Safe
Presented by Empowering Adults - Protecting Children, a non-profit organization committed to eradicating child sexual abuse
6:30 p.m. Tuesday
OU-Tulsa campus' Schusterman Learning Center Perkins Auditorium
Free and open to all adults
Reporting child sexual abuse
Abuse hotline: (800) 522-3511
Oklahoma Statute § 10-7103 PDF document link
Severe chronic depression is more likely in child sex abuse victims
Stress linked to abuse makes the brain more vulnerable to depression
A new study reveals the highest risk variables of chronic depression in the population, such as having suffered previous episodes of depression, delayed treatment, whether it is related to other physical or mental health problems, or having suffered sexual abuse during childhood.
Chronic major depressive disorder, with episodes that last more than 24 months, affects almost half of patients seeking treatment for depression and carries with it significant problems in terms of disability, suffering and the cost of healthcare.
A piece of research carried out by Mauro García-Toro, a scientist from the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), during a stay at Columbia University in New York, along with researchers from both institutions, reveals the main risk factors for this disease.
Published in the ‘Journal of Affective Disorders', the study analyses several variables related to the physical and mental health of over 35,000 residents of the USA who are representative of the country's population.
After three years, the researchers got back in contact with the same people to observe how these variables had evolved and they focused on identifying the characteristics that increased the risk of severe chronic depression persisting once it has started.
As García-Toro explains to SINC: “Identifying risk factors for the persistence and remission of severe depression is important in order to progress in our understanding of the causes and development of the most effective preventative treatments and therapies.”
The experts concluded that the highest risk variables for this illness were early onset of depression, delayed treatment, whether it is linked to other physical or mental health problems, and sexual abuse in childhood.
“The longer depression persists, the more likely the subjects interviewed are to recount having undergone sexual abuse, which no doubt means that they have been exposed to severe stress on many occasions in early life,” notes García-Toro.
In fact, the researcher affirms that, “In addition to the usual psychological trauma, it has been demonstrated that this stress modifies the neurochemistry and structure of the brain, making it more vulnerable to depression.”
Another consequence of abuse
The results reveal that 10% of all the people interviewed said that they had undergone sexual abuse as children, but of those who suffered severe depression for more than five years, this proportion approached 40%.
“These data are for men and women,” the researcher points out. Thus, “as we know that sexual abuse is much more common in girls, it is highly likely that in the adult female population more than half of those with severe depression for more than five years suffered sexual abuse as children.”
According to the authors, it is important to bring this situation to the fore in order to discover such examples – as not all patients recount these events spontaneously – and thus be able to intervene to improve treatment for those suffering from chronic depression.
Imagine Hearing a Child Close to You Utter The Words, "Someone touched me."
Imagine your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew sharing a secret that a person you trust has sexually abused them.
“Those three words, ‘someone touched me', turns your whole world upside down,” said Sharon De Boer, executive director of the Child Advocacy Centers in Rutherford and Cannon Counties. “Child sexual abuse is every parent and grandparent's worst nightmare.”
Yet in the midst of the devastation, parents and grandparents reach out to the Child Advocacy Center and the Child Protective Investigative Team for help for their children. In the last 13 years, the Child Advocacy Center has helped over 12,500 individuals in Rutherford and Cannon Counties—including parents, grandparents, and children.
“The national statistic is that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday,” said Jennifer Gamble, Family Services Coordinator at the Child Advocacy Center, “When you think of your child's school classroom, if there are 20 children in the class that means that two of those children will be sexually abused.”
Every day, Gamble listens to parents and grandparents share their pain of having a child who has been sexually abused. Gamble connects them to community resources, such as the Guidance Center and private therapists for counseling for their child and Our Kids Clinic for forensic medical exams.
She helps some parents who not only have a child being abused, but are an abuse victim themselves, to be referred to the Domestic Violence Program. She refers parents who were sexually abused as a child and never told anyone, to therapists who help adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
Gamble shares information with families about the Child Sexual Abuse Children's Groups and the Non-Offending Parents groups.
“The child sexual abuse children's groups are a wonderful opportunity for children to heal,” Gamble said.
De Boer said, “A child feels like they are the only child in the world that this horrible thing has happened to. When they walk into the children's group they realize that they are not alone. There are other children who have been abused too. Children in the group are in different stages of the healing process and that gives the child hope that they too will heal from the trauma and victimization of the abuse.”
“When your child has been sexually abused, it is devastating for parents and grandparents,” De Boer said. “Most parents had no clue it was happening. They feel embarrassed and ashamed that their child was abused. They feel betrayed by the person who harmed their child.”
“Parents are devastated that their precious child, the person they love the most in their lives, has had their innocence shattered.”
The non-offending parents' groups give the parents an opportunity to meet other parents who are having the same experience, share their pain, and learn coping skills for themselves and their children.
“My job is to listen to children,” said Samantha Richardson, the Child Advocacy Center Forensic Interviewer. While Gamble is talking to the parents and grandparents, Richardson listens to children describe the most horrific thing that could ever happen to a child — child rape.
Richardson has a degree from MTSU in child development. She knows exactly what questions a child has the ability to answer based on their developmental age. Richardson has been extensively trained how to listen to children and how to ask questions in a non-leading way.
A law enforcement detective and a Department of Children's Services case manager are in the next room observing the forensic interview. Richardson takes a break during the interview and the detective and case manager field her additional questions that they need answered as part of the investigation.
Department of Children's Services gives the Drug Endangered Children Coordinator, Amanda Pruitt, approximately 50 new drug endangered children cases per month. Pruitt assists parents who want to stop using drugs by doing alcohol and drug counseling, making referrals to alcohol and drug treatment centers, relapse prevention, communication and parenting skills education, anger management, and stress management. She helps children learn new skills to cope with their family member with addiction issues.
Pruitt said, “Many parents cannot get off drugs alone. They need help to do it. The Child Advocacy Center is here to help.”
More Information :
For more information, please contact the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County at (615) 867-9000 or the Cannon County Child Advocacy Center at (616) 563-9915.
State Rep. calls for changes to child laws, DFCS following 10-year-old death
by Paul Crawley and Blayne Alexander
ATLANTA -- Although the agency has been around for decades, trying to pin down child death statistics from Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services has been difficult until just the past few years, when they finally centralized their record keeping.
But we know from past experience that the agency has frequently dropped the ball.
Last Saturday's apparent murder of 10-year-old Emani Moss in Gwinnett County is just the latest questionable case.
According to incident reports, both Eman and Tiffany Moss had been charged with child abuse dating back to 2004. The 10-year-old's father and stepmother were arrested and charged with her murder Saturday evening.
In 2004, Eman Moss was charged and convicted of battery and child cruelty for beating Emani's biological mother in the child's presence.
In 2010, Emani's teacher called police when the girl told the teacher her stepmother had spanked her with a belt. The teacher reported severe bruising on her chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs.
Then in July 2012, two incident reports were filed when Emani tried to run away from home. The 10-year-old told police she had been tied to a chair with two of her belts and placed in a cold shower. Police said there was never enough information to charge her father and stepmother. Each of the cases was reported to DFCS.
Police say there was no record of Emani attending public schools in the past few years.
State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) has been a long-time child advocate, sponsoring several pieces of child fatality review legislation. She says the case of Emani Moss is particularly disturbing because there was a pattern of problems in the home.
"These are preventable deaths," Oliver told 11Alive's Blayne Alexander. "We in Georgia have to change our laws. This child fatality review system, I don't believe is working effectively."
Just last month, 12-year-old Eric Forbes of Paulding County was found dead after his father had been suspected of abusing him.
During a recent bond hearing for that father, Shayaa Forbes, it was revealed that several of the young boy's teachers had reported signs of abuse, which DFCS dismissed.
Now the father is charged with murder, as well as child abuse.
According to DFCS statistics, the agency reported 152 deaths of children with whom they'd had some sort of contact. That's an average of nearly three children per week.
Of those, 18 were ruled homicides, 42 are still pending or undetermined, 86 were declared natural or accidental, and six were ruled suicides.
Out of 55 deaths in the first six months of 2013, five have been ruled homicides, 20 are pending or undetermined, and 30 have been declared natural or accidental.
DFCS released the 2012 statistics last May in its first ever yearly report on deaths.
But there has already been trouble with its reporting system.
As 11Alive reported last January, a state audit of the $101 million computer system used to compile those numbers showed it often lacked timely information on abuse or neglect allegations.
Known as SHINES, the system cost state and federal taxpayers $49.8 million to start and now costs an average of $23.6 million a month to maintain.
And there have been other problems, including alleged fraud.
In the fall of 2012, police and the GBI raided the Muscogee County DFCS office.
They arrested former intake supervisor Phyllis Mitchell and former acting director Deborah Cobb, accusing them of falsifying department records in order to comply with federal regulations.
"I think our system did fail these children," Oliver said of Moss and Forbes. "Because there was a pattern of abuse which is the clearest evidence that we have that a child is in danger."
Professor to lead child abuse probe
A former commissioner for children in Scotland has been appointed to lead an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland.
Professor Kathleen Marshall chaired an investigation into abuse in children's homes in Edinburgh.
She will hold a summit this month and take evidence into how to protect looked-after children and measure the extent of child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland.
A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) investigation known as Operation Owl is looking at cases of suspected abuse of 22 children.
The inquiry panel will include the chief executives of health service, criminal justice and education regulators. It will report back before the end of next year.
Stormont health minister Edwin Poots' announcement comes after more than 30 people have been arrested as part of a major investigation into the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
A group of 22 young people aged between 13 and 18 may have been abused.
The majority of the victims were harmed when they went missing from care homes, at times after being plied with drugs or alcohol. Many did not realise they were being exploited, police have said.
Mr Poots said: "I want to ensure that we prevent, as far as possible, further sexual exploitation of children and young people in Northern Ireland.
"I also want to ensure that our child safeguarding systems are sufficiently robust across all sectors and, in particular, it is essential that those who are responsible for exploiting children in this way face the full rigours of the law."
The inquiry's terms of reference include establishing the nature and extent of exploitation.
:: Examining the effectiveness of safeguarding and protection arrangements and measures to prevent and tackle exploitation;
:: Making recommendations on future action needed to prevent the exploitation and who should be responsible for carrying these steps out;
:: Considering the specific safeguarding issues for looked after children in state care, taking into account another ongoing review by experts;
:: Engaging with parents to help identify issues they are facing and take their views on what needs to be done to keep their children safe.
The findings of the inquiry will be reported to Mr Poots, Stormont Justice Minister David Ford and Education Minister John O'Dowd.
‘UK police chiefs ignore child abuse by VIP'
British police chiefs turn a blind eye to young people who are abused by high-profile people, a former child protection officer said.
The police insider, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Express that his superiors warned him not to investigate cases of child abuse by VIPs, including senior politicians and a judge.
The whistleblower said the justice system in Britain is “corrupt” and “rotten to the core”, adding that they are huge number of child abuse cases by the rich, which has never been investigated.
“There is a massive cover-up going on and those who are abusing children are being protected by the powers that be,” said the former officer.
The source, who has worked on cases of child abuse for 20 years, said his senior officer told him to back off as soon as evidence took him to prominent names.
“He warned me to keep my mouth shut,” he added.
Earlier last month, another former child protection officer said British police had threatened him to stop his investigations into child abuse by high-profile MPs in 1990.
Chris Fay said he was threatened with a gun to his head to avoid probing allegations surrounding Elm Guest House in Barnes, where young boys were allegedly taken to be abused by a VIP pedophile ring
Members of Special Branch routinely warned him, his colleagues, and even the victims when the story broke in in early 90s, Fay said.
West Virginia's child abuse registry explained
by Kelsey Borza
BECKLEY - A recent child abuse sentencing in Raleigh County leaves a mother of six without her children, on home confinement and also a life-long member of West Virginia's Child Abuser Registry. Most of us are familiar with the sex offender registry but what does it mean to be a registered child abuser?
Most convicted child abusers like the Beckley mother of 6, Sabrina Smith, in addition to serving time are required to add their name to the state's child abuse registry. It mimics West Virginia's sex offender registry as far as reporting workplace, home address and where they might be attending school or training. And it's their responsibility to keep the state police updated.
Cpl. Rob Daniel is in charge of keeping up with Raleigh County's sex offenders and child abusers.
"If any of your information changes just like the sex offender registry, you have to report that to me within 10 business days and if you get lazy and don't to it I will arrest you and take you to jail," said Cpl. Daniel.
The biggest difference is convicted child abusers who are on home confinement or probation are NOT allowed to live with a minor, and once their time is served they have to report any minor living with them.
People on the child abuse and sex offender registries can actually live wherever they want once their off probation... Even if it's right beside a school. All they have to do is let the state police know. Daniel said the registry helps him keep track of people but it also serves as a deterrent to crime.
"Someone may not be on probation or parole any further but the more contact they have with law enforcement with the police, then the less likely they are to keep committing crimes," said Daniel.
And he said West Virginia is actually ahead of the curve because a lot of states don't have a child abuse registry at all.
Cpl. Daniel said he could always use your help, too. If you think a registered child abuser is living with a minor or is in some way violating their registry, give the state police a call and he will look into it.
Three Irish men identified in online sex abuse inquiry
Three Irish men are among 1,000 adults who have been identified by a Dutch child protection agency investigating online child sex abuse.
The undercover operation by Terre des Hommes involved researchers in Amsterdam posing online as a ten-year-old girl from the Philippines - given the name Sweetie.
The agency said that around 20,000 men approached Sweetie in just ten weeks for webcam chats of a sexual nature, and 1,000 were identified.
Terre des Hommes said the information they gathered, including identities, were handed over to Interpol today.
The agency said webcam child sex tourism, in which children in developing countries are paid to perform sexual acts in front of a camera, is quickly spreading.
It has demanded that governments crack down on the practice, saying only six convictions have been secured around the world.
The appeal was made at a news conference in The Hague this afternoon.
Kindergartner accuses another student of repeated sexual assault
by Lauren Trager
(KMOV) -- A 5-year-old child is accusing another child of the same age of repeated sexual assault inside a local school bathroom.
Parents called News 4 for help to expose what they say the River Roads Lutheran School has been too quiet about.
“I was devastated, I was in shock, I had him repeat it two-three times,” said mother Tamara Wilson.
Wilson's five-year-old son came home from school last month and described another five-year-old performing oral sex on him. Wilson said they were unsupervised in a bathroom at the school in north St. Louis.
“He was having nightmares, waking up screaming in the middle of the night,” she said.
Wilson said her son told her it wasn't the first time and Wilson's cousin, Channa Hyster, said the very same boy also assaulted her son back in September.
“I had already told them about this little boy and what he was doing to mine and my son told them,” said Hyster.
Over the phone, a spokesperson for the school did not have any knowledge of abuse on Hyster's son.
But they have admitted to the more recent allegations, saying the incident between two students was “serious and troubling in nature.”
News 4 was told no one would be available for an interview. But in a statement officials say they acted quickly, all while protecting the privacy of the kids.
“We love and value each and every one of our students and we consider it a privilege to care for and educate them each day. Their safety, security and wellbeing are at the heart of every decision we make.
The incident that occurred between two students last month was serious and troubling in nature. From the moment we discovered it, we acted quickly, decisively and in the best interest of our students to investigate it, while also protecting the privacy rights of the children involved. Those actions included notifying the necessary child welfare authorities and talking directly with the families of students who may have been affected by it.
The two children involved stopped attending our school soon after the incident occurred. However, we understand the difficulties they and their parents face in moving forward. We continue to pray for them and hope they find the peace and resolution they seek at this difficult time.”
But Wilson disagrees with the school's response. Hyster too says it wasn't right.
Both say they're worried now---not only for their kids...for others here ...even for the little boy allegedly behind it all.
“It's crazy, it really is, it's crazy and it's heartbreaking,” Hyster said.
Both parents said they want police and other authorities to do a full investigation into this school and what may have happened there.
Journalist tackles sex trafficking
New York Times' Kristof addresses issue at WSUV lecture series
by Stevie Mathieu
It might be difficult for the average American to understand the problem of sex trafficking, or to notice it when it's happening, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said during a visit Monday night to Washington State University Vancouver.
For example, you might see a 15-year-old prostitute on the side of the road, dressed provocatively and making come-hither gestures at potential customers, Kristof said. Nobody's holding a gun to her head and forcing her into a john's car.
“She doesn't look like she's being oppressed by anybody,” he said, so you might think, “if that's what she wants to do, then what can we do?”
But in reality, Kristof said, that girl could be a runaway who left behind an abusive stepfather. She could have met a pimp who has coerced her into prostitution, and who demands that she make a certain amount of money each day, or else he'll beat her.
Although the problem seems dire and prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, there are things community leaders can do to fight sex trafficking, Kristof said before a packed auditorium of about 200 on the WSUV campus. He was there to shine a light on the global problem of sex trafficking, which also affects a large number of girls in the U.S.
The legal system in the U.S. needs to crack down on the johns who buy girls and the pimps who enslave them, he said. Traditionally, sex trafficking victims who are prostituted get arrested over and over again, while their pimps aren't caught and their johns get a slap on the wrist.
“Basically right now in America, polls suggest 15 percent of American men have used a prostitute at some point in their life,” he said. “There's essentially zero chance you're going to get prosecuted. … There's no real disincentive.”
Complicating matters, girls are terrified of and psychologically manipulated by their pimps, so it's difficult to get them to testify against sex traffickers. Residential programs aimed at getting the girls off the streets can be a part of the solution. So can policies that make big-picture changes to society, such as tackling poverty, reducing teen pregnancy, and increasing access to early childhood education.
Questions from students
Before his keynote speech, Kristof gathered with WSUV students for a question-and-answer session. Many of the questions focused on the state of journalism in a digital age, and what it is like to travel the world and write about social problems.
Because many news organizations are struggling financially, Kristof said, there is less money to send journalists out in the field to do “shoe leather” reporting. In 2003, while politicians in Washington, D.C., were telling the public that the U.S. needed to intervene in Iraq, and that it was for the good of Iraqi citizens, Kristof traveled to the county to ask Iraqis how they felt about U.S. intervention.
Leaders in the U.S. “were sure American troops were going to be welcomed with flowers,” Kristof said, but the Iraqis he talked to didn't trust the U.S. “As a foreign correspondent, I became a huge believer in actually going out and doing real reporting.”
A student asked Kristof what he thought of the argument that prostitution should be legalized. Kristof said he was once drawn to the argument, because legalizing it would allow the industry to be regulated. But in practice, legalizing prostitution hasn't helped decrease sex trafficking, he said.
That model “pretty much failed,” Kristof said, adding that areas with legal prostitution also become hotbeds for illegal activities, such as child prostitution. “Going after pimps and going after johns may be the most effective way to reduce trafficking.”
Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, has co-authored three books with is wife, Sheryl WuDunn. Their latest book is titled “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” Much of his writing focuses on human rights issues around the world.
Kristof grew up on a farm in Yamhill, Ore. His visit on Monday was tied to a visit with his mother, who still lives in Oregon.
His talk at WSUV was part of the university's Public Affairs Lecture Series. The series, which tackles weighty political topics, has drawn other prominent public figures, including former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and Kweisi Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Fighting sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a problem others in Vancouver have focused on. Vancouver is the headquarters for Shared Hope International, an organization started by former Congresswoman Linda Smith to combat sex trafficking.
On Friday, WSUV will host a free workshop at 2 to 4 p.m. in its Firstenburg Student Commons for people interested in fighting human trafficking. Guests will learn how to talk to elected officials about human trafficking and how the problem impacts Clark County and the Pacific Northwest.
On Nov. 14, WSUV will show the documentary “Playground: The Child Sex Trade in America,” 4:30 to 7 p.m. in Room 129 of the school's Dengerink Administration Building. The documentary, which focuses on child sex trafficking in North America, will be followed by a discussion and information about local organizations that support victims of human trafficking.
Special unit in City Court strengthens the fight against human trafficking
A new special court in Buffalo City Court holds the promise of rescuing some victims of human trafficking.
The Human Trafficking Intervention Part of City Court will identify and help prostitutes and other victims of human trafficking in a number of ways, not the least of which is getting out of a life that they did not choose, but rather had forced upon them.
The announcement of the court last week emphasized its intent to help victims become productive members of the community. The range of services being offered by the court include safe haven housing, education, health care, immigration assistance and job training. The court will first focus on victims of sex trafficking and later deal with labor trafficking.
It can be difficult to imagine something like human trafficking occurring right in our own backyard. But the reality is that it does happen.
Almost a year ago, The News reported on a trial involving forced prostitution in Buffalo's suburbs. The federal court drama included testimony by two women and a girl who said that they were coerced and enticed into prostitution. They met as many as eight men a day. One of the three said she was only 15 years old when she began working for Kenneth Graham of Amherst. One of the other two was also under age when prosecutors say she started working for the same man.
Graham was convicted of three sex trafficking charges, one for each of the victims who testified against him. The sex trafficking operation was run out of several suburban hotels and motels from late 2010 until August 2012.
Often when we think about human trafficking, images of India, Thailand or Cambodia come to mind. But we can't forget that it happens in America – whether it involves an immigrant here illegally and afraid of being deported, or a runaway or destitute person in desperate straits.
The continued focus should be on helping victims at the local, state and national levels. The Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 is one such tool. Unfortunately, it has gotten stuck in committee.
It would improve state and national tracking of child sex trafficking and bring about reforms to better identify and assist the victims who, in the past, have sometimes been treated as criminals and have been arrested along with their pimps.
The proposed bill would encourage coordination between child welfare, juvenile justice and social service agencies and focus on placing children in stable housing.
Slavery is alive and well. And it's going on right here. The Human Trafficking Intervention Part of City Court will add a tool to the battle against it.
First picture of mystery teenage girl feared victim of sex trafficking found wandering streets
Police have released a picture of the girl, aged between 14 and 16, who has communicated by drawing pictures which appear to show her being raped
(Picture on site)
This is the mystery teenage girl found wandering the streets of Dublin who police fear may be the victim of sex trafficking.
Detectives have taken the unprecedented step of publishing a photograph of the child, who is believed to be between 14 and 16 years old.
Despite several weeks of investigation, and following 115 lines of inquiry, detectives in Ireland remain baffled about the identity of the young girl.
The girl was found on Dublin's O'Connell Street - the Irish capital's main shopping thoroughfare - in a dazed state by gardai on a routine afternoon patrol on October 10.
She was taken into care and was initially unable to speak to officers. Instead, she communicated with them by drawing images, which appeared to show her being raped.
Superintendent Dave Taylor said: "This investigation has involved over 2,000 hours, engaging with all the relevant authorities and all the relevant specialists in this area, but unfortunately we have been unable to identify her.
"At the moment we need to find out who this child is."
The girl is described as being 5ft 6in and of slim build with long blonde hair.
She was wearing a purple hooded top, tight dark-coloured jeans, flat black shoes and a grey woollen jumper when found.
It is believed the clothes were bought in major Irish retailers but detectives could not determine when they were purchased.
The girl also has a brace but paediatric orthodontists contacted in Ireland were unable to shed any light on her identity through their records.
Gardai have set up an investigation codenamed Operation Shepard in attempt to establish the girl's identity.
A dedicated telephone line and email address is being manned by officers for any information from the public which can help the inquiry.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the team in Dublin on +353 1 666 8100 or by email at storestreetappealgarda.ie.
In a move never before undertaken, the force went to the High Court last week to seek permission under the Child Care Act to release a photograph of the girl.
Lawyers argued that it was in extraordinary circumstances after the investigation "hit a brick wall".
Mr Taylor said the girl was being well treated under an interim care order by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Ireland health authorities.
"Obviously we have concerns as to her welfare," he said.
"She was found in a distressed state, she is being cared for very well at the moment by professionals but obviously we're at an impasse at the moment.
"We can't identify her."
The investigation team has called in Interpol, the missing persons bureau, the forensic science laboratory, the domestic violence and sexual assault unit and national immigration authorities.
They have also trawled city centre CCTV footage, contacted social services and homeless shelters, bed and breakfasts, hostels as well as airports and ports throughout the country.
Detectives came up with 15 possible names for their girl through their inquiries but they were "fully checked" and led nowhere.
Fox Valley officials strive to halt sex crimes
Courts order johns, prostitutes to learn about altering ways
by Ariel Cheung
APPLETON — Since 2011, virtually every man arrested in Grand Chute for patronizing a prostitute has escaped criminal charges.
Law enforcement officials say that's about to change.
In 2011, Grand Chute passed an ordinance requiring escorts to obtain licenses as a way to crack down on prostitution. As a result, officials in the area have uncovered a flood of “workers” who travel from Milwaukee and Chicago for the safer streets of smaller cities.
“We knew there was a problem, we just didn't know how big the problem was until we passed the ordinance,” said Grand Chute police detective Scott Callaway. “We were seeing complaints from hotels where guests were being solicited in hallways and elevators.”
To tackle the issue, police have worked with hotels, state prosecutors and advocacy organizations to create new ways to tackle human trafficking. From prosecuting more cases to offering education as an alternative to jail, officials are attempting to break away from the traditional mold and test new ways to deter prostitution in the area.
In the past few months, the Appleton Police Department has adjusted its policies to refer every prostitute and patron for prosecution, said Appleton Police Lt. Steve Elliott.
“Previously, both johns and prostitutes were given citations, but it really struck us that this wasn't an effective way of getting to the problem,” Elliott told Post-Crescent Media. “Certainly, the best way for both these (types of) people to get help is through the legal system — let them go through a process to get out of the lifestyle and stop those behaviors.”
The department used to operate on a case-by-case basis, and prosecutors selected fewer to criminally charge. Instead, the district attorney's office is taking a harder stance on johns, while offering more options for the women arrested for prostitution, said Outagamie County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Maier.
“I think by and large we've adapted,” he said. “We're getting criminal referrals for the male customers now, and we're charging them.”
Upon conviction, the district attorney's office has agreed to seek probation for the defendants. As a condition of the probation, patrons are sent to a daylong “john school,” where they learn about human trafficking and the societal impact prostitution has on a community.
Similarly, the women must attend therapy and are offered job training and other counseling services in an effort to help them break free from the prostitution lifestyle. In both cases, the defendants can have their cases dismissed after successfully completing probation, Elliott said.
The john school, which APD offers to other agencies, is an eight-hour class that includes segments on STDs, sex addition, legal consequences and sex trafficking.
“One particular john was a well-respected grandfather in the community,” Elliott said. “Afterward, he was very upset about the reality of the lives of these prostitutes. He very tearfully explained that he had no idea they suffered the way they did. He thought it was just a consensual event, and everyone was having a good time.”
That's rarely the case, officials said. Often, women who work in the sex trade have a relationship with a pimp that mirrors the control and potential abuse in a domestic abuse situation.
“The chains placed on them by their pimp are significant and powerful,” Elliott said. “There's sexual abuse, getting the women addicted to drugs or threatening their family. I think separating them from those individuals trafficking them is going to be a big step. That's why we arrest them.”
Many of women are completely reliant on the perpetrator to provide all the things they need, and it can be very difficult to start over, said Harbor House executive director Beth Schnorr.
“They don't have a support system outside of the work environment, so they're very isolated,” she said. “They don't know the community and there are barriers to knowing about the resources.”
Harbor House, a domestic abuse shelter, has received more referrals from police departments as the stance on prostitution shifts. The program offers temporary housing, legal advocacy, job training and counseling to survivors of domestic abuse. Law enforcement agencies are also working with the Sexual Assault Crisis Center.
While some women don't operate with a pimp or madam, it's hard to know how many do, Callaway said.
“I suspect the number is higher than we know,” Callaway said. “Many of the prostitutes will say they were forced into it at an early age — 13 or 14 — but now they're 20 or 21. They're not forced into it anymore, but it's a way of life.”
Police have found at least four underage girls working in the sex trade since 2011, and there are at least three pending court cases in Outagamie County involving adults charged with soliciting children for prostitution. In one case, a 16-year-old Appleton girl told police the defendant enlisted her as one of his prostitutes.
“Nobody grows up to say, ‘I want to be a prostitute,'” said Connie Campbell, director of 5-Stones, a sex-trafficking awareness organization. “Girls are trafficked as minors and it takes them into adulthood. Prior to 18 years old, they are a victim. Now we're learning that an adult woman involved in prostitution is a victim.”
Campbell started 5-Stones two years ago after seeing the tragic inner-workings of an Indian brothel. She joined a task force in Milwaukee comprised of members from the attorney general's office, police, FBI agents and immigration officials.
“Coming out of those meetings, my heart said there's something missing here,” she said. “Who is teaching the public about this issue? That wasn't happening, so 5-Stones was started for the primary purpose of bringing awareness.”
Since then, 5-Stones has been a good source for local law enforcement as they continue to sculpt a new vision for tackling sex trafficking in the Fox Valley, Elliott said. The group helped Appleton Police develop the john school, which enrolls about a dozen johns every six months.
“Over the past few years, we've been working with a number of different organizations to look at a more holistic approach regarding human trafficking,” he said. “5-Stones, Reach Counseling Services, the Fox Valley volunteer crisis response teams.”
But Elliott thinks the future holds additional changes that could go statewide, including legislation that allows women who leave the lifestyle to have their criminal records erased.
“Having that stigma of a prostitution arrest on their record really limits their ability to get a job,” he said. “If a woman is being coerced or manipulated into that lifestyle, then they should have an opportunity to have a whole life.”
Still, the recent changes and collaboration between departments are promising signs that the Fox Valley is taking the right steps to fight human trafficking and sex-for-pay, Elliott said.
“We're moving in a really good direction,” he said. “It's all still relatively new, but those services are things that just weren't here at all a couple years ago. We're going to have to wait and see the effect, but we're hitting a nerve here.”
The voice of opportunity
by Catherine Clark
"I never told anyone,” begins Cynthia Bland, the founder of Voice Found, a non-profit sexual abuse prevention organization based in Ottawa. And what she never told anyone almost destroyed her life.
“I was sexually abused from age five to seven by a trusted neighbour,” says Cynthia. But she was 47 years old before she disclosed it to anyone.
“I minimized it, I pushed it aside,” she continues. And the consequences rolled in.
“I suffered my first panic attacks at eight, followed by depression,” she recalls. “Despite a genius-level IQ, I dropped out of high school, and then I became a cocaine addict.”
However, she managed to maintain a successful career and, after kicking her addiction, raised four kids. “Nobody would have known the personal demons I was battling every day.”
But her world came to a crashing halt in 2003 when her father died suddenly.
“I had been clean for 20 years, but I felt like I would start using again, so I went to Amethyst (Ottawa),” she remembers. It was there that she revealed to a therapist that she had been sexually abused, beginning the long, difficult path towards healing.
Having finally found her voice, Cynthia was brave enough to use it she says, “I decided that prevention was an area where I could actually make a difference.”
This is why she started Voice Found (voicefound.ca), a small volunteer-led organization that offers child sexual abuse prevention workshops, as well as resources for adult survivors.
“Our program is focused on adults, so that they can recognize and react to signs of sexual abuse in children,” explains Cynthia. “It is not effective to expect children to look after themselves, even if we've taught them ‘good touch versus bad touch.'”
Voice Found's statistics on sexual abuse are staggering: One in three girls and one in five boys have suffered some form of sexual abuse; 95 per cent of those children know their perpetrator. And, disturbingly, Cynthia notes that one of the highest-growth areas is youth sexually abusing other younger, more vulnerable youth.
“We have to shatter the illusion that ‘it won't happen to my kids' because the reality is that sexual abuse is everywhere, affecting all walks of life.”
It's a frightening message! But, through Voice Found, Cynthia is offering people the tools to do something about it, so that all the children in our community have the opportunity to grow up healthy and fulfilled.
UK hospitals must treat FGM as child abuse - report
by Emma Batha
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain's doctors and nurses must treat female genital mutilation (FGM) as child abuse and refer girls who have undergone ritual cutting to the police, leading medical organisations said on Monday.
The National Health Service (NHS) should also start systematically recording data on all FGM cases and share information with social services, schools and police, according to a major report drawn up by professional bodies representing midwives, nurses, gynaecologists, obstetricians and others.
FGM, which is often justified by practising communities on cultural or religious grounds, can cause serious long-term physical and psychological damage.
A 2007 study estimated 66,000 women and girls in England and Wales had undergone FGM and 23,000 girls were at risk, but experts say the figures have gone up. The ritual is mostly practised by communities originating from a swathe of African countries, including Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt and Sierra Leone.
Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, which helped draw up the report, said it was time for everyone to stop hiding behind excuses.
“Even though FGM is child abuse, it has not been our priority because most people have felt that it's a cultural thing and an exotic thing that people from different countries practise,” she said.
“Young girls turn up in accident and emergency at age 10 with (urinary) problems and nobody does anything, nobody asks what's going on, and no one has been prosecuted.”
It is the first time a plan has been drawn up to systematically tackle FGM across the NHS.
“We are saying, do something about it now,” Fyle added. “That is what is groundbreaking – that we've all come together and said this must happen.”
The report also calls for the government to launch a nationwide hard-hitting publicity drive on FGM, similar to previous domestic abuse and HIV campaigns.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison welcomed the report and said one of her priorities was to work on eradicating the “abhorrent practice”.
FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but no one has ever been prosecuted. The proposed reforms come amid a concerted drive by police and prosecutors to address this failure.
In a forward to the report, Britain's chief prosecutor Keir Starmer said health and social care professionals had a pivotal role to play in identifying and reporting cases.
PROTECTION OVERRIDES CONFIDENTIALITY
FGM, which is a way of controlling a girl's or woman's sexuality, involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia. In its most extreme form the vaginal opening is also sewn closed.
Some professionals are reluctant to intervene when they believe someone has had FGM or might be at risk because they are afraid of causing offence. Many also cite concerns about patient confidentiality. However, the report stresses that their duty to protect a child at risk overrides patient confidentiality.
One of the nine key recommendations is that all girls turning up at NHS services with signs of FGM must be considered potential victims of crime and referred to the police.
Efua Dorkenoo, FGM campaigner at rights group Equality Now, who helped draft the report, said it was “intolerable” that young girls were seeking treatment for FGM-related complications and no one was reporting these cases to police.
“That's what they would normally do with any child abuse,” Dorkenoo said. “But they don't do it with FGM because they continue to think it is just a cultural issue.”
She said it was too easy for clinicians to turn a blind eye, but they must now be held accountable.
The report says a girl born to a mother with FGM should be considered at "significant risk of harm” and monitored through the child protection system.
Notes should be put in the baby's health records at birth. Social services should make a home visit, and information should be shared with the girl's local doctor, health visitor and school nurse. Girls with older siblings who have undergone FGM should be considered at immediate risk.
The report urges schools in areas where practising communities live to include FGM in the curriculum.
Health workers who provide travel vaccinations to children from practising communities should also be alert. This is because girls are often taken abroad for FGM, even though this is an offence under British law.
Women who have undergone FGM are most likely to be identified through maternity services. The report says staff should inquire about when and where the FGM was performed and ask whether there are female children in the household. A referral to police should be considered.
The recommendations are also backed by professional organisations representing general practitioners, paediatricians and psychiatrists as well as FGM campaigners and survivors.
Failure to report child sex abuse should be a crime otherwise there will be another Savile, says former top prosecutor
by Suzannah Hills
Failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse should be made a criminal offence in Britain, the former director of public prosecutions said.
Keir Starmer believes it is time to 'change the law' and said it should be 'mandatory' to report allegations in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Speaking on BBC Panorama, Mr Starmer said: 'I think the time has come to change the law and close a gap that's been there for a very long time. I think there should be a mandatory reporting provision.
'The problem is if you haven't got a central provision requiring people to report, then all you can do is fall back on other provisions that aren't really designed for that purpose and that usually means they run into difficulties.
'What you really need is a clear, direct law that everybody understands.'
Mr Starmer told the programme he has spent a lot of time thinking about how the criminal justice system could improve its response to child sexual abuse.
'I went to Washington to see how the specialist teams there deal with it,' he said. 'They do have a mandatory reporting scheme, a very straightforward, simple scheme and something like that I think could work in this country.'
Abuse lawyer Liz Dux, of Slater & Gordon, who represent more than 70 of Jimmy Savile's victims says it's vital lessons are learned from the case.
She said: 'The Savile scandal has prompted a welcome shift in attitude towards child abuse - but there is so much more that needs to be done to make sure evil like this can never prosper again.
'It is vital lessons are learnt and our clients are determined that something positive comes out of the terrible abuse they suffered.'
She added: 'Since the Savile scandal some steps have been taken to assist victims through the difficult process of reporting abuse and the criminal trial process - but now the Government needs to act in a more positive way to make sure the silence that surrounded Savile and allowed his horrific abuse to go unreported can never happen again.
'We are now calling on the Government to introduce legislation whereby those in regulated activities who have direct knowledge of abuse and fail to do the right thing and report it will face prosecution.
'This will better protect people in the future. We owe this reform to the victims of abuse who have been failed in the past but remain courageous enough to speak out now.'
The Mandate Now coalition also called for the reporting of child abuse to become mandatory.
Napac (National Association for People Abused in Childhood), The Survivors Trust, Respond, Survivors UK and Innocence in Danger are calling for mandatory reporting to be introduced in schools and similar institutions, where children are cared for in loco parentis.
Jonathan West, a Mandate Now campaigner, said: 'Time after time we hear that head teachers and other professionals have failed to act on reports and concerns, and little is ever done to address this very serious shortcoming.
'Staff also need legal protection from the recrimination which can so easily follow when a person takes the courageous step of reporting a concern.'
However, the Government currently has no plans to change the law - with the Department for Education stating that mandatory reporting is 'not the answer'.
A spokesman said: 'Guidance is already crystal clear that professionals should refer immediately to social care when they are concerned about a child.
'Other countries have tried mandatory reporting and there is no evidence to show that it is a better system for protecting children.
'In fact there is evidence to show it can make children less safe.'
Clergy Sexual Abuse and the Church: Views From Rome and Washington
NEWS ANALYSIS: Lessons learned from a harrowing, complex struggle to protect children by changing institutional culture.
by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND
WASHINGTON — More than a decade after the clergy abuse crisis made headlines, Catholics remain aghast when they read fresh reports of predatory priests, innocence lost, and ambiguous or inadequate responses from local bishops.
Have we learned anything in the past 11 years?
“Yes,” say two experts who have approached the clergy abuse scandal from different vantage points. One man, Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, led the Holy See's investigation of clergy abuse cases from his post at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while the other, Deacon Bernard Nojadera, implemented reforms in the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., before taking up his post as executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
From 2002-2012, then-Msgr. Scicluna, a civil and canon lawyer, served as the first promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He spearheaded the prosecution of a vast number of clergy abuse cases, including appeals by priests who contended that they had been wrongly accused.
On Oct. 16, Bishop Scicluna addressed the Canon Law Society of America at its annual meeting in Sacramento, Calif., and used that forum to provide often-pointed reflections about the Church's ongoing effort to address clergy sexual abuse of minors. Deacon Nojadera outlined his views during an Oct. 21 interview with the Register.
The portrait that emerged from their decade-long effort to address this grave challenge presents a period of radical change within the Church that is still being fine-tuned and evaluated.
Policies, Consistency and Prudence
The zero-tolerance policy regarding clergy sexual abuse of minors has been anchored to a plan of action: prompt removal and reporting of priests with credible allegations, safe environment training, background checks of diocesan personal, and better seminary screening and formation.
But these experts made clear that prudential judgments by bishops and other mandated reporters continue to play an essential role in assessing and acting on sometimes ambiguous information, that also may involve people they know and like.
From 2002-2012, as the CDF's first promoter of justice, then-Msgr. Scicluna led the Holy See's effort to address what he described, during his address before the Canon Law Society, as a “tsunami” of cases forwarded to Rome beginning in 2002.
In 2010, he helped to construct Church norms that extended the statute of limitations for prosecuting ecclesial crimes, and also expanded the definition of such crimes to include the possession, use and distribution of child pornography and the sexual abuse of vulnerable adults.
Bishop Scicluna emphasized that most “of the serious flaws in the response of the local Churches to the cases of sexual misconduct derive from the disregard for the rule of law and the demands of justice.”
Thus the first and primary lesson learned from the crisis is “that rules will be respected and applied without fear or favor.”
Cases of sexual misconduct should be immediately referred to the Holy See, he said, if they involve “minors and child pornography.”
In a reference to the difficult problem of addressing clergy misconduct that does not involve criminal activity, Bishop Scicluna emphasized that removal from ministry may still be necessary.
“There are situations where the priest concerned has not committed any crimes and has not been accused of misconduct, but, this notwithstanding, his modus operandi , the way he deals with his parishioners, causes a deep malaise and constant concern as to whether a community of the faithful should be entrusted to him,” he said.
Consultation, and Prioritizing Children
He also noted the challenge posed by removing priests from ministry, and providing a framework for supervisors to consider whether and how they could begin a secluded life of prayer and penance, keeping in mind the “gravity” of the misconduct, his age, health “and the notoriety of his case.”
“A golden rule for the bishop would be to compare notes with other bishops of the region, to learn from the experience of others, to listen to his priests and to his people before deciding, to be humble enough to change a wrong decision for the common good and the good of his priest.”
Bishop Scicluna also reflected on the often tense relations between bishops and priests that have developed in the wake of the clergy abuse crisis and the zero tolerance policy that requires dioceses to promptly report all credible allegations of abuse. Respect for the truth, he said, must guide the bishop-priest relationship, even when that may create a breach.
“It is never a private matter, it is always ecclesial. The common good of the Church, of the community of the faithful, should be the guiding criterion of our attitudes and our roles,” he said.
During his address, Bishops Scicluna highlighted a primary insight he had gleaned from his years at the CDF: “Any institution, global or local, seeking to develop a strategy for the protection of children and the prevention of child abuse must enshrine preeminently the principle that the well-being of the child should be the paramount concern of all.” His talk endorsed programs like safe environment training that empower children to resist and report sexual predators.
Further, he stressed that Catholics at all levels must confront the devastating impact of “child abuse as a tragic wound to the very dignity of the human family.”
As dioceses maintain policies designed to protect children, he said, they should continue to provide strong formation for all individuals working with children and make certain that codes of conduct “specify in a clear way the consequences of misconduct.”
Sharpening Diocesan Protocols
In 2002, when Msgr. Scicluna took up his duties at the CDF, Deacon Bernard Nojadera was appointed to direct the Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Diocese of San Jose, until he was named to the USCCB post in 2011. While serving the diocese, the Navy reserve officer was also a member of the San Jose Police Department's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and other local private and interfaith oversight groups.
While Bishop Scicluna provided a comprehensive view of the lessons learned after a decade of investigating clergy abuse cases. Deacon Nojadera focused on the vulnerabilities at the diocesan level.
Dioceses have different procedures for how allegations are received, processed and reported to police and child protection services. But Deacon Nojadera emphasized that dioceses must clarify and formalize such procedures, and mandated reporters should be confident about responding quickly when an allegation is received.
“Having the policy in place is great. Knowing what to do and how to carry out policies is the problem,” said Deacon Nojadera.
“We are getting better about calling the police. But sometimes, there is a lack of confidence about carrying that out.”
He recalled his past experience supervising psychology interns, who were required to report suspected child abuse to the local child protection office.
“It is nerve-racking, it is frightening to call child protection services, so some interns doubted their own judgment.”
Dealing With Shock
It can be the same for some mandated reporters in dioceses, and Deacon Nojadera noted that individuals are under even more pressure when they know the person whom has been accused of abuse.
“It is a shock, and that is where the training comes in. If you have run drills and you know who to call and what forms to fill out, you have the confidence that comes from good training.”
If the welfare of children is understood to be the primary concern of everyone in the Church, he added, then the mandated reporter can make that call.
At times, he acknowledged, a bishop can experience the same sense of shock, because the “relationship with his priests is a special bond, a paternal relationship. But it has to be about the victim first.”
In recent years, allegations involving child pornography have posed a fresh challenge to dioceses. Some high-profile cases made headlines because dioceses allegedly did not notify authorities quickly because of doubts about whether the images constituted child pornography.
Deacon Nojadera said that even if diocesan personnel are not sure what the images involve, they should immediately contact law enforcement, and let them pick up the materials and examine them. Further, he said, all communications with local authorities should be recorded.
When dioceses implement child protection policies in a consistent and reliable manner, Deacon Nojadera concluded, it provides a sense of responsibility and safety. “Everybody knows, including the alleged victim and the accused, that “implementing the protocol will take a specific amount of time,” he said.
“If you are constantly shifting your rules of engagement, it creates uncertainly and no one has confidence in the system.”
Never Let Down the Guard
So have we learned lessons from a decade of protecting children and investigating clergy sex abuse cases?
Again, the answer is, “Yes.” But Bishop Scicluna and Deacon Nojadera make it clear that the Church cannot afford to let down its guard for a moment.
Bishop Scicluna offered a final lesson learned from the clergy abuse crisis by Catholic priests like himself, who have committed no crimes but share in the public ridicule and attacks fostered by the scandal.
He likened his decade-long labors as the moderator of justice at the CDF, reviewing reams of horrific details of crimes, as walk up Calvary, and it prompted frequent contemplation of the Crucified Christ.
“We complain of the fact that we are singled out for ridicule when we fall short so miserably of the high ideals which the Roman Catholic priesthood still represents,” he acknowledged. “And then we realize that the fundamental background to the scandal is the very sanctity of the priesthood which a few betray so egregiously to the detriment of the good name of the many.”
Said Bishop Scicluna, “We realize that the sexual abuse of minors committed by clergy … is an expression of the anti-gospel, a betrayal of the message of compassion and love which has endowed the fabric of the Church over the centuries with so much sanctity, with so much splendor.”
Lassa: My bills will help victims of sexual assault get justice (column)
Becoming the victim of any crime is enough to change your life forever, but sexual assault victims undergo a unique set of challenges. The shame and stigma of being victimized sexually makes it very difficult to go before strangers in the criminal justice system and relive the details of the crime. Unfortunately, some people are quick to blame the victims, believing that they “brought it on themselves” through their actions.
In most instances, the perpetrators of sexual assault are not strangers to the victim, but someone the victim knows – often authority figures like parents, relatives or coworkers. Reporting this crime means not only reliving one's own humiliation, but can potentially turn the victim's world upside down. This is especially true for children, who are the victims of two-thirds of sexual assaults.
For all these reasons, authorities estimate that sexual assault is among the most underreported crimes. According to the U.S. Justice Department, 74 percent of completed and attempted sexual assaults against females were not reported to law enforcement. It can take years for victims to come to terms with what has happened to them and to find the courage to talk about what happened to them.
Through the years, I have advocated for public policy that understands and respects the unique challenges that sexual assault victims face in reporting these horrific crimes. Arbitrary statutes of limitation and other deadlines that unnecessarily penalize victims who, for whatever reason, don't immediately report these crimes have two negative consequences: They prevent sexual assault victims from obtaining justice and, because they discourage victims from reporting the crime, leave the perpetrator free to victimize others.
Two pieces of legislation I have introduced this session will help sexual assault victims overcome these hurdles. The Child Victims Act removes the civil statute of limitations on child sexual assault entirely, so pedophiles would no longer be protected by a legal “home free” date from facing their victims in court. It would also provide a two-year window in which a person who is currently arbitrarily barred by the statute of limitations from bringing a suit would be allowed to bring their charges forward.
In California, where a similar time window for retroactive suits was enacted, 300 previously unknown child sex abusers were identified as a result. The Child Victims Act will enable victims of sexual abuse to have their day in court and hold more offenders accountable for their actions, preventing them from preying on other innocent children.
I have also introduced Lindsey's Law, which will provide better access to counseling and mental health treatment for victims of sexual assault and remove the one-year application deadline for access to the Crime Victim Fund for victims seeking mental health services. The bill is named for a sexual assault victim who was denied compensation from the Crime Victims Fund because she did not report the crime until the deadline had expired. Under this bill, a person who is a victim of certain sexual assault crimes, including sexual assault against a child and human trafficking, may apply for an award for compensation from the Department of Justice for the payment of mental health services for as long as the crime committed against him or her is prosecutable under the applicable statutes of limitation.
These bills will help the victims of sexual assault attain justice for the crimes that were committed against them. At the same time, they will aid the process of identifying perpetrators so that they cannot create more victims. Both bills are supported by advocates for sexual assault victims, and I hope they will gain bipartisan support in the Legislature.
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, represents the 24th Senate District.